A good man needs some help.

DuWayne Brayton has asked that I help spread the word regarding his recent request for reading materials on how to deal with some problems he’s having with his developmentally difficult children. I’m more than happy to help, given that the majority of the books on his Amazon wish list are ~$10, and he’s been a stalwart ally in issues that I’ve considered important in the past, so this is but reciprocation.

Though money is extremely tight at the moment, we are scraping by. But there is a need, or at least something akin to a need that isn’t being met nearly so well as I would like. That would be books. Specifically, that would be books that are either references that are most useful to have around permanently and activity (mostly science) books that would also be more useful to have permanently. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to borrow books, but there are just some books that would be better to keep around.

Because of Caleb’s (nine year old) emotional issues, coupled with attention deficit problems that are in the range of as extreme as it can get, he is in a educational situation that is more behavior/social functioning focused, than academically focused. He is getting some reading, writing and math, but science and history/social studies are virtually non-existent.

Because of all that, I would like to invite anyone who can afford (mostly) ten bucks or less, to order something for us off my Amazon wishlist for the boys. For the most part they are boys that are directly intended for the boys, with some others that are books on parenting children with the sorts of problems that Caleb has. I am also going to be adding books to help children deal with the loss of a parent. Though I would assume their mother is still alive, she is no longer a part of their lives and I am not sure she will ever be. This has me delving into extremely unfamiliar territory.

I’m sure you know DuWayne from the comment threads around here or over at Greg Laden’s. He’s been struggling to raise his kids alone while trying to get a degree on the side, and he’s been doing, frankly, far better than I imagine I could in the same situation. I’ve gifted him with one of the books on coping, and if you check out the page, you’ll see not only what books he considers a high priority, but what books are already purchased (as they’ll turn to “Add to cart” rather than “Give as a gift”). That way you won’t have to worry about accidentally giving him something he already has.

I don’t like to ask for charity too often — I really try not to make a habit of begging. When I do, though, I try to maximize the good it will do. Given DuWayne’s situation, giving him the gift of information will cost you hardly a thing at $10 per book, and will benefit him and his children immeasurably. If you can, please help him.

“…but he who destroys a good book, kills Reason itself, kills the Image of God.”

Regular reader and local heathen Clifton sent along a link describing the mounting pressure Rev. Terry Jones is facing over his ill-advised “Burn-a-Koran Day”, due to be staged on September 11, 2010.

Jones, who is known for posting signs proclaiming that Islam is the devil’s religion, says the Constitution gives him the right to publicly set fire to the book that Muslims consider the word of God.

Gen. David Petraeus warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.” It was a rare example of a military commander taking a position on a domestic political matter.

Jones responded that he is also concerned but is “wondering, ‘When do we stop?'” He refused to cancel the protest set for Saturday at his Dove World Outreach Center, a church that espouses an anti-Islam philosophy.

“How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?” Jones told the AP. “Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s to time to stand up. Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior.”

Still, Jones said he will pray about his decision.

What do you want to bet that after he prays about his decision, he will come to the conclusion that this is a really good idea? Given that for most people, praying to your deity is just a way of reinforcing your decisions by granting them extra weight (cross-reference self-projection as God), unless he suddenly has a pang of conscience for fanning the flames of this religious crusade, he’ll come to the conclusion that his god is just fine with his plans. It’s a function of the Ouroboros aspect of prayer, as outlined in my Why Prayer is Nonsense series.

Forget the fact that burning books is an execrable practice carried out by cowards who feel threatened by ideas that contradict their own. Let’s say that it’s his constitutional right to burn books. There’s nothing, technically, wrong with burning a book, right? So why not get the bonfire REALLY going? I say, for every single Qu’ran that’s thrown in the pyre, a copy of the Bible (any translation will do, but especially the one Jones believes in!), the Torah, the Upanishad, Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics, and a VHS cassette of Jerry Maguire must needs be thrown in as well. Sound fair?

If Jones says “no way”, you know why. It’s not about getting back at Muslims that he feels hurt his country. It’s, instead, entirely about trying to do violence to one religion in furtherance of another, deepening the chasm between human beings that believe in Christ and human beings that believe in Muhammad. That chasm may have existed for a very long time, practically since Christianity and Islam split, but this entire escapade is about firing another salvo. It’s about subjugating one set of delusions in preference for another. It’s about fanning the flames of an existing physical conflict in which real human beings are dying over whose fan-fiction about Yahweh is better.

And that’s just ass-backward. Live and let live, and let whatever deity might actually exist prove it him/herself.

(Title quote by Winston Churchill.)

Hawking closes a gap

Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest physicist the planet has yet known, has published a new book, The Grand Design. In it Hawking has made his strongest-ever assertion against the theistic worldview, by describing the universe as, by definition, not requiring a deity to create it. This closes another gap within which God could hide.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own, in 1992, that undercut a key idea of Newton’s — that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it’s less remarkable that there’s one with conditions for human life.

And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

From there he introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours — and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.

Therefore, he concludes, there’s no need for God to explain it.

This is the anthropic principle — the only reason we recognize this universe as existing, is because it exists in such a way that intelligent life can form. The “god hypothesis” is unnecessary to explain why we’re here, given the possibility of multiple such universes in multiple dimensions.

Naturally, people are aghast, pulling out all the old fallacies to fight back against this assertion. A quick glance at the comments field on ABC’s coverage and you will notice an argumentum ad populum, references to more popular celebrities than Hawking that believe in Christianity, inversion of the burden of proof, and all sorts of special pleading.

As always, in the CNN article, the faithful get a shout-out and the last word is by an Anglican preacher who claims Hawking is not arguing against the Abrahamic God; never mentioned is the fact that he’s arguing against all gods. It’s funny how the evidence points in one direction, and the faithful get the last word despite having nothing but faith in their particular stories to point in the other.

Reminds me of that one time I argued against the concept of astrology, and astrologers complained that I didn’t argue about their specific methods. Good times, good times.

‘Leaving’

DuWayne Brayton of Traumatized by Truth wrote a poignant piece of short ficton that you need to read. I’ll pullquote the same chunk he did:

The only thing I am afraid of now is that you will assume I didn’t love you with the depth and passion that I have always felt for you. I am terrified that my leaving now means just that. It hurts me. It literally hurts me, my stomach clenched, my mouth dry. It hurts more than the loss of my parents and brother when they cut me out of their lives. You have cared for me and loved me in ways I never imagined possible, and I have always loved you with every little bit of myself. I am afraid that every bit of me is simply not enough.

Go read!

(Okay, it’s not a “book”, but it’s literature. That counts, right?)

‘Her Own Way': A guide to safe travel for teh stoopid wimminz

Warning: I have had wine.

Jason and I picked up some travel booklets today, one of which was called ‘Bon Voyage, But …’ (Essential Information for Canadian travellers.) On page 9 it starts a chapter called ‘Women Travelling Solo’ where it says:

Our booklet entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Guide to Safe and Successful Travel provides information especially for females, including those who travel alone.

So I picked it up too. [Read more…]

An ebook reader I’m actually lusting after

b-and-n-nook-press

After being recently turned off of the Kindle by Amazon’s fast-and-loose copyright policies, I thought I’d have given up on ebook lust entirely. Then along came the Nook, by Barnes and Noble. Two screens, an SD slot, PDF support, LENDING SUPPORT (ye gads! How novel, being able to temporarily give a book to someone else!) that supports both PC and Mac, and built off of Android no less, on top of not being an ass-ugly tablet with a ridiculous user interface, has rekindled (pun intended) my interest. I’d make it a top priority getting Linux support, naturally, but with the device being Android-based to begin with, I don’t know how much work I’d have to put into it, honestly.

There’s a whole lot more on Engadget. The $259 USD price is a wee bit steep at the moment, and I don’t have a lot of occasion to read as during my transits I’m usually in the drivers’ seat and I generally have too much to do at work or at home to read. I still have a mountain of books to slog through, if only I could bring myself to go to bed early enough to get a good hour or two in of reading before sleepy time hits. Maybe an ebook reader might encourage me to do so, as I always have to avoid rustling the pages in order to not annoy the crap out of Jodi who’s usually in bed well before I am.

The only real problem that I can foresee is, the free wifi access is limited to the Barnes and Noble stores, so the idea of using it as a personal Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by coupling Wikipedia and Google Maps becomes much less possible, unfortunately.

Whaddaya think, anyone want to buy me one?

Ever wanted to work out some of reality’s bugs?

I’ve loved Greek, Roman and Norse mythology since I was a child — or at least, for as long as I can recall. I have vague recollections, in fact, of doing research on a word I had heard in an episode of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon: “Ragnarok”. In finding out its etymology, I discovered the whole of Norse mythology. And in studying Norse mythology, I found out a good deal about Greek and Roman mythology as well, which came in handy when playing the Final Fantasy games in order to know a bit more about the big bad monsters you had to fight — the vast majority of them were derived from Greek and Roman mythos. And on top of that, when others were playing Dungeons and Dragons, I was entranced with the world of Shadowrun, where trolls and elves and dwarves and dragons existed in a cyberpunk future world where you bodily hacked into computer Matrixes. I never had enough friends that were actually into RPGs to make use of the sourcebooks I’d picked up, but boy did I love reading them and thinking up campaigns.

Fast forward twenty or so years, and I’m in charge of the technology in my own little corner of my company, and I’ve named all the work servers I have access to, after mythological creatures: Chimera, Minotaur, Cerberus, Pandora, etc. I wanted to name one Jormungandr but people have a hard enough time with the server names I already have, so I figured I shouldn’t push it too far.

So, you know that I love mythology, and you already knew that I love technology. You could probably imagine, then, how impressed I was with Kelly McCullough’s WebMage, which I picked up after Stephanie Zvan pimped it over at Almost Diamonds, being friends with the author and all. It’s a brilliant little book set in modern-day about a computer hacker great-etc.-grandson of one of the Fates who can rewrite reality and perform magic through coding.

A few minor spoilers below the fold. Mostly just a plot synopsis though.
[Read more…]

Fifteen Books for Fifteen Minutes

Okay, the allusion to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a big fail, not to mention the grammar — should be “in”, not “for”. Doesn’t even make sense, in context of books, since it’s a movie. It seemed like a snappy title though.

That fucking traitorous militant asshole DuWayne was so kind as to tag me on a Facebook meme that has spilled over into the blogosphere (more grist for my “meme paper” mill, as though I’ll ever even start it!). The idea is that you get fifteen minutes to list fifteen books that have influenced you and/or stick with you. I’m sure I’ll end up missing a lot of my favorite books by doing this (I have a small library of over 100), but let’s just see what pops out of my head first to see what’s actually “stuck with me” and all that.

My main 15:
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (all 5 books)
Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien (all 5 books, including Silmarillion and Hobbit)
Dune – Frank Herbert (original cycle, not including his son Brian’s stuff)
Foundation – Isaac Asimov (all 4 original books)
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
1984 – George Orwell
Animal Farm – George Orwell
A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
Cosmos – Carl Sagan
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (translated unabridged, though I’ve been meaning to read the original French one day)
Macbeth – Bill Shakespeare
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
Microserfs – Douglas Coupland

Runners-up, thought of after the time limit or beyond my 15 mins:
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Time Machine – H G Wells
War of the Worlds – H G Wells
Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
The DC Super Dictionary (sadly, I can only find a site containing “word of the day” entries from that dictionary, and can’t find the dictionary itself.)
Hardy Boys (grew up on ‘em)
Choose-Your-Own Adventures (them too)

Atlas Shrugged NO

So, I guess I gotta tag some people now. Get to it, SBH and Cyberlizard!

Oh, and ReformedYankee, Jason Pickles, you don’t have blogs of your own, but you’re tagged. Best get to posting a comment boyeees. And I’d love to see D. C. Sessions’ picks, given that (from elsewhere on the blogosphere) I understand he is a bit more… tenured… on this planet than the rest of us. Also, Jodi, DuWayne wants you to put your list up too. Only he sort of doesn’t, because we’re Teh Enemie.