January 26, 2023

Why did God create atheists?

A Rabbi is teaching his student the Talmud, and explains that God created everything in this world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.

The clever student asks "What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?"

The Rabbi responds "God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all -- the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs an act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone who is in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. and look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right."

"This means" the Rabbi continued "that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say 'I pray that God will help you.' instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say 'I will help you.'"
via though I've seen it before, wanted to get it here.
I've been thinking about the term "transcendent" especially as pertains to views of God. Mushy agnostics are more prone to talk about "emergence", that a lot of things we recognize as good - consciousness, morality - rises up from base matter in the same way that, say, economics arises from psychology arises from neurobiology arises from biology arises from chemistry arises from physics arises from atoms just doing their thing. In this model Consciousness and Morality aren't bestowed from on high, they come from the ground up.

But what's interesting to me is that the transcendence of God - God is outside of our mere mortal system and therefore the authority we should follow - it's a very fixed-in-place thing? The heavens are fix'd o'er the earth, or some such. BUT the word "transcendence" is based on an active verb, the act of transcending - a kind of climbing transition.

I mean I don't put too much stock in etymological explanations (as if you know more about a word based on where it came from rather than how it's been used in the meanwhile) but this one sticks out to me.
Two links from work: motherf*****gwebsite.com and theuselessweb.com

Open Photo Gallery

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem – in my opinion – to characterize our age.
Albert Einstein

January 26, 2022

[What's something you'll get a lot of hate for if you say it out loud] I'm about to lose a big chunk of my followers but I have to say it... Ghosts can't harm the living, if they could there would probably only be a handful of Caucasians in this world.

being less of a tightwad as a harbinger of personal growth

January 26, 2021
In general I don't have a positive intuition about the probability - or maybe even the existence of - personal growth. To me, people seem basically the same over the years, and while people can change their behaviors, it almost always seems to require a persistent application of will. That health instructor line about "once you get into the regular routine of exercise, it will become a HABIT that's hard to break! It'll be tougher NOT to exercise!" seems like a good example of the big lies of personal growth.

But... the other day I mentioned to Melissa that I used to be a lot more tight with money. And now I'm pretty loose about it. So maybe that's personal change, or even growth?

Part of me resists the idea. I mean I can point to external factors; I've had many more years of making a good salary (a lot of techies are so blessed it's probably unjust) and so have rainy day money in a few places - easier to be relaxed knowing that's there. And I started working with a financial advisor on my retirement stuff, and she seems to have a pretty good shape of a plan for me in mind - easier to relax with that established.

Or I think about some events - I once had a big windfall from selling a house, and I lost most of that windfall the fourth or fifth year of making a loan to a friend's business. So maybe that instilled a sense of easy come, easy go - or maybe it's the years of observing how money seems to kind fit the shape of its container, like there's a set point of savings I have that (knock wood) is weirdly stable even when expenses rise or when I get some kind of raise. Or that while it's weird how big a credit card bill can pile up from $10 here, $20 there over a month (ties into how we don't have a good sense of how much time is crammed in a month!) by far and away the biggest expenses are the steady drain of housing and possibly car - so don't oversweat the small purchases.

I acknowledge a lot of privilege and just plain good luck in a lot of this. And some ok perseverance and skillbuilding, but yeah. Little did college age me know that switching to a computer science class to dodge repeating calculus would put a financial setting path in motion.
Alright, Cicadas aren't "Locusts" but it's that time of the 17 years again, it figures.
Really nice piece Why iPhone is today's Kodak Brownie Camera - a great tool for making photography in and of everyday life. Photos were again about capturing a moment and a vibe more than technical excellence.

The article especially talks about selfies - which brings up an interesting point, a smartphone is TWO cameras - and the front-facing, selfie camera will almost always lag the lenses you get using it more like a regular point-and-shoot.

(Wouldn't it be interesting if they could make a little "selfie drone" that would take off from the phone and take the lens assembly with it? Just a thought.)

While I've only dabbled at more technical photography, I do take a lot of photos, and think a lot about composition. From 2000 to 2012 or so, I really felt special carrying around a tiny Canon point and shoot, always having it in my pocket. (I was the "go to" guy for whiteboard snapshots at work.) But now nearly everyone has a great camera in their pocket, and all I have is a semi-annual excuse to upgrade my phone, always seeking that incremental upgrade in camera...

monster party and mr. snowman

January 26, 2020
Had a monster theme playing with Cora yesterday... made another little p5 toy (not really interactive though come to think of it)
click to run


Plus some of Cora's original creation monsters:

This was all after I found out that Cora was surprisingly good at a restaurant-waiting game I'd only previously played with grownups: "Mr. Snowman". On a restaurant placemat w/ crayons (or a napkin w/ a pen, whatever) one person draws a Snowman. The next person goes on offense and draws a threat that may lead to the Snowman's demise. The first person (or the next person on the defense team) draws a way of thwarting the attack. The next person then draws something to undo the defense or perhaps launches a different line of attack.

Cora was good at the problem solving aspect of this! Water to put out a nearby melting fire, an umbrella to ward off a monkey with water balloons, a wall to stop an oncoming car (or maybe just removing the tires...), unplugging the loud music, bug spray to stop an annoying mosquito, etc. I figured out pretty quick for the kids version, the offense can be annoyances rather than existential threats, and launching new attacks is probably kinder than undoing the defense the kid just put down. (Also with Chas' help the second sheet became helping defend the women of the renovation show Good Bones ("Two Chicks and a Hammer")... not quite sure how that happened but I rolled with it.)

Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired
Jonathan Swift
But I keep arguing anyway, in part to increase my own understanding of views I don't share and in order to try and persuade the other party that people who disagree with them aren't irrational idiots.
The thief who took the moon moved it to Paris.
Marvin Minsky, "The Society of Mind"

January 26, 2019

It would be pretty cool if it turned out that amputees can use their phantom limbs to kick and punch ghosts.

January 26, 2018

Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

I started using Grammarly a bit, the free version (well assuming having all your text read by a machine still counts as free) Man... Grammarly loves it some commas.
I think honesty is the most important ethical commitment that we can make, really. I think it's the first that you commit to that then closes the door to every type of horrific misbehavior that destroys relationships and reputations (or in another parallel universe, does destroy reputations, apparently it's not here)
Earlier he was speaking of Trump: "It's the naked expression of power over truth. 'I'm so powerful, and I'm so just riding the right wave at the right moment, that there's no consensus reality can stand in my way'"

January 26, 2017


January 26, 2016

2 unit tests. 0 integration tests pic.twitter.com/V2Z9F4G1sJ

— Practical Developer (@ThePracticalDev) January 14, 2016

January 26, 2015

In 2008 I went to Japan, and sent this postcard to the folks at work, customized with a funny speech balloon. (Well, funny for engineers on the scrum team anyway.) My company recently acquired Nexage, where a bunch of people from my old job wound up, and Steve Katz showed me it, apparently one of his favorite bits of office decoration...

Went to the grocery and packie, stocked up on Guinness and Clementines. That and a bit of milk is all you need, nutritionally speaking! Though maybe some metamucil if you planned to make such a low-fiber time of it.

quote of the moment

January 26, 2014
There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.
Buckminster Fuller

January 26, 2013

My fifth Global Game Jam.... invented my own continuous deployment! http://heartcher.alienbill.com #ggj13

'sucker punch': the good parts version

January 26, 2012

Found looking for Glitch Mob music-- their cover of the White Stripe's Seven Nation Army is evocative.
English has too many emotions, or it has not enough punctuation marks.

@kirkjerk @ExciteMike @daphaknee Hey guys, Nerd != Manchild. Nerd is somebody who uses != to mean "not".

star lake campers, star lake campers, lift your voices, sing this song -- we're so happy, oh so happy, star lake campers sing all day long

(1 comment)
January 26, 2011

--Got a little nostalgic the other day when I put this old tape of music from Star Lake Musicamp 1990 into MP3. I found this Youtube bit of a more recent rendition of "Star Lake March" there... a kind of fun and rousing bit. Around 1:20 you see one of the odder Salvation Army traditions (err along side the pseudo-paramilitary uniforms and British-style brass bands) "the Timbrels" -- tambourines shaken in choreographed routines, often to marches.

Around 2:08 the "chorus" kicks in, the title of today's entry. (In looking up some of the lyrics it seems that they've shifted over the years, or maybe I just didn't hear them rightly.)

Coming soon: the even more exciting "Pep Song".
Someday there will be regular timely service out of Park Street on the Green Line. This is not that morning. Neither was yesterday.
And that PSA about 18 yr old drivers and txting? Super-relevant, thanks #mbta. At least a real commercial might bring some funds...
Ah well. The semi-brisk walk through frigid morning air can put some color in my cheeks. Lord knows I have enough cheek to go around.
We need not destroy the past. It is gone.
John Cage

the traffic island of misfit umbrellas

January 26, 2010
--Yesterday near South Station there was the saddest/funniest accumulation of broken umbrellas I've seen...
Rode in the front of the first car of the Red Line this morning. Always fun to be able to look down the tunnel, see the island of light each stop becomes.
http://tiltshiftmaker.com/ - if you have some nice urban landscape or otherwise photos about, tiltshiftmaker is pretty awesome.
http://daringfireball.net/2010/01/the_original_tablet - on the verge of The Tablet, pondering the hubristic glory of the Apple New Newton (and why Palm ate its lunch)
Thinking of the value of the Newton makes me try to remember - what'd I like PCs for, pre-'Net? Games, Word Processing, Mouse Doodling...
I wonder if the inventor of the Snuggie uses one, or was just great at thinking up a niche, possibly full of cynicism about couch-potatoes.
http://obliquelyreferential.blogspot.com/2010/01/braid-contemptuous-hair.html - about the bad writing of the brilliant game BRAID. I see what he means about the writing itself, but some of the images presented, the theme of romantic regret, were lovely, and I love the line:
Off in the distance, Tim saw a castle where the flags flutter even when the wind has expired, and the bread in the kitchen is always warm. A little bit of magic.
Possibly I'm guilty of wanting it to be better than it actually is.
Anyone get that feeling of reading something they wrote long ago - old email, old Usenet posts, old letters - and having no memory of having written it whatsoever? Like, you have to take something else's word for it that it was by you! How do you know that was really you? In some non-trivial sense, maybe it's not?

A knack at living in the moment can sometimes bring with it a feeling of disconnection from your future and past self...

whither deathtöngue?

January 26, 2009
--Excerpt from a convenient chart of Heavy Metal Band Names, conveniently arranged by subject in helpful inverted pentacle form.

if only neil patrick harris had done that song in a dog suit, it would have been perfect.

http://www.slate.com/id/2209603/ -- Masal Bugduv, fictional footie star from Moldova, is my hero. Great hoax!
Trying to figure out what's the best bet for a Boston local place with a big selection of DVDs. Newbury Comics has been letting me down.

ah but if we put that snail on a turtle's back...

January 26, 2008
Woo, Rockport beckons.

Relativity of the Moment
So if the ideas of relativity seem weird, it is only because we don't experience these sorts of interactions in normal life. However, to turn to Bodanis again, we all commonly encounter other kinds of relativity--for instance with regards to sound. If you are in a park and someone is playing annoying music, you know that if you move to a more distant spot the music will seem quieter. That's not because the music is quieter, of course, but simply that your position relative to it has changed. To something too small or sluggish to duplicate this experience--a snail, say--the idea that a boom box could seem to two observers to produce two different volumes of music simultaneously might seem incredible.
Bill Bryson, "A Brieft History of Nearly Everything"


January 26, 2007
So I received a verbal offer of a new job today. I had a bit of angst about it. FoSO asked, in effect "good, a new job offer, so what's the problem?"... but of course I'll always find something to worry about. (Could I have a physical addiction to worry? I wonder.)

The problem as of this morning was
A. the way I hadn't shopped around, that this was the first company I had interviewed with or even looked at.
B. it seemed like a cool role, though wasn't this kind of ideal I had thought of as a small series of "small tight projects" (not that I'm certain if it's a realistic ideal)
C. I'm enjoying my slackerly life

I dealt with A. by talking with Scott, the guy who "found" the place, and says we would have taken the offer but didn't like the commute. He pointed out that while I was taking it easy post-layoff, he was pretty much flat out in his search, and actually this was one of the best things he found, and also based on his knowledge of me, it seemed like a good match. Plus yesterday for grins I checked craigslist, and while a scan of a few days of craigslist postings doth not a jobsearch make, I didn't get the feeling that there was a trove of untapped supercool, horse of a different color opportunities there.

I dealt with B. in talking with Tim, the guy who was kind of my mentor at Refresh; he encouraged me to think through what I wanted to do, and I think this job could be a great base for a more-UI centric approach to my career that I'd like to get to

With C. I negotiated a bit, and won't have to start for 4 weeks, so while it doesn't live up to every dream I might have of a period of leisure (esp if I do some work for my last company) It ain't bad, and if I apply myself I should have time for a fair number of the projects, self-improvement and otherwise, I'd like to get done, and maybe even some travel.

The job is downtown, Back Bay... there was a time, post-9/11, when that would have made me nervous, but I think I'm fine with it, it's just my usual need to worry kicking in. Based on the non-rushhour interviews, it's maybe an hour each way, but an hour of public transportation beats half an hour of driving. I can take a bus to the T stop, or walk, though it's a hike; I might look to buy a beater bike.

So...yay for me!

Script of the Moment
It was at this time that the writer of this play, realizing that he couldn't finish Act I without a lot of lasers, blood and guts, and other things that make people go out and pay to see "Star Wars," wisely decided to have me come out and say that there was actually no laser battle, and that the officers accepted a small bribe, made up with Zim and Erik, and had a good, hot meal, and everyone thought that they were getting a pretty good deal. However, the Star Cops left before our stars could ask them how to fly the ship. We now return, about two hours later.
Just to wrap up "Star Hop", I wanted to throw in the cast list: (I figure there's a small chance one of these Monticello / Cleveland Heights people will Google their own names and find this:)
by Logan Israel

Erik Cabett Joey Fasimpaur
Zim Horace Adam Goodell
Ork 7AB Bob Ziegler
Greenok Ug Amy Wynne
Star Cop Officer Melissa Porter
Star Cop Assistant     Logan Israel
Narrator Tiffany Miller
Ghost 1 Alison Martin
Ghost 2 Ebony Wimbs
Ghost 3 Ken Taylor
stage crew John Romanoff, lighting

directed by Logan Israel

Staff Drama Coaches: Georgie Adamsom and Sharon Collins

Make-up crew: Julie Tricarici, Merideth Koch,
Lori Patterson, Kasha Williams, Megan Hanger,
Maxine Peatross

Finally as threatened, the ultimate photo of me:

It has it all... stage make-up, general blurpiness, outstandingly hair styling with mousse that has given up the fight, holding flowers, flashing the Vulcan salute, and a shiny jacket with pins, a too-cool-to-smile, not-cool-enough-to-scowl expression. As published in my school's paper "The Monty Times", though I also have the color original.

So the version of the play I've been showing this week was at my school, on a twin bill with "Best Friends and Other Strangers" by Dionne Custer and Meredith Howard. I played the father role in that, and had a somewhat bigger part than in my own play.

Final note, I noticed the Bianchi festival put me at the top of the bill that year, with most of the other plays being in order by grade. Guess they wanted to start with a laugh, which would make it a bit of a compliment.

you've lost that lovin' filling...

January 26, 2006
Went to the dentist this morning. Things went well...despite a number of fillings from back in the day, my teeth seem strong. So like I said to the dentist, that must mean I'm lucky to have gotten my dad's teeth (my mom has had a number of problems.) He responded with "well, is he going to want them back?" I like my dentist, so I decided not to kick a hoary old chestnut while it's down by saying "Hmm, I don't think so, he died when I was a teenager, guess he won't be needing them so very much."

Snipes of the Moment
Technically there are 55 Republicans in the Senate, but that's not counting their favorite shill Joe Lieberman. He's a Democrat because...well...he's from Connecticut. And he's Jewish. But Lieberman has spent his time since 'losing' to Bush/Cheney in 2000 spooning the White House and attempting to inoculate their increasingly insane policies from legitimate criticism. Resembles Tex Avery cartoon character Droopy Dog in voice, demeanor, and spinelessness.
Heh, Droopy Dog...THAT'S who I've been thinking of. I thought he was a terrible choice of a running mate in 2000. (Link via Bill the Splut.)

Cartoons of the Moment

--Gipper, the Talking Points Duck. (Also via Bill) Man, Mallard Fillmore is so bad. And it looks like the Globe added another conservative political shill comic, Prickly City. Clinton jokes, how fresh!

the new corduroy pillows -- they're making headlines!

January 26, 2005
Thanks for all the feedback in the comments section yesterday. It is nice to feel that I have people watching out for me a bit.

Random Thought of the Moment
It occured to me yesterday that it's a good thing the Patriots' Coach Belichick (is that, like, Italian for "pretty young woman"?) is so amazing and consistent, because if he made some obvious coaching blunders during a game then the Herald headline would write itself:
Just a thought.

Advice of the Moment
So I had even more snow to shovel today. 4-8 more inches to sit on top of the couple of feet we already have. I was thinking "Oh boy...Hot Snow on Snow action!" but then I realized there was a contradiction there.

So, I don't know if this applies in all cases, but the following three-step technique worked pretty well for me:
  1. Insert shovel into snow all horizontally-like. This will let you break up the snow pile. Get a big chunk of snow on that shovel...big enough to make your mama proud...you got a lot of snow to move here!
  2. Retract shovel, again keeping things horizontal. This lets like half the snow fall off...I mean, what are you, retarded, you big galoot? You shouldn't lift that much snow! You big dummy.
  3. Ok, now put the snow off to the side.

the smell of hopes and dreams

January 26, 2004
Excerpt of the Moment
My sister is superior in everything. I am truly her inferior, and I worship the very ground she walks on. I like to smell her farts because they remind me of my hopes and dreams.
My cousin Kayla, from a prose poem written in her brother Ivan's voice.
Admittedly, it ends up saying more about Kayla than Ivan, but still, kind of amusing.

Thought of the Moment
Considering the odd legal fiction that deems a corporation a 'person' in the eyes of the law, the feature documentary employees a checklist, based on actual diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and DSM IV, the standard tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. What emerges is a disturbing diagnosis.

Self-interested, amoral, callous and deceitful, a corporation's operational principles make it anti-social. It breaches social and legal standards to get its way even while it mimics the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. It suffers no guilt. Diagnosis: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath.
I think there are big problems with treating corporations as Virtual Persons. Their potential lifespans, for starters, and the way their best interests don't quite match those of the us normal humans...

Link of the Moment
Huh, I'm running a little low on interesting links. One thing I put on last month's loveblender but not here is The Lost Love Project, a collaborative project where people tell their bitesize tales of lost love. Cool visual design and compelling small stories.

Headline and Photo of the Moment
This photo from the Drudge headline Pope hosts breakdance party...

save me save me

January 26, 2003
News of the Moment
Hrrm. At first I was truly outraged about the story of the notebook clutching man who ran up to the UN Inspectors yelling "Save Me, Save Me", with the inspectors just letting the man be dragged away by Iraqi guards. Later though I read this Washington Post story, that says U.N. guards brought him into the compound, and handed him over once they found out the notebook was empty...I'm glad they didn't just completely ignore a possible lead, after all their bellyaching about not getting Iraqi scientists to talk with them. The metafilter comments board has some interesting viewpoints, though most don't seem to have heard the Washington Post details.

Online Game of the Moment
Oh man, this is addictive...iSketch, online "Pictionary". People gather in "rooms" of 10 or so, one person draws at a time, points are awarded, 100 for the first person to get it, 90 for the next, etc. A little frenetic at first, but great once you get the groove. Look me up as "kisrael.com" there.

Image of the Moment

--The Bernhard Oldendorff, docked at Salem, MA. I guess that's a coalburning electric plant. In trying to google some info, I found Boatnerd.com..."trainspotting" for big boats on the Great Lakes, mostly.

moving day

January 26, 2002
Today we move. We've hired movers, Mo learned a while back the wonder of not doing it yourself. Though there's always something odd about standing around watching other folks move your stuff. Maybe especially for guys, since these guys are clearly toting around things I could probably manage, but without nearly the grace they have. You feel like you're one step away from becoming that Professor in Real Genius: "What are you looking at? You're laborers; you should be laboring. That's what you get for not having an education."

(Update: 'Moving Guy' wrote on my guestbook that it's a terrible thing to equate having a job involving physical labor with not having an education, and I absolutely agree; I was pointing out that what makes being a guy standing around while other guys are hauling your stuff so awkward is feeling like they'll perceive you as that 'professor' type somehow. I have a great respect for the grace and strength exhibited by an experienced mover. My former co-worker Rob Baum would always point out whenever worked seemed to onerous "hey, at least it's not heavy lifting" and he had a point.)

Small Gif Cinema of the Moment

sit, spin

--my old study in Watertown...farewell!

E-bay of the Moment
I've already seen links to all the Enron Retirement Mugs on Ebay. Ranjit point out a nuance I missed; if you go to this auction and click on the lower of the two thumbnails, you see their rather ironic slogan...

apples and oranges

January 26, 2001
Quote of a Previous Moment
People say you can't compare apples and oranges. But why not? They are both hand-held, round, edible, fruity things that grow on trees.

This particular assesment is backed up with SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE evidence by this analysis of apples and oranges.

Ramble of the Moment
Went to Greg + Karen's (and Joseph's) for dinner last night. Had a very nice time. Played Trival Pursuit (Millennium Edition). There was one question that I got that really bugged me, and not just because I got it wrong. It was
What's the base unit of mass in the metric system?
The answer as "kilogram". Now, I'm covinced that even the most rudimentary knowledge of how the prefix- system of the metric system works would indicate "gram" is the correct answer. Which my SO and so-called friends (kidding, guys) didn't accept. So I think at least one of the following is true: I gues I'll have to do some research.

The other day I had a reference to Bruce Sterling's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackout (on the whole mess in California.) Greg pointed out that this is a play on Wallace Steven's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (he was a double Computer Science / English major at Tufts, in fact he probably gave me the idea.) It's funny that I my education would miss something like that. There are actually many other articles that play with that title.

"Mobility is Nobility"
--Timothy Leary
"Winter is acommin' in, let us sing Goddamn."
--Ezra Pound
"Sisyphus has a sense of playfulness [...] you have to look at it from the rock's point of view."
--Pointy Haired Boss, Dilbert (TV)
So I finally got the GoType Keyboard working- it's like having my own little laptop again, but with a cool docking feature.  Good call, Mo.