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Tweets

The week's twitterings – 2011-01-30

  • Early to bed (10:30PM); I've got a limo coming for me tomorrow morning at 3:25AM. First Boston, then on Thursday I fly to Bangalore. #
  • Waiting in the LH lounge to board my BOS-FRA flight. I'll have a couple of hours in FRA, then on to BLR, arriving in the middle of the night #
  • “@GeorgeReese: @vambenepe SOAP must die.” < Big +1 to that! #
  • “@longword: hmm, wooden stake, garlic, or silver bullet? <Not silver bullet – try searching for "lifecycle silver bullet". Great paper! #
  • “@GeorgeReese: I guess I did just advocate violence against SOAP.” < Actually well-informed indifference is doing the job pretty well! #
  • At the LH Lounge in Frankfurt for 6 hour layover. (@united PremEx = Star Alliance Gold). Good food&drink… but WiFi is 8 Euros for an hour! #
  • Uneventful flight from FRA to BLR on LH, in a antiquated 747-400 with overhead TVs and no personal IFE. Only @United and LH, I guess… #
  • Anyone know of a Firefox plugin to facilitate the creation of a "tab sweep" blog post? Build a page of linked tab titles, ready for editing? #
  • Got to Bangalore hotel at 3am, slept until 9, intending to have breakfast. It's now 11:50am, so I guess I'll call it lunch. #fightingjetlag #

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Tweets

The week's twitterings – 2011-01-23

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Atheism

What makes you feel good is not necessarily effective

A code to yesterday’s piece: Some of the Christian bloggers asserted that “What is needed in the face of all this is a more assertive proclamation of the value of our faith than many Episcopalians, especially clergy are comfortable giving.” To this, I would point to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and in particular:

It is not clear that arguments against atheism that appeal to faith have any prescriptive force the way appeals to evidence do. The general evidentialist view is that when a person grasps that an argument is sound that imposes an epistemic obligation on her to accept the conclusion. Insofar as having faith that a claim is true amounts to believing contrary to or despite a lack of evidence, one person’s faith that God exists does not have this sort of inter-subjective, epistemological implication. Failing to believe what is clearly supported by the evidence is ordinarily irrational. Failure to have faith that some claim is true is not similarly culpable.

So while it may make you feel better, it’s unclear that such proclamations will actually make a dent in secularism…..
Tip o’the hat to John Loftus.

Categories
Atheism

The fear of irrelevancy

After reading a few Christian blog and Facebook pieces today, I just had to vent. Please excuse.
Please forgive this atheist if he finds it hard to take US Christians seriously when they talk about experiencing “hostility” and worry about possible irrelevance. Christianity remains the dominant culture of the USA, even if its adherents are better at talking the talk than walking the walk. As we saw in Tucson, the president of the country is comfortable using language which completely excludes non-believers, and many other national leaders are unhesitant in describing the US as a Christian country.
Even though 6% of the country may describe themselves as atheist, how many of our representatives do so? Not only could an atheist not be elected to the Presidency; even the deist Thomas Jefferson would be unelectable today.
So when a (very few) atheists voice the kind of sentiment that Christians have been dishing out for years, it seems disproportionate for Christians to complain. OK, vilification of atheists rarely comes from the Anglicans or the Methodists, but why should atheists have to sort out the distinctions between the many different groups that all describe themselves as Christian?
It seems to me that the problems faced by religious moderates have little do do with atheists. There have always been atheists and agnostics in the US, and if they are more visible today it is because modern communications technology is giving them a voice and a community. Secularism may provide a convenient windmill at which to tilt, but in the long term fighting that battle seems futile. Surely TEC and CofE should be trying to figure out how to reach those who are inclined to belief, including other Christians. If you’re trying to sell more wine, your new customers are probably going to be beer-drinkers – not teetotalers.
PS Please drop the term “militant atheist“. In matters of religion, militancy is what we’re seeing in Nigeria or Pakistan today. Publishing a book is not an act of militancy.

Categories
Tweets

The week's twitterings – 2011-01-16

  • The new British Library iPad app is just gorgeous. Magnificent. Exquisite. Check out the illuminated manuscripts… #
  • “@amandapalmer: I just wrote the stupidest. Song. Ever.” < Whoa! Stiff competition in that category! #
  • “@AMaskedAvenger: Something wonderful will happen today!”< Something wonderful happens EVERY day. Also something crappy. #itsabigworld #
  • Really puzzled about all the recent LinkedIn and Facebook invitations from people who work at Sun Microsystems. Didn't they get the memo? #
  • “@russnelson: it's also going to have to decide when NOT to pay for your health care” <And for-profit lowest-bid insurance companies don't? #
  • "Today has been set aside to honor the victims of the Tucson massacre. And Sarah Palin has apparently decided she's one of them," – TPM #
  • Setting up a new cert for my zone. The openssl CSR generation dialog sucks – or at least GoDaddy dislikes the result. #
  • Anyone referring to the BALANCE of violent rhetoric is simply disingenuous. There is no balance. http://t.co/wonDo40 via @NewYorker #
  • Forceful+erudite refutation of the idea that the cobbled-together Nativity story has any historical basis whatsoever. http://t.co/SfnQl8s #
  • Correlation is not causation, but pleading pure coincidence would be absurd. http://t.co/S49HMwS via @Telegraph #
  • “@russnelson: .@geoffarnold and video games cause violence, too. Wait, there's no proof for THAT either, is there?” < That's an argument?! #

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Tweets

The week's twitterings – 2011-01-09

  • Just watched Chelsea v Aston Villa. As the commentator said, this is the kind of game that captures just why we watch the Premier League… #
  • Brilliant piece in the Atlantic by Garrett Epps on the constitutional aspects of Health Care Reform suits http://t.co/Fx0GqnY via @AddThis #
  • OK, I'm no longer a CA earthquake virgin. That M4.1 (13 miles ESE of San Jose) at 4:10pm was a nice shakeup. #

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Aviation

Slicing off probocis to spite visage (AA style)

I’m starting to pull together plans for a business trip. The idea is that I’ll go to the Boston area for a meeting, fly on a couple of days later to Bangalore, then back home to San Francisco. A typical multi-city trip, reminiscent of my days at Sun. Naturally, I begin by visiting the travel sites: Yahoo Travel (powered in part by Expedia) and Orbitz. History suggests that the best schedule will probably involve multiple carriers….
But there’s a problem: each site offers only a few choices. After a moment, I realize that I’m not seeing anything from American Airlines (and precious little from their oneWorld partners). AA has decided not to play ball with the Internet travel sites, and they’ve reciprocated.
Fine: let me try the American website. This is a disaster. (Somebody teach AA about user interface design, quick!) How about their partners in crime, British Airways? That’s even worse: do they really expect me to do SFO-BOS via LHR?!
American may think that it makes sense to try to pull travellers from the aggregator sites to their own website, but doing this means giving up on the multiple city, multiple carrier market. I always though that this was one of the most profitable segments in the airline business. Maybe there are too few of us for American to worry about, but alienating business customers seems monumentally stupid.

Categories
Atheism

Acting on one's beliefs

Over at CommonSenseAtheism, Luke just posted the following question:

Imagine you have a blue pill and a red pill, and you must swallow one of them right now and not the other.
If you take the red pill, you will die immediately. If there is an afterlife, all your sins will be pardoned and you will spend eternity there. If there isn’t an afterlife, you will just be dead.
If you take the blue pill, you will live a long, happy, and fulfilling life on Earth. You won’t die early of illness or injury. You will be an asset to society. But if there is an afterlife, you will not partake in it when you die. When you die you will cease to exist, even if there is an afterlife for everyone else.
Which pill will you choose?

Yes, I know that it’s contrived. And yes, believers will reject it in various ways; one approach is to argue that only a deity could implement this, and their deity would never do so. And one can also view this as a kind of “reverse Pascal’s Wager”, and reasonable people agree that the Wager is a crock.
But I still think it’s a usefully provocative thought-experiment. Obviously non-believers will all take the blue pill, but how about the rest of you?

Categories
Tweets

The week's twitterings – 2011-01-02

  • Good grief! England bowls out Aussies for 98, finishes day 1 of the Melbourne test on 157-0! #australiancollapse #ashes looking safe #
  • Pedophile priests, emergency hospital care: will the Catholic Church ever accept that it is subject to the law? http://nyti.ms/e35P2C #
  • Went to see "The KIng's Speech" this afternoon. Wonderful movie! Off to Carmel/Monterey tomorrow for a couple of days. #
  • Book of the moment: Sarah Bakewell's "How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer" #
  • Just test drove a Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8. Remember RWD? Wow! Tomorrow I'll try the 2.0T; see if the extra 96 BHP is worth the money. #
  • I just got a $5 credit for movies and TV shows @amazonvideo. Click http://amzn.to/hh8gTP to get yours. #get5 #
  • Just finished a wonderful book: "The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England" by Ian Mortimer. Great perspective on 14th century England. #
  • Day 2 of car shopping: test drive Genesis Coupe 2.0T. Then compare with 3.8. Last day of the year: should be a good time to make a deal! #

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Delight

New year, new car

For me, driving is a question of balance. Over the last 30 years, I’ve owned many cars (that’s the subject of another post), and I’ve tried to balance the practical and the playful, the economic and the expressive. At one point I tried to cover the bases by having two cars: a sensible one (for commuting, shopping, passenger-hauling) and a toy (for scooting around with the top down and the wind in my hair). Alas, such an approach doesn’t work well in New England except in summer. In my final Boston-area car, I tried to have it both ways, with the Subaru Legacy GT: a practical four-door sedan with excellent power and handling. That was a good car; I hope that my son Chris is still enjoying it.
When I moved to Seattle, I was living in the city, and I didn’t need a car. A ZipCar membership (or was it Flexcar then?) meant that I could use whatever kind of car I wanted when I really needed one, from a Mini to an SUV. That was neat. But in 2009 I came to California, where a car is essential. The question of balance returned with a vengeance. After looking at a number of cars, I decided to buy a Toyota Prius, as a way of combining geek technology and prudence about “peak oil”.
The Prius served me well. It’s a good, efficient, economical car. But it has to be said: it isn’t fun to drive. Acceleration, handling, stability (especially on poor pavement in the rain): it always felt “just enough”, with no reserves. A week ago, we were in Monterey for a short break, and I drove up Carmel Valley Road and then across the Laureles Grade to Laguna Seca. That’s always been one of my favourite drives, but when I lived in Massachusetts I could only experience it in rental cars. (Unfulfilled dream: I always wanted to take the Miata across the Grade.) Alas, the Prius couldn’t really do justice to the swooping, twisting road. It wasn’t fun.
Genesis Coupe after pickupAnd so yesterday I drove up to Burlingame and bought a new car: a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I test-drove the 3.8 V6 and the 2.0 I4 Turbo; both were really nice, but the equipment level on the (Grand Touring) 3.8 was outstanding, so that’s what I bought. It’s the first rear-wheel drive car I’ve owned since the Miata, and it really feels like an outstanding value.
Is it fun? Yesterday all I did was to drive it home and read the manuals. (A big manual for the car, a slightly smaller one for the navigation system, and quick reference guides for both of them!) Today was grey and wet, with low clouds and drizzle: not the ideal conditions for cruising in a sports coupe. But what the hell… let’s see what it can do. So we drove down to Santa Cruz, including the challenging twists of Highway 17. (We didn’t see much of the scenery, because we were in the clouds most of the time.) Then up Route 1 along the coast to Half Moon Bay, stopping briefly at Pigeon Point to see if there were any whales inshore. (There weren’t.) Lunch at Cameron’s (the pub with the two English buses outside), then home on I-280. Traffic on 17 was moderate, and everybody was cautious because of the mist and the every-present Highway Patrol. By contrast, route 1 was wide open, and I was able to cruise at a steady 65. And yes: the Genesis Coupe is fun. Plenty of power, precise steering, excellent suspension, and a decent 6-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters and a limited slip differential). And comfortable: I really like the driving position. (I’m not sure how Hannah will feel about the vestigial back seat, though…)
The geek factor is also high. When I paired my iPhone, the car sucked in the address book, and I was able to voice-dial entries by name from the address book. I was also able to browse the iTunes tracks on my iPhone using the car stereo UI. The navigation system is very nice; it gets traffic info through Sirius XM, and the UI is excellent. (Recalc is almost instantaneous – in fact a less hasty response might be easier to absorb.)
Why the Genesis Coupe? Well, what other choices are there for a RWD coupe under $30K? The Camaro is really ugly, the Mustang is technically OK but I don’t really like the 40-year old retro styling. (Can we declare “retro-everything” over? Please?) The Dodge Challenger? Sorry, I can’t bring myself to suspend disbelief and buy a Chrysler. That’s it. (Sad but true.) And Motor Trend’s four-way shoot-out is pretty compelling: their verdict on the Genesis Coupe:

The only one that looks and feels like a sports car. Surprise, we liked it best.