Super Bowl Security – Snipers?

Is this for real?  If so, I have exactly no idea how to feel about this.

Snipers watching over Super Bowl - Real?

Exactly my point

Isn't this always the way?

Fantastic Sam Harris Quote

Sam Harris - Great Quote

I challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one.” – Sam Harris

After pondering that, now think of it the other way around.

Doesn’t it become obvious that revelation and texts written by ignorant bronze age authors are NOT adequate sources of information?  Isn’t the provincial nature of these “divine” texts obvious proof of their human origin?  The Bible (especially Genesis) never mentions micro-organisms even though they are far more important to us than any macro animal such as goats, pigs, and asses.  Why?  Because bronze age humans didn’t know of their existence, nor therefore did their invented gods.

Why do people still believe this garbage?

Why Voting Doesn’t Matter

No matter what MTV tells you (Rock the Vote), your vote simply does not matter.  Voting is a waste of time and effort.  This has become clearer to the general public over the last few decades.  Here are some selections from articles indicating as such that are easily digestible by the teeming masses.

  1. The Science of Voting – Brian Dunning – The Skeptoid Podcast  – You can read or listen to this article.

    The Bottom Line: From a purely mathematical perspective, our current voting system is flawed, and it has been proven as such.  For voting to matter we need to adopt Range Voting as our national method.

    “Another interesting alternative is range voting. The best example of range voting is the scoring at athletic events where each judge holds up a scorecard. Every voter gives a number to each candidate, say 0 to 10, and each candidate’s total scores are averaged. Range voting has a lot of benefits that are attractive to voters. You can give everyone a 0, or you can give everyone a 10. You can express your thoughts about one or more candidates without wasting your vote, and still be able to give a high score to your preferred candidate. If there’s a candidate you’re not familiar with, you don’t have to give any number to them, and you will not affect their average.

  2. Why Vote? – Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt – Authors of Freakonomics

    The Bottom Line: People know their vote doesn’t matter, and they tend to vote out of some vague notion of civic duty that ultimately arises from a logical fallacy.

    “The odds that your vote will actually affect the outcome of a given election are very, very, very slim. This was documented by the economists Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter, who analyzed more than 56,000 Congressional and state-legislative elections since 1898. For all the attention paid in the media to close elections, it turns out that they are exceedingly rare. The median margin of victory in the Congressional elections was 22 percent; in the state-legislature elections, it was 25 percent. Even in the closest elections, it is almost never the case that a single vote is pivotal. Of the more than 40,000 elections for state legislator that Mulligan and Hunter analyzed, comprising nearly 1 billion votes, only 7 elections were decided by a single vote, with 2 others tied. Of the more than 16,000 Congressional elections, in which many more people vote, only one election in the past 100 years – a 1910 race in Buffalo – was decided by a single vote.But there is a more important point: the closer an election is, the more likely that its outcome will be taken out of the voters’ hands – most vividly exemplified, of course, by the 2000 presidential race. It is true that the outcome of that election came down to a handful of voters; but their names were Kennedy, O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas. And it was only the votes they cast while wearing their robes that mattered, not the ones they may have cast in their home precincts.”

  3. Why Vote? – Mark Brandly – Professor of Economics

    The Bottom Line: Voting doesn’t matter!

    “Analysts who consider this issue often compare the chances of a vote making a difference in a national election to the odds of dying while driving on Election Day: it is more likely that you will die in a fatal accident than that your vote will be decisive. A 2008 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms this conclusion. Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani examined the traffic-related deaths during polling hours on Election Days compared to the number of deaths on the two Tuesdays before and after the election for the last 30 years. They found the Election Day average of 158 deaths to be 18 percent higher than the average death rate on the other days.[4]

    It appears that a driver is more likely to die during polling hours than at other times. Whether that is the case or not, thousands of people have died while driving during polling times for presidential elections, but no single vote has ever determined one of those elections.”

    and…

    “Oftentimes, when I point out the fact that your vote doesn’t matter, people respond by arguing that one should still vote, even if their vote will not affect the election. Let me briefly consider three commonly heard replies to the “your vote doesn’t matter” conclusion.

    Some people make a claim that I will paraphrase as follows: “A lot of votes could affect an election. Therefore it’s important that you vote, because the votes add up. Because a lot of votes matter, each individual vote matters.” Now it’s true that a lot of votes could affect an election, but that’s irrelevant to the point that a single vote does not matter.

    This argument is an example of the fallacy of division. This fallacy is committed when one asserts that what is true of a whole must also be true of a part of that whole. For instance, the statement “the amount of oil production in the world has a significant effect on gasoline prices, therefore a single small oil company’s level of production has a significant effect on gasoline prices.” Clearly, this statement is false. Claiming that many votes matter, therefore each individual vote matters is equally fallacious.

    Another common claim in favor of voting goes something like this: one should vote because “if you don’t vote you can’t complain.” This is wrong on a couple of levels.

    If this statement is taken literally, it’s false. You can complain, even if you don’t vote. Nobody ever asks me “did you vote?” when I gripe about the government. We have free rein to complain. There is no ethical or legal proscription against complaining simply because one failed to vote.

    Maybe when one says that “if you don’t vote you can’t complain” they mean to say “only those who vote are justified in complaining. You are allowed to complain, but you shouldn’t, if you didn’t vote.” It seems to me that the opposite may be the case. Voting reduces your right to complain. If you voted, then you support a corrupt system. You’re partially to blame for the debacle that is our federal government. Our elected officials are corrupt because voters vote for immoral political leaders (as I explained here). If anything, nonvoters have a greater right to complain than do the voters.

    Let’s get to the main issue. One case in favor of voting is the argument that voting is a moral imperative, that it’s your civic duty. Those who take this position believe that individuals are morally compelled to vote. According to this argument, even if your vote doesn’t matter, you should vote. There are various versions of this argument, but oftentimes the argument does not go beyond the mere assertion that voting is a duty.”

You can’t affect the politics of this country by voting.  End of story.  Now if you want to actually get involved and work your way up to becoming a presidential candidate, then that may be another story.  Barring that, don’t fret over politics.  Spend your time enjoying the life that you have.

 

Arduino LED Fade from Blink Example

I’m messing around with my new Arduino UNO R3 and I just had a little personal success.  I modified the Hello World of the Arduino, the Blink example, to utilize an analog pin on the board to cause the LED to fade smoothly in and out.

Nothing amazing, and probably not the most efficient way to do this… but here is the code.

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/*
  1/27/2012
  Fade in and out - original sketch without looking at example.
 */
 
int ledPin = 9;
 
void setup() {
  pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);     
}
 
void loop() {
  for(int x = 0; x < 200; x++) {
    analogWrite(ledPin, x);
    delay(10); 
  }
  for(int x = 200; x > 0; x--) {
    analogWrite(ledPin, x);
    delay(10); 
  }
  //while(1){} //end program (loop forever)
}

And just for kick, I’ll include the official Fade example that I just looked at. They did it a bit differently and more efficiently.

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int brightness = 0;    // how bright the LED is
int fadeAmount = 5;    // how many points to fade the LED by
 
void setup()  { 
  // declare pin 9 to be an output:
  pinMode(9, OUTPUT);
} 
 
void loop()  { 
  // set the brightness of pin 9:
  analogWrite(9, brightness);    
 
  // change the brightness for next time through the loop:
  brightness = brightness + fadeAmount;
 
  // reverse the direction of the fading at the ends of the fade: 
  if (brightness == 0 || brightness == 255) {
    fadeAmount = -fadeAmount ; 
  }     
  // wait for 10 milliseconds to see the dimming effect    
  delay(10);                            
}

Review of Great Planes RealFlight 6 – It is Amazing

I’ve been a computer gamer since 1980 and I don’t think I’ve actually played any game more than I have played Great Planes RealFlight R/C Simulator.  Okay, so it’s not technically a game, but I still seem to load it up almost every night and fly for a while.  The latest version of the software is RealFlight 6 and it is amazing.

Great Planes Realflight G6 W/airplane Megapack Mode 2

RealFlight is expensive because it caters to a niche market… those who fly (or wish to fly) R/C aircraft.  A few years ago I was able to score a full copy of RealFlight 4.0 on eBay at a very good price.  It came with the official Interlink controller (required) as well.  A quick call to customer service fixed any issues with the software being previously registered to another person.  They are very helpful.

At some point I upgraded to RealFlight 4.5, and I believe it was a free upgrade if I remember correctly.  The sim was better than ever, and that is the version I flew with for a couple of years.  I added a couple of expansion packs and downloaded a ton of aircraft and aircraft from the swap site.  Great stuff, and a very fulfilling sim experience.

RealFlight 6 Helicopter Action

Recently I noticed that version 6 was out and I figured that was enough of a jump to justify an upgrade.  So I ordered a copy of the RealFlight 6 Upgrade on Amazon.  Frankly, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  What it really be any different?  Would the PC requirements jump up such that I would lose performance with a computer that hasn’t changed specs in years?

I ordered a copy of RealFlight 6 on Amazon and just installed it tonight.  Amazing.  I’m not sure exactly how to to describe it, but it just feels better in every way.  The graphics are better and much smoother.  In 4.5 I noticed graphics “jitter” every few seconds where the screen would pause for a microsecond.  Though annoying, it was something that I had learned to live with.  This is completely gone with version 6.  Buttery smooth is the only way to describe the visuals… even with everything turned up to max.

Quite realistic

The physics seem improved as well.  The extremely low ground-effect zone seems very much improved.  This matters a lot to me because I find the most enjoyment in landing aircraft precisely and in a scale manner.  In 4.5, most aircraft seemed to just drop down when they leveled at about 1 foot off the deck.  All aircraft in 6 carry on right through this zone smoothly and with very good control.  Either that or I’m suddenly flying better all around.

I installed Expansion Packs 1 and 4 without any issue at all!  That’s good programming.  These expansion packs were released in 2006 and 2007 and they recognized RealFlight 6 (2011) without any problem at all.  They just work.

If you’ve ever been on the fence about dropping the bucks on an R/C simulator, I can’t recommend RealFlight 6 enough.  You won’t be disappointed.

New LEGO Friends Line for Girls and AFOL

The Brothers Brick did a fairly nice write up of a few of the new girl-oriented LEGO sets called LEGO Friends.  Some have protested that LEGOs are inherently gender neutral by design, and therefore don’t need a pink and purple themed girl-line.  While I fundamentally agree, I and many other AFOL welcomed the new sets and their unique pieces and colors.

My daughter has her eye on the LEGO Friends Heartlake Vet set, while I’m more interested in the Inventor Workshop… mostly due to the erlenmeyer flask piece.  Why don’t they include more of these in the set?

LEGO Friends Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop 3933

Anyway, here is the link to the Brothers Brick father-daughter review…

LEGO Friends – a father-daughter review
The Brothers Brick recently purchased several sets from the LEGO Friends line in order to give our readers a feel for the new line. My 11 year old daughter and I reviewed the following sets and I let my nieces (6 and 8 years old) play with the sets for …

Read more on The Brothers Brick

 

Help Stop SOPA/PIPA

This article is cloned from WordPress.org because it is so important.  The original author is Jane Wells.

—–

You are an agent of change. Has anyone ever told you that? Well, I just did, and I meant it.

Normally we stay away from from politics here at the official WordPress project — having users from all over the globe that span the political spectrum is evidence that we are doing our job and democratizing publishing, and we don’t want to alienate any of our users no matter how much some of us may disagree with some of them personally. Today, I’m breaking our no-politics rule, because there’s something going on in U.S. politics right now that we need to make sure you know about and understand, because it affects us all.

Using WordPress to blog, to publish, to communicate things online that once upon a time would have been relegated to an unread private journal (or simply remained unspoken, uncreated, unshared) makes you a part of one of the biggest changes in modern history: the democratization of publishing and the independent web. Every time you click Publish, you are a part of that change, whether you are posting canny political insight or a cat that makes you LOL. How would you feel if the web stopped being so free and independent? I’m concerned freaked right the heck out about the bills that threaten to do this, and as a participant in one of the biggest changes in modern history, you should be, too.

You may have heard people talking/blogging/twittering about SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act. The recent SOPA-related boycott of GoDaddy was all over the news, with many people expressing their outrage over the possibilities of SOPA, but when I ask people about SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, PIPA (Protect IP Act), many don’t really know what the bills propose, or what we stand to lose. If you are not freaked out by SOPA/PIPA, please: for the next four minutes, instead of checking Facebook statuses, seeing who mentioned you on Twitter, or watching the latest episode of Sherlock*, watch this video (by Fight for the Future).

Some thoughts:

  • In the U.S. our legal system maintains that the burden of proof is on the accuser, and that people are innocent until proven guilty. This tenet seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to the web if these bills pass, as companies could shut down sites based on accusation alone.
  • Laws are not like lines of PHP; they are not easily reverted if someone wakes up and realizes there is a better way to do things. We should not be so quick to codify something this far-reaching.
  • The people writing these laws are not the people writing the independent web, and they are not out to protect it. We have to stand up for it ourselves.

Blogging is a form of activism. You can be an agent of change. Some people will tell you that taking action is useless, that online petitions, phone calls to representatives, and other actions won’t change a single mind, especially one that’s been convinced of something by lobbyist dollars. To those people, I repeat the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

We are not a small group. More than 60 million people use WordPress — it’s said to power about 15% of the web. We can make an impact, and you can be an agent of change. Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and a bunch of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly. The Senate votes in two weeks, and we need to help at least 41 more senators see reason before then. Please. Make your voice heard.

How to Reset a Lutron Faedra Dimmer Light Switch

We have a number of Lutron Faedra light switches in our home, and they have worked predictably (and awesomely) for many years.  However, just recently, one of the switches started exhibiting strange behavior.  When pressed, it would bring up the room lights to full maximum… which was not desired.  With a single press, the switches are supposed to only bring the lights up to the brightness that was last selected.  All of our Faedra switches have worked this way from day one.  Therefore, somehow this one problem switch had “lost” its programming.

Actually the solution was just the opposite!  The switch had GAINED a “Locked-in Preset” by accident.  According to the installation sheet, you can set a preset brightness to which the light will always return by rapidly tapping the switch 4 times.  The tiny LEDs will blink 2 times to indicate that a preset has been established.

To remove the “Locked-in Preset” you simply need to turn the light on and then tap the switch 4 times quickly.  The LEDs will blink 3 times indicating the preset was removed.  I did exactly this and the problem switch started working correctly again.

I hope this helps you.

Sorting through mountains of apps

Browsing apps is pretty frustrating now.

With 500,000 apps in the app store, old fashioned, simple, one-size-fits-all browsing techniques are not really good enough. The categorization and search-string filter system is way too primitive. Apple is going to have to do something to keep up with that scale.

Microsoft is up to 30,000 apps for Windows 7 Phone, I think I recently read. Even at that lower number, you are beginning to push limits of Apple’s rudimentary browser. It’s a very nice UI, don’t get me wrong. It’s approach is just not good enough too handle the mountain of apps they have now.

When I shop for one, I don’t want to find an app that is good enough. I want to find the one that is best for me. As things stand now, I might not see it. My grocery store has more aisles in it than Apple has categories and my grocery store does not have 500,000 kinds of food.

Sad that when we finally get a huge online store for software application shopping, the app we would most like to upgrade is the store itself.