Music Tuesday  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of my favorite musicians is Emiliana Torrini. The tone of her voice is beautiful no matter what she's singing. She has a new album out that I haven't purchased yet, but I plan to download it from Amazon soon.

Anyway, she was interviewed about the album in the videos below.





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Sunday Reader March 29, 2009  

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Games

"DRM is a waste of time," says World of Goo producer

"Don't bother with DRM—it's a waste of time," he boldly said. "You just end up giving the DRM provider money." While name-dropping BitTorrent sites, he added, "Anything that is of interest gets cracked, and the cracked version ends up having a better user experience than the legit version, because you don't have to input in some 32-character serial number."

ACLU challenges Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools over removal of magazine from library
A principal's decision to remove a magazine from a middle-school library has drawn criticism for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said the First Amendment was violated when Brian Sharosky, principal of Roxboro Middle School, confiscated the November issue of Nintendo Power magazine. The magazine covers the world of Nintendo video games, from previews and ratings to secret codes and short cuts.

"Literature should not be removed from a school library simply because one person may find it inappropriate," said Christine Link, ACLU of Ohio executive director, in a statement last week. She called for the board to "immediately order that the magazine be reinstated."


Religion
Study: Cancer patients of faith more likely to get intensive treatments
Yet even Taylor, who has counseled many dying patients, says she was surprised by the findings of a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, which examined the choices of dying cancer patients who rely strongly on their religious faith to cope with their illness.

These patients were three times more likely than others to receive intensive, invasive medical procedures — such as being hooked up to a ventilator or getting cardiopulmonary resuscitation when their hearts stop — even in their last week of life, the study shows.


Science
Fixing a Genetic Flaw
n international team of researchers has successfully treated dogs with the canine form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rapidly progressing and ultimately fatal muscle disease that afflicts one out of every 3,600 boys. The researchers used a novel technique called exon skipping to restore partial function to the gene involved in Duchenne. The study, published in Annals of Neurology, gives hope that a similar approach could work in humans.

Sexuality
Is It Ok For My Christian Daughter To Masturbate?
Studies show that 87% of the women who become prostitutes did so because of unbridled masturbation as a teenager, and over 90% of girls who become pregnant as teenagers did so because of masturbation loosened their morals and made them more apt to engage in unprotected fornication.

Masturbation will make your daughter very comfortable exploring her body, and it will not be long until she begins to envision other people partaking in the deviant behavior with her.
["Studies" hmmm? - Ed]

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Photography: The Dogs  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here are a few more pictures of the dogs from February. I was just starting to use manual mode for pictures and the results were mixed. It's difficult indoors without a tripod and without a flash. I used a monopod for some shots.

IMG_4984_Edited

IMG_5008_Edited

IMG_5068_Edited

And, a nice sunset to end the day.

IMG_5060_Edited

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Sunday Reader March 22, 2009  

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Astronomy
Sunset at the Portara



Science
Climate Change Myths and Facts
Consider a few of Will's claims from his Feb. 15 column, "Dark Green Doomsayers": In a long paragraph quoting press sources from the 1970s, Will suggested that widespread scientific agreement existed at the time that the world faced potentially catastrophic cooling. Today, most climate scientists and climate journalists consider this a timeworn myth. Just last year, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a peer-reviewed study examining media coverage at the time and the contemporary scientific literature. While some media accounts did hype a cooling scare, others suggested more reasons to be concerned about warming. As for the published science? Reviewing studies between 1965 and 1979, the authors found that "emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then."

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Friday Music  

Friday, March 20, 2009

I still haven't played Portal, but I keep seeing videos and musical tributes about it, so I take this as a hint that I should. Of course the real reason is that everyone says it's a good game. Anyway, here's another video taken from the "ending song" in the game.

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My "Out at Work" Policy  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Image courtesy of SamFam

CL Hanson at Letters from a Broad has a post up about whether she expresses her atheism at work. She's created something of a meme and so I thought I would participate.

I have too many jobs to count, so I'm just going to list a sampling.
  • In college I was trying to work out what I was. I stopped attending church shortly after I started college, but I still considered myself a Christian. I dated an atheist and then an agnostic pretty seriously, but I had a hard time expressing myself. Mostly I just absorbed information and thought about my beliefs internally without talking about them much. I had a Mediterranean Religion course that opened my eyes to the similarities between religious myths that was pretty influential in making me a deist at the least. And I was exposed to new ideas from befriending non-believers. None of them had horns.

  • At my first job I was still in the closet about my doubts about religion. The company I worked for had an overtly religious atmosphere. I worked as an intern during college and my job was supposed to be setting up PCs and training users on software, but I was somewhat hampered. My boss didn't think I should do some things because I was a woman. Once he told me that he didn't think I should be connecting cables to computers when I set them up because "women shouldn't be on their knees." Haha! It was funny at the time, but kind of disturbing that he didn't want me to do manual work because of my sex. When I was hired after graduation they required me to sign a morality statement. Firing offenses included adultery. Now, I don't think adultery is right, but I also don't see how it's my company's goddamned business what I do outside of work. I refused and they put my hiring papers on hold. I talked to a lawyer, but it was completely legal (or so he said). So being a wuss, I eventually signed it. I needed the job. I found another one and left three months later.

  • I didn't talk to anyone about my religious beliefs at any of my jobs for many years. I remember once on Ash Wednesday thinking one of my co-workers had some dirt on her forehead. Yeah, I felt stupid. But no one was overtly religious at work and that suited me fine.

  • When I was still into spiritualism (but not religious) and living in Boston I talked to a couple of co-workers about psychics and astrology and other woo. But the more I talked about it, the more ridiculous it sounded. It was part of what tipped me towards naturalism.

  • I worked at a mortgage company several years ago (2005 - 2006) before the bust. Almost all of my co-workers were secular and liberal. The culture was somewhat of a shock. But it felt good to be around people who thought along the same lines I did. I missed it when I left.

  • At my current job I don't talk about religion. I have a few co-workers who are atheists and I've developed friendships with them. But I don't think religion is at topic for work. I feel like making my personal beliefs public would encourage people to be more vocal about religious beliefs. I have one co-worker who is vocal (more about politics than religion, but they're pretty intertwined), and it's uncomfortable. Not just for me, but for people that I suspect are religious. Whether or not I should express my own beliefs is something I've changed my mind about over the years a couple of times, but I'd rather work be about work. That doesn't mean I won't develop friendships at work, but I'm pretty careful to keep my work life separate from my non-work life. Except now a lot of co-workers are on Facebook and could easily find this blog. When someone from HR pinged me on Facebook I admit I felt a few minutes of panic.
So, I suppose to sum up, I don't say anything about religion at work. If I find someone who I suspect is an atheist or agnostic, I will express my opinions with an open invitation. I don't even know how I found out about "Team Atheist" here at work, but it's nice to know they're out there.

In a lot of ways I fear discrimination for being an atheist. I don't know if my fear is founded, but I don't want to risk finding out.

The problem with staying silent is that I think it's important for atheists to be seen as "real people". We're not different or alien. And I think the biases and stereotypes tend to melt away when personal relationships develop. So should I be an out about being an atheist?

I don't lie about who I am, I just don't display it in flashing letters. But I don't keep religious symbols and I don't claim to pray for anyone. I sometimes find situations awkward because the pat phrases are empty to me and I need a non-religious way to express myself. When someone says, "I'm praying for you," or "God Bless," I simply thank them for thinking of me, if I say anything at all. And I use those words, "thank you for thinking of me," not "thank you for praying for me." It'd be rude to tell them I don't appreciate their sentiment even if I don't believe it'll do any good (in a spiritual way) because I do appreciate the sympathy and concern that's expressed.

So, chicken? Yep. Polite? I hope so. Doing the right thing? I'm still evaluating that.

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Photo Assignment: Color  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've been tired even though I've been sleeping more than usual. In fact, all I want to do lately is sleep, even with all of the nice weather. I'm not sure if I should blame Daylight Savings Time or if there's something else going on. Every few years I get run down and no matter how much I try to catch up on sleep I never feel rested. It'll pass eventually.

Anyway, my current photo assignment is on color. The assignment is vague, just take shots that highlight color. I started a couple of weeks ago when it was still pretty brown around here, but with Spring around the corner, hopefully flowers will start blooming soon.

For my mid-term I printed the first picture below (thanks to Kyle for the lab tutorial - it helped me print the colors without completely de-saturating them). The second photo I selected was from a sunrise last year. I just couldn't beat the color. I chose the first photo in the Light series and my favorite photo from an aborted series also from the Light assignment. Then I chose two from the Spring Fever assignment (the third and the last).

I don't know how well I did on the assignment, but I think I did pretty well based on a few of the comments from the instructor. This will be my first grade for the class and I'm a little nervous. The grades are distributed via email and I haven't received one yet. There's a second set of appointments on 3/24 before the instructor finishes giving grades, so he might be waiting on those first. This week is spring break for the normal class session (not for my PMP class though).

The color assignment is still in progress and will be critiqued in class the first week of April. I need to get out and get some more photos. I'm not satisfied with most of these. I think I'll keep the scarf and the sunset, but I still need two more.



Original Source

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Gregory Crewdson was at the Nelson Adkins last week and I went to his photography discussion (it was more of an interview than a lecture). I thought some of the discussion was overly pretentious and I'll certainly never be able to set up a photo shoot like he does. But, some of the things he said about capturing the moment and not worrying about context I found pretty interesting. It's more about the approach of taking pictures than the technique, but I think it'll help me as a photographer.

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Sunday Reader March 8, 2009  

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Entertainment
Afternoon Inquisition 3.2.09
Do you believe Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL again? Do you believe that a double standard for athletes and celebrity entertainers exists? Does thata double standard apply more to football players?

Government
How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant
Wiley and Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the sex education curricula from 96% of Texas’s school districts. They then analyzed the curricula to reach the startling conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Texas schools are utterly failing to teach comprehensive sex education to their students and are instead substituting irrelevant, false or misleading information in place of medically accurate sex education. Or, put bluntly and without political correctness: All but a tiny minority (3.6%) of Texas schools are helping their teens get pregnant either by lying to them about sex or by teaching them irresponsible, proved-to-fail sexual practices.

What makes this news especially difficult to swallow is that “An August 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 90 percent of Texans support ‘teaching students with age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases’”(.pdf p.3). Thus, the Texas schools are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Texans in providing kids with irrelevant, false or misleading information on sex.


International
Chechnya leader tells why 'loose' women deserved to die
Some in Russia say Kadyrov's attempt to create an Islamic society violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and separation of church and state. But the Kremlin backs him, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check.

Few dare to challenge Kadyrov's rule in this southern Russian region of more than a million people, which is emerging from the devastation of two wars in the past 15 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls must wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.


Nonbelieving Literati
NL: The Welsh Girl
Freedom to be without "shackles of nationalism" - the familiar fetters of cynefin. Perhaps Kris Kristofferson was right: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". At least, perhaps freedom's another word for being unfettered - even to a place you love.

Patriotism, love of country, is a thorny issue for all three characters, even Esther. Yes, she lives in her homeland, but she feels its colonial status and yearns for escape - to America with Karsten, she dreams at one point; to England with a soldier; maybe even just away, anywhere with the young Welshman who wanted to marry her but for whom she had no affection until after he left... And yet she knows she won't go elsewhere, that the cynefin passed through her mother will bind her to the farm. And she wants that as much as she doesn't - she's always wondering why she has no heritage, no birthright, and the farm her father hates while he serves it - "isn't this my birthright, she wants to cry out", and she hopes the child the English soldier left inside her will be a daughter. Karsten is accused of being loyal to "landscape, at least", but his escape from the POW camp is motivated much less by patriotism, something he barely comprehends, in fact, than by a desire just to be alone for a change, and to erase the stain on his honor (a stain that, as Esther sees, can be erased though her honor is gone for ever). Several times in the book Esther ponders the meaning of patriotism, once when Karsten asks why she doesn't turn him in, why she betrays her country.


Nonbelieving Literati: The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
But when she goes off with Colin she finds the experience much different than she was hoping for. It starts out alright riding away quickly through the night, walking in the pool, drained and closed for winter, but then rapes her and she's left confused, in shock. She's not even sure it's really rape. It was brief, she escaped, and she's alive to sort through what's happened.

This green and pleasant land
Identity does appear to be the key. Human nature being what it is, we like to congregate in insular groups; no doubt a survival trait inherited from our distant anthropoid ancestors. Outsiders are expressly excluded from the group, thus protecting the group members from potentially harmful pathogens and possibly dangerous individuals. Even today this tendency is clearly visible in our culture. As you might expect, I’m keen to point to the exclusiveness of certain religions in relation to this idea, but patriotism is a perfect example of how readily people will align themselves with a group or faction almost arbitrarily. The stance of this group becomes their own personal stance, psychologically strengthening their position.

Religion
Guest Post by William Lobdell: "Without a Doubt"
I have a different theory. I think there are so many closet doubters because people sense there’s no God who personally intervenes in their lives. But they can’t take the final step toward deism, agnosticism or atheism because the religious ties that bind us are thick. I know. I was a closet atheist for four years.

A Look at Liberal Christianity
I agree with the author that the Bible is fallible and open to interpretation. I also agree with him that the Bible simply “gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation.” If one accepts those things, then how does one determine whether those understandings are right, meaningful, misguided, dangerous or evil? How can the author support claims that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, but another interpretation, i.e., a misogynist one (which he rejects), is wrong? The reality is this: when one seeks to determine which biblical interpretations trump the others, one inevitably turns to sources other than the Bible. That being the case, why not simply dispense with the Bible completely, or at least relegate it to a much lower level of authority?

Science
Is Science Communication Doomed?
First, have women evolved to enjoy shopping? This may be a question that none of you ever considered, because you’re smarter than that, but nonetheless it is a question that appealed greatly to one particular group of people: namely, the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre. Certain corporations have learned that an easy way to get your name in the news is to pay a scientist of relatively low integrity to crunch some numbers, fudge some facts, and publicize some stupid bullshit made-up “research” that somehow benefits the client. It’s advertising, but with a sciencey glow.

It’s advertology.

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Photo Assignment: Light  

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

At least I'd call it an assignment centered around lighting. But then all photography is centered around lighting. The assignment was to take 3-4 pictures of the same place at different times of the day. I took 4: Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night. I tried to capture a couple of different locations, but for one reason or another one of the pictures never came out as well. So I opted for the pink elephant on my deck because the pictures turned out with the best exposure and detail.

This was my first print assignment. The college allows printing throughout the class as long as I provide my own paper (worth the cost of the class!). They have a few Epson Stylus Pro 7600, 7800, and 7880 printers. I have a few pictures I'd love to get printed before the end of the year in addition to my assignments. I used Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss paper for this assignment, but I also have the Smooth Pearl paper to play with.

Anyway, printing is such a different story when it comes to pictures and I learned a lot about color and how it looks when printed. I spent a lot of time toning down the colors so they'd print correctly.




Original Source

I'm pretty happy with the way the pictures turned out. I wish my more creative shots would have turned out better, but I'm happy with a lot in these pictures.

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Reading List - February/March 2009  

Monday, March 02, 2009


Image courtesy of Isaac Leedom


I'm juggling three textbooks in addition to my regular reading, so the reading has tended to be on the lighter side, by which I mean fiction. It's so much easier for me to read fiction, where I can get swept up in the story.

But, my next few books are all non-fiction, so I'm not sure how that will work. I've already almost finished Lobdell's book - it's like a fictional book because it's captivating, even though it's a biography. Pinker has been interesting so far, but weighty. The Universe has been on the shelf for many weeks now and I wonder if I should try it again later when I'm not so busy.

Read in February
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies (Nonbelieving Literati)

Currently Reading
The Universe - Byron Preiss (Editor)
The Stuff of Thought - Steven Pinker
Losing My Religion - William Lobdell

Coming Up Next
I haven't decided yet.

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Nonbelieving Literati: The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies  


There's more than one main character in the book, despite the title, but I want to concentrate on Esther, the female lead in the book. I like how the author uses her story to explore female sexuality in the middle 20th century.

At first she's caught up in the fairy tale. She dreams of a new life away from the Welsh countryside. She wants to see the world and put her English education to good use, but she feels bound to her father and their farm. She feels little attraction to the local boys because they have no drive to leave, no ambition. But she finds the attention of an English soldier tantalizing, a way to get out, I think, more than anything. And after a couple of weeks she begins dreaming of her escape.

She wonders what it is Colin wants to tell her so much. For a second she lets herself dream ... of a ring, of him on bended knee, asking her to marry him, carrying her off to his home in the East End, to wait for him there in the bosom of his family ... his sister who'll be her best friend ... his mother who'll be like a mother to her ... waiting for the end of the war as if for some decent period of courtship.
But when she goes off with Colin she finds the experience much different than she was hoping for. It starts out alright riding away quickly through the night, walking in the pool, drained and closed for winter, but then rapes her and she's left confused, in shock. She's not even sure it's really rape. It was brief, she escaped, and she's alive to sort through what's happened.
Rape, as she understands it, is a particular form of murder, when a man kills a woman. It's connected to sex, but the main thing is the murder. No one - in the films she's seen, the books she's read, the whispered stories at school - no one survives rape. She is still unclear if the sex is so violent that it just kills you on the spot, or if the man has to actually strangle you or shoot your or stab you afterwards, and she had thought in the midst of Colin's roughness, the blunt, searing pressure of him between her legs, that she was bout to find out. But then he had left her, and she felt such relief. She had survived, clambered out of the pool as if from a grave. And this is how she knows she hasn't been raped. The idea of being forced doesn't enter into it - hadn't she gone willingly enough? Besides, what was it to be forced to do something she didn't want to do? She'd been forced all her life by one circumstance or another - by poverty, her mother's death, by the needs of the flock. Being forced to do things is such a part of her daily life, and as for this, she'd at least wanted some part of it - the kissing, her hand in his. If she's been raped, she thinks, then she wanted it more than most things in her life, although that isn't saying much. [...]

If she had to call it anything, she thinks now, groping for the word, she'd call it a misunderstanding. He meant one thing, she meant another.
But she isn't in the movies and all she can hope for is that the worst is over.
She has seen a few of his mates in the street, sappers she recognizes from the pub, and felt their eyes, heavy, on her. He's talked, she's sure, but she's less certain what he might have said. Not the truth, she thinks. Something more colorful, boastful. And if he's told his friends, she wonders how long before someone in the village hears something. It's this she fears more than anything, dimly sensing that what he did to her can't in the end be rape if no one else knows. She suspects that what kills the poor girls raped in films and books, finally, is shame. All those hands over moths, all those horrified looks. But the sappers will leave soon - today, tonight. Everything will be in the past then, able to be forgotten, provided no one else knows.
She's able to relax once the soldiers leave, although she still feels afraid. It's not the act of rape itself that haunts her, but her dreams leaving with Colin. And the final realization of that comes when she finds out she's pregnant.
And then too, finally, she feels as if she might really have been raped. All this time, thinking she's escaped Colin, thinking she's escaped with her life. yet she'd been right to start with, when the word had sprung to her mind as he'd pressed her against the mildewed tiles of the pool. He had wounded her, she thinks, and not a small wound, the drops of blood in her drawers, but something deeper and stranger. What a wound it is that stops your bleeding. And in her heart there's a morbid fear that what he's given her is a lingering death, nine months long, that she won't survive childbirth, that she'll die and he'll have raped her after all.
And so she finds herself pregnant, alone, loathing the man who did it to her. She's been terrified the small town will find out her secret and now there's no way to hide it. Instead of being the victim, she's become the accused. She has no recourse but to accept the shame.

We haven't come much further from those days.

The next book we'll read in the Nonbelieving Literati is Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

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Sunday Reader March 1, 2009  

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Astronomy
Mauna Kea Milky Way Panorama



Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars



Games
Review: Dawn of War II riles RTS genre with frantic combat
Though it may share some similarities with its Warhammer 40,000-inspired predecessor, Dawn of War II is a completely different game that offers one of the most action packed and highly replayable RTS experiences in recent memory. Relic has uprooted some of the genre's mainstays in a move that has proven to be as controversial amongst fans of the original as it is innovative. But the company's decision to stray from the norm has resulted in a unique and refreshing game that will not only keep RTS fans busy until StarCraft 2, but may even have them forgetting all about Blizzard's upcoming titan.

Appeals court: Governator's video game law unconstitutional
While this latest ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court, the continued effort after these losses would seem almost Sisyphean; the courts have never been kind to bills that seek to put special legislation on video games. "Is there anything out of limits for the Legislature to prohibit to minors? What about games where people eat unhealthy foods and get fat?" Judge Alex Kozinski asked when hearing the appeal. "Why not a law targeting games that teach children bad living habits, such as eating unhealthy food or using plastic bags?"

Identifying Yourself As A Lesbian Gets You Banned On XBOX Live
I had a similar incident, only my account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.

Government
Colorado state senator: ‘HIV testing for pregnant moms rewards sexual promiscuity’
“What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,” he said. “The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.”

Sexuality
To See Or Not To See
Since when does nudity equal pornography? I’m not advocating that people should roam naked in the streets, but, really, our society has got to get over its infantile views of the human body and sexuality. When we grow more comfortable with human bodies in non-sexual contexts, then we will be much better equipped to handle them in sexual situations. Surely, that would be a good thing for all of us.

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