Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Pat, the Heathen!

This is, I believe, an excerpt from Julia Sweeney's one-woman show. I really, really want to see the whole thing now.

Math, Religion, and Self Organization

This guy just made math fun. I never cease to be amazed by the postings at

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Last Shred of Faith

I think I may understand a piece of the religious mind. It seems to me that many religious people profess faith, but in their heart of hearts, hope is their true refuge.

For instance, I've never understood why religious people cry at funerals. They profess the belief that their loved ones still exist beyond death and may have even achieved eternal bliss! Still they mourn. Why? Because they fear their loved ones are in hell? Do they weep from selfishness, wishing they could have just a few more days together? What's the point? We'll all be together again soon enough. Or perhaps they weep because they fear eternal punishment for themselves?

I think these reasons are all very unlikely. I think religious people cry at funerals for the same reason I do, because, deep down, their hope fades a little, their false piety melts away, and they think "I will never see this amazing person again"

I remember thinking it seemed very revealing that one of Matt's questions early on in our religious conversion discussions was something to the effect of, "Well let me ask you this: what's wrong with believing just to be safe?" Of course, Pascal's Wager is so intellectually vacuous that I need not refute it here, but I think for many, maybe even Matt, it is a convincing argument.*

But if you accept Pascal's wager, that's not faith, that's hope.

So here's my personal experience, which I believe may offer a window into the mind of the religious. Way back in high school, I remember reflecting on my parents with full scrutiny and thinking "No way. Someone must be unfaithful. How could anyone go so long like this?"

But very quickly, I tied that doubt into a little knot and buried it way down deep in my head. I reasoned, "Well, maybe they've found transcendental love. Maybe their sex drives have slowed. Maybe there's something I don't know" and after all that justification, I just stopped thinking.

I had hope and that hope allowed me to shelve my doubts in some forgotten library of the mind. I developed a sort of faith-based reasoning for my parents' spousal bliss. In my mind, my parents were okay because I hoped they were okay, and that was enough to stop thinking about it. Not only that, but I reasoned if I thought about it too much, the truth might hurt.

A year ago, my faith was shattered. And as of two days ago, my parents have separated. My studies of life have prepared me for the inevitability of change and death, so getting too emotional is difficult. Even so, I find myself fighting against change. And like the religious at a funeral, I cry.

* Matt also admitted that he never understood Darwin's despair about the staggering amount of waste and violence in the natural world. I also found this very revealing; for me, it was the final nail in the coffin as far as the flimsy case for faith was concerned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time and Tide Wait for No Man

Well, life has sort of split down the middle. But change is inevitable. A wise, albeit fictional, Chaotician once said, "If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously."

I'm taking another stab at the old Pet Sitting business. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, I'm also considering getting on antidepressants. It's getting to the point where I really need a kick in the pants. And if I can't do it myself, maybe some pharmaceuticals could really help.

Personally, the idea of taking such mind altering drugs really scares me. Despite the fact that I KNOW personalities are fluid, not fixed, and change --and that those changes are fundamentally chemical and electrical --despite all that, I have this fear of losing myself, a fear of looking in the mirror and not recognizing who I am.

But maybe I just need to take the plunge. Or give in and apply to Starbucks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Future is Now?

I caught a quick commercial for the new Futurama full-length movie and was quite surprised to find out it! Wow. Looks like it's not getting much of a marketing blitz. I wasn't expecting anything like this until sometime next year.

But it's here, so rejoice! Then add it to your holiday wish list.

The H.M.S. Albatross

I've begun work on what I'm calling a junior novel. I'm not sure if I'll see this project through, but maybe with a little support and personal effort, I can. Here's the first page:

Principal Lewis mumbled morning announcements over the school intercom as if he spoke from the very back of his throat. After finishing the lunch menu with detached weariness, a hint of menace crept into his voice.

“…and I regret to inform the student body that our new playground facility could not be completed before the start of the new school year. As such, that area is off-limits. Any student caught behind the yellow tape will receive an immediate detention.”

He paused. The smell of burnt coffee seemed to somehow transmit across the airwaves.

“That is all. Please have a wonderful and safe first day.” The Principal ended his transmission with his oft repeated and therefore meaningless mantra, “Carpe Diem.”

But Principal Lewis might as well have delivered his entire morning proclamation in a dead language, because the students paid little attention. Lukas was especially distracted by the newness of everything. The move from third to fourth grade meant the move from elementary to middle school and an entirely new building. Lukas twirled one of his golden curls as he considered the immensity of the change. Strangely, that immensity seemed reflected in the size of things. Everything was bigger; his desk, his locker, his books, even his homeroom teacher.

Super Mario Galaxy Review

Well, after 88 stars and beating the main quest, I think I'm ready to render my verdict: awesome. This game is joy.

Actually, it took me a long time to warm up to this game, but I think it's mostly my fault. I couldn't help but watch and read all the press leading up to the game's launch. As a result, everything in the first third of the game felt a little too familiar. But then it happened. I landed on a small planetoid, uncorked a hole and, let's just say, I couldn't help but smile at the results. It was at this moment that I realized I was tooling around in the imaginations of some truly gifted individuals.

The music is stellar. The live orchestra recordings provide a sense of grandeur that is complimented by the game's impressive visuals. Controls are very good, although swimming is often frustrating. The 2-player cooperative gameplay is a welcome addition. Power-ups are interesting, though they sometimes seem either sparse or unnecessary. Level designs are terrific and surprisingly varied, even when you are required to return to a level to collect more stars. And finally, the story --well, it's not so great, but I can't say I was expecting much. And what little story there is to tell is presented through gorgeous FMVs, so no complaint there.

Super Mario Galaxy is not quite as groundbreaking or glorious as Super Mario 64, but it ranks very near. My only other complaint is that it seemed too easy to complete the main quest. However, despite the game's modest flaws, I think Super Mario Galaxy deserves a respectable score of 9.8/10.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sounds of Scopes

History buffs might particularly enjoy this video, which features actual audio from the Scopes Monkey Trial:

Not quite as stirring as the Inherit the Wind dramatization:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Good Thanksgiving

New Features Rolling Out

I've wanted to do something like this for a long time. If you look to your right, you'll find my Portfolio section. Please feel free to peruse my work.

I'm especially proud of my Depth Deception the Comic page. I've finally managed to get some of my favorite original comics on one site. Hopefully, I'll be adding more in the future.

The Best of James Quall!

In Flux

I'm still working on the color scheme. I think I'm narrowing in on something I like.

It Begins

Looks like I may be moving my blog to blogspot.

Stay tuned.