Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Wisdom of Clouds

"At last! My arm! It is complete... again!"
-- Sweeny Todd

A week ago last Sunday, my home computer, uh... well... the most accurate term is, "Shit the bed." More technically, the motherboard shit the bed. [Insert standard 15 minute rant about how losing a computer sucks; how Time Warner sucks because they don't support Vista; how Vista sucks; how technicians suck; how it sucks that it takes so long to restore everything (or anything) onto a new machine; etc.] Actually, compared to other new builds I've done, this one wasn't too bad. Only 9 trips to the computer stores to get all the pieces-parts a'working.

The good news is, the new rig kicks righteous ass. I loaded on some games that ran, on my old box, at the lowest levels and, even then pitifully. On the new machine... mmmm.... meaty. And I finally, 10 minutes ago, got Adobe CS2  and my Wacom drawing tablet running. Thus, the quote from Sweeny Todd.

So... what's up with the post title? Well, cloud computing is all about doing stuff at the network level. You know... keeping things on the Web instead of on your local box. I'd recently switched to Gmail, Google Reader and Google Bookmarks, and the death of my old machine made me very glad that I had. All my email, contacts, bookmarks, RSS feeds and even a bunch of documents that I had in Google Docs were untouched by my troubles with hardware. I could still get to the stuff from my wife's machine, my work machine and even (in many cases) my mobile phone/pc thing.

When I did finally get the new computer up and running, about a half of the software (by number of installs, not volume) was stuff that I could download for free (open source) or re-download (purchased) from the Web. Many new drivers came to me from the friendly Intertubes, too.

So... much of my home computing experience now relies on "The Clouds." I suspect this will continue. I'm OK with that.

When I talked to a friend about switching my email to Gmail, he wondered aloud to me if I was wise to trust Google with my data more than myself.

"Yes," I replied. "Oh, yes. The odds of Google knocking over the 'thing' that holds my data while rummaging under the desk for Legos are small. The odds of Google frying their mother boards are small. The chances that a powersurge will take out all their backups are small.

"I, on the other hand, am an idiot."

It's not that I trust Google a whole heckuva lot. It's just that I know how clumsy I am.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Crayon Physics Deluxe

This looks awesome.


Friday, December 14, 2007

A different BORING gift

Tired of giving gifts where there's nothing left but the gift after the ripping and tearing and surprise are done? Well, give somebody a gift this year that says, "Hey! You're a creative person! You finish this up."

BORED limited edition sketchbooks are the brainchild of the enormously creative and pleasantly bizarre Gabe Schulz, whom I've known since we were Sopwith Camel pilots together in the Great War.*

These are very cool sketchbooks and will generate inspiration in the recipient on the order of a 6-week, no-expense-paid trip to Belize. Drawing or writing in them is like being in a jungle of creativity, surrounded by vines of... er... musing goodness and geckos of... well... helpful things.

Apparently someone should give me one this year, as my "odd metaphor gland" seems to be dry.

Go! Now! Buy a whole set! Two!!! One for you, one for the person you know whose great opus has yet to be birthed.

- - - - -

*By "Sopwith Camel pilots," I mean, of course "lazy, TV-watching, X-Box playing yayhoos," and by "Great War" I mean, of course, the mid 1990's.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My Team, Your Team variant: Mr. Snowman

Another variation on "My Team, Your Team" has been pointed out by a reader; a game where teams of creations alternately attack and defend a snowman with their various powers. Neat, neat, neat idea! Thanks for sharing, Kirk.

It makes me start to wonder (casually at this point... should give it some rigorous wondering later) what other variations might be possible/fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Atheist porn

A friend of mine (Hi, Bill!) sent me a link to a story at The New Republic called, "Atheism's Wrong Turn." It's a decent article, and I recommend reading the whole thing. The basic point is that the crop of current, media-ready atheists -- Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens -- aren't liberal atheists who push for a system that respects beliefs, but illiberal, evangelical atheists who want to eradicate God from public discourse.

The author, Damon Linker, sees this as a problem for liberal humanists, as the tendency for deists might be to paint liberal churchgoers with some of the paint spatterings of illiberal atheists, since there is some overlap between "separation of church and state," and "separation of church and reality."

I agree, to an extent. I think most of my Christian friends can pretty easily separate out the religious views of angry atheists from the political views of liberal believers, such as myself. The fact that I am not a fundamentalist and Christopher Hitchens is not a fundamentalist shouldn't really confuse any but the most cross-eyed of conservative believers.

What is more interesting to me is the phenomenal sales records of the atheist, anti-God tomes that these four have authored (see below). The percentage of people who say they do not believe in God in this country is quite small. According to a Wikipedia article that quotes the 2001 "American Religious Identification Survey," about 15% of Americans identified themselves in 2001 as "agnostic/atheist/no religion," s up from 8.4% in 1991.

What motivates someone to buy a book that argues, quite strongly, against a belief in God? Not against a particular religious belief, or for a type of practice... but argues that God just doesn't exist? If you are already an atheist, it is, I would think, a waste of time. If you aren't an atheist, as I assume many of their readers are not, why buy such a book?

I think it's a kind of spiritual/religious porn. That's what I think.

Not porn in the sense that it's bad/wrong/nasty to argue against a belief in God. As a liberal Christian, I'm all for a society where your disbelief in God is as respected as my belief. So there's nothing *wrong* with these books, per se. I've read some of Christopher Hitchen's work and he's quite brilliant at times as well as entertaining.

No... I mean that, I think, the impetus for many believers who read these books is one of religious prurience. It feels naughty to buy and read a nicely bound, well authored book that argues vehemently against the very existence of a being to whom you are bound as a servant and worshiper. It's shocking. It's (maybe) a little creepy. It's exciting. And you're pretty sure you shouldn't be doing it. You know... porn.

I think it's a great idea for believers -- of any faith -- to be familiar with these works, or at least the major arguments from them. And you should do so as if seeing a naked body in a medical film, as opposed to watching hard-core scrunt. It may be interesting and compelling in some similar ways, but it has education at its heart, rather than titillation.

If you can't read well-reasoned arguments against your faith and come up with good rebuttals, you need to question your faith. I don't mean "question" in the sense of "doubt," but you need to ask questions, and get answers, to help you understand the issues at stake.

A good friend of mine and I (same guy, "Hi, again, Bill!") once came to the conclusion, during a long religious discussion, that core religious beliefs must not require high levels of brain power or rigorous intellectual scrutiny. Why? Because then God would be prejudiced in favor of the smart. I believe one statement to come out of that discussion was, "God would not require that we reason our way into Heaven."

Many (if not most or all) arguments for atheism boil down to a belief (yes, atheism is a belief) that (some) intellectual arguments are more valid than (supposedly) emotional arguments for faith. And while reason can certainly be applied to aspects of faith, in the end... the word "faith" itself is the qualifier. If it made complete, abject, logical sense... it would be science, wouldn't it.

So have a go at one of the atheist manifestos, if you like. Take a peek behind the curtain at some rigorous, impassioned arguing. It may feel like porn, but it's more like a trip to the doctor; it's good to shine a light into some dark places in order to understand what that pain is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Comments come alive vids (NSFW)

If you've never been active on a bulletin board (especially one related to games), you will find these to be random, silly, obnoxious, foul and pointless. If you have been active on a board, you will find them random, silly, obnoxious, foul, hysterical and on-the-money.

Many, many kudos for the first (that I'm aware of) anthropomorphizing of a captcha.

Internet Commenter Business Meeting

The sequel

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Random cow video

This makes me glad.