Archives 2006

For Jimmy

I’ve gotten entangled in a discussion in the comments on another thread. It has drifted far off-topic, so I’m giving it its own thread.

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Eine Kleine Weihnachtsmusik

I ran across this video of a Helsinki choir, and thought y’all might like some holiday music, something we can all enjoy, regardless of religion, social status, etc:

Transcript below the fold. Read More

Sell Your Soul, Get A Free DVD

Brian Flemming and the Rational Response Squad have announced the Blasphemy Challenge.

The offer is simple: deny the Holy Spirit in a video (thus committing the one unforgivable sin and condemning your soul to eternal torment), post it to YouTube, and if you’re one of the first 1001 people, you get a free copy of the movie The God Who Wasn’t There

I won’t be participating, because a) I already have a copy of the DVD, b) I look like a dork on video, c) I sound like a dork on audio, d) I can afford to buy additional copies if I want to give them away as presents. But I will say this: I deny the holy spirit, and I hope that’s enough to get Brian Flemming to autograph my copy of the DVD if I ever meet him.

(HT PZ Myers.)

77.1 µHz…

The frequency at which PZ Myers has been posting to Pharyngula, on average.

Me, I’m in the 4.4 µHz range.

How Do You Spell the Names of the Months?

One construct that I’ve seen (and used) a lot in Perl is a hash that maps month abbreviations to numeric values that can be fed to POSIX::strftime:

our %months = (
    "jan" => 0, "feb" => 1, "mar" => 3, ...

This is useful for parsing log files and such. It works, it’s quick and easy, and it doesn’t require a whole tree of dependent modules (which are always on the wrong side of the Internet) to be installed.

But what’s always bugged me is that this is the sort of thing that the machine ought to know already. And besides, it’s US-centric: what if the person running the script is in a non-English-speaking country?

Fortunately, I18N::Langinfo knows the names of the months. Read More

Soapboxes of Morality

Americans United
that Jerry Falwell’s
Liberty Council
has nothing better to do than to go around checking which retailers have the word “Christmas” on their websites. (HT

said it best, a long time ago:

Why don’t all the people with too much time on their hands get off their soapboxes of morality and start sending me envelopes stuffed with money?

In this spirit, I’m starting my own naughty/nice list:

Naughty Nice
Jerry Falwell
Bill O’Reilly
John Gibson
(No one yet)

People on the “Naughty” list are the ones who have too much free time, and no better way to fill it than by agitating against a fictitious “war on Christmas”. The way for these people to move to the “Nice” list is to send me an envelope stuffed with money.

Unexpected Science Song

We all knew that They Might Be Giants
know stuff,
but even so, I was pleasantly surprised, while listening to
this month’s episode
of their podcast, to hear
Cut the Strings:

Read More

Color Me Converted

I’ve just picked up Ellis Weiner’s book, Santa Lives!: Five Conclusive Arguments for the Existence of Santa Claus. The arguments are:

The Ontological Argument

We can imagine a perfect Santa Claus. A Santa Claus who exists is obviously more perfect than an otherwise identical one who doesn’t exist. Therefore existence is a necessary perfection. Therefore Santa Claus exists.

The Causal Argument

Everything has a cause. Therefore Christmas has a cause. We are ineluctably led to the conclusion that Christmas was caused by Santa Claus.

The Argument from Design

Christmas is a highly nonrandom event: the presents, retail frenzy, and festive holiday napkins all point to design, not chance. Clearly, Christmas must have been designed for a purpose by the master gift-giver himself, Santa Claus.

The Experiential Argument

Millions of people (mostly children) have had direct personal experience of Santa Claus. Surely not all of them are lying, insane, or deluded.

The Argument from Morality

Why do people strive to do good and avoid naughtiness? In ancient times, people made laws, and the laws were obeyed to avoid punishment. But Santa Claus provides a better basis for morality: presents.

Along the way in this slim volume, Dr. Weiner tackles such difficult questions as, could it be that Santa Claus is not an American? Is it possible that Santa Claus’s secret identity is Luciano Pavarotti? What is Mrs. Claus’s maiden (or, indeed, first) name?

The book’s site includes an excerpt. And for those who won’t or can’t read, a Flash animation of the author reading an excerpt.

iTunes Podcast Problem Solved

I’d been having an annoying problem in iTunes 7.0.2: although I’d set the podcast preferences to “Keep: Last 5 episodes”, it was still keeping old episodes around, long after they should have been deleted.

After rooting around in Apple’s discussion fora, the solution turned out to be:

  1. Select “Podcasts” in the left bar
  2. Select everything with Apple-A
  3. Right-click (or Ctrl-click, for a one-button mouse) on the mass of selected episodes, and select “Allow Auto Delete”

When I next updated the podcasts, it deleted the old episodes, just as it should have. Presumably some podcasts or episodes got marked as “Do Not Auto Delete” somehow, perhaps when I upgraded iTunes, or moved stuff from the old Mac.

The annoying part is that there’s no indication in iTunes that Auto Delete has been disabled. That seems like just the sort of UI thing that Apple would have added, given that there are a zillion other status indicators.

Update, Dec. 2, 2006: Apparently when you click the “Get” button to manually download a podcast episode, it is automatically (and invisibly) marked as “do no auto delete”.

Typically this happens to me when I subscribe to a new podcast: iTunes downloads the latest episode automatically, but I normally download several more, in case I like it. Those episodes don’t get deleted automatically.

Hovind Prison Update

On Monday, a
new post
appeared on Kent Hovind’s weblog, describing life in jail. As you might expect, he plays the Christian persecution card. He also has a list of reasons God allowed him to be sent to jail. Oddly enough, neither “I’m guilty” nor “there are no gods” is on the list.

He also writes,

If the case is not reversed, I face anywhere from parole to 7 to 12 years.

This is a man who believes that the Earth is 6000 years old when in fact it’s 4.5 billion years old. So presumably that means that he’s looking at between 5.25 and 9 million years in prison.