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Monday, July 30, 2012

Followup - What Is the Value of Algebra?

AlgebraWay back in the early days of this blog, in only the third month of its existence, I wrote an entry, What Is the Value of Algebra?, in response to an op-ed in the Washington Post that suggested doing away with algebra requirements for high school. Now, Andrew Hacker is up to similar antics, writing an op-ed for the N.Y. Times, Is Algebra Necessary? (h/t to Pharyngula).

Here's how he starts out:

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I've found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn't.

Later on in the article, he had this to say:

The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation's shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I've talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.

I already expressed my opinion pretty well in my previous blog entry, so I'll copy a part of it here:

...I think that our education should be well rounded. History and English are important, especially history in my opinion, so that people can put current events into their proper perspective, and learn from the past. But algebra is just as important. And it's not like it's asking a lot for people to learn algebra. It's basic, basic stuff. It's not like the requirement is for students to know calculus, or differential equations, or vectors, or imaginary numbers. Algebra is only one small step up from arithmetic. I use it everyday, and to compare it to English, algebra is as fundamental as being able to recognize nouns and verbs. If a high school diploma is supposed to have any merit for saying that a person has a fundamental skill set, and isn't just a piece of paper saying that a student showed up to class for 12 years, I don't think it's too much to ask students to understand algebra (and language, history & science, as well).

To add to that, we live in a representative democracy. Everybody's vote counts equally, and we all get a say in who represents us, and by extension, what public policy will be. How can you expect that system to work if not for a well educated citizenry, and how can you expect to have a well educated citizenry without the foundation of most of mathematics? I mean, how can you even begin to understand claims about scientific issues like global warming or vaccine effectiveness without a basic understanding of math?

Granted, there may be a problem with students having difficulty with math. But students also have difficulty with a lot of things. Just go read this Newsweek article, America the Ignorant, for a sampling of some of the ignorance of our nation. Here are just a few:

  • "21 percent of Americans believe there are real sorcerors, conjurers, and warlocks out there."
  • "Sixty-three percent of young Americans can't find Iraq on a map, despite the ongoing U.S involvement there."
  • "...more than a third of Americans of any age can't identify the continent that's home to the Amazon River, the world's largest."
  • "Only two out of five respondents, however, can correctly identify the executive, legislative, and judicial branches as the three wings of government."

The solution to all of these problems, including algebra, is not to reduce standards. Rather, it should be improving the education system so that students learn what they need to (there are societal problems that also need to be addressed, as discussed in a different op-ed from the N.Y. Times, Class Matters. Why Won't We Admit It?)

Further down, Hacker had an example:

What of the claim that mathematics sharpens our minds and makes us more intellectually adept as individuals and a citizen body? It's true that mathematics requires mental exertion. But there's no evidence that being able to prove (x² + y²)² = (x² - y²)² + (2xy)² leads to more credible political opinions or social analysis.

That is a truly basic bit of algebra. It's not asking someone to develop the quadratic formula or Phythagorean theorem. It's something that I would hope every high school graduate could do. And even if a few lower caliber students slipped through the system without being able to complete that task, I fully expect that politicians and public intellectuals would be able to do it (or rather, I should say that I'd hope they could do it - my opinion of politicians isn't too high). It's like saying, 'there's no evidence that being able to write a sentence with proper grammar leads to more credible political opinions or social analysis.'

I just don't understand the anti-intellectualism so prevalent in certain sectors of our society right now. Granted, not everybody can be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, so we shouldn't set expectations unrealistically high, but we also shouldn't set the bar so low that a high school diploma becomes meaningless. Algebra really is the basis of most 'real' math, and an understanding of it should be expected of all well educated individuals.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Tongue in Cheek Look at Christianity

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismI've grown accustomed to certain arguments that some Christians use against atheism. I've given serious responses to a few of them, such as the page, A Brief Introduction to Non-Belief. This blog entry is not serious. I figured I'd turn some of those arguments around and give Christians a taste of the same treatment. So, if you're a Christain reading this, and think that this doesn't truly represent you, keep that in mind the next time you hear somebody making similar arguments about atheism.


As far as religions go, Christianity is a horrible basis for morality. Just consider Romans 3:28, "So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law" (NLT), or Romans 10:13, "For "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (NLT). I've actually seen people use this argument in comment threads, and heard it from Christians in person. It removes all accountability for our actions. In effect, Christianity becomes the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free Card.

Now, I know that as an atheist, I don't think there's any justice on a cosmic scale. But Christians believe in a being with the power to hand out judgment, and who actually will reward or punish people for eternity. Yet, this being bases the outcome solely on belief in a 2000 year old story. No matter how horrible of a person you are, as long as you repent before your death, you'll make it through the pearly gates. Conversely, no matter how much good you did in this world or how many people you help, if you're skeptical on religion, you have an eternity of fiery pits and gnashing of teeth to expect in the afterlife. In other words, there's no motivation to actually be a good person. (more info)

Sanctity of Life

Things are only valuable when they're limited. Gold is a valuable metal because there's so little of it. Lead is practically worthless because it's so abundant. According to Christianity, the length of this life is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the eternity of the afterlife. How valuable can an earthly life be if everybody just gets to go on to eternity once they die?

Meaning of Life

This goes back to the morality discussion. If we're only judged for eternity based on whether or not we accepted Jesus, what meaning do any of our other actions have? Granted, they may have a personal meaning to you, but not to the great cosmic rule giver. And if your actions only have personal meeting, then congratulations, you're now in the same boat as us atheists.

So, that's it. If, as a Christian, you disagree with this, bear it in mind next time you see a strawman argument against atheism.

On a related note, here's a humorous list of 281+ Tricks to Irritate an Atheist.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record

About a year ago, I wrote about a project at the University of Maryland, Gamera Human Powered Helicopter. They built a helicopter that was powered entirely by its pilot, Judy Wexler. She managed to keep in the air for 10.8 seconds. That may not seem like very long, but it was only the third human powered helicopter in history to even make it off the ground (I discussed the challenges of human powered flight in that previous entry, so there's no need to go over it again here). Judy was also the first female to power such a vehicle.

Gamera II

Gamera II

Now, the team from UMD is back with an improved aircraft, Gamera II. At only 71 lbs empty, it's 35 lbs lighter than the first Gamera. The informational handout from the official website also claims that the aircraft only requires 0.62 HP to hover, a significant improvement over the 1.03 HP for the previous machine (both calculations with 135 lb pilot).

So what have these improvements allowed? A flight time of 50 seconds with Kyle Gluesenkamp at the cranks. That's not quite the full minute required for the Sikorsky prize, but it's a big improvement over the previous record of 24 seconds set by the Nihon Aero Student Group's Yuri I. And the website says that they plan more flights in August, so they might yet hit the minute mark.

Here's a video of the record setting flight:

I found a certain chart from their informational handout to be very interesting. Here's the chart.

Gamera Comparison Chart

Of course, the top is interesting to see how much they've improved with this new design. But look at the bottom part, where it compares Gamera II to some other aircraft. It has more disk area than a CH-53E, which has a max takeoff weight of 73,500 lb (per Wikipedia). It's comparable in dimensions to a Boeing 737, which has a max takeoff weight of between 111,000 lbs and 187,700 lbs, depending on the model (again, per Wikipedia). It really goes to show just how hard it is to fly, and just how much power we can get out of the small powerplants we install on aircraft.

So once again, congratulations to the Maryland team, and best of luck in the coming months.

Further Info:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Study the Higgs Boson?

With the recent news over the probable discovery of the Higgs Boson, I've seen an old question come up again - What's the point of doing this type of research?

I've covered this before on the blog in the essay, Knowledge for Knowledge's Sake. That essay was in reference to dark matter, but it's largely applicable to the Higgs Boson, so I'm not going to repeat myself here. However, I've seen a few good takes from others on this question.

First is an article in the New York Times by Steven Weinberg, Why the Higgs Boson Matters. Jumping to the end, here was his conclusion:

On a longer time scale, the advance of technology will reflect the coherent picture of nature we are now assembling. At the end of the 19th century physicists in England were exploring the properties of electric currents passing through a near vacuum. Although this was pure science, it led to our knowledge of the electron, without which a large part of today's technology would be impossible. If these physicists had limited themselves to work of obvious practical importance, they would have been studying the behavior of steam boilers.

Next is an article by Jerry Coyne, which used Weinberg's article as a starting point, Steven Weinberg on the Higgs boson, and a few words on the value of pure science. Here's an excerpt of what he had to say:

But I wish we could convince the public that there are simple payoffs in understanding. Humans are curious animals: we want to know where we came from, and where the universe came from, and what we and the universe are made of. That is worth something in itself. Even if evolutionary biology had no practical benefits (and yes, there are some, but the vast amount of money given us by taxpayers to study evolution is to promote pure understanding), it would be worth spending money on, just as we subsidize the arts.

And finally, a recent comic on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal made the point quite humorously. Here's the first panel from that comic. Click on it to read the whole thing:

SMBC #2674

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The 2012 Texas Republican Platform

Republican ElephantThe latest Texas Republican Party Platform has been out for a few weeks now. Others have already covered it (such as The Texas Freedom Network, Think Progress, Why Evolution is True, and Pharyngula), but since I commented on the 2008 and 2010 platforms, I figured I'd add my two cents on this one as well.

You can download a PDF copy of the platform from the Texas Freedom Network to read the whole thing for yourself.

This latest platform is largely similar to the past two. To quote my previous entries, they've "simply reinforced what I already knew about the Republican Party - their mangling of history, the injection of religion into politics, their opposition to science, the suppression of free speech, their bigotry towards homosexuals, their isolationist views on international issues, their desire to impose their morality on everybody," along with "their disregard for the checks and balances in the federal government, with their desire to limit the judiciary's power," and, surprisingly, how "much of the platform was based on utter nonsense".

Since this latest platform is so similar, I'll try not to repeat too much of what I've written in those previous critiques, and stick to new additions, or items I missed in reviewing the previous platforms. However, some planks are just so outrageous that I can't help but discuss them again.

Note that I'm organizing this by subject, but not necessarily the same organization as used in the platform. Also note that all bolding was done by me, not part of the original platform.


Let's start nearly where the GOP started their platform, listing their party's principles.

We, the 2012 Republican Party of Texas, believe in this platform and expect our elected leaders to uphold these truths through acknowledgement and action. We believe in:
1. Strict adherence to the original intent of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. and Texas Constitutions.
2. The sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, which should be protected from fertilization to natural death.
3. Preserving American and Texas Sovereignty and Freedom.
4. Limiting government power to those items enumerated in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.
5. Personal Accountability and Responsibility.
6. Self-sufficient families, founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman.
7. Having an educated population, with parents having the freedom of choice for the education of their children.
8. Americans having the right to be safe in their homes, on their streets, and in their communities, and the unalienable right to defend themselves.
9. A free enterprise society unencumbered by government interference or subsidies.
10. Honoring all of those that serve and protect our freedom.
11. "The laws of nature and nature's God" as our Founding Fathers believed.

Some of those are general platitudes that everybody would agree to, but not all of them.

The Declaration of Independence was a declaration against the British, not our government's founding document, and carries no weight in current U.S. law.

I've discussed abortion on this blog before. In short, although it's a complicated issue, I believe there are times when it's justified.

Marriage should be open to all couples that want to participate in it. I also don't care much about 'traditional' marriage, since in the past this has included arranged marriages, treating women as property, outlawing mixed race marriages, etc.

Government regulation is absolutely necessary to an economy if you want to avoid certain pitfalls and social ills. Just read a Charles Dickens novel to see where an unfettered free market gets you, or consider monopolies or the recent recession caused by excessive deregulation. There also needs to be a balance between private industry and publicly supported institutions. I've written twice before about the shortcomings of relying completely on the free market - Free Markets, Government Intervention in Health Care, or Why I'm Not a Libertarian and Another Example of the Free Market Failing Society.


Okay, let's move on to education, since that's what some of the most outrageous planks deal with.

Education Spending - Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Texas GOP wants to cut education budgets. When college tuitions are already on the rise because of funding cuts.

Knowledge-Based Education - We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

This is simply anti-intellectualism. Critical thinking is absolutely necessary if you want a population that can do more than simply regurgitate facts that they learned in school, or that can even determine whether the 'facts' they've learned are true or not. It's also necessary to evaluate any new claims that they'll encounter in their lives.

And students' fixed beliefs should be challenged. That's part of the point of an education.

Classroom Discipline - We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.

This is one of the planks that I've mentioned before, but it's so barbaric that it's worth repeating again this year - that Texas Republicans actually encourage beating children in schools, in the 21st century, in a supposedly civilized nation.

Local Control for Education - We support school choice and believe that quality education is best achieved by encouraging parental involvement, protecting parental rights, and maximizing local independent school district control. District superintendents and their employees should be made solely accountable to their locally elected boards. We support sensible consolidation of local school districts. We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.

So not only are they calling for cutting funding to education, they're telling school districts to reconsider the federal funding they would get.

Sex Education - We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.

Another one I've discussed already, and another one that's so bad it needs to be called out again. Abstinence only sex ed doesn't work.

Texas has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country (rankings), at 52.2 per 1000 girls. It's not that far behind the worst, Mississippi, at 55, and far worse than the best state, New Hampshire, at 15.7. Mississippi and Texas have abstinence only sex ed. New Hampshire has comprehensive sex ed. And it's not just cherry picking those three states. There's a strong correlation between teen pregnancy rates and the type of sex education the students receive, as explained in this article from The Hill.

Abstinence should be a part of sex ed, but not the only part, and probably not even the main part. Teach kids comprehensive sex ed, including information about birth control and condoms.

Parental School Choice - We encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow maximum freedom of choice in public, private, or parochial education for all children.

This isn't so off the wall as some of the other planks I've criticized. I can see an honest debate on this issue. However, as I've written before, free markets don't always produce optimal solutions for society at large, and I think it's naive to think that a free market approach to education is better than a centralized public approach. Just think of how this would gut the public school system, which is already struggling with its budget.

U.S. Department of Education - Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished.

They just really don't like public education.

Health and Medicine

Immunizations - All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.

This is another of the planks I've discussed before. It's a horrible, horrible position, which would result in more people getting sick and even dying.

First, there's the concept of herd immunity. Some people have legitimate health reasons for not getting vaccines. Some infants are too young to have yet been vaccinated. And vaccines aren't 100% effective, so some people who have been vaccinated aren't immune to those diseases. Each one of those people is a potential victim. If they're only a small portion of the population, surrounded by immunized people, then the disease is unlikely to spread. But the more and more non-immunized people there are, the greater the probability of an outbreak. And each one of the non-immunized people is a potential carrier that can infect others. So it's not just adults wanting to risk their own health, they're putting others at risk, as well.

And there's absolutely no reason to let parents voluntarily exempt their own children from vaccination. It's akin to neglect. Children should not suffer because of the stupidity/ineptness of their parents.

And this isn't just idle speculation. Preventable diseases are on the rise, and people are dying because of the anti-vaccination movement. See for example, Thanks, anti-vaccinationists. Thanks again for the measles, Pertussis can kill, and you can help stop it, and Antivax Kills.

Health and Human Services Mandates - We strongly oppose any federal or state requirement or other mandate to provide abortions or contraception and sterilization, since this would clearly violate many individuals, businesses, churches, and non-profit personnel's faith and beliefs. Government must obey the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution!

Public institutions have a responsibility to provide certain services. For example, a police officer who doesn't agree with drug policy can't just let drug dealers off. They still have to perform their duty. If they have a moral problem with that, they have the freedom to seek a different mode of employment. They're not being 'forced' to arrest drug dealers against their will.

Certain people in the public health sector have similar responsibilities. For example, if a pharmacist in a remote town doesn't want to sell condoms, they've effectively taken away that option from the town. They do have the freedom to switch jobs, or to start a completely private practice that doesn't benefit from public funding, so their First Amendment rights still aren't being violated. But they can't shirk their responsibilities while still benefiting from tax payer funds.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") - We demand the immediate repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which we believe to be unconstitutional.

Unfortunately for the Texas GOP, the Supreme Court does believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be constitutional.


I've discussed their anti-science stance extensively in previous critiques, so there's not much to add this time. There were a few things to point out, though.

Census - We oppose the Census Bureau's obtaining data beyond the number of people residing in a dwelling, and we oppose statistical sampling adjustments. We support the actual counting of people and oppose any type of estimation or manipulation of Census data. Only U.S. citizens should be counted for the purpose of adjusting legislative districts.

There's a whole science devoted to obtaining this type of data, and how to correct for known errors. There's no good reason to reject using methods to make the data more accurate.

Controversial Theories - We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.

This one could have been grouped with education just as easily.

This one doesn't sound too bad on the surface. After all, all knowledge is provisional and subject to change. However, the Texas Republicans have betrayed their motivations by singling out 'life origins' and 'environmental change', and by using the 'strengths and weaknesses' language, which is almost a sort of creationist code. I've discussed creationist use of strengths and limitations before. They aren't truly interested in the actual scientific debate. They just bring up all types of canards that have been refuted over and over again. Many of these can be found in the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims. It's simply miseducation of children.

I've also gotten into discussions with a few of my conservative friends about climate change. See my entry, Investigating a Few Claims from Global Warming Doubters. I don't blame my friends so much for this. There's an entire industry in the right wing media devoted to spreading misinformation about climate change, which has mislead a lot of people. But these are the types of arguments the Texas GOP would like to see taught to children.

Suppression of Free Speech

I've already discussed their desired suppression of free speech in previous critiques, but there was a plank worth pointing out this time around. It is, in fact, similar to a plank in their previous platform.

Flag Code - The U.S. flag code should be made into Law and not left to the sole discretion of the President.

Here's an online version of the U.S. Flag Code.

First of all, it seems that as a society, we don't fully follow the code. How many places have you seen that have flags hoisted 24/7, not taking them down at night or during inclement weather? How many shirts have you seen with flags on them? How many advertisements have you seen with flags? How many paper plates, napkins, and other such things?

Then there's the line that "Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both." As I wrote previously, it seems a bit totalitarian to make symbolic gestures against inanimate objects illegal. And to make the punishment up to a year of prison time, for burning a piece of fabric, seems particularly harsh.

And then there are all the guidelines on how to act during the Pledge of Allegiance, or playing of the National Anthem, or displaying the flag, etc.

I do think that people should show the flag the proper respect. I do myself. But it should be voluntary. To coerce that behavior through law takes away its meaning. It's not a show of respect to stand during the national anthem if you know that you could be fined or thrown in jail if you don't. Then it's simply an obligation.

And of course, enforcing the Flag Code would take away people's First Amendment rights of free speech.

Government Representation

Electoral College - We strongly support the Electoral College.

I understand the reasoning behind the Electoral College. It's the same reason Senators used to be elected by state legislatures before the passing of the 17 Amendment. If you view the state governments as representing the people, and the federal government as representing the states, then there's no reason for direct election of those in the federal government. But the Electoral College is an outmoded system. It can also produce results counter to a representative democracy. Three times in our nation's history, the electoral college has elected the candidate who received less of the popular vote than the losing candidate, in 1876, 1888, and most recently in 2000. Here in Texas, which is currently a predominantly Republican state, it makes my vote in the presidential election useless (though I may use that to my advantage this time around, protesting some of Obama's policies by voting for a 3rd party candidate).

Washington D.C. - We strongly oppose making the District of Columbia a state or adding Congressional members.

I'd mentioned this in a previous critique, but I've since looked into it more. Before, I'd said that D.C.'s 620,000 population was a close match to a representative in the House, but might give it too much representation with 2 senators. But if you look at a list of state populations, you can see that D.C. actually has more people than Wyoming, and that there are 7 states with populations of less than 1 million. So by comparison, making D.C. a state wouldn't be that far out of line with some of the less populous states.

Economy & Taxes

Capital Gains Tax - We favor abolishing the capital gains tax.

There is an argument to be made for capital gains taxes being lower than regular income tax - you're putting your own capital at risk. However, as the tax system is currently set up, this also provides a loophole for the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. For an example, read Romney Economic Adviser Defends Tax Loophole That Saves Romney Millions.

Sound Money - Our founding fathers warned us of the dangers of allowing central bankers to control our currency because inflation equals taxation without representation. We support the return to the time tested precious metal standard for the U.S. dollar.

No major economy has used the gold standard in decades. To quote about.com, "The stability caused by the gold standard is also the biggest drawback in having one. Exchange rates are not allowed to respond to changing circumstances in countries. A gold standard severely limits the stabilization policies the Federal Reserve can use. Because of these factors, countries with gold standards tend to have severe economic shocks." That article also discusses other disadvantages of the gold standard compared to a fiat money system.


Constitutional Citations on Legislation - We urge that all bills presented in the U.S. and Texas Congress include citations to the authorizing constitutional provision, cost to implement, and impact on the family.

Seriously? Impact on the family in every bill?

Addictive Behaviors - We encourage state and federal governments to severely prosecute illegal dealers and manufacturers of addictive substances and pornography. We urge Congress to discourage import of such substances into our country. Faith based rehabilitation programs should be emphasized. We oppose legalization of illicit drugs. We support an effective abstinence-based educational program for children. We oppose any "needle exchange" program. We urge vigorous enforcement of our DUI laws.

Our nation's drug policy makes no sense. Personally, I'd like to see all drugs made legal, since I don't think the government should be in the business of protecting us from ourselves. However, I can see the argument for making some highly dangerous drugs illegal because of their wider impact on society as opposed to the individual. But if you're going to do that, it should be based on sound science and the actual dangers of the drug. Here's a ranking of drugs in order of danger, based on a study published in The Lancet. Heroine, cocaine, barbiturates, and methadone top the list, but following right behind at 5th is alcohol. A little lower at 9 is tobacco. Some drugs that are currently illicit, such as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy, were ranked as less dangerous than even tobacco. So what is the reasoning for keeping those drugs illegal, when other, more dangerous drugs, are legal and widely available?

Incandescent Light Bulbs - We support the freedom to continue to use and manufacture incandescent light bulbs.

I've seen something along these lines before. Take a look at my entry, Email Debunking - Government Mandated CFL Bulbs. Congress has passed efficiency standards for bulbs, not mandated or outlawed any particular technologies. Granted, most current incandescent bulbs don't pass the efficiency standards, but some new bulbs coming onto the market do have improved efficiencies.

Personally, I think this is a pretty small sacrifice to make to combat global warming. And I doubt bulb manufacturers would have been pushed to develop more efficient bulbs without the new law.

NASA - We strongly encourage the federal government and NASA to work with American citizens and American businesses to research and develop a new vehicle to continue human space flight and maintain American's leadership in space exploration.

Actually, as the plank is written, it's not bad. As I've mentioned other places, we need the right balance of private industry vs. publicly funded institutions. NASA is still a very worthwhile institution, but the actual design and construction of launch vehicles is becoming a mature enough technology that private industry can handle it, and then we'll get all the cost benefits that go along with free market solutions. SpaceX is only one of the companies that could potentially take on that role. ATK is another.

The reason I included this plank is because of how so many Republicans reacted when the shuttle was cancelled. For example, read this article from Media Matters, Krauthammer Falsely Claims Obama "Killed NASA's Manned Space Program" .

General Discrimination

Preserving National Security - We believe terrorism is a major threat to international peace and to our own safety. We urge our national leadership to:
• Protect and defend our Constitutional rights and swiftly wage successful war on terrorists
• Eliminate aid and cease commerce with any nation threatening us or aiding terrorists or hostile nations
• Publicly support other nations fighting terrorists
Reasonably use profiling to protect us
• Prosecute national security breaches
• Revise laws or executive orders that erode our essential liberties

What 'reasonable profiling' is there? The Oklahoma City Bombing was committed by a couple of white veterans of the U.S. Army. A couple years ago, the FBI broke up a terorrist plot to kill police officers hatched by a group of white Christian terrorists. The Animal Liberation Front is international. Another white Christian, James Kopp of the terrorist group Lambs of Christ executed an abortion doctor. Here's a whole list of terrorist attacks by anti-abortion zealots. Or go read the Insurrectionism Timeline for a scary list of terrorist attacks and plots in recent years (along with a lot of legal but incendiary speech). Who are we supposed to be profiling for?

Driver Licenses - We propose that every Texas driver license shall indicate whether the driver is a U.S. citizen. No such license shall be issued to anyone not legally in the country.

What's the point of putting someone's citizenship on a driver's license? Handling immigration is not a job of the local police, so there's no need for them to know someone's citizenship during a routine traffic stop. Restaurants and liquor stores that I.D. for age don't need to know my residency status. This seems like it's solely to call attention to foreigners.

Educational Entitlement - We encourage legislation that prohibits enrollment in free public schools of non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States.

This is another one I've mentioned already, but must bring up again. This is completely heartless, to deny an education to children because of the crimes of their parents. And what alternative do they propose? Bands of children roaming the streets because they have no school to attend? Or maybe they should just all get factory jobs and be productive.

Voter Rights Act - We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized.

Racism may not be as bad as it once was, but it's still bad. I've had co-workers openly complain about 'good white girls' dating black boys. When these types of attitudes are still so prevalent, and with the history of some states disenfranchising minority voters, I think the Voting Rights Act still serves a valuable purpose.

And when you look at some of the recent shenanigans from Republicans, such as After Signing Law Disenfranchising ID-less Voters, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Closes 10 DMV Offices, it makes you wonder if the Voting Rights Act is enough. Note that Texas is another of the states that now requires photo ID to vote, despite the fact that only 44 one-millionths of one percent of votes are cast by people who commit voter fraud.

Preservation of Republican Form of Government - We support our republican form of government in Texas as set forth in the Texas Bill of Rights and oppose Initiative and Referendum. We also urge the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress to enact legislation prohibiting any judicial jurisdiction from allowing any substitute or parallel system of Law, specifically foreign Law (including Sharia Law), which is not in accordance with the U.S. or Texas Constitutions.

I don't have a problem with referendums when appropriate. It's the closest thing to pure democracy that we do in this country. What's wrong with letting people voice their opinions directly on contentious issues?

And are they really worried about Sharia Law being enacted in the U.S.? That just seems to be bringing up a non-issue solely because they don't like Muslims.

Boy Scouts of America - We support the Boy Scouts of America and reject any attempt to undermine or fundamentally change the ideals of the organization.

I like the Boys Scouts. It was one of my favorite activities growing up. I'm even an Eagle Scout. My daughter now is in the Girl Scouts. And one of the things that's impressed me about the Girl Scouts compared to the Boy Scouts is how open the Girl Scouts are. It doesn't matter what a girl's religious affiliation is, even if it's none at all. Her sexual orientation doesn't matter. They've even welcomed a transgender girl (see my previous entry, Evil Girl Scouts). The Boy Scouts, on the other hand, are very discriminatory (in the negative connotation) in their membership requirements. I even remember, as a kid, one of the boys in my brothers' scout troop was denied his Eagle Scout, after doing all the work and the project, when it came out that he didn't believe in any gods. You can find many links to much more information in this article, Boy Scouts of America: Discrimination, Bigotry, and Prejudice.

There are so many positive things about the Boy Scouts. I wish they'd become more open and less bigoted so that I could support them more fully.

Discrimination Against Homosexuals

I've included nearly identical versions of the following two passages in previous discussions of the platform, but they're just so bad that I can't help but include them again. They don't even try to hide their prejudice here. They just put it right out in the open for everybody to see.

Family and Defense of Marriage ? We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman, which is the foundational unit of a healthy society, and we oppose the assault on marriage by judicial activists. We call on the President and Congress to take immediate action to defend the sanctity of marriage. We are resolute that Congress exercise authority under the United States Constitution, and pass legislation withholding jurisdiction from the Federal Courts in cases involving family law, especially any changes in the definition of marriage. We further call on Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify a marriage amendment declaring that marriage in the United States shall consist of and be recognized only as the union of a natural man and a natural woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse. We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married. We advocate the repeal of laws that place an unfair tax burden on families. We call upon Congress to completely remove the marriage penalty in the tax code, whereby a married couple receives a smaller standard deduction than their unmarried counterparts living together. The primary family unit consists of those related by blood, heterosexual marriage, or adoption. The family is responsible for its own welfare, education, moral training, conduct, and property.
Homosexuality - We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle, in public policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples." We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

Those are so bad that no additional commentary on my part is even needed. While religiously motivated bigotry is protected as a personal belief under the First Amendment, it should not be codified into law, affecting those who don't hold such beliefs.

'War on Women'

Supporting Motherhood - We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.

There's nothing wrong with supporting women who want to devote their lives to staying home to raise their children, but this plank is a little more sinister when you read a bit into it. By juxtaposing that first statement with 'deplor[ing] the liberal assault on the family', it makes it sound as if they oppose other lifestyle choices for women, such as actually getting jobs and being a part of the workforce.

Freedom of Access Act - We urge repeal of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Law. Those who assault peaceful protesters acting under the Constitution should be vigorously prosecuted. Picketing and literature distribution do not fall under the RICO Act.

The Freedom of Access Act was passed in response to the increasingly violent tactics of anti-abortion protesters. Aside from the most violent acts committed by the extremists (bombings, attempted murders, actual murders, kidnappings, etc.), even the 'peaceful' protesters were blocking access to health care facilities, preventing women from receiving medical services. Since this was already an issue, the Freedom of Access Act clarified what activities were illegal.

While I agree that 'picketing and literature distribution' shouldn't fall under the racketeering act, if the protesters are being instructed to do more, such as disobey the Freedom of Access Act, then it would fall under RICO.

Harassing Pregnancy Centers - We urge legislation to protect pregnancy centers from harassing ordinances to require pregnancy centers to post signs in violation of their Constitutional rights. We further oppose any regulation of pregnancy centers in Texas which interfere with their private, charitable business.

These 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers' are pretty despicable organizations. While I can appreciate their difference of opinion over the rights to grant to developing fetuses, their methods are truly Machiavellian. To quote a Think Progress article, Taxpayer-Funded 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Tell Jewish Woman To Convert To Christianity Or Go To Hell, these "so-called 'crisis pregnancy centers' that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions." Follow that link to more links giving examples of the behavior they're describing. Here are a couple more links that actually mention Texas, Taxpayer-Funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers Using Religion To Oppose Abortion and Disinformation at 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers'. And although it doesn't deal directly with this plank, here's a link concerning Texas's draconian abortion laws, A triumph for the Texas Taliban.

So I don't have any problem at all with those centers having to put up signs explaining just exactly what services they offer for a little truth in advertising, nor with there being more oversight and regulation of those centers.


The next two quotes are related.

College Tuition - We recommend three levels of college tuition: In-state requiring proof of Texas legal citizenship, out-of-state requiring proof of US citizenship, and nonresident legal alien. Non-US citizens should not be eligible for state or federal grants, or loans.
Higher Education - We support merit-based admissions for all college and university applicants to public institutions. We further support the repeal of the 1997 Texas legislative act commonly known as the Top Ten Percent Rule. All Texas students should be given acceptance priority over out-of-state or foreign students.

It can only help our economy to lure the best and brightest. Look at the early days of NASA. Much of the technology was based on the knowledge of 'imported' German rocket scientists, such as Werner von Braun. Bringing those scientists over didn't displace American scientists. It ensured that the cream of the crop were in this country, and subsequently that America had the lead in rocket science. It created jobs for American scientists to work in NASA, and blue collar jobs for the people that built the rockets.

Foreign Aid - We oppose foreign aid except in cases of national defense or catastrophic disasters, with Congressional approval.

Ignoring compassion, this is a pragmatic concern. When people live in crappy conditions, they turn to desperate measures. Look at the terrorists in the Middle East, or the pirates of Somalia, or the drug cartels of Mexico. All of those things affect U.S. citizens, so it's in our best interest to minimize the conditions that lead to those situations.

We can also look to those regions as potential future trading partners. Boeing can't sell 747s to non-existent airlines. But if those countries become more prosperous, there will be markets to sell high end American made goods. Investing in the world economy will help our economy.

International Organizations - We support U.S. withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank.

It's not really a surprise that the Texas GOP holds this position. As I pointed out in previous critiques, they want us out of the UN as well. But in today's global economy, it just doesn't make sense to withdrawal from the organizations the help run and provide oversight to that economy. Although, as I pointed out in a previous critique, this may have to do with their fear mongering over a New World Order.

UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child - We unequivocally oppose the United States Senate's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The U.S. was one of the key countries in drafting this treaty. It's one of only three UN countries yet to approve the treaty, the other two being Somalia and South Sudan. It's a national embarrassment that we haven't ratified this treaty yet.

Law of the Sea - Adopted by the UN in 1982, we still oppose the Law of the Sea Treaty.

This is just one more example of not wanting to work with the international community.

Mixing Religion and Politics

The next two quotes are related.

Judeo-Christian Nation - As America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice.
Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties - We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. We urge the Legislature to increase the ability of faith-based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations.

I've already discussed this pretty extensively in the entry, Response to an Editorial by Pat Boone. Our nation's founders were no more uniform than politicians of today. Some were Christians. Some wouldn't fit at all with today's mainstream Christianity (they didn't even accept that Jesus was divine). While some most definitely wanted religious influences in government, others favored a secular government. And while state governments might have had more religious influence, the federal government has always been primarily secular. In other words, the separation of church and state in the federal government has always been a true separation.

Our nation was founded on Enlightenment values. If you want to find an older historical basis for our government, a representative democracy is not a Judeo Christian principle at all, but more of a Greco Roman one.

There's also some special pleading for religious institutions that I'd noted in a previous critique, wanting to reduce their regulation. Why? Even when I was a Christian, I wasn't so naive as to think that every person claiming to be a Christian was sincere. There are plenty of charlatans and con artists out there, who would love to take advantage of a poorly regulated 'charity' for less than noble reasons. All non-profits should have some level of oversight. Non-profits claiming a religious affiliation shouldn't get any special treatment.

Empowering Local Entities Concerning Religious Meetings - We support the right of local entities to determine their own policies regarding religious clubs and meetings on all properties owned by the same without interference.

This is just a transparent attempt to get around separation of church and state, and allow local governments to endorse sectarian organizations.

Israel - We believe that the United States and Israel share a special long-standing relationship based on shared values, a mutual commitment to a republican form of government, and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. Our foreign policy with Israel should reflect the special nature of this relationship through continued military and economic assistance and recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. We believe that the US Embassy should be located in Jerusalem. In our diplomatic dealings with Israel, we encourage the continuation of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but oppose pressuring Israel to make concessions it believes would jeopardize its security, including the trading of land for the recognition of its right to exist. We call on the U.S. to cease strong arming Israel through prior agreements with the understanding of delivering Palestinians on the West Bank. We support the continuation of non-recognition of terrorist nations and organizations. Our policy is based on God's biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.

I discussed this before, but it really is worth mentioning again. Look at the part I bolded. They're basing foreign policy on Bible verses.

Where I Actually Agree with Them

Indefinite Detention - The Republican Party abhors any policies of indefinite detention of US citizens without due process. We urge Congress to terminate any practice of detention without due process.

I agree wholeheartedly. I just wish that they'd extend this plank to include all people, not just U.S. citizens. As I wrote before in regards to Guantanamo, "I'm ashamed to be living in the 'land of the free', when we're willing to take away people's freedom just because we're scared."

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) - We call for the disbanding of the TSA and place airport security into the more accountable and capable hands of the state and local law enforcement.

Well, on reading this a second time, I'm not sure I actually agree with them. I'm all for disbanding the TSA because it's nothing more than security theater. It's all a show to make people feel more secure, which does practically nothing to improve actual security, while infringing upon people's rights and dignity in the process. Here's a decent article from The Economist with more info, Economist Debates - Airport Security. I think Bruce Schneier is right on, while Kip Hawley's opening remark reminds me of Lisa Simpson's Tiger Repelling Rock.

Looking at this plank from the Texas Republicans, it doesn't sound like they're upset at the TSA for the same reasons I am, but rather that they just don't like it from a states' rights point of view.


So that's it. Another look at a new Texas Republican Party Platform, and another long critique from me. I actually did cut down from my original list of planks to criticize by quite a bit. It's just that there's so much in this platform to criticize.

So my opinion of the Texas GOP hasn't been improved. I still won't automatically reject every candidate with an R behind their name, but with this platform in mind, it's going to make it much, much more difficult for those candidates to win my vote.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Arguing on a Website - Explaining Evolution

Evolutionary TreeI didn't write much on the blog this week because I spent a few lunch breaks getting caught up in a discussion in the comments section of an article in the local paper. So, I'll do what I often do in these situations, and copy my comments here. It's a bit repetitious of other things I've written before, but due too the nature of comments, a bit briefer.

You should read the Letter to the Editor that kicked off the conversation first. Be warned that much of the discussion in the comments section degraded into name calling, triggered by the second letter at that link.

Here's my first comment.

Although I agree with much of the sentiment of Jim Edwards, I did see a few places where what he wrote is in need of correction, or where I might add a litte more information.

"First of all man did not evolve from apes."

Granted, this is a semantic issue, but it's one of my pet peeves. Humans did not evolve from any of the other extant apes, true. We didn't evolve from chimps or bonobos (they didn't evolve from us, either). We all three species share a common ancestor. Further back still, we share a common ancestor with gorillas, and even further back with orangutans. But if you were to get in a time machine and travel back to any of those common ancestors, whatever species they might be, they would still be referred to as apes. It would be like arguing that crows didn't evolve from birds, but only share a common ancestor with birds.

Regarding the time of the split, the current best estimate is around 6 million years between us and chimps & bonobos. The other apes split off from our lineage earlier than that. You have to go back around 20 million years for the split between old world monkeys and us apes, and back around 30 million years for the split with new world monkeys.

If you're really interested in the family tree, just google "primate phylogeny".

Regarding 'missing links', I'm not sure what people expect them to look like, but there are plenty of transitional fossils that have been found. To give just two examples, tiktaalik roseae is a great example of the transition from fish to tetrapods, and ambulocetus is a great example of the transition from terrestrial mammal to whale. But keep in mind that these examples don't rest solely on their own. You have to look at them in context of other fossils. For example, animals like Eustheopteron and Panderichthys are similar to Tiktaalik, but more fish like, while animals like Acanthostega and Ichtyostega are also similar, but more tetrapod like. On the human side, just google "talk origins hominid skulls", and you'll find a page showing skulls grading gradually from earlier hominid ancestors into us modern humans.

And my second:

tdgriffin wrote:

"I have no doubt that the DNA of apes and humans are similar. I wouldn't be surprised if doves and pigeons have similar DNA. They resemble each other. It doesn't prove they came from the same ancestor."

Why would our DNA be so very similar to that of a chimp's if not for common ancestry? Let me use an example. Most animals can make their own vitamin C. They don't need to eat foods high in the vitamin because their bodies simply synthesize it from the other molecules of the food they eat. Scientists have found the gene responsible for this, the L-gulano-γ-lactone oxidase gene. They've found a broken copy of this gene in humans. So the first question is, why would we have a broken copy of a gene, unless we inherited it from an ancestor with a functioning copy? Now, I know some creationists might say that maybe Adam and Eve did have functioning copies of this gene, and mutation crippled it. But guess what, scientists have also found this gene in chimps, macaques, and other primates, and it's broken in the same location as the human copy. So now you have to accept that this gene either just happened to mutate in the same location in all of these different animals, or that a creator intentionally put the same broken, non-functioning gene in all these animals, when it just makes so much more sense to assume that it mutated in a common ancestor of all these animals, which passed it on to all of its descendants.

(As to why a broken gene could have persisted in successful animals, if you're eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, it really won't hurt you if you can't make Vitamin C, so there's no selection pressure for those individuals with a working copy vs those with a broken copy.)

And L-gulano-γ-lactone oxidase isn't the only example. We share other pseudogenes with the great apes, and similarities in 'junk' DNA also match the pattern predicted by common ancestry.

And then my third and final comment:

in response to tdgriffin:
So, I take it you disagree with me? Oh well. But I still wonder why we, in our never ending quest for the perfect species, would hang onto a broken copy of an unnecessary gene over millions of years, since we and the apes decided to go our separate ways. When I break a cd, I chunk that bugger.

Another thing I wonder about, when I hear it mentioned: Just how many generations would it take for a black family living in New York to become white, or a white family living in South Africa to become black?

Natural selection only acts on beneficial or harmful traits. Beneficial traits allow an organism to have more offspring, so that trait becomes more common in a population. Harmful traits cause an organism to have less offspring, so that trait becomes less common in the population. Neutral traits aren't acted on by natural selection, and can persist (although, in the long run, neutral traits tend to deteriorate or drift just because there's no pressure from natural selection to maintain them). Also keep in mind, that there's no mechanism in our cells to do what you propose - cut out bad sections of DNA. Our cells just copy the DNA, making a few mistakes here and there in mutations. And of course, there's no conscious intent. You can't will your cells to cut out your broken L-gulano-γ-lactone oxidase gene in the sperm or eggs that you'll provide to your children.

So, some of our distant ancestors lived in an environment where they ate lots of fruit and vegetables, and got plenty of Vitamin C from their diet. When some mutation occurred that crippled Vitamin C synthesis, it didn't help or hurt that individual. Even if a mechanism existed to do it, cutting out the broken gene wouldn't have been noticeably beneficial. It was a neutral mutation. So, it didn't hurt that individual's chances of having offspring, and the broken gene began to spread.

But now there is an interesting question - if the broken gene wasn't beneficial, how did it become so widespread as to become fixed in the entire population? Here's where it's good to remember that populations are composed of individuals, and that sometimes a little bit of chance comes into play. From time to time, there will be population bottlenecks. This may be due to hard times that kill off most of a population, or from a small group becoming isolated and then developing into a new species. So when you get down to those small population sizes, chance plays a big role in which versions of genes are present and, and consequently which will persist in that population. (You can read more about this on Wikipedia under 'Founder Effect': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_Effect

As to the question of skin color, I honestly don't know, but I suspect that in modern times, it might not happen at all. Remember that in evolutionary terms, 'fitness' merely means successfully leaving offspring. And for natural selection to act on a trait, it has to result in individuals having either more or less children than other individuals with different traits. In modern day New York City or modern day South Africa, where much of people's lives are spent indoors, and where dietary supplements are readily available for those with Vitamin D deficiencies, I doubt there's any strong selection pressure on skin pigment.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

National Hot Dog Month

Chili DogJuly is National Hot Dog Month. The 22nd is National Hot Dog Day, but the big event is July 4th, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Last year's winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs, buns and all, in 10 minutes. That's almost 8 packs worth!

There are tons of different toppings for hot dogs, but here's one of my favorite combinations, which also happens to be just a little out of the ordinary. Ellicott Dining Hall at University of Maryland used to serve them this way, but it's the only place I've ever seen that did, and they've since remodeled, so I doubt even they make these hot dogs anymore. Really, the recipe's pretty simple - a hot dog on a bun, covered with sauteed potatoes and onions, with a bit of spicy brown mustard. The potatoes have to be diced pretty small. Simple, like I said, but very good.

And if you really want good hot dogs, make sure you buy good hot dogs. You can't beat hot dogs in a natural casing for the little bit of crispiness when you bite into it. Here in Wichita Falls, I can find the Boar's Head brand with natural casings, which are pretty good, but they're all beef. Back up in the northeast, Dietz and Watson makes natural casing hot dogs, too, and theirs have pork mixed in (I'd buy those if I could find them down here). Of course, if you know of a good local butcher, go there.

I'll mention that I kicked off the month by going to a local place, Ronnie's, and getting a chili cheese dog with sauteed onions and jalapeños, and a side of fresh cut fries. It was pretty tasty, and worth going back (unfortunately, the dog didn't have a natural casing or pork). Probably my favorite hot dog joint is The O in Pittsburgh. Natural casings, plenty of toppings, and a mountain of fresh cut fries to go with it. When I had my internship back in college, there used to be a guy with a hot dog cart that would pull up to our building every day. I didn't go there every lunch, but it got to the point where I didn't have to order - once he saw my face, he'd just start preparing my regular. I've never seen a guy work so fast with toppings.

Anyway, there's no deeper meaning to this post. It's kind of frivolous, but I really like hot dogs, almost as much as potatoes, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to write about a whole month dedicated to them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for June 2012

Top 10 ListOne more month gone by, one more time to look at the server logs. For the second month in a row, the MBT Shoe Article was ranked higher than the Autogyros Article. I guess there's still some interest from the recent Skechers lawsuit. The Response to Ken Huber's Editorial moved up in the rankings to 4th place. One page made the list that hadn't made it in quite a while, Ray Comfort: Quote Miner Extraordinaire. And two pages made the list that hadn't ever made it before, Book Review - More Than a Carpenter and Science & Engineering Indicators 2008. One of my personal favorites, Ray Comfort - Still Ignorant on Evolution, missed the list by two places.

Overall traffic was down just a bit again, but still in the general range of what it's been recently.

Since I don't want to make another entry for this, I'll mention that I've finally started to work on the facelift to the site that I mentioned a while back (wow, it's been almost a year). I'm trying to do at least one or two pages per day, but I have around 300 pages to get through, so it may take a little while. I've made some decent progress to the Essays, if you want a preview of what the site will eventually look like.

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

Top 10 for June 2012

  1. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  2. Autogyro History & Theory
  3. Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  4. Blog - Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
  5. Factoids Debunked & Verified, Part II
  6. Blog - Ray Comfort: Quote Miner Extraordinaire
  7. Blog - Book Review - More Than a Carpenter
  8. Blog - Science & Engineering Indicators 2008
  9. Blog - Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  10. Blog - Casio EX-F1 - First Impression of the High Speed Video

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