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Sunday, January 01, 2006

A new year, a new site

This blog is now found at this location: http://dalounge.org

P.S. No, I'm not writing this from the barracks - I'm out of the army (irregular heartbeat). But my, those were some interesting two months.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In the army now


This is Dna's brother, Sam, posting his handwritten report of army life. On the left you'll see the good doctor himself.

---

Well, I’m on my third week in the military and let me just say this: the human body is a disgusting thing. You wouldn’t believe the amount of farting that takes place when you’ve got hundreds of men living together. Every time I light a cigarette, I say a silent prayer that the whole battalion doesn’t explode.

But it’s to be expected with the amount of food they cram into us. Three 3-course meals a day. I’ve yet to finish a single meal all the way. Some of the bigger guys seem to like it, though. Guys over 190cm get double portions of everything, which leaves some of the 189cm tall fellas a little miffed.

Okay, I guess I better start at the beginning. I’m stationed at the Infantry Training Center of the Single Guard Battalion. This battalion was established in 1928, in the first days of the nascent Estonian Republic, to guard various military and government facilities and locations. These days, in addition to being a battle-ready infantry battalion, its duties include guarding the Presidential Palace and performing various ceremonies, such as sending out honor guards to greet foreign dignitaries and such.

Speaking of which, in only my second week here, I had the opportunity to stand in the honor guard at the funeral of a brigadier general who just died, the first military funeral in Estonia since the 1930’s (and only the second such event in this country’s history). And soon I’ll be standing guard at Presidential Palace. w00t.

I’m slowly getting accustomed to military life and boy is it different. Let me give you an idea by describing a typical day.

Waking up is quite an experience: we have one company per floor with four platoons, two on each side of a long hallway. At 6 am, someone yells ,,Wake up!’’, at which point 200 men scramble out of bed, grab their clothes, run out into the hallway and get dressed in two minutes. Most guys don’t hear the call and instead wake up at the trampling that ensues, which lead to a funny thing happening one morning: I guess someone sneezed or something and another guy thought it was the wakeup call and got up. Which caused another guy to get up. And another. And so on. The result: the whole company was standing out in the hallway at 5 am, fully dressed, wondering why there weren’t any sergeants yelling at us like usual.

After that it’s outside for the morning exercise which consists of running and various exercises including the ever-present push-ups. Now, as unappealing as that sounds, it actually does wake you the hell up, and fast. And I’ve seen some of the most beautiful night skies in years, running around the barracks at 6 am.

Next up: hygiene (which is what washing is called here) and making your bed. You might wonder why I even include such seemingly mundane activities. If only you knew. Making your bed is an exact science here. Every sheet and pillow has to be exactly right, down to the centimeter and the smallest crease.

After breakfast, the morning lineup, during which we sing the national anthem (the words to which I have finally memorized after 22 years). It was during one such lineup that we got this year’s first snow. The next morning, the lineup ended with the sergeants commanding their platoons in a massive snowball fight. Also, during these lineups, with all of us standing still in our camouflage uniforms, it’s not uncommon for birds to fly over and sit on someone’s head. I guess they mistake us for bushes or something.

We also have classes in subjects ranging from the history of the Estonian Military to Laws of War to various kinds of weaponry. Which reminds me: I have been issued my personal firearm – an Israeli-made ,,Galil’’ automatic rifle. I haven’t actually fired it yet, so far we’ve been learning about various moves, stances, targeting, maintenance (taking the gun apart and cleaning it) and such. But it still feels strangely cool to be holding my very own automatic.

Then lunch, then more classes, supper, evening lineup and count and then the crowning event of every day – the cleaning. Oy vey, the horrible, lemon-fresh, sparkling cleaning. I’ve never mopped so many floors in my life. If you want a manly career mopping floors and making beds, join the army!

One thing about having all distractions removed and your world reduced to running around, following orders, your biggest preoccupations being remaining observant, sharp and not making any mistakes: it makes you appreciate the little things. Like after a hard day of slugging around a forest, getting a hot meal in your belly and a cigarette between your lips makes you feel like a king. Or the satisfaction of having accomplished something that at first seemed insurmountable, like the time we cleaned the area around the barracks of leaves. Using our hands, not rakes.

Living with the same bunch of people all day every day, you clearly start to see the different kinds of personalities that fate has brought together.

There’s the obligatory jackass, who after two weeks of discipline literally pumped into him, getting the rest of the platoon punished as well, still thinks impressing the one or two followers he’s accumulated by making wisecracks is more important than not pissing on your teammates.

There are the garden variety idiots who react to the neighbouring table in the cafeteria being made to eat standing up because they were talking (there’s no talking in the cafeteria, only eating) by laughing, pointing fingers and talking loudly about ,,the schmucks that have to eat standing up’’. Needless to say, they joined them soon thereafter.

Then there are the jokers that always seem to have some sort of comic accident or other happen to them. Like a certain private Appelberg, who walked past the platoon while we were lined up in the hallway, listening to the sergeant, trying to get into his room. There are strict and correct ways to handle such situations, the correct one, in this case, being standing at attention, saluting and saying ,,Sergeant sir, private Appelberg, permission to pass the lineup, sir?’’
Ofcourse Appelberg didn’t know this and spent the next five minutes being educated by the sergeant. Finally he got into the room, only to emerge 30 seconds later and inform us that he had the wrong room!

And finally, there are the ones you would be proud to call friends. The ones that take the time to help their teammates while themselves trying to cope with this new and different situation we all find ourselves in.

More later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Intermission

Okelydoke, in the morning I'm off to the army. I don't know what my internet access is gonna be like, but when I get the chance I'll pop out a post or two.

See you in a bit and don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What's the difference between Intelligent Design and the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is tastier. Yum!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My baloney has a first name

but funnily enough, he doesn't have a last name. Sort of like Madonna. Or Cher.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Genuine Fisking. On This Site? Get out!

This post is just so full of BS that had the Intelligent Designer designed it with eyes, they would be of brown color.
The debate over the theory of intelligent design heads into a federal courtroom next week.A school district in south-central Pennsylvania (Dover Area, near York) wants simply to present that the theory exists, and wants to offer a reference that explains the theory.
But there is no such theory. Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

Saying that something is too complex and could not have taken place is not a scientific theory. It's naysaying. And that's exactly what Intelligent Design is. Nothing more, nothing less. I challenge you to show me a research paper describing how some aspect of evolutionary theory is against the laws of physics or detailing another explanation for some aspect of evolutionary theory.
Intelligent design supporters "seem to have shifted virtually entirely to political and rhetorical efforts to sway the general public," Scott said. "The bitter truth is that there is no argument going on in the scientific community about whether evolution took place."
The bitter truth, Eugenie Scott, is that there is such a debate.And it is raging in the scientific community.
There is no debate. There are ID advocates putting forth bullshit arguments that are subsequently destroyed by the scientific community. That is not a debate.

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

On we go:

But -- for me, anyway -- evolution does not explain the intelligence gap between homo sapiens and our animal cousins.How is it that we have the potential for so much more knowledge, the ability to do so many more things, than any other animal?

That's because you don't see intelligence as just another characteristic of a biological organism. You see it as something special, something different from sight or walking on two legs or flight. I might just as well ask how is it that the platypus is the only venomous, egg-laying, duck-billed mammal or why "Strain 121" is the only organism able to thrive in temperatures of 121°C.

We are more intelligent than other animals because that's the direction in which we as a species evolved. The cheetah is faster than other animals because that's the direction in which it evolved. What's so difficult to understand here?

And don't forget that the difference between us and other animals in terms of intelligence is not that great. Primates and dolphins can be taught to communicate with us and have shown extraordinarily complex thought and emotions. The difference between them and us is culture. Put isolated human infants in the wild, removing all the benefits of our evolved culture (other humans to teach them how to use fire, shape tools), and you'll find an animal uncomfortably similar to other primates.

Certainly, man is not the fastest, nor the largest, nor the strongest of species. By the principle of survival of the fittest, we might not have made it this far.

Survival of the fittest does not mean the strongest, fastest animals survive. It means the animals best suited to live in a given environment and evade predation survive. How can you even discuss this topic if you have childish misconceptions like that?

How did we come by that ability?By some evolutionary process?Not overly likely. We would not have made it this far without some sort of early intervention in the process.

On what do you base that statement?

Even the ability to "master" fire and devise weapons is beyond other species.

Monkeys and primates use sticks and stones as weapons, as well as tools for varied tasks. Birds use stones to crack open nuts and eggs, otters use rocks to crack open shells, monkeys use plants to treat cuts and wounds.

Which leaves it up to us to determine how we acquired the ability to do the things we do that no other species can do.

The same way populations of chimpanzees and other animals discovered how to use tools and weapons and taught those skills to the next generations. A combination of intelligence and culture.

I choose to see that as the work of a Creator.Logic, therefore, informs faith.

That's the difference between us. You choose to see that as the work of a creator. I could just as easily choose to believe that we were created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster and my position would be just as valid. But I can't do that. I have no choice (if I'm going to remain intellectually honest), when presented with the evidence, but to come to the conclusion that evolution is the most likely explanation. Logic? Yeah, sure, whatever floats your boat.

Update: the comments are just as unbelievable.

Another problem with evolution is the large gap between simple single cell organisms and multicellular organism. No one has found fossil records to bridge the gap. Maybe there are none.

What would qualify? An organism composed of one and a half cells? Ever heard of colonies of cells? Microbial mats? Sponges? Hydras?

The math alone rules out evolution (e-mail me if you want me to dig out the link). A person would have better odds of winning the lottery and being hit by lightning every day for the rest of his life than evolution does of ever occuring.

You mean this? Read this.

Hugh Hewitt had an interesting point: the Leftists who oppose ID have put themselves in the position of the Catholic church in the middle ages opposing Galileo for his "heresy".

"Leftists who oppose ID"? Fuck you.

But yeah, I suppose you have a point. If Galileo hadn't actually presented a testable scientific hypothesis and the Catholic church had thoroughly debunked it, that is.

Just don't count on the hard-core evolutionists being logical about this...
Unlike Christians, who's faith is indeed informed by reason, theirs is truly a faith that is blind.

I can't even comprehend how someone can utter such a thing with a straight face.

Update: here's Bob's lengthy response, thoroughly rebuting all of my points and presenting those research papers I requested.

Dennet got it exactly right:

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Saving Private DNA

In Estonia we have compulsory military service. Why do I mention this?
Drill instructor: Why are you in the army, Private?
Me: Three reasons, sir!
Me: One - I'm patriotic, two - I love my country, and three - they nailed me.

Yes, that's right: in a little over two weeks I'm off to the army. I'm in for 12 weeks of basic training, 6 weeks of specialty training and 17 weeks of unit training. 8 months in all.

Just so you don't freak out when the blog falls relatively silent in two weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Lost

Want to know why Lost is so damn good?

It masterfully exploits two intrinsic human characteristics: our fear of the unknown and our curiosity.

Remember the first time you heard that french woman's voice on the radio, repeating the same eerie message over and over again for 16 years? That was spooky. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and it made you curious. You absolutely had to know what that was all about.

But here's an interesting thing: I downloaded Lost from the internet and watched it on my computer. Because some episodes finish faster than others, I ended up skipping the episode where Said finds the french woman. All I saw was Said returning, wounded, and saying he found her. And that was spooky as hell.

When I watched the missing episode later, it was a bit disappointing, because she really was just a nutty french woman living on an island. The satisfaction of knowing what I did was offset by the fact that the mystery was gone.

This theme occurs again and again in Lost. The good thing is, as soon as they explain one mystery, another pops up. We can only hope they get creepier and more interesting from now on.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My baloney has a first name

Steve. His name's Steve.

Random Bash Quote #3

<ppg> if guns kill people
<ppg> then pencils misspell words
<ppg> and cars make people drive drunk
<ppg> and spoons made rosie o'donnell fat

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fisking myself: an experiment in recursive blogging

You smell funny.
You know how if you open the refrigerator, the cold air inside mixes with the warm air outside until they reach equilibrium?
Equilibrium, eh? My, my, what big words we're using.
The end result is air that is warmer than the cold air and colder than the warm air at the beginning.
Wait, I'm confused.. is the colder air warmer than the cold air was before it was warmer than the cold air or was the warmer air warmer than the cold air after the colder air got warm?
Now, if you teach me something, what if that means that I get a little bit smarter and you get a little bit dumber? I mean, what if students going to school are getting a little bit smarter, but the teachers are getting dumber until at the end, we reach equilibrium - everyone is the same. Totally uniform intelligence.
You'd like that scenario wouldn't you, Mr. Single-Digit-IQ?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stop bogarting that spliff, man..

You know how if you open the refrigerator, the cold air inside mixes with the warm air outside until they reach equilibrium? The end result is air that is warmer than the cold air and colder than the warm air at the beginning.

Now, if you teach me something, what if that means that I get a little bit smarter and you get a little bit dumber? I mean, what if students going to school are getting a little bit smarter, but the teachers are getting dumber until at the end, we reach equilibrium - everyone is the same. Totally uniform intelligence.

Whoa.. dude.

We got any chips?

My baloney has a first name

but he changed it to Rebecca after the operation.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What's the difference between me and a covert black-ops operative?

No comment.

Public Service Announcement

Do not watch Threshold. If you have accidentally watched it, rinse your eyes with water immediately and contact a doctor.

Here's a commentary of the first 20 minutes of the pilot episode. I could go on, but it's too painful to watch a second time around.

0h 1m: A "fractal" shape appears on the radar screen. Only it's not something the radar's seeing, as the image is bigger than the radar area, encapsulating the whole screen. Plus, the screen is wobbling like an Ocean Waves filter has been applied in Photoshop. So, what? The alien ship is reprogramming the computer graphics code to display normal radar data (only wobbly!) with a spooky spiral on top?

0h 1m: The bridge starts deforming, with paint chipping of and windows cracking. But it seems this is only for effect, as it's never mentioned again, even as the Red Team arrives on the ship to investigate.

0h 2m: "Highly Pathogenic SARS-like virus" Yeah, that SARS sure was infectious as hell. Alot more scary than, say, the flu.

0h 3m: a helicopter comes to pick up Dr. Caffrey while she's out walking her dog. A suit in a black helicopter lands in a park in the middle of an urban neighbourhood right next to where the doctor happens to be walking her dog at the exact same moment. A minute or two earlier or later and they'd have had to land the chopper in the park and then run who knows how many blocks after her. It can't be because they're in a hurry, because a few minutes later she's wearing different clothes, so she went back to her place to change. Now, is it completely logical or is it just cool and shows something important is up? A pair of suits showing up at the door and taking her to the airport would have worked.

0h 5m: "The Oval Office seems to think you're a genius"
"Oh, I don't know about that"
"Your modesty is refreshing. Now drop it"
I've seen better dialogue in an Estonian soap opera with a budget of two cents and a box of matches.

0h 6m: The heat plume of a UFO entering Earth's orbit (note: orbit, not atmosphere) has a tail. Like a comet.

0h 9m: "What if some kind of technology could be reverse-engineered? Do we want it falling into the hands of other countries?" Gag.

0h 10m: A scientist is bitching because he's been assigned to be a part of the first ever extra-terrestrial contact. Yeah.

0h 11m: The 'crash site' is near the US coast. The NSA informs that the North-Koreans also detected it and are moving in. They have 5 or 6 hours. Yes. The North-Koreans are the only ones besides the US that detected it. And they're moving in. Later, the mighty USA blows up the ship so the North-Koreans can't get their hands on it. Anything you say.

0h 11m: Again with the animals moving in the fractal pattern. Okay, we get it.

0h 12m: On the helicopter ride over, the obligatory bonding begins. The federal agent/special ops guy/"ghost" asks personal questions about Caffrey's father, as a result of which we learn she doesn't know her father. What a complicated and multi-faceted character she is.

0h 13m: The ship has no power, but all the screens are still showing that fractal pattern. Later, we see every electronic screen on the ship displaying the same pattern. Even screens that aren't capable of showing it. If you'd have an electronic watch with an LCD display, it would also show that pattern. Your fucking flashlight would show that pattern, according to the writers of this show.

0h 15m: "What about the ship's computers? There might be a log or outgoing emails" Yeah, that's it. I'm sure they emailed their penpals the minute they encountered the UFO.

0h 16m: Since when does any video camera (or VCR or tape recorder for that matter) really make that sound when you fast forward?

0h 17m: He's been looking at the squiggly morphing ship for 20 seconds and the first thought he has is that "we're dealing with some kind of higher-dimensional geometry. I think we're looking at a four-dimensional object in three-dimensional space" Egads. This idea could have had potential if they'd handled it right.

0h 18m: "Congratulations gentlemen. We've just confirmed extraterrestrial intelligence." How? By looking at a squiggly morphing thing floating above the sea? By bleeding out of your nose? What exactly confirmed it?

Later on, they come to the conclusion that the aliens are trying to colonize Earth by altering our DNA and making us like them. And the way they come to that conclusion is reminiscent of a Batman episode:
Batman: One: "What has yellow skin and writes?"
Robin: A ballpoint banana.
Batman: Right! Two: "What people are always in a hurry?"
Robin: Rushing people? Russians!
Batman: Right again! Now, what would you say they mean?
Robin: Banana… Russian. I've got it! Someone Russian is gonna slip on a banana peel and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Inciting zoophobia by inventing species-specific stereotypes

Lions. The proverbial kings of the so-called animal kingdom.

Sure, they're all fluffy and majestic-looking. But underneath this dignified exterior lies an animal society rotten to the core.

Did you know that male lions do nothing but lounge around all day, occasionally fighting with eachother, while the female lions bring food to the table (or dirt, as it happens) and care after the young?

Does this kind of blatant sexism really have a place in the 21st century? I think not!

Equality for our Panthera leo sisters! Attica, attica! I'm Spartacus!

My baloney has a first name

but he prefers to be called Mr. Smith, as he is currently traveling incognito due to the highly sensitive nature of his mission.

The UN: Vigorous Stationary Movement

A novel concept is included in the proposed UN "reform" package:

Obligation to intervene when civilians face genocide and war crimes agreed

Gee, ya think?

Plus:

Plans to reform Human Rights Commission deferred to General Assembly

Yeah, that's a brilliant idea. You're so clever today, you better be careful your foot doesn't fall off.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Suspenseful tidbits from my Life™ #5

A short while ago, my elbow itched.

I proceeded to scratch my elbow, after which it stopped itching.

Current elbow status: not itching.

The "Alienating My Readers" Post

You smell funny.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Secrets of Babylon 5 revealed!

The "fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever":

And the one I have at home is twice as big. Interestingly enough, Westinghouse.

Universal Translator

Is it just me or does Kofi Annan ever say anything besides 'blah, blah, blah'?

Oh yeah, and:
No international definition of terrorism, although hope remains for an agreement during the summit
How about picking up a fucking dictionary.

Update:
The Crazy Imam says: Oh, you and your narrowminded definitions! Words are what we perceive them to be! In fact, I'm going to call you earwig. That's my definition of earwig. You.

The "Pandering To My Readers" Post

I agree with you completely.

Achtung!

Run for your lives! Al-Qaeda has now reached MacGyver-level sophistication in remote surveillance avionics.

The commander in charge of the operation said sophisticated equipment had been seized, including a small, Chinese-made remote controlled drone, which he said had been used by the militants to spy on army movements and positions in the area.

That is, they've got toy planes.
With MADE IN CHINA stamped on the bottom.
Update: I was right. That's a first.

Praying

Say a guy is in a car accident or something. Someone says 'pray for him' or 'keep him in your prayers'.

Now, do the guy's chances of making it increase the more people pray for him? Or does God treat everyone equally? And if so, what's the point of praying for the guy?

Just curious.