Atheism is making a comeback, but then maybe it never really went away. Dawkins' new book is out, and his videos are all over YouTube; Wired's recent issue takes up the atheism buzz and talks with Dawkins and Sam Harris (who, like Dawkins, also published a new book in September); Gene Expression discusses Harris's ideas in relation to the minority position that atheists must take; and finally, Pharyngula opens the boards for a discussion on an atheist logo (that's not a Darwin-fish). I like the *, but Ø and ♮ are also nice even though finding them in a unicode chart is a bitch.
As an artist, I understand the power and mystery of symbols and ritual. Creativity is part skill and part fleeting evocation, so as much as the commenters in the above threads insist that they're atheists because they lack some trait that would allow them to understand myth: I have that trait yet I still get frustrated when others allow it to infringe on the sciences. Although Dawkins' book is getting lukewarm reviews on the basis that it states the obvious, there's an undeniable need for some obvious-stating. Of course religious belief doesn't hold up to rational thought: why then do we allow it to so often tread in that realm?
Maybe this is all part of a pendulum correction. That'd be nice--if only to get back to a more sane norm.
[ updated 10 Nov 2006 ]
More statements of the obvious where unfortunately they need to be stated. "Gotta have faith?" from A. C. Grayling in Comment is free....
Previously, I had voiced a desire to create a politics wiki that would definitively address flawed arguments that get repeated (torture works, Hussein linked to al Qaeda, etc.). I have great faith in wikis and feel that domain-specific wikis would (and do) provide unique and useful resources. Coby Beck, over at A Few Things Ill Considered, has put together an index to his "How to Talk to a Sceptic Guide" on global warming. Best of all, he plans on porting it to a wiki.
I'd just listened to a man-on-the-street comment on NPR concerning upcoming elections. The commenter said that after 15 credit hours of classes and a full-time job, he doesn't have that much time to research candidates. Just as Byzantine rules of Senate policy or state politics can be difficult to research, the depths of the science involved in global warming research will go beyond whatever you might remember from your 4 year degree. Add to that the haze of lies and non-truths that seem to bubble up in the media more quickly than complex truths: collectively vetted aggregations of available information fills a dire need.
Focused on programming at home all last week, then: late Friday night at the Vortex waiting for Lisa to get back from some Haunted House in Newnan (man, I hope that I closed out my tab), and Saturday at Vinyl for the Kabao show. Great show and there were even three other bands to add to the mayhem. Some crazy kids from LA who apparently just learned to swear and be angry at the world, and some hardcore techno guys with some scary/fun hardcore fans who started a five-person mosh pit. See, angry can be fun too.
Not looking forward to this week, but what are you gonna do.
Index of Genesis videos available on YouTube.
Start noticing things you don't notice. Like putting the key in the garage door. I don't know why, but it seems like an important idea.
Early this week (no, last week?) I had a milestone where I started sleeping through the night without waking up because of my leg. But then, two nights ago I had a charley horse (or a corkie) in my calf and it's still sore today. It's meaningless, but it's like when you're sick and every little symptom is over-important.
And blogged about.
Started re-listening to Reich's Different Trains. I had the Kronos recording when it came out (1986?) and it was required listening in my collection but, as is often the case especially with books, was loaned out because of its importance and is now lost to history. The work probably reasserted itself in my head from all of the brouhaha over Reich's b-day, but every couple of years I think about it and pine after the CD. And, it's another train-related coincidence, what with me reading Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days.
I've been trying to come up with a sonata framework for the piece: fast-slow-fast. It doesn't quite work, but there's such a three-movement completeness (not to state the obvious) that it feels like it has a link to the past. And I'm reminded of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. New, but old.
I resisted the urge to allow my head to explode from the insanity of the Military Commissions Act and its implications w/r/t habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions. The urge was immediately countered by the possibility that it wouldn't pass, or that it'd be thrown out from it's first challenge. Although, how many people will be hidden away from the possibility of challenge? Reading and commentary has made me re-think the level-headed, calm approach.
None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal. Mark their names.Short opinion piece, and he's seething.
thanks to modern post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable...). Still, he emphasizes the basics of what's at risk.
That purpose [of the Due Process Clause] is not just to protect citizens; if it were, the clause would presumably contain an explicit restriction, as some clauses do. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made clear that it protects non-citizens within the United States.
The most revealing moment was when Richard Dawkins said
You're an atheist about [Thor and Zeus and Poseidon], some of us just go one god further. A great line that he's used before, and yet the audience basically booed him. [ via YouTube ]
So much for an intelligent viewership.Continue reading "Dawkins on Colbert"
WikiMatrix [ via Lifehacker's article "Set up your personal Wikipedia" ] is a nice site that lists around 50 wiki packages. It provides detailed fact sheets on all of them, along with a wizard that helps you choose between the different packages and ultimately compare their differences. Just comparing the differences in markup is useful to appreciate a lack of standards.
There really needs to be default utilities in every wiki that can export to and import from HTML. That would retain 90+% of the content and make wikis a reliable option for data storage. People complain about lock-in with Microsoft Office; this is exactly the same if somewhat more obscure. Basic support should consist of: internal and external links, categories (tags), and images. Wikipedia lists some simple tools for converting to a Wikipedia article from various formats including HTML, but none support complete site import. Another failing of a lack of standards. And there're also several tools for converting blocks of wiki text to HTML--one written in Ruby.
Some additional links:
Using HTML as an intermediate format seems to me as the most sensible way to manually export/import content from one wiki to another.
Over a year ago, I had a genius idea to create a wiki events calendar. A few average attempts popped into existence since then, and I sort of lazily worked on my own version. It's written in Java and bulkier than a LAMP-like equivalent, but the experience helped me hone my skills enough to get an actual Java position.
The original idea came when I realized that all of the local restaurants' happy hours and meal specials were only being advertised at the restaurants themselves. Or at best, buried in one of the neighborhood free papers. Well, I began coding it and goofed around with re-writes and experiments and along comes someone publishing atlanta drink specials on Google Calendar.
Still a good idea though.
Watching Lisa's flight's path via Google Maps on Delta's web site (check here for your flight number and then click the Track link). Depart LaGuardia at 2 PM yesterday, you could see a decidedly circuitous path avoiding the island of Manhattan. East then north then west then finally south over Jersey. The Delta map showed both the scheduled flight path (directly south) and the contrasting actual path.
Troublemakers have again instigated a grey goo attack against Second Life [ via BoingBoing ]. Second Life apparently has rich enough tools for artifact construction to permit unconstrained replication. A previous occurrence of grey goo was actually pink goo let loose accidentally by a noob. Cute. It looks like the current problem is much less benign; follow the SL blog posts beginning early Sunday. Any server developers will read with unpleasant recognition the rapidfire up-down-up-down-up-down announcements, although the presence of
self-replicating particle objects are probably not so common.
Watched South Park's "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, while they last). The joke is that, at some point, the act of playing the game becomes more important than the experience of being in the game. If that makes sense.
Representational art in the Byzantine era, and similarly drama in the pre-Renaissance, was restricted (or at least looked on with suspicion) because Christian philosophers felt that the ersatz reality seduced us away from God's reality. Our susceptible minds would be enthralled by the stories and accept experience through them instead of through reality.
When I read a novel I'm immersed in the reality of that novel, and yet the experience is as static as watching television or maybe even playing piano. I'm passively--disregarding the active choice of art object and time--experiencing that which someone else had created. Maybe these virtual worlds are the next logical step in the art consumer experience, but with the addition of consumer interaction. And maybe the fears of art replacing sacred fidelity have changed to those of it replacing social integrity.
So much for the magic of self-diagnosis. After some poking and prodding (more poking than prodding), the doctor says that compartment syndrome is unlikely because of the complete lack of swelling. Instead, she thinks my foot drop may be caused by some nerve issue of some sort. Appt. with the neurologist in a month, then maybe I'll get my face on a plastic jug at the local 7/11: "Help little Scotty find a cure for his embarrassing FOOT DROP..."
First, Scott Adams mocks the death of Steve Irwin as if he got what he deserved, ignoring that the cause of his death was in no way related to his other more daring actions. People often swim with stingrays and only very rarely does an attack occur. Adams quickly took down the post.
Now, he tries to crack some more eggs of knowledge on our collective heads re the Foley scandal by pointing out the fluctuating age-of-consent mores throughout Western history. Thanks for dusting off our high school text books, Scott. Quite informative. I can only imagine his position on the kidnapped Austrian girl; after all: women were once possessions and slavery common.
Maybe he's just trying to be controversial (or more appropriately: "controversial") with no real point, but his standard mode is social criticism so we should assume intent. With his Dilbert empire, he has an instant audience (that he rightly deserves). Unfortunately, he's too often nothing more than an AM radio talk show jackass.
Total running time: 1:36:01
I just heard a short interview with him on Talk of the Nation Science Friday. I'm in the camp of middle-grounders that he's trying to convert.Continue reading "Richard Dawkins: The Root of all Evil"
Not to be forgotten:
What's on the TiVo?
What will be?
According to my web-diagnosis, I have chronic compartment syndrome affecting my tibialis anterior (while standing, I cannot pivot my left foot up from the heel and have nonspecific numbness). Google was kind enough to add to Wikipedia's entries by categorizing treatment, symptoms, etc. The good news is that I just received a complimentary physical therapy consultation at Body Mechanics Physical Therapy. Coincidence? Like anti-virus companies, they may have been the ones to inflict me with this pain.
First kooky thought: the Republicans allowed the Foley scandal to happen in order to deflect from the recent and serious issues revealed about Iraq and Afghanistan. Intelligence reports and skyrocketing death tolls were becoming a nuisance.
Second, more depressing, kooky thought: the Republican unleashed the scandal for such a purpose, and didn't expect that a Congressional Pedophilia Corruption Ring would be more repulsive to the American public than the catastrofuck that they unleashed in the Middle East.
APCB picks apart the idiocy (however obvious) of Ben Stein's partisan defense of Mark Foley. To understand the depths of Stein's corrupted logic: he actually defends his position on Foley by using the phrase
I have many gay friends and they are great people. Really? Then go ask them if they also equate pedophilia with homosexuality.
Back from California.
Instead of a trip to Italy (flights too expensive), Lisa & I went to CA to celebrate her 40th trading Chianti for Zinfandel. The itinerary took us from San Francisco to a few days in Sonoma, then travelling down the PCH making two day stops each in Carmel and Santa Barbara and finally ending up in LA to visit the sister-in-law-in-law and family. Lisa gets all the credit for one of the best-planned vacations yet, and I recommend anyone take the same or similar route. References were the Lonely Planet Napa & Sonoma Wine Country and California Highway 1 guides.
(Our ticket number at Fresh to Order the night before leaving. Coincidence?!?)
On the flight over, I sat next to an FBI agent who was reading Fiasco. He was returning to his home office in San Francisco to check in and attend a friend's wedding in Santa Barbara. We had a nice talk and he gave us a few good recommendations for Carmel. Our rental car was a convertible PT Cruiser. Lisa had hoped for a Mustang, but the luggage and purchased wine would've never fit, so we were lucky.
This was probably the most culinary trip we've ever taken, with excellent meals to be had from start to LA. Our arrival dinner in San Francisco was at 9:45 Friday night at The Slanted Door near The Embarcadero. Expensive, hip, Asian, yet very good. We split appetizers and uncharacteristicly laid low on the wine in order to mitigate the time zone. Breakfast the next morning was at Sears Fine Food. Unless you want to do some heavy-duty breakfast eatin', keep your skinny fucking ass away. Lisa had wanted to go on our last SF trip, but the place was under renovation. We wisely returned by accident after a wrong turn and were not disappointed.
This was our second trip to “wine country.” The first was with the brother, sister-in-law, her sister, and her husband eight years back for a few days in Napa. Very fond memories. This trip to Sonoma, we stayed at the Sonoma Valley Inn: free wifi and an inviting pool that we somehow never made time for.
First wine tastings at Sebastiani: their Pinot was, as always, great as were their two dessert wines. Not overly sweet. The Eye of the Swan white pinot noir, a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, tasted to me like a horrible horrible mistake. The grapes did not blend at all. The servers were friendly and were easy to crack wise with. The first one we had actually lived in Midtown off of Monroe 10 or so years ago. We also saw the preparations for what looked like two weddings on the front grounds. Aww. Gundlach Bundschu had nice wines but we ended up with a less-than-friendly hostess. Although she did have an interesting history: her father worked the winery for 22 years and so she works there now and will probably continue to do so. I can't count how many jobs I've had in my life.
In the evening, we had drinks at the El Dorado Kitchen, a warm modern bar in the El Dorado Hotel off of Sonoma Plaza, and then Lisa's birthday dinner at Girl & the Fig just across the street. The inside is nice, but dining on their patio is a must.
Three wineries close together just east of town: Ravenswood, Buena Vista, and Bartholomew. Ravenswood, of course, is famous for its zinfandels and I definitely fell back in love with them during this visit.
At Buena Vista we tasted and purchased a bottle of their sherry. It, like many wines we ordered, was available only at their winery. Most were worth the purchase; only a few, like Sebastiani's white pinot noir, were better left in limited release. Interestingly, Buena Vista was started by the father of California wines, Agoston Haraszthy. Information on him was to be found in a small museum at the next winery, Bartholomew. Bartholomew was possibly the only one we visited that was completely organic and their wines were 100% varietals with no blends. We were fortunate enough to be pointed to lunch at Cafe Citti in Glen Ellen by our server at Ravenswood. Returning back in town, we finished up the afternoon at the Mayo Family Winery. There, a part-time jazz musician poured and spun tales of wine and music with some Coltrane in the background. The extended stay there knocked us out for the rest of the afternoon. After a “rest” back at the hotel, we went to dinner at Maya. Beware the stuffed jalepenos! They were both the most flavorful and hottest peppers I've ever had. A rare combination. Again, an outstanding meal.
Get up, get out, and we wound our way on back roads to begin our trip on Highway 1. Down through woods and coast and small towns and finally back through San Francisco with a scenic lunch at Cliff House (emphasis on scenery and not lunch). Continue on to our next major stop...
Our hotel was a slight step down (especially since we later found out from one of the locals at a bar that it was the sight of a prostitution ring bust), but what it lacked in charm it made up for in free wifi. Dinner that evening at Grasing's ('gray-zings). I love the freedom of gourmet food and casual dining in these towns.
No wineries! We must pack all of our Carmel-related-stuff in today and save the wineries for our trip out on Wednesday. We started with the Monterey Aquarium, which I have finally come to the conclusion is slightly better than the Georgia Aquarium, fresh in my mind from a recent visit. They had: a diver feeding fish and sharks and monkey-faced eels, a mock wetlands room with sand and reeds and several species of birds, ample plaques with information on the oddities that you're viewing. For me, they really gained points for the extra information. Lunch at Sly McFly's (fried seafood, meatball sammich), fresh-made fudge at a local candy shop, then over to the 17-mile drive to see rich houses around the Pebble Beach Golf Course (meh) and various vistas and fauna on the coast.
Cheese and wine was obtained at The Cheese Shop in town, then we relaxed at the hotel with some internet jazz and a Carmel sunset. Dinner began with drinks at The Carmel Mission Inn, Clint Eastwood's joint, where we enjoyed the 70's radio serenade at the piano bar. As the pianist was noodling around in between songs, me and a local declared in unison “Alan Parsons Project!” (specifically, the opening chord to “I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You”). I'm sure all present were impressed. He then informed us of the illicit history of our hotel.
We went to dinner at Forge in the Forest (both this and the aquarium were recommended by my FBI flight neighbor). Unfortunately, they close oddly early and much of our meal was rushed by a waiter who felt that punctuality at closing time was of utmost importance. The food was only OK but the patio atmosphere was perfect for the weather, which was never not-perfect so that goes without saying. Dinner at The Carmel Mission Inn would have been much better, but I'd still lightly recommend Forge in the Forest. Lightly. We ended the evening on the strip in Monterey for drinks at a local bar where Lisa mistook “Lad's” for “Ladies,” from which we overheard a mocking of her as clever as you'd guess any frat-boy could come up with. I was entertained.
Three excellent wineries on our way out of town. First, Chateau Julien. Although friends had a bad experience, the girl here was very friendly despite having a code in her dose. This was a week of surprising wines for me. I've been off of Zinfandels, Merlots, and Chardonnays for a while yet at many of the wineries these ended up being my favorites. At CJ, it ended up being the Chardonnays. Then San Saba where we spoke with a lady who often visits her mother in Atlanta. She insisted that Atlanta traffic is as bad as LA traffic, but we learned differently. More purchases, this time two unoaked Chardonnays—which had much less, well, oak flavor for lack of a thesaurus. Finally, Bernardus where we enjoyed two blends consisting mostly of Cabernet that they called their Marinas.
On our way to Santa Barbara, we intended to visit Hearst Castle (of rosebud fame) but needed to reserve the tour ahead of time and they were sold out. Their free museum hinted at the opulence and taste of the place. No mention was made of the SLA.
Checked in to the Brisas del Mar hotel in Santa Barbara and relaxed a little before going to dinner at Sage & Onion (recommended in our Lonely Planet guide). This, along with the next evening's meal at Bouchon, rated as some of the best food of the trip.
Similar to Carmel, the wineries in Santa Barbara take you out of town. We drove around 30 minutes to get to Los Olivos (almost running out of gas on the way). All of the tasting rooms are in a short block or two down the main street that basically is Los Olivos—one bragging prominently “as NOT seen in Sideways.” We visited Consilience (the hostess had worked as a paramedic in New Orleans), Longoria Wines, The Tasting Room (where the host, although a character, had some disparaging remarks about Atlanta), and finally Andrew Murray Vineyards. All-in-all an excellent trip. Then to the neighboring town of Solvang to get me some shoes:
And check out a few more wineries. First Lucas & Lewellen, then their sister shop Mandolina where we met some guys who seemed to be Big Shots of some sort. Wine tastings make people chatty. We got back in town and had a light lunch at a recommended dive called La Super-Rica Taqueria where I was quite restive in my new shoes:
Dos Relaxxis! Then a stop at the beach at West Beach to watch the birds and the surf before heading back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool and hot tub—shamefully the only time we put on swim suits the whole trip. And no, there were no nude beaches. The hot tub cured the pain in my gimpy leg that began on the flight, so I had a short reprieve from my old man syndrome. Shower and dressed to have our next-to-final meal at Bouchon (lamb and venison, both outstanding with a local pinot noir) and our next-to-final drinks out at one of the many and active college bars along the main street in Santa Barbara.
Depression surprisingly doesn't set in on our last real day—with our flight the next morning. After shipping two boxes of wine (a small fraction of the many that we had shipped directly) and one box filled with all of the free glasses from the wineries we visited, we made a quick trip up the tower of the historic courthouse and then had a couple of appetizers at the highly recommended Bogart's Cafe where Nicole was in the weeds but all of the old books and light opera kept us entertained.
Our final trip down the PCH to LA. More surfers than you can shake a surfing stick at. Experience the thrill of LA traffic and after pulling in to the wrong hotel (“oh, we're sorry, we're supposed to be at the Radisson, not the Renaissance...”) we had time to check in, clean up, and text my sister-in-law-in-law for directions to their place. Over the largest take-out burrito I've ever seen (think alien pod), we got caught up with the kids and the life back in LA after a two-year stint in NYC (performing in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and the massive renovations to their house which made me jealous to live in a bungalow. We talked some geeky talk about bootleg internet radio and I got to see some scenes from DRS that Greg had recorded (maybe see some short, unsanctioned bootlegs on YouTube if they don't get pulled). Along with this little gem:
Here, Greg does is best Crazy Anti-Semite impersonation for an upcoming movie (I'm probably breaking some sort of copyright by posting this). The most uncomfortable part was when he called me Sugartits. On the way back to the hotel that night, although in pain from the freakisly large burrito, we stopped at an In & Out Burger along with the rest of the population of LA:
The trip was only slightly marred by a very post-40 pain in my left leg--appearing first on the plane and then aggravated by a jog in Sonoma to the point that I had to hobble most of the trip. I may try to avoid a doctor's visit, but it would be very unwise. The other mishap involved several days of phone calls and internet connections with the office over unresolved issues. It was one of the most painful times with work in recent memory, and only Monday will reveal what is to come.
Now comes the wait for all of the wine that we ordered. Boxes should start appearing Wednesday or so, so I have until then to purchase more wine shelves. Many more.