Sunday, December 31, 2006

In 3D, lighting is everything

Consider this stunning figure. Cartoony, but a striking female character, yes?

Then consider this one:

Isn't it just evocative of the handiwork who is unable to make pleasant images of humans, just sardonic charicatures of them?

The main difference is the lighting. In the nice-looking version, the lights are:
 light_source{<000,150,500> rgb 1.5  rotate 60*y shadowless} 
light_source{<000,100,500>, rgb 0.3 rotate -60*y shadowless}
light_source{<000,100,500>, rgb 3 rotate -120*y shadowless}


3D Animation vs. the common good

I have a case of bronchitis. It's really bothersome. I rebuffed my wife's suggestions to take medication early on in the cold, thinking that good ol' hydration and vitamins would do the trick.

The funny thing is that one of the things the doctor prescribed me is an over-the-counter medication I'd seen advertised on TV. At his recommendation and after reading the Uses on the box, I am kicking myself for not having started using this stuff at the first signs of sniffle. I'm almost wondering if I have harmed my long-term health by not having purchased this pharmaceutical product earlier. Now here's the rub.

I like cartoony 3D animation, in case you couldn't tell already. I have seen on TV a commercial for this very product perhaps a hundred times. But the commercial screams of being over-produced by disingenuous snake-oil salesmen, and the use of the 3D medium may have contributed to that impression. It was not a presentation I could trust, so I took it off my radar screen of things to do when I get a bad cold. Now I'm paying the price.

Does use of 3D ultimately degrade from the seriousness or trustworthiness of a presentation?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, R.I.P.

As a kid I saw Gerald Ford on some talk show like Donahue and listed him as one of my heroes. May he rest in peace.

Sojourners' blog quoted from Gerald Ford's Inaugural Address:
"I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself. ... In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."

Then for just a moment, I imagined what if 9/11 had happened during the Ford Administration, and what the world would have been like five years afterwards. All sorts of visions of sugar plums were dancing in my head.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

About to sit down for Christmas

Sometimes I have more fun looking at the mistakes mid-composition than I do the final version. Here I'm about to get all the characters to sit down in a church service together.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Oh, so now Holocaust denial is suddenly uncool.

There's a neoconservative point of view that folks are alright until they try to get the government to solve their problems. Advocate a minimum wage, an estate tax, a 55 MPH speed limit, a ban on indoor smoking, or some other meager regulation of commerce, and you've just supped from the cup of Stalin and Hitler, they say. People don't harm people, this view goes, government regs harm people.

This worldview would also have to make claims about just how things got so screwed up in Nazi Germany. It wouldn't be so much that people (average, decent, middle-class, church-going people) are inherently Fallen and corrupt, but that somehow they gave up too much power to the State and It forced an evil upon them.

Entering into the fray a few years ago came Daniel Jonah Goldhagen with his Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Goldhagen documented how German culture going back decades if not centuries was full of racist propaganda and violence against the Jews. I read Goldhagen as saying the holocaust may have started before the turn of the 20th century.

The neocons were livid. See some objections at the Amazon site for the book. I specifically remember Richard John Neuhuas expressing outrage at the book. For someone like Neuhaus who would have been trained in a church tradition that believes in a Fall and Original Sin, I don't see the problem. I do see how Goldhagen's thesis of a completely fallen humanity, one ready to commit genocide at the fall of a hat, confronts the political view which relies on trappings of the Noble Savage to fight government intrusion. Perhaps Goldhagen's book makes it easier to believe in Hobbes' view that man is vile and corrupt and maybe a few meager regulations of commerce are to be tolerated.

Perhaps there are other reasons for reacting in this way to Goldhagen. I see the opposition to Goldhagen as a statement that the pre-Holocaust wasn't so big a deal.

Playing around with light groups in povray

I'm trying to get a comic book look in feel for povray. I want shadows on the ground, an otherwise flat color out to infinity (for a plane), and a three-lights system for the characters. It's a tough bill. I thought I had a perfect way to do it using not only light groups but a two-component floor. I had one floor of a few hundred units wide with default ambient and 0.001 units below it a plane with finish {ambient rgb 1}. So far I've failed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The eyes have it!

I created a goofy character just for fun a while ago. To my horror, i recently realized that the eyes do not function as normal rotating eyeballs! That is, the only way for it to look in a different direction is to turn its head. No problem, I say, I'll just fix the character on the fly while I'm re-designing my scene. And whaddayankow, it behaved entirely differently. I decide to go back to the old design and fix it at some later stage.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I don't like bad ballet

I went to see a production of the Nutcracker yesterday. It was a joyous time. We had front row seats-- the kind of seat where the performers were making eye contact with you. The fact that I enjoyed myself at ballet reminded me of all the times I'd said I was too redneck to appreciate this classical art form.

Then it hit me. I realized that there were quite a few times where the dancers were jumping and twirling that had nothing to do with the theme or rhythm of the music at the time! This was perhaps some of the most delightful classical music ever, and the choreographer had them (perfectly, mind you) executing jumps and twirls just for the sake of it.

Mind you, I'm one of those blokes who believes that a good dancer should practically stand still during the extremely slow moments of Everybody Dance Now!. I realized that I don't hate ballet, I hate cheezy choreography.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Scifi-like image for my new comic.

Took forever to get the media effect in povray. Forgot to make the cylinder "hollow". Got a few tips from Christoph Hormann's site.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How (not to) succeed commercially in Linux: the passing of Kanotix.

Kanotix was at one time my favorite distribution of linux. I note with a sense of dread that the Kanotix team's main developers are splitting up. In an article entitled, "The KANOTIX distro implodes," says:
As of today, the KANOTIX distribution is...not dead, exactly, but most definitely without a firm direction. Its co-developer has left, its Paypal donation link is down, and it's not clear what's going to happen with it in the future.
. Indeed, "Kano", for whom the distribution was named after, has said:
Since financing Kanotix through donations has proved a failure and I am planning restructuring to a more stable base (be it Ubuntu or Debian will have to show in tests) and I myself regard Debian/Sid as unfortunately not compliant with a more commercial orientation, he has left the project.

Here's my advice on how not to succeed in engendering donations for your own distribution in linux. I myself had made PayPal donations to kanotix on two occasions, the total being about the order of magnitude of the cost of a Windows XP upgrade. I had often received help from the kanotix user forums and IRC channel, including from Kano himself in both places.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A complete waste of time.

I once heard someone say that the way in which I'm doing character animation was "a complete waste of time." Ah, so it seems. An hour or so last night (under extreme grogginess due to 8 hours driving that day) and all I got was this. It was really hard to construct a coffee cup and almost as hard to position my characters (on the fly at least).

Monday, November 20, 2006

HTML tip on stopping word wrap around an image.

Consider this line of text in this image. Isn't it nice?
What if I suddenly wanted to stop talking about it and move on to a different topic? Wouldn't it be nice if I were able to do this efficiently with some HTML or CSS?

Well, I went searching high and low on how to make this happen in blogger. The best instructions came from 15 Alignment, font styles, and horizontal rules at W3C's HTML 4.01 Specification.Their advice is:

<STYLE type="text/css">
BR#mybr { clear: left }
********* -------
| | -------
| table | --<BR id="mybr">

| |

So in blogger, you would at the STYLE code to the Template of your blog, then insert the special br code when you want to make your break.

Kudo's to W3C. I spent some time googling up a solution and found a lot of false leads that didn't work with blogger or were insufficiently explained. Hence this post.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Animated GIF to advertise M.I.M.E. Man

Oh dang! Blogger doesn't allow animated GIFs. what a bummer.

Murtha vs. Hoyer: the Right abandons the unborn again

I noted with some irony how much interest the right wingers on talk radio were taking in the election for Democratic Majority leader in the House of Representatives. I noted how much airtime Sean Hannity was devoting to an attack on Murtha. Murtha has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. That got me wondering.

I looked at the voting ratings provided by "Project Vote Smart-- NARAL Pro-Choice America". If NARAL likes a politician's voting record, that means they are pro-choice on abortion; if he or she gets a low rating, it means they are pro-life. (I googled up some voting records from pro-life organizations but my search wasn't as fruitful as that for a pro-choice one, in case you're wondering.

Anyway, here's NARAL's voting records for the two candidates vying for House Majority Leader.

PA U.S. House District 12 John P.'Jack' Murtha Democrat 0
MD U.S. House District 5 Steny H. Hoyer Democrat 100

So, given a choice between a purely pro-life Democrat who opposed the war and a purely pro-choice one who hasn't been as vocal, the Right goes full bore in endorsing the baby killer who's softer on the Iraq War.

I hold that there is a positive and godly ideal in the pro-life position. I hold that what pundits call "conservative" these days is foreign to, if not a cynical opponent of, these godly ideals.

The problem with the Christian Church today.

G.K. Chesterton wrote the book Orthodoxy, a defense of an orthodox position within biblical Christianity.
"The ancient masters of religion ... began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.

Today society is witnessing a major struggle over religion, a struggle between the Religious Right on one side and on the other nontheists wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The nontheists see evil and sin and ugliness and inhumanity and their heart breaks, and then they turn around and makeh a nonsensical claim that the doctrine of Original Sin is nonsense. The Religious Right in turn witnesses the same things-- and it yawns. The Religious Right speculates as to what kinds of evils could motivate the complainers to complain (Do they hate God, hate Bush, hate authority, hate civilization, hate self?). Then it tells everyone that they need some bizarre quantity called "forgiveness of sins." WTH?

Both of these fools deny the one doctrine of the Christian faith, as Chesterton put it, which can be scientifically proven.

Here is some evidence. The campus police at UCLA brutalize a guy in a library, and then threaten with taser bites those who asked him for his badge number. This is the over the top part of the conflict. Maybe there is some scenario where you might say that the first trouble maker asked for it (I don't hold that), but the cop who threatens the person asking for the badge has crossed a line.

I first heard of this through a BoingBoing posting, and then here it is in a news report from a campus newspaper.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thinking about icons for a new comic strip

I've seen some strips invest a lot of effort in making eye candy to give away. Plus some oneline services want 117x31's or 468 x 60's.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


As published in the November 2006 issue of 3D World: The Magazine for 3D Artists.
Link to subscription info for the magazine.

I'm wearing a T-shirt design which I shared on povray.binaries.images, and published for sale at zazzle.

As this photo features a rendering I did in povray, this is in effect a publishing of my artwork!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Women's Ordination and the Doctrine of the Trinity.

I recently ran across a podcast where a conservative Lutheran claimed that a logical outcome of supporting women's ordination in the church was denial of the doctrine of the Trinity. That is, if you believed that women should be allowed to become preachers, you were inevitably going to deny God as one God in Three Persons.

I've heard this argument before from folks in the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LC-MS). It goes like this. Jesus only called men to his ministry. If you thumb your nose at Jesus by supporting women's ordination, you are, the argument goes, inevitably saying that you deny his being the Son of God and just an ignore-able philosopher.

Oh my. Such an inflammatory position, and an illogical case in that one could make exactly the same position that anyone who disagrees with you is denying the Trinity. Here's an example: I oppose the Iraq War because of the Sermon on the Mount. I'm saying something clearly based on Jesus' teachings. If you thumb your nose at Jesus by supporting the invasion of Iraq (2003 or 2006), then, the illogical rant goes, you are inevitably denying his being the Son of God and just an ignore-able philosopher.

Is there a less-inflammatory justification offered by LC-MS'ers for the connection of female preaching and trinity heresies? I'd like to see it.

2006: A Referendum on the Sanctity on Unborn Life

As I write this, Rick Santorum (R-PA) has just conceded defeat to Democrat Bob Casey. Meanwhile an MSNBC news headline says that pro-choice ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman is "hanging on," due to the fact that he is the favored candidate of Republican voters. Casey is pro-life. The Republican opponent of pro-choice Lieberman rightly described him as "Ted Kennedy plus support for the Iraq War."

I am someone who earnestly holds to the seamless garment position, where war and poverty and abortion and hatred of prisoner & stranger are evils to be struggled against in a seamless witness. I believe that the term seamless garment was coined by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in an address in 1984. I believe that this is the ethic espoused by the late pope John Paul II.

The purpose of this post is to point a finger at pro-life activists, mostly for calling yourselves "conservative" and then going along with the worst excesses of a "conservative" party, starting with the war. I got lots of campaign mail from my (okay, New York) Republican incumbent House member, and none of it mentioned abortion. Most of it, IMNSHO, was a mockery of the positions held by the late pope John Paul II. My Representative's literature encouraged racist fears of immigrants and jingoistic saber-rattling at Kim Jong Il.

If honestly pro-life people were more involved in the political process-- I'm not saying you have to leave the Republican party-- you could help bring the party back, bring it closer to the vision of JPII and likely electoral success. When you and your leaders become allies with folks like Delay and Cheney, you do the unborn a disservice. Persons of good will-- those to whom JPII's encyclicals were often addressed-- may have actually listened to either JPII or their conscience and could see what you could not. Their conciences may have led them to vote against the candidates you were supporting.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Religious Right vs. Bible-believers (a letter to Xeni)

Hey you nontheists, pagans, and believers in non-Christian religions who've been dissing bible-believing Christians, there's an article in the Nation that you've got to read!

This amazing article, "In God's Country", mind you, appears in nowhere else but the leftist rag "The Nation", underscores what I've felt all along. That the Religious Right do not represent the purest form of adhering to biblical doctrines but one possible corruption of it. I offer a few of the points that resounded with me below without further comment.

"How, Greeley and Hout ask, do pundits routinely equate biblical Christianity with right-wing politics when African-Americans, "who are in nearly every respect as religiously conservative as whites," nevertheless "vote overwhelmingly for Democrats?"
"Greeley and Hout provide strong evidence that among white conservative Protestants--a category that includes denominations such as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and Mormons--class indeed matters a lot more than most pundits think. Between 1992 and 2000, 80 percent of the affluent members of these denominations voted for Republicans, but fewer than half of those who are poor did so."
"Selective in their populism, the theocons are equally selective in their adherence to church doctrine: Michael Novak, another First Things contributor, believes American women should be forced to accept the Vatican's teachings on abortion, but he went to Rome at the invitation of President Bush's ambassador to defend the war in Iraq, which the Pope staunchly opposed. From the death penalty to poverty, what the church says can be ignored, except when its encyclicals support the right side in the culture wars, in which case everyone must take note."

Climate Skeptics Flip-flop!

A recent post on the RealClimate blog made reference to the views of Peter Singer, a famous climate skeptic from the University of Virginia. Singer has a long history of dissing the need for action to combat environmental crises. I remember how he condemned the Nobel committee for giving a Prize to the discoverer of ozone depletion. Anyway, in one sentence from the blog, we see volumes about Singer's witness:

"... Singer's recent view that the earth is cooling has been replaced with the view that the current warming is "unstoppable.""

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gratiutious post of someone else's comic

It's called tooncasting!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Modest Propsal for Spam.

Here's my idea for fighting spam emails. It is ultimately a banking regulation, not an internet protocol regulation. My hunch is that the credit card companies and the online payment services (PayPal, etc.) are as much a part of the crime culture here as are the hackers operating the spam houses themselves. The electronic transaction companies have got to be profiting from the business behind spam as are the vieaggra pushers themselves. Here's how it goes:

FBI agents would set up email addresses and go about a "normal" life of interacting in the internet using that email address. As this email address gets about, spammers would inevitably get ahold of the address and start sending spam solicitations to it.

Here's the trick. The agents would then be authorized to attempt to purchase items from the website using whatever electronic payment method that the spamming business offered. If the transaction goes through, then instead of a $X charge against the purchaser's account, there would instead be a $100 fine automatically charged against the account of the spammer. Any items actually delivered become state's evidence for any court cases that may arise. If it's just a URL, then the agent goes to the site and orders anything at will off the site.

Here's the net: a condition of doing business in the United States in the realm of any electronic payments is that you have to agree to cooperate with such a penalty system. In this scenario, spammers who take checks would be left alone.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

U.S. Iraq Troops Redeployed to New Orleans

Of course it never happened. This music video by U2 shows a fictitious footage of US airships "invading" New Orleans right after the floods from Hurricane Katrina. The troops dispense aid and airlift citizens out. The emotional response of this video is just overwhelming. It's funny how it gives me a pride in America and its military, even as the video rubs in our face the fact that this is not what really happened. Watch and weep.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dawkins & Harris: correct moral analysis but an unscholarly sociology & exegesis

I agree with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. In terms of their observation that many who wear their biblical literalism on their sleeves turn around and advocate some really ugly things. I heard Sam Harris on a podcast recently where he complained about "maniacs" who not only knew Karl Rove's phone number but also got weekly updates from him. He was of course talking about a certain set of evangelical Christians who have high ranking influence with the Republican leadership in Washington.

In a recent Boing Boing posting, Harris is quoted:
"It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver-lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ."
The same article quotes Richard Dawkins' analysis of the same folks:
"The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over adult people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world."
Now in this blog I've ranted as much at the Religious Right as these two guys have. I agree that much of the Right's agenda is a celebration of brutality and greed and exploitation, something that any decent-hearted person would rightly rise against.

But does a belief in an actual and literal Second Coming (there are many flavors of this belief) necessarily require a delight in nuclear holocausts? I don't think one necessarily flows from the other.

The problem is that these two dudes engage in as much sloppy scholarship as the Religious Right. Not only in ignoring that there are a variety of traditions in approaching to the constituitive texts in Christianity (sloppy scholarship in sociology) but also in claiming that the higher view, the more literal reading of these texts requires jumping on the brutality & exploitation bandwagon (sloppy scholarship in exegesis). My reading doesn't take me to where Dawkins & Harris go. And I cannot help but conclude I've read a whooole lot more of what they have of the constituitive texts themselves.

Maybe one could pick out a few verses out of context, but that only makes my point. My conviction is that the sum and total of the biblical record not only offers compassion in the Law's demands of restraint in how we deal with neighbor and enemy, but also offers compassion in terms of Christ's willing to suffer for our sins against neighbor. This total of the biblical record is something entirely different from the total of sermons preached by pastors who subscribed to the Christian Coalition in the 1980's. I may blog more about this if there is interest.

Let me close with a quote from C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity. Here Lewis is talking about the Law, and is trying to convince us of our own sense of sin. But notice the three words he uses to describe sin in this passage. Then ask yourself if these are words the Religious Right would use as synonyms for sin, and whether if a God is good if these items are "issues that actually make a difference to the world."
For the trouble is that part of you is really on [God's] side and agrees with his disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hello. This is a test of the Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Hope you like it.

I found out that this service had been released via Slashdot

The interesting thing about this is that at first, I uploaded an image at original size.
Then I published to this blog, and saw that it was unseemly big.
Then I went back to and re-sized it, and was able to re-publish back to the blog?

Cool, huh?

Here is a small image.

And here is a large one.

Monday, October 09, 2006

He walks and waves

Here is an animation in blender. I have been following the Blender Summer of Documentation tutorial on Character Animation.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Musings on advice for living in a high-tech world.

1) If you ever buy any portable electronic device that costs more than $100 or $100/ year in connection fees, SPLURGE ON A HIGH QUALITY CASE. Spending 10% of this price on a case is the best service plan there is. Maybe the rest of you know already that, but I have broken three things in the past few years, all in cases where a decent case would have saved them from damage.

2) My recent guess is that every aggravating thing that happens in computing-- from the recent detriments to Google Reader to SUSE's removal of wifi drivers to Yahoo! Music service's music selection algorithm-- all stem from lawyers. Lawyers who tell the business that something is not above board, urge that the business changes things, and then insist that everyone talk it up like it's an improvement. I say the road to hell is paved in talking up your company's reductions in service due to chicken lawyers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Now, with a shirt!

A continuation of my tinkering with my blender character.......

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

They were doing kung-fu fighting

They were fast as lightning.

The scariest kung-fu fighter EVER!

Alas, because it is so horriby creepy. But my blender rig is fully functional now! I wonder if there is a way to go back and edit it later, and still maintain symmetry.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Give me a Danish flag to burn

Hearing more about persecution in response to the Pope's remarks has made me want to blog about it again.

Suppose the Pope were to send all his snipers home, and, unarmed, were to enter a crowded public square in a country prone to the kinds of violent Islamist mobs you've seen on TV. He then says,
"Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.' So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.' The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. ...

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
[Galatians 3:5-29]

The pope would then continue:
Now I have dedicated myself to the testimony that the promise to Abraham is properly understood as the gift of salvation offered as a free gift because of the suffering and death of the man Jesus Christ, who is also the second Person of the Trinity. All other works-based or law-based approaches to earning God's favor and salvation, including Islam, to the extent that they preach such merit-seeking by works of the law, are therfore inadequate. These other religious approaches to God may offer equally well a means for ordering a society as any other option, and I must distance myself from the mistaken and prejudicial generalizations offered against the practitioners of Islam, even by those holding this office before me. These other religions, however, will ultimately fail in the seeking of a salvation based by works.

You may jail me or beat me, but this is my witness. If you find yourself angry enough that you want to take my life, then, according to the Scriptures, you are my enemy. Therefore, acting in accord with these Scriptures, I ask you to speak to one of my associates afterwards and tell them of any hurts or needs you and your families may have so that they may pray for you and provide for your needs. I believe there are also many others across the world who share this faith. We seek to be your brothers in this gospel. "

I offer this commentary:

Now, where's a T-shirt I can get with that on it?

This gospel is not something defended by snipers, it does not involve broad-brush overstatements about the civility of whole peoples, it is not rooted in an apology for Western Civilization. It is foolishness to the World.

I also believe that if more Christians were able to take on such a brave, provocative, loving, and nonviolent witness to Muslims it would lead to more bloodshed of innocent Christians. More bloodshed in the short term, but longer-term peace and prosperity, and a thousandfold more converts from Islam, over the long term. Maybe even an improved national security stance for the United States of America. Can I live out such a witness? I don't know. I do know that I want to have no absolutely part in the knife-fight where some say, "We're all Danes now." Give me a white flag.

Does the bomb-throwing cartoons of Danish conservatives have anything to do with this Gospel? Not a thing. It harms our witness to it dearly. These provacateurs are merely the other side of the coin of the Islamofacist mobs.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Your Own Ads: to click or not to click?

I remember reading about how Google once had to refund some $90 million to advertisers because of alleged "click fraud". I then read in the Terms and Conditions for the Google Adsense that messing around with the ads could get your service terminated.

But then I was listening to a BBC World interview with employees of Google. They were asking one of the managers there about the ads, about the moral question of whether some users of google weren't able to tell whether they were actually clicking on ads. The manager defended the utility of ads on Google. He said,
"I click on them all the time."

Whoa! The managers at google "click on them all the time?! Then in reading the fine print at the Google Adsense TOS, I see the phrase is "repeated." So maybe there's no harm in my own clicking on those ads for great vacation savings on a trip to Bali, as show up in my other blog.

Detriments to Google Reader.

The Google Reader service is touting their recent changes to the service. I think it got a lot worse.

It used to be that when you'd load up the page, you'd get immediately be immersed into the most recent posting you were subscribed to. Then you could just space bar your way through the whole set of postings. Now, it looks like all they have made the interface closer to that of bloglines. Now I see no way of space-bar-ring through the whole list, and I'm forced to do a lot more clicking to move between items. The Google Reader service says they've responded to feedback. I'm wondering who really wanted it this way?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why are you running away?

Finally rigged my test character in blender, and playing around with the rotation of the armatures.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conservative Lutherans affirm Bill Maher's agnosticism

I was listening to some podcast discussions from KFUO, the radio station of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LC-MS), the more politically conservative wing of American Lutheran Christianity. The host of this program and his pastor-guest were giving a pretty moving account of a bible passage about Jesus' passion.

Then the guest brought up a discussion he had seen on TV with Bill Maher. The pastor's quote went like this: [paraphrase from memory]
"Bill Maher is one of those liberals who hearts his heart on his sleeve. I saw him on a TV show and in reference to some perceived moral offense, he said, 'Jesus doesn't stand for things like that.' Now Bill and a lot of folks want Jesus the moral philosopher but they don't want Jesus the divine one crucified for our sins."

Overall, this pastor gave a pretty good defense of the orthodox position in Christianity, that Jesus is not just a philosopher but God incarnate and that his death is not an inspiring political act but a work that saves us from our sins. The problem is that I think that the pastor gave the strongest possible reason not to take Christianity seriously in that above quote.

He could have said, "Bill Maher was talking about a moral problem. It's not just a moral problem, but a sin that separates us from God, and that separation is only repaired by the work of Christ on the cross." Instead, the pastor primarily belittled the law written on Bill's heart by calling it a "perceived moral offense." Who wants a God who cannot see the grave sins that even the most resolute atheist can see? Who needs to be saved from nominal and childish, from abstract sins? It's almost as if he couldn't both witness to Christ crucified and affirm that Bill could have seen something as Very Wrong and it being an offense to God. I think that is where a political conservatism, an ingrained defense of the status quo, becomes an impediment to our witness.

Luther wrote, "By making our sins small, we make Christ small."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wesnoth strategy tip for "The Scepter of Fire" level

I was playing this game and every strategy I tried was losing. First I had recalled all my best units from previous levels, going massively into debt. I tried having four Shamans to keep everyone healed. All paths led to defeat. I could never defeat all the enemy kings and always had a key character die at the hands of a mass of troll-grunts. Even though I kept "staring over," each new strategy I tried was played out on the same map. That's because I only went back to around turn 2, after I had already recruited a whole bunch of folks.

Then I read in some forum for developers of the game about "randomization" of the map.

All my "retries" of the level above however involved the same map. Every time you start over in the game, you start with a new map. Due to this randomization, it is possible for one to have the Scepter out in plain sight down the main pathway. Once I had restarted the level and had this new and easy map, the level was a cinch. I only got out about 10 characters, and we stumbled onto the Scepter before we'd fought our fifth troll-grunt.

In retrospect, this points to an unfortunate design of the level, in that the tension between "cinch" and "impossible" was tied to a randomization factor at the beginning of the game: the map and Scepter location.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free market solutions to hunger

I heard a presentation from a man who was then serving as a missionary to Madagascar.

He said that during times of period famine, merchants would come into the village and buy up their property. Their house for a few week's food. This was the mutually voluntary agreed upon price. Was it the just one?

The missionary said that he had been involved in an effort where he would buy grain far away and have it transported to the starving village. He'd then sell it at his cost. I was in the crowd, and I commended what he was doing. He said it was a drop in the bucket.

He also said he was chastised for his grain sales by the Pakistani businessmen who were involved in the house-buying, that this was not something to be done.

Martin Luther wrote in his "Sermon on Trade and Usury" about the public service of Joseph, who rose high in the court of Pharoah:
"Besides, there can be no doubt that as a Christian and a righteous man he let no poor man die of hunger, but, as the text states [Gen. 41:36], after he had been placed in charge of the king's temporal law and government he gathered, sold, and distributed the grain for the benefit and profit of the land and its people. Therefore, the example of the faithful Joseph is as remote from the conduct of the unfaithful, self-seeking merchants as heaven is far from earth."

Two rational views on the controversies surrounding violent Islamic mobs

First, from a secular view. From Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. The Philosophical Question of the Day
If a man goes into the forest and pokes a bear with a sharp stick, and the bear kills the man, whose fault is it?
Now substitute an irrational human being for the bear.
And let’s say the irrational person is completely rational in every way that is not related to his religion. He might even be an engineer or a doctor. But his irrational side is well understood by all. Now the guy with the sharp stick pokes him and gets killed.

Whose fault is it?

And then a source from an evangelical Christian perspective. From an article forwarded to me by an evangelical missionary. John Piper writes How Christians Should Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg Message About Violence and Reason

"How should Christians respond to this situation? I will suggest ten responses that flow from the Bible.

1. Admit that the Christian church has often been too entangled with civil governments, with the result that violence has been endorsed by the church as a way of accomplishing religious, and not just civil, goals. ...

2. Make clear that the use of God-sanctioned violence between Israel and the nations in the Old Testament is no longer God’s will for his people. ...

3. Admit that there are many Muslims today who do not approve of violence in the spread of Islam. ...

8. Always be ready to die, but never to kill, for the sake of commending Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for sinners and rose again as the Lord of the universe. ...

9. Pray for the salvation of all those who belittle Jesus Christ. ...

10. No matter the cost, continue to exalt and commend Jesus Christ as the great and only Savior that he is. ..."

I would encourage interested persons to visit both links and benefit from the writings of these two wise men. One offers straightforward secular wisdom, the other a witness to Christ crucified amidst all this madness. Too often we have Christians speaking forth in the public square in a manner that sets aside both. Too often Christians embrace a foolhardy apology for the brutalities of the Empire-- engaging in an idolatry of Western Civilization-- instead of the foolishness of a suffering Christ.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Improved Blender head

Now I'm ready to start rigging. But maybe I should make a female character, too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Last fm is pretty cool.

Uber-ginger man

I've been playing around with the Blender Summer of Documentation tutorial on Character Animation. They are showing you how to make a very stylized simple character. I took the character I made with them and put it in front of a rotoscope of an Arnold-like character, then tweaked my mesh.

"I'll be back for more icing."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Old povray image with isosurfaces

I found this image on a USB stick where I'd stored some of my old povray INI files. The isosurface glass thing is cool, with perhaps some more work it could be "art".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blender Summer of Documentation- Head

I'm calling it Beesod, in honor of the tutorial I'm following at the blender site.

I guess that this rendering also officially marks the christening of my "other" box with Knoppix 5.01. As I'd blogged about earlier, i got fed up with ubuntu. Now I'm trying to do my graphics production on two Knoppix 5.01 HDD installs. Many benefits, and just one of them is that Knoppix "comes with" a "blender (windowed)" version of the app, which comes in quite handy when trying to go back and forth between a tute off a web page.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who left this mess here?

Another test of the physics simulations capabilities of blender. I'm using 2.42, which I have found works better than 2.41. I was happy that the Debian maintainers got 2.42 up there.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pope vs. Islam (sans cross)

Here's a thorough document on the response:

And here's the complete speech.,,1873277,00.html

I perused the speech and found it quite sad. It condemns Islam without making any reference to the cross or the gospel. I guess I have a completely opposite view from Benedict-- I don't see how any particular religion or philosophy is any better at showing us how to order society or to see our sin. What is missing from the other philosophies is a cross, a gospel. We need more Christian leaders willing to inject the offense of the Cross, the scandal of the Cross, into public dialogue. If we suffer from angry secularist mobs because of such a witness, so be it.

What we do not need is the cultural and philosophical imperialism of Benedict's speech.

To further complicate things, it is interesting is how different it seems to be in the teaching of the Catholic Church as expressed in the 1992 Catechism. It was a teaching I always found odd at the time.
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Now there's another articulation of a path to salvation completely devoid of the cross.

I suppose everyone can have a bad day. I'm hoping that's what the pope was having.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lunchtime render: spheres in blender

This actually took two lunch breaks to complete. Made with Blender 2.41 as found on a live boot of Knoppix 5.01.

It took me a while to figure out how to apply the color pattern in the texture to the material. I wonder if I have found a bug. The pattern was not applied when I only asked for Color to be applied. When I also hit the Normal, I got color and normal.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

What did Iraq have to do with 9/11? Nothing!

Gratuitious partisan indulgence in a youtube video from the Daily Show, featuring the Bush press conference where he said the above.

You can find it quickly by searching for it on google:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cool Podcasts

  • Stomp Tokyo: The Cult Movies Podcast
    This is a podcast featuring three nerds talking about all the horrible new movies you'll not want to see and waxing nostalgic for the classic movies and TV shows you saw as a kid. Unconditionally, a delightful listen every time.
  • Chinese Pod
    They teach you spoken Mandarin in a creative-commons licensed podcast. The lessons are fun, informative, useful (I've greatly impressed my Chinese friends already and my son loves it). Just make sure you select the "newbie" lessons. I'm also fascinated by the quality of the voices of the man and woman who run the show: they have perfect enunciation of English and a thick Chinese accent at the same time.
  • Linux Questions Podcast
    This is always a useful listen. It's interesting that the speaker spends most of his time talking about business events in the computing industry, but it's much more insightful than what you'd get from CNBC.
  • Daily Audio Bible Podcast
    A guy reading scripture. He has an earnest and sincere approach that is touching, completely lacking of Jim-and-Tammy cheeze.
  • New Scientist Podcast
    Science News.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Tale of Two Distros: edubuntu vs. knoppix

Please find enclosed two different youtube videos. They represent a problem with video drivers that I believe will create frustration with many new users of linux. I hope that this demonstration will inspire linux developers to change their development priorities, or perhaps their ideology regarding OSS. In the meantime, it will offer a path forward for new users of linux, in the form of advice of a good choice for a distribution of linux.

Both videos are a test with live CD's of linux-- a CD or DVD that contains an entire linux distribution, complete with software. The two distributions are Knoppix 4.0 and edubuntu 6.06.1 live. They are performed on a box with 2.8 GHz processor, 1.5 GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce 4 video card.

The test involves the modelling, rendering, and gaming application blender. Both of these distributions of linux "come with" blender. When blender first loads, after a flash of the blender logo, one sees a basic scene with a cube, a light, and a camera. Now one of the more interesting features of blender is that it gives one the ability to create and play games. Now you might not realize it, but this opening scene of a cube, a light, and a camera is also a game. It is of course an incredibly boring one, in that nothing is going to happen. You can design or download more interesting games than this stationary cube, but that is an exercise for a later time. The way to play the game is to hit the key "P" when you are in object mode (you're in object mode when blender first loads).

What I discovered in my recent tinkering is that blender requires the advanced features of your video card-- you need the drivers-- in order to do this "game playing" properly. It was not clear to me until about a week of banging my head on the wall and asking in various internet fora. In this demonstration, you will note that:
  • the knoppix 4.0 installation properly plays the game (i.e., shows you a stationary cube upon hitting the "P" key.
  • In edubuntu, the application crashes.
What brought this whole problem to my attention is that I had a kubuntu 6.06.1 installation on a box. I discovered that blender would crash when I would try to test a game I was designing. In asking around, it was pointed out that I probably needed the video drivers. I tried to install the drivers at 11:30 PM at night, after a long day, using instructions from an ubuntu web page on the topic. Upon rebooting, I found that the system was unusable-- when it got to the first big kubuntu logo, it was stuck. I don't know how to fix it. Now I guess that I'm at least of average innate intelligence, surely average understanding of computers. If I can wreck my system by means of a simple driver update, what does that mean for the typical person using Windows right now?

Shouldn't therefore any distro wanting to be usuable to the unwashed masses of humanity come with all the drivers you need for wireless and video display built-in?

Knoppix does and ubuntu doesn't.

Linux: Don't Try it at Home, Or, the Fable of Activist Publishing, Ltd.

Are you considering installing linux on your computer? Don't do it! (*) Here's a fable to describe my frustrations and why I feel the ideology of open source gets in the way of helping people use their computers.

Consider book publishing. Suppose there's one big, evil publisher out there, say one based on Washington State. The Washington publishers insist on printing every page of every book on paper featuring a particular watermark. The watermark is a titillating image of the backside of a woman's knee. Every page has knee-pit water marks and the bindings have a big logo of several women's kneepits. Now there's a group of religious fundamentalists-- activists-- who are personally offended by pictures of kneepits, and in the name of decency decides to set up their own publishing house, Activist Publishing (AP). Every one of the books from AP will be on plain white paper-- no kneepit watermarks. However, the activists are either unable or unwilling to make their own binders. The reasons AP doesn't provide its own binders are a complicated question of legal restraints and simply having much better things to do with their time. But books and books and books (all without binders) keep pouring out Activist Publishing.

AP does however tell folks how to get kneepit-logo binders from the Washington publisher. The readers are therefore either faced with the options of
  1. Going to the Washington publisher and then glueing the pages to the binder by hand, or
  2. Doing without a binder and dealing with a set of loose pages.
Problem is that the gluing process is complicated, which makes some folks not even bother leaving the Washington publisher. And nearly every person who gets a book from the AP ends up carrying it around in a binder proudly displaying a row of women's kneepits. Meanwhile, supporters of Activist Publishing condemn purchasers of Washington Publishing books because the books contain images of the back of women's knees.
In this analogy, Washington Publishing is of course Microsoft, and Activist Publishing is the linux community. Pictures of kneepits represents the concept of software which is proprietary, copyrighted, and patented, laden with spyware and digital rights management restrictions. The absence of kneepit watermarks is Richard Stallman's "free as in free speech" concept for open source software. The bookbindings are things like wireless drivers and video drivers, many of which come as copyrighted binaries rather than GPL-ed software. The difficulty in gluing is the computer and linux skills required to download and make-install drivers, perhaps even to recompile the kernel (required by some distros to get wifi). The gluing difficulty is also the fact that some distros don't "come with" wifi drivers (for accessing the internet) but provide you URLs to the binaries (which you can access via the internet). That the gluing instructions are available from AP is the fact that linux communities give you detailed instructions on how to get to the non-free stuff: it involves adding lines to your script for your repositories. The chiding of the Washington Publishing customers is what you can see daily in the comments about Windows users at the slashdot forums.

If you're really offended by non-free-as-in-speech software, wouldn't you refrain from giving out instructions on how to get it, wouldn't you be offended by setting up a system where folks need the binaries anyway? Wouldn't you drop EVERYTHING and make your own binders?

If you're really out to get people away from Microsoft, wouldn't you provide an alternative where everything is ready to go? For example, rather than investing man-decades in developing openoffice, couldn't the linux community have licked the drivers problem in like a few months if they really wanted to do it? And isn't it the most absurd situation to give people books with no binders? (SUSE 10.1 shipped with no wifi drivers because of the ideology of OSS).

I'm ticked because of what happened to me this weekend. I discovered that my kubuntu install needed the advanced video drivers for my NVIDIA card in order to use advanced features of blender. At 11:30 PM at night, I tried to follow some instructions from an ubuntu web page: the result is a wrecked ubuntu installation-- I see nothing. I later figured out that these binders come with Knoppix 4.01 and 5.01.

I work in the computer hardware industry using skills largely based on a materials science background. The opinions here are soley those of myself and not of my employer or on behalf of any software entity. I don't even speak for the linux distros that I prefer.

(*) When I say, "Don't do it!", I mean, "Don't use a linux distribution that requires you to do all the heavy lifting (glue-binding) yourself." I hereby endorse Knoppix 5.01 as the ideal distribution for newbies and for folks who just want to use the advanced capabilities of a computer. The reason is that it comes with the drivers you're probably going to need. It's as if someone went to all the trouble of making a coherent, working linux distribution and put it on a CD. (Oh wait, that's exactly what they did!) You can then install this distro directly to your hard drive. I will be writing more about this in weeks to come.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Problem of Spanish-speaking Persons in Service Jobs

In the past month, while milling about places in the Northeast, I've run into a few cases where I needed to interact with the staff of the place, either a store or a restaurant. Twice I tried to explain what I wanted to the staff person, and she would direct me to another person, and that one would get it wrong too. I asked for no bacon on a sandwich and got double bacon; I asked if a set of children's cultery were clean & intended for general customer use: the person gives clueless nods and points to the canister and pulls out a spoon. It caused me to take extra time. I was ticked. It wasn't a "Spanish business". Accomodating spanish-speaking customers meant that they didn't get bilingual staff but monolingual staff of a different language from the majority in the town. yada yada yada.

So, does this ire on my part indicate that I represent a constituency that needs to be empowered and accomodated, either in the marketplace or on the capitol hill? No! I believe that this means I need to hear a reminder that God intends us to welcome the stranger, that we are to love the alien, because our spiritual ancestors--the Israelites-- were strangers in the land of Egypt.

I guess that's this willingness to engage in hand-wringing instead of flag-waving means I'm a liberal.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

See that raised arm-- I did that!

Mesh modelling with blender.

I have been playing around with the Creative Commons-licensed character "Proog" from the movie, Elephant's Dream. While I think the movie is hopelessly creepy, suffering from too much "student gloom", I am delighted that they have made available these scene files for folks to play with.

I got this file from a CD included in the August 2006 edition of 3D World magazine, in an article by Bassam Kurdali.

My dream is to turn this creepazoid into cartoony supers. We'll see if it's possible. Right now I'm pleased to make a solitary arm bend. I was also trying to make an extra flappy sag of fabric under the arm-- a gratuitous mesh edit-- but it didn't show up in the render.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Yet another soft body simulation in blender

Here's another animation done with blender. I'm having fun playing with the soft body simulation in its physics section. The only problem is that I have so many things going on that I am seriously stressing my old clunky box with the "baking" of these simulations.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


A quick test render of the sample blender character file supplied by the Orange project. It's called mancandy, in honor of The Manchurian Candidate.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blender Soft Body test

Blender is a great app-- I endeavor to learn as much as I can of it. It is not however an app you can just pick up and use right away-- the labelling of the controls are not the most intuitive.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Test post of listening history at

pterandon's Profile Page

Blog housekeeping: removed NSFW link from "blogroll"

There was a blog that I stumbled across which at the time appeared to me to offer a theologically conservative Lutheran critique of fundamentalist nationalism. I wanted to stay in touch with this blog and endorse it by way of adding it to my blogroll. Just checking on it today, I saw that the blog at this address apparently had an entirely new theme, and it was Not Safe For Workplace viewing. I have removed it and apologize.

Ubuntu 6.06.1 Install Checklist

I have now installed kubuntu and xubuntu 6.06.1 (Dapper Drake), respectively, on two boxes I own. I am impressed with how well it worked. The install process sucessfully and automatically recognized a back-up hard disk drive that I had plugged in to the system, something neither SUSE nor Knoppix did as well for me. I hope that this blog posting can be a reference for newbies as to the things you'll most need to know. The following at least were the quirks of ubuntu which sent me to the forums looking for answers. Here's a list:
  1. Root password. When you install ubuntu, you will set up a password for the primary user. This password will also, when you first boot up and until you make a change to it, be your root password.
  2. Wireless. Wireless should work out of the box. If you have an encryption key set up for your system, check this post in the ubuntuforums for the most succint answer on how to set up your network interfaces file.
  3. New software repositories.Most people are going to want to add new software other than the programs that come with it. Both times I installed ubuntu, I found myself googling until I found this piece of advice.
  4. Flash. If you want to install the Flash player for your system, you first have to get firefox. (Do this using adept after following the advice in the previous bullet). Then go to some site with Flash content. It should give you a link to downloading the flashplayer-installer. Follow those directions. The only problem I found is that I had to type
    /bin/sh flashplayer-installer
    to start the installation process, the instructions that Adobe gave were not working with a fresh ubuntu install.
This list is neither comprehensive nor tabulated by someone who REALLY knows what he is doing, but it should nonetheless get you going to do what most computer users are interested in doing. Good luck.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bono vs. the church

This past weekend, a Willow Creek Leadership Summit featured an interview between Bill Hybels and Bono. Hat tip to Jeremy Del Rio and the U2 Sermons blogs for eventually bringing this to my attention. My quote is ultimately from here.
Hybels: Why is the church so late to help in Africa?
Bono: "The church has historically been behind the curve...I think it's because the church is afraid of politics and I understand because all kinds of people have tried to use the church...but we're not about politics...that's what the ONE campaign is all about.
This has been my sociological gripe about the church. Late to the table in speaking on the fruits of original sin. But it's actually worse. Sometimes I feel there's two camps of Christians out there:
  • Wavers of the flag of orthodoxy who are doing a fine job of holding to the tradition of the church historic-- the kinds of folks you want to run your kids' catechism class, but who have indifference and or sarcasm to the church speaking out "early" on things that touch the heart.
  • Those who wear their heart on their sleeve, in being at the cutting edge of things like calling racism a sin long before it is acceptable to do so. They are the folks who in a sense perform an apologetic service to the church over the course of centuries. It is also the case when they say, "Conservatives worship at the graves of dead liberals," they are talking abou these folks. However, too many in this camp are the last ones you'd want to teach the fundamentals of the faith.
I should stress that not every person in one camp is a cruel meanie nor is every person in the other a flaming heretic, but the trends are there. Ask Bono! You might say that one camp needs their hearts in the right place and one has their heads in the right place. I say they need each other and the church needs both of them.

Buddy icon, in colored ASCII, courtesy of Toogle.

Enter a text here at Toogle, and you'll be able to see a google image search item displayed as ASCII.