Friday, December 5, 2008


Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, posted a video about stamps that feature religion in his blog post Religion and Freethinkers on Postage Stamps

I did some research and posted the following in response to that video.

I don’t know what Madeline was talking about.
“Experiment P” is listed in the flight log of Apollo 8 as “Experiment P-1.” The text on the stamp was not in the log. It was just the first prayer led from space, which is bad in its own way. We spent millions of dollars for someone to go up and pray near the moon. It was not a scripture quote.


The relevant part is between 074:45:50 and 074:50:42.

The mission cost $310 million in 1968. The mission lasted 6 days and 3 hours. Experiment P-1 lasted just under 5 minutes. That prayer cost approximately $175,737. says that is $1,036,686.00 when adjusted for inflation to 2007. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say that is probably the most expensive single prayer in history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Poetic Justice

In 2003, the head of state of the United States, George Bush illegally deposed the head of state of Iraq. His name was Hussein. Tonight, the United States elected as its next President a man named Hussein. That is truly poetic justice.

Finally Over

Barack Obama is the President Elect of the United States. John McCain just conceded. People are still voting in Hawai'i. This has to be a record for the fastest concession ever in a Presidential election.

I thought it was impossible for a Dark Horse candidate to win the Presidency in modern times. At the beginning of the campaign two years ago, (a record time span for a Presidential race) most people had never heard of him. Now, starting January 20, 2009, Barack Obama is the President.

I voted for Bob Barr. Obama is probably who we need right now, but after 2000, I have to vote for the best man. In 2000, I thought Bush would be better than Gore, so I didn't vote for Browne, even though I thought he was the better man. I made up for that blunder by voting for Badnarik in 2004. I refused to repeat 2000 this time. Even though Barr was my choice, I am cautiously happy about Obama's victory.

Edit: McCain's concession speech seemed a bit racist. He seemed impressed with the progress of the negro. I use the word negro because the McCain speech reminds me of a speech William Howard Taft gave 100 years ago on the progress the former slaves had made since they were freed and what his party was doing for civil rights.

Republicans prayed for god's will to be done. The book of Romans says that national leaders are chosen by god. Only cognitive dissonance could even suggest to Christian Dominionists that they are right. If Jesus is real, he likes Obama. Suck it, Palin. No, really. Suck it, Palin. MILF, or rather MILP (Mom I'd like to punch).

By February, I'll be pissed off at Obama and ready for 2012. Tonight, I'm happy.

Voting Problems

I got to the polling place at about about 11:30. There was no line. I walked right in and met an old lady who had no business running voter check-in. My first problem came when she didn't recognize that the spelled out middle name in the book could match the initial on my drivers license. After that, she noticed that my address didn't match the book. I moved this year, so that makes sense. The state does not require the address to match but she did not know that. An election judge was called over so she could ask him if I was allowed to vote. He said that I was. He walked away while she began filling out the necessary paper work for me to get a ballot.

At that point, the next problem occurred. I asked for a paper ballot. She was unaware that you can request this, even though it has been allowed for several years and poll worker training must be re-taken every Presidential election. She asked if I wanted a provisional ballot. I told her that I want the real ballot that the state says I can have. Again, she called the judge over. He pointed to the slip that tells why I am using a paper ballot. The first option is, "Voter requested a paper ballot."

I went to the person who passed out the ballots. She handed me the three pages and an envelope. You are supposed to put the ballot in the envelope and seal it. The problem here is that the ballot is about an inch too long to fit. It has to be folded to fit inside. It will be counted on an optical scan machine, so the fold worries me. All those ballots have to be unfolded to be counted, adding to the counting time.

Before I sat down to fill out my ballot, I noticed that the poll judge who said I could vote was talking on his cell phone while sitting at a voting booth. Maybe the rules are different for poll workers, but phone use is prohibited inside a polling place. Sure, they weren't busy, but it seems wrong to be using a voting booth as a phone booth.

Is it too much to ask for a smooth, properly functioning election? Can't we disqualify poll workers who can't remember the rules they learned last week on training day? We've been voting for over 200 years in Ohio. Some states have been doing it for almost 400 years. Why can't we get it right?

Monday, October 27, 2008

W: An Uncomfortable, Yet Great Film

One word sums up how I felt while watching W: uncomfortable.

I went into this film expecting more of an absurdist comedy than a tragedy. The level of realism was far beyond what I expected. For the most part, the cast, makeup, and casting crew did such a good job with the characters that it was very easy to imagine that these were not actors on the screen but the actual people. Josh Brolin's characterization of W was certainly Oscar-worthy.

Even better than Brolin's part was Phedon Papamichael's photographic direction. The job of the Director of Photography is to bring the story to life through the creation of images to draw the attention of the viewer where the Director wants. Few films are as good of an example of this as W. Papamichael used the camera to force moral and emotional perspective in a way that I have rarely seen outside of the films of Stanley Kubrick. I've only seen the film once, viewing it as a complete work. I intend to watch it again to study the photography.

Overall, I thought the film was fair in its treatment of the actual people involved. The most ardent Bush supporters will not like it, but to still be that supportive of him in the final months of his second term, you either have to not be paying attention or be uncritical in all of your thought. While artistic license was taken throughout the film, the portrayal of all events and people, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney, were far more grounded in reality and recorded history than I expected.

The film made me uncomfortable on multiple levels, which is why it succeeds and deserves such a high rating*. The portrayal of Bush's relationship with his parents, especially his father, forces the viewer to feel sorry for him. The overt religiosity that pervades the public service portion of his life must anger anyone who believes strongly in the separation of church and state. There are many moments when, with any other characters, the film should have generated much laughter. Only one moment in the film actually caused more than one person in the theater to laugh. I guess 4000+ dead soldiers drains the humor out of even the most hilarious gaffes.

I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a realistic portrayal of historical events. I wish Stone had waited until Bush was out of office to make it, though. While it captures the major events that were involved in building the Bush legacy, it ends far too early.

* This post was copied from my posting on I rated this film 8 stars.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Review: The Secret History of the English Language

The Secret History of the English Language by M. J. Harper is a short, entertaining book. That is about all it is. The author applies his understanding of epistemology to the subject of the English national creation myth. His idea is that everything we know is wrong. Not just about the people and language of Britain but of the whole of human existence. He begins by making what appear to be several good points; that what we know about the history of Britain often makes little sense if we think about it, that Latin may be descended from Italian rather than the other way around, and that English may be closer to the root language of western Europe than the Romance languages and the Germanic languages. After much snark at the expense of the academics, who he seems to think little of, he gets on to other subjects that could be used in examining pre-history, geology and Darwinian evolutionary theory. At this point in the book, he brings into question his own ideas by showing he is woefully misinformed about both of the other subjects in his book.

I only know enough about geology to know that he is not entirely accurate in his description about how the science works. If what he said were actually true, geology wouldn't be a science at all. He seems to think they don't use the scientific method; they just get an idea, teach it to the next generation, and go on believing it and spreading it with no justification, even after it is proven wrong. This is dogma, not science, and it is not how geology works.

Then comes biology. He seems to think that all of evolutionary theory is based on fossils. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Even Darwin recognized 150 years ago that fossils, while being nice to look at and helpful in confirming some theories, are not necessary at all to demonstrate that evolution happens. Since Darwin's time, the science has expanded to include the studies of genetics and protein changes throughout lineages (The name for this subject escapes me at the moment). Simply because no existing species are the ancestor species of modern species, which is not entirely true, he thinks the entire theory is false, or at least should be reexamined. While this is a slightly better argument than I've heard from any creationists, it is still based on willful ignorance. I say willful because the process of writing a non-fiction book is supposed to involve research to ensure your examples are correct.

While the linguistic hypotheses in this book are interesting, they are diminished by the lack of accuracy in the geology and biology sections. I can't even see a reason for those sections to be in the book except to say that anything anyone knows in those fields must be wrong because they are widely agreed upon subjects. All Applied Epistemology is about is ripping to shreds anything that people know because they know it. This is an admirable thing to do when there are actual problems with the theory, but it is out of place in the non-linguistic portions of the book. Because of the author's lack of understanding of biology and geology, I wonder if maybe he misunderstands linguistics and history as well. His ignorance in other fields calls into question his entire supposition. The book may have had more impact and been more believable if he had avoided the mention of the other subjects. It certainly would have been more cohesive.

I was entertained by this book. Until I reached the physical sciences portions, I felt informed by it. Now, I question everything I read. Could the author have done as little research on the subject of western languages as he did on the subject of biology? It is hard to imagine that he did, but by writing page after page of uninformed drivel, he certainly invites the reader to question the entire book. He is most certainly hoping that the reader is as uninformed on those subjects as he is. As the target audience of this book seems to be students of English and English history, the majority of readers are likely to be ill-informed on those subjects. As a result, this book is likely to introduce concepts that have little basis in reality alongside common misconceptions about other sciences, doing nothing for the advancement of any knowledge whatsoever.

Friday, September 12, 2008

History of the browser user-agent string

Now I know why user-agent string detection is bad. I also now understand why every browser claims to be Mozilla and why Mozilla is a great name.

WebAIM: Blog - History of the browser user-agent string

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Come on people. This is the age of Web 2.0. Your web pages should notify me if they update. I should be able to open my RSS reader and see the updated page. I can't always do this. Some pages that update frequently don't have RSS. Some are not built with RSS in mind. This prompted me to write PageWatch.

PageWatch is written in Perl. Here are its requirements:

  • Mac OS X

  • Growl

  • Perl Module LWP::UserAgent

  • Perl Module Mac::Growl

  • Perl Module Digest::MD5

  • Perl Module Mac::AppleScript

  • Edit line 11 to say your short name instead of mine.

It will download the URL you specify. A hash is made of the file it downloaded. This hash is looked up in the site hash table, which is stored in a hash file. If it is not found or does not match, Growl notifies you the page has been updated and it is opened in the default browser. If it hasn't been updated, nothing happens.

I didn't write this with distribution in mind and I won't distribute it beyond this post, so the username is coded in. Use Lingon to create a User Agent to run it at the interval you prefer for the site you want to check. It requires one argument; the full URL that you wish to check.

Click here to view and download the PageWatch source code. Don't forget to make the file executable or prepend the command line with "perl -w"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

QR Codes

It isn't really encryption, but it is obfuscation enough that I just started changing all the passwords I had in plain text over to QR Codes. These seem really useful.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Sieve of Eratosthenes

The Sieve of Eratosthenes is an ancient algorithm to calculate prime numbers. It involves starting at 2 and removing all numbers that can be divided by it evenly. You then go to the next number remaining and do the same, repeating until you have reached the end of your finite list of numbers.

Here is my perl implementation. Be gentle. I'm just learning the language. Post constructive comments if you have any ideas about what I could have done better.

Note: Blogger isn't allowing me to format the code properly. It all works*, but it looks ugly. It is much nicer looking in Komodo Edit and vim.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
#The Sieve of Eratosthenes
use strict;

if($#ARGV != 0){
print "Usage: n \nn must be an integer greater than 1\n";
my $max = $ARGV[$1];
if($max < 2){
print "Argument must be larger than 1\n";
my @list = (1..$max);
my @sublist = ();
my @primes = ();
my $current = 0;
my $i = 0;
my $list_length = 0;

$list_length = @list;
my $nonzero = 1;
while ($nonzero){
for($i = $nonzero; $i < $list_length; $i++){
if($list[$i] != 0){
$nonzero = $i;
elsif($i == $list_length - 1 && $list[$i] == 0){
$nonzero = 0;
$current = $list[$nonzero];
for($i = $nonzero; $i < $list_length; $i++){
if($list[$i] % $current == 0){
$list[$i] = 0;
push(@primes, $current) if $nonzero;
print "@primes\n";

*There is something wrong with line 9. It works, but it says, "Use of uninitialized value in array element at line 9." I don't yet know how to fix this, but it returns the proper results.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I developed my own film for the first time a few days ago. Here is a gallery of the best shots from my first two rolls of film. The square ones were shot on my Mamiya C330 medium format TLR. The smaller rectangular shot was from my Canon EOS 630 35mm SLR.


Since then, I managed to find the SLR I've been looking for over the past several years. I've never actively searched for it, I just planned to get one if I ever found one for a good price. The Canon EOS Elan IIe was on sale this week at Mpex. I got one for $30. It works great. The only pictures I've developed from it were on the end of the last roll I shot with the 630. That part of the roll was ruined because I didn't realize that my reel was a 24 exposure reel until I had my 36 exposure reel loaded on it and cut off of the cartridge. Those exposures range from severely underdeveloped to undeveloped. What I was able to see looked decent, but I can't tell for sure. I'll know more about that camera next time I develop film, which should be today or Sunday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Do I spend too much time on the web? Probably not.

This is Google Reader. From the large number, I assume it counts every article view to be a page visit. I've only been using Google Reader for a few months. I can't possibly have made over 12K separate visits.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Project


My goal is to increase my car's gas mileage as much as possible. IIRC, it is rated for 35MPG. I've managed to squeeze it out to about 40MPG in warm weather by being careful in my shifting, but gas is $4/gallon, so that isn't good enough.

I'd like to get it into the mid 60's. I think this is possible. I drive a 2001 Kia Rio. It was never meant to be a performance machine. It was meant to be an economy machine, but they could have done better. Here are the steps I plan to follow:

  1. Drive with mileage in mind
    Starting today, I am focusing on keeping my gas usage as low as possible. This has the added benefit of making me a more attentive driver. I will be keeping my distance when possible and braking as little as possible, conserving as much momentum a

  2. Track statistics
    I am going to get a ScanGaugeII. This will let me know what my car is doing. It has an odometer and can show my fuel efficiency. Using this, combined with tracking my mileage and fuel usage, I hope to learn to improve performance and mileage

  3. Modify my car
    This is the tough part. I intend to increase the aerodynamics of my car. This will likely involve adding farings on the wheels, adding smooth hubcaps, putting an air dam in the front, and a spoiler on the back. I will also likely add wheel spoilers and a wiper windscreen. The engine would probably benefit from a cold air intake. This part may be expensive.

I'll post the progress and results here.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My Latest Work

Tilted Windmill

I call it Tilted Windmill, but it is more of an ex-windmill. The wind was so high that it tipped over and fell into the pond, destroying the blades.

This is an HDR images made from eight exposures.

First Post!

I've been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I couldn't think of a title. I came up with "Peg the Geek Meter" while listening to the Mac Geek Gab podcast today. That is a phrase they use when discussing topics that are far beyond the average user, such as Unix commands and kernel stuff. It seemed appropriate for a blog with wide ranging topics that go far beyond the average.