In these two videos [1,2], prominent non-believers  Neil deGrasse Tyson and Sam Harris reject the denomination “atheist” as not only inaccurately and/or misleadingly portraying their views on the (non) existence of God, but also, according to them, of little content or use, and even potentially pernicious.
Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category
It has been a while since my last blog post (yes, I love euphemisms). I have not been writing for the simple reason that I ran out of things to say, a fate that I am told few, very few amateur bloggers escape. So, what am I doing here now?
Between work and home I own eight Apple computers — four iMacs, two MacBook Air, two Mac Pro. So, like any respectable user, I promptly upgraded the operating system to the new version, OS 10.8 (aka Mountain Lion), which has now been available for a few weeks. Around this time last year, its predecessor Lion had come out. On that occasion, after installing it on all my machines, I expressed in a blog post my lukewarm feelings about it.
I do not know why, but these things bother me when I read them. I am not just talking about text messages on cellular phones — I understand that the medium itself is scarcely conducive to good writing (although I authorize anyone to slap me if they ever receive a text message from me containing any of the grammar mistakes or misspells listed below). I am talking about electronic mail messages, letters, blog posts, scientific preprints, CVs, internal departmental memos, and other (semi)official documents which eventually become part of public record.
Imagine this: you are the owner of a second tier football franchise based somewhere in Europe, say one like Tottenham, Udinese, Bayer Leverkusen — one of those. Your team is solid, good but not great. It is good enough to play consistently in the major league of your country, often earning a spot in some European competition (occasionally the UEFA Champions League, normally the UEFA Europa League).
It’s 6 pm on Sunday evening in Trieste. I am walking by the train station, almost at the end of the long (about 90 minutes) walk from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, of which I am a guest this Spring, to my downtown apartment. The end of my European stay is quickly approaching; I am about to spend my last month here frantically trying to finish all the projects that I started — that’s how things always go.
In a week, however, I shall be visiting a collaborator in Strasbourg. I am going there by train.
That reminds me, I do not have my train ticket yet… might as well get it now.
I blissfully went through the first half of my life without electronic mail, and yet I cannot imagine living without it now. There are specific tasks for which mail (narrowly defined here as the transmission of text written by the sender, to one or more recipients) is simply irreplaceable. People have corresponded in that way for centuries, and electronic mail is in many respects nothing but the obvious evolution of “snail mail”. I hardly see any reason for going back to slow, clumsy, expensive, unreliable snail mail; I cannot think of anything that it did, that electronic mail does not do much better.
If a cash-strapped province or state had to make painful cuts to public services, the immediately noticeable effect would be the outright elimination of some of them.
One would not think of, say, laying off a fraction of all bus drivers and asking the remaining ones to work longer hours, in order to keep all existing bus routes active — some would be phased out, based on various considerations of priority, in order to minimize the inconvenience to denizens, while continuing to offer as much of the original transportation as possible. Some people, however, would have to go to work or to the grocery store in some other, less convenient or more expensive way.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The end of the year is finally upon us, and an appropriate post must accompany it. Memes are lame, which is why I
never rarely do them. Thus, I am going instead to wrap up this very eventful year by offering ten bold predictions for the one that is about to begin.
My hallmark boldness remains unabated, in spite of some recent minor flops with Canadian elections.