Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ha. Ha-ha-ha! Heh. Heh heh! HAAAA!!!! HEEE HOOO!!!

Some of you may have been wondering where I've been this week. I do apologize for my absence but, as you might guess from my comments last week, I have been in the middle of a serious crunch with a project. Sadly, this will likely interfere with my blogging for the remainder of this week.

In order to express just how incredibly on edge I am, allow me to share the following with you:

Three nights ago I dreamt that a large number of snakes had gotten loose in my apartment. Big venomous ones. At one point I dreamt that I was on my stomach confronting a King Cobra and played dead so that it wouldn't bite me. It then crawled all over my head and body. I eventually grabbed it behind the head, only to have it turn to rubber, stretch, and bite my face. At this point I woke up, awakened by Sainted Fiancee, and informed her, "Honey, if we're ever fighting a bunch of snakes and I ask you for a goddamned broom just fucking give it to me!" The fact that she took this pronouncement so well is the best explanation I can give as to why she is my Sainted Fiancee.

Two nights ago I dreamt that I was getting ready to go on a trip and a black suitcase beneath my bed began barking and moving out from under the bed. It was joined by a second brown satchel bag* that exhibited the same behavior, save with a higher pitch. They both then metamorphosed into, respectively, a Rottweiler and a Pomeranian. Each had a zipper running down their stomach that, when opened, revealed the inside of a suitcase. I brought the pomeranian to show my mother, who for some reason was in my house, and she remarked calmly that it was simply a "canine valise."

Last night I dreamt that I had encountered a pair of intelligent, talking geckos of unusual size.** Geckos who were in love. One of whom had fought in World War II. As a fighter pilot. In the Pacific Theatre. Ultimately, believe it or not, I decided to prevent them from being reunited out of concern that they would breed an entire race of super-intelligent self-adhesive reptiles that would then challenge mankind for domination of the Earth.

My point in sharing all this is quite simple: I am going absolutely bugfuck insane, and will be back with you when I'm in a better frame of mind.

See you next week.

Or maybe Friday.

But probably next week.

I'll say hello for you to the trout superhero or whatever the crap I dream about tonight, though.

* I feel I should note that I have never owned a bag that even remotely resembles this.

** Not huge, mind you, just about the size of an iguana. Which is pretty damned big for a gecko, you know?


Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...

...I do believe that this is my favorite EVER Total Drek post.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Practicing Idealist said...

The broom is under my side of the bed, ready and waiting for your command! - D's SF

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The canine valise. Your subconscious is *spectacular*, man.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger TDEC said...

I agree! Best post ever. Your stress is our entertainment.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 7:38:00 AM  
Blogger Merlin said...

all three dreams are about animals. do you consider yourself an animal? or do you consider the human race to be something different?

Monday, May 07, 2007 3:37:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Merlin,

Not sure why it's relevant but, yes, I consider humans to be animals... much like the entire biological community.

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:23:00 PM  
Blogger Merlin said...

If the human race is but a product of evolution, simply a matter of biology, then it is a coincidence, a stroke of luck, that we are here today. No spiritual or extraordinary reason for our existence. Is this your belief?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 6:17:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...


You obviously have an agenda but I may as well play along for the moment. If nothing else it promises to be entertaining.

I do not ascribe any particular objective significance to the existence of the human race. Subjectively, I think we're cool as hell and worth preserving, but I don't think we have any special place in the universe. I can't even begin to parse your "coincidence" language as you haven't really proposed anything that is coincidental. As for your "stroke of luck" language... well... given the nature of the observable universe I think the presence of something like us was more or less inevitable.

You may as well proceed with your plan. I'm curious about what your approach will be.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Merlin said...

The development of intelligent life was indeed inevitable, but the coincidence is the human race. The Homo sapiens "won" instead of a tall, green alien with big black eyes, or something else. Why us? Besides our "stroke of luck", and besides the marriage of all your ancestors down the line, which have led to your birth--any one of whom ancestors could have produced someone other than your grandfather in their procreation--how have you come to exist in this world when a million others could have your age and name, or at least your life? Is your life a product of evolution, a coincidence, or luck?
It all boils down to how you value your breathing, thinking, agonizing self.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...


Ah. Your argument seems to rely on the common, but incorrect, belief that an improbable event is necessarily a remarkable event. For the following discussion we will consider coin flips, a classic example in probability. Any particular result of a single flip (i.e. heads or tails) is an "outcome" and a set of outcomes is an "event" (e.g. heads-heads-tails, tails-heads-tails, etc.). Further, for simplicity, we will denote the outcome "heads" with a + sign and the outcome "tails" with a - sign.

As you will doubtless agree, the probability of heads or tails is roughly .50 and .50 (it's really slightly lower than this since there is a small, but real, chance that a coin will land on its edge, but for present purposes we will ignore it). So, if I were to ask, "What is the probability that you will get heads from a single flip?" you could answer, ".50 or 50%." The same would be true of tails- there is also a .50 probability of getting tails on a single flip. It is further the case that coin flips are "independent probabilities," meaning that the result of one flip does not impact the result of the next flip. So, getting heads this time doesn't make heads more or less likely the next time I flip the coin. When dealing with independent probabilities, we find the total probability of an event (i.e. a set of outcomes) by multiplying the probabilities of each component outcome. So, the probability of getting the event “two heads in a row” (++) is .5*.5= 0.25. Thus, any time we flip a coin twice in a row there is a .25 probability or a 25% chance of getting two heads.

Now let's consider something a little more interesting. Let's say we flip a coin five times, what is the probability of getting the event “five heads in a row” (+++++)? Well, since the probability of getting the outcome “heads” is .5 and the probabilities are independent we get: .5*.5*.5*.5*.5= 0.03125. So, there is slightly more than a 3% chance of getting five heads if we flip a coin five times. That doesn't seem very likely, does it? It makes sense why 5 flips would seem interesting to us, doesn't it?

Well, sure! The problem is, let's consider the probability of another event, four heads and then a tails (++++-): .5*.5*.5*.5*.5= 0.03125. Then let's consider the probability of three heads and then two tails (+++--): .5*.5*.5*.5*.5= 0.03125. And let's consider the probability of heads then tails then heads then tails then heads (+-+-+): .5*.5*.5*.5*.5= 0.03125. You see, every outcome is equally probable. At the same time, however, if we flip a coin five times we MUST get some sort of outcome. So, in a sense, no matter what happens when we flip our coin, every possible event is simultaneously highly improbable, and entirely unremarkable.

My point, of course, is that it may be improbable that human beings, in our extant form, would exist in the world but that this is not in and of itself remarkable. Some sort of intelligent life had to exist in order for us to have this discussion at all and, if we were to have eight tentacles and three eyes, we would be talking about how remarkable it is that everything worked out such that we ended up with eight tentacles and three eyes. This is in many ways akin to a discussion of how remarkable it is that on five flips of the coin we got the event tails-heads-tails-heads-tails (-+-+-). Likewise, the circumstances of my life have led to me being where, and what, I am now but while those circumstances may be improbable in combination it does not mean that my improbability is any more remarkable than anyone else's improbability.

You claim that it all boils down to how I value my thinking, breathing, agonizing self but I think that this is only somewhat correct. I simply do not believe that the intentionality of my existence has any bearing on my personal value. Why must my life be worth less simply because it was unplanned? By that logic persons whose conception was accidental (such as my Sainted Fiancee) have lives of less worth than those of us who were planned. I find such a notion revolting, to say the least.

To me the worth of my life derives from what I can do with it- the lives I can benefit and the people I can help. That my worth is not fixed for me prior to the moment of my existence is quite wonderful in my eyes. If nothing else, at least my sense of self-worth does not depend upon a flawed understanding of probability.

Tell me about your beliefs, Merlin, and explain how they give you a world of more majesty and potential than my own.

Drek the Uninteresting

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 7:18:00 PM  
Blogger Merlin said...

First, I meant to say, "It all boils down to how you BRING value your breathing, thinking, agonizing self."
My mistake.
And as for majesty and potential, let me say that you have created more of both in this simple blog
than I have in my entire life.

Second, while one coin flip bears no impact on the next, the same is not true for life.

But how does one bring value to life? In my short life I can only understand as far as this: self-worth comes from satisfaction from meaningful, trying work.
How do you, Drek, know if your life has been productive, meaningful, or even relevent?

I have no agenda nor preconceived subject matters. Only questions.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007 6:54:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...


"Second, while one coin flip bears no impact on the next, the same is not true for life."

Ah, yes, quite true. At the same time, what of it? If you would like to use conditional probability to make an argument then, by all means, do so.

You most surely do have an agenda you are persuing even if that agenda is simply to have certain questions answered. To claim otherwise is transparently erroneous.

If you want to know how I bring majesty and potential into my life then I think you have an ample source for your answers in my blog. I've been writing it for nearly three years, after all.

I have answered your questions quite willingly but, I think before I continue doing so, you will have to tell me something of interest about yourself.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Merlin said...

What do you want to know?

Thursday, May 10, 2007 6:37:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

How did you find my blog? What interests you so much about my views? Where do you find value in the world and why does this idea of "chance" concern you so much?

Thursday, May 10, 2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Merlin said...

I don't remember what google search turned up something of interest on your blog. I know that the search was only marginally related to your blog: perhaps a word or phrase in one of your posts caught my eye.
your views as a scientist are calculated and based in logic. Whimsical views do not interest me. so I believe I can learn from you if I only ask the right questions.

My life came about by chance, as does my situation every day. I found your blog by the phenomenon Chance. One day I hope to be able to calculate the chance of every moment, including all the known variables and the incomprehensible influence of the winds.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Merlin said...

reading that over now, i realize it was about as pretentious and cracked out response as i could have given. i wish you'd forget that i said that. but not delete, because one of the things i like about your site is your policy towards comments. another is the intro at the top of the page. that's what made me stay.
i find value in conversations. interactions with intelligent people. questions. selfless acts.

i don't know why chance concerns me so much, but it controls me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 6:24:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Merlin,

Sorry this is coming so late but I was away on a trip this past weekend.

I'm pleased you like the blog although, as always, you should keep in mind that my opinions are just my own opinions. If my arguments make sense- great- but I don't claim to have all the answers.

I'd also be very careful about assuming that because I'm a scientist my conclusions and ideas are based in logic and reason. I strive for both but it would be sheer hubris to claim that I'm not influenced by my emotions.

Your view of chance is piquing my interest. Why do you say that your life is controlled by chance? Does this idea bother you?

Hey, by the way, don't sweat pretentiousness in your comment too much. There's something about the internet that encourages folks to do that. Odd, but true.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 12:40:00 PM  

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