November 2004

30 Nov 2004 03:05 am

Calculus is a branch of higher mathematics that is involved in calculating the areas and volumes of objects using integrals.

The basic applications of integration are in mathematics and physics. If the curved boundary of a plane region can be described in terms of functions, then the area enclosed by the figure and its perimeter can be expressed in terms of integrals. In three dimensions there are integrals for the volume and the surface area of a solid with a curved boundary. Integration can also be used to determine the mass of a body where the density of the matter inside it is allowed to vary from place to place.

If you can describe an object in terms of a function, then you can integrate it to calculate its surface area or its volume. Apparently, the Germans have found a mathematics function to describe Muslims:

Headline AP: Germany Takes Steps to Integrate Muslims

28 Nov 2004 02:35 pm

We received the following submission to the me judice Sayings That Initially Appear To Be Profound, But Upon Further Reflection Are In Fact Nonsense Competition:

Dear Knilram

I found the following quote on a YMCA exercise class schedule posted on our kitchen refrigerator.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take…but that take our breath away." — Anonymous

I would appreciate it if you would consider it for your mjSTIATBPBUFRAIFN Competition.

Best regards,

Joe Fictitious-North-Carolina-Reader

Thanks for the submission, Joe. We forwarded it to the mj Department of Pseudo-Profundity for their review, and here is their response.

Thank you for your submission, Mr. Fictitious-North-Carolina-Reader.

We have reviewed the saying. Initially we considered just forwarding it to the mj Department of More Badder Grammar Mocking because the heart of the problem with this saying is that it is poorly constructed. To the casual reader, the message is clear: It is better to live a shorter life filled with "breath taking" experiences than to live a longer, more boring life. You can agree or disagree with the idea, but it does come across fairly clearly. At least initially.

However, it is very badly worded. The two statements are not parallel. "Number of breaths" is compared to "that take our breath away". Since the subject is not stated in the second statement, we must take the subject from the first. Now, "Number of breaths" is compared with "number that take our breath away". What number takes our breath away? Seven? Nine? Forty-two? We can only guess. In fact, this is just nonsense. The main cause of the confusion is the bad parallism rather than pseudo-profundity.

But upon further reflection, we decided to keep this saying in our own department and to not disqualify it from the me judice Sayings That Initially Appear To Be Profound, But Upon Further Reflection Are In Fact Nonsense Competition because at an entirely different level it is pseudo-profundity.

As Mr. Fictitious-North-Carolina-Reader pointed out, this saying came from a YMCA exercise class schedule. That placement of the saying is highly significant. This brings the idea of "taking breath away" into an entirely different light. The main point of aerobic exercise is to improve the efficiency of your cardio-vascular system. You elevate your heart and breathing rates for a short period of time so that your heart and lungs are more efficient, and don’t have to work as hard the rest of the day. As a result of your exercise program, your heart will beat less times and you will take less breaths through the course of the day. Therefore, "taking breath away" can be a metaphor for improved physical conditioning. In that light, the saying now boils down to this: Life isn’t about being fat and out of shape, but rather life is about spending time exercising at your local YMCA.

Now for anyone who has spent a significant amount of time suffering in joyless YMCA fitness rooms, the saying has now clearly crossed into the realm of nonsense, and qualifies for the mjSTIATBPBUFRAIFN Competition.

We rate it a 6 of 10 for Confusion. We would have rated it higher, but the main confusion is in the grammar and not logic. Our judges prefer logic flaws and we leave the mocking of grammar to others. We rate it 7 of 10 for the initial impression that the saying is profound, and 9 of 10 for the amount of reflection required to realize that it is in fact nonsense. This gives it an overall rating of 7.3 which puts this statement into first place on our leader board.

Congratulations, Joe Fictitious-North-Carolina-Reader, and thanks for playing in the me judice Sayings That Initially Appear To Be Profound, But Upon Further Reflection Are In Fact Nonsense Competition.

28 Nov 2004 04:43 am

If you go to a zoo these days, you will be thoroughly indoctrinated in evolutionary thought at the numerous exhibits and displays. Evolution is presented, not as a theory to be considered, but as a fact to be accepted, and a fact that no one with any knowledge of science would ever dispute.

At its heart, the evolutionary theory maintains that species will improve over long periods of time as the individual creatures with weaknesses die out, and the ones with strengths thrive and propagate their strengths to the next generations. Weakness dies. Strength lives. Natural selection and survival of the fittest, you know.

Yet despite what they teach, zoos regularly act contrary to these evolutionary principles and strive to protect and save the very creatures that have proved themselves unable to adapt and survive. Zoos create an artificial refuge for these animals that have proven that they are unable to survive on their own, and are therefore, according to evolutionary dogma, unfit to live.

As a specific example of a zoo not following evolutionary doctrine, recently, a Czech zoo operated on a cheetah to replace its bad hip.

PRAGUE (AFP) – A cheetah at a Czech zoo has become the first in the world to be fitted with an artificial hip, the zoo’s vet Vaclav Pozivil said.

The two-year-old cheetah called Jane, who lives at the zoo in Usti nad Labem in the north of the country, had been suffering from a congenital disorder of a hip joint….

“Without an operation, Jane would have been condemned to a gradual loss of mobility, and would have had to be put down in the end,” said Pozivil….

The cheetah was doomed to die because of a congenital hip disorder. Her hip was not bad due to an accident, but do to an inherited flaw that she can pass on to her offspring. If you follow the principles of evolution, you will let her die without a thought.

Why spend any effort to further the life of a creature that isn’t fit to live, and that has a disorder that if she is allowed to live, she can pass on to her offspring?

I contend that it is only a Christian world view that can justify such treatment of a flawed animal. God has given to mankind the responsibility to care for the world and its creatures. With this world view, it is logical to care for this specific ailing cheetah because we have a responsibility before God for her.

Zoos continue to preach that evolution is true and that inexorably the creatures that are weak and not able to adapt will die and those that can adapt will thrive and carry on. Thankfully, zoos don’t practice what they preach.

28 Nov 2004 03:43 am

Sometimes I wonder how we Knilrams are doing as a family. I try to stress to the kids that the older ones should be watching out for the younger, and we should all be trying to take care of each other, but how much of it sticks? Well, this afternoon, we found that something is getting through.

This afternoon, Mrs. Knilram and I set out on an errand. As I walked out the door, the primary dog walked out with me. Without giving it any thought, I let her come out and had her hop in the car with us so she could join us on the errand. I didn’t tell anyone in the house that the primary dog was coming along with us. I should have let them know we were taking her, but it happened without planning it, and I really didn’t think about it at the time.

Driving down the road a quarter of an hour later, my cell phone rang. Mrs. Knilram said, “That will be our oldest daughter calling to ask if we took the primary dog with us.” I had to laugh as I answered, because as always, she was right.

It turns out that shortly after we left, our oldest daughter was checking on the emergency backup dog, and she noticed that the primary dog wasn’t anywhere to be found, yet her leash was still there. Our daughter devised an ingenious scheme to prove if the primary dog was in the house: she went outside and rang the door bell. (Brilliant!) This roused the emergency backup dog, and my brother’s dog, but there was not a peep (nor a bark) from the primary dog. If the door bell didn’t bring out the primary dog, she either wasn’t in the land of the living, or she wasn’t in the house.

Before she went out to search the neighborhood, our daughter called to ask if we had taken the dog with us.

I was impressed with the methodical way she went about deducing where the dog was (and was not). But most of all, I was pleased that she was watching out for the family.

27 Nov 2004 05:38 am

Friday: I’ve had the chance to watch a little more television the last few days than I usually watch. Normally, all I see are a few sporting events. During football season, I’ll see maybe a college game a month at most, and usually half the Monday Night Football game each week, but not much more than that.

I haven’t watched television news much at all since reading Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. After reading that, I just couldn’t stand all the nonsense in the news.

I recall Postman asking you to think when you learned something from a news report that caused you to do something differently. He suggested that the only examples of the news changing your behavior would a weather or traffic report. Almost nothing else you hear on the news will really impact your life.

Postman’s biggest criticism of the news is its disjointed character where totally unrelated news items are thrown at the public with no time for thoughtful reflection. And to top it all off, the whole lot of unconnected news items are then interspersed with commercials.

Says Postman:

We have become so accustomed to [news report’s] discontinuities that we are no longer struck dumb, as any sane person would be, by a newscaster who having just reported that a nuclear war is inevitable goes on to say that he will be right back after this word from Burger King; who says, in other words, “Now … this.” [Ellipsis in original.] One can hardly overestimate the damage that such juxtapositions do to our sense of the world as a serious place, The damage is especially massive to youthful viewers who depend so much on television for their clues as to how to respond to the world. In watching television news, they, more than any other segment of the audience, are drawn into an epistemology based on the assumption that all reports of cruelty and death are greatly exaggerated and, in any case, not to be taken seriously or responded to sanely.

I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anticommunication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville.

[Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman, p104-105]

If you find Postman to be even partially correct in his analysis of news programs, you can see why it really changed how I look at (or more literally, no longer look at) television news.

But I happened to see a few minutes of Good Morning America the other day. The “bubble headed bleach blonde” (see Don Henley below) came on to tell everyone about someone who was arrested because he had been stalking singer Scheryl Crow. This report didn’t make it to the national news because of the relative importance of the event, since it was of no significance to anyone except for Crow herself. I’m sure she was relieved to know this man was no longer on the streets, but it had no possible value (other than entertainment value) for me to know about this man. Obviously, the reason they were reporting this was because they had video of an interview with the stalker. And our “bubble headed bleach blonde” warned us that it was a “disturbing video”.

She was a real professional; it was clear how she had made it to the level of a national news talking head. She made her disturbed face, and shook her head slightly as she said “disturbing video”. Marvelously effective. She made it believable that the video was disturbing, and after all that is what truth on television is all about.

Again, according to Postman:

[T]elevision provides a new (or, possibly, restores an old) definition of truth: The credibility of the teller is the ultimate test of the truth of a proposition. “Credibility” here does not refer to the past record of the teller for making statements that have survived the rigors of reality-testing. It refers only to the impression of sincerity, authenticity, vulnerability or attractiveness (choose one or more) conveyed by the actor/reporter.

[Postman, p101-102]

She gave the impression of being sincerely disturbed in an authentic way, while at the same time she didn’t make a face so grotesque as to mar her attractive face. I imagine she must have practiced for hours in front of the mirror to master the disturbed look. What a professional.

Watching her reminded me why I don’t watch television news anymore.

If you don’t want to read Postman’s chapter on television news, you can just listen to Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry.

We’ve got the bubble headed bleach blonde

Comes on at five.

She can tell you ’bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye.

It’s interesting when people die.

Give us dirty laundry.

Can we film the operation?

Is the head dead yet?

You know the boys in the news room

Got a running bet.

Get the widow on the set.

We need dirty laundry.

What a great song, and incredibly insightful lyrics. This song was running through my head all day after seeing that short clip from Good Morning America.

Another television moment from yesterday. Flipping around the channels, we ran across Terminator 3, and watched a couple minutes of it. We saw when Arnold is driving the hearse. As the Terminatrix jumps on top and begins to cut through the roof, Kate Brewster screams to Arnold, “Do something!”

He then proceeds to sheer the roof off the hearse by cutting under a tractor trailer, leaving the Terminatrix behind with the roof of the car.

What do we learn from this? Obviously, Arnold is a real man of action. When faced with a crisis, and called upon to act, he saves the people in his care from most certain harm.

Imagine having him for your governor. If I were to in an emergency cry out to my governor, Fast Eddy Rendell, “Do something!” he would leap into action by trying to raise my taxes or pushing slot machines on me. Not quite the same thing as what Arnold would do.

The irony of my complaining about the news being entertainment and then immediately praising a politician for his image earned because he is an entertainer is not lost upon me.

I’ll just say that Postman’s book has a chapter on politicians as entertainers, and leave it at that for tonight.

I went out to a park this afternoon with my brother and his family. We took our dogs with us. At one point, I was walking around the lake with him as his dog, Loki, was pulling as hard as he could to the left, causing him to walk at about a 45 degree inclination to the left. It was very interesting to watch him walk in that tilted way.

As we walked, a little boy behind us said very clearly, with a heavy southern accent, “Hey, Daddy! Look at that dog walking all sideways!”

“Yep,” his father replied with just as much of a southern accent. “He’s sure is walking all sideways.”

I thought that was a pretty good way of describing it. Walking all sideways.

In someways, we all tend to do that. We pull one way or the other, and slant everything in the way we view it. This afternoon, Loki slanted everything to the left. Well, I slant to the right. I think that I see my slant, and I think my slant is the right way to see things. But perhaps I’m just struggling against what is pulling me back the other way, just like Loki who is “walking all sideways.” And perhaps others get as much of a kick out of seeing me with my funny rightward slant.

Then again, maybe I’m just pushing an analogy too far.

I’ve never been good at analogies. Analogies are like hot dogs. Too many of them will give you a stomach-ache.

I told you I wasn’t any good at analogies….

Good night.

25 Nov 2004 04:51 pm

Latin is considered a dead language, and few people bother to learn it these days. It is easy to think that there is no reason to know Latin in our modern world. But consider the case of the following young girl who was unable to present a receipt in Latin for one pound of raisins. It will make you realize the danger you face in not knowing Latin. So, please, take some Latin lessons for your own good before next Raisin Monday.

Reuters Photo:

Caption: “A student from St Andrews University take part in a foam fight as part of the traditional Raisin Monday celebrations in Scotland, November 22, 2004. The tradition dates back to the early days of the university where new students would give senior students a pound (0.45kg) of raisins in gratitude for their help in adapting to university life, in exchange for a receipt written in Latin. Failure to produce such a receipt could result in a dousing in the local fountain. Nowadays the raisins have been replaced with a bottle of wine and the dousing with foam. REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell”

25 Nov 2004 01:44 pm

Today is mj‘s first birthday. One year ago I started it all with this post.

mj‘s come a long way in the last year. I started out with no real plans, just a general idea of posting whatever is on my mind. But over time I started concentrating my writing until I’ve now got it focused like a laser beam on the specific goal of posting whatever is on my mind.

Sometimes during the year, I have wondered if the time spent blogging could be better spent on other, more useful tasks. It is during those times of doubt that I think back to what my mother said to me so long ago…

I was a freshman in college, and I was home at Thanksgiving break. It was a very difficult first year for me. My roommate, Doug, was a drug abuser, and there were always strange goings on in our room. Our room was party central for the worst kind of people. I remember once in the middle of the night, someone woke me up with his banging on the door. My roommate wasn’t there at the time, so I got up and answered the door. There was someone in a ski mask asking for Doug. It was then that I realized that he wasn’t just doing drugs, but he was also involved in selling them as well.

The night before I left for Thanksgiving break, I came back to my room after studying late into the evening. There was someone passed out drunk in my bed. To get into my own bed, I had to work to wake up this drunk, and as he rolled out of my bed, he threw up.

That was the kind of situation I was living in at the time, and I felt sick about the thought of returning to it after Thanksgiving. I was thinking, maybe it would be better to just stay at home and not return to that drug infested cesspool.

But as I was struggling through those thoughts and emotions, at the Thanksgiving meal my mother greatly encouraged me and gave me the inner strength to not only return to finish my freshman year, but to complete college. And it is her words coming down to me from so long ago that have kept me blogging through this year.

She looked me right in the eye from across the table and (I can almost hear her even now) she said, “Knilram, could you please pass the gravy.”

Happy Thanksgiving. And please pass the gravy.

24 Nov 2004 08:03 pm

Headline BBC News: Postal staff strike as talks fail

Headline AP: Pennsylvania Turnpike Workers Go on Strike

Headline AP: Deadly Tornadoes Strike in Texas, La.

24 Nov 2004 03:25 am

When you go to Walmart, it can be hard to avoid the greeter who wants to put the Walmart smiley sticker on you. I’ve known some girls who like to hide behind their father to try to sneak by the pushy greeters who insist on giving them a sticker.

It appears that Army snipers can’t get by Walmart greeters either.

Have a nice day!

AP Photo:

Caption: “A happy face smiles back from the scope of a U.S. Army sniper’s rifle, during a mission searching for insurgents in Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 22, 2004. U.S. and Iraqi forces in Mosul have been working put down an uprising launched by guerrillas who seized police stations and other sites. (AP Photo/Jim MacMillan)”

23 Nov 2004 01:10 pm

William Kristol writes in The Weekly Standard:

Intellectually, it’s always safer to be a pessimist than an optimist.

I’ve been thinking about that statement. I’ve always tended to be a pessimist by nature. If it is correct, perhaps I’ve just been taking the easy way out by playing it safe.

But one place where I have been learning to be more optimistic is in the area of eschatology (study of the end times). I was raised being taught a pessimistic eschatology: Dispensational Premillennialism. Under this scheme, Jesus Christ will return to earth to usher in the Millennium, in which He will physically and politically reign over all the earth from Jerusalem.

But a big part of this scheme involves the idea that things will continue to get worse until Christ returns. I recall hearing people say that it is doing the devil’s work to attempt to make things better, since it is God’s plan for things to get worse. Now, if that is pessimism squared!

One of the advantages of this scheme is that you can look to the newspaper to validate its truth. There are always problems in the world. Wars, earthquakes, famines, etc. If you want to find things getting worse, there are always places you can find them.

For years I was content to accept this pessimism. But the problem was that as I read the Bible, I saw there is great optimism. There are promises of the success of the Gospel and the advance of the kingdom of God to the farthest reaches of the world.

Here are just three examples of the promises of success for the Gospel, all from the book of Isaiah. (There are many other examples just from Isaiah I could also have included.)

Isaiah 2:2-5

2 In the last days

the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established

as chief among the mountains;

it will be raised above the hills,

and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD ,

to the house of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,

so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,

the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, O house of Jacob,

let us walk in the light of the LORD .

Isaiah 9:2-7

2 The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation

and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you

as people rejoice at the harvest,

as men rejoice

when dividing the plunder.

4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,

you have shattered

the yoke that burdens them,

the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor.

5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle

and every garment rolled in blood

will be destined for burning,

will be fuel for the fire.

6 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

Isaiah 11:1-10

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –

3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD .

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,

and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty

will accomplish this.

Because of these and other Scriptures, I have come to be a Postmillennialist. I believe that God will continue to prosper and grow His kingdom and give the Gospel success until Jesus Christ will return. We are currently living in the Millennium, and as such we can expect the Gospel will ultimately succeed. We might not see the success in our time, but succeed it eventually will.

It can be easier to see the terrible things that are going on around us than to see the quiet way God’s kingdom is advancing in our time. But Scripture has convinced me to be optimistic, contrary to my nature. “Intellectually, it’s always safer to be a pessimist than an optimist.” Well, maybe I’m living dangerously, but I believe that Scripture teaches an optimistic eschatology.

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