Archive for June, 2007

The God Delusion

June 13, 2007

I’m a fan of Richard Dawkins, a prolific author and evolutionary biologist.  I first read his book “The Blind Watchmaker”, which explains why one might believe in evolution in the face of [mostly religious] critics.  The title comes from the argument that if one came across a watch lying in a field, that one would “know” that someone or something had “designed” the watch.  It is Dawkins’ contention that very unlikely events, when given billions of years to occur, become almost certain to occur, and that there is no need to hypothesize a deity to “design” us.  Dawkins is thorough, logical and articulate: his books are always worth reading.

His most recent book, “The God Delusion”, takes the issue of atheism head-on.  I bought it, even though he was preaching to the choir, but found that it was not exactly what I had thought it might be.  I expected a few hundred pages explaining why there is no god, but that subject was dispatched in the first  hundred or so.  The remainder of the book explores why religion is so prevalent if there is no god, whether morality is possible without religion, and the like.  The book is interesting, but Dawkins’ passion gets away from him frequently, and his style deviates from his calm and logical style found in his other books.  At times strident, but always thoughtful, I enjoyed the book.

To learn more about Dawkins, his foundation, and the book, you can go here:

While on the subject of genetics, here is a link to an interesting lecture that, even though almost two years old, points out how far biology and genetics have come even in the past decade.


June 13, 2007

I purchased a new octopus a few weeks ago. He’s still quite shy, but seems to have figured out what feeding is all about. Strangely, as much as he seems excited about obtaining the food, he seems more interested in playing with the clear plastic “wiggle stick” that I use to get the food to him. Here is a fairly large (40 MB) movie showing him coming out of his hole, grabbing the food, and then wrestling with me for the stick. He is surprisingly strong. You can clearly see him breathing. Also notice the white frills that decorate in a circle around his eyes, as well as the tufts above his eyes. You can see the color patterns changing on his skin. Also notice his ability to change the texture of his skin, from smooth to covered with rough tufts. This is especially clear on his back as he struggles with the food offering. (40 MB)

and another one: (6 MB)

If you can’t see that one, try (35 MB)


June 13, 2007

I looked up a few minutes ago to see what appeared to be a small ape eating leaves across the pond.  I quickly realized that it was a porcupine.  I’m used to seeing them on all fours, or climbing trees, and did not realize just how much they looked like a primate when on hind legs, reaching out for new leaves, and munching on them.  Their hands work just like ours.

I took a series of pictures from across the pond, but they were mediocre in the morning light.  Porcupines have relatively poor sight, so I figured that trying to approach it would be worth the effort.   I then crept up towards it, and managed to get two movies and one good photograph.  The picture is small relative to the movies, but does not really show how he uses his opposable thumb to manipulate the branches.  The movies are both pretty large (27 MB each), but really show how he moved. (1.5 MB) (27 MB) (27 MB)

The end of privacy

June 13, 2007

I’m not telling you about this because I like the idea, but it’s out there, and you need to be aware that anyone with $50 can now snoop on your computer without you being aware of it. If you’re a mom snooping on her teen aged son, privacy and trust issues aside, I suppose this can be justified, but the potential for abuse is obvious. The bottom line is that if you let anyone be alone with your computer for more than a few minutes, you can be spied on in this way.

Run your Windows software on your Mac

June 9, 2007

I have admired the Mac since it first came out, and actually owned a few before it became clear that I did not have the energy or budget to keep both Macs and [IBM] PCs; I chose the PC because I could make a living on the PC. That said, Macs have a lot of advantages, including an operating system that is much better written, with fewer security holes; and, of course, a slick UI that Microsoft will never achieve, because of some fundamental internal architectural flaws.

I have kept my eye on the Wine project ( for years, and recently discovered (through my Mac friend Ray) that someone had created a slick wrapper for the Wine technology in a product called CrossOver. In a moment of weakness and boredom, Ray purchased a new Mac Mini ($600) and then tried to use CrossOver to install and run a variety of Windows programs. The published list of programs that work under CrossOver is fairly small (compared to the universe of all Windows programs), but almost all of the programs that he installed just ran on the Mac, without Windows. You just double-click on the Windows application, and it just runs, right there on the Mac.

If all you need your computer for is writing documents, email, and surfing the web, with an occasional foray into specialized Windows software, you might want to consider a Mac for your next computer. You would still be able to run Windows programs from time to time, without having to re-boot, and your chances of being the target of spy-ware and viruses would be greatly reduced. You can try CrossOver for free for 30 days by going to

My mantis shrimp goes to town on a clam

June 9, 2007

Mantis shrimp are surprisingly beautiful and constructed with a myriad of appendages and flaps and antennae that can leave one mystified. Their rotating spherical eyes, supported on stalks, are also right out of a science fiction movie. If there is a god, does s/he have this much of a sense of humor? And if there is no god, how did evolution come up with this bizarre contraption. Look at my web site ( for more movies about my mantis friend, including some eye swivels and one amazing cartoon-ish skedaddle.

Bizarre beauty aside, mantis shrimp have one surprising feature, a “hammer” that they use to destroy clam shells. The creature looks too frail to succeed in simply cracking a clam shell into pieces, but this movie demonstrates how it is done. It is long, at over 60 MB, but well worth it, if you have broadband.

Is the income tax illegal?

June 9, 2007

I’ve heard these arguments for decades, mostly from an old friend who, while being a practicing attorney, is enough of an odd-ball (look who’s talking!) to make me suspicious of his opinions. This full-length movie, ostensibly created by a person with real credentials, repeats these arguments. I can’t say how much of it is true, but if the Federal Government refuses to answer the simple question “show me the law upon which the income tax system is based”, one has to wonder what is going on. Wouldn’t it be easier for the government to just answer the question and move on? Unless they have no legitimate answer to the question.

Anyway: here’s something to get you conspiracy theorists’ heart rates jumping.

A glimpse into the mind of the Bushies

June 2, 2007

A friend wrote to me:

I give you my favorite quotation from the Bush administration, put forward by the proverbial “unnamed Administration official” and published in the New York Times Magazine by the journalist Ron Suskind in October 2004.

Here, in Suskind’s recounting, is what that “unnamed Administration official” told him:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

The unnamed Administration official was none other than Bush’s Brain………… Karl Rove.