Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Star bright

So every year, Zenella is saying, we add another year on to the time since the dinosaurs disappeared. If it was 65 million years last year, it's 65 million and one this year.

Yes, I say, I suppose there was a year when there were no more dinosaurs, or the last of them evolved into something else.

Although you could argue that they didn't, because birds are a sort of dinosaur, they say. But maybe a dinosaur only in the same way I am a marmoset.

Sixty-five million years! How to explain to a child who has no concept that her life has a span that that is a million lives? It's impossible to conceptualise. You cannot picture the lives one after the other. Even picturing the faces of your ancestors (imagining them, I mean) is an enormous task. (And what do you picture? Are you seeing lords when you reach three figures or are you seeing rough men and women in clothes little more structured than coal sacks? I find it interesting that when people trace back their family, they always find some distant cousin who was somebody. Go back far enough and we're all cousins: all Europeans descended from something like seven men, and all of them probably descended from the same monkey.)

If you step outside a spaceship, Zenella is saying, what happens?

You have to be tied on with a lifeline, I say, and I explain what that is.

If you fell off, she is saying, you have to hope you are near a planet and land on it.

But you would be set on fire by entering its atmosphere, I say.

Why? she is saying, and I explain that too, although I'm not sure whether if a planet has a very thin atmosphere it would be enough to set you on fire. You might just splish on the surface.

Her tennis coach says, Yeah, if there's gravity.

All planets have gravity, I say.

He is confused because the moon has less gravity than the Earth, and those high-bounding spacemen have made him think that it has none at all.

I tried to explain to Mrs Zen the other night that she too had gravity. I stumbled when trying to explain what mass is. It's difficult to explain without using the word "weight". Eventually, I said that an object's mass is the amount of smash when it hits something else, which is true enough.

I wanted to talk to her about Bayes' theorem. I've been studying it, and have a faint understanding of it. But she didn't want to know.

(On the offchance that someone reading this wants to know, Bayes' theorem helps you determine the importance of new pieces of evidence. It's important in thinking about poker. Say someone raises preflop, and you want to know whether he has a high pair. Bayes' theorem tells us:

The probability that he has a high pair given that he raised is equal to the probability that he will raise given a high pair times the probability that he has a high pair, divided by the same plus the probability that he will raise without a high pair times the probability that he doesn't have a high pair

or p(A|B) = p(B|A)p(A)/p(B|A)p(A)+p(B|~A)p(~A)

where A is having a high pair, B is raising.

It's one of those things that looks hard to understand until you understand it!

Let's say he is dealt a high pair 10% of the time and will raise with it 80% of the time and will raise with other stuff 10% of the time.

The chances a raise means a high pair are: .8x.1/.8x.1 + .1x.9 = .08/.17, or 47%. If he raises 20% of his other stuff, the chances that he has a high pair become a bit less than 30%. How much a piece of evidence can lead you to draw a particular conclusion depends on how much that piece of evidence could mean a different conclusion.)

Mrs Zen could do with learning Bayes' theorem because she tends simply to add pieces of evidence together and draw conclusions, instead of weighting her evidence by considering what other things it could be evidence of. She has a confirmation bias. Whenever she has evidence of evildoing on my part, she assumes I've done evil. However, some of the time, that evidence of evildoing is an outcome of perfectly innocent behaviour.

But Mrs Zen assumes that the probability of my doing evil is 100% anyway.

It is no wonder creationists cannot stand geological time. How is it possible that their god can think them special if three million generations have passed since the end of the dinosaurs? How can he have wanted them personally to exist?

Zenella is keeping a chart of the phases of the moon. The crescent is in the wrong place here. My dad noticed it. It's at the bottom of the moon, rather than at one side.

Zenella asks me what stars are made of. I explain but I think she is struggling to grasp how a colourless gas can be so bright. She does not understand that our sun is small.

But it's hard to believe it's small when it's so much bigger than anything else in our lives.

44 Comments:

At 10:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's say he is dealt a high pair 10% of the time and will raise with it 80% of the time and will raise with other stuff 10% of the time.

What happens with the other 10% of time? Why wouldn't he be raising with other stuff the entire 20% of time remaining, I mean?


She does not understand that our sun is small.
Have you ever shown her this?

A

 
At 11:00 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Arleen, he is dealt a high pair 10% of the time. Of that 10%, he raises 80% of the time.

He raises with other stuff 10% of the rest of the time.

80% of the time, he does not raise.

 
At 12:30 pm, Blogger Miz UV said...

I loved this post. Can't explain it.

 
At 1:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

:-) Got it.

This is why I did not major in math. I enjoy it, it's like figuring out puzzles, but it takes some strong concentration on my part to unravel what's being said from what I think is being said.

A

 
At 1:54 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Well, me too. My grasp of maths is very poor, and I really struggled to understand Bayes' theorem. I actually found it easier to understand intuitively than to grasp the maths.

 
At 3:34 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

UV: I loved this post. Can't explain it.

Zenella.

 
At 3:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a post he's written with Zenella in it that didn't grab me in one way or another.

Zen, when you write about your children, well, would it be against your principles in some way to submit such writings to family magazines?

Just an idea. You know. One you won't take. ;-)

A

 
At 3:57 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I wouldn't have any problem with it, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to publish what I write about children.

 
At 4:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude.

People. TELL HIM.

Zen, your ability to use language to express the way you feel about your children and to capture what so many of us parents out here feel about our own but can't say a quarter as well as you do...

I'm near tears here with frustration thinking that you can't see why that would be publishable.

A

 
At 7:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

boots sez:

I'm with Arleen, I've mentioned before that you're unusually able to express your love for your children.

Of course you'd have to edit for asides about drops of pussy-juice and labia color, but I think you could prolly "edit" something if you had to.

Sorry to've pissed you off enough to nuke an entire post and all comments, or perhaps it was just a bloggerfart.

I thought about looking up Bayes' theorem, but decided not to reinforce your ideas that statistics is related to occurrence with any sort of rubbish.

I don't know what kinds of magazines would be reasonable sumission targets for short stories about children, but it sounds to me like something that could match, maybe cause a few bucks to flow into the pocket from time to time, give you a few non-evildoing points, yada yada.

Whatever, stay well man.

 
At 5:38 am, Blogger Miz UV said...

It's not just the children. It's math and science and love and death and the way he makes everything flow so beautifully. I don't know if having a column would give Zen happiness, so I hesitate to say he should pursue that.

 
At 5:51 am, Blogger blurbee said...

uv: I don't know if having a column would give Zen happiness, so I hesitate to say he should pursue that.

would you read it?

do you think others would?

Zen's happiness doesn't enter into it.

but do you think it would actually make him sad?

 
At 6:48 am, Blogger Teacake said...

I wouldn't have any problem with it, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to publish what I write about children.

I heard from Arleen you were spouting this nonsense. Dude. Not only do you write beautifully, but you're a DAD. The mommeeez would eat this with a spoon, cause there's nothing they love so much (as O'Tim is about to find out when he's suddenly flirted with mightily) than a dad who notices his children. The only question is really whether you feel insulted that you could write half this well and still get a regular gig in a parening magazine. Get yourself a Writer's Market and sell out, already, geez.

On another note, isn't Zenella like 5 or 6? I find it impressive she's charting the moon.

 
At 7:38 am, Blogger Arleen said...

I didn't say anything about a column over here, that was me spouting off on my blog with imaginings that could have everything or nothing to do with Zen publishing stuff about his kids. The question is, do you think he could write about his kids and get published? I say yes. boots says yes. I'm thinking Zero would say go for it. Jen says yes.

And I'd already thought about what she said about the mommies lapping it up. She's absolutely correct. Women love it when men show that side of themselves about their kids and with the edge Zen has in writing...shoot, maybe it isn't such a good idea after all. If he has problems with his wife now, she'd really hate it when faced with his fan club. ;-)

 
At 8:01 am, Blogger blurbee said...

do i think Zen should write a column?

no!

i want Zen to write for bickerfest.com!

but seriously, he'd have a huge readership no matter what.

cha' ching!

 
At 4:26 pm, Anonymous theminotaur said...

I don't know who or what to blame for the fact that nowadays people seem to think that any napkin scribbling is publishable. Why exactly do you think people would want to read about his kids? Because he loves them? Wow, what an unexpected angle! And as much as "momeez" can sometimes appreciate sentimental gushing, that feeling is more than satisfied by Hallmark cards; whereas a parenting magazine is read primarily for advice on how to make your kid eat green beans without throwing up. The only format his kind of writing is good for is a blog. He seems to understand that.

 
At 5:11 pm, Blogger zeroisms said...

theminotaur:

Zen's output here is hardly napkin scribbling.

anyway, it's not that people would want to read about Zen's kids specifically.

it's that they would want to read about the way a father like him feels for and thinks about and cares for his kids -- a gentle sincere love which is uplifting and reminds us all to be more patient and thoughtful -- with our own kids AND with everyone else.

plus, the way he expresses his explanations to Zenella helps to convey various ideas to the reader in a unique way.

Zen has a voice which is highly individual and quite refreshing on any number of topics.

personally, i wouldn't necessarily suggest parenting magazines.

i'd suggest that he write a column of general interest to an audience of same.

 
At 9:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

boot sez:

Zen, here's an idea for you not to pursue. <g>

Have you considered writing a novel about "life and stuff" from the perspective of one of your kids? Make it some Harry Potter shit, become a zillionaire, live happily ever after.

Whatever, listen, you're gonna die way before the time you reach 200, so enjoy the meantime, you've already stressed over it enough for one lifetime.

 
At 10:34 pm, Blogger Arleen said...

to minotaur: obviously you don't have the appreciation for Zen's ability that some of us do. So you wouldn't be in the target audience.

to Zero about why we'd read Zen: right on.

to Zero about other markets: which ones, specifically?

But about all these comments about a column. My question isn't focused on that, and minotaur, in spite of his/her opposing view, answered it. The question is, do you think his writings about his kids is publishable stuff? Could you see him writing stories or articles involving his kids that publishing markets would buy?

I can. And the reason I can is because I've read other people's stories in magazines, and I've never been moved in quite the same way as I am when Zen writes. And maybe it is because he infuses what he writes with all the things that go through his mind that don't pertain to his kids, but I don't see that as detrimental to the idea of him writing something with the idea of submitting it.

I am wondering, though, if I feel this way because of years of reading him and feeling a connection that you don't feel with some random writer that you read in a magazine.

However, I recall the first time I read something from him about Zenella. It was in MW. Maybe it was just the shock that caused me to be impressed. Up until that moment I had only seen him as a biting, sometimes wicked, commentator, on the sayings and doings of MW members.

Still, when I think of some of the pap that gets published, I honestly don't see why his writing wouldn't be recognized as superior and therefore publishable.

What gets me about it all, really, is that I believe in possibilities, and one can't really know until one tries, so I get exasperated when I hear Zen say no one would be interested.

I'm going to drop the issue now. I've had my say.

 
At 3:00 am, Blogger Sal said...

On another note, isn't Zenella like 5 or 6?

Zenella is a dragon, which makes her seven this year.

re moon phases. I always liked the waxing and waning gibbous moon -- gibbous, what a great word.

re Zen's nonmarital, nonpoker, nonediting, non-unrequited-or-requited love musings.

Sure, there's a market for them. I'd read them.

The SFC has Jon Carroll, who writes a similar slice-of-life what's-happening-in-the-world stuff. He has a different voice, mind, and he's older, so it's his adult child who joined the circus and his six-year-old granddaughter whom he takes to horse riding lessons who visit his columns.

We also have Mark Morford, who took me a while to get used to. He can be bitter and sarcastic and then ... I found out he's a yoga teacher when he's not writing his column. whoa. That whacked all my perceptions. He's a bit like Archer at times, except he's not so far out there with his stories. Usually.

I don't know how you find a gig like Morford or Carroll has.

I also don't know if you (Zen) would like having to spit out a column a day five days a week and be entertaining enough that you'd keep your audience.

Before you go out looking for a gig like that, you should see if, say, for a month, you can come up with five 800-1000 wd posts a week that don't talk about Mrs Zen or poker or the editing gigs but just muse about life and politics and Zenella and her sibs and your car and what you had for dinner.

If that turns out too difficult to do or you wind up just not liking it and it saps the pleasure out of the posts you make, well, better to know before you feel trapped by a contract to deliver. Return to just entertaining your current blog audience and yourself.

If it turns out that you're happy to work with the constraints and the "deadline" is something that focuses you, the batch of columns would be your calling card when you do go out looking for a regular gig in a paper. Not a parenting magazine is my advice. You wouldn't have the freedom and your focus would be too defined.

 
At 3:02 am, Blogger Sal said...

Before you go out looking for a gig like that, you should see if, say, for a month, you can come up with five 800-1000 wd posts a week that don't talk about Mrs Zen or poker or the editing gigs but just muse about life and politics and Zenella and her sibs and your car and what you had for dinner.

Note: I am not saying you couldn't have Mrs Zen, poker, unrequited love posts mixed in as well. I didn't make that clear.

 
At 4:12 am, Blogger Sal said...

So, the discussion here got me thinking about Bob Greene, the columnist for Chicago Trib and author of the best-selling GOOD MORNING, MERRY SUNSHINE, about his daughter's first year. What had ever happened to Bob Greene?

Found this, which explained what happened to him in 2002. Fired. In disgrace.

Sad saga indeed. I read the article with a sense of regret about what seemed the inevitability of it all.

 
At 3:55 am, Blogger blurbees said...

...

arleen: to Zero about other markets: which ones, specifically?

specifically? general interests markets.

like a syndicated newspaper column, for instance.

or People magazine.

Time.

Newsweek.

etc.

or maybe something a bit more esoteric like Playboy magazine, FFS.

 
At 4:05 am, Blogger blurbees said...

or The New Yorker, for example.

what are the names of some of the other "high-minded" magazines?

there's at least a dozen or so, isn't there?

 
At 9:08 am, Anonymous bickerfest blurbees said...

hey, here's a good example of what i was yakking about:

there's at least a dozen or so, isn't there?

please respond here: Let's argue about... English

 
At 9:12 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I don't do newsgroups.

The answer is that it's idiomatic but you should not write it, particularly not in a formal context. In the comments to a post, I think it passes. HTH.

 
At 12:02 pm, Anonymous bickerfest blurbees said...

um, bickerfest.com isn't a newsgroup, it's a website.

it's not usenet.

it's not "broadcasted" in any way.

plus its a potential paying gig for good writers such as yourself.

anyway, when you say that it's idiomatic, does that mean that it's one of those things that are so often wrongly used that it's become part of "acceptable" use?

why is it that that particular contraction seems to be so widely used in place of "there are".

of course, i'd prefer that you answered in the bickerfest, where it's far easier to do a back and forth thinger, but whatever.

if you'd like, i can give you your own zen@bickerfest.com mailbox so that you can open up a separate gmail account for bickerfesting -- if using your current email is some sort of privacy issue for you.

i'd simply ask that you not use the zen bickerfest address for anything other than bickerfest "arguing" (and/or promotion).

otherwise i'd have to cancel it.

just a reminder, shortly you'll be elligible to get paid cash money on a weekly basis for your back and forth wit and wisdom.

those who are particularly good at it, like yourself, will be paid much more per week than the others.

paid in advance, mind you.

via paypal.com or check.

on a week by week basis.

your output and quality is entirely up to you, but whether you're paid for an additional week (in advance) is entirely up to us based upon how valuable we feel your weekly contribution to the bickerfest discussions is.

see how that works?

 
At 12:06 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

By "idiomatic", I mean it's what people say, regardless of the underlying meaning. Compare it with "I put up with it". In the latter, I don't put anything anywhere, let alone up. It's not "wrongly used". If it's what people say, it cannot be wrong. That's how language works.

"see how that works". No, I don't. What's the revenue model?

 
At 12:08 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

And bickerfest.com redirects to a newsgroup. Are you denying that?

 
At 12:36 pm, Anonymous bickerfest blurbees said...

...

zen:

And bickerfest.com redirects to a newsgroup.

no, it doesn't.

the domain bickerfest.com directs a google group's website.

Are you denying that?

of course i am.

a newsgroup is a usenet thinger.

there are no usenet servers involved with a google groups website.

not that i know of, anyway.

a google group is nothing but a glorifed mailing list (which is optional) that automatically archives as a website on the google servers.

a newsgroup is a completely different thing. newsgroups propagates out across the net to all of the usenet servers.

a google group can only be read as a website visit (unless you subscribe to it to be emailed to you).

it's more like a blog than anything else.

get it?

 
At 12:39 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I don't do newsgroups.

Particularly not for people who will not share their revenue model but talk about paying.

 
At 12:40 pm, Anonymous bickerfest blurbees said...

"see how that works". No, I don't. What's the revenue model?

i already answered that here in the comment you left.

any other questions?

 
At 12:42 pm, Anonymous bickerfvest blurbees said...

zen:

Particularly not for people who will not share their revenue model but talk about paying.

huh?

what about my answer did you not understand?

perhaps i misunderstood the question?

 
At 12:45 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

zen:

I don't do newsgroups.

Gawd.

it's not a newsgroup, FFS.

it's a website hosted by Gooooooogle with threaded commenting and various blogger-related tools and features.

Sal, help me out here.

he'll believe you.

 
At 12:47 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

You answered it in a place I don't read.

It's a newsgroup in the broad sense. It's too much of a pain in teh arse for me to comment in google groups because I have to log out of this email addy to do it.

 
At 1:04 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

You answered it in a place I don't read.

sorry about that.

but if you read the response i gave you where you actually asked the question (as provided in the link above) you'd see why i answered you there.


It's a newsgroup in the broad sense.

no, it's a "newsgroup" in the narrowest sense. just like a blog is a "newsgroup" in the narrowest sense. likewise, it's no more a newsgroup than a blog is.


It's too much of a pain in teh arse for me to comment in google groups because I have to log out of this email addy to do it.

well, no, you wouldn't have to log out of your email addy AT ALL (i don't, for instance) -- unless you WANTED to use a different email addy.

and even then it would only take five or ten seconds seconds to switch between user names.

surely that kind of minimal effort is worth thousands of dollars a year.

to most people, anyway.

maybe not you.

 
At 1:08 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

On count one, wrong because you misunderstand what broad and narrow mean.

On count two, because you presumably are not aware how google accounts work.

And the chances of your paying anyone anything are too slim for that to be a consideration for me.

 
At 1:18 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

count one, it's moot which adjective you apply because a google group is a "newsgroup" just as narrowly or as broadly as a blog is, which you're doing right now.

 
At 1:23 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

count two, i have a google account so i know precisely how it works in those manners.

i'm using it right now to respond to your blog comments, signed in as "blurbees".

i can also post to any google group signed in as "blurbees" in conjunction with google gmail.

in fact, gmail gives you more flexibility with google groups than with the blogs because with goog grps it gives you the option to use your gmail address OR your regular address as a google groups FROM address.

you can change your goog grps subscription FROM addy setting for each group you're sunbscribed to.

count two, demolished.

just like count one.

now i will address count three in a third response.

 
At 1:31 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

count three,

And the chances of your paying anyone anything are too slim for that to be a consideration for me.

i already told you that you'd be paid in advance.

so, this is "objection" is total nonsense.

anyway, your attitude in count three is just as bad as the haters you so often excoriate.

which makes you either a major hypocrite or a major liar or just way too close-minded and brainwashed for your own good.

it's no wonder that you can't seem to get anything going for yourself. you find objections where none even remotely exist.

you're now dissing an opportunity to write whatever you want, from the heart, AND get paid for it.

you're nuts, man.

utterly nuts.

but typical.

HTH.

 
At 1:34 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Send me money.

I will write what the fuck you like.

Do you have neteller?

 
At 1:44 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

Send me money. I will write what the fuck you like.

LOL.

now you're starting to make some fucking sense.

finally.

yikes.

Do you have neteller?

no, not yet. i was going to use paypal.

why, is neteller better?

never heard of it.

 
At 1:47 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

It's just a payment method that I use.

Okay, we'll continue this discussion when you've paid me some money. This is as much free bickering as you're having.

 
At 2:00 pm, Blogger blurbees said...

Okay, we'll continue this discussion when you've paid me some money.

what a dick.


This is as much free bickering as you're having.

see that?

this hilarious exchange would have been perfect for the bickerfest.

it would have taken care of several birds with one stone.

but you're such a dick that the amusing and educational exchange is totally wasted here on your secluded blog rather than taking place where it would have increased your paid bickering AND made it a reality quicker.

such is life.

pointlessly complicated and stupid.

nobody can think even halfway out of their own narrow-minded box.

self-defeating delusions are somehow cherished.

so sad.

oh well.

i don't suppose you'll be offering to pay me for filling up your comments here on your broadly defined newsgroup, aye?

no.

you're probably considering charging me instead.

LOL.

 

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