Thanksgiving

The timing of this holiday is perfect. Coming near the end of the year, there are basically 11 months upon which to look back on. As my wife reminded me last weekend, a lot have happened this year. As a matter of fact, I think this has been the most eventful year of my life. Here are the things I have to be thankful for this year:

May: We both graduated from Cornell with excellent grades; I had two job offers and selected one in the last week of school.

June: I found a good temp job while I waited for the hiring process to fnish up at my permanent job

July: I married my girlfriend of almost 4 years. We had a beautiful wedding where next to nothing went wrong. Our honeymoon was safe and fun.

Aug: I was able to get my wife temp job where I worked, boosting our salary to help save up for our impending move.

Sept: I was called in to start work ahead of schedule, meaning I’d get to have benefits (health insurance!) sooner!

Oct: My wife found a great job she loves

Nov: My parents became relicensed to act as foster parents. Now they will get to provide care for a young child who might otherwise be neglected or abused.

Even though we received the sad news last week that my father-in-law’s kidneys have stopped working and that he will have to be on dialysis, we can be thankful that I was hired to work near her parents. When she found out he was in the hospital, it was only a 3.5 hour drive for father and daughter to be reunited. We can visit them and they can visit us every weekend, if they wished.

Rent Movie Review

The movie was great and a faithful adaptation of the play. There were only a few differences I didn’t like as much.

————— Warning: Spoiler ———————
A lot of the smaller singing parts were converted into speaking parts and that kinda ruined some parts for me. For example, when Angel saves Tom Collins and they sing, it’s a little more evident that they like each other. This isn’t really revealed until later. Also, some of the dialogue isn’t as effective when spoken when compared to singing.

They cut out most of the answering machine parts, my wife’s favorite part in the play.

They cut out a bunch of songs including the arguement before Roger leaves to Santa Fe. They also cut one of the cool parts, the sex scene, which had a really neat song.

————— Spoiler End ——————————

Overall, it was one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve ever seen. I’d give it an 8 out of 10 (and I give the play a 9 out of 10).

A response on Good and Evil

Sarong Party Girl (SPG), who ironically does very little blogging about parties, wrote this hasty article, tackling an issue she talks about a lot – relativism and good & evil. The key point of her post, which has been a theme in some of her other posts is:

At the end, whatever we do, there will never be more good than evil, and good can never triumph, because from someone else’s point of view, what is good for you might not be good for him. We sympathize with the victors as history is written by them.

I won’t argue with SPG that there are many, many times where relativism is important. The Bible tells us not to steal, but would any reasonable person say that someone is evil for stealing food to feed their family? Everyone always focuses on these, the Ten Commandments as though they were the only commands God gave to Moses at the time. However, a large portion of Exodus involves God’s prescriptions for the Jewish Society as his Chosen People. In this society they were to always care for the poor and ensure that the poor were provided for. So, if they created the environment they were supposed to, the question of stealing to feed ones’ family would be moot. However, this society does not exist, so we are able to view an act of theft for the purpose of feeding a starving family as an ok thing to do. In fact, in the US, we often cheer for this character in a movie.

However, where I depart from her thinking is when SPG suggests that there are no absolutes, that what is good for one can be bad for another. I can certainly think of quite a few situations where evil truly exists. Take, for example, the raping of someone. I cannot think of any possible justification for a rape. How could a rape be good for the rapist (in the sense of good vs evil – not in terms of pleasure) or for society at large? Another example of a purely evil situation would be the murder of someone else when the murder serves no purpose. Say, for example, a murder for the pleasure of murdering. This cannot possibly be justified either.

As far as

In nature, no one calls the predator evil; the lioness hunts out of necessity, but not all the deer are caught. The lioness is never evil though, and we don’t say good has triumph because the majority of the prey manage to escape and the casualties are few.

this is obvious because animals do not have a conscious. A concept of good an evil, as I understand it, involves for the individuals involved to understand the concept of good an evil.

Why We Blog

Mauricio replied to my post yesterday in order to placate my fears about his changing. (You can read it by clicking on comments below now that it’s been approved) In his post, he reminded me of why most of us blog (if our blogs are not simply parroting the news). We blog to sort out our feelings. We write what we would write in private in a journal or diary. But, unlike those devices, we put our lives out on display – really put our hearts on our sleaves. I know I’ve written some blog posts that we so slanted towards the way I was feeling that day, that they don’t represent the average me. They represent me happy/mad/sad/etc. I knew that in the back of my head and his comments just reminded me of the fact.

The reason that the part about Mo, what was originally intended to be a paragraph in the post, turned out to be 75% of the post is that Mo was my constant – my unchanging Mo. I know, as a Christian, that only God is supposed to have the adjective unchanging, but it’s how I saw him. Now as I write and think about it, I realize why – I haven’t seen him in years (except about 1 year ago for 30 minutes at his house). So I don’t get to talk to him like we used to at school during lunch or after school hanging out. I only know the Mo I left in Cooper City nearly five years ago. I knew, from various times on his blog, that he was dealing with conflict, but from the post I wrote about – it seemed to have exploded.

I’m glad that Mo is doing well and that he reminded me that some of my posts can be a little crazy too.

free flow

I just wanted to free flow some ideas today since there isn’t any one thing I wanted to blog about that I felt was worth justifying an entire post.

First up, I think I’ve seen these ads on VH1 or MTv when my wife is watching them (I don’t like anything on those channels) – Elexa – a new feminine sexual line of products by the makers of the Trojan condom. As they have just launched the brand, the commercials are nice and cryptic – of course the reason for that is because Madison Avenue wants you to be all curious so that you go and check out what’s up with this product. I had no idea what it was. Looking online, I see that it consists of freshinging cloths, a lube, and some condoms. I have no idea what the freshening cloth is, but from their description using “polite” words, I think it’s a quick way to clean up after sex without going to shower. An interesting idea, although as a married man in my own house – I’d rather just get in the shower. I could understand if you were having sex somewhere else and had to be discrete or something and couldn’t shower – then they’d be pretty useful.

But really, the reason why I wanted to blog about this product line is that when I went to the drugstore today with my wife to return a prescription for her father, I saw the boxes of Elexa by the counter. They each come with a small purse! And I thought to myself – this is what marketing is all about! A woman with a condom is a slut! Why else would she be carrying one? But if it’s in a little purse, she can be discrete about it, and have one around. What I like about it, thinking from the point of view of the girl is that she can have the responsibility of having a condom if the man wants to use the excuse that he forgot one, and have unprotected sex in the heat of the moment.

Second, I noticed an advertisement for AOL while setting up Windows XP for my wife’s aunt today. We bought a brand new computer and I was clicking through the endless Windows setup process:
“Will you agree to sell your soul to Microsoft Corp, a subsidiary of the Beazulbub Group?”

“Do you indemnify eMachine, Corp from any and all illnesses that shall befall your children down to the 40th generation?”

Etc

When I saw something to the effect of (no exagerations here):

“How fast is your current internet connection? Do you have blah blah or yadda yadda? Then you should switch to AOL!

Do you wish to switch to AOL
yes or no”

I’ve never seen something like that before – except in adware when installed some programs off the net back in the day.

Mauricio is definitely on the top 5 list of my closest friends; those who I would actually care to keep up with. This post to his blog gave me mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt sad for Mauricio and how the world was forcing him to abandon his ideals. He now knows that he cannot continue to live life by what some silly authors write about. Life is a very personal thing and only YOU can decide what is right or wrong for you.

I remember in high school he was always reading Christian books on dating. I must say that in my own Christian walk – dating is where I left Christ at the coat check. I was always agonizing over my decisions and the hypocrisy of my life. I didn’t swear or watch bad movies or do anything wrong. I “honored” my father and mother – the whole nine yards. But when it came to dating, I let my hormones be in charge. Although I’m proud to say that I was a virgin when I got married – it is without pride that I must say that I did do pretty much everything but intercourse. It was a place where many fell – almost everyone I knew at church who was otherwise a Godly person, was doing all kinds of crazy stuff in the bedroom – even those who were the most pious. Sure, we are taught that we must each make a personal account to God when we die and we can’t say, but Johnny was doing it too! But it made it that much harder for me to put my hormones on ice when everyone else had them on the oven. It’s in the past, but I’m glad to finally get that out. Back to Mauricio – which is what this part of my blog is about!

So I’m sad that he’s changing. He was the ONE idealistic Christian in my life. Long time readers of my blogs will know that I mentioned him in at least three posts as someone who would ALWAYS put a smile on my face. He would say things like “potty mouth” and “Wow, God made a beautiful day today” and other things. The funny thing is that he wasn’t always a Christian and maybe that’s why he looked at things with such a fresh light. He was, when I met him, a relatively fresh convert. I, on the other hand, had spent my entire life at church. While that didn’t turn me off to church, like it does to so many others who spend their lives in church, I certainly wasn’t screaming fire and brimstone. While the world pulled me towards sin, Mauricio always pulled me towards God – he kept me grounded.

So I was sad to see him write, “I want to tell her that I’m different now, that the fundamentalist stick is removed from my ass”. It was sad that he considered himself a fundamentalist. We used to always love that Supertones song, “…I’m a freak and they say I’ve lost my mind. They say I’ve gone too far and that lets me know I have not gone nearly [far enough].” It was sad to see him write “ass” for he’d never use that word.

But I was also so proud of Mo. He is beginning to see that life doesn’t fit into the neat little boxes that some naive people want it to. Yeah, Jesus said to turn the other cheek – does that mean, let the terrorists have another go at the US? I’m not saying that I question my faith or the teachings of Christ – but rather that they always don’t fit into our world; that sometimes, you have to go against what may sound right, but just doesn’t work. Or maybe it’s just that we don’t quite get the whole thing. Maybe “turn the other cheek” wasn’t quite how it was meant to come out, but that was the only way to say things back then. I has lost my coherance, but I guess I’m just trying to say that we don’t live in a commune.

Things don’t always work out right and you can’t be a super-Christian. That makes you no different from the Islamic fundamentalists. You have to find the right balance in your life of Christian Idealism and Christian Realism. But what ends up happening in real life is that, just ike all other areas in life, you never quite find that right balance. You oscillate from one extreme to the next and never quite find that spot. Before, I couldn’t go a weekend without church and now I haven’t been to a church in over a year (not counting marriage stuff). Neither one is perfect and right. I should be going more often to get recharged and fellowship with other believers. But I also need to make sure that my wife and I have time for each other and out hobbies. Yeah, that sounds uber-selfish – “sorry God, I have to play civ4 – can’t go to church.” But I know it’s reality. My parents have always been somewhere like that. There were times in my life when we went to church every weekend and tried to get my cousins and uncles to come. There have been times in my life where we went months without even so much as thinking of getting up early on a Sunday morning. There’s no perfection. We’re human.

Everything Block

I’m feeling really frustrated right now because, for the last week, I have felt that I had a picture idea or blog idea, but when I sit down to write or get my camera in hand, suddenly I can’t think of it. It’s right at the edge of my brain and I wish I could figure out what’s blocking the way or why I can’t just let it flow like usual. It’s especially unnerving when I read other blogs and see their thoughts flowing freely – easily translated from the firing of synapses to bits on a server somewhere.

Could it be my recent induction into adulthood? Suddenly I can’t be as “carefree” as I was at Cornell. Sure, I had exams and stuff to worry about, but I didn’t have to try and figure out if it was cheaper to get a Dental Plan or pay out of pocket. I also was able to spend all my cash on whatever I wanted and my parents ensured that I didn’t go hungry. Now things have gotten really tight, which is weird because my wife and I both work and we don’t have any kids. While we aren’t rich, we’re certainly making a good amount of money. “Well,” I tell myself sometimes, “at least you spent you money while you could – now you don’t really NEED to spend your money on anything but the consumables in life.” And that’s definitely true. The two big things I’d love to buy are definitely NOT necessities. I don’t need another computer – at least my Dell hasn’t finished dying yet. I don’t need the dSLR I want either.

Or maybe I just haven’t let my mind be creative – just sit there and write as I think – like I’m doing now. Recently I’ve been playing way too much civ4 – frankly, it’s fun, but I’m starting to want to work on my other hobbies instead of playing emperor.

Whatever it is, I hope I get myself out of this slump.

On a positive note, I’ve now been blogging for two years. The anniversary was actually on 2 Nov. That’s nearly an eternity on the web – here’s to the third year!

Why the Intelligent Design debate is a whole lot of hot air

Recently, all they’ve been talking about on NPR is the Intelligent Design debate. Basically, some people say that when students are taught evolution during biology, they should be informed that not everyone believes in evolution. Opponents say that religion has no place in a biology class. I agree; religion should be taught in a religious studies class. But what is so hard about saying the following:

Today we will learn about evolution. There are some people, including scientists, out there who do not believe in evolution and these are their reasons. Instead they believe that because of all above reasons, that the complexity of life must have been designed or aided by an intelligent super-being. However, the majority of scientists DO believe that evolution is a fact and here are their reasons for believing that evolution is true. In the end, there is no way to prove which is right so it is up to you to decide what you believe in. For the purposes of this biology class, we shall assume evolution to be true.

Would that be so hard? Does that evoke religion? They didn’t say God, Allah, Shiva, Mother Earth, or any other name people assign to the being they assume to be in charge. Why would that be so offensive to those who don’t believe in a god? Have they considered it to be offensive to those who do believe in a god to be told that their beliefs are a bunch of a baloney, as some teachers and professors do?

The real issue is that both sides are extremely dogmatic. Belief in evolution is a belief system on its own – based on faith. The scientists have done this experiment and that experiment and believe these to prove evolution. Just like any other belief system it cannot be proven without a doubt to be true.

You see, when people get mad at those who question evolution, they are being just as bad as those who get mad if someone questions the existence of gods. Why? Let’s look at an easy science to prove – physics. Namely, let’s look at Newton’s Laws, which apply to nature on the macro scale. (Quantum Mechanics throws all these rules out the window, but we’re talking about particles we can’t even see – just infer) Ok, one of Newton’s Laws – an object at rest will remain at rest. This can be tested! Put a pencil on a perfectly flat surface and then wait for it to move on its own. It won’t! What about chemistry? Take an acid and a base – add them together and it’s easy to prove you get water. So for every other science, we can set up an experiment to prove or disprove our hypothesis. We can’t do this for evolution.

While it would be really neat to have an experiment where a scientist took some single-celled creatures and, a week later, had a human – it just can’t happen. Evolution, if it’s true, takes place over millions and millions of years. I’d be surprised if humans survived that long! But even if we did, we’d have to have set up an experiment millions of years ago and kept up with it for all that time; something I think is more unlikely than me spontaneously combusting.

In the end, both sides need to relax. Because our country does not have a state-sponsored religion, and because it is equally hard to prove Intelligent Design without building a time machine, we cannot teach or advocate a specific religion in a biology class. Because, as far as I’m concerned, the gaps in evolution could be said to point to a creator, but that’s about it. There’s nothing there which would say – aha! It was Zeus who created the earth. And, I think that, while an ideal thought, it is a great exercise to teach young biology students to be tolerant of opposing views. In life there will always be someone who believes something different than you do. Wouldn’t it be great if our classrooms helped to make people more tolerant of each other? I may not believe the world according to Islam, but I don’t want to kill them or cover my ears whenever they talk.

Everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want. I may believe that person A is wrong and that my beliefs are right and we can talk about it, but in the end, if person A still believes they are right, then they are entitled to that belief. I know that doesn’t square with an evangelical message of trying to get as many people to believe in God as possible, but I think it works just right for existing in a diverse world. Everyone has a chance throughout their lifetime to hear about God, Allah, etc and you must respect their choice. Because, after all, at least for the religions born out of the Middle East, choice is key. God/Allah gave Adam and Eve the choice to make the wrong choice and they had to live with their consequences. Therefore, if you want to be like God/Allah (which is the message usually given in church) you should allow people to make their own choices and they will deal with the consequences.

So let’s allow people to express their views and, for once in the history of humanity say, “Oh, that’s an interesting idea” instead of “Die infedel!” As BOTH sides have been saying recently.

More Sony Copyright News

Although Sony still claims the right to use copy protections in their CDs, this BBC News story reported that they have abandoned the software I’ve been blogging about due to the fact that virus writers have written exploits for the software. And, in a one-two punch, Microsoft announced in THIS BBC News story that they have told their spyware program to treat Sony’s software as spyware! They will be removing it from their users’ computers. Again, this could all have been avoided if Sony had just let people copy their CDs to their computers. They bought it LEGALLY dagnabbit and if they want to put it on their computer or combine it with music from others CDs and create a custom mix CD then they should be able to do that.

Look, Sony, your record sales aren’t down because of pirating. They are down because there’s barely any good music out there. I just bought the latest Relient K EP this weekend and I continue to buy music from artists that are worth my hard earned money. Put out good music and people will buy it. Charge people crazy amoutns of $ for mediocre songs and this is what will occur. I’m glad there was enough pressure to force you to remove this. Now, learn your lesson!

They’re out!

To sum up the opinion my wife and I have of the current cartoons out there for kids: they stink! The animation style is very strange and certain shows like Ed, Edd, and Eddy have a really strange palette. We pine for the cartoons of our youth. So we were very happy today to find out that, after three years of searching the web constantly, we found Duck Tales and Rescue Rangers Season 1 on sale at Best Buy. Part of the Disney Afternoon, Duck Tales was one of our favorite cartoons and represents the first time cartoons were taken seriously by studios. It kept me entertained for many a day as I sat and watched the degenerates of Duckburg try and bilk Scrooge McDuck out of his money. We’ve been watching the videos recently and the nostalgia is great! These DVDs are a must for anyone who grew up on the Disney Afternoon.

Ending my second civ4 game

I’ve got a little more than 100 turns left in my second game ofciv4. As my first game served to teach me many new concepts in the civ series, I have fared much better. One of the key concepts I’ve learned is that barbarians are everywhere, even in Settler mode. Previously, in the easiest difficulty level the barbarians did not attack too much. In fact, I remember being shocked about how often they came when I went up one difficulty level in civ3. So, until barbarians stop appearing on the world map, it is extremely dangerous to send settlers to build new cities without first protecting the cities. Take the extra few turns to send at least a warrior (preferably a bowman of some sort) to protect the newly founded city. Also, if you are building near the edges of your boundaries, be sure to send the unit along with the settler to ensure its safety as it makes its way to the new city site.

I’ve also learned to use the Civics to my advantage a lot more. Gone are the civ3 days of racing to democracy to get the extra gold per turn. Now the civics can be tailored to your current situation. Although I’m most of the way through the game, I’ve also begun to use specialists a lot more. I’d never really used specialists too much before. I just let them be entertainers so that my citizens would stop rioting; therefore ending all production in the city. By adding the appropriate amount of specialists, I have not only increased my great person production, but have begun to influence the type of special person the city generates. In my next game I would like to really begin to specialize the cities so that the wonders and specialists combine to make lots of artists, engineers, and prophets.

I have also begun to work on making sure I have my cities properly defended. My reason for doing so is twofold. First of all, I have been playing with humans who may or may not attack me depending upon the circumstances. Second, I intend to shift up in difficulty levels for my next game. Right now, the game is so easy that it does not matter with who I make defensive pacts. The computer does not declare war on me or itself. I have tried everything to provoke war which was not an actual act of war. In other words, I tell the computer to piss off when it tells me to break a deal with this civ or another. I also tell them to go away if they ask me to adopt a specific religion or give them something I don’t intend to. I can get them to the “annoyed” state, but I cannot get them to declare war on me. Therefore, most of the policy decisions I make in the game carry no consequence. This makes the game a little less fun since I don’t have to think strategically. Still, I wanted to play this second game at settler difficulty to make sure I understood to a greater extent, the intricacies of this new game.

My next game will also mark a new turn in my gameplay style. I will not be playing as the Japanese, and my never play as them again. Civ3 was the first major attempt to differentiate civilizations so that one was not just playing the same civ with another game. Civs had characteristics which would change the way they played. I originally chose the Japanese for two reasons. I liked Japan at the time and was watching a lot ofAnime. Second, they were militeristic and religious in civ3, giving me the advantage of stronger military units and temples reducing unhappiness. It was great! I tried playing as the French once since they were mercantilistic and so, I thought, they would produce lots of beakers for tech research. However, they were always unhappy and temples would not help. Although I intend to experiment with different styles of play, I am essentially a builder/defender. That’s why I never did well in Comand and Conquer. I loved to build up my factories and bases and spent more time on that then building up my forces. I was always crushed. In civ, however, there is room for my type of player just as much as a warmonger. However, as I have learned, going through the leader traits in civ4 and matching to the style of gameplay that has evolved from National Wonders and Great People, I have begun to reconsider the Japanese as the best choice for my gameplay style. Therefore,in future games you may see me play with civs as diverse as the Chinese and Germans, while I attempt to find my niche. Of course, since each civ game is slightly different as I gain more expeience as well as the randomness the programmers put into each game, I may not be able to easily decide if one of them is a best fit. However, over the next few months I hope to see if I can prove which civ is best for me if any of them stick out significantly – the way that the French, in civ3, were so obviously the wrong civ for me to play.

Sony, Malware, and Viruses!

An update to the story I talked about on 8 Nov – BBC News has revealed that at least three viruses have emerged that take advantage of the malware Sony has installed on user’s machines without their permission. Sony says its sorry, but sorry doesn’t bring back the bits! This is exactly why music CDs should do only one thing – play music! If they want, they can include some music videos, but that should be the extent of the software on the CDs. They don’t need all this Macromedia crap on them that loads when I pop in the CD. That’s part of the reason why I just rip the music to my computer instead of popping in a CD each time. I hope this REALLY backfires on them!

Happy Veteran’s Day

To all those who have had to fight in wars justified and unjustified;
To all who have left their families, uncertain if they would ever return;
To all who may have lost everything from limbs to families:

Thank you for fighting and keeping us safe. Without you, we wouldn’t have the great country we have – one where we even have the freedom to protest against the wars it rages.

Thanks.