Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I’ve replaced the Twitter feed here with an RSS feed from something new that I’m toying with – a Tumblr Blog. I’ve also cleaned up the sidebar a bit. It’s all about making things cleaner and simpler. I find the simplicity of the Tumble blog refreshing but am still trying to grok the interaction – or, the lack thereof.
I’ve begun the process of updating the site, especially the sidebar. I’ve added a Twitter feed and updated the Author page. NWW is beginning to look less like an artifact.
I wrote that last post in a blog editor called Blogo. It’s a pretty darn nice looking bit of software I first became aware of right about the time I took my lengthy hiatus. I didn’t pick it up then, but I did wish it had been available when I switched to Mac computers about two years plus ago. Recently, seeing that it was on sale and seeing that I was thinking about writing for the first time in a long time, I grabbed a copy. This would streamline and help things along for sure!
Well… I barely got that first post up. There was a nasty bug between Blogo and WordPress that caused Blogo to crash hard. No amount of restarting the program or re-booting the Mac helped. Thankfully, the folks at Brain Juice (great name, that!) were quick to reply to my e-mail. I sent along some crash logs and waited. It took some time but today they advised me of a new beta that is supposed to resolve the issue with WordPress.
So far it looks like it works. I have not been able to replicate the previous crash. Hat Tip to Brain Juice for being responsive and for making a blog editor with a great feature set and interface.
I never imagined when I wrote the previous post about Obama’s candidacy that it would be over a year before I hit the publish button again. It’s been more like a year and a half since I was posting regularly. What can I say about that? I was seriously burnt out from blogging, and blogging about the topics that had come to drive North Western Winds: Darwin, Abortion, religion and Catholicism, as well as Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada.
Removing those bows from my quiver left me with little ready at hand to write about, and the whole blogging thing had become, in my mind, burdensome. I found myself turning to a different longstanding interest of mine – technology. I got some new toys and started reading some very different sorts of sites.
In April of last year (2008) my family was involved in a serious car crash. It occurred, of all places, early on a Sunday morning on the way to Mass. Our SUV was written off by the insurance company, I had three cracked ribs and missed weeks of work, Rebecca has shoulder pain to this day, and my mother in law was in hospital for weeks with minor fractures and a concussion.
That event had a deep impact on life in our house this past year. We’ve had a lot to deal with and it isn’t over yet. I’m doing well and have been back at work for some time now. Rebecca has changed occupations and is working on getting that shoulder right. My mother in law has had the longest journey back but she is turning a corner.
On Christmas eve this year (2008) I fell ill – literally! – after supper and was down and out for a week, and weak for a time after that. It was some sort of stomach flu that made me feel like my insides were melting away. It was hard to eat and I spent days tossing and turning on the bed, wishing it would stop.
Those events put a dent my church going, which was becoming dangerously monotonous even before then. I’m still Catholic and I still attend, but my tolerance for religious ‘enthusiasm’ is even lower than it was previously. My religiosity remains literary and philosophical but I have a gained heightened awareness of my own differences from the Church Cheerleaders. My attitudes towards Darwin and abortion have not changed though. They preceded my churchgoing, so perhaps that’s no surprise.
I find myself having a falling out with the Conservative Party of Canada. Whether it is the relentless pursuit of free market liberalization or harsher penalties for everything, Harper’s Conservatives are too ideologically driven. A proper Tory party has the good of the Canadian people as its goal, and uses every tool it has to that effect. Harper’s team, on the other hand, wants everything it does to cohere with certain ideas that strike me as cheap, simple, and reductionist. I voted Green in the last election and I would do so again.
In an interesting way, it is my interest in technology that has brought me to writing this post. Rebecca and I have been trying out Twitter for a couple of months now. She – no surprise really – has been quite taken with it and has a lot of followers. Introverted egghead that I am, I have been less interested in posting than I am in seeing what people do with the service. Rebecca is threatening to start a new blog (yes, again) for those times when “140 characters just isn’t enough.” Seeing her work on that project reminded me that I have a project here, one that I might be able to remake in a way that makes writing and interacting fun once again.
I make no promises about what might or might not be posted here. My most recent interest, one that has gobbled up oodles of my time, has been working with a virtual Linux machine on my iMac. I don’t have much to say about Obama other than I still don’t like him.
Let’s see where this goes, yes?
This is the dumbest thing the Tories have done since winning their current minority government.
It is simply wrong to rely on courts to achieve a high enough standard of justice to warrant the taking of a human life.
It is logically inconsistent to hold that our courts should not have the right to apply the death penalty, but others do. Canadians will rightly draw the conclusion that what’s coming next is a death penalty debate in Canada. I don’t think Canadians will want any part of this idea, and they will thrash a party that tries to foist it on them. The recent Ontario election seems a likely model.
What’s more, this abrupt course change can be used by the opposition parties as ammunition against the Tories’ omnibus crime bill, a bill the Tories have been daring the opposition to bring down the government over. That’s been a good tactic, one that I don’t expect the opposition to take. With this action, however, that bill can now be cast in a new light. And it does not flatter the Tories.
If anything has been missing from this government, keeping it from being able to seek an election with some degree of confidence that it will gain seats – and possibly even a majority in the house – it has been a lack of statesmanship. It’s not that statesmanship has been entirely lacking, but magnanimity and generosity have not been on display in quantities large enough to sway a leery voter.
I can’t see the upside of this in any way.
The New Yorker still does great prose:
The Google Library Project has so far received mixed reviews. Google shows the reader a scanned version of the page; it is generally accurate and readable. But Google also uses optical character recognition to produce a second version, for its search engine to use, and this double process has some quirks. In a scriptorium lit by the sun, a scribe could mistakenly transcribe a “u” as an “n,” or vice versa. Curiously, the computer makes the same mistake. If you enter qualitas—an important term in medieval philosophy—into Google Book Search, you’ll find almost two thousand appearances. But if you enter “qnalitas” you’ll be rewarded with more than five hundred references that you wouldn’t necessarily have found. Sometimes the scanner operators miss pages, or scan them out of order. Sometimes the copy is not in good condition. The cataloguing data that identify an item are often incomplete or confusing. And the key terms that Google provides in order to characterize individual books are sometimes unintentionally comic. It’s not all that helpful, when you’re thinking about how to use an 1878 Baedeker guide to Paris, to be told that one of its keywords is “fauteuils.”
Taken from a story about the future of text by Anthony Grafton.
Here Theodore Darymaple takes on the new atheists and finds the arguments not only weak, but weaker than arguments for atheism need to be – except, perhaps, that of Daniel Dennett. Kicking over the view typified by Dennett was instrumental in overcoming a life of agnosticism for me, so I find this sort of argument particularly worth watching. Whenever an Al Gore-esque “the science is irrefutable” erupts in these debates, hypocrisy lurks. Scientific conclusions are always tentative, and if you think they are not, you are not using science, but have leapt into the world of metaphysics.
Here is Darymaple on the difficulties of Dennett’s argument:
Dennett’s Breaking the Spell is the least bad-tempered of the new atheist books, but it is deeply condescending to all religious people. Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms—for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.
For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favor, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one [evolution], are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.