Sunday, September 30, 2007

Science quiz

JustSayHi - Science Quiz
JustSayHi - A Free Dating Website

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A povray mesh2 based character modelled IN povray

This is a 100 frame animation I made of a new thing I did in povray.

This is a single mesh2 object. I modeled it with a routine I wrote in the povray Scene Description Language. What it allows me to do is specify a certain number of "cross sections" or splines, and then it skins or draws a series of triangles between then. The cool thing is that in povray I can then animate the meshes themselves and then I have a "character" that is animatable and made from a single mesh.

Others have done this before. The new thing I have done here is to allow a different cross section at every step. I start out with circles for arms and then make a parallelogram that mimics the shape of a chest.

Persistence of Vision Raytracer SDL posted below:

//povray 3.6 scene file originated by Greg M. Johnson


#declare rarm_transform=transform{translate -8*x rotate -45*z*sin(2*pi*clock) translate 8*x}
#declare larm_transform=transform{ translate 8*x rotate 45*z*sin(2*pi*clock) translate -8*x}
//#declare larm_transform=transform{ rotate 30*z*sin(2*pi*clock) }

#declare toppt=vtransform(<-14,0,0>,larm_transform);

#declare numrings=8;
#declare npts=90;//frame_number;
#declare ring=array[numrings+1]
#declare ring[0]=spline{ cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
<0,sin(n/npts*2*pi),cos(n/npts*2*pi)>+<-12,0,0> ,larm_transform)
#declare n=n+1;
#declare ring[1]=spline{ cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
#declare n=n+1;
#declare ring[2]=spline{cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
#declare n=n+1;
#declare bre=0.5*<0,0.5*sin(4*pi*clock),sin(4*pi*clock)>;

#declare ring[3]=spline{linear_spline

#declare ring[4]=spline{linear_spline

#declare ring[5]=spline{cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
#declare n=n+1;
#declare ring[6]=spline{cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
#declare n=n+1;
#declare ring[7]=spline{ cubic_spline
#declare n=-1;
#while (n
<0,sin(n/npts*2*pi),cos(n/npts*2*pi)>+<12,0,0> ,rarm_transform)
#declare n=n+1;

//#declare botpt=vtransform(<0,-6,0>,chin_transform);
#declare botpt=vtransform(<14,0,0> ,rarm_transform);

#declare themesh=
#declare nspacer=0.5;

#declare ringo=0;
#declare n=n+1;

#declare a=1;
#declare anen=0;
#declare np=0;
#declare np=np+1;
, //the problem??
, //the problem??
#declare np=0;
#declare np=np+1;
, //9:
, //9:

, //
, //,

#declare nspacer=mod(nspacer+0.5,1);
#declare a=a+npts;
#declare anen=anen+1;

#declare n=0;
#declare n=n+1;
pigment {rgb 1}

object{themesh rotate 180*y translate -12*x}
object{themesh rotate -90*x translate 12*y+8*z}
object{themesh rotate -104*y translate 15*x+5*z}

light_source{<0,200,-50> color rgb 1}
light_source{<0,200,0> color rgb x rotate -80*x rotate 45*y}
light_source{<0,200,0> color rgb z rotate -80*x rotate -45*y}
light_source{<0,0,0> color rgb 1 translate 10*x }
background{rgb 1}

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A news reader designed by folks who can find very large prime numbers

Attached below are subsequent screen grabs from a Firefox browser that is using the latest version of Google Reader.

Google had been allowing users to choose between two different versions of the Reader interface. They just forced all users (or at least me) to swich to the new interface. There are a number of problems with the new version:
  • It seems to have a major bug in html, in that the scroll bar on the right side of the page is half off-screen.
  • The shape of the screen now forces one to view pages in a wide rectangle instead of a square. This poses a problem for readability. As the designers of newspaper columns and the template on this blog hosting service understand, it is easier to read text that isn't much wider than the alphabet. Realllly long sentences which take up most of the width of the screen make reading a pain.
  • The ability to tab between articles by use of the space bar is broken. Attached below are subsequent screen grabs from the service. The problem is you never know whether you have to start reading the one article that is only showing up in the bottom quarter of the screen. Sometimes when you hit space bar, that half-off article will pop up to the top of the screen so that you can read it properly, sometimes it will merely jump to the next point in the text that hasn't been displayed yet. It makes for a miserable reading experience.
  • It also makes it very hard to tell when you've hit the last unread article-- the only change I can see is a very subtle lightening of the font color in the title when the previously-read article is at the bottom of the reader.
Google has been famous for recruiting the best minds in the planet-- they have for example made certain job applications open to only those who could find certain very large prime numbers. This Google Reader smacks of being designed by such people. When it comes to being able to design something that is usable by average humans, I guess I'd rather have someone who has some common sense in typography and is willing to test the product in Firefox.

Google, revert your Reader interface!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Creation ex nihilo debated by Young Earth Creationists

Here is a paragraph taken from the Fall 2007 issue of LifeDate: a quarterly journal of life issue news and commentary from National Lutherans for Life. Under an article ironically entitled, "God, the Orderly Atheist," which is itself an excerpt from "PBT Creation " by Cleone H. Weigand, copyright 2000, Northwestern Publishing House, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. My quote of the article is in the context of a review:
Creation out of nothing
It seems obvious from these verses [Hebrews 11:3 and Genesis 1:1-2] that when God began his creation, there was emptiness, a void, nothing to see. Then, from nothing, He filled this void with what He had planned to construct. This teaching of "creation from nothing" (Latin: ex nihilo) has something been contested by people who embrace other ways of interpreting Genesis chapters 1 and 2. However, it is difficult to take what seems so obvious from the creation account and all the other references to creation in Scripture and twist it into something different.

The problem I have with this assertion is that those who "embrace other ways of interpreting Genesis chapters 1 and 2", ways different from the Young Earth Creationists, are no surprise, the Old Earth Creationists. I cannot think of a contemporary Christian writer who has done more to advance the cause of Old Earth Creationism (OEC) than Hugh Ross. OEC is the idea that Genesis is literal history, if translated properly. It tends to have more in conflict with neoDarwinism than it does astronomy.

I also do not believe that any contemporary Christian writer has done more to advance the idea of creation ex nihilo than Hugh Ross. Why, his organization, even has a FAQ on creation ex nihilo (CEN). The FAQ first affirms CEN as a clear doctrine of scripture, citing eleven passages that affirm it. Then the FAQ says,
Modern scientific cosmology buttresses the doctrine of CEN more pointedly and potently than does any other discipline. According to prevailing scientific theory, the universe had a singular beginning nearly 14 billion years ago. All matter, energy, time, and space exploded (in a carefully crafted event) into existence from nothing.

So who are they debating? I don't know. God could have created a universe only 10 ky ago, but if so it was complete with red-shifted photons "from" distant stars already in transit to Earth. I am not an opponent so much of those who might hold to a young earth in their heart as I am to the chicanery of the YEC think tanks. It's not exactly grounded in reality, even in the reality of what other people are saying as evidenced here. They create disbelief.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Stop Motion animation with clay

We put a little bit too much action too quickly at the end.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Magnet fractal: watch the background.

I made this fractal animation in povray. Testing out blogger's new video uploading service.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Progress on blender modelling

My modelling skills have progressed a bit. I've still got a bit to go with learning how to make Blender make an effective presentation of a model.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Magnet 1 fractal in povray

This is just one small render in an animation I am running to help me find the best color pattern for my pigment_map.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Knee-jerking at Virginia Tech.

I am a Hokie alum.

In the wake of the tragic shooting, a petition went out saying,
We feel that these individuals and groups, especially Dr. Steger and Chief Flinchum, have borne the brunt of unwarranted criticism by members of the media.

We understand that they did their best to make life and death decisions with limited information, and that they acted in the best interests of the students, faculty, and staff of Virginia Tech.
In the internet forum for alumni in which I originally saw this petition posted, I wrote that I could neither support the petition nor felt I was ready to criticize the administration of the university. A reservation of judgment means neither an indictment nor an absolution.

Five months later, a statewide panel has issued a report on the response to the tragedy. WSLS-TV's web site reported Governor Timothy Kaine's summary of the report.
“Sixth, in retrospect it seems clear that, in the immediate aftermath of the first shootings, the campus community should have been notified of the fatal shooting and the fact that the perpetrator was at large. There is no downside to providing prompt and accurate information to a community of adults who have the capacity to make decisions to keep themselves safe.
Net: Dr. Steger and Chief Flinchum could have acted differently to save lives.

Now I have every confidence that the town police and university administration will respond in a professional manner to the constructive criticisms raised by the report. I see no need to call for their resignation or other punishment. My heart goes out to them for the difficult time they have gone through.

I believe that those who acted most irresponsibly, and may not see the need for change, are those who filed this petition. This kind of knee-jerk defense of the status quo does more to endanger lives over the long run than does poorly thought-out responses to tragedies.

At the time I saw this petition, I thought, you know, this response to criticisms is exactly what must have enabled problems like Abu Ghraib and the coverup of Pat Tillman's death to escalate. This response means don't investigate, support your troops, because the media cannot be right.

My view is that I would like to see those who initiated or supported the petition to represent me in neither the alumni organization nor in government.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Two failed ways for the church to talk about the poor.

In listening to the dialog about how and whether the mainline denominations should be talking and acting about poverty, I have two criticisms. First, let me explain my view with an analogy about natural law and what Lutherans call "second use of the law."

ANALOGY: There's a narrow curving road which winds through a forest and by a few daycare facilities. There's a posted speed limit on the road. There's a tower overlooking the road. There is a rumor that in the tower sits the local sheriff with a radar gun and at the end of the year he will come down from the tower and mail speeding tickets to the owners of cars he has caught speeding. Occasionally on this road, cars drive at excessive speed . There are two consequences to the speeding: the cars bang into trees and they bang into kids playing in the yard at the daycare centers by the road. As a result, both the drivers and kids playing in the yards both get bloody noses.

In this analogy, I'm trying to make a case that there are two different kinds of consequences. One is natural law: clearly visible cause-and-effect reactions in the temporal realm, such children with bloody noses and fenders wrapped around tree trunks. The other is a kind of spiritual consequence: there is some Person overlooking the whole scene who will judge the quick and the dead for their actions. The unpleasantness of natural law consequences which are borne by the irresponsible parties (driver's own bloody nose) may act as an "invisible hand" to reduce the tendency for folks to do the irresponsible behaviors that lead to them. If they're smart and care. But not reduce it 100%. And half the natural-law consequences are born by a third party (the kids). The spiritual consequences, however, take place regardless.

Now back to reality. The mainline denominations of Christianity, in their national assemblies, have often passed resolutions about social justice problem, things like wage fairness, the apartheid wall in Palestine or the plight of tomato pickers. Conservative critics of these denominations have oft criticized these resolutions. Among the criticisms I've seen two different kinds of complaints:
  • "I have a different way of helping these people."
    Typically this has meant that they want to talk about sexual morality instead of economic justice. They want to engage in law and gospel preaching, which calls sinners to repentance and informs them of God's grace, on the kind of sins or personal vices which can break up marriages. I will help the poor not by talking about how we treat the poor but instead about how marriages can stay together.
  • "I have a different way of helping these people."
    This time it means that these persons have excelled in acts of personal charity in the private sector, whether it is going on mission trips to build houses and preach the gospel or volunteering for direct relief agencies in their towns such as the soup kitchen.
Now back to the analogy. Consider the folks who want to help the poor by preaching on sexual morality. This to me seems like saying you will remain silent on the issue of speeding but will strongly urge the daycare facility to put up a slightly bigger fence and light the yard. It's hard to say that these are bad things to be in favor of, but it's kind of an obtuse way of helping the daycare kids, and it remains silent on the issue of the consequences the drivers will eventually face with the Sheriff in the Tower on the Hill.

On top of this, natural law does in fact provide a curb to irresponsible behaviors in the social justice realm. If there were "wage exploitation," it's likely workers will want to work elsewhere or "rise up" and cause trouble. Smart businesses have learned to keep workers moderately happy as a way of staying in business. Governments that oppress people have troubles with the people. Corporations that pollute excessively may pay more in energy costs or lawsuits, or have unhealthy workers, or lower property values. These are all "natural law" curbs on injustice, but none are an excuse for silence in response to the sin. There's the Man on the Hill to consider. We know that every sexual sin has a natural law consequence that will eventually provide some curb to the behavior, but we don't refrain from calling sexual sinners to repentance.

Consider the folks who want to instead focus exclusively on the private charity. My view is that this is like setting up a first aid stand for the kids who were hit by the reckless drivers. Attending to the physical needs of your neighbor directly are a great thing to do-- it is commanded of God, but it doesn't do much to address the rate of injury. It too offers silence on the topic of what sorts of reckoning the drivers will face with the Sheriff on the Hill.

The tradition of the Christian church (from John Bunyan to John Paul II) has frequently been filled with preaching about abuse and neglect and exploitation of the poor. In one place in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis summed up sin as "greed and trickery and exploitation." A few papal encyclicals have even gone so far as to say that one cannot rely on the market mechanism alone to absolve oneself of the responsibility to pay a living wage.

Post originally written in 2007; edited in April 2012

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Nation on Mother Teresa's Doubt

From The Mystery of Mother Teresa, published in the online version of The Nation.
That was a dark night of the soul that lasted decades...

It's a life-long struggle. It's not unusual in the history of saints in the church that there would be this experience of doubt. Christ himself on the cross experiences doubt. "My God, why have you forsaken me?" That is his last cry into the darkness. Why have you left me alone? This is not a consoling cry. And throughout the history of the church there are these voices, monks and nuns who, we find out in their deepest moments of darkness, felt the emptiness of belief.

We think we go to church, temple or the mosque and it's all very clear to us. Especially people who do not have faith, they think that people who have faith have no questions. But in fact as the church teaches us, doubt is very much an experience that lives along with faith.


America now is very, very religious or very, very secular.

This feeds atheists. They say, "See, even she didn't believe."

People like Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens --they are precisely the kind of problem that they present the religious world to be afflicted by. They are people who have no faith. Period. The whole idea of transcendence, a metaphysical reality beyond that which they normally experience, is foreign to them. This is very dangerous. They appeal to the political left when they should have learned its lesson.

What lesson?

For thirty years the political left has ceded religion to the political right in America. It has given all expression of religion to right-wing Christianity.

It seems to me what the left needs to do is shy away from this teenage-boy irreverence, these "farts in the chapel" that you hear from Hitchens. It's not persuasive, not intellectually challenging because it does not admit to doubt. Like the fundamentalists, they live in a world of such certitude the rest of us are left wondering, "Where do we belong?"

I'm quoting this article not only because it resonates with me, but also just because it's from The Nation. Weren't the liberals supposed to hate God?

Theology of the Cross from U2

"Please, please please, get up off your knees, now
Please, please live it out!"

Stop the religiosity. Get up off your knees and live out your faith.

Hat tip to U2 Sermons blog for pointing me again to one of the most spiritually moving songs from U2's repertoire.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Misers dragged into perdition?

"Christians are even tempted with the desire to grow rich. Merchants, in particular, are in great danger of turning misers. If they were not warned and admonished, they would be dragged into perdition as if caught in a snare, and would be lost forever."
C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, p. 315

What are we to make of this statement from a man instrumental in founding the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, from a textbook on advice about sermon writing that is based on lectures he made from 1884 to 1885. Is he some 19th century loon who is expressing how he knows nothing of economics, is he expressing advocacy for some kind of big government program, or is he expressing a spiritual truth?

I would lean towards the latter. Some of this message about scraping and hoarding and penny-pinching and greed has a spiritual dimension beyond anything to do with legislation. I think this is exactly the big fix we're in that C.S. Lewis spoke of in Mere Christianity, that "Part of you really is on [God's] side and agrees with his disapproval of greed and trickery and exploitation." Walther is not saying that being rich or owing capital is bad, but I think he's saying the temptation to fall into greed and trickery and exploitation is something the church has called a sin, and unrepentant indulging in sin separates us from God. Fortunately Jesus' work on the cross has paid the price for our sins and is what brings us back to God. All this has nothing to do with what the government should do. The church has in the past acted to show how it has a message about what is going on spiritually behind the scenes. That's what preaching is about.