I am ashamed

I really am an asshole.  I'm truly ashamed of the assumptions I made, and how I allowed my own prejudice to cloud my judgment.

GHAZALA KHAN: First of all, I thank all America who listened from their heart to my husband's and my heart, and I'm so grateful for that. And it was very nervous because I cannot see my son's picture, and I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are. That's why when I saw the picture at my back I couldn't take it, and I controlled myself at that time. So, it is very hard.

I was wrong.  Flat out.  I apologize to the Khan's for my misreading of the situation.

On the other hand...

I've been thinking a great deal about Khizr Khan and his speech and I've just been stricken by the obvious!

Despite the fact that his wife didn't speak, he was endorsing a woman for President!

I can be a real asshole sometimes. 

top 10

  1. Gravity's Rainbow
  2. Something Happened
  3. Breakfast of Champions
  4. Ancillary Justice
  5. vN
  6. The Sheriff of Yrnameer
  7. Flowertown
  8. The Dark Forest
  9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  10. White Noise

On deck

I'm not sure why I suddenly thought of a book I first read about 20 (really 18) years ago, but it's now on deck as the next one to read.

As I remember it, it's the exact opposite of Catch-22.  While Catch-22 was somewhat light-hearted in its absurdity, Something Happened was utterly raw and honest.

Reviews like this one both do and don't do this book justice.  I absolutely loved it when I read it at 16 or so, and now, other than what "Something" is, and some of the neuroses struggled by the narrator, I can't recall much of the plot.

It is dark, and deeply unfunny, but I remember it as being honest, first and foremost.

I'll see how I feel once I read it again, but for now this is probably #2 behind Gravity's Rainbow on my all time favorites list.

That aside, if you haven't read it, DO!  


I am utterly flabbergasted

I mean....words...don't...even.

I mean, really, what the hell?

Notice how "Men" is capitalized in the caption, and that not only does the word "woman" not appear anywhere, but in its place the word "females" is lowercase?  Can't have them accidentally implying that women are full-blown people, so let's dehumanize them by referring to them collectively by their biological sex....

How does one expect to be able to present an objective argument, with subjective data?

And what are the units on the vertical axis?

And how does any of this reveal an epidemic of women marrying above their caste?  And what is the specific metric of social class?  Income? Intelligence?  Wisdom?  Butthurt?

Source.  Give the whole thing a read; it'd be hilarious if it weren't so embarrassing.


I'm saved!   Finally, it all makes sense!   Jesus come to me!


Ah-MAAAAA-zing  Grace
How saWEEEEET the sound!!!

via tfa  ht tta (be sure to watch Seth's  video)

mea culpa: I didn't know how to spell 'hallelujah'  hopefully they'll still let me into heaven...


I had originally questioned the silence of Ghalaza Kahn, in what I thought at the time was an attempt to invite support for women who belong to minorities that may (but not always do) discriminate them. 

I hoped that I could convey my concern in a way that was respectful, even if it ended up being contrary to what was actually true, but as the sthitstorm goes on, I really feel a need to delete the original post.

So yes, I did question why Ghazala Khan remained silent at the DNC without knowing all of the details of the situation.  I feel this is the biggest mistake I've made writing here.  To the point I felt compelled to replace it.

I'm actually not sure which is worse, my contrition, or the fact I'm not leaving my original words intact.



I remember this lady talking about the decline of the auto industry on cable news against some conservative blowhard shortly after she was elected governor of Michigan (I voted for her).  She said the difference between Canada and the US was the cost of healthcare that employers have to invest in the labor force.  The conservative was having none of it.

She was (and is) right, the reason Canadian labor is more attractive than domestic is that there is no need to provide costly healthcare benefits.

And the reason I bring her up, is she's a firecracker!

I almost with she was the VP pick.  Hopefully there's a cabinet position in line for her.

(sorry about the political shit, but this speech was just too good to ignore)

EDIT: I'm not certain whether or not the term "firecracker" is sexist.  I mean no disrespect, rather, that there is obvious passion and energy behind the delivery.

Further EDIT: I'd like to see her as a VP pick, but, sadly, she's Canadian.

And another thing: title reference.

He's got a way with word

LOL!  this is a role mode of sorts...

This isn't the first time I've mentioned these guys, but god damn are they funny!


Power Outage

Yay! (not)

I'm on the internet thanks to my laptop being tethered to my phone.   It's performance is actually quite good.

I reported the outage, but I expect it'll be an hour or so before it's resolved.

EDIT: 30 Minutes later the power's back!  Woo!

Truly Amazing

A week ago I got an HTC Vive (and wrote a little bit about it).  Now after a week, I have some more thoughts on the thing.

The first is, I'm still being awed by what I experience with it.

The second is, you really need more than the bare minimum size room for room scale to really get engaged.

The minimum amount of space needed for room-scale, is 1.5mx2m.  I'm 6' tall, so this is a very small space relative to my height (and my girth,  somewhat embarrassingly). 

Rearranging my office isn't an option, the furniture just won't fit in another configuration, but the back "storage" room is big enough, but I had to move some stuff around.  There was also a question as to whether I could run long enough cables from the PC where it currently sits, and the back room (about 15-20 feet).

Turns out, I could, and did!

First, the vive requires USB 2, and HDMI signals from the computer.  Both of which have limits to the length of the cable before signal degradation becomes too great.  Thankfully, there are active cables of both types which allow me to relocate the Vive base station to the back room.   Latency isn't really an issue at medium length (and I certainly don't notice any problems), but signal strength would be.

I bought this HDMI cable and this USB cable to relocate the play area to the back room.  It works just fine.  Note that both of these are active cables, meaning they actually amplify the signal so that it survives longer runs without degrading. 

On a side note, if you need cables, Monoprice will have what you need, in a high quality, at a very good price.  For the past few years it's been my first stop for cables and connectors.

But now back to the VR stuff.  In the back room, I have a play area of 2.6m x 2.1m, which is noticeably larger in game than before.  Several games also require a minimum of 2m x 2m to play (enforced with a click-through-at-your-peril warning), so the larger size enables me to try things that were otherwise suboptimal.

And boy-howdy did I find an awesome experience.  Vanishing Realms is  your typical Orcs-and-shit (fantasy) dungeon-crawler RPG, but holy crap do they get the gameplay right!.  It's first person, you have a "utility" belt at your waist that you can look at to see your health, mana (magic fuel), money, and manage your inventory, which you do by "grabbing" an object in the virtual world, and "placing" it in the appropriate inventory slot.

(I use quotes here, because on the hand-held controller, grabbing and releasing correspond to button combinations that while simple, don't really correspond to actually wrapping one's fingers around something.  That said moving the object in virtual space by physically moving the equivalent amount in real space is spot on).

Anywho, combat is just that.  You wield a sword and shield (or bow), and move as if you are really fighting a virtual foe.   It's so sophisticated that you can actually parry with your sword by moving it where one would intuitively expect it would need to be to block a blow.

It's mind-blowing in its accuracy.

To me, a video game where you fight skeletons with a sword and shield isn't a terribly exciting prospect, but when the fighting means you're actually fighting (or at the very least going through the physical motions), it's a completely different experience.  The reviews are on Steam overwhelmingly positive for a very good reason: it's really fucking awesome!

No shit!

As a former smoker, I'm not at all surprised to learn that e-cigarettes are also unhealthy.
"I would say, [emissions of toxins] may be true for certain users -- for example, long-time smokers that cannot quit -- but the problem is, it doesn't mean that they're healthy. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy," he explained.

In laboratory tests, scientists found that the heat-related breakdown of propylene glycol and glycerin -- two solvents found in most e-cigarette liquids -- causes emissions of toxic chemicals such as acrolein, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. All three are either respiratory irritants or carcinogens, the investigators said.
When it comes to consuming nicotine products, the only winning move is not to play.  

But...Quitting is hard.  There is the physical addiction to nicotine itself, the social aspect of the "smoker's corner" and the routine habits...cigarette & coffee, cigarette & beer, etc, that also need to be broken at the same time.

These last few are the toughest.  

When I quit, 9 years ago, I used chantix.  Over time, chantix makes smoking...unpleasant.  It's hard to describe, but it feels like a negative physical reaction to having nicotine in your system.  Not like getting a rash or anything, but more like feeling hung over, or a sour stomach without acute nausea.

Chantix isn't cheap, or wasn't in 2007, but it really helps address the social and habit-related problems that make quitting very difficult.  E-cigs do none of that. 


Think of the children

"Think of the children" is pretty widely understood to be lobbed as a specious argument in support of an unpopular, or at least less anodyne standards of behavior.

And the way it's usually perceived as being used by those that suggest it is captured perfectly by these 5 seconds of Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons.

That is, until now. 

I look forward to reliving parts of this speech in 2020, as delivered by Heidi Cruz.


Sit down and shut up

I hate writing these, but this needs to be addressed.   The remaining Bernie followers are livid that it has come to light that not every email referencing their dear leader that circulated around the DNC was the most obsequiously flattering reflection of HE, BERNIE.


The documents did not show any actual manipulation of the race but nonetheless the idea of any Democrat seeking to use someone’s religious beliefs against them or party officials going beyond shooting the breeze among their colleagues to actually propose smearing a candidate they don’t personally prefer is just wrong. That it wasn’t acted upon is really beside the point. These DNC employees had no business even thinking in these terms much less communicating this way among themselves. It was inevitable there would be an outcry and a reckoning once it was proven that had happened.

[emphasis mine]

I hate Salon, but most of the time Digby is tolerable.  Not here.   It's not beside the point.  It is the point!

Party leaders had misgivings about a candidate that 1) wasn't a member of the party, and 2) had been campaigning against the DNC. 

Vox explains.
The emails seem to confirm Bernie supporters’ general impression that many DNC officials liked Hillary Clinton more than Sanders. What the emails don’t seem to prove, at least so far, is that they used DNC resources to help Clinton or hurt Sanders.
MARSHA MARSHA MARSHA!!! And now the California Delegation is acting like a bunch of spoiled children (despite Clinton winning that state).
California delegates booed a lineup of speakers Monday at a breakfast for the state's delegation when urged to unite to elect Hillary Clinton, while the mention of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) elicited cheers, Roll Call reported.
Here's the thing: While the emails show a preference, no action was taken by the committee to effect a particular outcome one way or the other.  In fact, they show remarkable restraint!
“Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” Mr. Paustenbach wrote to Luis Miranda, the communications director for the committee.

Mr. Miranda wrote back: “True, but the Chair has been advised to not engage. So we’ll have to leave it alone.”
And so Bernie followers are all butthurt that not only did the person who called off this particular line of attack resign, and that she was hired the HRC campaign.
Further, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been exposed as a political hack, and not a very good one at that. She is an embarrassment too prominent to hide, and so has resigned as DNC chair…which is only appropriate. But then Hillary Clinton has immediately re-hired her to co-chair her election committee! If Clinton wanted to confirm that she was not running a fair nomination campaign, she couldn’t have come up with a more effective strategy. Appearances matter in politics, and that is one ugly relationship.
How it is incumbent upon Clinton to run a "fair" campaign?   That's the party's job.  PZ is usually pretty good, but I really think he's reading too much into this:

In an email exchange that month, another committee official wrote to both Mr. Paustenbach and Amy Dacey, the committee’s chief executive, to suggest finding a way to bring attention to the religious beliefs of an unnamed person, apparently Mr. Sanders.
“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God,” wrote Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the committee. “He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps.”

Mr. Marshall added in a second email: “It’s these Jesus thing.” Ms. Dacey wrote back, in capital letters: “AMEN.”

Mr. Marshall did not respond on Friday to an email asking for comment. But The Intercept, a news website, quoted Mr. Marshall as saying: “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”
Yes, the "Jesus Thing" is an issue in the inbred hillbilly states!  It's not an unreasonable thought to assume the becoveralled, barefoot rednecks might be less inclined to put down their banjos (bangi? bangodes?), spit out the reeds they're chewing on and show up to vote!

By the way, Sanders won WV 51-35% and barely lost KY 46.8-46.3%.  It's a moot point.

There are very good reasons that DWS should not be the head of the DNC,  her ties to financial interests and support of the loan shark industry chief among them.  This is a stupid distraction.  Bernie followers got what they wanted in DWS resigning, significant influence on shaping the party platform (80% of what Bernie campaigned for!), but since the deliveries of their pet unicorns didn't coincide with the opening of the Democratic Convention, they're craying about how unfair it all is.

Sit down and shut up.  Voltaire spins in his grave.  Getting 80% of what you want now doesn't preclude you from getting the remaining 20% in the future.  Rejecting the 80% because your precious fee-fees are hurt, because UNFAIR!!!, loses you all 100% for much longer.

A very bad thing is happening

Verizon is astonishingly being allowed to purchase Yahoo.  There are several problems with this merger.

First it creates a vertically integrated company, like Comcast, that owns both content production, and delivery.  This allows these vertically integrated companies to pull shit like this, where they announce a service that competes with a well established competitor, but has an advantage of bypassing any usage caps.
Comcast announced today that if you sign up for its $15 streaming service, it won’t count against your data caps.

The service — known as ‘Stream’ — was originally released in the Boston area, but this week the telecom giant also announced its Chicago launch. Seattle is reported to be next, and then a nationwide rollout at some point in early 2016.
This is a problem, because companies use this integration to give themselves unfair advantages against competitors.

Verizon will follow Comcast's lead with Yahoo content in its own networks.  I would be actual money (that folds!) that Verizon Wireless customers will find that Yahoo-based services get the data cap exemptions that they sell to others.

Even worse than the anticompetitive and net neutrality issues are the privacy problems this merger implies.  Verizon has been fined for its "supercookie" tracking of users on its network.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) describes why this was a problem.
Like a cookie, this header uniquely identifies users to the websites they visit. Verizon adds the header at the network level, between the user's device and the servers with which the user interacts. Unlike a cookie, the header is tied to a data plan, so anyone who browses the web through a hotspot, or shares a computer that uses cellular data, gets the same X-UIDH header as everyone else using that hotspot or computer. That means advertisers may build a profile that reveals private browsing activity to coworkers, friends, or family through targeted advertising.

Also unlike a cookie, Verizon's header is nearly invisible to the user and can't be seen or changed in the device's browser settings. If a user clears their cookies, the X-UIDH header remains unchanged. Worse, ad networks can immediately assign new cookies and link them to the cleared cookies using the unchanged X-UIDH value. We don't know which data brokers and ad networks are using the header to create behavioral profiles, but Cory Dunne found at least one GitHub repository contained code to extract the header value, as of October 27. The repository has since been quietly deleted but can be viewed at the Internet Archive. Twitter's mobile advertising division also appears to use the header for ad auctions.

Besides cookie clearing, the X-UIDH header bypasses several other built-in browser privacy mechanisms. Cookies belong to a single website and aren't shared with other websites. But one unique X-UIDH header value is shared with all unencrypted websites a user visits, making it easier for ad networks to track that user across many sites in a way not possible with cookies alone. Browsers provide Incognito Mode or Private Browsing Mode in order to defeat some kinds of tracking, but the X-UIDH header, since it is injected at the network layer, ignores those modes. Verizon also chooses to ignore Do Not Track, a setting users enable in their browser to indicate they do not want to be tracked. Similarly, disabling third-party cookies in browser settings does nothing to stop the X-UIDH header.

To compound the problem, the header also affects more than just web browsers. Mobile apps that send HTTP requests will also have the header inserted. This means that users' behavior in apps can be correlated with their behavior on the web, which would be difficult or impossible without the header. Verizon describes this as a key benefit of using their system. But Verizon bypasses the 'Limit Ad Tracking' settings in iOS and Android that are specifically intended to limit abuse of unique identifiers by mobile apps.
Sorry for the long quote, but this is important.   Network operators have a mechanism by which they can uniquely, and permanently identify their users, and track any and all activity.  Yahoo is an advertising company, so you can bet your ass Verizon is seeking to monetize the data it gathers though such tracking.

And this is why it's bad to allow companies to have such a personal insight into our lives.
One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.
That's not a hypothetical.  That really happened. This particular example is like the controversy over parental notification laws.  There could be serious harm done in some circumstances if these disclosures are made.


Best lyrics ever

I've been sitting on this for years, but the intro to The Grand Experiment by Doomtree has by far the best lyrics I've ever heard.

It begins with a flash / I know they say it ends the same / bit of skill, bit of chance / now every player guess the game / we start with these planets waltzing through the darkness / tip the axis, that one’s ours / zoom the camera in, cue lights up, dim the stars / We shape the stone / paint our pictures on the wall / we hunt alone, plant in spring / learn to harvest in the fall / and we choose a king, mine the metals for his forges / to better wage our wars and all of Olympus is laughing / until we go and split the atom.

Dude!  Seriously, that's some deep shit!  How would you capture the evolution of society, and it's deadly implications in 30 seconds?  Absolutely brilliant.


I like this guy

I've never been familiar with Kaine, but after listening to his speech, I like the guy.  I don't agree with him on everything (faith primarily), but his head seems to be screwed on straight.  He comes of as having a great deal of empathy, and if Hillary is the technocrat lacking the same, this is a very good mix.

Here's the event (skip to 20:00 to see Kaine).

(I'll cut down on the politics soon, I promise).


Durch den Spiegel

Remember this.

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said. 

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'" 

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected. 

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less." 

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." 

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master-that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper some of them- particularly verbs: they're the proudest- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!" 
Does this remind you of anyone?

YES! More of this please!

We need much more of this.
Activist A.J. Bohannon had organized more than 1,000 Black Lives Matters protesters to march the streets of Wichita on Sunday. But then, days before, he received a call from the new police chief with a different idea.

Instead of having an event that drew a hard line between protester and police, why not bring them all together for an evening of summer revelry and open dialogue?

So instead of marching, they gathered in a wooded park where the police department cooked and served up burgers. The officers played basketball with kids. They took group selfies. One officer did the “whip and the nae nae” and the “Cha Cha Slide” in a crowd of dancing girls — a video that instantly became a viral sensation.
This is exactly the type of community outreach that police departments need to engage in to build trust.   And it works!

Officer Aaron Moses and AJ Bohannon

Only two days later, a woman wrote on Bohannon’s Facebook wall that she’d seen an officer playing with some neighbor kids at a basketball court across the street. That was a first, she said.

“These were kids who were afraid of the police, and now they see something beyond that badge, there’s a pulse and a heart,” Bohannon said. “To see the officers taking those steps, to see them integrate it into their jobs after two days is tremendous.”

It's nice to see not all news about community and police interaction isn't limited to protests and shootings.

A reminder

That the general mistrust of the police by the public, is something that the police earned.
Police in South Florida shot an unarmed black caretaker Monday as he tried to help his autistic patient.

Charles Kinsey was trying to retrieve a young autistic man who had wandered away from an assisted living facility and was blocking traffic when Kinsey was shot by a North Miami police officer.

In cellphone footage of the incident that emerged Wednesday, Kinsey can be seen lying on the ground with his hands in the air, trying to calm the autistic man and defuse the situation seconds before he is shot.
The officer discharged his weapon three times.  This was no accident.



The Slinky Dog!

This is absolutely amazing in game.  

More Distractions

I did it.  I blew a wad of dough on one of these thingies.

I have barely enough room in my office to enable room scale mode (actually, I have plenty of space, but an odd shape that made it very difficult to convince the system of that fact).

I also picked up a couple of games, in addition to the three that come with the hardware. 

After getting it all set up, and playing for a little while, I think I'm ready to share my first impressions.

Motion tracking is impeccable.  There isn't any perceptible delay between any movement of the controllers, and that movement registering in the virtual space. 

The controllers are also very accurate.  There is no disconnect between the orientation of the controller, and its virtual representation in game.

The headset feels fine, and fits well over my glasses.  It's not heavy, but it does get a little warm, and the foam pads get a bit wet and sweaty after a while.  I've got an alternate on order, which will hopefully mitigate this problem.

There is a screen-door effect from having magnified LCD screen so close to your eyes, but it marginal, and not nearly as pronounced as the vomit box I wrote about before.

Games-wise, it's absolutely brilliant.

Audioshield places the player on a platform, while red and blue blobs fly by, and the player has to deflect them with the corresponding shield, all to the beat of a song.  It can get hard

Job Simulator is surprisingly immersive.  So much so that I lost my balance in the "office" simulator as I bent down to turn on the in-game computer, and tried to lean on the virtual in-game desk.  It's cartoonish and silly, but the space and sense of being there is very convincing.

Fantastic Contraption is another silly, cartoonish experience.  This time it's a physics simulator where the player has to construct a machine in the virtual space to deliver a jelly-ball to its designated destination.  Interacting with the virtual parts feels completely natural, even if the space seems a little claustrophobic at times. 

All three games have one very disorienting issue:  there is no virtual representation of the player in game.  I look down and don't see a body, or feet, only the floor.

Overall, I think VR will happen.  It might take a generation or two of revisions to the hardware, but the type of game play it enables is just too compelling for it to fail.  It's really too expensive to go mainstream at this point, but as the technology matures, and becomes inevitably cheaper, I think it will become much more widespread.


GAAAH, pundit fail

I really apologize for these political posts, but it's important to set the record straight when absolutely necessary.  The Daily Kos, which I view as basically Salon, with less butthurt and more whining, is wildly off base with this.

As Donald Freaking Trump came out, in shadow, framed by a bright white background and the haze of a fog machine. It was a scene cribbed from the alien landing scene in Close Encounters [of the Third Kind].

No, bad Kos [smacks author with newspaper and rubs authors nose in urine stain on the carpet], it's nothing at all like the first contact scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Let's look at the first contact scene:

It is a celebration of two different species honing in on a common understanding, and method of communication.  Saying that Trump walking out under the cover of a fucking fog machine with Queen blaring over the PA severely trivializes the significance of this scene.  Here's more of it:

We know about music and tones, and how they can represent ideas (even if the aesthetics aren't universal), but to compare that to some cheezy partisan event is just offensive. There are concrete concepts behind what we define as harmony, such as an octave represents a doubling, or halving of a note's frequency, but to compare this to a glorified WWE entrance appearance is downright stupid.

So fuck you, Kos and your pissant author.  Anything Trump could come up with can't hold a candle to the profound meaning behind the Close Encounters contact scene.


It would be great if the original voice actors could perform the dialog, but that's probably not feasible for a live action film.

The costumes look great, and hopefully the plot does the original justice.  With fanfic, that's not a guarantee.

No BoJo Apology Tour

“There is a rich thesaurus of things that I have said that have one way or the other I don’t know how that has been misconstrued. Most people when they read these things in their proper context can see what was intended, and indeed virtually everyone I have met in this job understands that very well particularly on the international scene. We have very serious issues before us today we have an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria that is getting worse. We have a crisis in Yemen that is intractable and a burgeoning crisis on Egypt and those are to my mind far more important than any obiter dicta you may have disinterred from 30 years of journalism”
Sayeth the Boris.  Might the new Foreign Secretary be willing to explain the proper context for this delightful little limerick?
There was a young fellow from Ankara,
Who was a terrific wankerer. 
Till he sowed his wild oats, 
With the help of a goat, 
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
(FYI: the context is actually a German comedian who wrote a nasty poem about the Turkish president, and who was rebuffed by the German courts.  And given that the poem was a response to that affront to free expression, it's really not all that bad.)

It just shows a tremendous lack of judgement on the part of the Tories to make this clown their chief diplomat.  Prince Philip might have been a better choice.

And just because

More cogent and understandable than the barrage of horseshit and projection that will be emanating from Cleveland this week.

Shit in my mouth and tell me it's raining.

How DARE Michelle Obama use Melania Trump's own words four whole years before the darling trophy wife of our next Dear Leader put her pen to paper to author completely on her own!

The world is watching, and will judge us harshly if the First Lady doesn't immediately apologize to the third wife of the intensely loyal Presumptive GOP Nominee for the Office of the President of the United States of America.

This is just another example of one white person's contributions to society being co-opted by other "sub-groups."

It is a disgrace that the current First Lady found it necessary to crib the words of the future First Lady when delivering her own address four years ago.  

The fact that Hillary Clinton is to blame, means Hillary belongs in prison.  I'm sure the words to Melania's speech were carelessly, and indifferently delivered to Michelle via the personal email server used while Secretary of State.


Nye steps in it.

Bill Nye visits the Kentucky State-sponsored monument to genocide and incest.  His reaction is not surprising in the least.

Who's the real prisoner here?
The former children’s TV host was particularly peeved with an exhibit showing dinosaurs living alongside mankind.

Fossil and geological records show that the creatures went extinct 65 million years ago, well before humans emerged.

Nye emphasized that he wasn't against religion itself, rather the information — or misinformation — he says Ham is spreading is dangerous.

Facts are not a matter of belief, and that's what these people get hung up on.  Radiometric dating works because a combination of scientific disciplines applied expertise, not because scientists believe hard enough in the process.

Nye is right.  Brainwashing children with contrarian propaganda is dangerous.

The christian press is a bit more balanced than I expected, but I seriously take issue with the framing here.
Nye has repeatedly explained that he does not believe the Earth to be 6,000 years old, or that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. He has said that teaching children such beliefs as scientific truth is dangerous and harmful to their education.
It's not a matter of belief.  It's a matter of accepting the evidence.  While both Nye's and Ham's points of view are covered, both are given equal weight, as if it's simply a matter of perspective or opinion.
"Numerous children, teens, and adults swarmed around us as we passionately interacted as the audience grew. There were thousands of visitors at the Ark Encounter again today and a large group of them had a unique opportunity I'm sure they will never forget. Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed," Ham explained.

"It was a clash of world views," he added, noting that he prayed for Nye at Ark, and that they ended with a "friendly handshake."
Hucksterism 101: Be sure to note the "thousands of visitors."  It can't be bad if it's popular.

The wingnut daily article is much as one might expect: dismissive of Nye's objections, blindly accepting of Ham's, and deceptive in describing the legal controversy over the state sponsorship of the park.
In the rebate dispute, critics had claimed since the project is Christian, the state legally could discriminate against it.

But U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove in the Eastern District of Kentucky affirmed the Ark Encounter’s right to participate in a program.
No, the actual complaint was that the Ark demanded the right to discriminate on the basis of faith, and still receive state money to do so. 

Nye needs to stop engaging these people.  Like George Bernard Shaw said: "Never wrestle with a pig, you'll get dirty, and besides the pig likes it."

Ken Ham is the pig.  Nye isn't going to change anybody who would voluntarily visit such a monstrosity's mind, so he shouldn't try.  Showing up allow people like Ham, his followers, and the illiterati to declare another victory over atheists and "secularists" with exchanges such as:
Nye also raised the issue of looming scientific achievements, and mentioned the possibility of trips to Mars.

Nye told other visitors at the Ark at the time that, Ham said, “It’s not crazy to believe we’re descendants from Martians.”

So Ham asked why, then, is it “crazy” to believe people descended from Adam and Eve.
Stop it Bill!  

EDIT: more questionable framing
Creationist Ken Ham revealed Bill Nye "The Science Guy" is considering to attend a tour of the Ark Encounter, a life-sized replica of the biblical Noah's Ark which is scheduled to open this week.
How can there be a "replica" of something that never existed?  Likewise how can it possibly be "life-sized."

I can't drive 55

Nothing says "I have good judgement" like a neck tattoo.


Gilded boars and polished turds

I've tried to stay away from political stuff recently; I don't find it very interesting for the amount the topic tends to raise my blood pressure.  That said, two recent articles about Trump paint a portrait of a deeply incurious person, one who belongs in an assisted-care facility, not the white house.

First the Washington Post explores the reading habits of Trump.  I'm going to cite out of order:
Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
That's not surprising.  Another article in The New Yorker describes how much focus Donald Trump lavishes on Donald Trump. 

But this extreme disinterest is apparent in the way Trump speaks.
He has no time to read, he said: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
"Busy doing a lot."

from Hyperbole and a Half

Low hanging fruit aside, the language is simple.  No elaboration into what "a lot" entails.   And it gets worse.
He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”
This is the pretty clearly the Dunning-Kruger effect.  And yet, it gets even worse:
Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’ ”
So we've got a guy with absolutely supreme confidence in his instincts, to the point he's disdainful of actual knowledge.  And people think this is a good thing?  His business acumen is described in The New Yorker thusly:
The other key myth perpetuated by “The Art of the Deal” was that Trump’s intuitions about business were almost flawless. “The book helped fuel the notion that he couldn’t fail,” Barrett said. But, unbeknown to Schwartz and the public, by late 1987, when the book came out, Trump was heading toward what Barrett calls “simultaneous personal and professional self-destruction.” O’Brien agrees that during the next several years Trump’s life unravelled. The divorce from Ivana reportedly cost him twenty-five million dollars. Meanwhile, he was in the midst of what O’Brien calls “a crazy shopping spree that resulted in unmanageable debt.” He was buying the Plaza Hotel and also planning to erect “the tallest building in the world,” on the former rail yards that he had bought on the West Side. In 1987, the city denied him permission to construct such a tall skyscraper, but in “The Art of the Deal” he brushed off this failure with a one-liner: “I can afford to wait.” O’Brien says, “The reality is that he couldn’t afford to wait. He was telling the media that the carrying costs were three million dollars, when in fact they were more like twenty million.” Trump was also building a third casino in Atlantic City, the Taj, which he promised would be “the biggest casino in history.” He bought the Eastern Air Lines shuttle that operated out of New York, Boston, and Washington, rechristening it the Trump Shuttle, and acquired a giant yacht, the Trump Princess. “He was on a total run of complete and utter self-absorption,” Barrett says, adding, “It’s kind of like now.”
The idea that somebody can be so disdainful of expertise and knowledge itself, to the point they can't recognize their own obvious flaws isn't to hard to believe.  But that such an obvious clown isn't even more of an abject failure, is.  That that same person captured the republican nomination for president is downright scary.

We have a huge problem with education and respect for experts.  I'm not saying we go all Foundation with Scientism or anything, but we need to reverse the trend that is producing Trump and his followers.


Big brains and useless infants

People today are much smarter than they were 30 years ago.  By a substantial amount.  Despite the average Trump follower offering contrary evidence, it's an actual, measured phenomenon: The Flynn Effect.

One of the theories of why humans are getting smarter is the "smart parent, helpless infant" idea.  Basically, having a less-developed offspring requires parents to be smarter in order for the infant to survive.  The smarter parents will have larger brains, and therefore larger heads.   Because of the law of watermelons and drinking straws, there are limits to how large the head of any offspring can be, resulting in more helpless infants. And the cycle continues.

The only problem I have with this idea is that human infants aren't uniquely helpless.  Off the top of my head, mice, bears, and marsupials (kangaroos, koalas, possums, etc) have helpless infants, and they're not all that smart. 

Maybe litter size has an effect as well, but marsupials have small litter sizes.

Anyway, the BBC has a great program exploring the issue.



This is the guy who inspired me to buy my first bass guitar.  I've always been drawn to music, as a former college Tuba (and euphonium & trombone) major, but I was really blown away by what this guy can do.   Especially around minute 3 when the arpeggios start.

It's less of a mystery now, but it's still impressive.  

What is really impressive about this video, is that Dino is using mostly a slap technique, which is generally associated with Larry Graham.

And starring Prince, whom I am truly sorry to have slandered in death. I really regret writing what I did upon his death.  I was wrong, and I'm an asshole for doing it in the first place. 


Liberté, égalité, fraternité

(taken in Strasbourg, June, 2003)

I'm lucky to have experienced Europe before terrorism tainted their character.   I fear hearing the word "Le Pen" in the news in the near future, and instead hope for "liberty," "equality," and "fraternity." (I'll also take philoxenia, but that's greek, not french).

We need to address the economic conditions that drove Mohamed Bouazizi to self immolation; if people have no hope for the future, they'll lash out at whatever target is convenient, whether or not that target is actually responsible.  All it takes is a moderately charismatic leader to focus the frustration.   We see it here with Trump followers (and a much lesser extent Bernie-or-Busters).

I hope that the French are more enlightened than the English and Welsh turned out to be.  Retreating from the world out of fear is not the answer.


Happy Holidays

A bunch of people I've never heard of put together a video asking a bunch of stupid questions.  PZ answers them, and so does this guy.

I want to focus on one of the questions:  2. Do you realize that your war on language through political correctness has made you bedfellows with true rape culture? In other words, Islam, the world’s most misogynistic ideology?

First, grammatically speaking, the second part of that question isn't really a question, and has nothing at all to do with the first part.  It isn't asking anything at all.  So as far as wars on languages are concerned, the questioner is waging quite an effective one.

There are three key assumptions the question makes:
  1. That there is a war on language in the first place
  2. That rape culture has anything at all to do with language
  3. That political correctness is anything other than a shibboleth or dog whistle.

I have some conflicting thoughts on political correctness, and those that use the term (I prefer actual correctness to the political variety).  On one hand, being politically correct requires simply being correct, and not being an asshole.

On the other hand, political correctness is another way of saying ideologically satisfying. I think the idea of framing issues in ways that are satisfying ideologically as making political corrections.   Something I'm aware I'm doing by writing this, but the questioner clearly wasn't.

A recent example of applying political correctness for ideological satisfaction is the republican platform committee:
So manipulating language to frame issues in ways that we find ideologically satisfying is something all people do; it's not restricted to one particular ideology.  If we consider the underlying metaphorical implications of the word "immigrant" to the word "alien," one who comes to live, versus one who is completely foreign, we see the political correction in action.

Bemoaning political correctness is itself practising political correction for ideologically satisfying reasons.  The irony burns.

The rape culture mention is a simple guilt by association frame, as is the clumsy mentions of Islam and misogyny.


Pay your taxes assholes

I have vanishingly little sympathy for tax cheats, even if they are otherwise good.
SCHENECTADY--A popular bar and restaurant is in deep trouble with the state,to the tune of nearly $700,000. 

The doors of Bier Abbey on Union St. are closed.

The State Department of Taxation and Finance confirms that the owner owes $698,597 in back sales taxes, going back to 2015.
Maybe sell it to someone who will actually pay taxes?  

Not dead

I've been pretty busy at work.  Much of it is a rewrite of our key application, to fit into my client's new digital initiative.  It has to do with an Industrial Internet...

But more mundane, I've been fighting with CLE 5.2UP04 on our test system since Monday.  It's not 100% finished yet, but at least the damn thing boots now.

Now I've got to get PBS working...




Baton Rouge:

Jonathan Bachman
Jonathan Bachman
Dallas is an example of how I think law enforcement needs to interact with communities they serve. 

Baton Rouge, on the other hand...



With everything else going on, I needed a distraction, so I bought one of these for my windows virtual machine.  Mine's branded MSI, but it's a founder's edition.

To get the thing working, I had to rebuild my virtual machine from scratch.  I'm glad I did.

That is phenomenal performance.  Especially since there are no SSDs involved in this file system.  I finally got above a 5.9 in the windows 7 system rating with a "conventional" hard drive.

If this is the level of performance necessary for a 6.5, what the hell can get a 7.9?

That aside, video performance is stunning. 


I was wrong

When I write that it's on the police to make peace with citizens, that doesn't mean that citizens should continue to escalate the conflict.  Just stop.
A man who called 911 to report a car break-in Friday ambushed a Georgia police officer sent to the scene, starting a shootout in which both the officer and suspect were wounded, authorities said. Both are expected to survive.
While I stand by my assessment of the situation, violence against law enforcement is counterproductive.

EDIT: Dallas seems to be doing everything I think that law enforcement needs to do to reach out to the community.  The more I read and hear about what happened yesterday, the more I believe that Dallas is not a deserving target.

NASTA here i come!


ShitThat's me.

Shamelessly ripped off.

Root canal? Just square it.

Reminds me of my Dad’s story about Noah on Mount Arafat, leaving the Ark. Elephants! Go forth and multiply! Giraffes, go forth and multiply! Gorillas… you get the scenario. After a long trek down the Great Chain of Being, he mumbles, Snakes, go forth and multilply. We can’t, answer the snakes, we’re adders. Oh Shittim Wood, says Noah.. look, I haven’t got time to deal with you now, go and wait by those fallen trees, and I’ll sort it out later. Newts, go forth and multiply. Toads…. flies, go forth… finally, amoebas, GFAM, phew that’s that done. Time for a whiskey… oh Boanerges, those snakes. So he drags himself over to the old trees… and there are the snakes, both of them happily tending a clutch of eggs. Verily, WTF? saith Noah, I thought you couldn’t multiply because you were adders? And replied the snakes, We did it by logs.
I laughed. Hard.  I'm such a nerd.

The Other Juno

Careful with that CRISPR...

I bring this up, because recently, another Juno, this one a biopharmaceutical company (Juno Therapeutics) began testing a new cancer treatment that utilized genetically altered T-cells to fight cancer.

It's a fascinating idea, with solid scientific backing, but it's not going so well.
Three patients in a study testing the use of genetically engineered cells as a treatment for cancer have died from swelling in the brain, dealing a setback to one of the most exciting pursuits in oncology.
This is terrible, but we really need to pursue experiments like this, because the potential benefit to humanity is so great.

What seems to be happening is a bad interaction in patients that were given two different chemotherapy drugs as part of the CAR-T therapy. 

Basically, it works like this: Doctors take blood from a patient and extract immune cells.  They then alter those cells genetically to target cancers.  But before they're injected back, the existing immune system needs to be weakened so that the new, modified cells can take root.   To do this, chemotherapy is administered.
Juno initially used only one chemotherapy drug for this, cyclophosphamide. But it more recently added a second drug, fludarabine, saying the dual chemotherapy could make the treatment more effective.

All three of the deaths, two of them occurring last week, were among the six or seven patients so far who had received both chemotherapy drugs. There have been no such deaths among the 13 or 14 patients in the study who received cyclophosphamide alone, the company said.
Even though this is a setback, there is still promise.  Other studies using the fludarabine with a differently-altered T-cell are ongoing, and I'm looking forward to seeing what becomes of the patients that remain.

Beatings/moral yadda yadda yadda

This will keep happening until law enforcement makes a serious effort to de-escalate the situation.
DALLAS — Snipers killed five Dallas police officers and wounded six others on Thursday night during a demonstration against shootings by officers in Minnesota and Louisiana this week, the authorities said.
What we are seeing is something I alluded to in a previous post about the shooting of a mentally ill patient, and that is by militarizing themselves, police forces alienate themselves from the communities that they are supposed to protect and serve.

This, combined with incessant vilification and denigration of BLM in (some) media exacerbates the pervasive us versus them dynamic between police and civilians.

It is not at all surprising that we're seeing retaliation.  That aside, it is 100% the duty of the police to address the loss of public trust, for two reasons.  First, because they have actual power over citizens' lives; and second, because they're the ones that alienated their communities to begin with.

Frankly, the only thing I feel bad about is the flood of "blue lives matter" bullshit we're going to be hearing in the media until the next Trump outburst, or next video of a cop gunning down an unarmed civilian.

UPDATE:  To be fair, reports indicate that the officers were mingling with the crowd, rather than standing as sentries, guarding property from the mob of dusky rabblerousers.  Furthermore, the Dallas police chief has stated that they will not militarize in response.

I'm not saying that these officers deserved to die, but rather that law enforcement, nationally, needs to do something serious to restore the confidence of communities they serve.


This is sad

RIP Mastroianni Bros.
Mastroianni Bros. Bakery, a family-owned commercial bakery in Schenectady, New York, is closing after 93 years in business.
This is very sad news.  Their bread (and rolls) was absolutely delicious.  That they were local was a bonus.

Zeiser was hired last summer as CEO to help save the company. He rebranded Mastroianni Bros. to meet consumer demands and released new products, including an express loaf about half the size of a regular 24-ounce product.
And that was the problem as far as I was concerned.  I'm single and live alone.  I love their bread, but I can't use it all before it spoils.  Likewise with the rolls.  I don't recall seeing the half-sized products, but they would have been perfect for me.  Maybe, after practically hundreds of partial loaves disposed of due to mold, I hadn't closely observed the wooden cart that typically displays their product.  

It also doesn't help that the local Hannaford kept moving the fucking thing around.

The bottom line is, their bread was fantastic, and we're worse off for their loss.  If only they had stuck around until the casino was finished, they may have been able to source the bread for that.  This is a sad day.


Wow, there's stupid and then there's weapons-grade stupid, but this...

Paul Ryan invents a new category.

"On this year’s Fourth, we can celebrate the historic document that was signed—and the self-evident truths it declared. We can celebrate the historic battles that were fought so that those truths would embrace all of our people. We can remember the extraordinary men and women, so dedicated to those truths, who died on this day—and the millions of others whose names we’ll never know. Or we can remember—and give thanks—that we live in a country where all these things are possible. We still believe in those self-evident truths. We still struggle to live up to them. And really, what that struggle represents is the pursuit of happiness. So today, with great gratitude, we celebrate our independence."

Exactly what does he think happened at the Second Continental Congress?  I mean Lexington and Concord were more than a year prior to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (April 19th, 1775). 

And even worse, the list of grievances and skirmishes dates from the mid 1760s to the early 1780s (including the war itself).

The lives lost in all these incidents are tragic, but imagining Independence Day as the day the Revolutionary War began is just stupid, simplistic and ahistoric.

And since we're talking about orbits

Thought experiment:  consider the youtube video demonstrating how to draw a perfect ellipse using pegs in cardboard as the foci. 

In orbital terms, only one of the foci is actually real, the other is a mathematical construct. 

So what if the second foci were another celestial body, equal in mass to the first?

We'd have a three-body problem that might play out something like this.

Of course, we can't emulate the complex  interactions between the bodies with string and fixed points any more.

And another thing

Since I've had some time to digest the article I wrote about in my previous post, which, admittedly is more of a seat-of-the-pants rant, I still have problems with the "No Scientific Method," conclusion, and I think a better way to explain why the argument is flawed.

The (mercifully retired) philosophy professor does indeed begin his essay by likening the Scientific Method with an iterative poetry constructing process.  Only in the simple tautological iterative processes are iterative sense is this true.

As I explained before, the construction of the poem begins with a conclusion.  There are a set of images and ideas that are intended to be conveyed by the author, and the iterative exercise is a mechanism by which said author cherry-picks the most appropriate lines.

Starting with a conclusion and searching for supporting data is the exact opposite of the Scientific Method, which seeks, generally, to further  knowledge by testing falsifiable questions, and thus create a model of reality that can be used to predict the outcome of a set of initial conditions. 

I dismissed the "meaning of courage" as a hand-waving digression, but it's actually much worse than that.  It is another example of beginning with a conclusion, and then searching for evidence to support the conclusion.  And brainstorming what might be considered courage is a meaningless exercise in metonymy, and isn't useful in explaining the Scientific Method.

I stand by my criticism of the Martian orbit example, but want to bring up two things.  First, from youtube, how to draw an ellipse.

And second, a look at how increasing precision of measurements has led to deeper understandings of orbital mechanics.
Elliptical motion offers a good example of the progress of science as more accurate data is gathered. If you only had measurements of the motions of planets accurate to 10% you would find that the orbits of most planets are consistent with circular motion. But departures from uniform motion are seen when the data's accuracy reaches 1%. The effects are quite subtle, which is why Tycho's excellent records were required to make the breakthrough. For example, in Earth's elliptical orbit, the Earth-Sun distance varies only 3.4% between when Earth is at the closest point to the Sun (called perihelion) and when it's at the farthest point (called aphelion). In other words, the ellipse of the Earth's orbit has a distance between the foci that is only 3.4% of the semimajor axis — a very slightly squashed circle. 
The Teach Astronomy article goes on to say that at even higher precision, that the orbits aren't perfect ellipses.  Other celestial bodies' gravitational pulls induce measurable perturbations in the orbits of their peers.

So credit where it's due: the author of the NYT travesty probably didn't shit his pants while writing it, though we can't be sure, proving a negative and all that...

This also bothers me:
While Galileo’s law prescribes that the trajectory of a projectile like a cannonball follows a parabolic path, the true path deviates from a parabola, mostly because of air resistance. That is, a second, separate causal element must be accounted for. And so we add the ad hoc exception “except when resisted by air.”
We don't stop with the 'ad hoc,' which is totally the wrong way to think about situations where data don't conform to predictions, we refine the hypothesis to include the data.  We can measure the deviation from the predicted path of the cannonball, and use that to make predictions about how much resistance might affect subsequent cannonballs, and verify the accuracy of these calculations with further testing.

Defining secondary influences that impact the results of a prediction as "ad hoc" completely ignores that reality is actually a bunch of interconnected systems, all of which have influence over an outcome.  Since these interconnected systems' effects can be measured, predicted and refined and so on, they're very much not "ad hoc."

It's probably very clear by now that I absolutely hated the abomination that the NYT subjected its readership to.  They owe me an apology.


Stupid people with big platforms

Shorter James Blachowicz:
I'm profoundly ignorant of scientific thinking, and science itself to the point that my examples are an embarrassment to the New York Times, but I love arguing about semantics, so therefore science is a lie.
I'm not fucking kidding.  The New York Times just published this trainwreck of an essay.
In 1970, I had the chance to attend a lecture by Stephen Spender. He described in some detail the stages through which he would pass in crafting a poem. He jotted on a blackboard some lines of verse from successive drafts of one of his poems, asking whether these lines (a) expressed what he wanted to express and (b) did so in the desired form. He then amended the lines to bring them closer either to the meaning he wanted to communicate or to the poetic form of that communication.

I was immediately struck by the similarities between his editing process and those associated with scientific investigation and began to wonder whether there was such a thing as a scientific method. Maybe the method on which science relies exists wherever we find systematic investigation. In saying there is no scientific method, what I mean, more precisely, is that there is no distinctly scientific method.
Really?  Does this author know anything about science, other than, maybe, how to spell it? The iterative process described is fundamentally at odds with how science works.  When Spender crafts his poem, he iterates through the various drafts and cherry-picks the best lines.

This resembles Science in exactly one, very trivial way, it's iterative.  Science does not start with its conclusions, and cherry-pick supporting data.   Instead it starts with a test explanation of some phenomenon, and investigates how closely that explanation follows observational data.

And hand-waving about "the meaning of courage," as if the imprecision of colloquial language is in any was applicable to hypothesis testing is an extra helping of stupid.
Now compare this with a scientific example: Johannes Kepler’s discovery that the orbit of Mars is an ellipse.

In this case, the actual meaning of courage (what a definition is designed to define) corresponds with the actual observations that Kepler sought to explain — that is, the data regarding the orbit of Mars. In the case of definition, we compare the literal meaning of a proposed definition with the actual meaning we want to define. In Kepler’s case, he needed to compare the predicted observations from a proposed explanatory hypothesis with the actual observations he wanted to explain.

Early on, Kepler determined that the orbit of Mars was not a circle (the default perfect shape of the planetary spheres, an idea inherited from the Greeks). There is a very simple equation for a circle, but the first noncircular shape Kepler entertained as a replacement was an oval. Despite our use of the word “oval” as sometimes synonymous with ellipse, Kepler understood it as egg-shaped (in the asymmetrical chicken-egg way). Maybe he thought the orbit had to be lopsided (rather than symmetrical) because he knew the Sun was not at the center of the oval. Unfortunately, there is no simple equation for such an oval (although there is one for an ellipse).
Facepalm. Science doesn't require simplicity, it requires correctness.  That there isn't a simple equation to describe an oval, and there is one to describe an ellipse is immaterial to the fact that an ellipse fits the data better than an oval.
When a scientist tests a hypothesis and finds that its predictions do not quite match available observations, there is always the option of forcing the hypothesis to fit the data. One can resort to curve-fitting, in which a hypothesis is patched together from different independent pieces, each piece more or less fitting a different part of the data. A tailor for whom fit is everything and style is nothing can make me a suit that will fit like a glove — but as a patchwork with odd random seams everywhere, it will also not look very much like a suit.
Yes, thank you for that.  Suit analogy aside, the idea that hypothesis change to conform to observational data is correct.  But he treats this as a bad thing!
Kepler could have hammered out a patchwork equation that would have represented the oval orbit of Mars. It would have fit the facts better than the earlier circle hypothesis. But it would have failed to meet the second criterion that all such explanation requires: that it be simple, with a single explanatory principle devoid of tacked-on ad hoc exceptions, analogous to the case of courage as acting in the face of great fear, except for running away, tying one’s shoelace and yelling profanities.
The profanities and shoelaces are part of his "meaning of courage" wankery.   Science does not require its explanations be simple.  It requires them to fit the data.

A person not so profoundly ignorant of one's own example might point out that Kepler wasn't trying to understand the Martian orbit in a vacuum.  Kepler was trying to understand the Martian orbit in the context of Newton's law of gravity.  The question isn't what shape is the Martian orbit?  It's does the Martian orbit confirm or contradict what the theory of gravity predicts?

As for simplicity: gravity is very much not a simple thing. 
If scientific method is only one form of a general method employed in all human inquiry, how is it that the results of science are more reliable than what is provided by these other forms? I think the answer is that science deals with highly quantified variables and that it is the precision of its results that supplies this reliability. But make no mistake: Quantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking.
Well, because, unlike philosophers, scientists don't just pull "theories" out of their asses.  Science isn't more reliable because of the precision of its instruments, it's more reliable because it considers the applicability of the instruments to the actual problem. Dismissing the applicability tests as simple "variables," betrays a profound ignorance of the scientific method.

Apropos of nothing, because no other methods of thinking are presented, testing to determine whether one preconceived notions conform to observable reality, and adjusting notions that don't is most certainly a superior method of thinking.