Friday, January 13, 2017

Evolution Book Available Online - From the Beginning

From the BeginningLet's end the week on a positive note. A few years ago, I bought a children's book about human evolution, From the Beginning: The Story of Human Evolution. It was actually a recommendation on a biologist's website, Pharyngula - An updated book list for evolutionists. As PZ Myers put it, it's "An older book that may be hard to get, but worth it for the wall-to-wall drawings of the organisms scattered along the human lineage, from single-celled prokaryote to modern humans." And I have to agree. It may be a little bit outdated by this point, and I did notice a few places where I would have liked to have seen a few things worded a bit differently, but overall, it's a very good overview of human evolution, going all the way back to the very beginning of life. In fact, I'd even recommend it for adults, not just kids.

Well, I got to thinking about that book today, and did a google search on it. And I found something that made me a little excited. The entire book is available online for free from the author's website. So, now I can recommend it to others whole heartedly, knowing that they don't have to hunt it down, but can access it immediately. So, here's the link:


From the Beginning: The Story of Human Evolution (pdf)


If you want to see some of Peters' other books, you can find them here: David Peters Studio - Books.

Well, I guess I'll have one downer in this post, more of a note of caution. As good as that book is, and as talented as Peters is as an artist, he's gotten into a little bit of academic controversy the past few years. He's come up with rather fanciful interpretations of certain fossils, which haven't exactly been accepted by the mainstream scientific community. You can read more about that here, Scientific American blogs - Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com. Just keep it in mind if you decide to browse Peters' stuff.

Friday Trump Roundup - 5

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Although I usually only post these updates every few weeks, and the last update was just a week ago, a lot happened in the past week worth mentioning. Here are today's links:


NPR - Trump Denies Allegations Of Secret Ties, Collusion Between Campaign And Russia

[Let me stress that the document mentioned is still unverified. If it's true, it's huge news, but it may just as well turn out to be false. For now, this is just a story to keep an eye on.]
"Top U.S. intelligence officials have briefed leaders in Washington about an explosive -- but unverified -- document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump, NPR has learned." ... "NPR is not detailing the contents of the brief because it remains unverified, but it describes a concerted effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cultivate a relationship with Trump and his camp. The document, which describes information provided by Russian government and other sources, details behavior by Trump that could leave him open to blackmail, as well as alleged secret meetings between Trump aides and Russian officials called to discuss the campaign against Clinton and potential new business relationships."


The Atlantic - Donald Trump's Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet
A semi-comprehensive list of the business concerns that may influence the president-elect as he prepares for the nation's highest office

"Since his election, an ever-increasing level of attention has been paid to the unprecedented conflicts of interest that President-elect Donald J. Trump seems likely to bring with him when he assumes office. His responses to the concerns have been varied and, at times, contradictory." ... "Unless Trump acts to put appropriate distance between himself and his business ventures, these questions are likely to continue throughout his time in the Oval Office. Below is an attempt to catalogue the more clear-cut examples of conflicts of interest that have emerged so far" The article then goes on to detail 20 different cases.


Vox - US spies just briefed Trump on the Russia hack. His response barely mentions Russia.

"It's important to take stock of how astounding this is. A Republican president-elect is signal boosting the ideas of a Russian-linked, anti-American activist who literally published a book titled The World According to US Empire. It's a telling little moment that offers a glimpse of just how strange international and domestic politics are going to be in the Trump era." ... "What this statement reveals, more than anything else, is Trump's priorities. He is not interested in a dispassionate assessment of the Russian hack of the election, or the threat such hacking poses to US democracy. He is interested in minimizing any perceived threat to his own legitimacy from people who decide he owes his election to backing from the Kremlin."

Related: Vox - Trump is siding with Julian Assange against the US intelligence community


CNN OpEd - The folly of Trump's palace guard

"At the end of the day we might conclude that the private security detail isn't that big of a deal -- it satisfies the President-Elect's princely pretensions and gives him an excuse to keep his buddies close by. But make no mistake: There is much at stake when it comes to tolerating such a detail. Acquiescence signals a willingness to credit arguments that an elite federal institution such as the Secret Service is unreliable, that armed contractors acting somewhat under the color of state law are acceptable, and that self-funded bureaucratic fiefdoms insulated from congressional control are anything but constitutionally offensive. "


CNN OpEd - Donald Trump is 'gaslighting' America

"Mental health professionals have made much of the practice [gaslighting], said to be a favorite of narcissists and abusive spouses. But more recently the tactical tampering with the truth has become a preferred method of strongmen around the world. Gaslighting by other means was always a common feature of dictatorships, but it has found new vogue as a more subtle form of domestic political control even in countries with varying degrees of democracy. / Now Trump has brought it to the United States. The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth." ... "In the end, few people can keep up with all the facts all the time. And as he [Trump] tries to undercut the credibility of serious journalists, he makes it even harder for everyone else to find an easy path to the truth." ... "The challenge will be a steep one for journalists and for all Americans, when so much of what comes from the next president has to be checked and double-checked. The first step is to establish when there is a gaslighting operation in progress. / Then comes the battle to hold on to the facts."


Slate - Ethics Office Warns Trump Cabinet Confirmations Are Moving Too Quickly

"The nonpartisan federal agency that is in charge of vetting those who have been selected to take a seat in President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet says confirmation hearings are being scheduled before ethics reviews can be completed. In a letter to Democratic Senate leaders on Saturday, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub said the schedule for confirmation hearings is 'of great concern' because his office has not had time to review everyone's potential conflicts." / " 'The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me. This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE's staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,' wrote Shaub. 'More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.' " / "Shaub noted this situation appears to be pretty unprecedented. 'I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process,' he wrote."


Washington Post - Donald Trump's 'first attempt to ignore the law'

[Referring to anti-nepotism laws and Trump appointing his son-in-law as a senior adviser] "Is Trump going to be able to get around this, because I see this as Trump's first attempt to ignore the law, act in violation of the law, and he's going to see if he can get away with it. We have a statute that names the president, that names the son-in-law relationship, that Congress identified a problem and enacted a statute prohibiting a president from hiring a son-in-law. President-elect Trump, in my view, is testing the waters to see if he can get away with violating what I would call this government ethics provision. And whether President-elect Trump gets away with this depends, it seems to me, in part on the public response as well as the congressional response.... / We'll see whether President Trump is required to follow the law or not. And so, I think this is enormously significant, because it's an initial test of whether -- we've seen as a candidate, Donald Trump has violated norms, and now we're going to see whether he also plans to violate the law."


Politico - Why Trump's Meeting With RFK Jr. Has Scientists Worried

"Of all Donald Trump's conspiratorial obsessions, perhaps one of the most dangerous has been his long promotion of the much-debunked theory that vaccines cause autism." ... "Now, Trump is going to be the president of the United States, and doctors and scientists are raising the alarm about the potential consequences of having a man in charge of the country's public health system who dabbles in discredited scientific theories. / Those concerns only grew on Tuesday, when Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer who has long been immersed in those discredited theories." ... "Which is why the news of the meeting--and Kennedy's subsequent confirmation on Thursday that he will leave his environmental group to chair a vaccine safety commission for the president--has sparked immediate condemnation from experts in the medical and scientific communities, who worry about what Trump's choice of advisers says about his public health agenda."


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The remainder of the linked articles deal with some of Trump's cabinet picks, demonstrating his poor judgment in picking such people.


L.A. Times - Rocky confirmation hearing expected for Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for America's top diplomat

"As chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., Tillerson championed energy development projects in Russia and developed such close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is one of the few Americans ever awarded Russia's 'Order of Friendship.' / Their relationship has raised questions about whether Tillerson would take a forceful position against an adversary that, U.S. intelligence agencies say, used hacked emails, propaganda and fake news to try to help Trump win in November and to "harm" Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's chances."


Wired - Tillerson's Hearing Seals It: the US Won't Lead on Climate Change

"At Exxon, Tillerson was charged with maximizing profits even at the expense of a warming planet. As secretary of state, he'll play a key role in negotiating a global strategy to combat climate change. The question is whether he'll be able to set aside his allegiance to the fossil fuel industry in favor of true progress on the climate. His noncommittal answers at today's hearing --including his refusal to admit that the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change is conclusive--didn't inspire confidence."


Politico - Flynn under fire for fake news

"As Donald Trump's national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will have to advise the president of the veracity of foreign and domestic threats, separating those that require immediate policy action from propaganda or misinformation. / But Flynn himself has used social media to promote a series of outrageous conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and their inner circles in recent months -- pushing dubious factoids at least 16 times since Aug. 9, according to a POLITICO review of his Twitter posts. Flynn, who has 106,000 Twitter followers, has used the platform to retweet accusations that Clinton is involved with child sex trafficking and has 'secretly waged war' on the Catholic Church, as well as charges that Obama is a 'jihadi' who 'laundered' money for Muslim terrorists. / Now some say Flynn's fondness for spreading fake news casts doubt on his fitness to serve as the White House's national security adviser, suggesting that he either can't spot a blatant falsehood or is just ideologically bent to believe the worst of his perceived enemies."


Chicago Tribune - More than 1,100 law school professors oppose Jeff Sessions's nomination as attorney general

"A group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general." ... " 'We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation's laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,' says the letter..." ... "The law professors wrote that some of them have concerns about Sessions's prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, his support for building a wall along the nation's southern border and his 'repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community.' "


Huffington Post - An Open Letter From Urban Affairs And Housing Scholars To The Senate: Reject Ben Carson As HUD Secretary

"Some of the nation's leading scholars on housing and urban affairs have signed an open letter opposing president-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The letter, addressed to Republican Senator Michael Crapo, chair of the Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Senator Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democratic on the committee, notes that Carson not only remains dismissive of government responses to poverty in general, he has publicly expressed disdain for HUD's particular mission to ensure a safe home for every American."

Full Letter


NBC News - Trump Picks Energy Department Opponent Rick Perry for Energy Secretary

"President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- who famously once forgot that he wanted to abolish the Energy Department -- to be secretary of energy, two sources familiar with the transition process told NBC News on Monday night." ... "As governor, Perry championed the oil industry, questioning science that shows that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change and deriding what he called 'the secular carbon cult.' / At a presidential town hall in 2011, he said, 'I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.' "


CBS News - Trump official Monica Crowley accused of numerous instances of plagiarism

"Monica Crowley, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run communications for the National Security Council, is being accused of numerous instances of plagiarism that took place throughout her career. / CNN reports that HarperCollins will no longer sell new copies of Crowley's 2012 book after a number of instances of plagiarism were found. And according to a Monday report by Politico Magazine, Crowley plagiarized a number of passages in her 2000 Columbia University PhD dissertation." ... "In a statement to CNN, the Trump transition team initially defended Crowley ... 'Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.' "

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Can You Achieve Immortality by Transferring Your Consciousness

Transferring ConsciousnessI recently came across a question on Quora, If you were dying, would you upload your consciousness and your memories into a 10-year-old clone of yourself? You see variations of this question quite a bit, including 'uploading' your consciousness to a computer. Here was the answer I wrote on Quora.

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No, I wouldn't attempt to transfer my mind into a clone.

There's a thought experiment called the Teletransportation paradox. Imagine a machine that can make a perfect atom-by-atom scan of your body, destroying your body in the process. It then sends the information from the scan at the speed of light to a receiver at some distant location, which builds an exact atom-by-atom copy. This new copy would have all the same memories and personality as the original. However, if the scanning machine were able to perform the scan without destroying your body, you would still be alive at the original location, while there would be a copy of you at the remote location. It becomes obvious that the copy isn't 'you', with a continuation of your consciousness. You have your own, original seat of consciousness, while the copy has its own, new seat of consciousness.

Even if I were able to manipulate the mind of a clone of myself (I'm assuming sci-fi clone, not genetic clone, since that would just be my twin), and I could give it all my memories and personality, I wouldn't be transferring my consciousness into that mind. I would only be manipulating that mind to believe that it was me. And sure, I like myself and think I'm a pretty good guy, but I don't have the arrogance to saddle another conscious entity with my personality and my thoughts.

Unless there's a miraculous medical breakthrough in the near future, I'm going to die some day. My consciousness will cease to be. Making a clone that believes it's me won't change that. It will be a new conscious entity, but my consciousness will still be gone.

Image Source: IFL Science!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for December 2016

Top 10 ListThe end of the year means the end of the month, and time once again for me to look over the server logs for this site to see which of my pages were the most popular.

There was only one newcomer to the list this month - Debunking an E-mail on Charities. I highly suspsect its popularity had to do with people wanting to donate to charities around this time of year, along with the dubious chain email warning you of charities that supposedly don't spend your donations very charitably. Granted, the response is a few years old by this point, but the general conclusions still stand.

Overall traffic is around the same as it has been, down just slightly from November.

Anyway, here's the top 10 list for last month.

Top 10 for December 2016

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  3. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  4. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  5. Autogyro History & Theory
  6. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  7. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  8. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  9. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?
  10. Debunking an E-mail on Charities

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Trump Roundup - 4

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

This is a rather short entry given that I wasn't reading and collecting too much about Trump over the holidays, but I figured it was about time for another post. Here are this week's links:


Bad Astronomy - Another Day, Another Anti-Science Trump Pick For Federal Office

"In case you were still wondering about the incoming Trump administration's attitude toward science --and at this point you'd have to live on Mars to not see what's going on-- take a look at the person Trump has picked to run the Office of Management and Budget (OMB): Congressperson Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina). / As we've seen, Trump's choices for government positions have been anything from grossly unqualified to vocally antagonistic toward the agency they'll be in charge of; for his part Mulvaney says Trump will 'restore fiscal sanity back in Washington,' which is at best a bizarre proclamation. And of course he's a climate change denier; that's de rigeur for nearly every Trump pick. / But he's more worrisome even than that. As Pema Levy at Mother Jones has written, Mulvaney questions whether government should be funding scientific research." ... "I keep looking for some ray of hope, some move by the incoming administration that's even just a nod toward reality. When it comes to science, it's become crystal clear the opposite is true: Trump and his cohorts will do what they can to reverse many of the advances we've made, and they'll use their gross (and/or willfull) misunderstanding of the foundational principles of science to do so."


Time - Donald Trump Wants President Obama's Ambassadors Out by Inauguration Day

"In a break from tradition, President-elect Donald Trump has asked that all of President Obama's foreign ambassadors leave their posts by Inauguration Day, according to new reports. / Citing unnamed sources, the New York Times and Politico report that Trump's transition team sent an order saying all ambassadors had to be out of their posts by Jan. 20 "without exceptions." The order was delivered by a State Department cable sent just before Christmas. This could leave the United States without Senate-confirmed ambassadors around the world for weeks or months after Trump takes office."


NPR - On Intelligence And Russian Hacking, Are Trump And His Team Missing The Point?

"But what Trump, as the future president, seems to have trouble accepting is that this is a national security issue, not a political one. Instead, the Trump team continues to focus, be driven by and be defensive about the politics." ... "Let's see how Trump responds after his intelligence briefing Friday, because right now, he and the country are in the very strange position of having an incoming American president who, it seems, would rather believe adversaries than American intelligence when it contradicts his predisposed view."


News Week OpEd - Robert Reich: Rallies and Lies. This Is How Tyranny Begins

"In short, the rallies and tweets give Trump an unprecedented platform for telling Big Lies without fear of contradiction--and therefore for advancing whatever agenda he wishes. / It's no coincidence that Trump continues to denigrate the media, and hasn't held a news conference since July. / A president intent on developing a base of enthusiastic supporters who believe boldface lies poses a clear threat to American democracy. This is how tyranny begins."

Related: Fifteen Ways to Spot a Tyrant


NY Times OpEd - How Republics End (Paul Krugman)

"Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history -- specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare." ... "[Referring to ancient Rome] Here's what I learned: Republican institutions don't protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade."


Thursday, January 5, 2017

RX-8 Steering Rack & Steering Column Replacement

RX-8 Steering Rack

I have a new page in my static site's How To section:


Replacing a Steering Column and/or Steering Rack in a 2006 Mazda RX-8


I had to do this recently, but unlike most other car projects I do, I couldn't find a write up, tutorial, or YouTube video walking you through it (and thanks to the wealth of information usually on the Internet, I've never invested in a Chilton's or Hayne's manual - I'm not even sure they have one for an RX-8). In fact, one forum I read even said something to the effect that a steering rack replacement is too much work for a home mechanic, and that if that really was your problem, you should just take it into the shop. Well, I may not be a great mechanic, but I learned enough helping out my dad that I can replace just about any part on a car (diagnosis & speed are where I fall short compared to good mechanics). So, I tackled the project, took a lot of pictures during the process, and made my own write-up to help anybody else who might need to do this. To be honest, once you know the process, it's not that hard, and should take less than a day to do.

Here's the full back story. The car had developed a weird grinding feeling when turning the steering wheel. A little Googling indicated that weird feelings in the steering were often due to the lower U-joint in the steering column going bad, so I pulled the steering column to inspect it. I didn't find any problems with that, so I sort of jumped to conclusions, reasoning that the only other major part in the steering system was the rack & pinion, so I decided to replace the steering rack, as well. I say 'sort of', because I didn't really see any major problems with the steering rack, so I wasn't fully convinced that was the problem, and so only ponied up the money for a junkyard part. I'll note in my defense that I also had an old hot water heater going out that needed to be replaced right around the same time, so I was a little rushed trying to figure out the problem with the car before getting to the water heater.

I spent two days replacing the steering rack, on one of the coldest weekends we've had here. The temperature dropped down to the teens overnight, creeping up to the 20s and low 30s during the day. And my garage is too full to work on the car there, so I did it all out in the driveway. Unfortunately, the problem didn't go away, and further inspection found the real culprit - a broken bracket holding the engine that had allowed the whole engine to drop and rub against the steering column. I should have done enough diagnosing at the outset to notice that that was the real problem, but looking on the bright side, it was a valuable learning experience. It was the first major maintenance I'd done to the car, so I did learn a whole lot about how to work on that car, and any future maintenance will go a lot quicker. Plus, since it seems the steering rack wasn't the problem, and I didn't feel like pulling the 'new' one off, I now had a spare steering rack just in case.

So, after replacing the broken engine bracket, I did take the car into the shop to get a front end alignment. I don't have the tools to do it, and the shop doesn't charge that much to do it, so that's one of those projects where I don't mind taking the car in. Well, as soon as they got it up on the lift, they found a problem that I should have noticed myself. The junkyard steering rack had a bent inner tie rod. I could have probably stolen the one from the original steering rack to put on the 'new' one, but I figured that the original was probably in good working order, and was probably closer to being aligned correctly, so I decided to swap out the 'new' steering rack for the original one.

Knowing what to do made a big difference. Remember I said it took me 2 days to replace the steering rack before, and that was actually after a good part of a day pulling the steering column. This time, it took me 4 1/2 hrs to pull the steering column and replace the steering rack. And that even included a short break for lunch. Like I said, the first time through was a valuable learning experience.

Anyway, that's the story. If I'd done the proper diagnosing to begin with, it would have only been a relatively short project replacing that engine bracket. But on the bright side, not only did I learn a lot, but now the Internet has a write up that didn't exist before, which will hopefully save someone else some time down the road. Here's the link one more time:


Replacing a Steering Column and/or Steering Rack in a 2006 Mazda RX-8

 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Secular Christmas - Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Society, 2016

As has become my tradition to celebrate Christmas on this blog, and as I've said nearly verbatim for a few years now, every year around this time I post Tim Minchin's song, White Wine in the Sun. As described on Minchin's site, "This is a captivating song and a beautiful and intelligent exploration of why Christmas can still be meaningful even without religious beliefs. There's just the right amount of sentiment and some very gentle humour illustrating Tim's feelings about Christmas and the importance of family and home. It is a heart-warming song and may make you a little bright eyed."

Tim Minchin has his own tradition - donating all the proceeds from the sale of the song from around Christmas time to the National Autistic Society, a tradition that he's keeping again this year, including all sales from November through January. So if you don't already own your own copy of the song, go buy it and help support a good cause.

Even though the lyrics are mostly easy enough to understand, here they are if you want to read them: White Wine in the Sun Lyrics.

And now finally, here it is (but don't let the fact that you can listen to it from YouTube stop you from buying your own copy).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Happy Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers' First Flight, December 17, 1903

113 years ago today, the Wright brothers became the first humans to truly fulfill the dream of flight. You can read what I wrote about the significance of this from my Wright Brother's Day, 2007 entry. On a related note, you could read my entry, Flying, from a few years ago, where I marvel at just how cool it really is to be able to fly.

(Yes, this entry is recycled. I only have my iPhone today, so I'm not up for typing a long original entry. But I still couldn't let the day go unmentioned.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Trump Roundup - 3

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To be honest, even this is only a sampling of the negative actions Trump has undertaken in the past couple weeks. I fear it's going to be a very bad four years. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Anyway, here are this week's links:


Scientific American blogs - Trump's Presidency Will Be a Disaster for Public Education

"Trump is already showing which direction he's taking the country's public education. If you care about kids being taught science, you'd best gird yourself for a war, because we're going to have to fight to preserve our children's right to a strong STEM education. / To begin with, Trump's Vice President, to whom he plans to delegate most of the actual presidential work, is an evolution-denying Christian extremist who wants creationism taught in public schools. He's also brought all his political power to bear on overturning the will of Indiana voters while he pushes for expansions of school vouchers and charter schools." ... "So Trump went with his second choice: a conservative Christian billionaire who also loves charter schools and vouchers for private (including religious) schools. She pours money and support into anti-evolution Christian schools and organizations like Grove City College and the Willow Creek Association. Betsy DeVos has been a disaster for education in Michigan. Now, she's being given the chance to push that failure of an agenda nationwide."


Scientific American blogs - An Open Letter from Scientists to President-Elect Trump on Climate Change
(I did already post about this.)

"Climate change threatens America's economy, national security, and public health and safety. Some communities are already experiencing its impacts, with low-income and minority groups disproportionately affected. / At this crucial juncture in human history, countries look to the United States to pick up the mantle of leadership: to take steps to strengthen, not weaken, this nation's efforts to tackle this crisis. With the eyes of the world upon us, and amidst uncertainty and concern about how your administration will address this issue, we ask that you begin by taking the following steps upon taking office..."


Washington Post - Trump's unpredictable style unnerves corporate America

" 'When a chief exec is making individual calls to individual companies, he's in some sense acting like a central planner,' Mankiw said. 'We have a lot of history under communism that suggests it doesn't work well in practice, and that's the direction you're heading in as the president starts to weigh in on individual business decisions.' "


Nature - Trump's pick for environment agency chief sued government over climate rules

"President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma attorney-general Scott Pruitt to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). / Pruitt, who must be confirmed by the US Senate, is an ardent opponent of federal regulations to curb climate change and has questioned the science underlying global warming. He is one of dozens of state officials who have mounted a legal challenge to President Barack Obama's limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants -- regulations that Trump has promised to repeal."


Quora - Thomas Friedman - Did [his] opinion of President Elect Trump change after meeting him in person?

"what I learned at the meeting was a lot about the people he's surrounded himself with. Because no one thought he was going to win for fifteen months, he could only attract extremists and goofballs. Now that he's won you realize he's been talking to Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and the Mike Flynns of the world. It's the Star Wars bar of extremists and nut cases." ... "I'm encouraging everyone to engage him. You cannot underestimate how much he's been living in a bubble talking to the Rudy Giulianis of the world."


Vox - Trump is trying to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip with China. Bad idea.: China's government won't risk looking like it's giving in to a bully.

" 'That's particularly important to Chinese nationalists, who have great sway over the political dynamics of the country. And that means China is unlikely to back down on Taiwan. "China would be willing to suspend all negotiation rather than let him move the status quo on the issue,' she says. / If that's true, Trump's apparent willingness to roll the dice on abandoning decades of tradition out of a belief that his negotiating skills could give the US a leg up over China could in fact leave Washington with a weaker hand that it had before. Trump may not want to admit it, but the US can't just get it wants simply by pretending the rules of the game don't exist."


Vox - The real reason Trump's denial that Russia hacked Democrats' emails is so worrying

"The bigger picture here is that Trump's actions over the past few days have sent an unmistakably clear signal across the government, and among those who will soon staff it. People who agree with the consensus conclusion of those 17 agencies will likely now feel distinctly unwelcome in the new administration, and fear political pressure to deny evidence and realities that are inconvenient to Trump. That helps ensure that people who have no compunctions about lying to advance Trump's agenda, will fill top posts. And intelligence agencies will feel pressure to cook their findings." "But in another sense, it's extremely troubling. Potential Russian interference in US elections is a very serious matter. And again, the consensus conclusion of 17 intelligence agencies is that the Russian government or entities closely tied to it are behind the hackings. Yet Trump's team is making it loud and clear that their conclusions will not be accepted, because they aren't what the president-elect wants to hear."


Vox - Trump's team is asking for the names of Energy Department employees who worked on climate issues

"What's unusual here, though, is the request for a list of any career agency employees or contractors who even worked on the issue. Indeed, it's unclear why this would even be necessary. 'It reads more like a subpoena than a request for information,' says Michael Halpern, deputy director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concern Scientists. 'I've never seen transition teams asking for list of civil service employees.' "


Bad Astronomy - Trump Advisor Turns the Anti-Science Up to 11

"You might want to read that last sentence again. Yes, Scaramucci said the Earth is only 5,500 years old. / I'm not surprised by this, to be honest. A lot of the people Trump has enveloped himself in are creationists as well as climate change deniers; VP Mike Pence is one, Rick Perry appointed creationists to the Texas State School Board over and again, and Ben Carson said evolution is Satanic and the Big Bang is a fairy tale." ... "Instead, Trump nominates a passel of fossil-fuel driven climate change deniers to his cabinet, including ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and former Texas Governor Rick Perry (who has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry) for the Department of Energy. / Actions speak louder than words here."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for September, October, and November 2016

Top 10 ListI'm not trying to turn this into a quarterly feature, but it seems like I keep forgetting to run one of these top 10 lists at the end of the month and only remember every 3 months or so. Well, it happened again, but I still went through the server logs for the past 3 months to see what pages on this site were the most popular.

Most of the pages that made the list had made it before. However, there were two newcomers. First was Tank Game - QBasic Source Code. I'm happy to see it make the list, but a little surprised. It's a very simple QBasic program I wrote back in high school. I was proud of it when I did it - an attempt at an 'action' game with both people using the same keyboard. But it's not a particularly good program, particularly for people to use as an example. I wrote it before I learned good programming practices, and there are way too many labels and GOTO statements (even 1 GOTO statement is 1 too many). The other newcomer is Birds Are Dinosaurs. It's a few years old, so I'm surprised to see it gain popularity now, but happy to see it doing so.

I have been doing pretty good at my renewed efforts of maintaining my post per week goal. I haven't quite kept up with my goal of updating the Friday Bible Blogging series every week again, but I have been trying. I've made one new post in the series, and I've ready the next 10 chapters of Isaiah. The problem, as I've said several times now, is that I also try to read the footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible before writing the entries, and I usually devote weekend mornings to doing that reading, but I've been busy with projects, trips, and get togethers the past several weeks (including replacing a hot water heater). But I will sincerely try to start updating that series on a weekly basis, again.

Overall traffic was fairly consistent for those three months, reversing a trend I noted several months ago of declining traffic. I read an entry on Daylight Atheism a little while ago that several sites have been seeing decreased traffic due to changes in Facebook's algorithms regarding external links. So, maybe that was part of the problem in addition to me not generating as much new content. Hopefully, traffic will at least hold or even grow now that I'm back to writing regularly again.

Anyway, here're the lists for the past three months.


Top 10 for September 2016

  1. Response to Rabbi Steven Pruzansky - Why Romney Didn't Get Enough Votes to Win
  2. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  3. Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
  4. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  5. Autogyro History & Theory
  6. Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  7. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  8. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  9. Blog - VW XL1 + E-mail Debunking - China's New "Little Car"
  10. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling


Top 10 for October 2016

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
  3. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  4. Autogyro History & Theory
  5. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  6. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  7. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  8. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  9. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  10. Review of Ray Comfort's New Movie - Evolution vs. God, Part I


Top 10 for November 2016

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  3. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  4. Autogyro History & Theory
  5. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  6. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  7. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  8. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  9. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?
  10. Birds Are Dinosaurs

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