Month: June 2012

random bits of “news”

1. Breaking the 200k-mile barrier. While much of the advice in this story is incredibly useful, the opening line gives a clue for my thoughts: buy a Honda. In 1996, I bought an ’88 Accord LXi that already had c. 130k miles to its credit. In 2004, I sold it shortly after it broke 305k miles and it was still running strong . . . on the same engine and transmission. That same year, I purchased a ’97 Accord EX coupe that had c. 170k miles. In 2008, I sold it shortly after it broke 215k miles, and I believe it’s still going.*

2. Sherman, TX impervious to logic? I’ll have to agree with anchor-Greg on this one: I nearly fell asleep out of boredom. But here’s a logical explanation to be considered. Based on experience with that sort of packaging, when the blankets were either re-shelved or organized before closing, it is possible that the air inside both the blanket and packaging was most likely pressed out so as to conserve space. Then, as the night progressed, the air slowly “refilled” and the blankets returned to their original size, which then caused them to fall off the shelf. (If you notice, around the 1.30 mark, some of the blankets are already over the edge of the shelf while others are not).

“But what about the others–especially when the owner shook the shelves?” Two points: 1) that type of plastic tends to be quite “sticky”, especially with itself. Thus, if two packages are touching each other and one gets to large or heavy for the shelf and falls, the other will go with it. And 2) not only was the direction of the shelf-shaking was up-and-down (which is not 100% consistent with earthquakes), but the packed-blankets were touching each other (i.e. already stuck together), thus keeping them in place. (Although it is interesting to note that the footage stopped just as one package began to fall off the shelf and the store-owner moved to catch it).

3. Missing the obvious problem. The stated problem: a snake slithers across the gauges of a motorcycle, which could have caused the rider to crash while doing 164mph. Praise given to the rider: he not only stops to remove the snake in a humane fashion, but also assuages the fears of others by saying he would never have harmed or killed the snake. But the obvious problem: the genius (yeah, I don’t mean that) was doing 164mph, on a public road! Sure, he would never harm a snake; but other people? 164 mph on a public road says, “Screw other people!”

* Daniel Smyth will be the authority on this.

just sayin’ (what he said)

To ask, as some are doing, whether St Paul and St John, in their pictures of the Antichrist,* were predicting the enormities committed by [a great political leader] and his people during the present war, is to ask a futile question. The inspired writers were giving instruction, encouragement, and warning to Christians of their own time. What help would it have been to Christians in the first two centuries to have cryptic descriptions of horrors that were to take place [in our day]? And how could teachers who were fully persuaded that Christ would return very soon, and bring this world to a close, be supposed to foresee what would be going on in this world many centuries later?

Don’t worry; all hope is not lost:

What they did see was this:–that any God-opposing power, however successful for a time in making might prevail against right, and however skilful in adapting miracles of science to its own wicked purposes, must in the end fail, and be destroyed by the righteous judgment of God. Moral principles may be derided and reversed. “We ought, therefore we can” may be turned into “We can, therefore we ought,” so that the power to conquer is made to imply the right to conquer: but sooner or later the mills of God accomplish their inevitable work, and the monstrous rebel is ground to powder.

–A. Plummer, A Commentary on St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (1918), xxi

* My only point of disagreement is Plummer’s linking Paul with the idea of “Antichrist.”

head-counts are representative, percentages are shady

For who knows how long, I’ve been suspect of nearly everything that comes with a percentage, especially surveys or polls. Why? Because surveys or polls use percentages in much the same way that Gorgias used rhetoric. They make grandiose claims about a multitude of concerns, with the hope that the towering figures will awe the masses. 67% of doctors agree on the cause of ‘X’, 95% of Europeans say ‘Y’ about the Euro-crisis, 78% of women prefer shampoo ‘Z’, and most recently: ‘In the US, 46% hold creationist view of human origins.’

My issue is not with the particular topic of discussion (i.e. human origins); my problem is with what the shady percentage conveys. Specifically, this figure suggests a reality that is neither consistent with the implication of its own claim nor with how things are or might be in reality. Quoi? We’ll start with the first half. As of today, at 11.09am (UK time) the US population stands at 313,658,703.* Thus, when the study says ‘46% hold creationist view of human origins’ it is implying that 144,283,003.38 Americans agree with that view.

However, and this is the second half of my problem, that 144,283,003.38 is not reality–i.e. it does not reflect the true number of those who in fact hold the creationist view. The survey indicates that only ‘a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia’ (emphasis added). If my maths are right: 46% of that 1,012 sample is 465.52, and that figure is a pathetic 0.000148% of the US population. Call me cynical, but I fear that if the study did involve every single US citizen the number (or percentage) of those holding a creationist view of human origins would not reach the proposed 46%.

I can understand why surveys like this one opt for percentages instead or solid numbers. It sounds better to say 46%, which implies a significant portion of the country, than to say 465.52 people, who could fit into a small neighborhood in a medium-sized town. It made better sense for Gorgias to rhetorically woo the crowds into thinking he possessed great skill in a multitude of professions and avoid circumstances in which he would have to prove he had none.

* This figure is flexible for the simple fact it represents registered persons/births. Just for fun: by the time I finished this post (i.e. 11.51am), the population grew to: 313,658,902. Mazal Tov!