Thursday, December 18, 2008

Those of us with good taste always knew it

Finally, we have proof! Science is busy tackling the big questions, like how to cure cancer, producing a Unified Field Theory, and testing whether romantic comedies are as bad for you as they are painful to watch. Well, it turns out the answer to that last one is "nearly."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yet Another Pan

From Spherical Panoramas


I think this is the last one I'd taken but not stitched. Time to shoot some more, I guess...

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Kyu

I'm now rated -1.5 (1 kyu) by the AGA.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fun with GIMP

Google "Mathmap" or "Droste effect" to find the plug-in I used to generate this. There's a whole bunch of photos like this on flicker from the creator of the filter.

From Digitally manipulated

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I went to AZ and all I got was this lousy boot

From AZ- June 2008


Slowly working through my photo in-box. Now I'm done through June!

St. Bartholomew

This might be my favorite picture from Italy.

From March 21st (Milan)


Michelangelo's "David" was my favorite piece of art, but we weren't allowed to take pictures (which don't do it justice, anyway).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Penultimate Italy

Only one more day of photos to go through!

From March 17th (Florence)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's over

I really appreciated McCain's concession speech. I thought it was very gracious. Where was that McCain for the last year or so?

From Yes We Can


I hope (but do not expect) that if anything is learned from this cycle it is that attack 24/7 is not a good strategy. I also hope we never see someone as unqualified as Palin on a ticket again. My understanding is that McCain actually wanted Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but his advisers nixed the idea because they thought Lieberman's pro-choice stance would depress the republican base (read: evangelical christians) turnout.

Palin thought she didn't need prepping or coaching, and she's right, she needed a freaking education--over-handling was not really her problem. On the other hand, I think McCain really was over-handled, that if he run the campaign the way he wanted and not how his advisers recommended, he would have done much better.

Hopefully the republicans can come up with someone as inspiring as Obama in the future, but I don't really expect them to.

And finally, I hope (and for once do expect) that Obama will be a good president.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We saw history

From Yes We Can

Exciting post with pictures yet to come

But first it's time to announce a new pet peeve. I've heard the word "enormity" misused about a dozen times in the last 20 or so hours, and it's really getting to me. "Enormity" does not just mean "largeness," "greatness," "bigness" or "hugeness"-- it refers to a great EVIL. E.g., The enormity of the concentration camps was not fully understood until after WWII was over. Look it up!

(ranting aside, I only learned this within the past year or so, and enough people are similarly misinformed that in the next few years the definition of the word will change. But in the meantime, will everyone please stop using this word to refer to the ascendancy of the new president-elect!!!!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Predictions!

<p><strong>><a href='http://projects.washingtonpost.com/2008/pick-your-president/'>2008 Election Contest: Pick Your President</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the 2008 presidential election.</p>

What's your guess? Also, see the conversation on my endorsement post from a bit ago.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another day of Italy photos is up

This is one of my favorites from Cinque Terre. It was a spherical pan, but I didn't feel like working really hard to stitch the bottom nicely, and it makes a good picture like this anyway...

From March 18th (Cinque Terre)


Only two more days to go through!

Friday, October 24, 2008

You should, too

This is my first ever political endorsement.

I'm cynical about politics. I voted a Libertarian ticket in 2004, and for the Green Party in 06 (with the exception of voting for Mark Kirk's opponent. He annoyed me with enough hyperbolistic crap in my mailbox that I really wanted him to lose).

At the beginning of the year I thought I was going to get to choose between two people I actually liked, the first election where it's not been a choice between the lesser of two evils. Well, I've been following the news and I still like one of my choices.

I'm voting for Obama. I think he will be the best president we've had for a long time. Please note that this is a positive endorsement, and not a negative one (i.e. it's not that I don't like McCain).

(Speaking of McCain, I don't know if he picked the wrong advisers or what, but he's lost my respect over the last few months. And Gov. Palin just scares me half to death.)

I'd say more but I don't want to gush. I don't think it's physically possible to do everything he wants to do in four (or even eight) years, but I expect him to do some good things for this country. Of course, it's certainly possible that four years from now I'll be cynical again, but I don't think so, and for now, I'm happy.

I'll take questions in the comments. (haha, as if I actually had readers)

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm not dead

I just don't have anything to say.

This is a spherical panorama I took in Italy last year and finally got around to stitching. I took it in St. Peter's Basilica. If I recall correctly, it is directly above the recently rediscovered tomb of St. Peter, which we were not allowed to photograph. Walking through the tombs of the popes was a very interesting experience, and I'm still not sure what I think of it.

From Spherical Panoramas


This photo is notable on account of the blue light. If you load it into a viewer, the view up is really why I took it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why conservative christians can, should, and will dump the republicans this year

Christians in this country have been voting mostly for republicans for as long as I can remember, since the 1980's at least. Why? Republicans are perceived to be supporting "biblical" principles, namely: Stop abortion, prevent gay marriage, be fiscally responsible (i.e. get rid of the national debt), and so on. Many people I know vote or have voted republican on the first one alone. (And obviously I know that there are arguments pro and con for these social issues, from both Christian and non-christian stances; whether these are good things or not is irrelevant to the point I'm making here.)

Since 1980 we've had 20 years of Republicans in the white house and only 8 years of Democrats. And the Republicans have not done any of the things those Christians wanted them to. Abortion is still legal, the national debt is bigger than ever, etc.

With the current Republican administration being one of the worst administrations this country has ever had, Christians are going to do some math. What does 20 years of inaction = ? It = Republicans aren't going to do anything on the issue and probably never will, either (for good reason; it would remove one of their main issues, not to mention pissing off everyone else that voted for them). Voting for the democrats is no more a vote to keep killing babies than any other vote would be, based on the last 28 years, anyway.

It is objectively clear that the republicans, as a group, have spurned the will of one of their largest blocks of support. Why would that block keep voting them in? I don't think they will.

With that said, I'm very happy that Obama is going to get the dem nomination and not Clinton. We've already had a round 2 of a recent president. Let's not do that again.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I just realized that most people don't know this

OK, pop quiz time.

Which of these activities is the most harmful to your health?

1. Smoking Tobacco.
2. Smoking Basil.
3. Smoking Coffee. (I don't know if this would deliver caffeine effectively...)
4. Smoking Marijuana.
5. Smoking any other non-poisonous plant.

If you answered 1, you're wrong. According to the articles I've seen on New Scientist, #4 is slightly worse for you (mainly, my guess is, because Marijuana is not grown in controlled conditions and is more likely to have other dangerous things in it). But these activities all do approximately the same amount of harm to your body.

Here's the scoop. SMOKING ANYTHING IS BAD FOR YOU. And, guess what? IT'S THE SMOKE ITSELF THAT DOES THE HARM. Nicotine is not the main culprit behind lung cancer, though it certainly does your body no good. It's the burned plant matter that does the damage!

Breathing in burning things is bad for you, big surprise. So, if you smoke and don't want to quit, consider switching to another form of nicotine delivery. Still bad for you, but nowhere near AS bad for you. (for more reading...)

And switch to brownies if you're doing the other stuff...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Breaking news

I just ate something out of the vending machine which carried the following warning:

Allergy Information: This product is manufactured in a facility that processes milk, peanuts, and other nuts.

I always thought milk came from the underside of cows. Silly me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Worth reading

Short and to the point:

New Scientist's 24 myths about evolution

Don't bother reading the one on the bible not being inerrant, it's the biggest load of intellectual crap I've seen in a while (and they wonder why evangelical christians don't bother to consider the rest of what they have to say). I'm sure it raised my blood pressure. You owe it to yourself to ignore that one, as the rest are pretty much spot-on and certainly worth reading.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I didn't think it was possible...

...But it is. I've finally been offended by "art."

For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

UPDATE: I'm having trouble believing this is actually true. Herbal teas? She was pregnant 9 times in 9 months? I don't buy it.

On the off chance that it's actually true:

Seriously, if she did this to puppies we'd lock her up. WTF?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Modern poetry gets a bad rap, or, Christians who do not like this should check their pulse

Descending Theology: The Resurrection

by Mary Karr

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why do people do the things they do?

The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.
--Nietzsche

What does it take to change a long-held viewpoint? A number of years ago I would have gladly called myself a creationist. Today, I would call myself a theistic evolutionist, were I unable to avoid a label. What made the difference? Why did I change my mind?

I do not have space or time to recount, nor can I remember, all the innumerable little details that cropped up in favor of what was then the other side. "If one does the homework, it comes out in our favor," was the universal reassurance. Well, I'm curious, so I did the homework anyway. Creationism (which, in case you've not heard, is the belief that god created the earth [some would say universe but I was not able to believe that for very long] and all its inhabitants in 6 24-hour periods about 7,000-10,000 years ago) moved from the "certainty" column in my mind to the "unlikely but possible" column. What was the final straw?

My favorite argument for a young Earth (a requirement for this view) was the fact that moon is slowly receding from the Earth. At something like an inch a century (I don't remember the numbers exactly), if you rewind time the moon runs into the earth a long time before the 4 billion years that the Earth is supposed to have existed for. The only problem with this argument is that the math is wrong: the closer the moon is, the slower it recedes, meaning that it could easily have been orbiting the earth for 4 billion years.

So, big deal, you may think. The creationists got their math wrong, but so what? Just because the common scientific time-line is possible doesn't make it fact. The problem is this: I heard this line of reasoning in the '90's (as a teenager). It was 2000 something when I found the answer to it. But guess when the refutation to this argument was available? Go on, guess.

1970's. Yes, that's right. Creationists were repeating an argument in the 1990's that had been refuted 20 years prior. That's what got me. It was clear to me that the Creationists I had been trusting cared more about winning the argument than about finding the truth out. It would not have hurt them in the slightest to stop repeating the argument, to put out a correction; as I noted above, having a thing be possible doesn't make it so. 20 years is plenty of time for them to do so. When I discovered this, all the bits and pieces of information that made up my opinion on the subject changed in importance, and the result was that it became impossible to continue to honestly hold the Creationists' beliefs. The world is so much easier to explain now-- but that is a topic for another post.

I do not think, as the Nietzsche quote at the top might imply, that they are secret evolutionists deliberately harming the creationist movement by arguing for it with bad arguments (though the effect may be much the same). I think they genuinely believe what they claim to. I also think that the environments which the creationist beliefs come from make it very difficult for creationists to honestly look at the facts. Creationists have a lot invested in the truth or falsity of the Creation story; most of them feel that, were it false, the entire Christian religion would collapse. And, indeed, their faith is structured such that this would be true for many of them; therefore, for them, admitting the truth of the age of the earth or of the cosmos is only a hair away from denying Christianity. Why that is so is a topic for another day. As for me, somehow I have remained a Christian.

This is my appeal for intellectual honesty, from both sides.

Friday, April 4, 2008

now that no one reads this I can say whatever I want

"His Dark Materials" is a series of three books by Philip Pullman. The first, "The Golden Compass," has been made into a movie, which I have not seen and do not intend to see soon as it seems to have gotten rather poor reviews.

Pullman apparently (i.e. he has explicitly said that he) wrote the series trying to be a kind of "anti-" C.S. Lewis, using fiction to make an appeal for atheism. In this, he failed rather badly, on a number of levels.

Firstly: there were a number of anti-religion and anti-church monologues from a few different characters. These all seemed forced into the story in the way that an 8-year-old might draw horns on the Mona Lisa. The religious institution in the main world from his books is clearly designed to resemble Christianity; I would like to report that it was entirely different, but Christians through the centuries have provided plenty of ammunition for caricatures of that sort, and it was a good enough skewer of christians-who-don't-get-the-point as to be believable.

Here I must pause a moment to note that the second two books are essential reading if you want to actually understand what he's trying to say; the first book doesn't really do much more than introduce a few terms.

Secondly. His characters, while ostensibly rebelling against "authority" and "morality" display the sort of morality Christians of all sorts (including those who don't "get the point") aspire to. This is sort of like "sticking it to the man" by paying your taxes on time.

Thirdly. He has a non-human, non-local, all-pervasive, all-knowing intelligence directing the activities of all his characters. Irony-wise, that really takes the cake... He also references many bible stories as basically factual (though with some detail mis-understood, of course).

Fourthly, and most seriously. Normally, when you support something, you try to make it sound like a good thing. But the sense one gets after finishing the third book (I'm trying not to give anything away here) is that of permanent isolation, separation, loneliness, despair. One of the most depressing endings I've read in a long time. When one puts down "The Last Battle," or "That Hideous Strength" (the final books in C.S. Lewis' Narnia and Space Trilogy series), one thinks, "I wish the world were like that." When one turns the last page on MacDonald's Lilith, one wants to sleep in the big hall, too. When I finished "The Amber Spyglass," I spent the rest of the week chanting, "The world is not like that. The world is not like that," to myself.

On a positive note, I liked most of the characters, and thought they behaved reasonably. His personification of the human spirit was interesting. I also thought it very interesting that he seemed to take a clear position in a debate that I thought was only Christian intellectual m***********: are humans composed of two parts (body and spirit), or three (body, soul, spirit)? His books clearly take the latter view. On a side note, talking bears with armor? What the hell was he smoking? And, if you only read one of these books, read the middle one. I liked it the best.

Enough about the content. Writing wise, he was clear enough, but Lewis' style is inimitable and Pullman certainly doesn't "imit" it.

Reading these books is a valuable exercise in cultural literacy. The athiests may be able match us in the "book of dumb proof" (e.g. Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens) category but are a ways away from us in the battle for the imagination, if this series is any indication.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

valid sentences

The old man the boat.

The man who whistles tunes pianos.

The cotton clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.

The horse raced past the barn fell.

James, while John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher.

And last, but not least:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

How many times do you have to read them to figure out what they're saying? Look it up at wikipedia if you need help.

Required Reading

If this doesn't win the nomination for him, nothing will.

Complete Transcript

November is gonna be tough, I'll have to choose between my two states...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hello Again

I am tired of maintaining wordpress, so I'm switching to Blogger. I don't have much time for blogging, so don't expect very frequent posts.

The topics of this blog will be the same as before-- photography, go (hence the title), and the interactions of Christianity and culture. I want to finish my NaNoWriMo project before I write anything too serious here, so expect lite content for the near future.

I don't think I'll be restoring my old posts. If one of them had something you want in it, email me.

Oh, and happy SAD (Single's Awareness Day).