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Archive for December, 2006

Yeah, I'll pass

December 29, 2006 Leave a comment

You know, there are legitimate concerns underlying this, but in the end it looks awfully totalitarian.

Dawkins and the other signatories should limit themselves to open debate and forget about government coercion.

Categories: Religion

Christmas is over

December 26, 2006 Leave a comment

…but I’m still on vacation. There will probably be no posting this week.

Categories: Blogging

Christmas is for atheists, too

December 22, 2006 1 comment

Jay linked to a strange letter in the Missoula Independent. Christmas is a fun subject, so let’s go. Here’s the letter in its entirety:

Well, here we are yet again, facing the approach of another Christmas holiday. A holiday full of love, happiness, joy, celebration…and rank liberal hypocrisy. Just to give some of you an historical reminder, Christmas was founded by the psuedo-pagan Roman Emperor Constantine in roughly the year 336 A.D. The holiday was set up so that Christians had a day to honor the birth of Christ. The holiday was not set up to exchange gifts, to put up Christmas lights, to put up a tree. No, the only reason Christmas exists is for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Now, what does this have to do with liberals, you may ask? Simple. First, how many times here in Missoula have we heard from neolibs who insist that creationism is “absurd,” “stupid,” and “brainwashing”? How many neolib atheists have we heard from telling us “God is dead”? Yet once a year they put up their lights, furnish their houses with a tree, and lavish themselves and their friends with gifts…all to celebrate a holiday for a savior they say “doesn’t exist” and is “evil.” So, those of you neolibs who spend such a great deal of effort throughout the year telling our children that “Christianity is evil” and proudly displaying your atheism on your sleeve, stop and consider for a moment your profound hypocrisy in this matter. If you don’t believe in or practice Christianity, then you have no business celebrating Christmas. It is that simple.

I suppose I could point out that creationism has little to do with the birth of Jesus, most liberals are Christians, etc. Plus, when the hell did we all become “neolibs?” I thought neoliberals were the jackoffs at the DLC? Anyway…

So, of course, the reason for Christmas has little to do with Jesus. The holiday was created essentially as a marketing tool; forcing pagans to give up their big solstice parties to convert to Christianity is not a good PR move. So, we have Christmas.

Plus, let’s take a look at modern Christmases. They involve traditions of largely secular or pagan origins (Santa Claus, gifts, trees, lights, etc). The philosophical message seems to be very humanistic: good will towards men, charity, etc. Of course, I also enjoy taking the whole thing as a metaphor for atheism.

So, in sum, how am I a hypocrite? I’m engaging in traditions that have little connection to Christianity. I’m celebrating a message with which I largely agree. Oh, right, there’s some kind of mythology at the base of it that some people still think is real. I suppose that guy doesn’t celebrate Halloween because he doesn’t believe ghosts return to Earth on October 31st.

Categories: Religion, Silliness

Mmm, science

December 20, 2006 Leave a comment

It’s the Carl Sagan memorial blog-a-thon!

I, being the age that I am, largely missed out on Sagan. Aside from seeing him on TV a couple times and having read The Demon-Haunted World, I haven’t encountered much of his work. What I have seen is enough to tell me that he was an amazing person with a gift for making science powerful and awe-inspiring and that someone like him is sorely needed today.

Categories: Blogging, Science

Oh, I'm proud of myself now

December 20, 2006 3 comments

I compiled my own kernel and it works. I can now see two CPUs in System Monitor. Sweet.

I’m sorry, I’m sure you’re all absolutely enamored of my Ubuntu adventures, but I’m enjoying this.

Categories: Tech

Tripoli Six

December 19, 2006 Leave a comment

I have a post on the issue over at Montana Netroots. Go read it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Categories: Science, World news

Trying Linux again

December 18, 2006 3 comments

I blame Shane. I decided running 64 bit version of Ubuntu was a pain in the ass, so I blew away everything and started over. My first attempt to start over didn’t go so well: Edgy Eft didn’t recognize my mouse (an off and on problem in my Ubuntu experiences) and my network connection. So that sucked and was my first real problem installing Ubuntu. I went back to 32 bit Dapper and then upgraded to Edgy, which seems to work well. I even got the Flash 9 beta to work in Firefox (and it works quite well). My project for this evening was to make an ext2 partition for my music and videos (after discovering this) so I didn’t have to deal with Linux’s sketchy NTFS drivers anymore. Sadly, it may have been too late, as Partition Magic refuses to resize my main Windows partition. Annoyingly, Ubuntu had no problem doing so during installation and I hadn’t written anything to my NTFS partition from Ubuntu. I was warned, though, so I have no excuse. Chkdsk is ineffective; maybe defragging will help.

Of course, it’s only at 20% and it’s nearly time for me to go to bed, so I guess I’ll have to resume tomorrow. Damn.

Categories: Tech

2006 Music Recap

December 17, 2006 2 comments

Top Ten

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

It’s kinda funny. The first time I heard The Decemberists, I thought they were awful (and I wasn’t exposed to a bad song, either: 16 Military Wives). Then, slowly, Picaresque became one of my favorite albums of last year. That didn’t happen with The Crane Wife – I loved it right away. Honestly, the album seems a little scattered: a 12 minute prog rock song…, a funk-ish electric guitar fest, a minimalist accoustic song, a hard rock song…maybe it’s just me though. Still, an excellent album that I haven’t tired of since I got it in August.

Isis: In the Absence of Truth

I seem to ask this question a lot: is there a genre name for this kind of music? Not that it matters. Isis is fantastic no matter what their music is called. This one seems more accessible than their other albums, but it still retains the depth of their past releases. It’s like a combination of post-rock and metal – how can you not like that?

Russian Circles: Enter

Another band in the vein of Isis and Pelican. They sound an awful lot like Pelican to me, but rather than being sort of “hit or miss” with their songs, all of them are excellent. My goodness, Death Rides a Horse is one of my favorite songs ever on the opening alone. Sludgy, instrumental metal. Very very good.

Agalloch: Ashes Against the Grain

This deserves a top ten mention on Not Unlike the Waves along. You can listen to it by going here. If you don’t like, you’re not allowed to read this blog anymore. Just kidding. Mostly. I don’t really know what to call Agalloch either. Progressive doom metal? Beats me. This one has lost some of the acoustic guitar work of The Mantle, but if you want that you can always go listen to Nest.

Pineapple Thief: Little Man

I resolutely ignored Pineapple Thief after the 12-10 Stories Down nonsense, up until a couple months ago. 12 Stories Down was decent, but it started to grate after a while. Little Man is quite different. The acoustic and distorted guitars of the previous albums are strangely lacking. But hey, when you produce something this good, I can forgive a lot. All I can say is, there better not be a “Littler man” at the beginning of next year.

Novembre: Materia

Progressive doom again. I admit that this is the only Novembre album I have and I haven’t even looked for other ones. Odd, considering I think this is a great album. The vocals are what really impresses me about this band. I have no idea what much of what he’s saying means, as a good deal of the vocals are in Italian. The title track and Comedia are the standouts.

Clogs: Lantern

I hesitate to put this on the list, as I haven’t really listened to it that much. It’s just fascinating music to me, though. Post-rock-ish, but you wouldn’t really call them a post-rock band. They sound similar (that’s probably backwards) to Bright Red Paper (not that that helps anyone). Vocals pop up on just one song, the title track, which is my favorite song. This is another band I only have one album from.

Calexico: Garden Ruin

Now we’re on to the third band in a row that I have exposure to through only one album. In a genre (indie rock) that I have little experience with in general, no less. Still, I like this album. It’s not one that gets listened to a lot, but a solid record. All Systems Red and Letter to a Bowie Knife are the standouts.

Daylight Dies: Dismantling Devotion

DOOM! Ahem, sorry. That’s about as articulate as I’m going to be with this one. Crushing riffs and dark melodies. Fantastic.

Tool: 10,000 Days

An album that almost ended up on both my Most Disappointing and Top Ten lists. I had really high hopes for this one. An album like Lateralus will do that to a person. What they delivered was pretty uneven. The Wings songs and their focus on atmosphere are excellent. Jambi, Right in Two, and The Pot are all good songs. Vicarious is decent. Rosetta Stoned and Intension are pretty lackluster. The problem is that Tool’s last two albums have been albums. I don’t pick songs out of Lateralus or Aenima and listen to them on their own (which isn’t to say there aren’t songs you can do that with on those albums). This one? I listen to Jambi and the title track or maybe Right in Two and move on to something else. It’s by no means a bad album; after all, I do consider it one of my favorites of the year. From any other band it might be a positive sign for the future. For Tool? I’m not counting the days until their next release.

Most Disappointing:

Evergrey: Monday Morning Apocalypse

This album has the occasional redeeming moment, but they’ve few and far between. The songs are catchy, but in a fairly shallow way. It’s just not very interesting.

The Mars Volta: Amputechture

Admittedly, I really liked this album at first. As seems to happen with me and every TMV album, though, it worn out its welcome after a short period of time. I was struck when I first listened to it by the lack of the sort of ambient filler of Frances the Mute. What I noticed after a while was that they had simply replaced the ambient noise with something approaching music that simply added nothing and went nowhere. The album surely has its moments. Those moments are just stuck in the middle of a lot of lackluster moments.

Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance

This album is pretty much the same kind of thing as Viva Emptiness: Cure-ish melancholic metal. For whatever reason, though, it never really hooked me. It’s still a good album (I’d say it’s 11 on that top ten list), but Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Viva Emptiness are two of my favorite albums and this one just isn’t up there.

Need More Listens

Mastodon: Blood Mountain

As the category indicates, I just haven’t listened to this one enough. I like it, but Mastodon has never produced anything that impressive (good, but nothing special). We’ll see.

Zombi: Surface to Air

I downloaded this, listened to it once, and promptly decided that it wasn’t very good. It finally “clicked” for me a week ago. It’s almost worth of the top ten, but 6 or 7 listens, 3 or 4 of which I didn’t really enjoy is not enough.
Categories: Music

New theme

December 17, 2006 Leave a comment

Thought I needed a change. This one seems more “open,” so to speak. It also has very unoriginal graphics and isn’t really modified much from K2 (or 3K2, to be precise – I was originally going to go three column). I like it, though. Let me know if you see any problems, think it’s bad, slow, etc.

In other news, it’s December 17th. What the hell? I remember when this month used to just crawl by.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the Now Reading library page is screwy. I’ll fix it later.

Categories: Blogging, Personal

Christianity with a twist

December 17, 2006 Leave a comment

I kind of like browsing around Christianity Today. There are occasionally strange or interesting articles that stand out in the fundamentalist dreck that floats around the web. For example, this is a rather honest answer to a question about proving Mary gave birth as a virgin. There’s no hand waving to try and provide some kind of evidence, like some try to do with early Christianity history. It’s simply: no, you have to have faith. I hope that remarkably unsatisfying answer fuels the skepticism of the questioner.

In another article we have a Christian advocating tossing out the idea of a soul. He’s even using the dreaded “materialism” to describe it.

I propose that there is a kind a materialism available that accounts for our being animals without being merely animals. First some clarifying remarks. Though we are right to reject the reductionist’s claim that whatever is is physical (we’re theists, after all), it seems to me that the reductionist is at least partly right—we are human animals. However—and this may sound surprising—while we are human animals, we are not identical with human animals.

How does that work? He attempts to explain:

How can one be an animal without being identical with an animal? Think about it this way. I am willing to bet that most of you believe that a particular copper statue is constituted by a particular piece of copper. But I’m also willing to bet that you agree that the piece of copper could conceivably outlast the statue, that is, that the piece of copper could continue in existence even if the statue should not. Suppose, for example, that the piece of copper composing the statue is hammered flat. This would cause the statue to cease to exist but not the piece of copper. Moreover, the piece of copper could have existed for some time before the statue came into existence. The statue is a piece of copper even if it is not identical with the piece of copper. The statue can’t be identical with the piece of copper because the piece of copper can exist without the statue existing.

That…doesn’t seem to explain anything. Is anyone really confused that we could be animals but also have unique qualities that make us different from other animals? Every animal has unique qualities. He apparently wants to think of humans as more than animals. Which, we are, as every species has qualities that aren’t entailed by being classified as an animal. Then he wants us to be more than “human animals.” So, apparently we have some quality that isn’t entailed by being human. Seeing as the definition of human is basically “what we are,” this seems like an odd statement. If we have some material quality that makes us not human, we would simply be a different species, wouldn’t we? Then we’re back to the same problem. We’re identical to “slightly different than human animals.” It’s the equivalent of a dog believing “I’m a dog, but I’m not identical with a dog” on account of it being a German Shepard.

I wonder if the author is trying to argue with a straw man in his readers’ heads. He claims earlier that some secular philosophers revel in the idea that we’re “merely animals.” Perhaps that’s true, but no secular philosopher would claim that we’re not unique from other animals. Most wouldn’t disagree that our unique qualities are something truly astounding. That almost seems like all the author means, but thinks he needs to argue against the standard idea of materialism to support it. That’s clearly not the case. Humans retain a special place in nature in every secular philosophy. Even someone like Peter Singer believes that humans have qualities that give them rights that other animals do not have (voting, for example). Surely he knows this.

It has to be more than that, doesn’t it? Otherwise the not being identical with human animals claim doesn’t make sense. I realize he has a book out and this is just a brief explanation and summary of some of his ideas, but I don’t think his claims make sense. It’s an interesting article, though.

Categories: Religion
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