October 22, 2011

And tomorrow is Saturday

And, not surprisingly, still wrong.

October 21, 2011

It's Friday, Friday, all gonna die on Friday

It's October 21: the no-really-for-real End of the World as predicted by doomster Harold Camping and his Family Radio organization.

Anybody dead yet? I mean, other than those of you that an actuarial table could guess about?

Didn't think so.

Can't wait to find out what Camping, Family Radio, and their remaining followers—whom I presume to be fairly sparse by now—have to say this time. As I noted a few days ago, Camping's certainty about the end of the world appears to have waned somewhat, and his prognostications are filled with an increasing number of weasel words. The question remains, then: Will Camping finally admit that he was wrong, and repent of 20+ years of misleading Christians? Will he simply allow today to pass in silence? Or will he, once again, refuse to acknowledge his error, discover some new "truth" in the Bible that he has previously overlooked, and recalculate for yet another Judgment Day still in the future—which date, in all likelihood, he will not see from this side of eternity, thus saving himself a fourth round of embarrassment?

For the record, I wrote this on Oct. 19 and set it to post today, Friday, October 21. The world has not ended today, nor will it. In the 0.00000000000000001% chance that I'm mistaken, I'm willing to look very silly for eternity. I am just that confident. Chew it, false prophets.

October 09, 2011

Science-Fiction Free September VII update

Hadn't realized, until today, that I'd gotten lazy and let the end of September slip by. I'll frequently let the reading program slip into October, but generally by the end of September, I am thinking about how it all went.

To recap: Every September, I impose a personal moratorium on the reading of science-fiction books, because they are the mainstay of my reading habits for the rest of the year. It's an opportunity to broaden my horizons. This year, I decided to tackle a number of books that I had started at one point, but hadn't yet finished, in order:

  • Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
  • Under the Dome by Stephen King
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens, time permitting

For the first week or so of September, I finished off the book I was reading: L. Ron Hubbard's wannabe epic cum Scientology allegory Mission Earth. Once that was out of the way, I hastily switched up the order, out of convenience: since Les Mis was on my PalmPilot, it was easier to carry to work and read than the three-inch-thick Clancy tome.

Guess what I'm still reading.

OK—I knew this book was long. I just didn't realize how long. How very freaking long. Its word count is somewhere in excess of half a million words. By way of comparison, the King James Version of the Bible is around 800,000 words. The whole Bible. Printed, Les Misérables comes in at something like 1400 pages.

I missed this fact of history because I never got to pick up and weigh a copy in my hand. I'm reading an electronic edition I downloaded from Project Gutenberg; it's no bigger than a fraction of the capacity of my Palm.

The upshot: I started this book at approximately 10% completed. On Friday, I passed the 38% mark. In other words, it's taken me the better part of a month to read one-quarter of it. At this rate, I'll be reading Hugo until Christmas.

You know the problem? It's all the diversions. Hugo was not content to tell the story of Jean Valjean's redemption and his flight from the monomanaical Inspector Javert against the backdrop of the June Rebellion of 1832. No, he has to spend entire books (Les Mis was published in five volumes, each subdivided into books and then chapters) on little literary excursions: for exampe, his (admittedly vivid) retelling of the Battle of Waterloo, the history of an ascetic religious order, and the life of a Parisian gamin (street urchin). I'm in the middle of this last excursus now, having just started Volume 3: Marius.

I mentioned back in September that I had read an abridged edition: that was about an inch and a half thick itself, and I think it did away with all these sidebar discussions. Back in 1862, Hugo and his publisher took part in what has been called the shortest correspondence in history. Hugo, wanting to know how his book was selling, telegraphed: "?" His publisher replied: "!"

Imagine how Les Misérables might have been different if his editor had seen the cinderblock-sized manuscript on his desk and telegraphed: "?!"

And now . . . this - Oct. 9/11

Anyone wanna buy a—Oh, never mind

A 50-foot-long bridge in western Pennsylvania has been stolen, and its owners say they're baffled by the crime and have no idea who took it. . . .

A state police report says the 20-foot-wide span in North Beaver Township went missing between Sept. 27 and Wednesday.

The bridge was made out of corrugated steel and valued at about $100,000. Thieves used a blowtorch to cut it apart, presumably to sell it for scrap metal.

[Full Story]

The most surprising thing in this story? They can't pin down the date of theft. That means it took them over a week to notice.

October 07, 2011

A parable, somewhat modernized

Jesus told them a parable, saying, "A company founded by a brilliant inventor produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do now, for the tech world will soon be clamouring for newer and better gadgets?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my offices and stores and build larger ones, with huge glass walls, and there I will sell wafer-thin laptops and smartphones and media players and tablet computers. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have business plans laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."'

"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the wonderful tools you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12: 16-21, very loosely paraphrased)

In no way is my gratitude for Steve Jobs' creativity diminished by his vaguely Eastern-ish spirituality.

Nonetheless: all the creative vision in the world will not pass muster before the Almighty on the day of reckoning. What does it profit a man if he changes the world but loses his own soul?

October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Arguably the greatest technology innovator of the 20th century (and one who will no doubt be remembered for his contributions to the 21st) has passed away: Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple.

I'll admit up front that I've never been a hardcore Apple cultist. I used an Apple II computer in elementary school (along with Commodore PETs and C64s) and had an early look at the original Macintosh at a 1984 science fair. I wrote my first co-op education work report on a Mac SE as a first-year engineering student. I may even still have the diskette, though I don't know if I own any computer that can read it anymore—and I don't even remember what format the file was in. I used other Macs off and on throughout university, most notably at the school library where the entire catalogue system was migrated to Mac II's in about 1996. I use a current Intel Mac model at work, as well as my boss' iPhone, and I've had an iPod since 2007.

So Apple, though not my primary choice of platform, has been part of me since the beginning. For regular, everyday computer use, though, I'm still a regular user of Linux and Windows rather than OS X. That being said, when I bought my first copy of Windows 3.0 back in 1991, it was because it made a DOS PC work like a Macintosh. The influence of Steve Jobs lives on, even in his competitors' products.

October 05, 2011

Captain Camping rides again . . . probably

Yes, it's only 15 days left to the "This time I really, really mean it" Judgment Day on October 21. And Captain Camping isn't letting something silly like a debilitating stroke stop him from keeping on purveying his end-of-the-world heresy. In a recent audio message posted on the Family Radio, he said:

We would have not been able to be used of [God] to bring about the tremendous event that occurred on May 21 of this year, and, which probably will be finished out on October 21 that's coming very shortly. That looks like it will be, at this point, it looks like it will be the final end of everything.

We must believe that probably there will be no pain suffered by anyone because of their rebellion against God. This is very comforting to all of us because we all have children, and we have loved ones that are dear to us that we know are not saved, and yet we know that they'll quietly die, we can become more and more sure that they will quietly die and that will be the end of their story. Whereas the true believers will quietly receive the new heaven and the new earth. . . . [T]here's going to be no big display of any kind, the end is going to come very, very quietly, probably within the next month it will happen, that is, by October 21."


A few notes:

  • Harold Camping, you weren't used of God to bring about the "tremendous event" of May 21. There was no tremendous event on May 21.
  • That's an awful lot of weasel words: It "looks like" the end of the world will "probably" happen "within the next month." In fact, it's a far cry from the sloganeering that accompanied the "tremendous event" itself: "The Bible guarantees it!" trumpeted Captain Camping and his billboards. Doesn't sound like much of a "guarantee" this time around, does it?
  • No pain? Whatever happened to all the tremendous upheavals and earthquakes that were supposed to accompany judgment day? I would think those would cause a not inconsiderable amount of pain and suffering. Now it's just going to "quietly" happen with "no big display." I suspect that Captain Camping is still trying to weasel out of his inevitable failure: having predicted that no big signs will accompany the end of the world, therefore when no big signs occur on October 21, this will of course be proof that the end of the world has indeed happened. ("Spiritually," of course!)

Seriously . . . Harold Camping, you lying weasel, just shut up already. You're only making it worse for yourself.