Thad Guy

Ran away

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Thad's Razor

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you saw no reason to believe in a world outside of your mind. Not that it changes anything, you still react to what your senses tell you, what else are you going to do? But, you just don't believe that your senses are necessarily truthfully reporting some 'objective reality.'

Now, assuming that, here is the fun question: what is the value of Occam's razor? In situations that involve truth, an objective reality, and two theories of equal explanatory power Occam's razor tells us the theory that makes the least amount of assumptions is most likely to reflect reality. But, we are assuming there is no reason for our experiences to be connected to some 'objective reality'. Without truth, it seems Occam's razor is only a principle that helps keep our theories about what we perceive as simple as logically possible.

But maybe, just maybe, simplicity isn't all it's cracked up to be. The best poems or movies are rarely the simplest ones. The most entertaining stories and plots are, again, rarely the simplest ones. Maybe, if we are not convinced of an objective reality, we should aim for something other than simplicity.

I propose a "Thad's Razor": If two theories have the same explanatory power, the the best story is the one that should be believed.

The changes this can make to our conception of the world are quite notable. For example, all those stories about ghosts...some of them might be good enough to believe and ambiguous enough not to contradict other experiences. However, replacing Occams' razor with Thad's razor would not result in giving up theories (like say, gravity) that do help us predict and explain our perceptions. Another example of the different explanations resulting from Thad's razor can be found with these pictures:

Valid Moments for the Naught F word

If we follow Occam's razor, these are all doctored photos. If we follow Thad's Razor, some of them actually happened (feel free to slap forehead in amazement).

May the best story win.

Sometimes Even The Best Intentions Can Result in Shooting a Friend in The Leg

Sometimes you start a project thinking that you are going to do something wonderful, to create something of honest value. Then you just end up shooting a good friend in the leg.

Building a house is a quaint enterprise. Something like growing tomatoes in a small garden or, if it is a big house, having a kid. Having built a house is the sort of thing that one can be proud of for the rest of their life. Despite all that other stuff, I built this house.

I had decided to build a house with three friends of mine. I am happy to report that the foundation was built before we even got there and we finished the frame rather quickly. It wasn't that hard when we had the proper guidance. Now we were at the "nail plywood to the frame" stage. It is a fun stage where the skeleton gains flesh.

The nail-gun made securing the plywood to the frame a great deal easier. I would quickly tap the board, and each tap would leave behind a neat shinny piece of metal. I even liked the sound of the nail-gun. It was a quick and clean grunt, expression with a purpose.

After nailing the end of the first piece of plywood to a stud I worked my way down the board while holding it up. The other end of the plywood was hanging off the house and bouncing a bit in the breeze. When I lined up the nail-gun against the complex wood grain I realized I had a problem. I didn't really know where the next stud was. At least not well enough to hit it with a nail from the other side of this large piece of plywood.

To prevent this annoying problem from recurring we decided to divide the needed tasks among the four of us. Jason, a somewhat skinny fellow with a pension for cowboy themed clothing, would measure and mark the plywood where the studs should be. I would nail the boards to the outside of the frame. Adam, the strong and focused individual among the four of us, would nail boards to the inside of the frame. Tim had some part in the process as well, but I don't remember what it was.

It was a good plan. We made an assembly line out of the thing. Before we even did one board I was convinced that this was going to work wonderfully. I got a marked plywood board from Jason and held it up against the frame. The clean grunts of the nail-gun secured one end of the large sheet of plywood to a stud. Even at this point you could see the house starting to develop some meat around it's grid-like bones. I felt my way along the board and fired the nails into the second line marked by Jason. Now, even when I took my hand off of the plywood it didn't really lean off of the house. I briefly stepped away from the house and let the nail-gun swing to my side as I admired what the house was becoming.

I am still impressed by the power that nail-guns are able to muster. They really shoot that nail. Luckily, the tip of the gun has to be depressed in order for the gun to fire. This helps prevent the nails from being fired into the air and assures that they are sent directly into some material. The trouble seems to arise when the material that the nail is fired into is not sturdy enough to stop the nail.

I stepped back to the board and started the third column of nails, starting on the top of the board and working down. I taped the tip of the nail-gun against the flexible wood and let it push my hand, and the gun, back. With each quick grunt of the nail-gun I marveled at how easy it was to join two pieces of wood so solidly. On my second to last shot in that column, I heard Adam yell from the other side of the wall directly after the nail-gun grunted.

As it turns out, studs are not always regularly spaced, some plywood doesn't stop nail-gun nails, Adam had not yet placed plywood over that part of the wall, bleeding can be slow to start from puncture wounds to the calf, and sometimes even the best intentions can result in shooting a friend in the leg.



Five Good Reasons to use Linux -or- Why OS X is a “gateway system” for many users

At the risk of getting myself labeled a techie or a nerd I'm going to talk about something a little uncommon for this blog. I find Linux, as a social phenomena, incredibly interesting. Aside from that I have recently been quite impressed with the quality of this operating system. Here are my top five reasons why.

1.Easy program installs

Because much of the software for Linux is open source and free, it can be distributed by pretty much anyone. This has allowed for the development of central “storage” locations for Linux software. With these central locations have come programs that can quickly retrieve software from them.

Things have gotten to the point now that through a very simple program one can download and install a multitude of programs with a single click of the mouse and an administrative password. This also works in reverse and makes it very easy to uninstall unneeded programs.

In my view, this is the killer feature of Linux distributions like Ubuntu.

2.Automatic updates

Sure, updates to the operating system is a common feature for almost all operating systems. This is not a unique feature of Linux. However, with Linux and it's freely distributed software all the open source software on your computer can be updated very very easily. When a new version of your word processor, music player, e-mail client, or web browser is available one little program can update them all with a single click.

This allows security holes to be sealed that much faster and, as far as the Linux community is concerned, would probably seriously impede the spread of a virus (which is not really an issue at the moment because almost no one is trying to write viruses for the Linux desktop user).

3.Multiple Desktops

Instead of sorting through a bunch of windows piled on top of each other like a playing cards you can have them neatly sorted into groups or “desktops”. Switching between these “desktops” is much faster than reshuffling the stack of programs to find the one you are looking for. Sadly the term “desktop” seems to be a little misleading here, because your actual desktop stays the same. This is probably better described as “multiple work spaces”.

In almost all of versions of Linux a small area of the screen shows mini versions of your workspaces. This allows you to tell where all your windows are with a glance to the corner of the screen. This mini version of your workspaces come complete with little logos or even detailed images letting you know which programs are which. You can even move your windows by clicking and dragging their mini counterpart to another desktop.

This may seem like a small feature, even something rather gimmicky. However, it makes using the computer a lot easier. Think about how many times that you switch between programs and windows during the day. Even if you only save half a second each time you look for a new window, that can quickly add up to a lot of time saved and frustration avoided. It has gotten to the point where I try to avoid dealing with computers that don't have this feature, any moderately complex task is just annoying without multiple desktops.

Some people try to compensate for a lack of multiple desktops by just buying bigger displays or several displays. This is a rich mans work around. Yet, it is impressively easy to setup six workspaces in Linux, and impressively annoying to setup six displays in any operating system.

I know that OS X is in the process of coming out with something similar in a little less than a year. This is certainly a step in the right direction for them. However, you won't be able to see your workspaces without a zooming expose-like step that, despite its original sexiness, can become annoying really fast and negate the time saving benefit of the workspaces.


Granted this is something OS X does quite well also. However, in my experience Linux is even a little bit more stable than OS X (and WAY more stable than Microsoft Windows). This seems to be largely due to the openness of much of the code used in Linux. Because the code is so accessible it has allowed an amazing amount of people to proof-read it and spot those annoying little bugs that lead to crashes.


There are firewall and anti-virus programs for the Linux system that are freely available and installable with a single click. These are truly industrial strength programs, and the ones that are used on many many of the computers that house websites. Yet, for the most part these programs are not needed by a desktop user. The system was designed with security in mind. For example a malicious program can't do anything to almost all of the important system files on your computer without your system password. By simply refusing to supply that password to suspect programs a great many problems are avoided. This permission based system can also prevent one from messing up their own computer by mistake (and prevent guests from changing your system settings when you are not looking).

Subterranean: A story about working in small spaces with poisonous things and how to deal with that

Tim was a slender man. He was also a relaxed individual. Possibly because of this laid back style his keen intellect could catch people off guard. Sometimes people just assume that mellow people are also slow thinking. Tim was quite good at analyzing situations. However, when given the chance he was a proponent of making people do stupid things until they figured out what was happening. Wherever he went he was followed by an air of self-aware, and slightly shy, absurdity.

Tim worked with me up on the ranch for a little while. One of our projects when on the ranch was building a house. The site of our proto-house was nestled in the mountains south of the main ranch house. The idea was that this small cabin, when completed, could house the main ranch hand as well as a guest or two when needed. I particularly liked this project because it allowed me to proudly (and unusually truthfully) declare one of those “life goal” things, that I had "built a house."

One hot day Tim and I volunteered to put the insulation on the bottom of the house. This task involved crawling into the two foot high space under the house. Once under the house one would drag in a bunch of insulation and lie on one's back stapling it to the boards above.

For the most part, the crawl-space under the house was sealed off from the outside by the external wall. This meant that getting under the house involved going down one particular big hole on the side of the house. This entrance shaft looked sort of like an over sized dry square well.

Stepping down into that hole I remained blanketed in the New Mexican sun. However, while standing in that hole I was the only thing I could see that was well lit. The crunching and grinding of the gravel under my shoes, hands, and knees as I crawled under the house was surprisingly satisfying. The noise of my feet on the ground and the rough textures around me lent the experience a feeling of present reality.

As Tim handed me the insulation to pull under the house behind me it was also nice to think about how for the next few hours, at least, I would get to work in a cool place rather than the hot sun directly above us.

Once we were under the house I lay down on one side of a particular side of the building and Tim lay about an insulation lengths away from me. With the sudden twangy clicks of the staple gun I secured one end of the insulation to the boards above me and then passed the other end to Tim who then secured the other end.

Though it was nice and cool under the house, deep and dank places are not without their own dangers. After working for a little while I came across a black widow. I was in an ideal position to identify a black widow's red hourglass on the abdomen of this particular arachnid because it was about five inches above my face. I stopped scooting toward the next section of floor-in-need-of-insulation. At first all I did was squirm a little while I looked up at the little spider dangling above me. After a moment or two I started yelling. During my yelling the spider started to lower itself towards my face. It was apparently unaware that I was so close to it. I figured it should have been scared of my relatively large teeth. In retrospect, this would have been the best time to "dodge" and get out of the way.

The back widow has a very small amount of very potent neurotoxic venom. Because of the small volume of the venom, a bite from a black widow is rarely fatal. Before the days of antivenom 5% of reported bites resulted in fatality. Despite the rarity of death, a black widow bite can lead to “latrodectism”. This can mean sever pain in muscle groups near the bite, muscle cramping, headaches, dizziness, tremors, joint pain, rapid heart beat, hyperventilation, and other less-that-fun experiences.

Alerted by my yelling, Tim rolled onto his side to look at me. Then he slowly extended the hand with the staple gun in it. He clasped his wrist with his left hand to stabilize and support the gun hand. Tim carefully closed one eye. With a little chuckle he delicately aligned his one open eye with the top of the gun, and with the black widow.

When the spider was about three inches directly above my upper lip Tim started firing. *Click. *Click. One staple after another arched by my face, none of them hitting the spider, one or two delicately bouncing off of the side of my face.

"Tim, what are you doing?"
"No worries, I'm going to kill it."
*Click, *Click
"I hate spiders. What if you hit the strand of web that it is hanging from?"
"Then I will be able to shoot it once it lands, or squish it"
Tim continued to shoot the staple gun. *Click, *Click, *Click. Then with a slow and careful grasp...*Click. The staples sailed by the spider, and its web.

"Are you kidding me?"

End Over

Remember those little caplets that would turn into “dinosaurs” when dropped in water? I know of a person who is sort of like that (though he didn't have the shape of a dinosaur after the expansion, and I don't think it was just water that caused this transformation). His name is Mark.

Before about the age of 15 Mark was like the little caplet. He was small for his age. He had glasses that were about half an inch thick and his hair always seemed to be rather disheveled and a little greasy. In the middle of his teen-age years Mark remade himself, apparently as a sheer act of will. He became incredibly strong, capable, cleanly, and still amazingly nice.

Once Mark committed to something, he refused to betray that commitment. It was this trait that allowed him to change his appearance so much. However, in Mark this trait also created a level of honor found in only a rare few. Betrayal was not an option for Mark. He stood up for what he believed.
* * *
Mountain biking was an excellent pastime on the ranch. There were steep slopes that made it hard and eventually gave one a sense of accomplishment. There were also forests to obscure one's totally embarrassing falls.

To make things more exciting we would start our rides from many different places on the ranch. Due to the size of the ranch, this meant getting places on the ranch with the bikes but without riding the bikes. Such an enterprise often entailed stuffing the bikes into the back of our 1992 ford explorer. As much as I liked this car it was not quite optimal for bike transportation. Since there were three of us we could put down only one of the back seats. We took off the wheels and seats of the bikes and stuffed them into the awkwardly shaped space that wrapped around the one backseat.

For some unfortunate reason Mark always seemed to be the one who sat in the back next to the bikes. As we bounced across the ranch the bikes tended to become rather rambunctious. They would honestly leap a foot or two into the air when we went over hills and come crashing down slightly after the explorer itself did. It could be argued that this was, in large part, a result of the driving style employed. However, right now we are focusing on the funny situation in the back seat, not about the driver or on determining blame.

The fact that the bikes leapt into the air and moved towards Mark with ruthless force was regrettable. However, the real kicker was that when the heap of metal landed it would lock together. One piece of twisted metal would loop over the next and so forth. This locking prevented Mark from pushing away the attacking bikes and over time resulted in a continual loss of space to the bikes tireless invasion. By the time we arrived at our trail-head Mark had about half the personal space that he stated with and about ¾ of what he needed. Upon arrival Mark also had a bike fork pressed firmly into his thigh.
* * *
At the end of the bike ride we went down a final steep section. We lost enough altitude going down this final slope that we were able to zoom down it. This section was long enough to convince us that we could totally handle flying down it. If it were steeper, I think we would have slowed down more. But, on this particular hill we just leaned in close to our bikes and felt the air go past us faster and faster. Due to our speed we spread out a bit, so that if someone fell there would at least be the possibility that the person behind them could avoid hitting them.

Mark was the final one to come down the hill and we were able to watch him flicker between the trees on his descent. He was going fast. Then, Mark and his bike charged behind one particular tree. When he appeared on the other side of the tree he was no longer riding his bike. He was sprinting with all his might and leaning forward like someone who couldn't quite keep up with their speed.
* * *
As it worked out Mark had hit a deep pothole in the path. This particular pothole was so deep that it was able to violently and completely stop his fast moving front tire. However, the pothole did not stop Mark or the rest of Mark's bike. This resulted in Mark and the back end of the mountain bike gracefully pivoting around the axle in the middle of the front tire. Mark pivoted towards the ground at the same speed he had been biking. While he was looking straight ahead at the seemingly vertical earth coming at him Mark was somehow able to do a series of extremely helpful actions. Mark was able to get is feet out of the clips that held them to the pedals of the bike. Then he was able to get his feet up to the height of his armpits and over the handlebars of the bike (before these same handlebars collided with the ground). From this awkward fetal position Mark was able to break into a full sprint. A sprint so fast that few could have sustained in the best of circumstances. This sprint turned out to be just fast enough to prevent him from performing a painfully unexpected cartwheel.

I am not a completely ignorant man. I have watched the Olympics and the world cup. However, this is honestly one of the most impressive physical acts that I have ever seen. It is so impressive partly because he did it completely without warning, and partly because it would have hurt so much if he didn't pull it off.
* * *
Mark slowed down at the bottom of the hill with his bike far behind him. He stopped and leaned forward, placing his hands on his knees. After looking up the hill at the bikes he looked at us and panted “Looks like I got back at the bike for the car ride”.