Monthly Archives: August 2009

Settling In

I’m commuting about half an hour each way to work. We’ve been rearranging belongings and vehicles, using our travel trailer as a storage space for the moment, and that’s taken up extra time. This weekend we’ll work on the hawk mews for Rusty. And I can look forward to my first substantial paycheck to hit the bank account on Sept. 11th. We need to get moving on house-hunting if we are to manage to get the $8K stimulus credit for home-buying.


This is a short note written from the Florida welcome center just south of Georgia off I-75. They have free WiFi. Later I may go into the new half-inch soon-to-be scar on my pate and the great trailer tire fiasco, but for now this is an update on progress. I should be in Clearwater by early evening.

Dembski and Marks Get One Past the Reviewers

William Dembski and Robert Marks finally managed to turn one of their joint manuscripts into a publication. The paper will appear in IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. There is a PDF of it available here. I’m in the midst of packing, so I just confirmed that Dembski and Marks carefully preserved the error I informed Dembski of almost 9 years ago and Marks almost 2 years ago.

I mentioned some time ago that I would write a response for publication, and I intend to do that. Right now, though, the trailers are partially loaded and there’s a fair bit more work and the trip to do yet.

One more thing… Dembski wants this paper to count in the pro-ID peer-reviewed category and show up in the DI list and whatnot.

P.S. Our critics will immediately say that this really isnít a pro-ID article but that itís about something else (Iíve seen this line now for over a decade once work on ID started encroaching into peer-review territory). Before you believe this, have a look at the article. In it we critique, for instance, Richard Dawkins METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL (p. 1055). Question: When Dawkins introduced this example, was he arguing pro-Darwinism? Yes he was. In critiquing his example and arguing that information is not created by unguided evolutionary processes, we are indeed making an argument that supports ID.

The only way to understand the above is if one accepts the religious antievolution “two model” way of thinking. That goes like this: there are only two alternatives, evolution or {creation | design}. Therefore, evidence against evolution is evidence for {creation | design}. The “two model” argument got well-deserved thrashings in McLean v. Arkansas and Edwards v. Aguillard. It’s nice to see Dembski continuing to stick with just the classic, long-rebutted religious antievolution arguments.

Editorial Ignorance at Investor’s Business Daily

Sometimes editorials are just a way to prevent a few blank column-inches. Certainly the editors of the Investor’s Business Daily would have been better off with blank column inches than with the screed they actually published. After all, if you are making an argument and cite an example that not only does not work for you, but undermines your entire premise of argumentation, you have done yourself no favors. The IBD (an acronym I know all too well in another context) editors want to make out that a health care system that covers everyone can’t possibly work, and they try to point out an example of where such a system must fail.

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Uh, hello? Stephen Hawking is a UK citizen. Hawking is known for apologizing for the Midwest accent of his speech synthesis circuitry. In Brit lingo, that’s an own goal. I’d fear more for Hawking if he were stricken with an acute illness while visiting the USA and left in the tender mercies of an overcrowded public emergency room here without a recognized US health insurance plan.

It is long past time when health care is provided universally on a rational basis, and not left to uninsured people having to use last-ditch emergency room care as their sole contact with the health care system. This isn’t rocket science, and if we wanted a system that provides health care to everyone *and* works well, we could invent it. First, though, we have to get past the naysayers with either vested interests or too little compassion for the plight of others.

Hat tip to Lou Shackleton.

Update: Ed Brayton notes that Hawking has taken the editors to task, and that the editors put a disclaimer up to say that their implication that Hawking was not a UK citizens was incorrect. As Ed says that’s not the point, which was that their argument depended on Hawking dying earlier if he was a UK citizen. The fact that Hawking is here to upbraid them means their argument is of the same value as a bit of doggy-doo on the bottom of your shoe.

Moving On

Life is change.

I’m at a change point in my life. My time here at Michigan State University is up. Fortunately, there is a next job in the offing. I am currently in the midst of packing to head south to Florida. I will be taking up a job at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has been quite a while since I last worked for the State of Florida.

I will be working on various projects there to collect, collate, store, retrieve, and analyze wildlife research data. FWRI handles most of the research data that the state’s biologists collect on species like the critically endangered Florida panther, manatees, and many others.

Florida also happens to be where I was born, and where my family and Diane’s family reside. That part is a plus. My sister, Emily Kay, will be coming up here in about a week to help us with the end of the packing and loading up two trailers for the move south. Moving is always a chore, and we’ve moved our stuff from place to place about 11 times in the past 23 years. That part doesn’t really seem to get any better with time. Unfortunately, there is no moving allowance for the particular job at FWRI. If you feel like helping out, drop some change in the tip jar: look in the right sidebar for “Money Stuff” and the “Make a Donation” button there.

Update: My thanks to those who have contributed to the moving fund. That will be such a help over the next few weeks.

Florida Wants Comments on De-listing Peregrine Falcons

Just noticed this at Florida Animal Law:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) had requested comments from the public regarding plans to delist the peregrine falcon, as well as any economic and social factors that should be considered in managing the falcons in Florida (WCTV).

The falcons are slated to be delisted from the state’s imperiled species list. Comments can be submitted to Peregrine Falcon Management Plan Comments, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Northeast Region, 1239 SW 10th St., Ocala, FL 34471-0323 or e-mailed to Comments must be received by 5 p.m., Aug. 12, 2008.

August 12th is approaching rapidly. Get those comments in.

Banks and Deposits

There’s a site called “Complaints Board” where I found a complaint that reminded me of a personal experience. He had a problem with a hold being placed on a deposit.

I went to deposit my paycheck on friday @ noon. They said I could only have access to $100 until tomorrow. This irritated me but I let it go. The next the day the money wasn’t there so I called them. They said that due to my lack of deposits with them, they were going to hold my paycheck for 5 days. I am a new customer with them. I told them I needed the money because I had 3 young children and need to buy food. They didn’t care. I could see their point if it was a personal check, but it was my paycheck, from a local business. What I support my family on. I told them that I would be canceling my acct as soon as I can get my direct deposit that I had just set up change over to a different bank. I also told them I would tell everyone I know and tell the public in every way possible not to use their bank and if they were, to cancel. The associate I spoke to refused to let me speak to a supervisor. They said in their huge booklet they sent me with it states in their they could hold anyone’s money at their discretion. Don’t ever use this bank. They are heartless, money grubbing, useless people that waste the oxygen that God gave them.

Here’s my response to that:

They cannot hold anyone’s money at their discretion. Federal banking law provides that funds that have cleared *must* be made available to the account holder.

That does mean, though, that they can refuse you the courtesy of providing the funds drawn on any third party’s account *until* they have cleared. But they cannot impose an arbitrary hold time, such as “two weeks” or “ten business days”. Once you confirm that the issuing bank has released the funds, the law says you must have access to them.

It does seem that banks do often use the ignorance of their customers regarding this aspect of banking law. This obviously favors the bank, since they earn interest on the money that they do not let you use for the period of their arbitrary “hold” on a deposit.

I once was refused access to funds one day, the money primarily being in the form of a recent deposit. The next morning, I checked with the issuing bank and confirmed that they had released the funds. I went back to my bank and requested the same value cashier’s check as I had the day before.

“It is bank policy that deposits be held for ten days,” the clerk told me dismissively.

“It is federal law that you must release the funds on a draft that has cleared, and the draft in question has cleared. So which are we going to follow, bank policy or federal law?”

I got my check.

LaTeX and MicroSoft Word

I’ve gotten used to using \LaTeX as my usual document preparation tool. However, many of the people I collaborate with are not into \LaTeX and would prefer that we use MicroSoft Word instead for drafts of manuscripts.

I had tried applying the latex2rtf package before to get a version of an existing manuscript into a form that Word would recognize. I failed completely; the translation simply didn’t work well.

Given a task of preparing a new manuscript, though, I decided to have another look at latex2rtf. I installed it on the MacBook Pro. That was simple, just a “make; make install” process at the command line. Then I started building my manuscript in TeXShop. I’d typeset the \LaTeX source, then apply latex2rtf to it.

What I can say is that the help available for latex2rtf is sparse. What there is indicates that one should stick to general and common features of \LaTeX. That is good advice.

Some advice for latex2rtf, though, is misleading. It claims to pick up parameters from the statement for the “geometry” package. I tried changing my margins there, and while my \LaTeX document reflected those, the RTF I got did not. Also, I could include graphics, but they appeared without scaling in the RTF. After a while of Googling without result, I finally dug into the latex2rtf source code. That produced results.

To expand the width of text on the page, I ended up using the following:

\oddsidemargin 0.0in
\textwidth 6.5in

That worked for both the \LaTeX and RTF versions of the manuscript.

Instead of using an absolute size for included graphics, I found that if I used “[scale=0.45]” in my “includegraphics” call, that worked well enough for both document systems.

So far, I haven’t encountered a difficulty in having the equations carry over to RTF. This looks like it may actually work. I’ll have to figure out how to highlight differences in edited Word documents so that I can efficiently carry over edits to the \LaTeX source, but I’m hopeful that won’t be too difficult.