Victor Love

Oh, Victor Love.  This man was a joy to talk to, but his videos...exquisite.


little moment of compulsion #2

I have a favorite type of pencil.  It's the Pentel Twist-Erase III with 0.9mm lead, preferably in black.  I don't just like them, I hoard them.  I have eight of them in a box hidden in the house, plus the one I use regularly.  If I lose the one in current use, I'll take out a spare.  If I find the one I've lost, I'll put the spare back.  It's a good system.

N uses these pencils too, except he uses the 0.7mm ones (which I used to use--that's how we got them in the first place).  At one point, he couldn't find any of his and wanted to break into my store.  It's embarrassing in retrospect, but I had an emotional reaction and refused to let him have any.  Even when I eventually conceded, I gave him the one dark blue one that I had.

I've hoarded them since high school.  When we were in California, I found two packs of the 0.9mm version (totaling 4 pencils) unopened in my dresser.  N claimed them as his, and I started fretting about how we were going to tell his pencils apart from my pencils, since each pack had one black and one blue.

In addition to the pencils themselves, I have spare erasers and lead for them that will last until doomsday.  Come the apocalypse, or Pentel's bankruptcy, or the illegalization of mechanical pencils, I'll be prepared.


Faith and Apologetics

The Story of Vedanta, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Once in a tree there were two birds, one at the upper branch, serene, majestic and divine, and the other at a lower branch, restlessly pecking fruits, sometimes sweet sometimes bitter. Every time, when the restless bird ate a bitter fruit, it looked at the upper bird and climbed a branch up. This occurred a number of times and eventually the bird reached the topmost branch. There it was not able to differentiate itself from the divine bird, and then it learned that there was only one bird in the tree, the upper bird, which is described as divine, the real form of the other restless bird.

One thing that I have faith in is that I can be better than I am. I've learned a lot from past mistakes, and it's my hope that I can keep on learning. Thus there is some factual evidence in support of this faith, but not enough to prove it unequivocally to anyone, which is what makes it faith.

I feel that apologetics often gets a bad reputation, claiming that it's missing the point of faith or that it's focusing on the wrong things. But I wonder, is it possible to have faith without being apologist in some way? I don't think so.

My breed of apologetics tends to be inclined toward defending faith (and religion) as a mechanism for personal change and as a lens for understanding the world.  While traditional apologetics focuses on more physical and historical truths, how is this side of apologetics much different?  It's still defending faith with reason.

We're mostly rational creatures.  Even though faith is supposed to be belief that is not based on proof, individuals still cite spiritual experiences as the reason for belief.  I had this feeling at this time, thus this belief must be correct.  Isn't that the basis of faith for most believers?  I live this way and I appear to be blessed.  Is this not the evidence, or "proof" that believers show themselves?

My question is: what role should faith and religion play in a society and for an individual?  Teaching morality requires instilling faith in a system of rules, be it secular or religious.  Likewise, coping with death and sorrow, and achieving other kinds of healing (e.g., getting over one's own mistakes or being wronged) requires faith.  But all of these examples can be achieved without religion.  Is the biggest distinction between religion and faith organization?  Does that make religion just mass perpetuation of culture?  I think to some extent yes, but there are lots of advantages to having an organized, unified community, which religion tends to provide.

I think it's interesting to note that teaching religion requires apologetics, because you can't teach without justification and reason.


Gumboots and Ensemble ACJW

N and I had the chance last week to see Ensemble ACJW.  One of the pieces they performed was Gumboots by David Bruce (embedded below), which floored both of us.  I had never seen a bass clarinet before, and N declared it "the most awesome instrument."  We also had the chance to see one of the violinists' strings break, with a graceful recovery; the cellist said, "There are times to break a string.  This was not one of them."  It just meant we got to hear the movement over again: "There's no way to start in the middle of that movement.  For those of you who couldn't wait for it to be over, oh well."  The whole performance was fantastic.



I just finished my last class for the semester.  Whoooew.  After three years off school, it hit hard.  I'll still be doing a bit of research for the next little bit, but I'm also going to plan my garden, take a trip to Boston, clean the house, read like mad, paint, name it.  This here brain is tired.  Speaking of which, a nap is in order; my sleep deficit is high.



The semester is ending, and I've been working too much.  I took a problem set home over Christmas, worked on projects on the airplane, and have been buried since we returned (just before the new year).  I don't mind the occasional day or two of stress, but several weeks in a row is painful.

Right now feels like a winter dawn--the sky is starting to brighten almost imperceptibly, but it's going to be freaking cold for a long while before the sun actually gets here.


ces booth babes

Women and "booth babes" at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2012: this features a few options on using women as advertisement.  I was shocked that the women legitimately in the field weren't more upset by it.  I would have given them a few stinging quotes for the record.

Some highlights I transcribed...

CEA CEO: "Sometimes it is a little old school, but it does work.  People are naturally want to go to what they consider pretty.  So your effort to try and get a story based on booth babes which is decreasing rather rapidly in [?]industry and say that somehow sexism and balancing[?], it's cute but it's frankly irrelevant in my view."  A) A man with a talent for speaking, to be sure.  B) Irrelevant?  What a jerk.  I mean, to tell a reporter that their story isn't worth telling is mean all by itself, but things like this are important.  This IS sexism.

Models 1&2: "Specifically for CES, I don't think that having hired models working at a booth deters women because it's not like a car show or something where you would dress really scantily clad" [cuts to booth babe with 6 inches of bare midriff] "We're still, you know, in business attire..." [cuts to woman in pictured above] "...pretty much covered up and I don't think it's so over-the-top that women feel like they can't approach us, either.  It's not extremely obvious that we're hired models..." [cuts to woman in mock shower in essentially a towel, except with a revealing slit down the whole thing] " it would be at a car show or something like that where there's girls..." [cuts to a pair of girls in yard-wide ostrich feather headpieces] "...laying on the hood of a car."

Models 3&4: "We've worked many different types of shows, a lot of them are technology-type conventions.  There's women that are into it, just I don't know any really *laughs* that choose, you know, the tech world, so to say, over shopping or cooking or something like that...or taking care of kids or whatever."  Wow.

little moment of compulsion #1*

N and I buy plain white printer paper by the box.  We use it for everything from grocery lists to problem sets; I'll spare you the enumeration.  At any given time, we have one ream open at home, sitting on a shelf somewhere.  When N opens a new ream, he rips it open like kid opening a present, which makes me twitch a little because we tend to keep it in the packaging as we use it up.  On the other hand, I open them up like someone's great aunt who is going to re-use the wrapping paper.  I wouldn't blame him if he twitched back.

We finished up a ream this week, and I was the one to need paper first, so I got to open the next one.  Not only did I carefully unstick the glue, I decided that I needed to tuck the flaps back in so that the opening of the packaging was flush with the paper itself; usually we just leave them to stick out.  Tucking them in is so much cleaner.  To do so, you have to separate the overhang into four sections, one for each side.  I almost whipped out a pair of scissors to help me do this, be decided that that would be going too far.

*This obviously wasn't my first compulsive moment of all time, but I felt like has the potential for a series of posts.


fiction or nonfiction?

In looking for something in the recent issue of The Friend, I came across the the article "Fiction or Nonfiction?", all about a little girl's struggle with whether or not the Book of Mormon belonged in the Nonfiction section, which she decided it did.

I'm opposed to the true/false binary for religious texts, and most bookstores and libraries agree with me.  They tend to have their own section, usually somewhere between cookbooks and biographies, saddled alongside opinion books.  Why?  I'm sure that in part they don't want to offend parties that believe that they are "fiction" or "nonfiction," but I also believe that it's because truth isn't so simple.

Take a look at art.  Do we categorize art as true or false?  Not really.  There are photographs and videos, which are "true" and can be used as legal evidence, but they can be edited and altered, and people can act.  Portraits are pretty close to representing reality, and have long been used for genealogical purposes and identifying criminals.  Even still, there is freedom for artistic expression in the representation of truth.  Landscapes and still-lifes fall into the same category--based on reality, but altered somewhat.  What about cubism?  Surrealism?  The pieces are true to the artist's intent, certainly, and that's their purpose.

Now back to writing.  Where does poetry fall?  And are journals fiction or nonfiction?  Every person has a bias in telling their own story.  There are things we don't see or understand from our singleton perspective.  And on top of that, we are natural storytellers, making up reasons for why we feel a certain way, even if a reason is simply created to justify a feeling.  So even if the individuals narrating the Book of Mormon really existed, they were still writing down their perspectives and they wouldn't have been all-knowing.

Religious texts exist on a plane of spirituality, not a plane of history.  Their purpose is to expand the mind, and draw closer to the divine.  The intersect history somewhat, to be sure, as do all things.  And we can project them onto the plane of history and learn from the projection, but in the end, they don't live there.  Things can be good and meaningful on either side of the true/false nonfiction/fiction classification system, but not everything needs to be classified that way in the first place.

It's common for folks at church to say that they know the Book of Mormon is true.  We'll, I don't know that it's true.  I know that it's good and meaningful.   It teaches me about the divine and about humanity.   Joseph Smith has a famous quote, "I told the brethren, that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."  Here, I take "correct" to mean morally correct, not historically, and frankly, I'd rather have the former than the latter.  We can wonder and worry about its origins, tiptoeing around top-hats and seer stones or analyzing native american anthropology, but in the end the real question is: does its narrative help me in my journey to be the person I want to be?