Archive for December, 2007

An Entire Month of Blogging!

You may have noticed that I managed to write a blog entry every single day of the month of December. I hadn’t started December with this goal in mind, but after about four or five consecutive days with new posts, I thought it would be fun to try. I’ll admit that it was tricky at times, and I really phoned it in once or twice, but here we are at day 31! I can’t promise that the posts will continue to flow with this same regularity, but I would definitely like to write more blog entries in 2008 than I did in any of the previous years.

I’d like to wrap up 2007 with the My Year in Blogging meme, which I saw on LG’s blog. Basically, you write the first line from the first entry of each month this year. See you guys in 2008!

January: As the year rolls over, it’s once again time to reflect on the previous year’s resolutions and see how well I did, then state new resolutions for this year.

February: I was going to write a post about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force LED sign bomb scare in Boston and how the terrorists are winning, but I think this “scandal” has jumped the shark.

March: FOX’s new show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, premiered on Tuesday night with mind-boggling ratings.

April: I just got back from a dental checkup where I was told that I had the cleanest teeth of anyone they had seen that day.

May: Kickass British Indie Rock band The Kooks are playing a show in Seattle tonight.

June: Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet.

July: Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet.

August: Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet.

September: We just got home from Pig Out in the Park where Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. and the MGs fame) played a gig.

October: Over the weekend, the entire state of Michigan almost didn’t have a government.

November: I know that Mara didn’t actually start this meme, but she tagged me, and since I have a hard time saying no to pretty girls, I’ll participate.

December: Everyone who reads this blog knows that I’m pretty open about most of the details of my life.

Secular Sunday XII – Proof of Accuracy in the Bible

I just read an article about a Notre Dame professor who determined that the star of Bethlehem mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew may have actually been a supernova.

His discovery is the result of research into whether or not the mysterious star actually existed and why it was so bright. As it turns out, about 2000 years ago, Kesteven 75 went supernova in the constellation Aquila, which viewed from Babylon or Persia after midnight would have appeared, “in the East.”

To say that this is the star of Bethlehem is pure conjecture, though, since no one is quite sure when Jesus was born – best guesses put his birth as early as 8 B.C. – and there were multiple astronomical phenomena around that time.

This article seems to be part of a growing trend to prove that God is real by proving that events in the Bible actually happened. Astronomer Phil Plait commented on the article saying, “why do people who believe in miracles try to back them up with science, negating their entire premise?”

We’ve long known that certain events described in the Bible took place. Time and again, science has proven aspects of the Bible to be true. But just because a story contains an event that actually happened doesn’t mean that the entire story is true. That would be a bit like saying 2 + 2 = 5 is true, because 2 and 2 are both numbers, and so is 5.

The mentality that God can be proven through science is what Intelligent Design is all about, and it shows that atheism is a legitimate threat to Christianity. That Christians now feel the need to prove their faith on atheists’ terms is exactly what’s wrong with modern religion. Christians are being taught that tangible evidence can support faith, which is simply not the case.

What’s wrong with taking it all on faith? If you believe in God, if you believe in miracles, if you believe what the Bible says, what does it matter what other people believe? Isn’t believing in spite of contrary evidence kind of the whole point? Isn’t God supposed to test your faith by sending people like me to tempt you?

I think the best way to sum this all up is to point out a comment in the original article. Someone going by the name “Ted” wrote, “why try to find…justification? Either you believe in a comforting faith or you face reality with your own moral compass.”

The War is Over

Netscape Navigator Splash ScreenYou could easily argue that the browser war between Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer has been over for quite a while, but if there was ever any doubt, it can be put to rest. Yesterday, AOL announced that as of 1 February 2008, Netscape Navigator will be officially dead.

Back in 1995, when I first started browsing the internet on a daily basis, Netscape Navigator was my browser of choice. It wasn’t until late in high school that I started to prefer Internet Explorer (which was a good browser at the time, as hard as that may be to believe), and since switching away, I have never seriously used Netscape for web browsing.

From time to time, I fondly recall the afternoons I spent after class in the computer lab at my high school. A handful of us had discovered GeoCities and we would spend hours building web pages. Netscape Navigator 3 Gold came with a WYSIWYG editor, and I loved how quickly and easily I could work on my website.

No matter how much time had passed since I last used it, I still considered Netscape one of the “Big 5” browsers (the others being Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari). Being a web designer, I dislike the fact that there are so many browsers out there, because they all render pages slightly differently. The death of Netscape is a boon to my industry, but it still makes me a little sad.

On BoingBoing’s tribute to Netscape, one user very accurately summed up how many of us feel: “This is like reading the obit about someone you chummed around with in high school but lost track of when you went to univ.”

Well Netscape Navigator, 13 years after I first started using you, I’m saying goodbye forever. I can’t say that I’ll miss you, but I’ll always fondly remember you.

Friday Funday CLXXIX

Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet. Funday links will open in a new window.

Mr Bean – iTunes ad [del.icio.us]

An iTunes-style ad starring Mr. Bean.

Some guy accuses two Hollywood cops parked illegally [del.icio.us]

A couple of police officers park illegally and an upright (if somewhat annoying) citizen confronts them about it on video. They’re less than pleased and utilize a few other questionable tactics to escape.

The Human Calendar [del.icio.us]

At first this doesn’t seem like much, but it gets really impressive once you figure out just how hard it must have been to make.

Drug Dealers Vs. Geeks [del.icio.us]

An oldie but a goodie. And so true.

Christophe Huet [del.icio.us]

Christophe Huet’s art is nothing short of amazing. Some of the images have a “making of” feature, which makes the Flash interface worthwhile.

Story of Stuff

I don’t have much to say today (even if I did, I don’t have enough time to write about it), but I did want to pass on this link to storyofstuff.com that was sent to me by a friend. It’s pretty interesting stuff, and the video packs quite a bit of info into 20 minutes.

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, which in the United States doesn’t mean very much. Boxing Day is observed in the Commonwealth of Nations, where it is celebrated with a day off from work and, depending on where you live, soccer games and giant after-Christmas sales. But the origins of Boxing Day have little to do with sportsmanship and commercialism. Although the etymology of the day’s name is well debated, the day has historically been a time to give out gifts to the poor.

For most people living in the United States, poor is a relative term. I suspect that this is partly because of the American Dream, where we tend to think of our wealth in terms of what those around us have — the classic scenario is of two neighbors engaged in a constant battle of oneupmanship. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping up with the Joneses, too few people in this country have a clear understanding of just how privileged they really are.

In 2006, the poverty threshold for a family of four was an annual income of $20,444. There are much larger families in other countries that can’t even imagine earning $20,444 in a lifetime. Granted, the cost of living in our country is higher, but our government makes concessions for those who have difficulty providing for their families.

There are millions of people the world over who are homeless and hungry, and our country alone has tens of thousands of homeless people, including very young children.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those who are underprivileged and how, although Morah and I may not have everything we want, we’re quite lucky to have what we do. We’re saving up to buy a house, at some point soon we’ll need a new car, and not a single day goes by where we don’t look at all of the food in our fridge and decide that we’re not in the mood to eat any of it. When I compare what we have to other people our age who own nice houses or fancy cars, I do tend to get a little jealous, and wish that I could afford the accouterments of their lifestyles. But when I compare what we have to people who don’t have a place to live or food to eat, I am eternally grateful for the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.

Yesterday’s Christmas haul was quite a good one; everyone got some great presents and we had a fantastic — and very filling — turkey dinner (it was the first time I ever cooked a turkey on my own!). After we had opened all of our presents, as we sat in the living room goofing around with our new toys, I thought about the people in the world who didn’t open any presents. I thought about the people who weren’t sitting in warm living rooms sipping their favorite holiday beverages. I thought about the people who would go to sleep with stomach aches not because they were full like mine, but because they were completely empty.

Boxing Day has traditionally been a time for the “haves” to think about the “have nots.” I would be delighted if the United States would recognize Boxing Day, but helping the poor doesn’t require a presidential aegis. Take a moment today to reflect on the things you have and see if you can commit to helping those in need, both in this country and around the world. No matter what you decide to donate, you can feel good knowing that you’re giving something to those who have nothing, and that you’re doing your part to make the world a better place.

The Christmas Spirit

Many people who know me also know that I dislike Christmas music. The reason for this is because, when I was in high school, I worked at a Christmas store for a few months — and yes, one of those months was December.

While working there, I had to listen to Christmas music most of the time, until the Christmas season rolled around, at which point I had to listen to it all the time. The store has long since closed, but even back when I quit, I had heard enough Christmas music to last me for the rest of my life.

As Christmas rolls around each year, shops and radio stations begin to play Christmas music, which inevitably annoys me, mostly because it seems to happen earlier each year. My worst nightmare is that eventually Boxing Day will become the first shopping day of the Christmas season, and we’ll be stuck listening to the crap all year long.

Despite my dislike of Christmas music, there is one day on which I enjoy listening to it, and that’s Christmas day itself. There is a certain feeling of completeness that Christmas music lends to the day, and while I could live quite happily without it, Christmas certainly wouldn’t be the same.

I may be a bit of a Scrooge in the days leading up to Christmas, but I am always happy to be with friends and family, eating good food, opening presents, and taking a moment to celebrate life. I hope this day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, finds you with friends and family, eating good food, opening presents, and celebrating life to the fullest.

Secular Season’s Greetings!

Battling Spam

While MovableType has done a pretty good job of stopping spam comments from making it through, it still has a hard time with certain types of spam. To help save me from having to deal with the spam comments that MT lets through, I’m setting up filters. Below is a list of strings that will trip the spam filter, so don’t put them in your comments (unless you want them to get junked).

  • yello pages
  • Nice site. Thanks
  • Very good site. Thanks
  • Yhanks you
  • Hi, my sites
  • Nice site. Thank you.
  • Very good site. Thank you
  • Cool site. Thanks.
  • Cool site. Thank you
  • Good site. Thank you.

Secular Sunday XI – Christmas

Every year on December 25th we celebrate Christmas. Well, perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do, along with over half of the population of the world. One popular sentiment is that, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but that’s not exactly true.

The Bible doesn’t go into specifics about when Christ was actually born, but in the year 221, Sextus Julius Africanus (how’s that for a name?) published a history of the world entitled Chronografiai, which named 25 December as the official date of Christ’s birth. As was the case back then, no real evidence was necessary to make any statement true, so everyone just jumped on board.

When evidence is brought into play, it’s still a tough sell (which is pretty much always the case with Christianity). December 25th is nine months after March 25th, which was the date of the vernal equinox (on the Julian calendar), which was the fourth day of the creation of the world (on which there is light), and therefore, an appropriate day for Christ’s conception.

Another idea, and one that is much more likely, is that the Christian church “borrowed” the day from the Pagans. The Romans had this awesome week-long holiday in mid-December called Saturnalia, which basically consisted of getting drunk, getting naked, cantillating, and gambling. Saturnalia was celebrated from the 17th through the 24th, and honored Saturn, the god of agriculture. The poet Catullus described Saturnalia as the, “best of days,” and with all that partying, I’m sure he was right.

On December 25th, the Romans celebrated Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, which translates as, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” Wait, the unconquered sun? Don’t the Christians have an unconquered son? Even The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Sol Invictus festival has a “strong claim on the responsibility” for the date of Christmas. Many Christian writers pointed out that the apparent coincidence between the dates is awfully convenience, and even Saint Cyprian made light of it, saying, “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born…Christ should be born”

It’s also interesting to note that, for a long time, the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed on January 6th, the date of his baptism.

The traditions of Christians and Pagans that are celebrated at this time of year have more in common than just the dates.

Christmas trees have been the subject of much debate in recent years, and the banning of Christmas trees in the Seattle-Tacoma airport a few years ago left a sour taste in the mouths of many Christians. I don’t have any problem with Christmas trees, since the practice is a Pagan one. Germanic tribes in pre-Christian times would sacrifice 9 males of each species (how this was accomplished is beyond me) at the sacred groves every ninth year. There were many important trees, one of which was Thor’s Oak. In 723, Saint Boniface (then called Winfrid) was doing missionary work in Germany. In a rather dramatic display, he called upon Thor to strike him down if he chopped down the oak, which he proceeded to do. When the tree was felled and Boniface stood unharmed, the locals agreed to be baptized.

Boniface is credited with inventing the Christmas tree, because after felling Thor’s Oak, he pointed out a small fir tree growing in the roots of the oak and said, “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the center of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide.” At first, Christmas trees were hung upside-down from the ceiling — a practice that is becoming popular again today. Martin Luther is credited with turning the tree right-side up and adding lights.

Other Norse traditions celebrated by Christians are the burning of a Yule log, the hanging of mistletoe and holly, the eating of Christmas ham, and stuffing Christmas stockings. Even elements of Santa Claus predate Christian Christmas celebrations.

I’m not advocating for Christians to stop celebrating Christmas; after all, what Christians are really celebrating is the birth of Christ (at least, that’s what they’re supposed to be celebrating). What I am advocating is for people to know the real history of their beliefs and traditions, and not to simply accept what other people say as the absolute truth.

The New Place About Which We Do Not Blog

Now that I’ve been at my new job for a couple of weeks, a lot of people have been asking me how it’s going and if I like it. The answer is simple: it’s going great and I love it!

I had thought that my first few days would be slow, with me mostly learning the company’s procedures, watching the other programmer work, and trying to learn ColdFusion. Instead, on my second day there, I was tasked with creating the company’s holiday eCard (among other things), which ended up being sent out to almost 400 of the company’s clients.

The people at KAI are a lot of fun, and it’s particularly nice working with people my age (unlike at FOX, which is mostly people in their 40s and 50s), as well as with people who know about design and programming. I’m enjoying working downtown, and taking the bus every day has worked out well so far. I’ve started to learn ColdFusion, and pretty soon I’ll have to start learning ASP.Net. Probably the coolest thing I’ve done so far is order nearly $10,000 worth of computer equipment.

With all of the responsibility that has been placed upon me after just 2 weeks, I feel like I’ve been working there for 2 months, except that I still don’t know where everything is.

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