Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In memoriam of Charles Shultz

The sad, wonderful, complicated life of Charles M. Schulz. (CNN article link)

An interesting article about a Charles Shultz book that has come out recently. Next time I'm at the bookstore I'll look it up.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It comes Around again

So just as my previous post was fading from memory, something happens in the news which makes it relevant again.
From CNN.com: 'Race row' Nobel winner suspended

In short, one of the scientist credited for discovering DNA spouted off some claims that it was tests of people (who can trace their genetic roots to races geographically separated Africa) showed that they were less intelligent than the rest of us. He continued to say that the prospect of progress was gloomy.

Though this is not the first of Watson’s somewhat extreme claims, it only bolsters my point about how science has major endemic problems in the way its conducted and the analysis of what the resultant data means. Psychology has mostly failed—in holding itself to a higher standard—by allowing geneticists and biologists to repeatedly misconstrue & misuse their data. There isn’t even a coherent unitary definition of what intelligence is in the psychological world; so to allow the term to be used outside of psychology in the field of genetics is irresponsible and negligent.

But such occurrences of misusing and misconstruing data are all too common. I still believe that the major contributor to this pandemic is agenda-driven science. Until that is stamped out, it won’t just be the quirky, old academics making claims such as these.

Is this Art?

Stumbled across this website. After reading through the blog posts, I am wondering does this project actually constitute art? I don't have any opinion on the artistic merits per se; I just thought that it poses an interesting question.

To clarify: How much of an internal psycho-logical/physical process can a third-party understand by observation? This photographer/artist wants to know if the physical release (at ecstasy) is different when a couple is in love, from individually-initiated release, or from other circumstances.

I wonder if the answer can even be quantified?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Elections & the Democratic Ticket

If you had to pick your three major issues for the upcoming Presidential election, what issues would they be?

I think the majority of Americans will have one or more of these in their top three (whether or not they actually admit it out loud): Iraq War/War in general, Economy/Where federal money goes, Gender/Race conflicts.

Iraq War

According to FactCheck.org the differences between the leading Democratic candidates are small on this issue.

  • Clinton: Goal to have all troops out. Reality is that some will likely remain, indefinitely (likely Special Forces for counterterrorism).
  • Obama: Goal to have all troops out. Reality is that some will remain to support embassy, civilians, and counterterrorism.
  • Richardson: Goal to have all troops out within 1 year of taking office.
  • Edwards: Goal to remove all combat troops. Some token troops <5000.
  • Kucinich: Goal to have all troops out within 3 months of taking office.
  • Biden: IF/THEN proposal. If political settlement reached (that ends civil war), troops remain. If not, then troops removed.


This general category refers to health care, jobs, immigration, etc. I think the category is less important only for the reason that until whatever candidate is forced to get the proposal past Congress, all the claims of what will be accomplished are moot points. So while you may favor one candidate’s health plan over another’s, it is not until the elected candidate is forced to try and get the bill through Congress and pay for it that the candidate can back up any of his/her claims.

Another point, if a Democratic gets elected President, that person will be in a slightly less advantagous position than President Bush was in 2000 (in terms of having party control of the House & Senate). The current unfavorable public opinion of the federal government will likely lead to elected politicians being more concerned with maintaining their jobs and party power than accomplishing much in the way of improving the nation.

Gender/Race conflicts

This is actually where I believe those not using the Iraq War as the deciding factor will probably end up using gender or race to make their decision. For the first time, a woman and a black man lead the polls in the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, those polls results do not reflect what I believe to be actual reality. I am more than willing and ready to be proved wrong, but I simply do not think the general American populace will elect either a woman or black man as President of the United States. Would the public settle for a woman or minority if they had no choice, yes. But given an alternative, I do not believe people will choose a female or minority leader.
That means I am pessimistic about either Clinton or Obama securing the Democratic nomination for President, much less either actually winning the general election. As I told someone this week, either of them would actually serve to bolster the chances of one of the white male candidates. So here would be my prediction. Assuming Clinton actually fails to secure the nomination, it will probably be Biden or Edwards leading the ticket with either Clinton, Obama, or Richardson balancing out the bottom-half of the ticket.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Photoshop Tutorial up on website

I've just uploaded a quick tutorial, onto the website, that explains how to use the Levels Toolbox in Adobe Photoshop CS. The page is in the General Writing section.

It is not a comprehensive explanation of the Levels toolbox, but it serves as a start. Feedback on how helpful it is, would be appreciated.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Conclusion of my LP saga

So quite surprisingly, I actually got a call from the LP Critical Care Department on Friday. The representative went through a convoluted explanation about the delay in my laptop being due to problem with the parts manufacturers not making enough replacement parts for the number of laptops sold. He didn’t explain why they failed to contact me; instead he shuffled past that negligence by saying that they had just decided to replace my laptop with a brand new machine. (Don’t get me wrong, new equipment is great. But my chief problem with that department was the lack of communication, not that they couldn’t solve problems when they actually got me on the phone.) He then went on to tell me how the new machine would end up being better than the one I previously had: how they were tossing in all the bells & whistles like 250GB hard drive, 2GB Ram, 256MB of Video Ram, Fingerprint Reader, TV tuner, etc. At this point, I just wanted to get to the end of the conversation and move on with my day, so I confirmed my address and contact information, he said it would take 7-15 business to build and ship, then we ended the call.

So now I have a brand new computer coming that outpaces both my existing desktop, and the laptop I had to purchase while I was waiting for my old one to get back from the repair center. The upside is that now I can use the new laptop for all my photography & image processing needs without worry of slowing my system down. The only downside is now I’m forced to purchase new programs updates for all the software I had old XP versions of because they are too old to qualify for free updates.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Truths & Lies

The master deceiver can spin a web of lies with the truth.

I was reminded of the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden this morning: how Satan used a combination of leading questions and incomplete truths to walk Eve down the wrong path. It was then I thought of the above line.

I think the above statement relates to one of the reasons I have difficulty paying people compliments. The whole process seemed to be designed to mislead and deceive. When I’m appreciative of something someone has done for me, I just say so. The procedure of bestowing effusive and lavish praise is something I do not understand. I rarely say anything about people’s particular physical features; but when I do speak I don’t see what I say as compliments (to boost someone’s self-esteem or my position) rather I view my words like rain washing off a dirt-covered flower. If I speak truth, the underlying beauty is revealed. If I speak lies, the underlying beauty is distorted and damaged.

I think that was the reason—in the story—that God was curious who told Adam and Eve they were naked. Something that had been unsullied and beautiful became twisted because of lies and poor decisions.

A copy of the text is below:

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"


So I've discovered the website deviantART. It was rather by accident, and I'm uncertain whether it will end up being a really good thing, or an extreme timesink. Like many things on the internet, it should probably only be taken in small doses.

They have a process there by which sales of picture prints can be made, which is worth some investigating. I admit I was bamboozled by all the caveats and addendums to the liscening agreements, so I have no idea if the two pictures I posted there I actually own anymore or if I signed away my rights to the website. I set up a profile page, and I will let you know how it goes. Fortunately, their website seems to operate relatively simply on the end-user side, so I won't need to learn anymore additional programming.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I’ve added a new Survey page up on the website. The page is put up to get an accounting of the Sexual History/Proclivities of people, and more specifically how they communicate these with partner/s, friends & family, and social acquaintances. Right now, only the preliminary survey is up; I’m waiting to see what sort of response I get before putting the expanded one (with the follow up questions) up.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be talking more about the purposes of the survey and what I’m anticipating I’ll find. But to whet the appetite, here is one question—the answer to which will be fascinating—about the communication practices.

For those individuals born after 1970, has the entrance age, when graphic discussions of sexual activity begin, into sexual communication increased or decreased? In other words, do people talk—with their family/friends/acquaintances—about sexual activity/proclivities at younger ages?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bureaucracy vs. Customer Service Part 1

I had a phone conversation today with a representative from Executive Customer Relations of a major computer company whom I will call Lewhitt Packard. On the 9th of August, I sent in my laptop—which had ceased functioning—to the repair center. Because I had purchased the extended service plan (with the Accidental Damage Protection), I expected the company to repair my laptop or provide me with an equivalent replacement.
According to the company’s own website, the typical repair schedule if from 5-7 business days at the repair center, followed by 2-day or next-day FedEx delivery. I received one email when the company shipped out the box I was supposed to mail the laptop in. That was the last direct communication I had from the repair center.

Using the information I had received in the email, I was able to verify that the repair center received my laptop on the 11th of August. I expected to receive a call or email from the repair center by the 20th of August telling me what had been done to my laptop and when to expect it returned. That call never came.
Starting on Monday the 27th of August I called the status check phone number every other day, to find out what was going on with my laptop. The people there—who I believe are actually located in India, despite their ‘American’-sounding names—repeated what was displayed on status check website for the company and told me they had no more information. The webpage for my order changed the expected delivery date 3 times: from August 28th, to September 13th, to September 21st. Each time the date changed, no other information was put on the website to indicate why the date changed, or what had been done with the laptop.
Despite my busy schedule, I called LP at least once a week hoping to get some information about my laptop. Not once from August until September 13th did they send me an email or call me to inform me of the progress (or lack thereof) on my laptop. When the 13th rolled around and the date was adjusted back, I called the status check line and insisted that they do something to resolve this problem. The phone operator then explained that my case would be escalated to a Critical Care case, and I should expect a phone call from a case manager, on how this lack of service would be rectified, within 24-48 hours.

No call ever came.

On the 18th of September, I called the status check line again. After conversing with the operator for over 30 minutes about my problem, and getting transferred to another department, then back to the original status check department again, the operator said that they would send another case escalation to the Critical Care Department, and that because this was the second escalation, I should hear back within 2 business days.

No call ever came.

On Friday, the 21st of September, I called the status check department again. I insisted on talking to the supervisor of the department. After another half-hour conversation, the supervisor said he would send another case-escalation through the LP’s computer system. I asked why he couldn’t call the Critical Care Department directly and connect me with a physical person, he claimed that type of connection was impossible. But he insisted that with his new escalation, the department would respond within 2 business days.

No call ever came.

On Wednesday, the 26th of September I called the status check department again. I insisted on talking to the superisor of the department (a woman this time), and again got the same song and dance routine about how they could not connect me to the Critical Care department. When I expressed how frustrating being sent in circles was, she said that I could call the Corporate Complaint Line for help.
The next day (27th) I called the Coporate Line at 10:00am. After walking through the problem—another 30 minute conversation—the phone operator agreed with me that there was a problem with how I was treated. According to her computer, the case manager had marked down that I was slated to receive a replacement laptop. She explained that she would send a re-escalation order to the Critical Care Department; that order would be sent to the supervisor of the person who was assigned my case. I asked her how I was to be certain that anybody in the department was even seeing the message, but she insisted that they were getting through. She also asserted that I would be contacted within 36 hours of her sending the message, but that if I wasn’t to call the corporate line again on Monday.

No Call ever came.

Monday afternoon (Oct. 1st) I called the corporate line again. After a 20minute rehashing of the entire saga, I queried if there wasn’t some way to bypass the Critical Care Department entirely. Since the corporate computer page stated I was to receive a replacement, couldn’t they take care of it themselves? After conversing with her supervisor, the operator said she would just do the process herself. I was pleased to hear this. According to her, she said that I would need to go to the LP shopping website and build a computer system. Once done, I would need to send her the purchase price for that system, along with the original receipt for the original laptop. (Side Note: The laptop I had sent in for repair was a replacement for an even older laptop that LP couldn’t fix from a December 2006 problem). When I explained that the currently held laptop was given to me by HP, and that I didn’t have a purchase receipt, she responded that she would need a purchase receipt for the original laptop. I answered her that the orginal laptop was purchased in 2002, and that because I had moved 5 times since that date, my chances of finding that receipt were non-existent. She then refused to do the requirements necessary to put in a build-order for a replacement; she claimed the rules stated she needed the original purchase receipt. When I asked her what was her solution, she replied that she would send another escalation order to the Critical Care Department. I likened her order to sending something into a black hole and asked what I should do when the typical non-reponse occurs. She said that she believed the department would contact me, but to call the corporate line again if they failed to contact me by Wednesday.

No Call ever came.

Unsurprisingly, I was forced to call LP’s corporate line Wednesday morning. I spoke with a different operator, and went through the same rigamarole. After this operator conversed with her supervisor, she came back and told me that my case hadn’t been re-escalated, just escalated a second time. She said that this time, they would re-escalate my case, but from the corporate-line department head to the Critical Care department head. I’ve now been told that I will most definitely receive a contact from the department. When I queried what I should do when I don’t, I was told to call the corporate line if the CC-department fails to contact me by Friday.

So what was the point of this saga?

The LP bureaucracy has essentially stripped their company of any sort of useful customer service. The status check department (as well as the corporate line) claims to not be able to contact the repair department directly. This is likely true, if one department is in India and the other in Canada. Even worse, they can’t give me the phone number to the repair department so I can call them directly, because they claim not to have it. The computer system is set up so that two days have to elapse before they can do anything new on a particular case. Consequently, after each phone call, 2 days are wasted while I wait for non-existent contact from the repair department. The setup of LP’s bureaucracy allows an individual in a department (and that whole department as well) to shirk their responsibilities without chastisement, leaving consumers abandoned to fend for themselves.
All of these problems could have been averted with either of 2 simple solutions. LP could have an internal phone directory website which employees can access to contact any other employee directly. This would allow the corporate line or the status check department to call the delinquent case manager and get some direct answers. The second solution is to have someone (most likely in the corporate headquarters) that a customer can be connected to, who is capable of making unilateral decisions on how to solve the problem. In other words, rather than try an hunt down a 4 year-old receipt and fax that in; this person can just decide to send me a new laptop and carry it out, without having me have to do any more work.
It is Thursday now, and I am quite pessimistic about actually receiving a call from the repair department. Miracles can happen, but bureaucracy is like a malignant cancer that refuses to die. I have not decided yet what to do, when LP fails me again. But I’ll update you when I have more information.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Avoiding Sociological Agenda-Driven Science

On the ride home today, I got into a conversation with an acquaintance that I have had with other people many times. I mentioned to her that I felt that scientists had a responsibility to see that their science is understood and used properly by both scientists and the general public, while also refusing to engage in social agenda-driven ‘science’ or allow their science to be used for any group wishing to drive its social agenda. While I was trying to emphasize the difference between collective and personal responsibility, she was more focused on the point of science (then), and curious about how I reasonably expect scientists to enact this.

I tried to explain—via examples—why agenda-driven science, or science used to push forward a particular social agenda, is undesirable. I mentioned that—in the recent past—people attempted to prove all sorts of truths about how minorities did not have similar mental capacities as Caucasians; other people also endeavored to show that women were not as good as men at sciences and academics. My point I was trying to make is that using science to prove “collective truths” is a waste of time and a misapplication. An example of a collective truth is whether it is right or wrong to kill someone who is endangering your family. An example of an empirical truth is the attractive force between two objects (with physical masses) that attempts to draw them together: between a planet and objects on it, we call that force gravity. While the former collective truth can be argued (logically) from both sides and there are multiple logically-valid conclusions. The empirical truth cannot be logically argued from both sides; to accept reality means either gravity exists, or something that causes the identical reactions that the theory of gravity predicts exists.

The topic was broached because I had mentioned how I felt that members that make up the psychological sciences have failed in their collective responsibility to avoid sociological agenda-driven science and abrogated their responsibility in preventing their science from being used to push social agendas by third parties. I spoke of how proponents and antagonists of gay rights misuse psychological science to justify their social position (and how politics then subsequently uses those groups to manipulate society one way or another). I spoke of how psychologists themselves utilize the agenda-driven science of biologists to come up with complex and erroneous statements about genetics-driven behaviors.
In short, life scientists (primarily biologists or those in closely-related fields) have propagated assumption-based predictions, masquerading as hypotheses and theories, that genes drive behavior of living organisms. When pressed to explain, I endeavored to separate out chemical reactions (and their byproducts) from actual behavior. I said that chemical reactions are a just a special sub-level of physics (the physics of small numbers of atoms and molecules, not planetary bodies and galaxies). It doesn’t make sense to say that the sun behaves by nuclear fusion or fission, rather nuclear fusion or fission is a reaction that occurs inside stars. There is no inherent behavior to it. I suggested that a behavior has to be put into a system, for a behavior to be gotten out of that system.
In other words, if 10 atoms don’t have any inherent behavior, why should 10,000, or 10 million? To ascribe motive or will to genetic code is simply ridiculous. A gene has no idea if it is replicated or not; in fact a sequence of DNA has no conception of whether or not it is gibberish or the formula for a protein. So while the chemical reactions inside a living cell can be predicted, the chemical reactions take place is not behavior per se, to have a behavior you really must put one into the system.

The point of the behavior explanation was to show that saying your genes make you who you (in terms of mind and behaviors) are is complete scientific nonsense. Not only is this conclusion based on unprovable and unscientific foundational assumptions, there is no viewpoint-independent way to verify the claim. Viewpoint-independence is critical to forming scientific theories. Why? Look at it this way, it doesn’t matter whether or not you or I are around to see it, if you have two objects with physical mass, the force each object’s mass exerts on the other is gravity. The simplest way to disprove that theory would be if we could find two objects where one object’s mass did not exert any attractive force on the other object’s mass. Behaviors—by definition—are not viewpoint independent. If I take you apart and just look at your DNA, I can’t find out whether you like pickles on your icecream or chocolate chips. Any scientist who says otherwise is either lying or mistaken. How can I say that? It is quite simple, to get the answer to the question I have to put a behavior into the system. I need to ask you (verbally or otherwise) to make a choice. And here is one fundamental truth of science—discounting single-cell or smaller lifeforms (of whom many scientists are debating the classification of them as living or non-living), to qualify some system as capable of behavior requires a Qualifier (i.e. some being capable of behavior making the decision), and that there is no progression from being incapable of behavior to being capable of it: either the system is or isn’t.

I’m running up around 900 words here so I’ll conclude with a thought puzzle. Computers are essentially a web of complex, interconnected chains of dominoes (also acknowledging that chains of—or individual—dominoes can be added or subtracted). The atoms that make up computers have no will, purpose, or goals. In fact—unless power is added—the computer will never do anything (other than eventually decompose). It is not until some behavior-agent begins to add power to the system and poke/tip/pull particular dominoes that the system begins to tumble, turn, or act. If ‘higher’ life-forms are simply complex biological computing/decision-making systems, would it not be prudent to extrapolate that we also need some behavior-agent to add power to our system and poke/tip/pull us until we begin to tumble, turn, or act?

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Short Story Up on Website

In the Fiction Writing section on the website, I have posted a short story. The Story is called "Setback."
I wrote the story several years ago, and recently ran across it again. For something less than 900 words, I believe it accomplished its objectives. In the future I may go back to the story and revise it, but the small problems I saw were mainly grammatical and I have more crucial items to work on before I deal with something that minor.

The html-version works on both Explorer and Firefox. I haven't been able to get the pdf-version to work on Firefox, but that may just be my computer. Let me know, if you want a pdf-version to read, via email: dae@daeenterprises.net.

Time Article

Here is a link to a Time magazine article about the V-22 Osprey.


It is articles like these that lead to to wonder if some serious studies should be done about the people who make decisions for weapons design & procurement, as well as the people who control the funding for the above areas. The thought processes these individuals have that lead to the decisions made I find quite interesting.

Performing Artist and their Performances: Who Owns Them?

Performing Artists & the Performance

A conversation I had with a friend a few months ago recently came back to mind last week, and I’ve been pondering the topic off and on since. When you are a performing artist ( music, dance, theater, etc.) who really has ownership of your performance, during the performance? Is it the performer, the audience, the producer/director/choreographer?

My dancer friend had commented that her significant other expressed some unsettling feeling about her working in close (or immediate) physical proximity with male dance partners. I believe the source of the disquiet arose from the possibility of the two dancers maneuvering all around and over each other, and that the dance partner may be brushing/sliding/touching/rubbing my friend in ways that the significant other finds unsettling.

NOTE: Examples of how physical proximity plays out in dance performances can be seen in the AGORA II Gallery. Some images are included here. (Not of the above described person)

Putting myself in the significant other’s position, I could understand the unease felt. It is a rare couple that would allow some third person to randomly come and engage in similar behavior with the partner, so what about performing arts makes them different?

I thought about what I told my friend. I said: “What he needs to realize is that while it is normal for couple to get a sense of ownership of each other (that sense that you belong to me & I belong to you), his agreeing to get involved with a performing artist (her) necessitates that he understand she doesn’t fully belong to him. In particular her body, doesn’t fully belong to him; for that matter, her body doesn’t even fully belong to her. When she is performing (and also true in the training and practice that leads to the performing), part of her mind, body, and soul is given to the performance; and part of the performance is likewise partly hers."

I would liken the above to the concept of participatory theatre, where the audience has a role and part to play with the performers to make the performance complete. Even though the audience bought tickets, they must take shared ownership of the performance itself in order to achieve the best outcome. In a similar way, when a musician plays a solo at a concert hall during an orchestral piece, it is not just the musician, but the entire orchestra, conductor that share in the performance. During that solo, the music doesn’t just belong to him; and while the soloist is playing the instrument and hands playing don’t just belong to her. Rather there is a synergism between the soloist and the orchestra & conductor that separates the great performances from the mediocre.

I will return to this topic again in the future, because I think it will be interesting to discuss how this plays out when you get into different mediums like People Photography and Modeling.

A Time for Change

So after an extended break away from the website and blogging I have returned.
There were many issues that kept me away for these past months (some of them situational, some intellectual, and other unnamed issues).

My schedule is busier than it was three months ago, but I made a decision that I hope is the best one I can currently make. My current goal is to add something to the blog at least every other day, and something to the website once a week.
While waiting to complete larger works and projects so they can be uploaded as a group is theoretically better, I have found that delays, setbacks, and other complications of life can result in none of the large-scale or long-term things getting completed & uploaded in a quarter-year period. That sort of progress is not satisfactory.
In addition to putting product up more often, I will be bringing in outside items (or sites) of interest, either for discussion, informational purposes, or just because the item/site is entertaining.