Archive for September, 2011

Heaven is Drafty

Friday, September 30th, 2011

David Byrne once wrote “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. … It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting, could be so much fun.” And I have to agree, “that nothing at all could be so exciting” is pretty much beyond my ability to imagine. I could take the cop out and say that maybe we should just substitute, say, the word “fulfilling” for “exciting” but that glosses over the real issue, the real issue is that we like excitement and the perfection that we try to claim for Heaven is inherently lacking in excitement.

So I asked God to give me something more to go on, how can Heaven represent perfection without giving up the excitement? He told me to think of the universe as a whole as a writing exercise. See, I understand writing so this is a metaphor I can work with, and God knows that. So God and I talked for a bit and here’s my view for the moment:

The universe is like a great big novel, it’s full of all sorts of things happening, some of them because they move the plot along, some of them because they add color and flavor, and some of them are even there to provide misdirection, to keep us guessing about the ending until it’s revealed.

But the universe is just the first draft.

God is working as fast as he can, getting the universe down on paper, so to speak. When he gets the time he goes back and does rewrites. Some things he can fix as he goes along, that’s part of what evolution is about… The dinosaurs weren’t interesting enough? What if we bring in a big asteroid and give the mammals a chance to move to center stage? But some things you can’t just write around, some things you have to go back and change the way they happened in the first place, in order to make everything fit, in order to make everything work its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Heaven is the final draft. Heaven is where everything happens for a reason. Heaven is where we abandon our free will to better serve the greater good.

And if you’re not willing to do that, maybe Heaven isn’t the right place for you. But if that’s the case, well, you can still raise Hell, while you’re here on Earth.

The Cheese Rebellion

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

One of the cool things about the modern age is we often get the chance to sample foreign foods without the expense and trouble of having to actually travel. Don’t get me wrong, I like to travel, but it is work and it is expensive.

An example of this is that right now in my refrigerator is some cheddar that was made in Wales. Now I live in California and we have some pretty good home-grown cheddar right here. In fact having now tried the Welsh cheddar and compared it to a more-or-less equally aged hunk of a more local origin, I’d say that neither one has an edge over the other. But the point isn’t that the cheese from over the pond is either better or worse, it’s that I got to find out for just the cost of the cheese.

Similarly, around St. Patrick’s Day every year I also get the chance to try cheese and butter and other things that come all the way from Ireland. It’s a bit of seasonal fun.

It got me to wondering though, do they do the reverse? Do the Irish sample turkey from California when Thanksgiving rolls around? Do the English compare our cheddar to theirs on the Fourth of July? And when I asked that, God just sort of looked at me and asked if I really thought the English wanted to do anything celebratory in remembrance of our revolting against them?

And Breathe

Friday, September 16th, 2011

God works in devious ways.

This is to be expected from the being that created irony, although I have it on good authority that that wasn’t what he was trying to create at the time.

The recent example that I came across is cigarette smoking. Inhaling the fumes of burning tobacco is one of the unhealthier things you can do. In order to help incentivize people to treat themselves better, our legislators have been passing laws to make it more and more difficult to casually engage in smoking. I’ve been noticing all around me lately, one of the current outcomes of this legislative nannying. Smokers are gathering together in the outdoor areas that are among the few places left they can freely smoke. Outside the office buildings in downtown San Francisco they cluster together to smoke and to talk.

And breathe the fresh air.

So the smokers are out breathing in the fresh air and I’m spending most of my day sitting in the office. Somehow smoking starts to come across as the healthier choice.

Smooth Move

Friday, September 9th, 2011

I’ve taken to stroking my computer throughout the day at work.

There’s a good reason. No, really.

See I’m using a laptop running Apple’s latest version of Mac OS X, Lion. With the large trackpad and the gestures that Lion recognizes I haven’t felt a need to hook up a mouse. Now besides gestures one of the things that Apple is good at is battery management. I know I can adjust some of the settings for this but so far I haven’t felt a compelling need. So part of the battery management is that on a fairly aggressive schedule the MacBook decides to dim it’s screen, aggressive enough that I’m often still reading something on the screen or pondering some bit of code on the screen, so I don’t want it dimmed. In a mouse-driven environment I’d reach out and jiggle the mouse to return the screen to full brightness. In a trackpad-centric world I reach out and slide my fingers across the trackpad. A move that really is no different than reaching out to stroke the computer, and made all the more enjoyable by the smoothness of Apple’s trackpads.

For all my life cats have trained me that if they stick the top of their head at me, I’m supposed to pet it, to stroke it. Now my computer has found a way to induce the same thing. I asked God if it’s part of Apple’s plan to get us to love our computers by getting us to anthropomorphize them or to treat them like pets. He told me that just because I love my computer doesn’t mean it’s part of some nefarious plan by the computer industry to prepare us to love our new robotic overlords even before they arrive.

And then he told me that people masturbating while looking at pictures on their computers is not them having sex with the machines. I was about to ask him what made him jump to that thought, but then I thought, what if he tells me?

My Turn

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

God has taken to walking into the room, looking at the screen of my iPad, shaking her head, and then walking out again.

Maybe it’s ’cause she doesn’t like to hear me swear. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t like to see me upset. Maybe it’s that at those times I’m just not very good company. What she’s been seeing on the screen is a game called “Strategery.” I play it way too much and have done so almost since I first got the iPad. It’s kind of an addiction.

And it doesn’t make any sense that I keep playing. The basic mechanic of the game is great, and the graphics are fairly nice, but almost everything else really sucks. There’s a bunch of different options you can set that can have a fairly significant impact on the game. I’ve settled on a set of them that seem, to me, to be the best trade off between giving me control over my in-game destiny and making it just too tedious to bother. I should probably go with the too-tedious settings and then maybe I’ll stop playing.

So with the settings I’ve chosen: The game generates a random map on which to play and assigns random starting positions to four computer players and me. About 80% of these starting setups are essentially unwinnable or are only winnable if you get lucky on the dice fairly early in the game. Given that it’s a “strategy” game, I don’t see any point in playing a setup that will be decided early almost completely on luck. Of the remaining twenty percent, about two-thirds are so easy to win that it’s more like exercise than fun, you just go through the motions until you’ve done enough repetitions for the game to be over. And in the remaining five percent or so of games the dice can still go wildly against you and you can lose in the most seemingly improbable ways that have little or nothing to do with how well you’re playing.

But I haven’t found anything that fills its niche better, so I keep playing, keep swearing, and keep dying just a little bit inside. God tells me there are much better things I could be doing with my time, but she hasn’t actually told me to stop. I wonder if I would if she did.