Archive for April, 2011

The Hypocritical Oafs

Friday, April 29th, 2011

One of the things that God hates is hypocrisy. I asked why she singles that out above so many other things and she told me it’s because so often the biggest hypocrites are also her biggest boosters. That is, the people that most like to get in our face and tell us what it is that god wants us to do or not to do are also the most likely to say one thing and do another.

And don’t think I don’t recognize the danger of telling you that God has a special problem with people that go around telling you what God wants. But what can I do?

Anyway, you’re probably aware that some of the biggest boosters in the United States of what they claim to be God’s desires are our elected Republicans. There’s the “family values” politicians whose histories are loaded with divorces, affairs, and gay shenanigans, but they’re not the ones that God was pointing out to me this week. This week she pointed out the so-called budget-hawks that can never seem to reduce spending but manage to pull out all the stops when it comes to curtailing our government’s income. It’s the budgetary equivalent of gorging on candy and calling it a diet.

There’s actually an official strategy behind this, what the Republicans call “starving the beast.” Their theory is that if they keep the government from having any money, the government will be forced to shrink and forced to reduce its spending. They’ve said as much. What they haven’t said, or at least not where I’ve heard it, is that they expect this reduction in spending to happen when the Democrats are completely in power. They know that the voters don’t actually want most spending reduced and will punish whoever is in office when it happens. They also know that when it comes to actually being fiscally responsible the Democrats are the ones to count on. So they assume that when the Dems get fully in power, they will reduce the spending like the Republicans want and take all the blame that the Republicans don’t want.

So far, the problem with this plan is that the Dems have largely noticed that reduced spending is not the only way to balance the books, you can also increase income. Which they’ve done when in power.

So the next time you hear the Republicans talking about being the “adults” in the fiscal conversation, remember that far from being the ones that can fix our long term budget problems, the truth is that the Republicans are our long term budget problem.

What’s So Good About It?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Well, here it is Good Friday, the day Christians celebrate the death of their God. Or is that “Good” meant ironically? Actually, these days, I’m pretty sure most Christians wouldn’t recognize irony if it sat down in their lap and gave them a big, wet, same-sex, kiss.

It’s “good” in that it makes Easter possible. Christ couldn’t rise from death if he didn’t die first and if he’d lived to a ripe old age, well, nobody would really celebrate his rising from the dead, then. I mean, imagine the smell! Old guy and dead guy, toss in some pre-modern embalming and I guess you could call it “old spice” or something.

But here’s what I get to celebrate on Easter: ham. On Easter I get to eat ham. Not cold-cut ham, but big old, bone-in, baked in the oven, coated with a honey-infused crust and cut into slabs, ham. Well, these days the slabs are kind of thin because of spiral cutting, and I miss the pineapple that used to be baked along with the ham when I was a kid, but still, ham! It’s one of my favorite meats, but I suppose you guessed that by now. Anyway, ham alone is a good enough reason to celebrate that we’re not all orthodox Jews these days, and if it took a few martyrs being tossed to the lions to get here, well, so be it.

Dial Atone

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I’m tired. I’ve had a weird sleep schedule this week (but have a new gadget to show for it). I’ve had a cold that at it’s worst was as bad a cold as I think I’ve ever had. All in all I’m just not feeling very inspired to talk to you about the human condition. So I asked God if she had anything to say, anything she’d like me to put out there this week.

So here’s more or less what she told me to tell you:

If you work for a major United States telephone company, and are in any sort of position to set policy, you are in serious danger of spending eternity in Hell. LIke Scrooge on Christmas Eve, you likely still have time to mend your ways, to stop destroying all that’s good in the world, but time is short and of the essence. You need to become like a reformed robber baron and start trying to make up for the horrendous ill you have caused in the world. You may not get there but you must try. Now go forth and sin no more.

The Big Truth

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Today God helped me to realize yet another reason to almost feel sorry for Christians.

Christians like to talk about “Christian Truth.” They don’t label it quite as blatantly as I just did, largely because they want it to be confused with actual truth, but they know that’s what they mean when then stick the word “truth” inside of a fish outline and plaster it on the back of their cars. They don’t mean “truth” in any sort of general sense, and they especially do not mean “truth” in any sort of verifiable, measurable, or even plausible sense; they mean “truth” as in “I’ve staked a great portion of my self-identity on this being true, so it must be true, so it is true.” In other words, the “truth fish” is a stellar example of Stalin’s “the big lie.” Joseph Stalin famously said that if you repeat a big lie often enough and loud enough it will become the truth. Christians have got this down.

The scientific method, on the other hand, says that for something to be “true” it must be measurable, it must have evidence, it must be repeatably demonstrable by independent parties, and it should be the simplest explanation that fits the available facts. God, by being so ineffable and so lacking in direct evidentiary existence, completely fails to be recognizable by science. Since more and more of our daily existence is controlled and enriched by things that have only been made possible by the scientific method, more and more people are coming to the point of view that unless something can be shown to have truth in some scientific sense, it doesn’t have real truth; it’s no better than something that some fiction writer just made up in his head.

So the Christians, or at least a major part of them, feel threatened by science, and feel threatened by those that would say that Christian truth is no more truth than Pluto’s claim that it’s a planet. Which is to say, no more true than anything which we might have once believed, but belief in which we gave up in the face of actual evidence.

The poster child for scientific truth threatening “Christian truth” is evolution.

Now to be fair, the anti-religion faction of scientifically knowledgable individuals, did kind of start this fight. They looked at the enormous numbers of Christians that chose to deny evolution and they said, let us not leave them alone in their darkness, let us shine our flashlights right into their eyes. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Non-metaphorically speaking, what they “said” was, “let’s take one of Christianity’s sacred symbols, the fish sign that they used to identify each other when being Christian was potentially punishable by death, and put an evolutionary spin on it, we’ll add feet and legs to remind people that fish evolved and came out of the sea.” And then they stuck the name Darwin in it. And then the Christians came up with images of fish (with the word truth inside) eating images of legged fish (with the word Darwin inside).

And the evolutionists said “nyahh, nyahh.” And the Christians said, “well, so are you.”

And God pointed out to me that displaying a “truth” fish is a lot like people in the south displaying Confederate flags, they recognize that there was a battle, they recognize that their side lost, but they keep hoping that no one will notice. It’s like any big lie. It would be sadly amusing if it weren’t for how much damage it’s done. And how much damage continues to be done in it’s service.

By Any Other Name

Friday, April 1st, 2011

First let me apologize right up front to whomever is reading this. God and I were talking about computer programming this week. That means that I’m now about to talk to you about computer programming. I’ll try to make it accessible for those of you that aren’t programming-afflicted, but I can only go so far.

The good thing about talking to God is that he can give me insights into the minds of other people. That’s actually pretty valuable to me, because like a lot of computer geeks I’m often baffled by the apparent lack of rhyme or reason for the actions of my fellow humans. As it turns out, this even applies to other programmers. I commented to God that I’ve never understood the attraction of “Hungarian Notation” and he showed me what was missing in my analysis.

For the non-programmers that have foolishly continued to read along, I’m going to try to explain this without going into too much detail, or even hardly any at all. Computer programs can generally be considered to be mechanisms to take some input, process it, and produce some output. The input is data (and often also instructions, but that’s more detail than we want to get into). In order for the program to describe how it’s going to manipulate the data from input into output it uses containers called variables, each of which gets its own name. They are called variables because what they actually contain varies from one program run to the next. Hungarian Notation is a system of naming variables in computer programs with leading characters that serve as mnemonic reminders of what type of data is in the variable. The reason it’s called “Hungarian?” The guy that invented it was originally from Hungary, it made the variable names look kind of foreign, so, other people started calling them Hungarian. Well, you asked. Or at least I imagined you did.

The thing that’s always bothered me about this notation is that I’ve always found it to be making variables hard to read, and hard to pronounce, while imparting to their every invocation one of the things about them that is the easiest thing to look up: Their data type. Again for the non-programmers out there, most every programming language either demands that you declare a type for every variable or at least allows you to declare one whether or not it’s required. So it’s trivially easy to pop up to the declarations and look up the type if you need to know it.

Or at least it is for me.

What God pointed out to me is that while most programming languages require a declaration, they’re generally pretty lax about where you can put the declarations. I adopted very early in my career the discipline of always putting them in a standard location. It makes it really easy to look them up. But as God points out, many programmers have rather chaotic habits about their variable declarations. They don’t always cluster them together, they don’t lay them out for easy readability, they don’t even always give them sensible names or names that are easy to pick out in a random section of text. In short, they make looking up their origins hard to do, so they try to pack the information that is required at declaration into every use of the variable. That way they just have to find some instance of it, rather than the originating instance.

What they did is they discovered that they had made something hard to do, and instead of simplifying that thing, they covered for it by making a bunch of other stuff hard to do as well.

So, like I said, I often find myself baffled by the things other people do. Even people that are generally pretty logical.