Mario gamers are now obsolete

Some Japanese ROM hackers — probably the same insane folks that brought you those Impossible Mario games — have figured out a way to make a level play itself so long as you don’t touch the controller. I have to say, this is some twisted kind of epic. It must have taken months to put this together, such that the sound effects sync perfectly with the custom music inserted into the ROM image.

Did you catch the Megaman tribute in the song? Yes, that made me insanely happy.

The astrology conversation that DIDN’T happen

I would guess Robert looks something like this while posting any comment on astrology.

In the endless non-debate on astrology, I had held some measure of hope that, when Robert Currey resurrected the thread two weeks after it had abated, that there might actually be some discussion of the positive evidence for astrology. Robert has attempted to steer the discussion over the past 230 comments with little regard for the multiple attempts made by myself and my regular readers to redirect discussion in a manner more productive. (Mind you, others rejoined the field, including Jamie Funk and Marina, and there was a sidebar on rectification astrology by James Alexander, whom George W is dealing with elsewhere, so not all the 230 comments came from that discussion.)

Robert has, numerous times, flogged a piece he wrote on his own space claiming astrology to have an empirical grounding, though much of the content on the page seems like butt-hurt over certain skeptics’ tactics in arguing him and other astrologers in the past. There’s a hilarious passage about the “vested interests” line that skeptics use frequently that deserves addressing, mostly because (as is evident elsewhere in this conversation) Robert’s lack of reading comprehension skills causes him to miss the point of it by a very wide margin:

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Remember Zdenny?

Remember our favorite pet troll’s prediction that I’d be shut down within a month? Remember how that happened on January 24th? Well, I just celebrated my 8-month anniversary of having not been shut down. Meanwhile, what’s his site look like now?

I have to admit, it’s a huge improvement. Shame he didn’t even last long enough for the Internet Wayback Machine to have archived a copy though, so I could prove what a difference the new site design is, both in terms of relevance and aesthetics.

Attention, those who cheat at the intertubes: we’re on to you.

It seems cheating at Youtube isn’t the only sport of those without a leg to stand on ideologically. A group of right-wingers organized using a Yahoo! Group to orchestrate and perpetuate a continual “burial brigade” on Digg, a social bookmarking site I admittedly never use myself, in order to “bury” posts from left-leaning sources, or even just left-leaning news. Thankfully, this cheating isn’t going unnoticed, as the mainstream media has caught on.

Digg is a popular site where users share articles, photos and video links. News outlets have often used Digg for story leads. The expose shows how right-wing individuals are making an effort to stop left-leaning stories from being shared widely. In contrast, Olson discovered that the Digg Patriots favored stories about conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and Michelle Malkin.

This is part of Olson’s AlterNet article:

Although this is a fringe group of Teabagging wingnuts, many well established figures in the Digg community are also present, such as BalancingAct, EMFK, Janinco, mikeinto, and spindig. 10 members have been part of Digg since 2005-2006, with 43 having their current account there for over 2 years. 19 are in the top 500 all time users as ranked by Social Blade, including 3 in the top 100. They have submitted over 30,000 articles, and dugg over 1,000,000 submits collectively. They regularly front page material, yet have some paranoid delusion that the Digg admins are part of some conspiracy to censor them, not once recognizing the blatant hypocrisy of their organized censorship doing that very thing.

ABC News wrote a story about the expose and published Kevin Rose’s tweet on the matter saying that his company is “looking into this.” The Atlantic Monthly has also written about the controversy surrounding Digg.

Digg has said they will do away with the “bury” option since it’s being so easily abused to kill articles before they even have a chance at making the front page, since that means a bare few people were controlling the flow of information on the site. This doesn’t address the overarching fact that people are willing to cheat to have their ideologies pushed. It also doesn’t address the fact that the supposed purveyors of all that is right and good have been caught once again exhibiting their dubious moral fibre.

Why “your mom” jokes don’t really work on me

I’ve been putting off writing about this incident for a long time, not the least reason being that it’s — even now, over ten years after the fact — a giant, raw wound on my psyche. While it’s healed enough to allow me to go on living day-to-day without being reduced to a gibbering mess when something reminds me of it, it’s obviously still raw enough that certain people can bring it to the forefront. You see, my mother left my father in the summer of 1998, which in and of itself was probably a good thing, considering they’d fought on and off for years. The damage came in how she did it, why she did it, the lies she wove in doing it, and the way she metaphorically slammed the door on the way out hard enough to destroy the metaphorical china on the walls.

If you don’t like long introspectives about past butt-hurts, skip this post.
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The State of the Astrology Non-Debate

The thread over at Funk Astrology where Jamie Funk has pretty much cast me as an inquisitor hunting astrology heretics, wherein I’ve asked several times that someone actually show up and address the questions in my post, has netted us a number of amusing trolls but nobody actually addressing my post. Oh, I mean, you get the odd person saying “astrology just works, and science can’t explain it”, which pretty much equals “ya gotta have faith”, and people saying “you haven’t studied it, therefore you don’t understand it”, which equals the Courtier’s Reply, but the fun is short-lived.

Especially if all you get in the way of an actual attempt at a falsification is “tell us your personal information so we can do a chart on you”. Never mind that a) pretty well everything you could ever want to know about me, my life’s history, my personality traits, etc., are all on my blog and all you have to do is sit down and read; and b) even if I told them how they’re wrong they’d probably turn around and say I was lying or they’d make up excuses for why THEY’RE right and I really DO have the personality traits they think I do; and c) they’d probably just end up saying I’m a bitter old curmudgeon with a closed mind (or whatever else they’re projecting onto me at the moment). Meh. Frankly, I’m just not interested in a bunch of wackos having my personal information, even if I have a lot of personal information right here on this blog already.

I did promise I would cross-post my original article into the Deepwater Horizon thread at Jamie’s blog, and that IS something I welched on. When I went to do the cross-posting, I honestly forgot that I had said explicitly where I’d post it. So yes, I was a jerk in that respect. I said I’d give Jamie today (with his barbecue and spending time with his fiancee Marina), and I managed to not post there myself (and ignore my own blog for the most part!) for the day as well. So I haven’t been stoking the fires. Tomorrow, as long as the topology hasn’t shifted significantly, I’ll copy my “smells like Funk” post over into a comment on the Deepwater Horizon thread and fulfill my original promise.

I just posted this comment, my way of reminding everyone exactly what I wanted to talk about, and what I wouldn’t be goaded into discussing. I couldn’t resist taking one comment from someone who evidently believes personal attacks that are easily falsified qualify as debate, and throwing a few facts in their face. I don’t think I did much fire-stoking here, do you?

I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t spend much time online today, but I just can’t let this particular comment pass.

@Teri
It’s evident you didn’t read my blog, or the comments therein. I can tell because you think nobody in my family or circle of friends has ever consulted an astrologer. In fact, in one of my comments, I pointed out that I married an ex-astrologer. She did all sorts of natal charts for people, and she thought she was “the real deal” and that horoscopes in papers and interpreting sun signs were crap. She has since discovered it was all selection bias, mind you, and that reality is really cool when you let it tell you about itself, but hey. That won’t stop any of you from making assumptions and insinuations that can be so easily disproven just by going over to the offending article and actually reading it.

So far this entire thread has devolved into telling me that I don’t have any facts to back me up, or that I follow some kind of scriptural dogmatic science religion, or personal attacks on my character. I don’t mind those. I’m actually quite used to them. I’ve fought for years on the internet against creationists trying to replace scientific teachings with “the earth was made by God six thousand years ago, evidence be damned”, so I’ve had every one of those attacks levelled at me. I’m pretty inured at this point. The only one of you that seems to have their heads about them is Rob, who (while he incorrectly assumes I fear character assassination) actually understands that this “debate” isn’t going to go anywhere as long as it’s driven out of some kind of attempt at hectoring.

Everything else, about people trying to peer-pressure me into proving religion is true by quoting the bible err sorry, proving astrology is true by doing my natal chart, can stop barking up that tree. Unless someone decides to be super-creepy as Deb suggested they should (I work in IT, I know how easy it is to obtain personal information about someone without their consent, but if you do it, you’re doing it without my consent, ergo creepy, capisce?), there will be no interpreting my astrological influences when you could find out everything you could ever want to know about me, my personality, et cetera, from my blog.

I’ve set the terms for what I want to actually talk about — that being my concerns about astrology, how it could work, and how I suspect it probably can’t. I’d like evidence to back up that the planets have any sort of influence on humankind whatsoever, outside of the few we know — Jupiter sweeps away asteroids, giving us a better shot at life; the moon drives our tides and churns our oceans; and the sun provides us with all the energy we need to overcome entropy. I know, I know, you can do a chart and find out why things happened after the fact via your framework, but have you ever tried doing up the wrong date for an event and explaining that event with the incorrect chart? Have you noticed how you can pretty well explain any event with any chart if you try hard enough? Outside of post-hoc rationalizations (e.g. doing charts after events), what proof do you have that there’s any kind of effect? Have you measured that effect? What drives the effect, and how does it affect only who and what it does?

Those questions, and more, are asked in my post, and I strongly welcome any of you to answer them. You know, rather than this unproductive and one-sided screaming. Again, if nobody’s interested in actually debating what I’ve posted, I’ll consider the matter closed, with no willing participants. I’d prefer Jamie do it, since he’s the one who challenged me, but if someone can give me any kind of explanation outside of “science can’t explain astrology” (which equals “you need faith”) in my mind, please take a shot at it! That’s why I’m here, and I’ll leave if I don’t get it.

(On second thought, if you just want to be rid of me, thinking I’m nought but a troll, then maybe you should just stand around and call me names and demand my birth information some more. I know when nobody’s serious about actually defending their beliefs in the context of the evidence to the contrary.)

So long as nobody’s actually addressing the content of my post, my interest in this fight is waning rapidly. I feel like I’m beset by jackals, but every one of them toothless and clawless and they’re busy trying to gum me to death. It’s nothing I won’t survive, but it’s getting really irritating.

Dealing with Astrologers and Associated Trolls

I have posted the following comment at Jamie Funk’s Funk Astrology. It is in earnest. I have every intention of carrying out a real debate about the underpinnings of astrology, but I will not be goaded into talking about Jamie’s specific brand of it, and I have given them a perfectly legitimate “out” so they can save face, in case they really think such an argument would hurt their “brand”.

As both Jenn and Margaret pointed out, I absolutely would have let the matter drop with nary a single mention of your names (and you’ll note, the original article sneering at the idea of using astrology to “predict”, after the fact, why Deepwater Horizon exploded, didn’t contain the name Jamie Funk anywhere on it until Jamie posted). I also didn’t think there was much to debate about — we have a difference of opinion, in that I believe astrology is bunkum, he believes it has value. It was his personal pride and conflating my sneering at astrology with sneering at his personal skills at it, that led to the escalation.

I’m not persecuting, I have no intention of carrying out an inquisition, and I’m certainly not hunting for heretics as I don’t personally hold to ANY dogma, much less a dogmatic belief in science without evidence. I mean, if you want to carry out the argument, I work well in either the mode where we discuss astrology, or we throw personal insults at each other (e.g. when Jamie called me a coward), so if you must cast me as an inquisitor rather than a warm and genuine human being with a difference of opinion, then do what you must to muster the courage to fight.

That said, after I post one last pointer to this thread and a cross-post of this comment, I have every intention of letting the matter drop, if you have no intentions of addressing my arguments in this post.

(That post, by the by, was written for this blog first, and cross-posted at my blog in case something untoward happened to it, like getting lost in a spam filter or getting reduced to merely a link. Cross-posting is not merely cut-and-pasting, but writing something intended to be posted in two places simultaneously.)

Just say “astrology must be taken on faith” and we part ways. You have my word.

Update: There are two other takes on this situation that you should probably read.
George W of Misplaced Grace – Daily Horoscope: Saturn Is In Aquarius And Yet You’re Still A Giant Dick
sinned34 of Evil is Underrated – People braver than I
You’re both on my blogroll now, and about damned time.

Epic week of epicness

I have had just about zero time to blog all weekend. And what spare time I did have, I spent instead with my beloved wife. Now that beloved wife has gone to bed, and I can sleep in slightly more than usual tomorrow (plus I had a nap this afternoon), I should really get back to flexing my writing muscle. Use it or lose it, they say. Whoever they are, they’re probably right. And anyway, I don’t want to alienate you, my loyal readers. (Whom I can probably name, and count on one hand.)

Moved Mark and Sara into their beautiful new home today, which is a stone’s throw from ours. No, literally. Just a sec, let me prove it. … On second thought, that stone came a little close to a window, let’s not try that again. They have an absolutely gorgeous enclosed outdoor space with a watertight sunroom / greenhouse thingie — a screened in area that would allow them to enjoy the outdoors without all the outdoorsy things like bugs and such. And they have a sunroof in the kitchen. I’m muy jealous. A major advantage to our co-marriage-ers moving so close, is that Jodi can now carpool to work with Sara, saving us on the literal tripling-up on the amount of driving I have to do daily. Jodi’s work is about the same distance from our house as mine is, only in the exact opposite direction, so dropping her off in the mornings entailed driving her out to the vineyard then backtracking to my office. It sucks for Sara that she’s moved so much further from her work (she was almost within walking distance before the move!), but it benefits us, so I’m not going to complain.

We also got a bunch of work done on the house that we’ve been putting off. Mowed the lawn for the first time in three weeks, after the lot owners passed out flyers to the houses with the longest grass saying “mow or we’ll do it for you and send you the bill”. Good motivation to do it. Well, for most people… it just stuck in my craw, making me want to put off mowing another day in defiance. I did it anyway though. What a rebel, huh?

We also got a pressure washer and cleaned off the algae from the house siding, which I’m guessing has been building up since the house was built almost four years ago. The previous owners were not much for maintaining this place, evidently, between the sudden discovery of the wholly un-caulked back sill and the previous mold problem they spot-repaired, and the air exchanger that we cleaned last week, where there was so much gunk built up that it was preventing any air at all from getting exchanged. That exchanger is supposed to be serviced quarterly, but I’m guessing the previous owners had never done it, ever, judging by the filth and dead insects that caked the filters. Now that they’re all clean, it’s amazing just how obvious it is that it hasn’t worked since we moved in. We really should have looked at it sooner, I guess.

Three big moves have happened over the past week. Mark and Sara, as I just mentioned; Stilgar got moved into his finally-completed cage, which I mentioned when it happened; and we moved Jen and Opal out into their new apartment on Wednesday, so we’ve finally got the house to ourselves. I won’t be ashamed about saying it — there has been pantslessness in rooms that have not seen pantslessness in almost a year. Plus I can shower in the master bathroom now, which has a tub, as opposed to the stand-up shower in the ensuite that I’m just evidently far too gangly to manage showering in without banging elbows and such. Not even with a year of practice.

Now, a blogospherics rant below the fold. Skip it if you don’t care.
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Why I do what I do, and where I get my moral code

James Carey, whom I know from university out there in meatspace, asked a few questions that were well off topic on the prayer post, and questions about prayer itself that will be, I hope, adequately answered in the course of the series proper. I decided to post my response as a full blog post of its own because I don’t really want to derail the point of the prayer threads.

James:

I had a bit of an ephinay the other day.

Every once in a while I find two silverfish in my bathtub. Silverfish are very inoffensive little critters so I just usually let them stay for a bit. Finally I go to take a shower and I look at them and think to myself, you guys aren’t going anywhere, you aren’t going to do anything productive. Gave you time to get going, now it’s too late. Turned the water on and sent them down the drain all the while thinking “I bet the apocalypse will be something like this…”

I have read several of your articles and I feel that there is an underlying venom that you try to camouflage with all of your facts, links, and introspectives. I am not particularily religious but even I realize that “prayer” is synonomous with “hope”. You say prayer is usless, it might be, but in my experience thinking good thoughts is never a waste. It goes further beyond trying to appeal to some diety, it is searching for some personal comfort to ease pain, fear, anxiety, etc. When you crap on prayer, you are crapping on hope.

“My father is dying of cancer, rather than praying to ease his suffering, I’ll go shop for hats.”

“My little girl has been kidnapped by a pedophilr, instead of everyone out of reach to offer any help praying for her safe return, you may as well squeeze in an extra game of solitaire”

“My husband is a firefighter, instead of praying for him to come home safely, I cry myself to sleep everynight thinking that tonight will be the night he doesn’t come home”

So I have a few questions for you. Why are you doing all of “This”? And more importantly, what is your moral compass? The Bible, the book of mormon have all been provided to you to tear apart and criticize but have you provided us with any sort of literature of what has helped form your own morals and core beliefs for us to inspect and criticize? If so, send me the link and I will be happy to read it and give it the same consideration you would on my beliefs.

And for anyone who wants to know what my moral compass is:

http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html#37

Response below the fold.
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