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All-powerful God and logic Fri, Jan 30, 2009
Most Christians believe in an omnipotent, or all-powerful, God.  Regardless of whether there really is a magical mystery man in the sky, the story goes like this:  He created the universe, parted the Red Sea, brought the dead back to life, etc.  As his title states, he's all-powerful, meaning there's nothing he can't do.  This particular aspect about him is his trump card.  How did all those animals survive on Noah's ark without their usual nourishment (like plants and other animals)?  Who knows, but God is all-powerful, so by definition, he could make it happen.  How did Jonah survive in the stomach juices of some big fish for several days without being chewed up or dissolved in the process?  Who knows, but an all-powerful God could make it happen. 

I bring up this fact at pretty much every Bible study I go to and every spiritual discussion I have.  I'm like Rain Man:  I focus on one simple detail and don't let it go.  Last night's example was about a coincidence.  If one person didn't happen to take the Saturday night shift on a whim two years ago, would he have met the girl who would later become his wife, who would encourage him to join a Bible study, the members of which are currently sitting in his living room?  The quick answer is that there's just no way the two would've met under normal circumstances.  Their paths wouldn't have normally crossed, and the girl was even planning on leaving the state for good in a few days.  It was a total coincidence that they met, and that a few years later, there would be a group of people discussing it on a Thursday night. 

But here's the trump card that, if you believe in an all-powerful God, you can't ignore:  If God is who we think he is, why do we always put limits on what he can and can't do?  Isn't he all-powerful?  Isn't he bigger than what we give him credit for?  Just because something is implausible, does that mean it's impossible for an everything-possible God?  The answer, logically, is no.  Since God is omnipotent, anything is possible.  Somehow or other, if it was part of God's plan, these two people would have met, gotten married, joined a Bible study, and invited us over last night.  It's like the Lost version of time travel:  You can't do anything to change what will happen.  Unfortunately that opens the can of worms dealing with free will, which is farther than I wanted to go with this. 

All this God stuff is hard to believe, but let's at least remember logic. #religion

Big kids fall hard Thu, Jan 29, 2009
Gravity tells us that all objects, regardless of weight, when dropped from the same height, travel at the same speed and thus hit the ground at the same time (or rather, this is what would happen if air resistance didn't decelerate objects that weighed less and/or had a larger cross-sectional area, hence why a bowling ball would hit the ground before a feather if dropped from the same height). 

The problem with this idea (not that it's incorrect) is that it only accounts for speed, while ignoring mass.  This becomes painfully obvious as we humans grow taller/larger.  It's fun to watch little kids ski down a mountain or tackle an opponent on the football field, and then get up as if nothing happened.  When we adults try this, we end up with big bruises on our hips and knees, and we're left blaming it on age.  I don't think age is the culprit.  And I don't think it's gravity.  I think it's mass. 

This can be proved with one of two physical quantities, (1) force and (2) kinetic energy.  Force is defined as (mass × acceleration).  Since acceleration is the same for everybody because of gravity, the difference is mass.  Let's say I'm ice skating, and when I fall, I fall on my hip/butt.  Let's also say that I weigh three times as much as that little kid who just zoomed past me (e.g. 150 lbs vs. 50 lbs).  Assuming all my weight falls on that one body part, the force of my hip bone hitting the solid ice is exactly three times the force of that little kid's hip bone hitting the same ice.  Similarly, kinetic energy is the energy associated with a moving object, and it's defined as (½ × mass × velocity²).  If we assume the velocity of a falling child (that's a funny thought) is equal to the velocity of a falling me, that leaves the same relationship:  I have three times the kinetic energy as that little kid.  Maybe that's why it takes longer for me to get back up. #science

Percent fat free Thu, Jan 29, 2009
Foods labeled with "XX% Fat Free" have always confused me.  I thought they did away with those labels a while ago because they're misleading?  I guess not, because I've seen a few recently.  The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (part of the FDA) says, "the claim must accurately reflect the amount of fat present in 100g of the food."  In other words, if the serving size is 100g and the fat content is 2g, the product is 98% fat free, since 2% of the product's weight is fat.  I'm still not convinced this is a useful metric. #food

Ink and batteries Tue, Jan 27, 2009
I think it's weird that there are specialty stores devoted entirely to items that can easily be purchased at general purpose stores.  The two stores I keep seeing are InkStop and Batteries Plus, and the fact that I keep seeing new stores open in new locations suggests that they're successful enough to be expanding, even when our economy is in the crapper.  Upon further inspection, Batteries Plus seems to sell batteries for cell phones and digital cameras, not just the standard assortment of Duracells and Energizers.  But still, I haven't bought a single new nonstandard battery for an electronic device in my history of buying electronic devices.  Who exactly is keeping these stores in business?  Perhaps they're like The Wiz and Electronics Expo and they're funded by the mafia. 

Update:  A place called "The Bulb Store" just opened near me. #business

On the plethora of video streaming services Tue, Jan 27, 2009
I hate how there's an overabundance of video streaming sites on the internet.  YouTube wasn't the first and isn't the best, but I wish everyone would just adopt it and move on.  It's really annoying to try to watch streaming video on some site that made a homebrew streaming application that doesn't have the timing right or the bandwidth to properly stream anything.  YouTube works.  Use it. #technology

Obama the lefty (8) Tue, Jan 27, 2009
Wendy, on seeing President Obama write: 
"Ugh, he's a lefty?"
It's funny because people who write left-handed are weird. 

(This post will not accept comments made in reference to Obama's political leanings.  Aim a little higher.  That joke is too obvious.) #politics

Cat sweaters Fri, Jan 23, 2009
Catty Shack Creations makes cat sweaters.  Not sweaters made for cats.  Sweaters made of cats.  Specifically, sweaters, handbags, and other objects are knitted from the discarded hair of groomed cats (the process of spinning the yarn by hand is actually pretty cool).  It's kind of disgusting, except for the fact that the Persian and Angoran cats are thoroughly washed before they're shorn, making them significantly cleaner than sheep, which is where wool comes from.  Nobody thinks twice about the cleanliness of wool.  It's actually not that bad if you think about it, and the handmade products aren't even that expensive.  (via Kottke) #nature

New New Year Fri, Jan 23, 2009
I think one of the first calendar modifications Barack Obama should initiate after establishing the day after the Super Bowl as a national holiday should be to change the date of New Year's Day from January 1 to whenever the winter solstice is.  That way, instead of celebrating an arbitrary calendar event, at least we would be celebrating something, in this case the transition from days that are gradually shortening to days that are gradually lengthening.  It's like Wednesday being hump day, except that instead of signaling the approaching weekend, new New Year's Day would signal the approaching spring and summer. #sociology

Speeding to save time (10) Thu, Jan 22, 2009
I'd like to make the case that speeding, while illegal and dangerous, is incredibly beneficial when done over long distances, assuming one values time, and that conversely, when done over short distances, is relatively useless. 

Let's say the distance between my house and my job is 10 miles.  And let's say the speed limit is 40 mph.  If I drive the speed limit the whole time, my commute will take
(10 miles) x (1 hour/40 miles) x (60 minutes/1 hour) = 15 minutes
Let's say I go 10 over the speed limit, i.e. 50 instead of 40.  That means it'll take 12 minutes to get to work.  That 25% increase in speed equates to a 20% decrease in time.  Not bad, but we're talking pennies here.  Three minutes?  The $120 speeding ticket doesn't even come close to making it worth it.  That's $40 per minute! 

But what if, instead of 10 miles, I was driving 100 miles.  And again, let's say the speed limit is 40 but I go 50.  What would've taken me 150 minutes (2.5 hours) now only takes me 120 minutes (2 hours).  It's still a 25% increase in speed and a 20% decrease in time, but suddenly the time is starting to add up.  Thirty minutes?  I can do a lot with an extra 30 minutes. 

Now let's say instead of 10 or 100 miles, I'm driving to Orlando, FL, which is about 1000 miles away.  Beep boop beep, multiply by ten and suddenly I've shaved 5 hours off a 25 hour trip (obviously the speed limits are higher, but still). 

What we have here is a basic lesson in percentages, specifically the idea that a percentage of a larger number is greater than the same percentage of a smaller number.  It's simple, but it says a lot.  It says that speeding over short distances is hardly worth the time savings or the potential monetary penalty.  But it also says that by speeding over long distances, you can save huge chunks of time, and that regardless of whether you place a higher value on time or money, that $120 speeding ticket could actually be worth 5 extra hours, which is only $24 per hour.  You can't argue with math. #travel

Wanting badly (1) Thu, Jan 22, 2009
This is gonna sound really negative, but oh well. 

I think one of biggest lies our society has taught us is that if you want something really badly for a long time, you should have it because you deserve it.  You've always wanted a Porsche, so you should go to ridiculous lengths to get one, then hang out with your faker Porsche friends and talk about the superiority of European engineering.  You've always wanted to own a house, so you should borrow more money than you could ever pay back in order to achieve the so-called American Dream™.  You've always wanted a particular cool-sounding job, so you should quit your current job, leave your family, and make some fool-hearted attempt at creating something out of nothing. 

I think this idea is fine for little kids to believe, but at some point, you just need to accept that it's a lie.  You can't always get what you want.  You won't always succeed.  You can't do anything you put your mind to.  We've all seen way too many movies about people who achieved their dreams against impossible odds.  But guess what -- they're movies.  They're not real.  We can try, and we can have hope, and that's good and all, but just because we want it, doesn't mean we'll get it. 

Moral of the story:  Don't try.  No wait, that sounds too negative.  Moral of the story:  Be realistic. #sociology

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