You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded.
To the question, “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, “Why not?”
Atheist: Natural Morals, Real Meaning, Credible Truth

23 February, 2007

Bumper Stickers

A couple of bumper stickers I saw today:


Visualize a world without religion,

No reason to kill or die for.




My religion is simple

My religion is kindness

10 February, 2007

beliefnet: Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan on Faith, Religious Tolerance, Moderates, Islam, Atheism, Letter to a Christian Nation

beliefnet: Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan on Faith, Religious Tolerance, Moderates, Islam, Atheism, Letter to a Christian Nation

This is an excellent debate between these two on Faith and Religion. I wish I was as eloquent on the subject as Harris is.

"Ethics and spirituality do not require faith. One can even achieve utter mystical absorption in the primordial mystery of the present moment without believing anything on insufficient evidence.

You might want to say that every religion offers a guide to doing this. Yes, but they are provisional guides at best. Rather than pick over the carcass of Christianity (or any other traditional faith) looking for a few, uncontaminated morsels of wisdom, why not take a proper seat at the banquet of human understanding in the present? There are already many very refined courses on offer. For those interested in the origins of the universe, there is the real science of cosmology. For those who want to know about the evolution of life on this planet, biology, chemistry and their subspecialties offer real nourishment. (Knowledge in most scientific domains is now doubling about every five years. How fast is it growing in religion?) And if ethics and spirituality are what concern you, there are now scientists making serious efforts to understand these features of our experience—both by studying the brain function of advanced contemplatives and by practicing meditation and other (non-faith-based) spiritual disciplines themselves. Even when it comes to compassion and self-transcendence, there is new wine (slowly) being poured. Why not catch it with a clean glass? "

05 February, 2007

PowerPoint Makes You Dumb

Published: December 14, 2003
"In August, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board at NASA released Volume 1 of its report on why the space shuttle crashed. As expected, the ship's foam insulation was the main cause of the disaster. But the board also fingered another unusual culprit: PowerPoint, Microsoft's well-known ''slideware'' program.

NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint slide -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted.

PowerPoint is the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without it. But what if PowerPoint is actually making us stupider?

This year, Edward Tufte -- the famous theorist of information presentation -- made precisely that argument in a blistering screed called The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. In his slim 28-page pamphlet, Tufte claimed that Microsoft's ubiquitous software forces people to mutilate data beyond comprehension. For example, the low resolution of a PowerPoint slide means that it usually contains only about 40 words, or barely eight seconds of reading. PowerPoint also encourages users to rely on bulleted lists, a ''faux analytical'' technique, Tufte wrote, that dodges the speaker's responsibility to tie his information together. And perhaps worst of all is how PowerPoint renders charts. Charts in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal contain up to 120 elements on average, allowing readers to compare large groupings of data. But, as Tufte found, PowerPoint users typically produce charts with only 12 elements. Ultimately, Tufte concluded, PowerPoint is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.''

Microsoft officials, of course, beg to differ. Simon Marks, the product manager for PowerPoint, counters that Tufte is a fan of ''information density,'' shoving tons of data at an audience. You could do that with PowerPoint, he says, but it's a matter of choice. ''If people were told they were going to have to sit through an incredibly dense presentation,'' he adds, ''they wouldn't want it.'' And PowerPoint still has fans in the highest corridors of power: Colin Powell used a slideware presentation in February when he made his case to the United Nations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, given that the weapons still haven't been found, maybe Tufte is onto something. Perhaps PowerPoint is uniquely suited to our modern age of obfuscation -- where manipulating facts is as important as presenting them clearly. If you have nothing to say, maybe you need just the right tool to help you not say it."

Clive Thompson

04 February, 2007

More towing in the haze

Just a pic before diving back into the haze and back to Byron. Am playing with Picasa and Blogger.
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Hazy towing yesterday

Hazy day towing yesterday, but cool sight of Mt Diablo rising above the haze.

Lots of flying though... 21 tows, 22 takeoffs and landings. Each landing being successful. :-) That is always good. Especially since the towplane was out of annual and shouldn't have been flying, legally. We discovered that at the end of the day while doing paperwork. OOPS! No glider flying today. I wish I had noticed it before we started, then I would have spent the day working on the towplane to prep it for the annual. Not that I didn't like flying yesterday but my license being at risk if something had happened wasn't good.
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