I'm glad I don't have to try to make sense of this

Here’s some local News that Chris may be interested in:

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.
Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.


One of the cool features of my apartment in Seattle is that it has a good sized patio, running the full width of the apartment.
Patio without furniture
With all of the hassle of moving in and dealing with IKEA boxes, I put off my plans for the patio… and when winter arrived I decided to wait for spring. Well, spring is just about to give way to summer, so it’s past time for action. Last time I was back in Brookline, I saw the patio furniture which Merry had got for the condo, and I liked the style. I sat in the chairs, pronounced them comfortable, ((It’s hard to find chairs that provide adequate thigh support; most seem to have really short seats.)) and ordered a set (four chairs, one table) for myself. They finally arrived yesterday.
Patio furniture
Of course the apartment is just across the street from Amazon’s US1 and US2 buildings, so with a bit of luck I can schedule some of my late afternoon meetings on my patio. Accompanied by a nice pinot grigio, perhaps – or a pitcher of sangria…? But first I need a stiff broom and some hot water, to clean up after the seagulls!

The occasional random 10

I really did intend to make this a weekly thing, but… oh, well. Try this little lot for size:

  • “Grown So Ugly” by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (from Safe As Milk)
  • “The Price” by DJ Madson (from The God Who Wasn’t There)
  • “Doubleminded” by the Dream Academy (from Remembrance Days)
  • “Dark Angel” by Electronic (from Raise The Pressure)
  • “The Man In You” by Faithless (from To All New Arrivals)
  • “I’m A King Bee” by the Grateful Dead (from Fillmore West 1969)
  • “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Johnny Cash (from American IV: The Man Comes Around)
  • “Relax” by Keoki (from Jealousy)
  • “Shallow (Radio edit) by Porcupine Tree (from Shallow – Single)
  • “Happy Jack” by the Who (from Live At Leeds – Deluxe Edition)

Some household names (Captain Beefheart, Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, the Who), two contemporary stars (Faithless, Porcupine Tree), a couple of fond memories from the 80s (the Dream Academy, Electronic), and two DJs (Keoki, DJ Madson). A nice mix.

Women in Tech

There’s a thought-provoking piece over at DevChix entitled » Let’s All Evolve Past This: The Barriers Women Face in Tech Communities. ((Hat tip to Tim.)) I strongly support these ideas, and I detest the hate-filled speech that passes for “robust open discussion” in many testosterone-fuelled online forums. And for those in denial about the level of misogyny, think again: ((My emphasis.))

When it was illegal for women to publish writing during various times in history throughout various countries, women published their work under male pseudonyms. Today, many tech women still use male pseudonyms when posting to lists or publishing tech articles. The reasons are to have their work read without bias, and to avoid misogynistic ‘hyper-scrutiny’ of their work. I have experimented with this myself using a male pseudonym to post articles, and being told that the articles are informative, useful, great. Six months later I republish the exact same article, using a different title and a female pseudonym, and suddenly the article is horrible, technically incorrect, useless. It’s a fascinating study. I would love to see some prominent male techs publish under female pseudonyms, and watch the responses.

"Papers for Nothing"

Check out the nice parody of Dire Straits: Papers for Nothing:

If you are a physicist, or someone who hangs out with them, like a physics groupy, you might be interested. If so, please keep in mind that it’s meant to amuse. I don’t really feel that string theorists get a free ride. Well, not entirely anyway 🙂

Just 6 books

AC Grayling in CiF:

The magazine Publishers Weekly reported earlier this year that the member publishing houses of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association between them produced 13,400 new titles in the two years 2005-6 alone. This is just one segment of the religious publishing industry in just one wing of one of the world religions…
Yet a mere half dozen anti-religious tomes have stirred up all the hornets in their nests, have offended and outraged the devout… To me this suggests a profound insecurity among the religious.

Part insecurity, part role-playing. The idea of Christians as a besieged minority, suffering for their faith, is at least 1700 years old, and many of them cling to it even when it’s clearly absurd.

Congratulations Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton at the Canadian Grand Prix: first pole, first victory, total command of the race! Wonderful.
But what a bizarre race. Crashes, black-flagging, crashes, pit errors, crashes. Raikkonen and Alonso duking it out – that’s not unexpected, but they were fighting over 10th place! Alonso was completely out of form, making mistake after mistake and finally being beaten in a fair fight by Takuma Sato. There were four safety cars. Behind Hamilton, Heidfeld and Wurz came in second and third. And Kovalainen, after a horrendous practice and qualifying during which he wrecked the car, blew an engine, and then wrecked the car again, came through from dead last to finish fourth. Of the 22 starters, 8 retired and 2 were disqualified.
The biggest crash of the day was Robert Kubica‘s frightening 180 MPH barrel-roll, and the medical team seemed to take an age to get him out of his shattered car. However they took him to hospital in Montreal and (at this point) he seems to be awake and in stable condition with a broken leg.
As for Hamilton, in his first six Grands Prix he has finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 1st. Simply amazing.
UPDATE: As The English Guy points out, the frequent safety car periods mean that Hamilton’s final margin of victory (4.3 seconds) doesn’t reflect the extent of his domination. In addition, the new (U.S. style) safety car rules allow lapped traffic to overtake the safety car and rejoin at the back of the “train”. Without this, Hamilton would certainly have lapped most of the field – perhaps all of it.

"No, I suppose not."

I’m re-reading Ludovic Kennedy‘s book All In The Mind: A Farewell to God. Many of the childhood experiences that Kennedy writes about in the first chapter remind me of my own formative years. For example:

Another puzzlement was the assertion in sermon after sermon that Jesus had died for our sins. Although my mother had proved something of a broken reed in my previous enquiries, I decided to tackle her again. For whose sins, I asked? She looked pole-axed. “Well,” she said after a long pause, “everybody’s, I suppose.” I said, “Yours and mine?” and my mother said, “Well, yes,” so I then said, “What would you say yours were?” She gave a little embarrassed laugh, a pause for thought and then with an air of triumph said, “As you know, I’m very unpunctual.” I said, “That’s hardly a sin,” but my mother insisted it was. “You see, it’s being very inconsiderate of other people, making them wonder if you’re coming or not.” I said, “Hardly something Christ died for?” She looked deflated. “No,” she had to agree, “I suppose not.” And as she presumably had no major sins in her locker like defrauding the railways or grievous bodily harm, and wasn’t going to admit to any other minor ones, that was really that.

I had a similar conversation, though not with my mother, and I remember that it all seemed rather silly. Soon afterwards I learned the official explanation, the “original sin” nonsense concocted by Ambrose, Augustine et al. That idea wasn’t just silly, it was offensive. This happened while I was growing up in England, just 12 years after the end of the Second World War. Anti-German sentiment was still a staple of English culture, ((perhaps it still is)) and I remember that a German boy came to our school one day. Our teachers emphasized that we were to treat him politely, because it would be unfair not to: children aren’t responsible for the actions of their parents. I agreed – it was “obviously” a matter of natural justice.
A few years later I would cite this issue of the fundamental injustice of the core of Catholic dogma during my farewell conversation with my parish priest. And like Ludovic Kennedy’s mother, his relectant response was embarrassment. “No, I suppose not.”

The abhorrent misogyny of Saudi Arabia

Megan Stack looks back on being a woman reporter in Saudi Arabia:

One afternoon, a candidate invited me to meet his daughter. She spoke fluent English and was not much younger than me. I cannot remember whether she was wearing hijab, the Islamic head scarf, inside her home, but I have a memory of pink. I asked her about the elections.
“Very good,” she said.
So you really think so, I said gently, even though you can’t vote?
“Of course,” she said. “Why do I need to vote?”
Her father chimed in. He urged her, speaking English for my benefit, to speak candidly. But she insisted: What good was voting? She looked at me as if she felt sorry for me, a woman cast adrift on the rough seas of the world, no male protector in sight.
“Maybe you don’t want to vote,” I said. “But wouldn’t you like to make that choice yourself?”
“I don’t need to,” she said calmly, blinking slowly and deliberately. “If I have a father or a husband, why do I need to vote? Why should I need to work? They will take care of everything.”

When people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens cite this kind of thing as an example of the evils of religion, a common response ((can’t find a good cite now – sorry)) is that it’s not religion, it’s just culture; the Saudi tribespeople were patriarchal long before Islam, and women have always been treated as chattels in that part of he world. But religion is the main reason why cultures fail to adapt, to evolve. Religions tend to divide the world into black and white, good and evil, “sacred” and “profane”, “kosher” and “non-kosher”, “halal” and “haram”. It also treats the “sacred” stuff as an inseparable whole: to challenge any part is to attack the whole. (Thus the wish of two lesbians in Vermont to celebrate their relationship becomes an attack on all families, undermines the moral fabric of the nation, and – Falwell, Robertson et al – is a root cause of the 9/11 attacks.)
This is why religion is so poisonous to the civic order: it stands foursquare against compromise, adaption, and personal choice. Saudi Arabia is just the most outrageous example.