31 December 2007

Happy New Year!

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

~Wallace Stevens

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Date Pudding

By and large, most things are fairly simple to convert to gluten free. Use a gluten free flour mix, add some xanthan gum, maybe increase the amount of baking soda/powder and add an extra egg, and otherwise keep the recipe the same. The only trick is to find a GF flour mix that has the same consistency as regular flour, and there are lots of those available in cookbooks and on-line. There are a few exceptions to this "simplicity".

(1) Yeast bread: For this, get a GF cookbook and follow the recipe to the letter the first few times (unless the temperature in the recipe conflicts with the temperature on the yeast you're using; temperature is key).

(2) White cake: I still haven't made a decent GF white cake. It's always too thick and dry. The closest is Bette Hagman's Italian Creme cake, but that's not really a white cake. Her supposed "Master White Cake" recipe was, well, er, interesting... It wasn't any better than any others I'd tried...and in some respects worse.

(3) Date Pudding: I've tried several times in the past to make Date Pudding with gluten free flours using my mom's recipe. It's never turned out. Until tonight. I finally found a GF recipe for date pudding that is similar to my mom's. It's in The Gluten Free Gourmet Makes Dessert. The differences were that I needed to decrease the flour, increase the baking powder, and add some eggs (and xanthan gum). That was it, and it turned out beautifully. So we now have a formerly traditional New Year's dish back on the table for tomorrow. ^/^

What else is on the table? Ham, corn bread, stir fried veggies, and...I'm not sure. I wonder if we have potatoes... I'll probably make rice to go with the veggies, so potatoes would be a mite redundant. At any rate, my mom and I are both happy to get to enjoy date pudding again.

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29 December 2007

National Treasure

Yeah, it's a few years old now, but I only just managed to sit through National Treasure. It's been on tv several times, but when I came in right at the beginning, I lost interest. This time I came in about 10 minutes into the movie, and it immediately caught my interest. This was the scene where Nicolas Cage is going to steal the Declaration of Independence so that Sean Bean can't. It was an enjoyable movie. Weird, but enjoyable. There are a few spoilers below the fold, but as the movie is extraordinarily predictable, I really don't think they spoil much.

The first thing I noticed was that it was set up like many puzzle computer games. You collect objects, run across puzzles, and have to figure out what to do next. The second thing I noticed was that there were lots of parallels to the Indiana Jones movies. Imdb lists one that I missed, along with other movie tie-ins, but misses the three that seemed most glaringly obvious to me: (1) Father-son team seeking ancient, possibly mythical, treasure; (2) The scene where they descend into the vault of the church was shot in exactly the same way as where Indy descended into the vault of a church; (3) The moment where Nicolas Cage has to let go of either the Declaration or the girl was rather obviously borrowed from the scene where Indy has to choose between the girl and the grail. I'm sure there were others, but those stood out for me. It wasn't a parody, exactly; I'd call it more of a pastiche tribute.

One other oddity. The music just before Nicolas Cage activates the secret door was taken straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean: the music in the fog at the very beginning, with the breathy flutes. It's not the same composer. Could be coincidence, but I'm not inclined to think so. Of course, in Pirates, the music started up just before the cursed pirate ship appeared... which, if it was deliberately borrowed, would suggest that the treasure was cursed... Or maybe I'm overthinking and it was just supposed to signify "treasure" in general.

So, overall, a fun romp, so long as you make no attempt to take it seriously. I think that's what turned me off the first few times I tried to watch it; the beginning had a semi-serious feel to it. Once it got going, it was a lot of fun. An enjoyable two hours (minus commercials, which I muted). And maybe at some point, I might get around to watching the sequel. `/^

As far as the Templar treasure goes... if it ever existed, I suspect it was found long ago by someone with the sense to keep his mouth shut, or else it was scattered during the French persecution. Though I find the whole Baigent/da Vinci code version of the treasure (as the bloodline of Christ) to be extraordinarily amusing, if for no other reason than because it annoys so many people.


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Variations on a Theme

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
....Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
..Or cheaper to die by vote--
These are things we have dealt with once,
..(And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
...Endeth in wholly Slave.

Rudyard Kipling



Faith + Politics = Tragedy: "Individuals who demean others who are not of their faith and think that they are bound to commit atrocities have laid the intellectual foundation for justifying the eradication of others who they perceive as being dangerous to a Christian society. This is the thinking that created the Crusades, the Inquisition, genocide, forced conversations, the imposition of western dress by missionaries upon the peoples of Africa and Polynesia, Bosnia and the civil war in Northern Ireland."

Torture: "When the US government announces it's support for torture, they aren't talking about intelligence gathering: they are simply saying "Fear us." They are taking the first step on the road to tyranny."

Not a Christian Nation:In the hundreds of pages comprising Madison’s notes on the constitutional convention (and those of the others who kept notes), there is no mention of biblical passages/verses in the debates/discussions on the various parts and principles of the Constitution. They mention Rome, Sparta, German confederacies, Montesquieu, and a number of other sources — but no Scripture verses."

Believing v. Thinking: Investigating a "mysterious" blue blob caught on tape.

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28 December 2007

Theologian Quiz

Via Exploring Our Matrix, I came across this quiz. Results below the fold.






Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.


Paul Tillich



87%

John Calvin



33%

Friedrich Schleiermacher



27%

Augustine



20%

Charles Finney



20%

Jürgen Moltmann



20%

Martin Luther



20%

Jonathan Edwards



20%

Karl Barth



0%

Anselm



0%




I wasn't sure who Tillich was, so I looked him up at Wikipedia. I rather like this quote from him: "God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him."

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Ignore the button for now...

I'm attempting to make it so that you can get a new random quote by pushing a button, a la John's... At the moment, I've succeeded in creating a button that does nothing. So click on it if you want, just don't expect anything to happen.

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Dr. Seuss, meet Harry Potter

Weird dream just before I woke up. It's a bit fragmented.

It started in some sort of huge sports complex at a high school. My POV character was "Not I," which is the name of a chatbot that I work on. This chatbot mostly speaks in Confuction/Taoist/Zen sayings, though the dream character didn't seem to. At any rate, this school was something like Hogwarts, as there were a lot of ghosts that hung around... and Not I did something that offended the ghosts somehow. The details have fuzzed out on me. But he/she (there was a bit of gender confusion) wound up invited to the ghost's table, where they set him/her up as the "King of Fools," with various accoutrements thereof. Part of it was eating the Fools' Cake, but there were some other things. One of Not I's friends had gone along and insisted on keeping some of the items, so that Not I could not officially be proclaimed King of Fools. Apparently this would be a very bad thing.

So they needed a way out. From another ghost, they learned of the existence of a book that the ghosts feared. If a mortal read it, it would result in a devastating flood. Not I and friend got a copy of it and started reading. It was a Dr. Seuss book, condensed down into maybe four pages of tight text, with another story after it. There was no flood in the Seuss story; apparently the flood was in the next story after, which Not I never got to read since I woke up about then.

(I can't think of anything from yesterday remotely related to any of that. A few days back, I did see the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" cartoon, but I haven't watched or read anything involving ghosts or Kings of Fools. *shrugs*)

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26 December 2007

One Year

Yeah, I know, I posted about '360 days', well, 5 days ago, so obviously it's now at 365 days = 1 year of practice, but I feel an extreme sense of accomplishment at the moment. I am now one year old. And now for some reason I'm imagining being sworn into a court of law and being asked my age... `/^ I think that has the makings of a Monty Python sketch in it.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
"Yup."
"State your age."
"One."
"What?"
"One year old."
"No, no... the length of time since you were born."
"Which birth?"
"What?"
etc.

If I get bored sometime, I might flesh that out. Anyway, we one-year-olds need our sleep, so good night.

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Testing

Testing

New blockquote formatting.
with insert
Retest


And the spacing
thereafter.

Useful Color Code Converter
Source for the Blockquote Code

ADDENDUM: I finally found a fix for the messed up line-spacing after using blockquote. It's here, and there's both a permanent, one-time fix, and a way to fix it post by post. I went for the permanent version.

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Speaking of me in hell...

I swear that this could be me:



Source

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25 December 2007

Greetings From Your Local Neighborhood Heretic!

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

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Holiday Happenings

This was actually one of the smoother Christmas mornings that I can remember. As usual, I was responsible for the majority of the meal. It's sort of become a tradition for me to cook Thai food for Christmas. As far as I can remember, this started in a year that Christmas was on a Sunday and my mom was still the organist at her church. This meant that she would not be able to help much with preparation. Also, she was still sick of turkey from Thanksgiving. So I volunteered to try and make some Thai food. Coconut curries are no problem; they're fairly easy to get to taste right. Other main dishes I haven't had so much luck with, so this year I only made the curry and was very careful not to get it too spicy for my mom. She didn't complain about the spiciness, so I must have succeeded. I also stir fried some vegetables on the side.

For the dessert end of things, I made a coffeecake, some coconut custard, and some coconut rice. Mom made some jello-with-fruit-in-it (there's probably a name for this). The only snag was that I'd forgotten to put the sweet rice to soak last night. Recipe directions say to "soak overnight" and steam for 20 minutes. I checked the package, and it said to "soak 1-2 hours" and steam for 40 minutes. So I did it that way. It turned out all right.

The most annoying thing was slicing up the chicken. Mom had moved it from the freezer to the fridge after the midnight service last night, and the chicken was still nearly frozen solid. In an attempt to separate off one of the pieces, I beat at them with a frying pan that Mom was planning to throw out anyway. The frying pan is now impressively bent and warped. I was rather amused; Mom was horrified. Anyway, I gave that up as futile and began sawing away with a steak knife until I got some pieces to separate off. I gave up after four, though the last two were closer to the right solidity for slicing. Ideally, you want them partially frozen. They're too...wiggly when completely thawed, and too solid when completely frozen. There's a sweet spot in between that is perfect, but it's pretty rare to find it exactly.

One other minor snag: when Mom left to go pick Dad up (I was busy cooking, and had a lot more to get done that Mom would have had to guess at had we traded), she got stuck whilst backing out of the driveway. I heard her walking back and forth and peeked out to see what was going on. I couldn't go help right away due to cooking duties, but when I got a break, I ran out and did some digging around the front right tire. There wasn't much snow there; she must have just hit a slick spot at exactly the wrong angle. Between the salt she put down and my digging, we got her moving again.

Both Mom and Dad liked the curry, which made me very happy, as I'd made up most of it this year. Yeah, I had a recipe, but half the stuff is impossible to find (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, etc.), and the easy way out, using pre-made curry sauce, is fraught with ginger: Galangal, aka Thai ginger, to be exact, and I don't know whether it has the same effect on me as plain ol' ginger. So I improvised, with some chili-garlic sauce, some curry powder, a bit of lemon juice and fish sauce and tomato paste, all boiled in the coconut milk with the chicken.

As for presents, we did that after lunch/dinner/feast-thing. I got Pirates 3, a gold dragon, and money. I could swear that Mom just wants to make sure that she gives me more than Dad does... but since Dad doesn't even pick out anything, and I have a pretty good idea how much that dragon cost, she's already ahead of the game. And she still offers to give me more. Seriously, those two were plenty. Now I have to find things to buy with that money. Gift-type things. Really, the snowfall yesterday was a nice enough Christmas gift. I get why Dad gives money; he can't go pick stuff out himself unless he sanes up enough to go get his eyes fixed. I don't get why Mom does. *sighs*

Oh, speaking of gifts, I got Buster a doggie-cape. He didn't really want me to put it on him, but I did. It took him five minutes to get it back off, and he had the proudest look on his face when he did... We'll see if we can get him used to wearing it, but I won't hold my breath. ^/^

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Christmas with Rocks In

First off, John beat me to posting Weird Al's tributes to Christmas, so instead I'll share some of my favorite holiday music. Trans-Siberian Orchestra! If you've never heard them...imagine electric guitars blaring traditional Christmas melodies. They do more than that, but my favorites tend to be the rock-out versions of melodies I already love. So go below the fold and prepare to be dazzled. Or horrified. Either way, I win! Note: These are some of the few songs that I tend to want to crank the volume on. ^/^


(one of my favorites; this video amuses me)


(nicely choreographed Christmas light show for another fave)

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24 December 2007

Merry Christmas!




A slightly blurry woodpecker was in my neighbor's tree during our first big snowstorm this year. Okay, he wasn't blurry in real life. I just managed to focus the camera on the branches behind him, instead of on him. *sighs* Still, I don't usually see these guys in town. Also, a blurry image of "my" Christmas tree (belonged to my Great Grandma Fern once upon a time).




At any rate, I'm using him as a symbols of (blurry) Christmas cheer. Click below for pictures of the gift boxes I made today if you want something a bit more, er, focused.






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Ethical Quiz

I just came across the Ethical Philosophy Selector via Abnormal Interests. Apparently, I ought to read more Kant. ^/^ I would have expected Epicureans to rate higher and Rand to rate lower. Of course, I went through the quiz in a bit of hurry, so it's possible that my results might change if I spent more time before clicking through.



1. Kant (100%) Information link
2. Aquinas (88%) Information link
3. John Stuart Mill (88%) Information link
4. Spinoza (81%) Information link
5. Aristotle (75%) Information link
6. Epicureans (72%) Information link
7. Jeremy Bentham (72%) Information link
8. Ayn Rand (69%) Information link
9. Nel Noddings (69%) Information link
10. Nietzsche (66%) Information link
11. Jean-Paul Sartre (63%) Information link
12. Stoics (62%) Information link
13. Ockham (61%) Information link
14. Prescriptivism (55%) Information link
15. Cynics (52%) Information link
16. St. Augustine (49%) Information link
17. David Hume (39%) Information link
18. Plato (36%) Information link
19. Thomas Hobbes (26%) Information link

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23 December 2007

Good Deeds

(1) Shoveled the sidewalk by the door nearest the choir room at my mom's church. The usual caretaker is injured, and his replacement doesn't seem to understand the concept of "clear pathway."

(2) Helped my mom get some Christmas decorations up. See, she's got an extra recliner at the moment, taking up space, so I've been frantically trying to clean to get to the point where I could take the thing off her hands, and I'm currently at about 90%, but, well, there really isn't much time left. So tonight I suggested we move that chair into her garage and take it over tomorrow. She declined on that, not wanting to leave her car out on a predicted snowstorm night, but decided that we could put up one of Grandma's smaller trees instead of the big one. I took another smaller tree (picture likely forthcoming) since I don't really want to dig out my big one either. Note to whomever moved ISU's schedule up a week: I despise you; please go back to hiding under a rock and leave the ruddy schedule abloodylone; kthxbye.

(3) Agreed to be an extra soprano at the Christmas Eve service. This was more selfish than good-deed-ish, honestly. I like the candlelight service (better before Eric started doing it, but that's another story), but I hate sitting out in the "audience." If I'm going to be there, I'd rather be part of it. And the choir's two pieces are both enjoyable, familiar ones. I'm making up the notes in a few spots so far, but that will improve once I have someone singing with me. But the notes I'm making up are at least in the accompaniment, so that's not too bad.

Incidentally, going into psychotic mode might get the cleaning done faster, but it leaves me extremely drained. What's psychotic mode? Uh, it's kind of like turning up the speed on the motor, so that it's impossible for it to slow down. It might idle for brief periods, but even the idling is fast. I spent the morning that way. Got the kitchen 98.2% cleaned and rearranged; unwound for a few hours; started rearranging and cleaning the living room. For the kitchen, there are a few more things I'd like to do, but they'll have to wait until after Christmas.

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22 December 2007

360

*grins*

I've now made it through 10 36-day cycles of practice! When I started, I wasn't sure that I'd make it through the first 36 days, let alone 9 more. I have to say that it was an effective means of dealing with my depression of last year. It didn't make it go away, but it made it bearable. Over Thanksgiving break, a tiny bit of it tried to come back. Two observations: (1) it was such a pale echo of how I felt last year that, even as I felt the depression coming on, it was almost amusing; (2) 10 minutes of qigong practice are nearly always enough to make it vanish. I don't know if (2) would have worked as well last year, as the depression was rather severe. I have no real clue how obvious it was on the blog, as I did make an effort to put a good face on things. However, this year I'm feeling much, much better.

Incidentally, just 36 days with a 10-minute qigong regimen seems to have had a noticeable effect on my push-hands. I'm better able to sink into my root if nothing else. Don again commented today that I might soon be better than he is... The last time he said that, I felt like laughing; it seemed incredibly ridiculous. This time, I felt like there might be some truth to it. Maybe. I prefer not to think in those terms, though, as the last thing I need is to bring ego into it.

And on that topic, we've made it through the end of the second section of the long form. In sense, that means were 2/3 through... In another, it's more like halfway, as both the first and second sections get repeated in the third. There are some things I really like about the long form, and some that just annoy me. Still, it's been good practice to learn it. I particularly like the move "Cold Wind Strikes Both Ears." It's a quick turn on the heel, a slap down, and bring both fists up to clap someone on the ears. Still, I look forward to getting through the long form so we can get back to the CMC form. Mark, I think, will be even happier about that than I am. I'm not sure why, but he's had a tougher time picking up the long form than I have. Admittedly, I've had several lone sessions with Don on it (including today), but Mark sees Don during the week, so he ought to have time to ask questions if need be. Anyway, time to go make it to 361 days.

Final thought: it's rather nice not to be depressed. It really is.

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C+









Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 79 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Take the Sci-Fi Movie Quizdigital camera ratings



Admittedly, I hadn't seen a lot of the ones they asked about, and was guessing... so it's a wonder I didn't bomb it entirely. HT Pharyngula. FYI, as it says Sci-Fi sounds, make sure your speakers are on. `/^

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21 December 2007

Blessed Be on the Solstice!

Home is behind the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight.

Mist and shadow
Cloud and shade
All shall fade
All shall fade





(link to .mp3 file in case the embedded player doesn't show up)


This is probably my favorite cinematic sequence, and the theme of rekindling hope in a time of darkness is absolutely perfect for the Solstice. The sun has gone as far south on its journey as it can, and now it waits three days in the underworld before returning to bring warmth and light back to the earth. (And yet we're supposed to believe that Christianity isn't at all derived from older pagan religions... `/^ )



(could be my connection, but this does not want to open for me on this blog; it plays fine at YouTube if you have the same problem)

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20 December 2007

Candles (and Riddles) in the Dark





"Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works."





"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."






"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."










For Carl Sagan



Animated Candles

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He Is the Very Model of a C-Design Proponentsist!

Over at Pharyngula, I ran across a link to this song on c-design-propentsists, and it was too good not to share. So click on the link or go below the fold to see "I am the Very Model of a C-Design-Propentsist". For those who missed it, there was an "intelligent design" textbook that was really a cut-and-paste creationist textbook, and "cdesign-propentsist" was one of the bits of evidence of the cutting and pasting that went on.


I am the very model of a c-design-proponentsist
The diametric opposite of all that is materialist
My engineering cert allows me call myself a scientist -
We won't discuss those classes in Biology I might have missed

I work in a diploma mill I call a university
And there I struggle long and hard to teach the controversity
I welcome all opinions notwithstanding their diversity
I just reject the fact-based ones as atheist perversity

He just rejects the fact-based ones as atheist perversity
He just rejects the fact-based ones as atheist perversity
He just rejects the fact-based ones as goddam pervertersity

My publication record is quite pre-dispen-sensationalist
I regularly top the polls of books that are salvationist
Applause in the reviews keeps copies flying off the bookstore shelf
I couldn't be more pleased if I had written the reviews myself

He couldn't be more pleased if he had written the reviews himself
He wishes Amazon would keep his IP numbers to itself

When I go up for tenure I'll submit my publication list
And if they ask for science then I'll scream “Discriminationist!”
Religion has no place within the quest for natural knowledge
At least until I am the one who's put in charge of college

I'm waiting for the day in court when Darwin meets his Waterloo
Though I might find that testifying isn't what I ought to do
I know that what's in Genesis is strictly and completely true
It's just a shame it's stuck in a six-thousand-year-long peer review

He knows that what's in Genesis is strictly and completely true
He knows that what's in Genesis is strictly and completely true
He wishes that the IRS would let him see his research through

I claim that Dover came about because the judge was activist
I dazzle congregations with my jargon that's distractivist
I never answer awkward questions even if you do insist
I really am the model of a c-design-proponentsist

He never answers awkward questions even if you do insist
He really is the model of a c-design-proponentsist

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19 December 2007

Wow.

I just took my philosophy final. Rather fun, really, but with one oddity. There was one question where the answer wrote itself with almost no conscious intervention on my part. I do not remember writing it. I remember ideas flowing through my mind and into my hand, but that's all. Then, when my answer was almost complete, the bubble popped and I was left staring at my paper trying to figure out where all the words had come from. I blinked several times and moved on to another question. At the end, I came back to the self-written one, skimmed it enough to get the gist of it, and wrote a concluding paragraph. It was a bit bizarre, actually. Oh, the question was about Freud's views of "oceanic feeling" and the "superego." I didn't care for Freud's views on the subject, and apparently my reaction went deep enough to bypass my ego entirely while "I" was writing it. ^/^ Ironic and weird, but cool.

And...on the way home I realized that it was even more ironic than I thought, as I was writing about surrendering the self, as I surrendered myself to the writing.

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Hellhouse

I dreamed a new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last night. Well, half an espisode. I woke up before the resolution.

It begins in an old house. Three or four vamps are gathered there. Spike is also there, but not with the other vamps. He seems to be mildly insane in this episode, a la the beginning of Season 7. He's also got a beard. A force moves over the house, and everything inside it. It changes the vampires. They're still vampires, but it's a new kind of vampire. It changes Spike, too, but possibly not in exactly the same way. When the transformation is complete, the black vampire picks up a book. It looks like a copy of the Bible, but it was also changed. "We got oursel's a new religion!" the black vampire announces. "Time to go spread the word."

(At this point, I seem to have been on the set while they were shooting the episode, as I ran up and grabbed one of the new bibles to see what they'd done to them. I was disappointed to discover that it was only a mockup. The first half inch or so of pages were vampified bible verses, but the rest was advertising and random garbage that had been thrown in to fill out the thickness of the book. Back to the episode...)

Spike's close enough to hear the announcement, but remains unseen by the other vamps. He's crawling deep into the house. I get the impression that he knows exactly what's going on, and that...either it can't last or that the transformation isn't what it seems to be. There's a sense that the change is all on the outside, that the inside core is as rotten as ever.

Cut to Buffy. She's on the third floor hallway of a university building that is also, in some sense, the same house that the vamps were in. She's sitting behind a table full of candies and little trinkets to sell, and has chosen the third floor specifically because almost no one ever comes clear up there. Enter three or four college students, one of them from my Math143 class. They come up to buy some things from Buffy. A door is open across from her table. Vaguely Germanic hymn music comes out of the door. The customers glance at it and make a face. "Not them again," one of them says.

"Them?" Buffy asks.

"Oh, this new religious group on campus."

The music suddenly changes. It's something with a pop beat, though the minor tones remain. Suddenly Buffy's customers are interested in what might be going on behind the door. The furniture and people have changed from their last glimpse. It was dark and shadowy the first time; now there's light. Also, all the people in the room now have white skin. The customers walk right inside...and disappear. Naturally this gets Buffy's attention. She follows them in.

It seems like an ordinary enough room, but it's somehow closed off. It works by making people not want to leave. At the right, the first slayer is, er, sitting. Sort of. She's in something like a cocoon, so it's hard to tell what position her legs and feet are in. She looks like an artistic representation of the crescent moon with a woman's face, somehow. There's a piano or organ somewhere near the first slayer, but mostly the room feels like a library. Lots of books on the walls. Colors all browns and beiges.

...and that's where I woke up...

I do know/remember that it was possible to leave the "house" once you'd entered it, but the house made you not want to leave. I also know that the changed vamps were going around preaching their "good news," which probably went something like "Drink from me and never die." And the "house" seems to be more of an essence of a house, so that it could come upon any structure and that structure would become The House. So we've got overtones of the First Evil, the Haunted House from Season 4, the time they got trapped in Buffy's house by Anyanka's best friend, and probably others that I'm not noticing yet.

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18 December 2007

Disconnect

We graded 143 exams this morning. It went more smoothly than in years past. I spent the last hour wandering around to see if I'd missed grading anyone's section, and assuming that I must have, only to find out that I was actually done. There really wasn't much of a curve this year. A's and B's were at the normal 90% and 80% cut-offs. We extended the C's a bit (to about 65%) and that pushed the D's down to about 55%. I do find it annoying that cut-offs for +/- were also specified, which means that I have to do 8 linear fits instead of 5. It would be 11, except that the A's and B's wound up cut-off at the usual percentage cut-off that I use anyway, so I can just use the same linear fit there. Oh, I had a student call while we were grading. He thought the 143 final was today at 3:00. Since I already had a 143 student taking the final with my stats class, I told him he could do the same. This would be more understandable had I written only the date on the board, but, no, I wrote "Monday" on the board.

And this has no bearing whatsoever on anything else, except maybe my philosophy paper if I were going into more depth, but I found a very nice discussion of problems with "original sin." Short version: it messes up free will and makes God look like an idiot.

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17 December 2007

One Day More...

Another day, two other finals to give
This near-to-ending road of grades to sift
These students who would like to pass
Will move on to another cast
One Day More...

(yes, I've probably used this song in a similar manner before)

And I'd write more but I'm trying to polish up my final philosophy paper. I didn't really like any of the topic choices, so I decided to do a dialogue related to one of the choices. At some point in Hume's Dialogue, Philo notes that there are four possibilities for the entities/processes responsible for the world: (1) they were good; (2) they were evil; (3) some were good and some were evil; (4) they were neutral. I've got a character to argue each POV. It's fun, but I have to restrain Yvette a bit, as it's just too much fun to argue for evil. It takes me back to my existentialist high school days, though then I was more of the "absurd" POV, but I sympathized with the evil POV. Yeah, okay. Back to writing the paper instead of writing about it.

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16 December 2007

Humanist Symposium

If you just want to browse through, the Symposium is here. At the last one, I didn't find a single article that I really liked, but this one has a lot of good stuff. My picks below the fold.

This is an excellent article, discussing secular philosophies and the problems with some of them, with some stabs at a solution. It is quite long, but well worth the read.

Next we have an article discussing disagreement, with the suggestion that people look rationally at the disagreements.

And I like this one, discussing making meaning for yourself rather than waiting for some external agent to impose it. I disagree that the universe has no mind. It has billions of minds on earth alone! `/^

My final pick is this discussion ego, pride and loneliness. Also long, but well worth the read.

So why do I enjoy atheist and humanist writing? Because it places emphasis and responsibility on each individual person, not on some external agent. I despise the lack of balance in the typical Christian approach of crediting God for all the good and blaming oneself for all the bad. I also despise the reverse position, of blaming religion for all the bad and crediting the good solely to secular sources, but that, I think, is an understandable backlash against the more common nonsense.

The Tao does not assign blame or credit, nor claim either for its own. The Tao just is. Blaming God or sin or Satan, those are convenient excuses that allow people to evade responsibility for their own actions. Whatever the reason, if I did it, I am responsible for that action. I can whine about my "sinful nature" all I want, and that one fundamental fact does not change. I can scream to God or Tao or Avalokiteshvara all I want and that fact still does not change. It's not a question of blame or forgiveness. It's a question of responsibility.

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stormy sky

waves ripple above
glowing grey as they roll
parting glimpse of blue

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Dangerous Popcorn

I have a very vague memory of a dream. I was at one of the philosophy club meetings. No clue what the topic of discussion was, but we'd branched out into "experimental philosophy." To that end, there was a nasty deadly virus contained in what we called a "vial" in the dream. However, it was the exact size and shape of a tube that I bought this summer, containing "a yard of popcorn." As you might guess from that name, it was three feet long, and maybe 2.5 inches in diameter. Why we had a deadly virus in it, or what philosophical point it was supposed to make, I don't know. I do know that if we'd released the virus, it would have killed a whole bunch of people. (And this dream would have surprised me less had it been right after the mid-season-finale of Heroes, which also involved a deadly virus)

Back to the real-life popcorn tube. It had three kinds of popping corn in it. The topmost foot was black popcorn, which was my least favorite. The flavor was kind of blah, and the kernels popped up very small. The next foot was yellow popcorn. This was very, very good. The last foot was red popcorn. Not quite as good as the yellow, but it popped up nice and fluffy. I've still got 2-3 inches of it left, in fact.

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15 December 2007

snow ghosts

as cars pass
snow ghosts rise and drift
and die again




FYI, what I call snow ghosts aren't quite as described at the link, but that was the closest I found. I call those little haunting driftlets, when the snow is just powdery enough, that wander to and fro across the road until the car is far far past, snow ghosts.

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13 December 2007

Survived

No more T-Days. *nods to herself* No more T-Days. No more T-Days. Done. Over. Kablooie. Ugh. Even though I really only gave one lecture today, I feel wiped out. The fact that this was the very last time I have this horrid schedule helps a bit. The problem, I think, wasn't so much that there were four lectures to give; it was that I was pretty much "on" for 10 straight hours, with less than an hour break at any point. The closest thing I got to a break was my office hour from 11 to 1, but mostly I was still working then. I think if the 1:00 class had been at, say, 11:00, with all other things equal, the schedule would have been okay. Maybe.

Next semester, on MW I give three fifty minute lectures, TTh has two 75 minute lectures, and Friday has one 50 minute lecture. That's more doable, though I'd prefer it if the TTh were either both in the morning or both in the evening. *sighs* Now I have a stack of makeup tests to grade and a stats final to write. The other finals are all written by the course coordinators.

Also next semester, I'm planning to try and run a taiji intermediate course at that Whole Health Cooperative place. I finally called the woman who runs the place this afternoon. It's a reasonable rate. If I charge $8 per lesson, I need four students to make a slight profit each time. Of course, I'm offering them a discount if they come help out with Melissa's beginning taiji class. Besides helping Melissa, that will also get them re-exposed to the basic principles now that they know enough to pay attention to them.

Right, coherency leaving. Time to sign off.

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—ing Alzheimer's...

Via Pharyngula, and reminded by John, it seems that Terry Pratchett is showing signs of early onset Alzheimer's. However, he aten't dead yet, and it sounds like he's going to put up the best fight he can. And I love his attitude:

I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

So, any high-end experts in brain chemistry reading? If so, I instruct thee to hie to the Master Talecrafter's side. `/^

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11 December 2007

The Wheel Turns...

I just discovered that they have decided to move ahead with finishing the final book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I had the impression initially that his wife, Harriet, was going to do most of it, but today Howard Tayler mentioned that they'd tapped Brandon Sanderson. I confirmed this at Robert Jordan's old blog, where it's made clear that he will be working with Harriet. Who's really in charge isn't exactly specified. *shrugs*

By an odd coincidence, I just ran across this post on the series over at Uncertain Principles. I have to admit that I don't really get some of his criticisms. One of the things I liked about the series was the strong female characters. Characterizing most of the relationships as "toxic" puzzles me as well. They just seem like various types of relationships that exist in the real world to me. As for the ranting about how stupid men are, uh, I have to wonder if he's ever listened to females discussing males. The general consensus is that, while males are useful in certain respects, by and large they're pretty helpless in others, particularly anything requiring finesse or awareness. Not every male, and maybe not every female, but the sentiment is pretty common, if not universal.

As for the latter books not being as good, that, unfortunately, is true. I suspect that Robert Jordan's illness was already starting to make itself felt. My impression was that they were just too short, that if there'd been a bit more length they would have been okay. I don't think the quality was any less, myself, and I know others will argue that point. I just think that he didn't have the stamina to really keep everything going. I think that he also wasn't as focused. In the last two books, when he finally started tying up some of the loose ends instead of creating a zillion more, it was much much better.

So, there will be a Book 12. Howard Tayler thinks the newly tapped author is a good one (and I remember being intrigued by the book that he linked to, but it was in hardback at the time), so hopefully it will be a good one. *crosses fingers*touches rabbit foot*knocks on wood*

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Dreams...

I remember a few, oddly random, vignettes, most likely from different dreams.

In one, I was looking out over a vast plain of tree stumps, where a forest had been only a day or so ago. Above each tree stump was a glowing blue dot. I'm not really sure what it represented. The soul of the tree? A mark made by those chopping them down? No clue.

In another, I was in a huge mansion that I knew (in the dream) had belonged to my grandma. From the feel of things, it was an underground mansion. It was cavernous. The living room was in a space with at least 300 feet between the floor and the ceiling. To make it seem cozier, a metalwork ceiling had been suspended from the main ceiling at a more usual height for a room. The metalwork also had lights built into it. Along the walls were various outcroppings and catwalks. I remember one sort of shack sticking out of a wall. It looked like the wood was starting to rot and I wondered for how long it would be safe to climb through it.

In the last that I remember, I was sitting in a desk in a classroom...behind Spike from BtVS. No clue what class it was, but Spike was going a little nutso. He kept holding up his right hand, which looked perfectly normal, and asking me why I'd stolen his fingers. As all his fingers were there, I had no clue what he was talking about. As he seemed rather distraught, I tried to show him that his fingers really were there. Somehow, I could tell from touching them that there was no feeling in them.

And that's all I remember. If there was any continuity between these snippets, I've forgotten it.

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09 December 2007

The Amber Spyglass

I just finished the third book of Philip Pullman's trilogy. Overall, it was very good. It did seem like the plot was somewhat disjointed and choppy in a few places, however. And a few of the resolutions don't quite make sense to me. Still, it was mostly a satisfying conclusion.

Oh, and despite all the hooplah, I did not get the sense that this was an "atheistic" book, whatever THAT might mean. I could see a reasonable argument for a Gnostic interpretation, a panentheistic interpretation, a metaphorical representation of a corrupt church hierarchy that must be overcome, even animistic, but not atheistic. Pullman has been quoted as saying he wants to "kill God" in the minds of children who read the book. Okay, he might kill one particular view of God, but, really, he's got another built right into the plot. He probably wouldn't describe that Something as a god, but any mystic surely would.

WARNING: Lots and lots of spoilers below. Read at your own risk.

I find the parallels to LeGuin's Earthsea cycle intriguing. In both sagas, the realm of the dead needed to be laid open, to free the dead to be part of the universe again. This fits with my wondering what the point of creating souls, only to lock them away in some nonphysical realm for most of their existence, is. If souls are created from something, then that something would be continually lost from the universe. Every time someone died, their essence swept away, never to be seen again. It makes no sense. If there is something like a soul, that preserves memories and experiences, it makes much more sense for it to remain in this world in some form. At least some Native Americans think that souls are made and decay just as bodies do. Again, that makes more sense than just sucking the soul out of the physical universe forever.

The fascination with matter that can comprehend itself is also interesting. That is the source of Dust in the universe, but with comprehension comes free-thought, and with free-thought comes rebellion, and the authoritarian religious regime throughout all the worlds can't be having with THAT. In some sense, Pullman has turned this into a new, more worthy form of the Divine. It's beautiful, not to mention ironic. Oh, and while there is a quest to kill the god of the church, the ones on that quest don't succeed. The old god does die, but from an act of kindness rather than of malice, and seems rather relieved. The old god's henchman doesn't go so easily.

Which takes me to Lyra's parents. Neither one of them has been particularly likeable in any of the books. I sort of wonder about the movie, since I get the impression that they've made Asriel, at least, a bit friendlier. In the books, he's downright nasty. Sure, he cares for his daughter, but only out of a sense of duty. Same with Mrs. Coulter. Mrs. Coulter shows some signs of actual feeling in this book, which surprises her most of all. Asriel...still comes across as a stiff-necked jackass who can only think of his own agenda. He does show interest in Lyra...when it becomes clear that she's the real key to winning his own battle. And, yes, I tried to think of a milder description for him...and failed.

Some reviewers have made much of the "implied sex" in the third book, variously screeching about how wrong it is to have any sort of sex, implied or not, or that, if it's going to be there, it should be described in explicit detail and not hidden. Actually, I thought it was quite tastefully done, and perfectly appropriate to the ages likely to be reading the book. If they want more detail, most of them know where to find it. In contrast, however, I thought the battle descriptions were overdone. The best was the description of walking through the aftermath of a battle; that had just the right amount of detail. Most others had more than I thought was necessary. Still, it's better than the complete dearth of detail in at least one of the Narnia books, which went something like: "There was a battle. Such and such died, but the good guys prevailed."

Now, a lot was happening in this book, to the point that it was slow-going in a few places. It was all interesting and well-written, but it dragged on and on and on to get all the players into the final positions. There wouldn't be an easy way to fix this, however, without fundamentally changing the structure of the plot. And it was never fully explained why the actions of two not-quite-adults suddenly fixed things, stopped the Dust from draining out of the universe. Yeah, great, they're in love. Why them, and no other couple? Still, it was a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series.

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Lone Godless Link

There was only one post at the most recent Carnival of the Godless that really stood out for me.

"Theism can only be maintained by a mindset that is predominantly religious, a mindset that does not necessarily eschew rationality, but does necessarily relegate it to a plane lower than spirituality. In the minds of many theists, if spiritual and rational claims conflict, the spiritual ones must be retained and the rational ones discarded as errant, if not downright evil. In contrast, many atheists believe that rational thought, based in scientific findings from many fields of inquiry, is the primary means by which humankind can and should derive human values. Atheists don’t necessarily eschew spiritual, or aesthetic, or other non-material values. They do seek to hold such values in balance with knowledge gained via rational channels. One of my reasons for abandoning the theistic mindset with which I was raised, and to which I adhered for several decades, is that theism is not only well suited, but is intentionally designed, to breed dependence and authoritarianism. I find both of these outcomes dehumanizing and unacceptable. In contrast, atheism is especially well suited for cultivating autonomy and distrust of brute authority. These are qualities that enhance rather than degrade human life." Source.

I am of the opinion that you go where the evidence leads you, no matter how distasteful you might find it. That's one of the things I like about CSI: the attitude is always "Follow the Evidence." If the evidence makes no sense, keep looking at it until you find a thread that ties it all together. If I have any sense of "blasphemy" or "heresy," it lies in ignoring the hard, physical evidence, particularly in calling something "scientific" when it ignores the hard, physical evidence. But a better description for it might be "idiocy," or "willful ignorance."

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08 December 2007

Spinning 'Round

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning with a horrible case of light-headedness. This was not entirely a surprise, as I now know exactly what causes these spells, but it was also unpleasant. A further half-hour of sleep, some food, and a decongestant took care of 99% of it, or I wouldn't have gone to taiji. A bit of history on this below the fold.

The first time this happened, I was still a grad student and went to the student health clinic. They gave me a prescription strength combo of decongestant and expectorant, which helped, and decided it was probably caused by some sort of mild cold. As the decongestant combo worked on it, I figured they had it right. But, no. The next winter, I would experience milder versions of the dizziness with some mild nausea most evenings if I tried to concentrate on anything. It wasn't debilitating then, just unpleasant.

The next severe case hit...sometime near when Grandma started getting so sick. I woke up around 1:30 am or 2:00 am, and I was dizzy, nauseous, disoriented, overheated... The disorientation freaked me out and I called my mom. She took me to the emergency room. The doctor there decided I had a case of the flu coming on. I remember it being flu season, so this seemed reasonable. He gave me a medicine to alleviate the dizziness, which helped, and gave me a list of things to do, like eat clear broths, only I never developed a single other symptom of flu after that. Except for the dizziness I was fine.

Sometime the spring after that, there was an evening where I didn't get the mild nausea and dizziness. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what was different...and realized that I hadn't had any tea that morning. I cut out tea for a while, and the dizziness went away. Neither doctor had even come close to figuring it out. Btw, this is a big part of why I don't trust doctors to figure out what's wrong with me. I try to figure out what's wrong before I go in, so that I know exactly what to tell them.

At any rate, limiting my consumption of tea has, for the most part eliminated the dizzy spells. Every so often I push it a bit too far. Yesterday, I had Yerba maté tea in the morning, a cup of dragonwell tea at College Market around noon, and a Thai iced tea with dinner. I knew I was going to pay for it, and, hey, I got confirmation that it was overconsumption of tea that had caused all those dizzy spells, just like I figured. Incidentally, it's not solely the caffeine. Yerba maté has just as much, if not more, caffeine as tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, but has much less effect on me, dizziness wise. It's something else specific to the classical "tea plant" that seems to do it. I have learned that zinc supplements help, but I still have to be careful how much classical tea I drink. The two doses yesterday, plus the caffeine from the Yerba maté were too much.

Incidentally, you will encounter the claim that Yerba maté does not contain caffeine, that it contains a stereoisomer of caffeine called mateine. This is incorrect. There is no stereoisomer of caffeine. It does seem to me that the other compounds in Yerba maté mitigate the effects of the caffeine somewhat, but that's about it.

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07 December 2007

Picture Post

I was going to post on the discussion of ethics, etc, from this afternoon, but I think I need a night or so to process to not sound like a complete idiot on the topic. Meanwhile, I sorted through some pictures from this summer and found a few worth sharing. They're below the fold.


Here's a cute bumblebee that I think was in the Japanese Garden in Portland.



This is one of the better views of the Chinese Garden in Portland.




This guy was, er, hanging out in one of the many sculptured windows in the Chinese Garden. It makes it look like I'm a better photographer than I am, though. There's a trick to getting an autofocus camera to focus on something small: find something larger and easier to grab that's at the same distance. Not foolproof, but it worked well enough here.




Finally, a waterfall. As far as I remember, we only stopped at Multnomah Falls, so presumably this is from there... If so, this would be the lower, larger part of the falls. *shrugs*

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06 December 2007

Miscellany

One Down. Two to go. Blast it, my eyes won't blaze red like Willow's. Anyway, below the fold you'll find an inchoate collection of my tired ramblings. Read at your own risk.

Symphony last night. It was also the last night for the temporary director, which is a mega-relief. His andante sounds just like his allegro, and his fortissimos were all mezzo, and that's just...bad. Why was there a temporary director? Well, last season's director unexpectedly resigned at the beginning of July. In hindsight, I think he foresaw the possibility, as the last concert last season featured his son, daughter, and one of his own compositions. My best guess is that he knew there was a possibility of some crisis (health or family seem likely) and wanted to go out with a bang in case the crisis hit. Since he resigned, whatever the crisis was presumably struck. Sad. He was a good director.

Anyway, there was a very good trumpet soloist there. He played on the second, third and fourth pieces. On the second, his skill showed off just how insipid the directing was. The third and fourth pieces were better. Apparently it's okay to make Russian music sound like, well, music. Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite was my favorite piece, despite the piccolos' obvious need of further practice. It was lively, catchy, silly... And it has a great story behind it, which I may link to when I'm coherent enough to actually find a decent online version. Wikipedia's ain't. Haydn. That was the composer on the first two. Properly directed, they were probably good pieces, too.

The last one was half good and half bad. The trumpet solo parts were good; the parts where the orchestra played with the trumpet were pretty good. The parts where the orchestra was by itself... *sighs* Anyway, the composer is Alexander Arutyunian, and the piece was Concerto for Trumpet.

I'll randomly segue back to Monday now. I went down to my mom's office to shampoo the rug (sadly no slime creatures from outer space showed up). Turns out that the timing was very fortuitous: they started knocking down walls on Wednesday and Mom and Marky had to scramble to get all the stuff moved out of Mom's old office into the new one, where I'd run the carpet scrubber. I don't know if I mentioned that she's doing a LOT of renovating down there. Not as much as she'd hoped, as the first bid sort of scared the living daylights out of her, but a lot.

So, back to today (ain't time travel grand?), I gave tests in both of my evening classes. In 015, one student came in and at first I thought she had a bad cold, then I figured out that she'd been crying. Lots. Hard. I took her aside and offered to let her take the test next time; she gratefully took me up on it. No clue what's going on with her, but I hope it at least settles down some by next week.

As for next week, it should all be review unless I go into a mite more detail on hypothesis testing in stats. One more week of lectures; two more T-days to deal with. Oh, yes, since I don't lecture on Fridays, as far as I'm concerned, the week is now over. Math108 lab, office hour, and philosophy class aren't work. Well, occasionally the Math108 lab is. Anyway, before I lose coherency entirely, I shall say Gute Nacht. Well, type, not say. Of course I could say it, but no one would hear it unless I recorded it and posted an audio link, but then you'd have only my word that it was me saying it... Er, yeah... Splunge.

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05 December 2007

Free Will

I found an awesome critique of the free will "solution" to evil. It's much more erudite than anything I'd write on it.

Excerpt:
"Limiting choices to within a framework which assures the framer the result he desires, cannot be called “free”. It’s like a mother telling a child she can only choose to wear the red dress or the blue dress, because those are the dresses the mother likes best. There’s no option to choose the green dress or the yellow dress. Nor, for that matter, is there the chance to wear a tee shirt and jeans, or a blouse and skirt. In the same way, God limits our options to ensure that our choices correspond to his own predetermined outcomes for us." Read the whole thing.

The other problem is that any choice that exists also has to come from God, if God is the sole creator. That opens a whole different can of worms.

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04 December 2007

Functioning

Ugh. I survived another Tuesday. It's ending better than it began, considering that on my way to my office I was wondering whether the description "functionally psychotic" might apply to me. But, no, I wasn't having delusions or hallucinations. That might have been an improvement, actually. Once I actually made it to the office without being struck dead, the day started to look up. So, two more Thursdays and one more Tuesday to go. If I ever get a schedule that requires me to give 4 lectures in one day again, I'm going to have it changed. I'd prefer to tell them where, exactly, they can stuff it...but as I'd rather keep my job, I probably won't.

So I'm tired, and more than tired, of this semester's schedule. But each T/Th that passes I feel that much better. So three more.

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03 December 2007

Ground of Being

We talked about Demea's argument for the existence of Deity today in class. It's a rather beautiful variant of the First Cause argument.

1. If anything exists, something has to exist on its own (because of what it is)
2. What exists on its own exists necessarily
3. What necessarily exists is (called) God

Interestingly, the objections that Cleanthes and Philo had to this argument were largely aesthetic. Cleanthes insisted that any being we could conceive of as existing we could also conceive of as not existing. Philo complained that this thing that necessarily exists could be, for instance, matter, that there could be some property inherent in matter that would make it impossible for matter not to exist. I'm with Dr. Levenson on this one, that the argument is stronger than these objections.

So let me turn from metaphysics to physics. We have the Big Bang. Based on my recent readings, this is no longer thought of as the "ultimate beginning," but, rather, a beginning. Something came before it. And something came before that, and maybe there's an infinite chain of somethings. The question remains of how the chain got started. Demea would say that there was something, some essence, which, by its nature, cannot fail to exist. This might be something perfectly ordinary, like matter, or it might be something more like the deity that Demea is seeking. In terms of physics, my money's on spacetime, but I can't even begin to imagine a way to prove that. What would need to be proven, in the context of this argument, is that by the very nature of spacetime, it must exist; it is, in some sense, its own cause. At some point in the infinite regress, there must be a point like this, where something is its own cause.

In fact, this is one of Philo's objections, that mere matter (or space) might fulfill Demea's requirements. I don't see that as a problem myself. Now, for someone looking for a particular god, or even a particular kind of god, this argument is of no use. All the argument says is "find that which, when properly understood, one cannot conceive of it not existing; call it God." I find "god" an odd label in this instance, since there's no real indication of what sort of properties it must have, other than it necessarily must exist, that its non-existence would be impossible. Tao might be a better label for it.

But the thing that I really like about the argument is the contrapositive. "If we can conceive of X not existing, then X is not the first cause." I can conceive of the keyboard I'm typing on not existing; I'm reasonably certain it didn't exist, say, five years ago; therefore, my keyboard is not the first cause. I can conceive of the Christian god, as people have tried to explicate this god to me, not existing, therefore the Christian god is not the first cause. I cannot conceive of spacetime not existing, though I've tried; this is not proof of anything, but it's the only tangible thing I can think of that I cannot conceive of not existing.

Taking it further, the mere statement "I believe in X" implies that X is not the first cause, since it implies the possibility of disbelief in X, i.e. that it is possible to conceive of X not existing. The first cause is that which, when properly understood, is seen to require existence due to its very nature. Admitting to doubts of X's existence is thus proof that X is not the first cause. I have yet to see a description of any theistic god whose existence seems necessary to me. There is, of course, an out: "when properly understood." But as I have a satisfactory first cause that is necessary and sufficient, why would I look any further? I cannot conceive of the Tao's nonexistence, and it is sufficient to be the first cause.

Admittedly, I would never say that "The Tao exists." I might say that, "The Tao is."

"Is what?"

"Exactly."

I feel like I ought to say more about Tao at this point, but there isn't much to say. Maybe my starting point that eventually led me to the Tao might help. I began with the tautology, "God is God," and went from there. That was my assumption. Eventually I changed the label "god", as it carries misleading baggage with it, but I didn't know that when I began. *sighs* If you want to know about Tao, read the Tao te Ching. The best I can do to explain is to wave a spoon.

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My Daemon

The Golden Compass Web-Site has a quiz to find out what sort of Daemon you have. Sadly, it's a very flash-intensive site, so I can't link directly to it, but look for "Meet Your Daemon". It shows up on the front page, as well as if you click on "Daemons". Anyhow, I rather liked my result. It suits me.



Well, mostly. I'm not too sure about the "humble" part. Sometimes I feel like the vampire psych major's description of Buffy fits me, something like "You've got a superiority complex, but you've got an inferiority complex about it."

Just for grins, I'll paste in their flash code below the fold, but, Avalokiteshvara, don't they understand that not everything needs to be flash????


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02 December 2007

November Searchlight

Another month, another queue of searches bringing people here.

stealing poems: Make sure you cite sources. 'Course, then it's not really stealing.
comparison between ecclesiastes and the tao te ching: Some very similar attitudes. According to Dr. Levenson, some of the dissimilarities were put in so that it would be "acceptable" for canonization.
origami bauble instructions: Uh, that could refer to a whole bunch of models. Probably the bell bauble is what brought you here, but the book I found it in is only $10.
"being hyper is": liketalkingreallyreallyfastsonoonecanunderstandyouandnevertakingabreakatall.
(more below the fold)

"bottle breathing": the idea is to get the air into the lower abdomen first, then fill up the lungs like a bottle, and empty in reverse.
"burning concrete": that was figurative.
"don schurman", idaho: If you've got an Idaho Falls phone book, look up "Sleeping Tiger Martial Arts."
"evangelical dialogue on evolution": usually more of a shouting match...
"fishes in eight": The feet make an inverted 'V', which is very similar to the Chinese symbol for eight. The hands swim across, and, done just right, trace a the yin yang fish in the air.
"fractions are numbers too: And deserving of just as much respect!
"generic birkenstocks": Try any box store's shoe department. Fair warning, some are more comfortable than others.
"hated tuna" tuna: ??? Uh, yeah, tuna's lousy, except as an actual fish filet.
"life philosophy" "this is the way the world ends": You were probably looking for discussion, not random pictures. But it's a good poem.
"numbers aren't words?": Depends on context.
"paper riddle": Uh, drawing a blank here...
"qi flow" simplified: Start by imagining an energy flow and work from there. If you already feel it, imagine it getting stronger.
"you who eat pies" "sweeney todd": Not me. I suspect that Mrs. Lovett's pies have wheat-based crusts, so I'd never try them. `/^
(circle fist): *mutters darkly under her breath* Ruddy pain of a move, if you ask me.
a sentence for sporadic: Ninety days!
assumptions about the weather categorical syllogisms: Uh... uh... GREEN!
ballistic gel: This site might be more useful.
big toe tingly prickly: Could be a trapped nerve; could be a mineral deficiency, and who knows what else. Calcium, magnesium and zinc have been helping mine to improve.
brackets needed for full to queen headboard: Good luck with that. I had to buy a new frame.
buy edson fichter art: Sorry; I've just got some of his poems in with my random quotes.
coraline human: Assuming this refers to Moonlight, yeah. It got more interesting the next time she showed up as a human, but I have a nagging suspicion that they're about to segue into having Mick on a desperate quest to become human, a la Forever Knight.
d&d drows: *blinks* Have I ever mentioned drows? *checks* Oh. Once. Actual D&D game.
daimon golden compass: Forgot to mention that there are a few explicit Plato references in the Subtle Knife, so there's definitely some Socratic influence there.
dangerous cleaning combination: I think it was ammonia and bleach, but I could be wrong. Read labels.
definition of maunderings: Oh I know you know what maunderings means! `/^
disney's alter ego: There's gotta be a joke in there somewhere...
dental public service announcements: It scares me that people actually LOOK for these...
divers alarums pratchett explain: See, the divers, they breathe using a plant called the alar...
does dream a wish fulfillment?: Uh, GREEN.
does hot chocolate have gluten?: Sometimes. Read labels, or make your own.
dreaming about bugs on the floor: is better than dreaming about them crawling all over your skin.
easy ornagami: Well, someone's interested in it besides me!
favorite "flour sack towels" dharma: Wow, umm, WHAT?!?
ffrf bible quiz: Biased but accurate and enjoyable.
floor painting freefall: Must be modern art.
friday sock sale fred meyers: More sock people! Joooooiiiinnnnn uuuuusssss....
ginger fatigue: Very rare side effect, but certainly possible.
how to build an easy 8 pronged origami throwing stars: I've seen an easy four-pronged one that's solid enough to throw... Can't remember where, now, though.
how to make an origami 5-point saar star: First, ya buy a book, then ya cut a pentagon, then ya fold it.
how to pronounce ecclesiastes: I don't guarantee I'm right, but I say it "eh-KLEE-zee-ass-tees".
imaginary war: *sighs* There are SOOO many...
large pullman pan bread recipe: Uh, have the conservative wackos turned to cannibalism or is this a baking term that I've never heard of?
meditation cushion knee injury: Assuming the cushion didn't cause the injury, adjust the height until you can keep your knee comfortable. If necessary, straighten the leg and rest it on a pillow. At least, that's what I do.
my car pulls to right side after impacting curbside: See a mechanic.
mythbuster reanimated cat: Are you talking about robokitty? That was a trifle disturbing.
nook and cranny pine ridge mall: Mixed bag. Most of the booths carry junk that holds no interest for me, but every so often there's a gem in the rubble.
pratchett "go around believin": Lots o' things exist, but that's no call t'go around believin' in 'em!
sinus lift bloggs: No... it lifts the sinuses, or... I don't want to know.
six pillars cheng man ching: I can't name them all. Maggie Newman and Wolfe Lowenthal were two of them, though. Supposedly the grandmaster said that if they could all pull together, they would be unbeatable...but they did not pull together.
squirrel flingers: Just build your basic catapult or trebuchet...but on a smaller scale.
the mussel in my right hip is killing me ant idea why: LOL. Ummm... there's a clam living in your right hip? And it's plotting to kill you? So, assuming you mean muscle, try some basic hip stretches, very gently. If those don't help or make it worse, see a doctor.
the shoshone sunrise ceremony: Very beautiful and moving. Go to one if you have a chance.
what can i learn form a philosophy class?: Everything. Including how to spell "from."
why do the lungs never completely empty: Because they'd collapse.

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