Tuesday, August 30, 2005

American math

America's math skills are suffering pretty badly these days. Apparently some believe that 300=300,000.
The Mayor of Biloxi, A. J. Holloway, said: “This is our tsunami.”
I know the man is going through a tough time - his town was devastated by hurricane Katrina.

However, what he said is completely asinine. How you can you say that "this is our tsunami"? Katrina is a tragedy, but tragedies occur on all scales, ranging from broken fingernail to genocide. In terms of human lives, the following are roughly comparable:

1 tsunami
10 Union Carbide Bhopals
100 September 11th' s
1000 Katrinas
10000 Ted Bundy's

I can say without hyperbole that the tsunami last December was a thousand times worse than Katrina. Virtually all New Orleans residents escaped with their lives - the same cannot be said for a number of towns in Indonesia. What's being implied when an American equates his local tragedy, with 300 lives lost, to a tragedy that happened to a different culture, where 300,000 lives were lost?

I just want the rest of the world to know that I am one American who doesn't believe that a random American's life is equal to 1000 Indonesian lives. Or even two Indonesian lives for that matter. To me there's little difference between some American schmoe I never met, and some Indonesian schmoe I never met. I don't believe a man's nationality affects the value of this life that much.

Why don't you just go ahead and call Katrina "our Holocaust"?

Thursday, August 25, 2005


To make a long story short, a former Hollywood producer dumps his personal belongings in a pasture, then several days later abandons his wife in a grocery store, taking his 9 year old daughter with him. The next day, both the man and his daughter are found dead in cargo area of his SUV. The coroner's ruling? The man had a heart attack and died, then slumped over on his daughter, and suffocated her. You can read all about it in this article.

So I started thinking about it - the fact that the man and daughter died under strange circumstances the day after leaving the wife - is that coincidence or is there a causal relationship?

Most people would say this is not a coincidence.
Some people say there's no such thing as coincidence.

What exactly does that mean? Everything is deliberately planned by (DEITY)?
We've all had something strange and unlikely happen to us. We've thought of someone we haven't heard from in a while, and they pick that moment to call. You run into an acquaintance in a remote or unlikely location. If that's not a coincidence, then what is (DEITY)'s plan? What's (DEITY) trying to tell us?
Conut tas si fesih ratif. Si par gabemal co itawac yewa teneh nevet ne, sis ocu ni noyebi igar peca akitimur rivel bapin! Pe nesahat toti datix agi mor xol; bawit rama olalelie rucice rirazem fes pe; lir va ciha titi lo ice titatod, utibufa lah upiwega rer ade.
I think a coincidence is like having the above message whispered in our ear. So naturally we try to figure out what it means.

What is easy to overlook is the possibility that it's pure gibberish - truly and utterly meaningless. The above message was, in fact, produced by a gibberish generator. It can spew out as much random nonsense as you'd like, all totally devoid of any meaning whatsoever. I believe coincidences appear to be some sort of (DEITY) language. But as the above paragraph demonstrates, coincidences could still be meaningless.

Can't the universe have its own gibberish generator? Lots of stuff happens every day. Vast, unimaginable amounts of things happen that escape our attention. The Law of Truly Large Numbers says that some totally unrelated events are going to share some properties (such as the time that they occur), simply as a side affect of the huge numbers of events. Million to one odds happen constantly - just not necessarily when we're paying attention. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time.

After all I've said about how coincidences do exist and how sometimes there appears to be a message when there's not, sometimes the message is in plain english. I'm not saying the Hollywood producer and his daughter couldn't have died the way the coroner said, but considering the odd circumstances, he'd better have all his i's dotted and t's crossed. I predict that in several days, more information will come to light that shows foul play was involved. One in a million shots do happen, but coroners make mistakes more often than that.