Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Have you ever seen a movie directed by Alan Smithee? I was doing some research on my new favourite show, MacGyver, and noticed that a few episodes were directed by Mr. Smithee. But the thing is, Alan Smithee does not exist. It is a pseudonym used by directors who don't want credit for what they've done, because their work was ruined by studio meddling. This is an official thing which has to be approved by The Director's Guild (see Alan Smithee on Wikipedia). Funny stuff. I wonder, though, what happens if the director is female? Is there really such a lack of women directors that they don't even need a female version of the fake name?
I sorta wish my real name was Alan Smithee. I'd make it my life's mission to become a famous Hollywood director. But to avoid confusion, I'd change my name to "Steven Speilberg".
Anyway, next time you see a movie or TV show directed by Alan Smithee, be prepared for it to suck hardcore.
Edit: Oops, an entire movie has already been made about a dude whose real name is Alan Smithee.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Wow. I'm always blown away after reading books about parapsychology. This is no exception.
Entangled Minds is almost like 3 books in one. It starts with a brief overview of what psi (i.e., phenomena like ESP and PK) is, with some examples, and an even briefer review of parapsychology's relatively long history. Radin is constantly pointing out that parapsychology research has been endorsed and conducted by top-notch scientists, including a surprising number of Nobel laureates. This might be seen as overly defensive, but it is necessary, given the common "no real scientists believe in psi" criticism. On the contrary, my experience has shown that the most vocal opponents of parapsychology are magicians, armchair "scientists", and other people with no scientific training. Radin points out that the most vocal proponents of psi, on the other hand, are the best that science has to offer.
The second part of the book is sort of a meta-analysis of meta-analyses of psi research. He goes over some of the major categories of psi research that have been conducted, such as dream studies (where one person tries to influence another person's dreams at a distance), presentiment (reacting physiologically to, say, a shocking picture, a few seconds before seeing the randomly selected picture), global consciousness (e.g. random number generators all over the world acted strangely on September 11th, 2001), and lots more.
This part of the book should blow the mind of anyone not already familiar with the research. It gives me chills even though I am. Radin shows that the results found would be astronomically improbable if chance alone were operating. Since chance is ruled out, he meticulously goes through alternate explanations (a bias in publishing, fraud, shitty experimental designs, etc.) and either rules them out completely or shows that even if they played a role, they cannot explain the overall results. The take-home message is that things like telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis really do exist. Not only that, but they have been clearly demonstrated in laboratories all over the world.
The strange thing is, from what I can tell, parapsychology research is conducted much more carefully than most psychology research. The effects in parapsychology are proven to exist to a greater degree than many effects in psychology. And, no offense to psychology, but parapsychology has the potential for discoveries of much greater importance, both scientifically and practically. Yet parapsychology is shunned, receiving a minuscule amount of funding and mainstream attention, while psychology thrives. I guess this is motivated by the same fear of the unknown that (temporarily) kept Copernicus from telling people that the earth isn't the center of the universe. But geeze...get over it.
Anyway...Radin does rely on quite a bit of math to get his points across, but it is not too deep and he explains it briefly beforehand. It should be easy to understand even for people with no knowledge of statistics. My only complaint is that most of the information was also included in Radin's previous book, "The Conscious Universe". The title of Entangled Minds implies that it will primarily be about the relationship between quantum physics and psi, but in reality most of the book is spent establishing that psi exists. The examples here are different and it is a good reference for "proof-oriented" psi research, but he really could have said "see my other book for proof, which I will now connect to the latest advancements in physics".
When he does get on to the physics stuff though, it satisfies the purpose that the title implies. Quantum physics is spooky enough on its own. Particles can be everywhere at once (or nowhere) until they are observed. A particle can be correlated with the observation of another particle that is miles away, with no communication between them. The observation of a particle in the future can even seem to affect a particle in the past. All this is stuff that mainstream physicists know and accept.
Radin essentially takes what we know about particles and expands it to a larger scale, including, of course, us. His main argument is that every particle in the universe is "entangled" (i.e. able to have the spooky correlations above) with every other particle. There is more to it, but at the very least, this makes it possible for psi to exist without overturning everything we know about science.
It's explained quite well, and he even manages to get across some very confusing quantum phenomena in a pretty intuitive manner (though I don't think quantum physics will ever be entirely intuitive to our big classical brains). If I had to complain, though, I would point out that he leaves some things ambiguous. For example, at one point he seems to imply that our unconscious is "in tune" with the entire universe, but we tend to focus on things familiar to us (such as a distant family member in trouble) for psychological reasons. We essentially filter out everything except the important stuff. But then later, he implies that people who are frequently physically close in spacetime are "more entangled" with each other. So which is it? Are we equally entangled with everything, but able to psychologically focus on familiar things, or are things that are physically close more entangled? Both?
(Side note: If it's the 2nd possibility, it would be fun to test. Have two people in close physical proximity for a few hours, maybe separated by an opaque wall, with half of them being aware of it and half not. Later, pair them up for a ganzfeld or something. Would mere prior proximity improve performance? What about later proximity?)
If little issues like this can be worked out, and details filled in, Radin could be well on the way to providing what could be considered the holy grail of parapsychology: An actual theory of how it works, with testable predictions. Scientists could go beyond proving that psi exists, and move on to figuring out how it works. Perhaps they'll even bypass the scientific bickering and move on to practical applications. Personally, I am getting sick of moving my physical body every time I wanna turn on a light. A psychic light switch would be so much nicer.
Anyway, I've gone on long enough. This book is well worth reading for anyone even remotely interested in science of any kind.
[Disclaimer] (in case future academic employers read this): I'm not directly involved in parapsychology. I'm not a believer in the subject matter of parapsychology, per se. I do believe in science and its methods, though, no matter what the topic of study. While there may be disagreement about what the results of parapsychology represent, anyone who reads and understands the literature would have to agree that something interesting is going on. I am not fully decided on whether I think that "something" is purely psychological, statistical, or paranormal, but any of these possibilities are fascinating and deserving of attention. [/Disclaimer]
Sole Survivor is about a dude whose family was killed in a plane crash. On the one year anniversary of the crash, he finds that he's being followed, and strange things are happening. The book starts out slow, but picks up in pace and scope, and is good light entertainment. I had fun reading it, but I'll probably forget I ever saw it in a few weeks.
Koontz is an OK author, but I often find myself taken out of the story by excessively cheesy metaphors. Most of the ending of the book also violates the big "show, don't tell" rule by having one mystery after another explained flashback-style. It would have been nice to have the climax of the book happen "on-camera", so to speak. Maybe if there were less words wasted on describing how the wind is like a pack of wolves, there'd be room to have the characters actually participate in the plot.
Still, it ain't a bad read.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I've decided that I sorta like undershirts. I used to think they were only for rednecks and spousal abusers; like, what's the point of wearing a shirt under your shirt? But then I got a few for Christmas (thanks a lot, dad), and put one on just for kicks. I found that I was slightly warmer on my way to school. I also realized that they keep my overshirt cleaner. The undershirt will collect all the green-brown gunk that spews from my armpits, but that's OK, because nobody ever sees it, and it keeps the gunk off the shirt they do see.
I give undershirts two thumbs up.
P.S. There is a hidden image in the picture to the right.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
- Spell it "porblems," not "problems". Pronounce it like it is spelled.
- Use the phrase "touch and go" whenever possible. Whenever you are put in the position to describe a situation or state of being, describe it as "touch and go."
- Spell it "aminals", not "animals." Pronounce it like it is spelled.
- For commonly mispronounced words, emphasize the part that is commonly said wrong, so that people are aware that you know that it is wrong, but choose to say it wrong anyway. For example, pronounce "orangutan" like "orangutang-GUH!". "Etcetera" should be pronounced "ECK! Cetera."
- Instead of "figure it out", always say "finger it out." Example: "Yes, that is a major porblem, but we can finger out a solution."
- If somebody tries to "correct" your spelling or pronunciation, laugh at them as if they have told a very funny joke, then repeat what you just said.
- Correct other peoples' pronunciation whenever possible. Please do not be mean about it, though. Simply mutter the correct pronunciation under your breath whenever they say it wrong. When you reply, act as if you had trouble understanding them. For example, if asked how many animals you have, lean in close with one ear, squish your face in confusion, and say "What? Aminals? Yes, I have twelve."
- Misquote funny phrases from movies and television shows in such a way that they are no longer funny. E.g. "Me fail English? That's impossible!"
- Insist that any word ending in "-ical" is "not a real word." The one exception is "dramatical", which should be used frequently.
- To indicate that you are leading up to a very important point, begin talking like a robot.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
See you at the new place.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I've written before about the connection between vampires and the TV show 24. Well, the creators clearly use my blog as a source for ideas. In last night's episode, it was revealed that Jack became a vampire after being held in a Chinese prison between seasons. Or at least, that's what was implied when he literally took a bite out of crime.
Then spit it out.
Friday, January 12, 2007
This is one of the funniest things I've seen in, like, 2 hours. This is the box for a "railway" set for kids. Although *I* would have loved dripping blood and a demon on my railway set as a kid, most kids would probably find it a bit weird. Click HERE for a full explanation, and to see what other treasures the box contains.
P.S. Comments are broken again. Boo.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
You'd think this would be easy to explain. One person had a brain fart and said "cents" instead of "dollars". They should, at the very least, acknowledge that someone screwed up and apologize. But no...he talks to FIVE different people, who don't even understand what the problem is. They don't get that there's a big difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars. There is an audio file where he spends half an hour talking to 2 different Verizon employees, explaining in the simplest of terms the difference between dollars and cents, while they continually (but mistakenly) say that the rate is ".002 cents". It's mind boggling that they can't wrap their heads around this grade-school math.
You can go to the site to see how it worked out. Scary. I hope this is something that's unique to the United States, but I doubt it.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Splenda sucks. It tastes like powdered cardboard, and leaves a foamy film on the top of coffee and tea. They say "it tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar", but only proves that being made from something does not guarantee that it will taste the same. Sort of like how JELL-O is made from the scum scooped off a pot of boiling horse skin, bone, and hooves, but barely tastes anything like horses.
Also, apparently Splenda is poisonous. According to a "doctor" who earned her degree from a distance course and gives her book a 5-star rating from Amazon (by putting a picture of 5 stars beside the link to buy it; in real life, it's rated 3 stars. Bad doctor!) But still...it's gross.
Anyway, the blog's comments are working again. That's all I really wanted to write about, but somehow I ended up babbling about Splenda. Weird.