Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodreads: Outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Even better than Blink and The Tipping Point, and a totally addictive read for me - I've been laboring through 3 or 4 books without finishing one for a couple of months now, and I finished this book (~280 pages) within 24 hours of cracking it open. Not everything here is relevant to decisions I'll need to make, but as a parent, a great deal of it actually is quite on-topic. Goes to the top of my recommended books list.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Old Firm and the Napier Test

An interesting thing about being a clueless American living in England is that online news sites (this one came from a CNN link within Gmail) offer dastardly-sounding headlines like:

Celtic seven clear after Old Firm revenge

Sometimes I click on them, thinking (in this case) "Who are the Celtic seven?", "What were they on trial for?", "The Old Firm got its revenge? Is that the mafia or something?" etc. And then, almost inevitably, its about a sports team. The other day there was a really interesting sounding one that didn't even make any sense to me: Gayle hits 197 as Napier Test ends in draw - I thought (probably subconsciously thrown off by "Gayle") it might somehow be about a hurricane - 197 could be a wind speed, but what the devil is a Napier Test? I must know! Oh, right. Cricket. That most incomprehensible of British sports.

Bonus: Crew injured as speed yacht flips off France -those French are very sensitive to gestures made by passing yachts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I love wikipedia.

So I gave them some money. Maybe you should too, if you're looking for a place to be charitable this years-end.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Perrenial Christmas Classic!

Oh yeah, I should mention, some parts possibly Not Safe for Work, but not in a lewd way. In kind of a Schindler's List way.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let's clear things up...

Originally uploaded by jason hamacher
"You see, I, Jeff Wills, cannot possibly be the Batman, as so many of you have supposed, because as you can plainly see, here we are, appearing together for the first time. Let all these rumours be put to rest, once and for all..."

Friday, December 12, 2008

About getting spiritual answers

(Read comments to previous post if you're just coming to this discussion)

Knowing Coop and Josh both very well, I understand where they are both coming from. Myself, personally, I am more like Josh here. And speaking 'within the tent' of our own religion as we are here, I feel comfortable saying that although my sentiments agree with Josh, and certainly my understanding of theology is way more like Josh's than like MDH's, my religious practice and faith is likely to remain unaffected.

I have had spiritual experiences that have made it clear to me that I have a stake in and a duty towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That is perhaps not everyone's definition of "testimony", but it's close enough to mine to be operative here.

This means that even though, like Josh, I am more likely to experience these events as a spiritual storm than as a bold confirmation of faith, my faith is that I will weather the storm, and that it will be over soon enough. In that sense, I consider myself fortunate not to be what we might term a 'universalist', for whom all things of faith depend on all other things being infallible. I don't even actually know who MDH is, but I think his or her declarations here but him or her squarely in this category. Maybe he or she would disagree, that's not really the point.

If it isn't fair to use MDH as an example, I'll turn to Coop, who I have had many long discussions on subjects like this with, spanning several decades and many campouts. He and I do not see things the same way, and I accept this about us, treasure it even. (Those of you not of our faith, or not of any faith, just assume for a moment that there are such things as spiritual promptings and personal [bidirectional] communication with the Divine). Coop believes (correct me if I misrepresent, Coop) that 10 times out of 10, if you're in tune with spiritual promptings, you will reach the same answer as everyone else who is in tune with spiritual promptings.

I, quite simply, believe nothing of the kind.I can (indeed, must) separate my belief in God and even my sustainment of the President of the Church from the decisions and day-to-day operations of the Church and from the actions or views of its members. I have to believe that I can pray and receive an answer, and Josh can pray and receive an answer, and Coop and MDH can both pray and receive answers, and each of us can get it heart-and-soul confirmed to us that we're getting the right answer, and all answers can be different. If the other point of view is a theory of Universalist Truth, call this one an idea of Emergent Truth. One is top-down, the other bottom-up.

I'm not sure I'm articulating this very well. Let's just put it out there and see what kind of holes get poked.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Politics and Religion, part 2

So, as I mention in the following chat exchange, I've wondered whether any good can come of further discussing the issue. And I've had additional feedback from emails and facebook messages that I've wanted to address, and I have my own sentiments on the issue, which I haven't even really expressed here. Maybe that will come in time. For now, here's a discussion I had this evening with Rob about it:

Rob: btw, you never gave us all a response to your controversial blog post
me: i know. i am a bad blogger. i've been stewing on it, and debating whether anything good can come of further discussion
Rob: i know what you mean. At the same time, i've had to have proxy arguments with megan in order to satisfy me need for further discussion (with her playing the role of your particular viewpoint)
me: did megan and i win?
Rob: no :)
once she got what i was trying to explain, she agreed with me
on the logical/moral scale as opposed to the legal arguments i was trying to make
me: we kept our tax-free status as a religion that doesn't recognize gay marriage forever even in a state that recognizes gay marriage?
btw, that's not a viewpoint i'm actually interested in defending, just one i was pointing out.
Sent at 10:20 PM on Tuesday
Rob: the main gist of my argument with her was that if you believe that the government should not impose a specific set of moral principles on it's people, then you shouldn't support prop 8...
me: or, in fact, oppose it!
Rob: if you believe the gvnmt should be dictating morallity (a perfectly valid and acceptable viewpoint), then by all means support
me: no, I don't believe they should, and so I can take NEITHER side!
Rob: i mostly took umbrage with the people who said they didn't think the gvnmt should be dictating morality, but supported prop 8
me: because if I oppose it, I am supporting the idea that moral acceptance of homosexuality be taught in public school. Which is also dictating morality.
Rob: no, no, no!
prop 8 was not a referendum to set the curriculum!
me: no, it wasn't. but it's failure to pass would have done so nonetheless.
the curriculum isn't put to referendum.
Rob: it could be, if people's concern was with what is taught in school, than that is what the referendum should have been written to disallow
in my opinion :)
which, by the way, would have been much easier to pass i bet
me: well, you're right, but of course referendums are written by the passionate, not the moderate.
Rob: true
Sent at 10:28 PM on Tuesday
me: besides, (a supporter could argue that) the referendum only legislates the centuries-old legal and cultural precedent, not any particular morality. It was not, after all, a referendum to officially recognize gays as sinners.
Sent at 10:29 PM on Tuesday
Rob: i have to argue that no one is standing up to say that gay marriage should be banned because of precedent
me: what ? that's exactly the argument!
Rob: i doubt that is figuring very prominently in most debates on the issue
me: that the 'definition of marriage' is what's being defended!
Sent at 10:32 PM on Tuesday
Rob: i don't know what you mena by that
i was refferring to precedent as an argument
and saying that is not what most people seem to care about
me: right. perhaps neither do the people defending it. but they claim what they're supporting is keeping the word 'marriage' defined as a union between a man and a woman. Which, I'm saying, is claiming that the precedent of that definition should remain.
Sent at 10:34 PM on Tuesday
Rob: yeas, they're claiming the precedent should remain, but i don't think anyone is arguing the precedent should remain BECAUSE its the precedent
the'yre arguing it based on morality, or the arguments you put forth in the blog post, which i find specious
me: ah, well their reasons for arguing it are, I will admit, not grounded in linguistic conservatism.
Rob: ok, now you're just throwing out words
me: you're the one who drew first blood with specious.

So, if I were a bit more conscientious or devoted, you would get more response on this from me in a timely manner. But I rationalize not providing that by saying to myself that it is unlikely to produce, in the end, anything but hurt feelings, as these types of things have a tendency to do when conducted over the internet. I'd love to be wrong about that, but civil internet discussion is a rare and delicate flower. Nevertheless, if you would like to comment further, I am sure you will do so with respect.