Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some technology well worth splashing out on...

if you have a spare 10,000 euros

Dead people I would like to have met #1

Zeno of Elea (circa 490BC - circa 430BC): I think I'd just like to know what planet he was on. He is mainly known for producing three paradoxes to support his case that motion is impossible. First there was his dichotomy, that motion is impossible since "that which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal." (ie, each journey can be divided into an infinite series of finitely small sub-journeys. Then there was the achilles: "In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. And then the arrow: "If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless."


When I was at university, I had a lecturer for Computer Architecture and 3D Computer Graphics who was a bit of a character. For one thing, he looked very much like an aged King Arthur caricature with long curly blond ringlets and a short pointy beard. But he also had an extremely deep hatred of technology, which seemed very strange considering he was a well-known authority around the world on the above subjects. He would come into lectures and launch into a discourse bemoaning the red light that would flash on his departmental phone when somebody called, before then moving onto the methods used by Pixar to make Toy Story. Apparently he got so annoyed by this light that he had to cover it with a few layers of masking tape.

At the time I was utterly confused by this apparent dichotomy, but more and more I'm coming round to the view that maybe he had a point. I do think that we are in danger of having an addiction to technology, so we will invest in supposedly useful items simply because it's small and electronic rather than it actually helping us. Prime offender here is the PDA. Can someone tell me what advantage it has over a pen and paper?! It just takes longer to record things, but you feel like you're being more productive. The people it helps most is employers, by blurring the boundary between it's employees' work lives and home lives.

Real progress is represented by the Hipster PDA.

No alarms and no surprises...

Simon, your base ministry is Teacher!

Teacher - 23
Pastor - 18
Evangelist - 16
Apostle - 13
Prophet - 11

Great C S Lewis Quote

The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A dark day

Today, it would seem, my iRiver iHP-140 mp3 player has played it's last song. Long will it be cherished in my memory. I maintain that it wiped the floor with a 'pod any day of the week - unfortunately it's charger socket could only handle so much. Well, my walks to work and back are going to be much less boring from now on without some Librivox recordings to keep me sane.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A very interesting and incisive...

...article on culture and mission by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Lovng the storm-drenched

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm not sure...

...what I think about things like this. The second and third points are very good points I think, and if they had come first maybe it would be OK. But there's something in me that always cringes when I hear an apologetic that goes along the lines of "what are the chances of the universe randomly producing life?". It's a very tired argument that just doesn't work. Not because it's wrong, but because it's loaded with assumptions, and it's always clear that the apologist believes that everyone, including those who oppose their view, will share those assumptions, when generally they won't.

The real point of contention is meaning. The apologist is trying to prove that the universe was designed and made by an intelligence, by saying "what are the chances the universe would end up like this?" But that argument begins with the assumption that there was some intention or aim that it should have ended up like this. Which is essentially what they are trying to argue. So it's a completely circular argument. To think of things on terms of the odds of the universe ending up with intelligent life is to say that intelligent life has some higher meaning. Maybe so, but no reason has been given to say so. As is often pointed out, there could be billions of universes with different parameters, and eventually intelligent life would become likely in one of them. It's meaningless to say "what are the chances of it having been our one?" because we're going to have to be in the "intelligent life" universe in order to think of such things. And who's to say that the different parameters of other universes would not produce things with equal meaning, whether that is more advanced life of a different nature, or a cold dark void. Likewise, there could be just one universe (any anyhow, from within a universe it is hard to conceive of any meaningful difference between the existence of one or many universes), in which case the most likely universe to have come into existence is the one we are in, simply because we are in it.

No, the argument is not one of what are the chances? It is a much more basic one. It is "does this universe have meaning?" I believe it does, mainly (or entirely?) through the ability to interact with the divine. A majority of people on this planet would say they believe in some kind of spirituality. Many of them would say that there are events where physical, emotional and mental phenomena some how are affected by this spiritual realm. They have had "spiritual experiences". If it is true (which is where faith comes in), there is absolutely no scientific reason why this should be so. That a self-created physical universe should "break in" to this otherwise unconnected spiritual realm of existence defies logic. How has this connection been made? But if a physical universe is created by a spiritual being, who creates people in his own image to appreciate his material creation and through it to somehow comprehend his spiritual existence - that a creator should create such a link seems wholly rational.

I must say is very entertaining seeing Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh destroying their credibility by suing Dan Brown. Whilst the Da Vinci Code is a load of twoddle, at least it is sold as fiction (the first page list of "facts" being no less fiction than the rest). Baigent and Leigh's book, the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (which they wrote with Henry Lincoln), has been marketed for the past 25 years as history. Beginning with a bizarre mystery of how a 19th century French priest amassed huge wealth after finding some parchments in his Church, they explain how Jesus never died and his bloodline continued through a dynasty of Frankish kings and on through a secret society which has been manipulating European politics for hundreds of years and continues to do so now. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln have purveyed their silliness through books and TV programmes pretty much ever since. So yeah, of course Dan Brown used their ideas. But it was very much their ideas, their imaginations, which he used, rather than history - which they have implicitly admitted by suing him for libel. After all, you can't copyright history.

Oh, and by the way, in between the two books being written (and this is something they all do their best to ignore), it was shown that the "mediaeval manuscripts" Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln based their work on were written by a couple of French anarchist in the 1960s Baigent et al had been strung along the whole time. So maybe it's the late Pierre Plantard and Phillipe de Cherisey who are really the victims here.

And while we're on social networking sites...

...US-based business social networking site ZeroDegrees uses a pretty broad definition for City. English users are offered in excess of 2000 options in the city select field when registering, including the well-known cities of Abbess Roding, Baker St, Buckingham Palace, Charnock Richard, Cold Norton, Donkey Town, Fiddlers Hamlet, Good Easter, Hertfordshire, Houses of Parliament, Matching Tye, Port Sunlight, Snodland, Stainland, Summer Bridge, Thong, Turton Bottoms, Up Holland and Water.

For anyone into myspace/social networking services...

New antisocial network isolatr has launched:


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Proof that standards in British schools really aren't high enough...


Monday, March 06, 2006

Counting down

It's now less than five months till the most exciting day of my life: getting married to Hazel. Plans are afoot with all the preparations, although in that sense five months seems not very long at all. In every other sense it seems like a PAINFULLY long time.