Utah is *supposedly* number one in:

Utah is *reportedly* dead last in:

  • families headed by a single parent,
  • births to unwed mothers,
  • spending per student in public schools and
  • alcohol consumption per capita.

Antidepressant Study (Thanks Kristen!)
The study was conducted by Express Scripts Inc., a St. Louis-based
pharmacy benefits management company, which tracked prescriptions of 24
drug types in about 2 million people selected at random from its 48
million members. Those studied were enrolled in privately managed
health-care programs, and the information gleaned from the study is
intended for use by HMOs. Medicare and Medicaid recipients were not
included in the study.

Utah also leads the nation in the use of narcotic painkillers such as
codeine and morphine-based drugs, the study found, and is ranked seventh
in total prescriptions overall. Kentucky ranked first.

Thanks Dan Hersam

Poor Taste Joke Deleted

Update: um, the word “crazy” doesn’t always mean “bad”, people. I’m happy to live in Utah. This post was not meant to rag on Utahans or to complain how much Utah sucks. To the contrary, I was relating how we are, indeed, not your average Joes. Ya know?

I’m under the weather, so to speak, this morning. Which you are too, unless you are an astronaut reading this blog from aboard the international space station.

Let’s review the layers of the earth’s atmosphere:

From the top, we have the

  • Ionosphere,
  • the Mesosphere,
  • the Stratosphere (containing the ozone layer),
  • the Tropopause
  • and the Troposphere.

The Troposphere starts at the Earth’s surface and extends upwards nearly 9 miles and contains just about all our weather. Like I said, we’re all under the weather.

But I digress, I only meant to say that I am ill. (I did not say that I was sick, because of my loyal English readers who inform me that ill and sick are quite different. Sick means you’re throwing up, whereas ill simply denotes poor health.)

You’ll probably want to hear today’s podcast, because I sound all congested. It will be fun for both of us!


(My cellphone rings)

Me: Hello?

Caller: Is Nate there?

Me: No. I think you have the wrong number.

Caller: Are you sure?

Me: Well, I’m sure this is not Nate.

Caller: [pause] Hmm. Ok then.


My automobile misfortunes continue. First, my windshield cracked, and now I find a bullet-hole sized puncture in the tread of the rear passenger side tire. No doubt I was the victim of the driveby rage of one of my detractors, or “haters” as I call them. Foiled again guys — I’ve got my hater blockers* on!

Large hate-deflecting sunglasses or not, I still had to go to Big-O Tires and drop $172.62 on a new tire. Also, I had to change that blown tire in a suit, which is not very fun. Fortunately, Mike Nelson, who owns a similarly configured Four Runner, was there to instruct me in the arcane technique of unchaining the hidden spare tire, cinched up into the belly of the vehicle. Thanks Mike.

* Hater Blockers: A very large pair of dark sunglasses to block out the hate from any people who are jealous of you in this world.


Unless you live under a rock, you probably use Google at least a few times a day and you probably also know that Google changes their logos to reflect various holidays. Today’s logo reminds us that google is 8 years old. Can you believe it? My how time flies.

Do you remember when searching the Internet was a pain? There were several competing search engines (altavista.com, yahoo.com, etc.), but they all very much sucked. A large part of that suckiness came from the commingling of paid search results with natural search results. Also, each of the popular search engines had messy pages with tons of links crowding the page. They took a while to load. As well, the search engines encouraged the use of boolean-esque search modifiers like “AND”, “OR” etc. It was not user friendly. It was hard to find anything.

Then along came Google with a clean, fast interface that clearly delineated paid from natural. It was accurate. So very accurate. It was and is amazing. Now Internet searching is even called “Googling”. They’ve been verbed.
Then Google took over the earth. But that’s another story.

Today we’re talking about my laptop. Laptops don’t live forever, you know. I have (or rather had) a Dell Latitude D600. Yesterday it died. At first my mail client threw an error. Then I scandisk’d my hard drive and it threw up a ton of errors. Then I tried to backup my files onto an external drive. Then the CRC errors. Then it blue screened. Now it comes up with a BIOS error saying it doesn’t see a hard drive.


Making backups is like cleaning out the refrigerator. You know it’s important and that by doing so your life would be better, but you never get around to it. So your kitchen stinks and you lose data.

There are lots of ways to mitigate your data loss. One is to email stuff to yourself and hope hotmail/yahoo/google don’t go out of business. Another way is to purchase an external USB/firewire connected drive. Prices are falling. They used to be about a dollar a GB, but co-worker William just sent me a link to a 750 GB drive for $350 dollars. Finally, you could always print out short important documents and keep hard copies laying around. Let’s not forget that there are a number of programs that attempt to recover data from crashed hard drives. And then there was the time that my friend Grady hired a local company to recover the data on a hard drive that had crashed. Not only did the company NOT recover the data, they went to great lengths in their efforts to extort nearly 1,500 dollars from Grady. Way to add insult to injury.


I know, it sounds like the start of a lame joke. Actually, I’m talking about the classic Monty Hall Problem*, aka, Marilyn and the Goats. In my quest to catalog for you everything in the world that is interesting, I noticed I’ve not yet spoken about that car, let alone those goats!

I’ll set the stage for you. There’s this old game show called “Let’s Make a Deal”. On this show are three closed doors which face a contestant. Behind one of these doors is a car; behind the other two are plain ol’ goats. The contestant does not know which door leads to the shiny new car, but the game show host does.

And we begin. The contestant designates a door. But wait! Before that door is opened, the host surprises us by opening one of the other two doors to reveal… a goat. The contestant is now given a strange choice: he could stay with the original door, or switch to the other unopened door.

What should the contestant do?

If you’ve not heard of the Monty Hall Problem before, this might sound like a very silly question. As we all know, the contestant had a 1/3 chance of selecting the car. How does opening a door after the selection change the odds? Either by staying with the original choice or by switching to the new door, the odds should logically be the same. Right?

The self-proclaimed “genius”, Marilyn vos Savant, began one of her weekly columns back in September of 1990 describing the goat and car problem to readers all across America. She claimed in her response that the odds of choosing the car DOUBLE if the contestant switches to the other unopened door. She was inundated with letters from around the country declaring that, at last, the guru had messed up.

The thing is, she didn’t mess up. She is quite right.

If you’re a statistics student, you’ll likely see this as a classic case of Conditional Probability, where P[A|B] = P[A and B]/P[B]. In fact, this professor shows how conditional probability can be used to solve the Monty Hall problem.

But I’ll show you in a less mathy sort of way.

Let’s say you pick door one. This game has only three outcomes. Here they are:

door one door two door three
Outcome 1 CAR goat goat
Outcome 2 goat CAR goat
Outcome 3 goat goat CAR

Now let’s play out the contestant’s two options: to switch or not to switch. Clearly, if the contestant does not switch, he will win only once (in Outcome 1), which is 1/3 of the time. Now watch what happens if he switches. In outcome 1, the contestant had picked the door with the CAR. He switches to a door with a goat and LOSES! However, In Outcome 2, he’ll be shown door three, because it’s the only one of two and three that has a goat. The contestant switches to door two and HUZZAH! he wins a CAR. Likewise in Outcome 3, he’ll be shown door two, he’ll switch from door one to door three and WHAMMO! he wins a CAR. That means that with the strategy of switching, the contestant did in fact DOUBLE his odds of winning. He’ll win 2/3′s of the time. Interesting, eh?

Here’s another wacky problem for you. It’s called The Missing Dollar

Three men go to stay at a motel, and the man at the desk charges them $30.00 for a room. They split the cost ten dollars each. Later the manager tells the desk man that he overcharged the men, that the actual cost should have been $25.00. The manager gives the bellboy $5.00 and tells him to give it to the men.

The bellboy, however, decides to cheat the men and pockets $2.00, giving each of the men only one dollar.

Now each man has paid $9.00 to stay in the room and 3 x $9.00 = $27.00. The bellboy has pocketed $2.00. $27.00 + $2.00 = $29.00 – so where is the missing $1.00?

And, just for fun, here are three more classic puzzles:

Q. A prisoner is told “If you tell a lie we will hang you; if you tell the truth we will shoot you.” What can he say to save himself?
Q. Looking at a picture a man says, “Brothers and sisters I have none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.” Whose picture is it?
Q. What is the eleven letter word that all Yale graduates spell incorrectly?


* Mark Haddon’s novel, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, talks about this problem from the eyes of a young mathematical savant. It’s a good read.


Yesterday as I was shooting assault rifles at a Springville firing range with a spirited Kazakh Mongolian friend of mine, I got to thinking about rhetoric. No, not “the undue use of exaggeration or display” or “the study of the effective use of language” but the “art of influence and persuasion”. Specifically, as I squeezed the trigger on the fully automatic Colt M16 and let out a maelstrom of fiery lead towards the paper target, I wondered about the naysayers of artificial intelligence.

They use the now famous sentence, “Time flies like an arrow*“, which can be interpreted in a half dozen ways, in their argument that computers will never be able to understand people because of complex ambiguity in language. That sentence, they rightly state, can only be understood in context, you see. As an atomic entity, it doesn’t convey any information.

Likewise, the opponents of traditional marriage argue that you cannot define marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation because, after all, some couples are unable (or unwilling) to have children! Point, set, match.

Except not quite. Both of these claims are flawed because they attempt to wholly invalidate a subject through the use of outlier cases. That type of argument may sound convincing, but it is unsound.

There’s a name for this faulty generalization — “material fallacy” (also dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, the converse fallacy of accident, a reverse accident, and destroying the exception).


* also, “Fruit flies like a banana

I got so excited with preparations for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, that I forgot to shave. It makes sense, of course, because pirates don’t shave. Now, days later, when I walk into work this morning a coworker said, “Ryan, your facial hair is ugly.” I responded, “William, when I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.” :)

That was fun to say, and everyone got a good laugh.

Then I thought, “maybe I should shave again?” It’s been a week and a half so far. And then I thought, “I’ll see what the interested readers in the blogosphere think”. That’s you people, BTW. Here’s a poll: [poll=2]


All of that without a thesaurus!

One of those welcomed me as I left Family Home Evening in my single’s ward, on my way to drop off Sarah T, before heading home. Smack in the center of my windshield.

Those of you who know me, and I’m talking to all three of my blog readers, know how I ride. I roll in a tricked out, custom, low riding jet-black Escalade, spinning 20″. I’m all iced up, yo!

Either that or I have a perpetually muddy Nissan Xterra. An Xterra that, until yesterday, only had a few rock chips in the windshield. Then, I was speeding home from indoor soccer and I hear this “thunk!” and I say, “cripes! I’ve been hit again!” And I notice a small divot on the edge of the windshield on the driver’s side. The smallest of chips. No big deal. But like the warm water turned up to boil the unsuspecting frog, the chip slowly spread. Except, it wasn’t anything like that. When Sarah and I walk out of FHE, there it was, POW! a twelve inch long split in the windshield. That’s a fast fissure. A furious fracture. A sprinting splinter. One crazy crack.

Normally, such an experience would not be blogable (believe me, I set the bar high when it comes to what I will and will not blog about), but in this case, I’d already replaced my windshield TWICE this year. Two times in a friggin’ month, in fact. I mean, seriously, as they say in Utah, “what the heck?!?”

I understand there’s a law that states if the crack obscures the driver’s view then it’s illegal. My view is obscured, so I’ll need to get it replaced. I wonder how much bulletproof windshields cost? Think they are THREE TIMES as expensive as a normal windshield? And then there’s the real question: Do I really need a windshield. I could always remove it and then wear protective pilot goggles and a white scarf like I’m a WWII ace. That sidekick, Jack Dalton, on Macgyver did it. Motorcycle guys do it. Speaking of which, how is it that motorcycles are allowed in the HOV lanes? They clearly are NOT high occupancy vehicles. Maybe it’s because society wants the lives of those risk takers to be easy now, so when they crash and nearly die they can think back on the good times? Either that or it’s a conspiracy. Just like 9/11, at least if you’re a nut-job professor at BYU (Steven Jones). BYU placed Dr. Jones on administrative leave, which is good thing because Jones is insane. Also, very, very dumb.

Mr. Jones, a high-energy physicist, thought he could parlay his knowledge of subatomic particles into the fields of civil engineering and demolitions. Likely under the influence of Methamphetamine, he published a paper stating the damages of 9-11 were “controlled demolitions” (i.e., the government placed explosives into the towers and blew them up).

Immediately, BYU’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences unsurprisingly responded, “what? are you drunk?” Actually, they said, Jones’ “hypotheses and interpretations of evidence were being questioned by scholars and practitioners”, and they expressed doubts about whether those hypotheses had been “submitted to relevant scientific venues that would ensure rigorous technical peer review.” Jones’ conclusive evidence? That building seven’s collapse was somewhat symmetrical. Compelling evidence indeed! Thought: maybe theoretical scientists should leave engineering to the engineers?


When I created this site back in February 2004, I proclaimed on the homepage that Ryan Byrd dot net was “probably the coolest site in Utah”. That claim persists on the front page to this day.

I’m happy to report that as of right now, the uncertainty exists no longer. Ryan Byrd dot net is the first and second result when you search Google for “coolest site in Utah”. It’s not “probably”. It is.

Ryan Byrd fans can help make this permanent by linking “coolest site in Utah” to this site. Here’s a page that explains how: Linking to the Coolest site in Utah


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