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On Election Night 2020

November 3rd, 2020 No comments

I posted something similar to this on a friend’s Facebook wall in response to a suggestion that it’s ok to still be friends even if we vote differently.

Let me perfectly clear: It is absolutely not. Nope. Not this time. Not anymore.

This election isn’t just about policy or Trump/Pence vs. Biden/Harris. It’s fundamentally more than that: a vote for continuing Republican control of government is a vote for everything that they stand for: the corruption, lies and deceit, the anti-science rhetoric (which so far has cost the lives of nearly 230 thousand Americans), and behavior from the highest powers in government that exemplifies and epitomizes all of the bad -isms: racism, sexism, you name it — the list goes on.

This election is not about policy or lawmaking. This election is about how we the voting public determine what it means to be a decent person in a rational, civilized society.

Does that mean you want to promote intolerance and oppression of others just because they are different from you? Does it mean that you want to destroy the health and well-being of your community simply to fill some coffers a little higher, even when you probably won’t ever see a single cent of that? If so, then vote Republican.

Or does that mean that you want to work to more precisely identify and start resolving all the systemic problems in our government and law enforcement, and actually listen to the advice of reputable experts and scientists on how to deal with various socioeconomic and (especially now) medical issues? Does that mean you want to keep the rule of law as a core backbone of our society instead of letting it be pulverized by Republican cheats? If so, then vote Democratic.

No, I don’t particularly like Biden or Harris. But I still voted for them. Yes, I hate that our two-party system effectively forces us to make such a choice instead of electing much more qualified third-party candidates. But in order to fix the broken system we have to work within its constraints, at least for now. And of our two viable options, they (Biden/Harris) are infinitely more qualified and deserving of the offices than the incumbent Trump/Pence. Similarly to all congressional offices: Democratic is the only reasonable choice.

In my opinion, if you vote Republican or third-party at this point, especially after seeing the devastation wrought by the GOP in the last 4 years (and unfortunately, much more to likely come thanks to the recent Supreme Court confirmation of Barrett), then we fundamentally disagree on what it means to be a decent person in a rational, civilized society; and the difference is no longer one of sociopolitical opinion, but one of different objective worldviews. And that is a difference that is irreconcilable. If that is the case for you, then know that I no longer wish to interact with you or associate with you in any way.

As is oft being shared: You can’t tell someone you love them, and then vote for someone who will hurt them.

That said, please get out there and vote safely if you have not already done so. Vote Blue like your life depends on it: if not yours directly, I can guarantee you that is 100% the case for at least one other person that you care about.

An Open Letter to Costco: Please Fix Your Password Handling

June 9th, 2020 No comments

(Editor’s note: This originally happened in early March, just before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began in earnest.)

To whom it may concern at Costco: The process for connecting one’s membership card to their online Costco.com account through your official mobile app is nothing short of an overwhelmingly under-engineered mess: a combination of unintuitive workflow, security practices which serve only to epitomize mediocrity, and business logic decisions that, frankly, are so obviously wrong that they should probably be outlawed.

Okay maybe I’m exaggerating and getting a little ahead of myself here. Let’s begin this once more without the vitriol:

Dear Costco,

We need to talk.

I’ve been a long-time member and nearly-weekly customer of your local warehouse for many years; and I recently made the mistake of losing my membership card. It should have been in my wallet, but it was not. The specifics of my idiocy are not relevant here: suffice it to say, I no longer had my physical card. I was unaware of this until last weekend when I arrived at my local Costco warehouse for my weekly grocery run and found that slot in my wallet to be bare.

“That’s no problem,” I thought. “I have all my membership details stored in my 1Password and can easily just get a replacement card at the membership counter. No big deal.”

This is where the an attentive audience might have heard the record scratch, and a narrator say: “It was a very big deal.”

Upon reaching the customer service desk, the representative was very polite and asked me to provide my photo ID so that she could give me a replacement. Unfortunately for me, my license expired last month and even though I successfully renewed it, its slot in my wallet was filled only by a temporary paper license from the DMV until I earlier today received the new permanent one in my mail. Without that photo identification, I could get only a temporary paper card that would allow me access to the warehouse, but then I would only be allowed to pay in cash.

…Cash? …In 2020? Are you actually serious?

To be fair, I do carry a small amount amount of cash on me for emergencies; but as this is my usual weekly bulk grocery run, I can assure you that this small cash cache would have been woefully insufficient for what I was going to buy. And I am not going to the ATM just for groceries. (Again, it’s 2020 after all.)

With a spark of insight, I realized, “That’s no problem. I can just add my card to their official mobile app and use the card that way.” Once again, the record scratch and narrator here are all but audible.

Adding the card to the official app seemed to be fairly easy: Once I had input my membership number and some identifying information — ZIP code and name and such — I was shown a notice that told me something along the lines of: “You need to visit a Costco warehouse to complete the verification in-person.” (I apologise here; I forget the exact text. Had I known at the time what I know now about this process, I would have been more diligent about taking screenshots and whatnot.) This seems reasonable: You want to ensure that the person adding that account is actually a member on that specific account. I understand.

I walked back to the customer service desk and requested the noted verification. The representative there took down my email address and said to follow the instructions in the email to confirm my account. Again, something that seemed, at the time, quite reasonable.

A couple of minutes later, I checked my email and instantly realized that this was to be the last reasonable part of my afternoon: The email I received had a link to complete my account setup and the following information text:

If you have an existing Costco.com account, you will need to create a new password. This will verify your membership number and link it to your Costco.com account.

This is utterly ridiculous. I asked the representative why I need to change my password to confirm my email address, and although she was very polite about it, she simply told me she wasn’t sure, but recommended changing the password by simply changing the last character of my current password to something else, like an @ symbol or some such.

First of all, this necessity to change password is a severe flaw in your design. I should not need to change my account password just to verify my email address. There are many good and obvious correct solutions to this problem; and any software engineer with basic experience in this area would suggest one of them here. For example, one possible user-friendly way to do this would be to have the user log in (if not already) and then input some secret single-use passcode that is sent to their email (like a one-time password or random alphanumeric token that they could copy/paste or some such). This could be made even easier by by having the email contain a login link with that code as a query parameter: it would require only one click from the user!

Please note that this is the way almost every major website that handles accounts does email verification: no password change required. Why? Because forcing users to go through yet another hurdle in your software means you will have fewer users. The math is quite simple: The less difficult you make your software to use, the more that people will use it.

Secondly, the entire purpose of me going in-person to this customer service representative was (presumably) so that she could put in my email address and membership number into their computer so that their automated system could send me the email for password reset. This is yet another piece of your workflow that is incomprehensibly flawed: I should not need to verify my email address in-person. I know this is the case because once she had the email sent, I was able to do everything else through my phone with zero other human interaction.

I’m already logged in to my Costco account, and that is keyed by my email address. Just like in the method I described above, Costco should be able to easily verify my email address by sending me some unique code or token that I can enter in a form or via some special URL.

Costco, you should not need to have me verify my email offline. It’s yet another hurdle in your software that I have to jump over, just to use what should be one of its most basic features.

Thirdly, forcing password changes like this serves only to promote insecurity. Not only does this make users more prone to using weak passwords to begin with, but it also encourages them to change passwords in a way that is very predictable — and hence, insecure. See Lorrie Cranor’s FTC blog post for a lot more details and linked studies. Her particular post deals more so with password expiration policies than single-instance forced password resets, but the crux is the same: Forcing a password reset when there is no good reason to do so inherently promotes insecure passwords.

With a heavy sigh, I figured I had no choice and so created a new password entry in my 1Password and set about to change the password so as to confirm the account. Lo and behold, I could not use 1Password’s auto-fill functionality to put in the generated random password. This is a bit frustrating, to be sure, but not every text input in Android yet supports this. And frustrating as it may be, clipboard is always an option. So that lack of auto-fill was almost never a showstopper… until now.

Not only could I not auto-fill the password, but Costco’s official mobile app and their website both prohibit copy/paste functionality in the “New Password” fields. For someone who tries to be reasonably secure online, this is a usability nightmare. By denying the ability to use both paste and auto-fill functionality, Costco, you are adding yet another hurdle to your software, this time in the form of a terrible dilemma: do your users trade away security for ease of use? Of course they should not have to. Being both easy-to-use and secure is the raison d’être for credential-management tools like 1Password to exist at all. NIST themselves even specifically recommend pasting from password managers:

Verifiers SHOULD permit claimants to use “paste” functionality when entering a memorized secret. This facilitates the use of password managers, which are widely used and in many cases increase the likelihood that users will choose stronger memorized secrets.

“Digital Identity Guidelines: Authentication and Lifecycle Management” (NIST Special Publication 800-63B) by Paul A. Grassi, et al. DOI: 10.6028/NIST.SP.800-63b

Okay, okay, so it’s not all bad, right? Just change my password and continue on? It’s only a one-time thing, after all. If only it were that simple. After creating a new random password and spending a solid three minutes meticulously typing it in twice to double-check it, I clicked “Update” so save the new password…only to see an error page appear and be prompted for a new password once more:

Password must include the following:
• Use between 8 and 20 characters
• Include at least one letter
• Does not contain blank spaces or the following special characters: < > ” \ . ,

This is yet one more hurdle your users have to jump over just to get basic functionality out of your software: in order to get through this quickly, most users will simply choose easily remembered (and therefore, easily guessed) passwords that meet the bare minimum of these guidelines. Moreover, by restricting the length and character possibilities of the password options, you are limiting the complexity of it. Once again, the math is straightforward: the longer and more complex the password, the more secure it is. The math here is once more nearly self-evident: the greater the entropy — that is, overall complexity — of the password, the greater the difficulty in guessing it through brute-force, dictionary attacks, or other means.

Thankfully 1Password has a “memorable password” option, so instead of a random character string which would be difficult to input from memory, I could create a password that’s a sequence of words and numbers (e.g., “Correct1Horse2Battery3Staple4“) which made it slightly less irritating to remember and type in, but my fourth point remains: Password restrictions promote insecure passwords. In fact, Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror summed it up quite nicely in four words: Password Rules Are Bullshit.

So in closing: Costco, please fix your password-handling and account-verification user experience flows. These are at least 4 flaws I found in barely one hour of using your app; and I can only imagine what other usability or security obstacles I could probably find with more time and effort. These flaws are ones not of code, but of architecture.

It’s perfectly fine — we all make our share of mistakes! But mistakes are made to be learned from, not repeated and left unchecked. If left as-is, these are and will be harmful to your customers from both perspectives of usability and security — two considerations that while seemingly disparate, should always go hand-in-hand. Not only does it promote insecure password usage, but in making your workflow actively hostile to the user, you are pushing away potential users and discouraging people from using the app at all.

Please fix these. Your users will thank you, because it will be easier and less counter-intuitive. Your IT staff will thank you, because it will be more secure. Your customer service staff will thank you, because they will not need to deal with as many account reset and usability issues.

And of course, I will thank you, because you will have acted positively on constructive criticism to enhance my experience with your software.

Here We Are. #BlackLivesMatter

June 2nd, 2020 No comments

I speak to you, the chosen ones.
With all our strength, we stand aligned.
[…]
We’re breaking the walls from inside…
…so rise to the sound of Revolution.

Excerpt from “Revolution” by Kamelot, from their album “Haven” (2015).

I’ve been pondering what to say that hasn’t already been said about all the series of unfortunate events that seems to be the trend in the United States. I have neither the courage nor the logistics to be part of the protests in person; but staying quiet about them feels like tacit approval of the very system they are protesting against. And this, at least, I cannot do.

However, it is difficult to know exactly what to write here. I want to help, but I don’t want to mistakenly “help” in the wrong way: I want to incite change, not just more anger. I want to promote equality and education, not violence and vitriol.

These recent events are merely the culmination of many decades of injustice and intolerance; and the ideal solution would be change in the underlying systems which allow these to continue so pervasively. But in addition to these systemic failures of justice, there are lot of other aspects of our leadership structure and personnel that are detrimental also; and I’d like to mention those in this post too. I contend that no one issue here is more important than the other. Rather, all are individually important for their own reasons; and I am remarking on them grouped together here only for the sake of attempting to express my thoughts more completely.

In the year 2020, we have at the forefront of sociopolitical power in our country and many others, people with very little competency and nearly as little accountability. And they are more often than not kept in their high offices by corporations and lobbyists who can effectively win any election just by throwing enough money at it, rather than by any merits of candidacy. Third-party candidates almost never succeed — even if they are exceedingly qualified and capable — solely because they are of a third party.

In the year 2020, during a global viral pandemic, we have a significant number of people who, despite such claims being thoroughly debunked by every reputable medical organization, are advocating against the safety and efficacy of vaccination, even though a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine would be — once properly developed — the only truly safe and effective way to return to some semblance of normalcy.

In the year 2020, when science has graced us with the capabilities of astronauts being able to live and research on the International Space Station long-term, collaborating between many nations to further humanity’s knowledge, and when we can video chat in real-time between these astronauts in orbit and people on both sides of the the planet simultaneously using pocket-sized always-connected devices that can also quite literally show us the breadth of all human knowledge…we have groups of people accepting outlandish conspiracy theories and protesting against the very existence of COVID-19, saying things like the world is flat, manmade climate change is not real, and that COVID-19 is somehow a hoax so that the governments can track their citizens better. (Of course it should not need to be said, but none of these are true. And, fun fact: if they wanted to track their citizens better, it would be far easier to do so using the always-on always-connected mobile phones that almost everyone has on their persons at all times. But hey, who am I to argue logic with those who refuse its clarity.)

In the year 2020, almost a century after the Civil Rights movement first began in earnest, there are still people who think that it is somehow okay to devalue other human beings simply because they are different: whether that is a difference of skin color, gender, or sexual orientation, or because they are of a different socioeconomic group, or because they are of a different culture or race, or for any other aspect of them that differs from a prescribed societal norm. (To be clear: this is absolutely not okay.)

And more recently in the year 2020, echoing many prior instances such as the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and many others, we have police officers who, despite having sworn an oath “to never betray […] the public trust” and “to hold [themself] and others accountable for [their] actions” (source: IACP Oath of Honor), abuse their power to epitomize this intolerance through clear excessive force leading to outright murder — in this most recent case, the murder of George Floyd — and are often not held justly accountable for it.

And just a few days ago, after the United States alone reached over 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and still has almost 2 million confirmed infected (source: CDC), we had the chief executive officer of the United States announce that our country would be leaving the World Health Organization, in order to continue his racist trend of blaming China for this disease. (Fun fact: China itself holds about 19% of the world’s entire population. So, yes, it is going to be a significant focus for pandemic efforts, on the simple basis that it holds such a large proportion of the world population. That’s just how epidemiology works.)

Let me be perfectly clear: None of this is acceptable.

Respect should be the default in our interactions with other people, not some reward earned through commonality of class or culture. Respect should never have to be earned. It should always be given.

And yet, here we are.

We should not be so entrenched in a political system that so readily divides issues across bipartisan lines. Parties should be debating what the correct solutions are to our socioeconomic and welfare problems, not debating whether these problems even exist at all. We should not have to vote for the lesser of two evils simply because the qualified third candidate won’t win.

And yet, here we are.

We should not, in the midst of a viral pandemic, be separating ourselves from the primary worldwide organization whose current overarching goal is to end this pandemic with a minimum of life loss.

And yet, here we are.

We should not have groups of people afraid to simply live out their lives, due to the high likelihood of being attacked by those in power who should be protecting them, just because they look or act differently.

And yet, here we are.

#BlackLivesMatter should not need to be a hashtag.

And yet, here we are.

People should not need to be protesting in the midst of a viral pandemic, that their lives are in danger from the very people who should be protecting them, by endangering their own lives even further as part of a (hopefully peaceful) crowd.

And yet, here we are.

We should not have our police officers armed to the teeth and attacking the very people they are sworn to protect, while our medical personnel are struggling to make ends meet with not enough PPE and ventilator equipment to help keep people alive through this global pandemic.

And yet, here we are.

We should not have such intolerance so hardwired into the justice and political systems that even the people who hold arguably some of the highest offices in the world are willfully ignorant and continue to encourage prejudice over progress, and wealth over well-being.

And yet. Here. We. Are.

To you protesters, please stay safe. Stay vigilant. Stay peaceful. You are bold; you are brave; and I stand with you, albeit virtually.

Open Letter to the Trump-voting American Public

November 9th, 2016 No comments

Dear America,

What the actual fuck?

I am ashamed. I am appalled. I am stunned. And I am speechless. I am disgusted to be an American today.

America, you stand on the precipice of electing to arguably one of the most powerful jobs on Earth not a qualified (though flawed) woman, but instead a man who, among his other terrible attributes

  1. spouts science-denying rhetoric, including having many times remarked that global warming isn’t a man-made concern, that it is a hoax started by the Chinese, and that vaccines cause autism — for the record: it is, it isn’t, and they don’t;
  2. has failed virtually every business venture in which he’s partaken, including declaring bankruptcy at least four times;
  3. has neither military nor political experience of any significance;
  4. has repeatedly advocated for violence as a solution to disputes including suggesting using nukes on enemies preemptively (!) and encouraging his supporters to punch protesters at his rallies;
  5. has repeatedly insulted and belittled women, handicapped people, LGBTQ people, Muslims, blacks, immigrants and many others;
  6. has been endorsed and held to high esteem by the KKK for his intolerance;
  7. has encouraged his supporters to bully voters at polling locations; and
  8. has staunchly been an opponent of LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights.
Let’s not forget that his VP candidate, Mike Pence, is arguably just as scary or possibly moreso: He has been outspoken against both Roe v. Wade and LGBT equal rights, including advocating for repeal of same-sex marriage; and has even suggested using federal funding to pay for so-called  “gay conversion therapy,” a malicious, wholly unethical, and entirely ineffective practice which is already (thankfully) banned in five states, including California.
 
Any single one of these should automatically be a red flag for someone of such potentially high office. But Trump (and in some cases Pence) embody all of these failures as a person and more; and with Republicans appearing to be winning the House and Senate majorities too, you’ve effectively removed even the checks and balances that are in the government by design to restrict such power. In addition to this, Trump’s candidacy has effectively legitimized the bigotry, xenophobia, and intolerance that we’ve worked so hard to rid ourselves of over the past two centuries…I guess the thought is that if someone of Trump’s stature can do something so horrible or cruel and get away with it, why can’t John Q. Public too? But this “us versus them” mentality is exactly the sort of fear-mongering that Trump is succeeding in spreading.
 
Just look at his record: The only person Donald J. Trump cares about is Donald J. Trump. If you thought he could “make America great again” even though virtually every political and economic expert worldwide is telling you otherwise, or that he could fix our economy the way he “fixed” his businesses, you are both mistaken and ill-informed. If you thought he could fix our immigration policies by closing ourselves off from the world and dividing us, you are again gravely mistaken and need to relearn basic United States history. If you think he can fix our healthcare issues by repealing ObamaCare, leaving 20+ million Americans without a decent health insurance option, then you are literally dooming many of these — your fellow Americans! — to death or disability simply because they can’t afford treatment. And if you think for one moment that he even is remotely qualified or deserving of the role of President of the United States even though he knows so little of the Constitution that he would be sworn to uphold and defend, then you are deeply, horrendously mistaken and I pity just how ignorant you truly are.
 
Do I agree with every one of Hillary Clinton’s policy proposals and ideals? No, absolutely not! (For example, everything I’ve read about the TPP just makes me despise it more and more.) But when it comes down to it, she has a decent amount of experience and knowledge to succeed in the role of President, which would have put her leaps and bounds above Trump (who has none). In addition, she had the support of Senator Bernie Sanders, former presidential candidate (and arguably someone more suited to the job than even she). I would have hoped that would be enough for those who voted for him in the primary…? But I digress.
 
Oh well, the long night is over and the election is done, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. (Again.)
 
Congratulations, America. You’ve made your collective choice. I would have thought it to be a comparatively easy one, but apparently I have forgotten the error of your voting ways. In the 2000 and 2004 elections when you voted in George W. Bush and a GOP-heavy congress, you chose wrong; and those set us back many years of economic, scientific, and sociopolitical growth. I thought you had learned form those failures; but I was incorrect. A decade later and yet again you chose wrong. And the detriment to not only your own country this time, but to the rest of the world will likely be far in excess of anything we can imagine. This is going to leave a scar that time will not easily erase. I’d say to learn from history and not repeat this terrible mistake; but it seems you’ve twice failed to learn the lesson already.
 
We do have one saving grace, however: The electoral college is in place specifically to ensure that a dangerous candidate, even if victorious in the popular vote, does not become the elected president. I now urge the electors in those red states to do what’s right, going against the ignorance and idiocy of their own populace.
 
I hope you’re proud of yourselves, America. I’m not. I’m disgraced and disgusted by you. And when so many of you are willing to put such a dangerous and divisive man into power, I am truly scared of what the future holds for our country, for our world, and for humanity.
Categories: Politics Tags: ,

An Open Letter to Ken Ham (And: Thank You, Bill Nye)

September 4th, 2012 No comments

(I don’t normally post rants like this, but every so often I come upon something so frustrating to refrain from doing otherwise. Apologies for the tone.)

This is an open letter to Mr. Ken Ham, and a response to his YouTube video, “Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye ‘The Humanist Guy’“, since comments are disabled there. Time indices with the quotations are approximate, and mark the end of that quotation in the aforementioned video.

Mr. Ham:

Before I even respond to the video content itself, I want to address one tiny issue: Comments are not enabled on your video. Why would this be? I believe that this is due to the fact that you KNOW in your heart that what you’re saying is neither sensible nor rational; and you simply want to prevent people from flaming you or posting any form of rebuttal to you as a reply. Well, thank goodness people like me have websites where we can post just about anything we want (within legal limits, of course). And here is my rebuttal to you, good sir: YOU ARE AN IMBECILE. Now, let’s examine the content of your video, and I’ll explain to you why I feel this way.

“In fact, Bill Nye doesn’t really understand science.” (0:57, 2:39, 2:42)

Things like this are stated multiple times throughout your video. And I must admit, I am a bit speechless. I don’t even know where to properly begin responding to that. Let me get this straight, then: Someone who doesn’t understand science could earn a Bachelor of Science degree (emphasis mine) from a private, well-reputed, and highly-accredited Ivy-League university? Someone who doesn’t understand science can develop a hydraulic pressure resonance supressor that’s still used in 747s today? Someone who doesn’t understand science can host his own TV show specifically teaching science to a young audience? Someone who doesn’t understand science can make a sundial that also helps with camera color calibration for the Mars probes? Look at Bill Nye’s record through academia and his professional career. OF COURSE that man understands science. He is a scientist. He lives it every day!

“I mean, Bill Nye himself actually is not a scientist. He studied mechanical engineering […]” (1:23)

Well, let’s see here. According to a Google Definition search, the word “scientist” means “A person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.” So, let’s see if this applies to Bill Nye…is mechanical engineering a natural or physical science? Well, in fact, yes. ME is in essence the science of physical processes and how to apply them for benefits in technology. And does he have expert knowledge of it? Well…he has a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell,  three Honorary Doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins, many years of hands-on experience working for Boeing and as an aeronautics consultant, multiple scientific patents,  and has one of his inventions on the Mars rovers and another in most 747s still in use today (Source). I’d say that qualifies him quite well as an expert. So yeah, he’s an expert in the physical sciences. So, he is a scientist, by your own words. You’re 0-for-2 so far Mr. Ham.

“Bill Nye has an agenda […] to teach them they are the result of evolutionary processes; that they came from slime over millions of years.” (0:53)

“You can divide science into historical science that’s talking about the past, or observational science. That’s the science that builds our technology.” (1:07)

All science is “observational science.” This whole “historical science” talk is nonsense. Bill Nye is a scientist; and science is inherently observational. Science tries to learn and impart knowledge of the truths of the universe; and how do we do this? Through the scientific method, with painstaking attention to detail in reasoning and evidence. We observe what happens in nature and try to understand every tiny piece of the how and the why. And with the multitude of evidence we have for it — fossils, genealogy, tracing disease patterns, microbial growth, etc. — the theory of evolution is quite a sound one. (If you want proper historical science, try a field like paleontology or archaeology.) You’re 0-for-4 so far…

“I mean, the word ‘science’ means ‘knowledge.'” (0:58)

And Mr. Ham scores a point! Oh good. So you are in fact able to produce some iota of reason from that hole in your face.

“He says if you deny evolution to children, they’re going to have problems, because we need engineers. Well wait a minute. Engineering…and evolution? What has evolution got to do with engineering?” (1:19)

I’ll see your irrationality and raise you a “lolwut?”

The problem with denying children evolution is that in so doing, you’re denying them the very concepts of how to think critically. Of how to properly infer knowledge from some data. Of how to support that knowledge with further tests and experiments. Without these critical thinking skills, any attempt at studying engineering will fail before it can even begin. (Heck, I’d wager good money that most of the entire point of engineering is about finding clever solutions to problems in various related fields, like electronics, aerospace, fluid dynamics, architecture, etc.)

“I hope he did not apply any of his evolutionary principles to any of Boeing’s airplanes.” (1:32)

Well, in fact, he did. Not evolutionary processes. But sound technical and scientific principles. And with those he helped develop a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for the 747, still in use today.

“I’ll tell you what is real abuse, what is inappropriate for children: When you take generations of kids and you teach them that they’re just animals; [that] there’s no God; you’re a result of millions of years of evolutionary processes.” (2:12)

Call it abuse if you want, but I’ll repeat what I wrote above: Science is about finding and teaching the truths of our universe. Nothing more.

So you then proceed to acknowledge that we can observe and measure radioactivity while at the same time mentioning that bones and fossils aren’t found with photos or timestamps, so we couldn’t know how old they are. But of course, that same radiation-based technology couldn’t, you know, tell us how old those fossils are! (Le’ *gasp*!)

“He doesn’t teach children how to think critically.” (3:06)

Do you actually believe this? Seriously? A scientist who devotes his LIFE to educating the future generations of scientists…doesn’t teach them to think clearly? Are you really this daft?

“If evolution is true, I mean, it’d be so obvious to the kids that it’s true; but it’s not.” (3:29)

Apparently you are that daft! So, let me get this straight…according to you, stuff that’s true is obvious to school children? Hmm…let’s try this. The square of the length of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides after subtracting twice the product of those two side lengths by the cosine of the acute angle between them. (This is the law of cosines, straight from trigonometry.) This is absolutely true; but is it obvious to children? Heck no. In fact, it’s barely clear to the math students when they first see it.

Okay, maybe you’re not so much a fan of mathematics so let’s try another one – this time from the realm of chemistry. The rate of diffusion or effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molecular mass. This is Graham’s Law, straight from a high school or college chemistry course. Again, this has been experimentally shown to be true; but is it obvious to children? Minus a few child prodigies here and there, I’d say this is definitely not an obvious result to kids.

 “You have to do what Bill Nye the Humanist Guy wants. You have to protect them from hearing anything about creation. You totally indoctrinate them. You brainwash them. You don’t teach them to think critically at all.” (3:50)

Indoctrination. Brainwashing. Those are some pretty good terms for teaching creationism.

“Isn’t it interesting how Christians are not frightened to teach their children about evolution?” (4:10)

Apparently you’re trying to make them so. And if not, why even have this argument at all?

“[…] and see why you don’t want Bill Nye ‘the Humanist Guy'” teaching your children.” (4:36)

God-willing, I’d love to have Bill Nye teach my kids science. When I was a boy, he was one of a few who really helped inspire in me a deep appreciation for mathematics and sciences, and I would come home from school eager to see another episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy on PBS. (Even nowadays, I try to catch episodes of Bill Nye’s Solving for X when I can. Sure, they’re usually topics I already know quite well, but he covers them in such neat ways, and has very clever and humorous demonstrations to show them.)

So, in closing, I’d like to repeat my opening remark: Mr. Ken Ham, you are an imbecile. It’s people like you that are holding back our society. Holding back our scientific progress. Stop with your lies and stop spreading FUD about things of which you know seemingly so little. Please disconnect your computers entirely from the internet, and make it a better place in so doing.

I would also like to end this open letter by extending a personal debt of gratitude to Bill Nye. If you are reading this, Mr. Nye, thank you for all that you’ve done for science. And thank you for standing up to religious weirdos like Mr. Ham over here. *thumbs up*

Respectfully yours,

Peter Gordon

Categories: Science Tags: , ,

CSUs to Cut Spring 2010 Admissions

July 15th, 2009 2 comments

This is absolutely crazy. Someone just posted it to our Facebook group:

Lowering Enrollment: Budget Cuts Force California State University to Close 2010 Spring Admissions

As part of an overall strategy to address an unprecedented budget reduction of $584 million for 2009-10, California State University campuses will not accept student applications for the 2010 spring term – with very few exceptions.

In addition, quarter campuses that have been accepting admission applications for the 2010 winter term ceased accepting applications as of July 6.

“Only fully-eligible, first-time freshmen, upper-division undergraduate transfers or graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants who have applied for admission prior to July 6 may be offered admission to the 2010 winter term,” said Jeri Echeverria, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer.

In addition, no admission applications will be accepted for the 2010 spring term at either quarter or semester campuses, for any enrollment category. CSU has typically admitted more than 35,000 freshmen, undergraduate transfer and graduate students during the spring term.

This is just so unbelievably wrong. A strong education is the foundation of a prosperous workforce. I’m all for fixing the economy, but cutting off one of its roots is not the right way to do it! I’m stunned and quite speechless. 😮

Categories: Life Tags: , , ,