Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Blog Fodder: Why, Ubuntu, Why?

So Ubuntu is moving even further to becoming nothing more than a Mac clone on Desktop UI looks, and that annoys me to no end. First it was the purple, then it was the moving of the close-expand-minimize buttons to the opposite side of the window, and now they want to copy the most idiotic of all UI designs: a global menu taskbar that each application steals focus for when it's open.

It's just so insanely stupid of a UI, sorry Mac users.

This rant by "Goat Jam", from this comment thread, provides my complete opinion:

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Short argument against Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager, for the uninformed, is a trick meant to get agnostics to pronounce they believe in God anyway. The idea being that if there is a god, then you score in heaven for believing in him, whereas if you didn't you'd be sent to eternal damnation. And if there's not a god, oh well, it's not like going to church and prayer and fasting and tithing and memorizing parts of the bible are a huge time sucker... Just do it to be safe, because you stand to gain infinite payoff if there is a god, and stand to lose infinitely if there is a god, and if there isn't a god it's more or less the same whatever you do.

There are nice arguments against this such as the lack of useful reasoning with infinite utility, or the fact that there are infinite possible gods, with a smaller infinity of whom may damn you for believing in the Christian god, and all the infinities probably cancel each other out. Here's my short argument, behold the paranoid parrot. If I accepted Pascal's Wager, that would put me in the corner of having to accept every Pascal's Wager-like problem in the future if I wish to remain consistent and hold any sort of respect. And as you can see, being paranoid is quite costly and with overwhelming probability not very useful.

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Some economics

There once were two brothers who lived in two caves in the same cliff face. Their lives were simple but their days were filled. They did many things together but even when separated their patterns were the same. Every morning they would both leave their huts to scavenge for roots and berries, eating what they found, knowing quite a few good bushes. They would spend the afternoon wandering idly, yet searching for tracks and other signs that would lead them to an animal they could kill with rocks to eat. Some days they would find one, and have a feast, other days they would not. On the days they were unsuccessful, they often camped on the bank of a nearby river where there were plentiful fish that each brother could usually catch a few of for his meal. When winter came, they performed much the same tasks, though they had tighter stomaches.

One day, in the summer, one of the brothers was idly regarding a spiderweb. A fly had been caught and the spider would soon arrive to wrap it up and eat it. Flies tasted just as good to him as to a spider, so he grabbed the branch the web was attached to and ripped it off, snatching the fly out of the web and popping it in his mouth. He looked down at the broken spider web with some strands still stretched between the fork in the branch, and he was struck by insight.

It took him a considerably long time, he often had to claim eating some bad berries to get privacy when it was not nighttime, but with branches and vines he eventually fastened a net that he determined could hold many rocks. He took it to the stream and caught many fish, and so it came that his stomach grew wider.

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Nationalistic Social Change is Disgusting

To any fellow Americans reading my blog: I believe that, at the end of the day, we can all agree that we want America to become a better country and its citizens to become better people. We can agree that our society has problems, and we may disagree on solutions, but the end result is a predicted better society. I want to end poverty, and I think the fastest way there is by guaranteeing everyone a $20,000 a year minimal income. Others think the fastest way there is by reducing the government to near-anarchy.

But what really disgusts me is the focus on America, and American citizens. Why are we so special, us born above a specific plot of land? Why are our needs so much greater than the needs of the Chinese, or the North Koreans, or the Africans, or the Arabs, or the French? The truth is we are all human, the difference in genetic makeup is near-indistinguishable between any two humans, even to us, and the total difference altogether between any two humans is quite indistinguishable to other species, focusing overly on "friend or foe".

Every human culture participates in baby-talk, they have an understanding of what it means to promise, our brains appear to be wired in such a way that makes narrative metaphor a base form of interpretation. We are all human, and that is more binding and real than any artificial label that depends on the area in which you're born.

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Pretty fractal

I was experimenting with a pseudo-many-worlds quantum physics idea, and this screenshot came of it:


Beautiful, isn't it? Here's the source if you want to play around, it's optimized as much as I know how without switching to C, any suggestions would be welcome:

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For rhetorical flair, use X in 10

Why is it that some studies report their percentages as "X in 10" vs. a simple percent? I'm almost certain it's for rhetoric. 40% is just a simple number, it feels uncertain (since uncertainty corresponds to probability), it can't hurt you... But when I mention that 4 out of 10 voting citizens in Delaware voted for Christine O'Donnell, now it's scary. "I know 10 people, I can think of them in my head, and I can picture 4 of them--that's a lot!--having such idiotic views."

Let's use Google:

4 in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete. (That stat is what prompted this thought.) vs. 40% say marriage is becoming obsolete.

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Deriving the Kinematic Equations

The Kinematic equations are the bread and butter equations of Newtonian projectile motion, and are quite useful for games. There are four of them, but you just need to remember two very intuitive ones and you can derive the other two from there. For one derivation, we need Calculus, for the other, it's straight Algebra. But don't be afraid, these are trivial! I'm mostly doing this to refresh my memory and it may help someone.

First, some definitions:

X &=& position,\ distance\ traveled \\
V &=& velocity \\
a &=& acceleration \\
t &=& time \\
?_0 &=& initial\ value\ of\ whatever\ ?\ is \\
?_f &=& final \ value\ of\ whatever\ ?\ is

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