Sunday, December 14, 2008

My publicons!

Here's an exercise in complete narcissism. The website allows one to generate little icons for inclusion on web sites that show all your personal likes, from cell phone brand (mine not on the list) to German political party (um, I'm an American). Cool nonetheless.





Saturday, December 13, 2008

The sociopathic propensities of Christians

Here's a list:
  • They don't really seek after God.
  • They don't do good.
  • They use their tongues for deceit, their throat is an open grave, the poison of asps is under their lips.
  • Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness
  • Their feet are swift to shed blood.
  • Destruction and misery are in their ways.
  • They don't know the way of peace.
  • Ultimately, there is no fear of God before their eyes.
A bit surprising, isn't it? Doesn't this list sound like an attempt by hard-headed atheists to slander an entire religion? Problem is, this list comes from the bible, from Romans 3. It's actually a list of the propensities of all people. The passage repeatedly says there is no one who does good, and I would guess that this "no one" includes saved Christians. Problems between Christians and the world can erupt when one side or the other forgets that we're still human.

Martin Luther had a friend, Spalatin, who became disconsolate that he had given some really poor moral advice, so poor that he became distraught over his sin. Luther rebutted:
"Had you fully realized the awful corruption of your heart in its relation to God, you would not be so inconsolable; for you would say to yourself: Alas! the fountain is so polluted; that is why such filth has to flow from it.
'Therefore my faithful request and admonition is that you join our company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled sinners. You must by no means make Christ seem paltry and trifling to us, as thought He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good for us. He must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great, grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very greatest and most shocking sins; to be brief, from all sins added together in grand total."
quoted in C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between law and Gospel, Concordia Publishing House, St.Loius Mo, 1986, p.97

Christians can too often elevate political positions on "nominal and childish sins" to conditions for saving faith. Nonbelievers can too often point to the doctrine of sin itself as something that makes Christianity to be archaic or dangerous. I on the other hand agree with Chesterton that "Original sin is the only Christian dogma that can be proven by reading the morning paper." Come and join our company of real, hard boiled sinners.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Octofoil knot

Here's an image based on code from the French blender python tutorial which involved the Trefoil knot.
And I used a material from the Blender Materials Repository.

Only difference here is that I tweaked the formula. I think I've got an octo-foil instead of a trefoil. What's cool about it is that it's done entirely with Python code.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More space rocks!

Here's more tinkering with procedurally generated objects in Python.

Here's the key part of the code:

for i in range(0, n, 1):
    for j in range(0, n, 1):
        x = sin(j*pi*2/(n-1))*cos(-pi/2+i*pi/(n-1))*(radius+2*random())
        y = cos(j*pi*2/(n-1))*cos(-pi/2+i*pi/(n-1))* (radius+2*random())
        z = sin(-pi/2+i*pi/(n-1))*(radius+.0*random())
        v=NMesh.Vert( x , y , z )

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thoughts on gay marriage (from the middle of the road)

I guess I'm undecided about gay marriage. From some of the other political or theological positions I've taken, there might be a logical progression towards a strong opinion one way or another, but I'm at a loss for one. One of the problems I have is when conservatives talk about "saving marriage" or other societal detriments that may come about if gays were allowed to marry. Let's look at the list of things that homosexual persons might do or want to do:
  1. Serve as pastors
  2. Hold marriage certificates
  3. Engage in consensual acts of sex
  4. Cohabitate, in the sense of buying houses together as a couple
  5. Adopt and/or raise their own biological children
  6. Go on dates in public places (restaurants, movies, etc.)

Personally, I have held that the bible frowns upon 3. As such, I have supported church movements that have called those serving as pastors to refrain from engaging in same-sex acts, but not to bar all of those who are self-aware as having homosexual orientation. Some might call me a bigot for that.

On the other hand, if there were truly a destruction of western civilization, a destruction of the very institution of marriage, an undue influence on our youth from gay marriage, then I insist that 3, 4, 5, and 6 all do exactly the same thing. If gays getting marriage certificates is the undoing of civilization, then gays holding hands in movie theatres, and living together does very much the same thing. In fact, I'm purely convinced it does this MORE than having a certificate. No one really knows if my wife and I have a marriage certificate in a drawer somewhere, but we act out in the community as a non-celibate, paired-up, home-sharing couple. We broadcast that far and wide; if we weren't actually married, many of our associates wouldn't know the difference.

And that is where I'm entirely tired and fed up with conservative rhetoric about gay marriage. I just heard a sermon podcast where one opined about the election, "I guess marriage is safe for now." No, it is not. If it were at risk, it would be at risk due to gays holding hands in movie theatres and being allowed to keep the children they have, from the failure to criminalize many sexual acts.

My thoughts are that much of the conservative rhetoric on the topic are in fact borne of bigotry. It's an unfair rap to blame the 50% divorce rate on gays-- it happened before they were ever allowed to marry.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Procedural generation of objects in blender with python

Hey, look, I made a moon rock. Quite boring, but I hadn't posted anything in a while art-wise, and I wanted to show my progress with creation of procedural objects in blender using python scripts. I may share more details of the code later, but I owe it all to a tutorial by some French guy. And I also got some helpful pointers on debugging the code at blenderartists forum. But the main contribution I've made to the code base here is to make it seamless-- I figured out how to make the (j-1)th vertex coincide exactly with the 0th one.

More later.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Converting Flash to MPEG with ffmpeg

I was playing around with converting files between different formats. I downloaded some creative-commons licensed videos off of youtube and then was trying to convert to MPEG video or MP3 audio formats. As is often the case, I found both good and bad advice on the internet. As a note to self, and perhaps of help to others, here are the things that worked for me:


ffmpeg -i my_file.flv -acodec copy -b 500 -s 640x480 my_file.mpg

This advice came from from here. The bad advice suggested using an -ab and -ar 22050; that give me an animation with no sound.


ffmpeg -i my_file.flv -ab 128 -ar 44100 my_file.mp3
This advice came from here.


for k in *.flv; do ffmpeg -i $k -ab 128 -ar 44100 "${k%.flv}.mp3"; done

This advice came from the #bash channel on irc. Basically what this does is process a bunch of files which end in flv. It converts it to mp3's. Note the syntax with brackets at the end. This allows me to keep the filenames constant from flv file to mp3 file, in that foo_bar.flv becomes foo_bar.mp3.

Hope this helps someone else out there.