Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm now officially a hipster, and two other things

I went to get new shoes today. I've been wearing the same old sneakers for about 16 months now. It was time. I went to JL Waters here in town. They didn't have anything I liked in my normal I went hipster. It was only a matter of time before I purchased something stylish (besides my sunglasses, but they're a different story).

Thing #2: my latest piece was finally posted, about 3 weeks late. There was a bit of a snafu with the email (supposedly) and then the webmaster was sick for a week. Oh well. Better late than never. I'm also currently working on a piece about Indy for Windy City Suds. That should come out in about a month.

Thing #3: I got Sandy's comments back on my qualifying paper. They were at once encouraging and somewhat distressful. Encouraging: "This could become an excellent qualifying paper and journal article" and "It may show that humans are special in Darwin's system after all". I'm not sure that the last bit would be anything new though, but I think my paper does (or will) give a far more systematic account of why humans were special for Darwin.

The less than encouraging things: "Even the title is directionless" and "I don't get this paragraph at all" and "then don't bring it up; you've got too many side shows going on already".

But even these are encouraging. I love Sandy's style. He tells it like it is.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


For some reason, this year's halloween was really quite festive. I haven't participated in halloween this much since college.

Here are some pictures.

From Friday night at Jenny the B's party:

Adam (second from left) kept filling that jug up with vodka and juice. It didn't do anybody any favors. Except me. I look alright.

Kara, giant spider, Brian, Deborah, jug-o-booze.

Jeremy dressed as 'the ball breaker'; with friend.

Last night the party was at the House of Love, aka the english dept.

Yaniv's costume was a bit outlandish. Here's Maura touching his thong.

Me as the dude with Maura.

Keelan with best/creepiest costume ever.

Ashley feeling Keelan's David's package area.

Ben as the gay apocryphal gospel writer Steve.

We then made our way to the Vid when the keg kicked.

This is Merritt, maybe the best bar tender in Bloomington. He works at Encore and he told me about the keg of oak aged Arrogant Bastard they are getting soon. He rules. He also went all out for halloween.

Another contender for Bloomington's best bar tender, Andy. With mustache.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Medeski, Martin and Wood

I found a great video of a set MMW did on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Oct. 18th. It's really good. I like the new stuff. Much more approachable than some of their other stuff, but still interesting.

And doesn't John Medeski look a lot like the Commish?

Check it out here.

Billy Dembski: still an idiot

Well, I've left another comment on William Dembski's (aka 'God did it Dembski') blog. I left it on this post.

Hopefully he won't delete it. The second parargraph is clearly the most important.

"I'm just wondering what implicit arguments this post is making and if they are actually good arguments for you to be making. It seems to me there are at least two different arguments. The first: we can correctly infer design in data sets published by scientists, i.e. we can tell when data sets are 'designed' and when they are 'natural'. Therefore we should also trust our design inferences when looking at nature too. Two things: this is all fine and good, but do you really need to go to this sort of obscure example? It seems that watches are a perfectly fine example, not to mention tried and true since 1800.

More importantly, isn't this argument self undermining? It seems that you're saying data that isn't 'cooked' by the scientist would not allow for a design inference, but this is exactly where you want to use design inferences for the ID program. If an intelligent designer did in fact make the world, we shouldn't be able to tell the difference between data sets designed by scientists and 'data sets', i.e. natural phenomena, designed by some other intelligent designer. Shouldn't they share the same artifacts of design? The same stamp of conscious thought?

It seems like a second subtle implicit argument is that biologists are dishonest. Are you actually making this argument, which would seem hard to do and be much more involved than pointing out one case of dishonesty, or are you simply relying on this subtle rhetorical technique (namely the wording of the title of this post) to convince the morons that you tend to convince that science is dishonest?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

and the chaos ensued

Let me put it this way: driving 1800 miles and 30 hours in about a 95 hour span is something I plan to not do again for a while. It really takes it out of you.

But I did have a good time up there, the North Country that is. Namely Copenhagen NY, in Lewes County. Some portions of Lewes county easily hold the snowfall records east of the Mississippi, regularly more than 300 inches a year, and beat out lots of spots out west too. Anyway, it's about one hour north and 30 minutes east of Syracuse, just west of the can see them off in the distance. It's pretty there.

My friend Mike Pell has a compound, for lack of a better word. He has lots of guns and land for building structures etc. It's like a big adult playground. He's funny.

So I drove to Pittsburgh and picked up R (I was supposed to drive to pittsburgh and get in his new Audi S4 but he never bought it) and he drove my car from there. We arrived and immediately got really drunk. Less than 8 hours after R got there he was headed to the emergency room.

Around 6:30am he and his brother were wrestling and he fell and split his head open on the bricks that form the base of the wood burning stove.

He had to get two staples in his scalp.

I will soon post a short video he shot on the car ride from the hospital.

That's really the craziest thing that happened. But here are some other highlights in photo form:


Pell made about 10 gallons of Carrot Curry soup. It was good.

There was lots of chain sawing to be done what with the bonfire and the regular fire and the pig pit to fuel.

We constructed a pit in which to cook the 90lb pig.

CLICK THIS PICTURE TO READ THE SIGN. That Mike Pell's got some issues.

We had to incinerate 2 goose carcases before we could really get down to business.

Spreading the shit across the street. This is a good representation of pretty much every paper I write. The field is the paper and the tractor being me. CLICK ON THE PICTURE FOR A BIGGER ONE.

This is just about right.

More drunken chain sawing. We had to feed the fires.

A long day of running around the compound makes Mike and the Dog tired.

Ben Wah Hoag and Bella, possible the smallest dog ever.

Ben and Leigh in their matching Spence Cafe sweatshirts. Awwww. If you're ever in West Chester, go to Spence.

Constructing the bonfire.

Luckily, we had a sixtel of Victory Golden Monkey, a 1/2 barrel of Victory Lager and a 1/4 barrel of Victory Hop Devil.

After we crucified Adam. Just kidding.

Many shotguns were shot. Many pumpkins were shot.

Mike wearing the snood "carving" the pig.

It snowed Saturday night.

Unfortunately, instead of getting to sit around and watch football all day on Sunday, I drove back to Indiana. My friends are big Eagles fans. Note the old school Randall Cunningham jersey.

How Diana wants Mike and Diana to be seen.

How Mike wants Mike and Diana to be seen.

With all the practice, you'd think R would be better at chewing than he is.

That is all. Most pictures ever.

Monday, October 24, 2005

things are good, things are bad, I got the mother fuckin' loot in a mail bag

Well, before I dive into my expose of the 2005 Harvest Party Extravaganza, I just have to post all the loot I got in the mail today.

Today was a good mail day.

From left to right: the new issue of 'Trout' (from Trout Unlimited) with a sweet article on three recently (1980s) rediscovered sub species of cutthroat trout; the bestest part of the mail haul, a beer trade from Colorado including none other than New Belgiums La Folie sour Belgian Ale. I crave the funk, let's be honest, and this beer is brewed by some of the best. The brewer at New Belgium is Rodenbach's old brewer do he knows what he's doing with the funk. I'm excited. Can't get that here in old Indiana, let alone east of the Mississippi. Then there is another beer that you can't get East of the mississippi either, I don't think, Lagunita's Belgian Brown. Hopefully that one's sour too. Then there's a couple other cool looking local Colorado brews. I've had the Avery before, but no worries, I'll drink it. Then there is the copy of 'Life Science in the 20th Century' that I've been needing. Good reference book for sure.

Here is a picture of my haul:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ned Block is a bad ass

I was fortunate enough to catch the talk given by Ned Block yesterday in the philosophy department here. Ned Block is a philosopher of mind/cognitive science from NYU. He's really really famous. Probably one of the most famous active philosophers, hence he's at NYU. Ha. Or is it that NYU has the best philosophy department because people like Ned Block are there? Funny huh?

Anyway, he gave a really great talk about reductionism. At least that's how I read it. The talk was really about the functionalism/physicalism debate in the philosophy of mind, and he argued for physicalism, therefore I imagine he might be a reductionist about mental phenomena.

After just posting about John Bickle's work I thought this was pretty cool. My roomate and I, Brian, had a brief discussion about reductionism and Brian made the objection that reductionism doesn't fly because our folk psychological concepts, so to speak, our feelings that we use in everyday life to communicate etc., don't map onto brain states very well. This is known as the 'multiple realizability' objection. In other words, when two people say they're sad, we assume they are experiencing something similar, but it turns out, so says Brian, that their brains aren't really doing the same thing at all. A given mental kind, e.g. sadness, is multiply realizable by many different brain states. Therefore we shouldn't be reductionists. Or something like this. I'm sure I'm missing some important points, but that's the general gist.

Well, Ned Block seemed to argue that this objection doesn't necessarily hold because our understanding of the brain isn't sophisticated enough. He went through a bunch of terribly cool examples from recent neuroscience work. The example that was most striking to me, at least the one I latched onto, was about early blind people and braille reading.

People who go blind early in life seem to co-opt their visual cortex to read braille. In other words, the part of the brain usually used for seeing, is used for tactile tasks in blind people. This has been forwarded by some philosophers as an objection against physicalism. Mental states don't map onto brain states. We can use a part of the brain typically used for seeing, for feeling.

Block showed, however, that in other experiments it seems that the visual cortex isn't so much for seeing as it is for spatial navigation. For example, one of the experiments used a special tool to zap the visual cortex in an early blind person while they were reading braille. While they reported that they were still feeling the braille, they weren't able to actually read it.

Similarly, when people (I'm not sure if they were blind or not) were feeling a series of ridges on a plastic sheet, they were asked to report if they were feeling the ridges and what there orientation was. When the visual cortex was zapped, they could still feel the ridges, but not detect their orientation, i.e. running up down or left right etc.

While I may have gotten that last part wrong, that's the general gist.

There were some important objections made though. Namely Colin Allen and Johnathan Weinberg were a little concerned with Block's investment in old metaphysical questions.

Johnathan said, "why don't we just let the metahysics slough off like so much dead skin?" Indeed.

Anyway, I am now endlessly fascinated with the philosophy of neuroscience.

Seeing great talks like that is really encouraging. John Earman's talk last year, another really famous philosopher, was equally uplifting, even if I didn't understand much of what he said.

Last post before this:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

mother fuckin' break through

Well, things have been a little rough lately, and I'll be honest, they're only going to get worse before they get better. For some reason, I told Sandy that I'd have my qualifying paper to him this Thursday. Clearly I did it so that I would actually have to wrap the goddamn thing up because lord knows I've been dithering away at it for too long.

Anyway, I also have to read a bunch of stuff on Mendel for Wednesday, which is cool, but I also have to prepare a short presentation on why the general 'historian's' understanding of models is incompatible with the semantic conception of theories' understanding of models. That's my paper topic for the seminar and I think it's very promising, but I need to actually go get some papers and what not tomorrow.

Well, the breakthrough came tonight on my qualifying paper. It's not like I finished it or anything, there is still a bit less than 1/4 to actually put down on paper (lots of cutting and pasting to be honest), and there are still a couple conceptual knots to untie, but they're relatively minor. Anyway, the breakthrough was more of a light at the end of the tunnel sort of thing. I finally got around to piecing together a bit of analysis/conclusion after weeks of doing nothing but going through textual evidence and footnoting shit. Anyway, it was nice. I'm excited.

I was pretty down before the breakthrough, but now I'm drinking a small glass of whiskey as a reward.

I also burnt chicken tonight which sucked, but I'm over it.

So this Thursday, things will get better when I leave town for an exciting 13 hour drive to very upstate New York, the north country if you will, via Pittsburgh, to attend the second annual Pell Harvest Party extravaganza.

Here are some pictures from last year's extravaganza, and I've decided to do away with the white borders around pictures. Yes they're aesthetically pleasing, but they're also too much fucking work that's for damn sure.

Angela Ochipinski is sexy. She's even sexier with a lever action 357 rifle. That's for damn sure.

I've been assured that this year's fire will be at least 3 times as large. No lie. Mike got 5 cords, yes, 5, of split wood delivered already and several large, 4-5' long, 1-2 feet in diameter, uncut logs.

Hopefully this won't happen again. Not the Johhnie Walker, the dress.

One of my oldest and bestest friends, Michael B. Pell, host and true north country denizen (intended solely in the British usage).

Friday, October 14, 2005

how bout that John Bickle...

John Bickle is a philosopher of neuroscience/cognitive science/mind at University of Cincinnati. I'm not terribly familiar with these distinctions, but I'm pretty sure that covers it.

Anyway, I've noticed that the Cincinnati Philosophy Department webpage now has some videos available of interviews with faculty members. I watched the interview with Bickle and it's cool stuff. Really important stuff. Really relevant stuff. Pretty much he's interested in taking neuroscience seriously as a philosopher, namely, cellular and molecular neuroscience. He's gettin' down to the nitty gritty and making some pretty bold claims about intertheoretic reduction (how psychology, and in general phenomenological science of the brain and 'mind' reduce to cellular and molecular pheonmena. I like it. I like it a lot. It's also cool because Tony Landreth, the grad student that conducts the interview, once gave me a ride to Kentucky to buy some good beer. Which was really cool.

Check out the interview here.

There's also an interview with Christopher Gauker. He's a philosopher of language which I know pretty much nothing about.

I hope they post an interview with Robert Skipper. He's a philosopher of biology who does cool stuff in history and philosophy of population genetics. These videos are just cool ways of getting a quick and provocative idea of what these people work on and I just find them entertaining.

They're also a cool way of advertising the department. It really gives prospective students a look at the kind of work going on in the department.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


My new computer has arrived. My life has now been changed dramatically for the better. Having a computer that will not crash every 15-20 minutes every goddam day will certainly lower the over all stress level in my life.

My brother also made the computer. Which is really fucking cool...and economical! $650 for a Pentium 4 3.4ghz processor, 1 gig of ram, a 250gig hard drive. Can't go wrong with that.

So get ready for some supercharged blogging. Actually, probably nothing will change except that I'll be less stressed out. Which may manifest itself in me being more sympathetic to Intelligent design whack jobs and other religious wingnuts, but I doubt it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

science in the media

I feel like my impression of science coverage in the media is quite negative. This is primarily conditioned by their coverage of the evolution debates (sic)*. Then recently their was this article about the debate (again, sic) over how the Grand Canyon formed: couple million years of erosion or in one big shot during the Noachian flood, about, what, 3000 years ago? Dr.Myers over at Pharyngula posts this hilarious (and sad) bit about the Grand Canyon article.

After all this, I was quite pleased to run across two articles recently that I thought were quite well done. I suggest you read them because they're cool too.

The first was in the Sept.17TH-23RD edition of The Economist (also really good for its articles about the history of 19th century English pubs, sailing modern cargo ships and traffic jams). I really wish that they did more science journalism. I think they'd be pretty good at it. It was pretty cool two years ago when I had a class with a science journalism grad student here at IU. She was taking a graduate level history of science class in my department that I was also taking. Sadly, for her I imagine, we didn't learn much science. She could maybe be a historiography of science journalist now, but imagine that isn't exactly a highly sought after specialist. Anyway, she published a big article in The Economist two summers ago about the 13 (?) year Cicadas. It was good.

Ok. Anyway, this Economist ariticle was about Leroy Hood, famous and clearly in the Economist because he's started several successful biotech companies and has a bunch of patents on stuff. He started Applied Biosystems which is pretty huge. We used to use a bunch of their electrophoresis stuff at the lab in North Carolina. But what was cool about the article is that the author did a great job explaining 'alternative splicing', something that Leroy Hood apparently 'discovered' (a pretty big deal if this is the case). He set up the problem (perhaps too simplisitically?) and explained why alternative splicing explains it , all in about 70 words. Pretty cool. I'm no expert on the history of modern genetics, but it was nice to see the media taking some biology seriously.

Although maybe the media is really just a sponge? Soaking up whatever's spilled on them? Now I'm a little dispointed in the Grand Canyon thing and that article on astrology that was in the NY Times a while back, but Intelligent Design might be understandable because the ID folks are really good at lying to people. They know exactly how to make people believe there is a viable debate. In fact, I think they're so good at it they convinced themselves. At least I hope. I would be very very disappointed if they were doing this maliciously. Knowing that they're lying. I often think that's the case though, unfortunately.

But with this molecular genetics stuff, there is no appearance of a debate. At least I'm sure that all molecular geneticists 'believe in' alternative splicing. So the media just doesn't cover it. They're no good at knowing what's a real debate and what's not. They're just I think it is largely the scientists and philosophers jpb to explain why ID should not be taught in schools, and possibly more basic and important, why science shouldn't be influenced by religion, which it will ultimately come down to I imagine, at least I hope, but I also imagine that it won't make a difference. I think the majority of people will not get it and the US at least will plumet into a dark, cultural abyss.

The second article
I liked recently was about something I really don't know much about, but it seems like at least the author was making the distinctions between good science, bad science and social factors influencing science. The article was about 92 year old psychologist Albert Ellis' lawsuit against the institute he founded a long time ago. They pretty much want to fire him and he's pissed. To make a really long story a little shorter, the author does a great job discussing the possible reasons why Ellis is being fired. He is careful to point out though that Ellis' breakthrough work in the 1960s and 70s has been quite successful in empirical studies and that it seems to be a 'good' therapy or theory, maybe, about human emotions etc. I don't know much about psychology, but I appreciate the way the author made the different issues clear (notwithstanding issues about if confirming some therapy is a good therapy, then the underlying theory is confirmed as well...Brian).

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh science journalism.

*I picked this 'sic' bit up from Brian Leiter. I think it's funny.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

exceeding OSHA’s legal limits on IBU’s per square foot of floor space...and other good beer things

Rich O's 4th Annual Lupulin Land beer festival got under way this past Friday and Ryan (beer) and I went down. It was awesome. Roger Baylor, the owner of Rich O's, arguably the best beer bar in Indiana, if not the midwest, brings in about 25 of the world's greatest hoppy beers and puts them on tap once a year in October. Some of the highlights this year were New Albany Brewing's Elector Ale on handpull. Roger also founded and owns NABC. It was more like an ESB than anything. Really good. They also had DFH 60 minute on a Randall. It was ok, but I think Randalls work better with higher ABV beer. A Randall is a water filter housing packed with whole leaf hops that you run the beer through before it gets to your glass.

Here's Roger with the Randall.

The Two Brother's Hopjuice was good too as was NABC's Hoptimus Double IPA. It was cool because there was big hop bitterness and flavor from Fuggles hops, a British strain that imparts a really nice lemon rind character to the beer. It was also %8.5 ABV. The De Dolle Arabier was good, if a stretch for a hop festival. A good, fairly strong (%7.5 ABV) Belgian ale that had big citrus character, maybe from the hops or bitter orange peel spicing, but I think from the yeast strain employed. Could be wrong there. Also had the Belgian Hommel Ale on, a fairly hoppy, pale Belgian brew that's made in the hop growing region of Belgian. The Scottish Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA was really good, but definately another stretch in the hop department. Nice mellow hop aroma and flavor, but way more malt in the nose and flavor. A bit peat-smoky in the nose. I think that's from Belhaven's yeast, not peat smoked malt. Also had a taste of Jever Pils, a good North German Pils that packs a nice hop bitterness. They had a bunch of other good beers that I didn't get a chance to imbibe like Great Divide's Hercules DIPA, which is great out of the bottle, probably better on draft. DFH Aprihop and 90 minute, Avery IPA, and Rogue's I2PA.

Of course the nice thing about Rich O's is that even with a raging tribute to the hop going on, you can also try some awesome bottles of Belgian beer. The stand out bottle, one of the better beers I've had recently, was certainly the Panil Barrique, an Italian brewed Flemish Sour Red Ale. Crazy, I know, but really fucking good. Big, puckering sourness with a dash of the Brettanomyces funk thrown in for good measure. Nice sweetness, but I really think the sourness overpowered the sweetness in this example, not like Duchess de Bourgogne or Vichtenaar where the sweet is more prevalent. But this beer also had an extra little something in the flavor, something that added depth and turns out they're aged in Cognac barrels for 3 months. Pretty nice. It runs, I think, $18 for a 750ml. Pretty steep, but worth it. Of course Roger, being the fucking coolest dude on the planet, gave us that bottle on the house.

Ryan and I also bought a bunch of carry out bottles at really good prices. I got a bottle of Oaken Barrel's new Saison, corked and caged AND foiled 750ml for $8.50 I think. I also got a bottle of de Proef's Primitive Ale, another 750ml, for $6!! I think that price might have been a mistake. Can't wait to try that one.

Ryan picked up a bottle of Deus, the TRUE champagne of beers. %11.5 ABV, pale Belgian brewed ale that's then sent to the Champagne region of France to undergo the 'methode champagnoise' where the yeast sediment is frozen and then undergoes 'degorgement'. This beer cost like $28 for a 750ml bottle, but Ryan was generous enough to break it out when we got back to the Hotel. It was much sweeter than I expected with a distinctive sweet spicyness. I said cinammon, Ryan said nutmeg. But we both agreed.

The Deus was quite effervescent...much like champagne.

Than Ryan broke out two smaller bottles of a good Dutch brewery, 't IJ, I have no idea how to pronounce that, that makes beers in what we would call the Belgian tradition I suppose. The politcal boundaries between modern day Belgium and the Netherlands and France really don't map on to distinct brewing traditions, as if anybody would expect them to. Anyway, we tried the Zatte and the Natte, their Tripel and Dubbel. They were good, but a little harsh in the fermentation character department. I think a couple years aging would do wonders for them.

Then we went to bed, very very drunk.

It was good. Except for the ghetto ass Motel 6 we stayed in. That sucked.

Outside our hotel the next morning:

Until next time, drink a good beer.