undyingking: (Default)
I had a very early start to today, so need to restore some sanity by closing a few tabs on things that have interested me lately.
  • Million Dollar Babies -- art made by collaging cut-up dollar bills. But much better than that description sounds -- you can click through the several pieces using the discreet Next button.
    "I love all the process. For some of the collages we track how many scraps of paper are glued down. I see that sort of accounting as an interesting extension of the material. When “Liberty” is complete, for example, we’ll be able give statistics on each of her 13 panels individually, and also say that the whole thing took 1234 bills cut into 54,234 pieces, or whatever, and here’s all the scraps we didn’t use."
  • Pokemon Explained -- a terrific article explaining how the majority of the Pokemon TV show makes more sense if one realizes that Ash's bike crash put him into a coma, and the subsequent episodes are a dream. Sadly I suspect this will mean anything only to about one person reading my LJ -- but it really is a work of warped genius, believe me.
    "It also explains how a child can go off on his own into a world full of dangerous and untamed animals, and why town has the same police officer and every Pokemon centre has the exact same nurse. Joy and Jenny he knew from his hometown, and they act as a safety net or anchor, allowing him to feel safe no matter where he goes. Joy and Jenny represent stability. The professors represent Ash’s ideals, which is why Gary became a professor. The fantasy also explains why every time he enters a new region, virtually no one has heard of him, despite his conquests."
  • Bible Diagrams is another work of genius, although slightly more mainstream. It's a collection of diagrams showing a wide assortment of data from the Bible. Here's one about the chronology of the books of the Old Testament, for example. The best thing is puzzling out, for each new diagram, what on earth the symbol convention is. More by the same author on other subjects, such as Star Wars.
    "Author's note: It is a major challenge to present material that does not offend one group or another. Not only is there the division between the traditionalist and non-traditionalist, but among the historians there are competing viewpoints as to the dating or historicity of events. This website tries to include as many perspectives as possible so that they can be compared with each other; no viewpoint should be considered to be preferred in the diagrams."
  • The League of Movable Type -- at the moment web fonts aren't supported in any significant way, but who knows what the future may bring. Flaminia is quite interesting in its own right as a basis for sign-reading experiments.
    "We're not asking type designers and type foundries to sacrifice profit, we're asking them to contribute to a greater cause, to create a community where we not only have a high design standard for print and web alike, but also a community where we're able to share our creations, knowledge, and expertise with our peers and the world."
  • OECD Regional Statistics -- a terrific resource for charting various social and economic indicators across the OECD countries, at a large or small regional level. OK, maybe I'm one of only about ten people in the world who would be excited by this... I could easily waste hours on this site.
    "Regions in OECD countries are classified on two territorial levels to facilitate greater comparability of regions at the same territorial level. The lower level (TL3) consists of 1 681 small regions. All the regions are defined within national borders and in most of the cases correspond to administrative regions."
undyingking: (Default)
From Snowmail:
... we have the only interview with Richard Dawkins, the man who thumps God the way some people thump their Bibles, on the week that he leaves his job as Oxford's Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. He confides in us his new ambition, to write children's' books, and make rationality as attractive to kids as the sorcery of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman.
Yes... not sure "Fun with Denying Divinity" is really going to catch on Potter-style, but good luck to him I suppose.

I guess Pullman's position of "nothing wrong with the religious impulse, I just hate organized religion" is sufficiently wishy-washy to be tantamount to kissing the Pope's ring, in Dawkins's eyes.
undyingking: (Default)
Would you like some delicious tasty vinegar in your beer? Don't knock it until you've tried it! Interesting experiment. The first result -- people liked the blind taste more than the idea -- is not surprising these days, we know people are prejudiced against such bizarre-sounding concepts. And the second result, that people liked the taste less if they knew vinegar was going to be in it, is only mildly surprising. But the third, that people still preferred it if they were told afterwards that vinegar was in it, I found remarkable. As the abstract puts it (my italics), "Disclosure of the secret ingredient significantly reduced preference only when the disclosure preceded tasting, suggesting that disclosure affected preferences by influencing the experience itself, rather than by acting as an independent negative input or by modifying retrospective interpretation of the experience."

Birmingham atheists and Wiccans under the council's cosh -- what I find surprising here is that the "system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions". Why? Is this a common exception at workplaces that generally ban leisure Web use? If so, then clearly religious websites are the places to site your games. Surely it can't be that so many of the Council staff have work that involves religious sensitivity etc, they found it easier to make a blanket allowance?

Thomas Doyle makes what are basically snowglobes without (usually) the snow, but each depicts an enigmatic scene. Somehow one gets drawn into speculating who these people are, what they're doing here, etc. It's not obvious to me why I find these so appealing, which is a good sign in itself.

Farah Mendlesohn wrote this interesting essay about the Out of this World series of anthologies. These were pretty much my introduction to "proper" SF -- I read them out of the library, around the age of 11 -- for which I count myself rather lucky. She expresses very well what made them remarkable. I have to admit that at the time I didn't know quite what to make of the stories by Calvino etc that were included alongside the genre greats and Eastern European obscurities, but they all helped form me as an SF reader and gave me the important sense of the artificality of genre boundaries. I now want to track down the books, because there are a number of stoies mentioned here that I haven't seen since but remember loving.
undyingking: (Default)
A few things that have caught my eye just lately:
  • PMOG, The Passively Multiplayer Online Game -- mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] killalla, basically a way of making ar$ing around on the Web more fun. Needs Firefox. See also [livejournal.com profile] pmog.
  • What does atheism mean to you? Interesting finding from the Pew Foundation that an impressive 15% of US atheists are either absolutely or fairly certain that there is a God. (As are a mighty 40% of agnostics.)
  • Nice little film of a mechanical escalator device. I just think this is a really ingenious design.
  • Labrador have released their free 2008 Summer Sampler, to which I can't find a link on their site, but here's a direct link to the zip itself. "A summerish mix of recent favourites from The Sound of Arrows, The Radio Dept. and Club 8, lost classics from Acid House Kings, Caroline Soul and Chasing Dorotea and sun packed songs by [ingenting] and lots more." Many of the 30 songs will already be familiar if you know Labrador stuff, but if not then you really should.
  • Typetester is a neat little online utility that allows you easily to compare your chosen sample text in a variety of fonts, spacings, colours, weights etc. I anticipate using this a lot.
  • Relatedly, see your chosen text as smoke, droplets, lovehearts, fireworks etc, here. Pretty!
  • This looks like a good recipe for elderflower cordial, which now is the time to make. Anyone tried doing so?
  • Does reading Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books make you feel as gelidly preterite as a carious scoria? It does me, but this useful page helps make sense of it all.
  • Conservapedia has posted this email exchange with evolutionary microbiologist Professor Robert Lenski (longish, but worth reading). Good example of how a scientist can comprehensively demolish an idiotic opponent. I can only guess that one of the other Conservapedia editors hates Schlafly.
That'll probably do for now!
undyingking: (Default)
I heard about this  (also known as "The Jefferson Bible") some while ago, but finally got to seeking out a text of it. It's a project of Thomas Jefferson's, to strip out of Christianity what he saw as the superstition, rumour and irrelevant gubbins. He goes through the Gospels and extracts what he considers to be the plausible facts of the life and accounts of the teachings of Jesus, arranges them in a sensible order, and thus generates what he considers a useful work of moral precept. So there's no resurrection, no miracles, no prophecy, no genealogy and that sort of stuff.

Jefferson says of it "A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." We would describe his religion as Christian deism, although I don't know if he did so himself.

His biographer Merrill Peterson summarized this belief as: "First, that the Christianity of the churches was unreasonable, therefore unbelievable, but that stripped of priestly mystery, ritual, and dogma, reinterpreted in the light of historical evidence and human experience, and substituting the Newtonian cosmology for the discredited Biblical one, Christianity could be conformed to reason. Second, morality required no divine sanction or inspiration, no appeal beyond reason and nature, perhaps not even the hope of heaven or the fear of hell; and so the whole edifice of Christian revelation came tumbling to the ground."

Of course plenty of people at the time said that you weren't be a real Christian if you rejected the various supernatural doctrines -- among them, his opponents in the US Presidential election. But back then, voters presumably weren't significantly put off by that, as he won (eventually).


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March 2012

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