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Thursday, March 31


Things I've Learned From Die Photographs #1

Division is 3½ times as hard as multiplication.

More on this subject, with luck, tomorrow.

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Skeptics 'R'n't Wizbang

I'm busy reabsorbing the blogosphere after a mostly-absence of a month, and in the course of this endeavour, I wandered over to Wizbang. Usual stuff - the unfortunate Terri Schiavo (skip), Bonfire, UN scandal, various little items, and then I ran into this:
Do I have to draw a picture?

Since the Oozer Zealots don't read or think, typing any more, is pointless. Maybe a picture will sum the whole thing up.


This puzzled me for a moment. Okay, from the labels on the graph, he's talking about evolution, but Oozer Zealots as a term for Creationists is a new one on me.

Then I realised that Oozer Zealots is actually a derogatary term for people accept Evolutionary Theory. Paul - the poster in this instance - is arguing the Creationist point of view.

Well, I went into the comments to see what people had to say about that, and to add my $2 (partly inflation, but mostly because I have a lot to say), only to find that the comments were closed.

Trackbacks weren't closed, though, and Paul receives a well-earned spanking from Pharyngula. Even better, the Commissar offers these two detailed posts, followed by (mostly) informed and rational commentary, explaining where Paul is wrong, why he is wrong, and how we know he is wrong.

Paul does not help his case with this response:

You are an idiot.

And a paranoid idiot at that.

Now I'm a closet bible thumper?

Way to advance an argument.

And that was to the earlier post, before the Commissar got really warmed up.

Back in December, I wrote this:

My aim is to promote Science and Civilisation, and it's a selfish aim. I want the products of Science and Civilisation for myself: Peace and wealth and effective medicine and a comfortable home with air conditioning and a fancy computer and an interesting and productive job. The people who attack Science and Civilisation are trying to deprive me of all that, and I won't allow it.

The Creationists pushing their fraudulent spin on Evolutionary Theory; the Post-Modernists denying the concept of Objective Truth; the Islamists trying to do both at the same time; the historical revisionists; the Psychics; the "Alternative Health Practitioners"; the academics who see their role being not to teach but to brainwash their students into leftist zombiehood; the "free speech" proponents who want to stamp out speech they don't like; Mysticism and Obscurantism; the spammers and scammers and hackers who are doing their level best to destroy the Internet; the nanny-state idiots and the totalitarian hardliners who try to legislate problems out of existence: These and more are what I truly oppose.

Yeah, Paul, I'm talking to you.

The only way you can maintain a Creationist belief system these days - if you are an adult in a developed country - is through deliberate ignorance. Maybe you don't care much about evolution. That's not so bad; not everyone needs to be a biologist. Still, it is probably the single most significant scientific theory ever formulated, and you should care. But if it's not your thing, and you have chosen not to study it, and you've gone into, say, accounting or civil engineering, that's not a problem.

But that doesn't apply to Paul. He's not only chosen to ignore the facts that are at his fingertips, but to spit in the face of the people who are patiently trying to explain the facts to him. He has inflicted ignorance upon himself, and wishes to inflict it upon others.


There are valid questions regarding Evolutionary Theory, but Paul asks none of them, merely repeating the tired old Creationist talking points. You know how you feel when you hear the same old Democrat talking points, refuted countless times, trotted out once again? Well, yeah. Only this is worse. This is Science he's messing with. This isn't just politics, this is real. More even than democracy, this is the bedrock of our civilisation.

Fortunately, in science, what Paul thinks doesn't matter. No working biologist cares one whit what Paul has to say about the matter. No paleontologist is going to lose any sleep over his posts at Wizbang. No geneticist is going to have an upset tummy at lunchtime today.

There's a little saying popular among scientists and engineers: It's so bad, it's not even wrong.* What this means is that what someone has said is so confused that it is neither true nor false, it simply doesn't make sense.

That's where Paul finds himself from the scientific perspective. He is attacking one of the best supported scientific theories we have, from a point of ignorance, with claims long since refuted. Neither Creationism nor it's stepchild Intelligent Design are scientific theories; nor indeed do they have anything to do with science apart from distorting and misreporting scientific findings.

I'm not going to offer a point by point refutation, because it's been done. If you're interested, there is no better place to start than the Talk.Origins Archive. The works of Stephen Jay Gould are also a wonderful and accessible source of information (though he had his disagreements with other biologists on the fine points of evolutionary theory). There is an unending wealth of information on the subject, much of it wonderfully written (and illustrated!), a joy, a delight of learning. All of which Paul has rejected.

In that post in December, I remarked in closing:

So I shouldn't want for subject matter.
And so I shan't, but I hadn't expected it to be coming from my side of the fence.

* Attributed to Wolfgang Pauli

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Wednesday, March 30


Skeptics 'R' Us

Brought to you by a web server you all know and love,* it's the Skeptic Society Web Forum. Their main site (hosted on a different server) is at

* Little hint: this link also works.

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The Taming Of The Schmoo

(This post continues on, sort of, from Isaaru Confiscated Your Monkey, below. You don't need to read that post first, but you can if you like.)

Irritated to the point of botheration by the crashy badness of my PCs, Kei and Yuri (Kei is the Windows box with the driver problems that just falls over every so often; Yuri is the Linux box that likes to pretend that its terabyte of storage is corrupted and/or deceased), I decided to drag my Playstation 2 from where it was languishing by the TV in the living room down to my bedroom.* I only had a handful of games for it, though, and half of those sucked. (Tekken Tag, I'm looking at you.) However, I did have Final Fantasy X, and it ended up wasting the best part of a month quite pleasantly. Which is what I was talking about last time.

What I want to talk about this time, though, is Hertz. The processor in the Playstation 2 is called the Emotion Engine, and it runs at 300 MHz. (Megahertz, for those at the back of the class.) Compare that to Kei and Yuri, which run a 2.6 GHz and 2.08 GHz respectively. (Gigahertz, which are a thousand megahertz. See, metric is easy!)

300 MHz isn't enough for a PC to get out of bed these days. My Palm Pilot is faster than that.** But Final Fantasy X, with its impressive graphics and vast landscapes, zips along quite merrily - at least until you come to the edge of a region, and are reminded once again that for all their benefits, DVDs aren't notably fast.

* Yeah, my living room is upstairs and my bedroom is downstairs.
** I think. Let me check... Yeah, 400 MHz Xscale, thought so.

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Tuesday, March 29


Note To Self

Do not read The Bleat at work this week.

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Isaaru Confiscated Your Monkey

How did it come to this?

High Summoner Yuna (that's me), destroyer of Sin (that's Sin, the giant turtle thing, not sin in general), bringer of the Eternal Calm, saviour of Spira, turning the Fayth of the Final Aeon, the most sacred place in all the land, into a monkey farm...

And I forgot to save the first time, and I had to go and do it all over again! Darn monkeys.

Yes, kids, I've finished Final Fantasy X and moved on to Final Fantasy X-2 (which in the way of these things was discounted by 50% three days after I bought it).

I could have finished FF X much sooner if I hadn't gotten distracted by side quests and stat-maxing. And if you haven't played it already, I'd recommend that (if you do come to play it) you don't get distracted by side quests and stat-maxing. Okay, so the battle with Lady Yunalesca was easy exactly because I'd been running around collecting goodies and building up my team... But the battle with Yunalesca is supposed to be one of the high points of the game, not Splat! Oh, she's dead.

Not entirely my fault, though: In the international version of the game, they've introduced new monsters - the Dark Aeons - and if you're approaching the end of the game and want to go back and collect something you've missed, you'll run into these bastards, and they're flippin' unkillable. I looked up one helpful guide on the net, and it read like the recipe for rabbit stew: First, be about twice as powerful as you currently are. Then...

I didn't need to face down the Dark Aeons, as it happens. They don't really add anything to the game, and since they are actually more powerful than the final enemy, they rather distort your expectations and goals.


Anyway, that said, Final Fantasy X is the best computer game I've played in some time, and has probably the best storyline of any game I've played. I can see why people are (or were) so fanatical about it - there's always a Yuna or three in the cosplay contest at any anime convention. After a visually impressive (if slightly odd) start, it really sets its hooks into you. By the time you've reached the end, you've spent fifty or more hours with the characters, and seen them sacrifice friends and love and eventually themselves in order to save the world. It's not a happy ending either, nor should it be; but it's a good ending.

It's a pity Yuna's such a cabbage. Late in the game she's developed into probably the most powerful force in all of Spira (with the exception of the Dark Aeons, who I will pretend don't exist), and she's still a complete... Cabbage.

Final Fantasy X-2 takes up where Final Fantasy X left off. It's the first true sequel in the series, and for good reason. When you've saved the world, what else is there left to do?

X-2 answers this by being a much more light-hearted game than X. It's like one big side-quest. It doesn't have the same depth or impact as the original, but having Yuna running around dressed as a moogle handing out balloons, or the great chocobo chase (darn thing got away!), or the monkey farm incident, or the massage scene... Ooh. Aah. Oh! Yes! Yes! There! YES! Crunch!


It does have a certain absurd charm. And there's also a more serious game in there, which I'm just now getting to.

If you like role-playing games and haven't played Final Fantasy X, do. If you liked Final Fantasy X, you might also enjoy X-2, but it is a very different game. The combat system takes some getting used to - it's real-time rather than turn-based. The skills system is also completely different, and again takes some getting used to. X-2 has something called "dress spheres", which are basically like character classes in Dungeons and Dragons. You have a Warrior dress sphere, a Thief dress sphere, a Dark Mage dress sphere and so on. Each of your characters can eventually have all the abilities from all the dress spheres, but can only have one sphere active at a time. Switching dress spheres in the middle of a battle is awkward at first, but you are rewarded with a classic mahou shoujo* transformation sequence. Though they don't get naked.

And the game has Yuna wearing hotpants and packing pistols.** She's still something of a cabbage, though.

Anyway, the point is, in as much as this has a point: These games are running on a Playstation 2, which has a 300MHz processor. If the significance of this doesn't strike you, I'll be exploring it in more detail in Part 2, coming soon to this blog.

P.S. I'm back.

* Japanese, literally "magical girl". Think Sailor Moon.
** And optionally, pistils. It's a pun, not an error. The FF translation team should be spanked.

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Tuesday, March 01


Bad Apple

Apple have told me, in polite and carefully chosen words, that they are not responsible for people who get bitten by their abrupt price changes.

I have replied, in likewise polite and carefully chosen words, that I do not find this response entirely satisfactory.

We'll see.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 04:32 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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