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New Doggie!
Wednesday. 11.19.14 11:41 am
My mother told me earlier this week that she got a new puppy. I didn't think I would be this excited to have a new dog but here he is and his name is Tux obviously.

Mom is enamored. And I admit I am too. Can't wait to play with him this Thanksgiving!

In other news, I want to work with LIGO. Read about it.

much love

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Crowd Sourcing Logic
Wednesday. 10.8.14 11:39 am
Preface: I have no formal training in the art of logic and debate. I think I have a pretty excellent working knowledge of how to debate something but I don't know any of the formal rules or ideas behind it. Arguing with people is something I've long since gotten tired of. Now, I present to you my thoughts and impressions with the intent of getting your feedback. If you have a formal knowledge of all this, then I especially look forward to your feedback. I'm essentially asking you guys to teach me if what I'm thinking makes sense or if I'm just making it up.

So I was thinking about the concept of the burden of proof. I've never heard anyone really discussing what it means before, so my only experience is with people claiming that other people have the burden in a given discussion. It seems, from those discussions, that on whom the burden falls is something of an intuitive "common sense." When asked a related question, a friend of mine said, "Honestly it comes down to who is claiming the more ridiculous thing."

Now, that makes a little sense, but it seems ridiculous itself. How do you judge which claim is sillier? Wouldn't both people think the other person's claim is more ridiculous than their own, in most cases?

According to Wikipedia (kill me), the burden falls on anyone who is making a claim. If you make Claim A, and I say, "I don't think Claim A is true," then you have the burden. But if I respond with, "I believe that Claim A is false," then I've made a new Claim, and the burden shifts to me. There is a difference between disbelieving in a claim, and believing in the falsehood of the claim. I think many of you can appreciate this difference.

The difference comes from this (again, from Wikipedia): in a case where there are two possibilities, and no evidence has been put forth to believe in one or the other, one cannot logically favor one or the other, and must therefore suspend belief in both. A so-called default position. It is claims against this default position that hold the burden of proof. The example from Wikipedia is that of a gumball machine: is the number of gumballs even or odd? Until I have a reason to think one way or another, I can refuse to choose a logical position. If you claim that it's even, and I challenge that claim, then you have to put forth evidence. But if you say it's even, and I challenge by claiming instead that it's odd, then I have to put forth evidence.

This makes sense. I think involving the order that claims are made muddles things a bit, but essentially it means either claim will have the burden of proof.

This is where I diverge from what I've read and start playing around.

The gumball machine is a great example, and like all great examples it is over-simplistic. What if I have to make a decision based on the even/odd status of the gumballs? I could guess, which I think protects the tenuous "default position" that I've adopted, but I could also try to find evidence to support one claim or the other. Depending on how much I care, I could find a little or a lot of evidence, and come to the logical conclusion that either Claim A or B is correct.

In this situation, there is no "practical" default position (unless I'm being irresponsible and, I don't know, flipping a coin or something.) When I'm solving my gumball machine problem, whatever it is, I have to act like I believe in one of the claims, even if from a logical standpoint, I have little reason to do so. So, even though I would prefer to be agnostic about the number of gumballs, I can't.

This is the weakest point of my argument: if there's no practical agnostic position, we can't expect the burden of proof to behave the same way, can we? Who holds the burden in a situation where we have no way to act neutrally? From a purely logical standpoint, the way we act is completely beside the point, but this is the real world, and we have to marry logic and reality somewhere.

The way I see it, having the burden of proof means I am obligated to provide evidence to support my claim. Duh. And it also means you have no obligation to change your mind unless you find my evidence meets your standards. (And how we come up with these standards is a wholly different issue that I'll look into later.) If you can adopt the default position, you should stay there until a claim is sufficiently proven to you. But what if we're all forced to adopt one claim or another? Well, we could be irresponsible and flip a coin, but logically, we would be forced to seek evidence until we're comfortable adopting one claim or another.

Or I suppose we could just pick the one we like best.

So, what do you guys think? Have I made any major errors in my reasoning? Are my sources wrong (lol)? Is this something you've thought about before?

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Tuesday. 9.30.14 2:42 pm
I'm not really sure how to handle my emotions in a situation like this. It isn't often that I deal with emotions, or even get myself into situations where I'm prone to be emotional. I'm just not used to it. But I'd better learn quickly.

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A date
Saturday. 9.20.14 10:20 pm
I think this will be a side of me that you haven't seen before. I went on date that I'm pretty happy about. I'm going to write it out here for the sake of posterity, and in case any of you are interested in what it looks like for me to have a fun date.

Actually, I have this mindset that says that most of my friends don't really see me as the kind of guy who goes on dates ever, much less as often as I have lately. And when I talk about it, they're surprised to learn that about me. But you guys don't know me that well so maybe you don't even think that. Interesting how that works out. Anyway...

I was worried when I was planning the date that there wasn't enough going on, that it would seem like a half-hearted effort. We (the guy I was doubling with, and I) planned to start directly after a big fundraising event at Georgia Tech's campus. My date and the other couple are all from a nearby school (about 40 minutes driving) so having them nearby was really helpful. For this post, my date will be referred to as Homegirl. The other couple is Dude and Chick. So this is what happened:

We left the event at 11:30 to go to the Physics building nearby because my car was parked there and people wanted to change. I showed them around my lab and up to the fifth floor (unfortunately, roof access was locked so I couldn't show them the observatory.) We drove to some campus restaurants nearby and ate gyros outside, which was delicious. This was a good time for everyone to sort of settle in (the other couple has never been on a date before, and I've never doubled with either of them). The conversation moved in a few directions that I wasn't expecting, including some interesting poop stories from Homegirl.

From there, we drove back to campus and walked to a nice climbing tree. Chick wasn't very excited about the prospect of climbing a tree (she's never done it before) but she wanted to try so we went through with it. I personally helped her and Homegirl onto a low branch by letting them climb on me, and from there we all had to coach Chick to move to the trunk and find a nice fork to sit in. She was terrified but she really acted like a trooper. Apparently she's afraid of heights...I don't think she was more than 8 feet up. Meanwhile, Homegirl and I went almost the whole way up and stayed there for a few minutes to enjoy the view and chat a little.

Next, we walked to the learning center to play Quelf. Quelf is a board game that involves drawing cards that have instructions for random acts, quizzes, that sort of thing. It quickly turns into a mess. At one point, I got up, and with no warning started jumping around, flapping my arms and saying, "Chicken!" The whole group was trying to figure out how they're supposed to react (Do they get up and join me? Laugh or not laugh?) Then I asked how many times I said "Chicken." Anyone who gets it right moves forward a space. That's Quelf. I suggest it for small parties. We played that for a while.

The Learning Center has a rooftop garden, so we went there with pieces of blank paper, and split into couples to make airplanes. We ended up borrowing some markers from another student and we spent our time drawing and talking instead. Eventually, we folded up a bunch of planes and threw them off the roof, one by one. Then we went to go collect them (no littering!)

I wanted to stop by the Starbucks on campus because Homegirl really loves coffee, but they had just closed. A sharp blow.

Then we walked around campus for a bit longer. The other three really liked Georgia Tech campus. Chick recognized the learning center from scenes in The Internship, so I showed her where they shot the Quidditch match and then we went our separate ways. All in all, I was with Homegirl from about 11:30 til almost 6. A lot longer than I planned the date to last but definitely a blast.

Some anecdotes:
Everyone loves science. I might have been showing off a little when we went through the lab I work in.
I got a parking ticket while we were eating because I'm foolish and didn't double check to make sure the meters were open on Saturdays. They aren't.
The poop conversation and references followed through the rest of the date, culminating in one of the girls (I won't specify) audibly farting next to my head when I was helping her with the tree. It doesn't really bother me but as much as amuse me. Did not see that one coming.
Because of Quelf, Dude had to get down on one knee and perform one of Shakespeare's love poems for Chick.
Airplanes make good date souvenirs, if you're into that kind of thing. Unfortunately Homegirl kept all of ours.


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