Friday, March 30, 2007

Contempt for newbies in linux

There's a Dilbert cartoon where a girder has fallen from the ceiling and hit an employee-- but only one employee. The employee complains and Catbert rejoins "No one else is complaining." So too can it be the case when newbies complain about things in linux. I've had cases where I pointed out a bug and have had very knowledgeable persons-- developers even-- rejoin with "It's not a bug if you're the only one experiencing the problem." While blooming idiots might expect impossible things of linux, it too is idiotic to assume that if you yourself aren't suffering that there is no suffering elsewhere on the planet. It's the same logical fallacy as made by conservatives in response to whole Rodney King beating thing: my family gets treated nicely by officers, therefore I'll support all of them.

Anyway, there has been a lot of discussion among linux circles, notably ubuntu, about how one sexist joke made its rounds through a developer community. The repercussions of the joke highlighted how some women in the community did not feel entirely welcome. For the record, I think that you need a small dose of political correctness, or rather that in the balance between intentionally offensive talk and the fear-mongering of political correctness, the best place to be is being called "PC" by a very few people-- they're probably the bigots.

Anyway, I went to look at the sexist joke. The funny thing that has been missed in the whole discussions that erupted around it is I don't believe bigotry against women, per se, was the intent of forwarding the joke. The target was "newbs", or folks still trying to figure out this thing called linux. The joke is For 'women' read 'newbs'.

So why don't a bunch of us newbs up and quit? Uh, no perhaps not. There are too many moral, political, humanitarian, and performance reasons to stay away from Microsoft products. But we will stick around and point out how the Emperor occasionally has no clothes, how girders occasionally fall on some users.

That's because "newb" is just another name for customer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bristol Motor Speedway

Originally uploaded by wahoo5.

This image is blogged as a public service to anyone who ever wanted to model a NASCAR racetrack and didn't know exactly what it looked like.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Problem with the ELCA (and its Conservative Critics)

I am a member of a congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I agree with some of its theologically conservative critics that there are some things adrift theologically in the denomination. However, I think sometimes some of the criticisms are more about political conservatism, more about the offense of Carnal Man at those who reprove in the gate.

Here's my analogy to explain the difference. In my analogy C.F.W. Walther, a prominent 19th century American Lutheran theologian, meets a railroad worker with a reputation for gleefully engaging in drunken brawls. The theological context for such a situation is 1 Corinthians 6:10, which warns that
"...[Neither] thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God."

Here's my analogy:


"Hey brawler, why don't you take up knitting? Knitting is a great way to imitate Christ. Knitting is a great way to boldy proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ. Join our interfaith press conference to call for subsidies of yarn factories. (I am in no way terrified of my judgment of what good works are good and God-pleasing). "


"(I am completely terrified of my judgment of what sinful activities are bad and God-displeasing). I am too afraid of my own agenda-setting to make any criticism. I will instead go and do mission. I seek to know nothing but Christ crucified. Criticizing drunken brawls shows a lack of understanding of the division of the Two Kingdoms. "

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Conservative at the Science Fair

How can two teenage girls use two fishbowls and a heat lamp to undermine Western civilization and biblical authority? Read on.

I was at a regional science fair for kids in grades five through nine. My appointed task at the science fair was over, so I went milling about the exhibits. My attention was soon drawn to a large angry man who was giving two girls a hard time. Their project involved two fish bowls, each 1/4 filled with water and containing real and fake plants. They had filled one bowl with air, the other with carbon dioxide, and sealed it over. Then they had placed the bowls in the presence of heat lamps. Guess what? They found out that the bowl with more CO2 in its ambient got hotter!

The man was giving them a political lecture. He was making some kind of reference to the IPCC's findings on global climate change. What I remember him saying is: "If they had known they were signing a document that said human activity had an effect on the climate, they wouldn't have signed on." Which I believe to be an overly political and inaccurate reading of the findings.

He then said, "Do you know who pollutes the most? It is the United States, and it is only because we are producing more. Once you starting making more things, you produce more emissions." This by the way is a lie, according to data provided by United Nations Statistics Division in this Wikipedia article. The United States produces only US$2110 per metric ton of emission, whereas the northern European countries-- those whom you'd imagine have higher heating costs-- beat us by a factor of 2. Switzerland earns US$9400 of of that ton of emission. That this guy would start lecturing the girls with inaccurate political slogans got my goat. I later went up to them and said, "They laughed at Galileo."

The young ladies were not advancing any political agenda, just looking at the heat-trapping ability of CO2. Perhaps their finding also provides information on how one's lifestyle can have an effect on the well-being of others, and that is the message that upsets Carnal Man. Just as you have to tell Cub Scouts not to throw rocks over a hill on a hike in the woods, so too must we take correction from our neighbors on our lifestyle, and that upsets Carnal Man.

Now what exactly does Western Civilization and biblical authority have to do with the fish tank? Nothing! And that's the problem with the neoconservative position. You can hold that a libertarian approach to regulation and private property are a good thing, you can hold to the ideal that the bible is a reliable and authoritative Testament from the creator of the universe, without having any necessary justification for what ends up getting called "conservative". The life and witness of so many conservatives on so many basic moral issues, however, portrays freedom & Godliness as if they were bad things.

Data from wikipedia article, "List of countries by ratio of GDP to carbon dioxide emissions".


(in millions of US Dollars)
CO2 emissions

(in thousands of metric tons)
GDP per Emissions

(in thousands of US Dollars per metric ton)
9Hong Kong172932354384.880
10Republic of Ireland206467431874.781
13United Kingdom22950395436334.222
European Union1392687336827553.782
20Costa Rica1955858343.352
23New Zealand107670339953.167
28El Salvador1660262312.664
37Sri Lanka22351103612.157
39United States1243887358722782.118

Friday, March 23, 2007

Playing with radiosity again.

global_settings {
assumed_gamma .92
radiosity {

pretrace_start .00024
pretrace_end .000284
count 40
nearest_count 7
error_bound 0.25
recursion_limit 1.81
low_error_factor 0.65
gray_threshold 1
minimum_reuse 0.015
brightness 2
//ambient 1
adc_bailout 0.01/2

sky_sphere {
pigment {
gradient y
color_map {
[0.75 color rgb 0]
[0.9 color rgb 3]
scale 2
translate -1
rotate 45*x

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The State of Israel and the Second Coming of Christ

I believe the bible to be authoritative, responsible, accurate, etc.-- you might call me a literalist. I was recently listening via podcast to a sermon of Jerry Falwell, a man who has made the word "Bible-believing" to be a catchphrase among some Christians in the later 20th century. In his sermon "Are We Entering WWIII?" (7/22/06, available via ITunes), he stated that the most important date in human history since the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the date in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was founded.

I don't get it. Let's take for granted that the bible is a literal and accurate record of what is to come in the End Times. FWIW, I once heard that Luther, Calvin, and Augustine all disagreed in their interpretation of what the Book of Revelations fortold, so I am unable to claim an "__ialist" label from the grab bag of available options of pre/post millenialist, etc., to describe a package of events.

Let's say that Jesus is planning to come back and set up a kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem and to rule for 1000 years. Given that we are talking about the Second Person of the Trinity, I'm imagining He's going to do it when and how he pleases. Can human goodness or human badness either thwart or speed-on the coming of Christ? Is there scriptural evidence for this?

  • God forbid, Iran & North Korea nuke the entire country to ashes next week, OR
  • The best hopes and dreams that Jerry has for the souls & inhabitants of the State of Israel, exactly as he articulates it, come true in next 10 years, OR
  • Human effort is able to erect a secularist, Utopian paradise like that out of some kind of scifi movie, OR
  • The most depressing aspects of the current stalemate continue to stagmate over the next 500 years, OR
  • A meteor hits the planet 100 years from now, making the region literally uninhabitable as humans migrate to the poles.

Pick any of these events. Is Jesus, the one who said he could raise up descendants of Abraham from these stones, going to be any more or less able to Come Again? Pick the case of an oncoming pair of asteroids. Would there be reasons, aside from the obvious humanitarian ones, for making sure that we go after the one going for Israel so that Christ's second coming not be thwarted? What other interpretations are possible from a statement that the establishment of Israel is the 2nd most important event in human history?

Granted, I pray that the Holy Spirit do a work of conversion in the hearts of all those planning acts of terror against civilian targets, especially in Israel (and, um, those planning acts of collective punishment of unpopular peoples). I pray that the Holy Spirit do a work of conversion in the hearts of all those planning to develop nuclear weapons in order to threaten allies of the United States (and, um, those who believe there are ever good reasons to target civilian populations with them for any reason).

But the question remains: Can human goodness or human badness either thwart or speed-on the coming of Christ? I say it is extra-scriptural, if not heretical, to answer 'yes' to this question.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

TrekStor's Vibez MP3 player vs. linux

On a linux podcast, I heard about a cool new, linux-compatible and OGG-playing MP3 player, the Vibez
by TrekStor. The podcaster was really touting the linux compatibility of the player.

Not so for the website. I tried to view the purchase page in two different browsers, Firefox and Konqueror. No dice. If they are this sloppy here, who knows where else I'll have trouble with their site. Maybe I'll pass on this one.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Underwater scene

I was dusting off some old files and ran across this one. It has yellow shadowless lights coming from below, in an attempt at an underwater scene in povray. It didn't turn out as intended but is interesting coming back to it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


What one might expect if one were to play "fetch" with a velociraptor!

Video sent by pterandon

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gratuitous post of someone's 3D showreel

I really like the characterization and the stylized construction. FWIW, while browsing youtube, I saw another anim where someone went overboard with exhaustive photorealism, which engendered a comment of "is this live footage?" You see, leaving the viewer confused about whether it were live or CG left the viewer confused in this other person's piece of work-- if it were a photo, it was way boring. That's why I like it when folks doing CG make it clear that it is CG, as the artist in this demo reel has done.

I don't think I understand it.

Originally uploaded by gatsbye53.

I just like the mood of the scene.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I produced this video.
Zachary Johnson is the writer and director.

This is the version I uploaded to dailymotion. I am curious as to how well it can be seen on a system running linux.

Uploaded by pterandon

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fascinating bat pic

Originally uploaded by New England Newbie.

If one were a bat, I think this would be the coolest one to be. You're like a puppy with these incredible arms as wings.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

God is under the rubble and the cries we hear during wartime.

Bono, at his acceptance speech for an award from the NAACP, said,
True religion will not let us fall sleep in the comfort of our freedom. Love thy neighbor is not a piece of advice, it is a command.
His truth is marching on. Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. And to those in the church who still sit in judgment on the AIDS emergency let me climb into the pulpit for just one moment. Because whatever thoughts we have about God who He is or whether He exists. Most will agree. God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both their lives.

God is under the rubble and the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends, is with the poor. And God is with us if we are with them. This is not a burden, this is an adventure!

Hat tip to U2 Sermons blog for bringing this video to my attention.