John Oliver on the ongoing problems in Ferguson, MO and the militarization of police.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all over the past week you’re already well aware of the problems in Ferguson where police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown six times resulting in his death. The people of Ferguson rose up in protest and the initial response from police was not handled well and things have gone from bad to worse since then. Events there have brought into focus several issues not the least of which is the long-standing legacy of racism in America, but also a newer problem in regards to the ongoing militarization of America’s police forces.

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight did a segment on both of these issues that is well worth watching:

This whole situation has been poorly handled from the start and it looks only to get worse before it gets better. With any luck, all of this will bring about some much needed changes not just in Ferguson, but across the country.

Rep. Louie Gohmert proves the existence of God.

Well, we had a good run my fellow atheists, but there comes a point when you have to admit you’ve been beaten and that moment is now. You see, Republican Louie Gohmert has come up with the ultimate proof of the existence of God. What fools we’ve been!

Check it:

OK, so technically this isn’t really Louie’s argument, but something he heard from some dude named Bob Murphy out of Texas. In case you didn’t watch the video clip — you should, it’s short and stunning in its stupidity logic — here’s what old Bob had to say:

“Ya know, I feel so sorry for atheists. I do. You know, think about it. No matter how smart they think they are, an atheist has to admit that he believes the equation ‘nobody plus nothing equals everything.’ How embarrassing for an intellectual to have to say, ‘Ya, I believe that. Nobody plus nothing equals everything.’

“Well, you couldn’t get everything unless there was something that was the creator of everything, and that’s the Lord we know”

headdeskI think neither Mr. Murphy nor Rep. Gohmert have talked to very many atheists. Perhaps there’s a few out there who might make such a statement, but I can’t think of any off top of my head. It’s certainly not what I believe because it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of some of the better known theories on how the Universe came to be.

How many times does it have to be said that the Big Bang theory does not say there was nothing prior to the big bang? Everything that is in the universe now was there at the beginning all scrunched up into a very tiny point called a singularity. There is no need to assume that everything came from nothing because, according to the theory, there wasn’t nothing. We still don’t know everything there is to know about the start of the universe because the closer you get to the moment of expansion the more general relativity and quantum mechanics start to fall apart in their ability to describe what things were like, but the theory overall has a lot of evidence backing it up such that accepting the idea of everything has always been there all smooshed up until it exploded into the universe we see today isn’t any more far-fetched than accepting the idea some all-powerful being willed it into existence.

If you’re going to insist on the idea that there was “nothing” prior to the universe then we can turn to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss who has argued that it’s quite possible to get something from nothing and wrote a whole book about it called A Universe From Nothing. In it he explains exactly how such a thing is not only possible, but probably inevitable. I’ve written about Krauss and his lecture about this several times in the past and if you want to watch a video of his lecture you’ll find it in this previous entry.

There’s also the option to just admit that we don’t know how the universe came to be and that the evidence it was willed into being by a creator is unconvincing. Just because we don’t know the answer to the question that isn’t a good reason to presume that God(s) had a hand in it.

But the thing I really want to point out about Rep. Gohmert’s little anecdote is how shallow the thinking he’s using is. Some blowhard puts forth a strawman argument that doesn’t actually represent anything I’ve ever heard any atheist say and Gohmert acts like it’s wisdom carved on stone tablets from on high. It doesn’t make an argument in support of the idea of a creator God, it just tries to paint atheists as illogical hypocrites. It ignores all of the other possible explanations for the existence of the universe for a cheap shot at a despised group of people. Of course, he’s preaching to the choir who don’t need any convincing that a God popped everything into existence because reasons we’re too puny to comprehend. Ha ha! Those dumb atheists think they’re so smart when really they’re super stoopid! Ha ha!

Guess how convinced I am by that argument.

The Engineer Guy on why the Dvorak keyboard failed.

Being a professional computer technician in general, and a blogger in particular, I spend a lot of time with my hands on a keyboard. Specifically a QWERTY keyboard. I taught myself to type quickly using a minimum of fingers long before I had a proper typing class in high school and, to this day, I still tend to type using a mish-mash of proper and improper techniques that looks bizarre to anyone who watches me type.

I have always used QWERTY keyboards and even though I’ve seen a Dvorak keyboard once or twice in my lifetime, I’ve never tried to use one myself. It’s always been a curiosity that you occasionally hear mythical tales about how much better it supposedly is over QWERTY, but seeing as QWERTY works fine for me I’ve never felt the need to try one. Which brings us to this interesting video by The Engineer Guy who talks about the Dvorak keyboard and the myths surrounding it:

I have to say that a 5% improvement in typing speed wouldn’t be enough for me to make the switch. My blogging is probably the most typing I’ll tend to do in a day and my speed is already faster than my thoughts can keep up with most of the time so being 5% faster wouldn’t really benefit my output any. Plus there’s the hassle of learning an entirely new keyboard layout when I am, fundamentally, a lazy person. Still, I found the video interesting and thought I’d share it with you in case you might as well.

Today’s I Feel Old Video: Kids reacting to an Apple II computer.

The Fine Bros. are at it again. Tormenting today’s youth with the technology of yesteryear. This time out they sit a bunch of them down in front of a venerable Apple II computer to see if they can make heads or tails of it:

I can’t blame the kids for not appreciating the Apple II. It was a pain in the ass compared to the Commodore 64, but I admit to having some bias in that regard. I’m pretty sure they’d have had just as hard a time figuring out a C64. Especially if they had to use a tape drive instead of a floppy drive, but at least the games would’ve been a lot better. And in color!

Sometimes a little role reversal can be enlightening.

Comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding has put together a little video titled “If Gay Guys Said the Shit Straight People Say…” that does an excellent job of putting the shoe on the other foot.

The sad part is, I’ve heard actual people say these actual things to actual gay people. I’ve also had some of them said to me online when I’ve called people out for using bigoted language in voice chat. In particular the line about “I don’t mean gay as in homophobic, but as in stupid” line.

According to the Levi’s Jeans CEO, you should never wash your jeans.

I’m a big fan of jeans. They compose nearly 90% of my wardrobe. I’m lucky enough to get to wear them to work. I’ve been wearing them for as long as I can remember.

And I’ve apparently been caring for them in entirely the wrong way…

Huh. I will often wear the same pair of jeans for a couple days in a row if it’s the weekend, but considering the amount of crap I end up getting on them regularly (e.g. food, dirt, awesomesauce, etc.) I’m not sure it’s a good idea for me to go more than a few days without tossing them in the washing machine. That said, I do seem to wear the right knee out pretty quickly as of late for reasons I cannot begin to fathom.

According to some folks at Levi’s you should just toss them in the freezer one a month to freshen them up. The official website says you should wash them infrequently and when you do wash them you should put in a lot more effort than most Americans (and this is certainly true for myself) are probably willing to commit to.

I’m not sure if I can go the never-wash-them-but-freeze-them-occasionally route anytime soon, but it’s good to know I could probably go a few days before I toss them into the washing machine.

Games I’m Looking Forward To: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

If you’ve been reading SEB for any length of time then you already know I’m a huge fan of the Call of Duty series from Activision even if I have been somewhat disappointed with a couple of the directions the series has taken with its multiplayer game. The fact that CoD tends to be one of the games I play the most in spite of whatever disappointments I may have with it says a lot about how much I love the series. The last iteration, Call of Duty: Ghosts, was from Infinity Ward and it showed that the company hasn’t completely recovered from the loss of its founders and the subsequent mass exodus of top talent that went with them (they started a new company called Respawn Entertainment and put out Titanfall). It’s also clear that having two companies develop a CoD game every two years (Infinity Ward and then Treyarch) wasn’t leaving either company with enough time to really polish the final product.

That’s why this year’s game is coming from Sledgehammer Games who will be the third company producing CoD games from now on giving each team three years to work on their title and ensuring Activision still has a CoD game to put out each fall. Activision just put out a  reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare showing a bit of the plot from Sledgehammer’s debut effort:

OK, they have my attention. Kevin Spacey appears to be playing (what I am guessing is) the villain for this next incarnation and the plot revolves around the growing using of Private Military Contractors (PMCs). Spacey’s speech alone has me wanting to play through the campaign. Activision also teamed up with the folks at Vice to put out a short video on PMCs and how they’ll be the focus of the next CoD:

While I am excited by the reveal, there’s still a lot of reasons to be hesitant about Advanced Warfare. The first is not knowing what engine they’re using to run the game. All CoD games run on variants of the same engine ever since the first one was released, but with Ghosts they tried to rewrite major chunks of it and ended up with something that only ran really well on a handful of hardware. When I first started playing Ghosts I was running it on a Radeon HD 7770 and the start of every level/multiplayer map had at least 10 to 30 seconds of lag because the video card was struggling to cram it all into the 1GB of video RAM it had. When I upgraded to a nVidia GeForce GTX 760 it started running smooth as silk. That’s in spite of the fact that people I knew with even better video cards were still having issues with the game. Much like the Call of Duty app from Beachhead Studios, if you don’t have a specific set of hardware then you couldn’t expect Ghosts to run all that well on your system.

The engine in this trailer looks a lot like the one used in Ghosts and being Sledgehammer’s debut CoD game it wouldn’t be surprising if they just made use of what was already on hand. After all, Treyarch’s World at War seemed to take the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine and just re-skinned it for the WWII setting. Treyarch has since developed the engine quite a bit on their own and it actually feels different than how IW’s engines feel when you play their games (enough so that I know of CoD fans who won’t play Treyarch’s versions of the game). If AW is using Ghosts’ engine then I hope Sledgehammer has used the time they’ve saved in doing so to really polish the hell out of it so it’ll run well on a wider spectrum of hardware. The player count for Ghosts on the PC dropped quickly after launch and now, six months later, you’re lucky if there’s 2,000 players in-game during the weekdays. Hell, there are days that Black Ops II and even Modern Warfare 3 have more people playing them than Ghosts does and I think that’s largely due to how little hardware it runs well on.

Still, it’s hard for me not to get excited at the prospect of a new CoD game from a new publisher who will be bringing their own ideas to the series. The plot for AW is certainly intriguing and they’ve obviously attracted some big name talent to the voice cast. It’s also clear that it’s a good looking game based on the trailer. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the multiplayer given how customizable loadouts in Ghosts became. I’m eagerly looking forward to the multiplayer reveal in the months to come.

Today’s I’m-Feeling-Old Moment: Kids react to a Walkman.

I should really stop following TheFineBros‘ YouTube channel. All it ever does is remind me how old and decrepit I’ve become.

Kids these days don’t know how good they got it with their “em-pee-three” doohickeys and their smartass phones. Why in MY day we had to get up to change the damned channel on the TV and we had only three major networks and a couple of minor UHF channels to choose from!