Archive for May, 2006

Cool stuff

May 31, 2006 Leave a comment

Thought I’d pass this along.

Bozeman – A MSU professor plans to use the computer science classrooms of a nearly 600-year-old German university as a testing ground for a new method of teaching computer science.

John Paxton hopes his experiment in teaching a sophomore-level course on data structures and algorithms in Germany will be successful enough to transplant to MSU. The computer science professor will spend the 2006-2007 academic year at the University of Leipzig after winning a prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award.

Paxton’s a great teacher and an all around nice guy. Congratulations to him.

Categories: Montana

Separating Islam

May 31, 2006 2 comments

This is an interesting separation of church and state case:

In 2001, Excelsior Middle School in Byron, 40 miles east of San Francisco, advised a classroom of twelve-year olds that, “[for the next three weeks], you and your classmates will become Muslims.” Thereafter, the students memorized portions of the Koran, chose Islamic names, wore tags bearing their new Islamic names alongside the Star and Crescent Moon—the symbol of Muslims, completed the Five Pillars of Faith, and recited Muslim prayers. Ironically, the teacher’s edition of the course textbook warned: “Recreating religious practices or ceremonies through role playing activities should not take place in a public school classroom.”

The Ninth Circuit ruled that this was ok:

Nonetheless, a California federal district court judge appointed by Clinton ruled the course lacked “any devotional or religious intent” and was only educational. Notwithstanding a double standard between how the district court treated Islam and how federal courts have treated other religions in the classroom, the Ninth Circuit agreed.

So, was this alright? The site I linked says no:

In particular, the school district’s actions fail every Supreme Court test; they: lack a secular purpose; primarily advance religion; excessively entangle government with religion; endorse a particular religious belief; and coerce students to participate in religion.

Now, I don’t think they’re quite correct. There’s an obvious secular purpose: to educate children about Islam, a religion that many people haven’t encountered and one that plays a large role in global politics. Does it primarily advance religion? That seems murky. I doubt there was any religious intent behind it, as the Ninth Circuit is quoted as ruling (apparently the whole opinion is unpublished). Depending on the context, it could be construed as endorsing Islam. It doesn’t seem that it’s primary effect is to advance religion, in the end. It seems to me that it advances the understanding of religion, specifically Islam. Finally, does it unnecessarily entangle church and state? There’s no question that we could teach about Islam without the roleplaying. However, I don’t think you can question the fact that this is a way of teaching that’s going to leave more of an impact on the students. I think that it’s this clause that the class fails, however. Given that it’s pretty easy to see how this offends people and that the purpose can be advanced in other ways, I think it’s probably better to keep on the safe side and not do the roleplaying activity. The author of the book that said not to do such roleplaying activities was probably thinking along that line. As for the last two criteria the site lists, they aren’t explicitly part of the Lemon Test but are accounted for in it.

It is, however, a borderline case and is worth a bit more than a dismissive remark.

(via MTPolitics)

Categories: Church and State

RTS games for Jesus

May 30, 2006 2 comments

I tend to use the word “bizarre” a lot, so I’m not sure what to call this, as it’s beyond bizarre.

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces – a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

It’s sort of like this Gameboy game my grandmother bought me once. It was like Zelda, but you didn’t kill people, you wacked them with…something and they knelt down and prayed. I guess the main difference is that you apparently kill the unbelievers. Or kill the believers, as the website says:

Play multiplayer games as Tribulation Force or the AntiChrist’s Global Community Peacekeepers with up to eight players via LAN or over the internet!

Being the terrorists in CS pales in comparison.

Seems that they expect a “T” rating. It really would be an irony overload for the game to be rated “M,” wouldn’t it? Consequently, there probably won’t be any blood. Who wants to play out a sugar-coated apocalypse?

Categories: Religion, Silliness

Hooray for me!

May 28, 2006 2 comments

Hey, it’s that time of year where I wonder if it’s too narcissistic to post on my blog that it’s my birthday.

Guess not.

Categories: Personal

Music stuff

May 27, 2006 1 comment

1. The new Agalloch album is soooo good, though it looks very odd in my list in the sidebar.
2. The new Stupid Dream re-release sounds way better than my old 128 kb/s MP3 version.

Categories: Music


May 26, 2006 Leave a comment

“Slightly late, but I’m happy they told us to go home early” edition.

Winds – [The Imaginary Direction of Time #05] The Fireworks of Genesis
Pain of Salvation – [12:5 #15] Brickwork, Pt. 2: IX (Ashes)
Pink Floyd – [Meddle #03] Fearless
Morbid Angel – [Covenant #05] The Lions Den
Anathema – [A Natural Disaster #05] Childhood Dream
Impaled – [Mondo Medicale #03] Raise the Stakes
Slayer – [Seasons in the Abyss #09] Born of Fire
When Day Descends – [Transcend #07] The Path
Porcupine Tree – [In Absentia #05] Gravity Eyelids
A Silver Mt. Zion – [This Is Our Punk Rock #02] Babylon Was Built On Fire/Star

Categories: Music

Nothing to say

May 25, 2006 Leave a comment

Nothing to say, except this. I’ve mentioned Loose Change on here before. Found via the latest Skeptics’ Circle, Daylight Atheism has an excellent three part debunking of the movie. Highly recommended if you’re interested in this kind of thing.

Categories: Skepticism