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Month: October 2014

Pope says shocking things about science!

I thought it was funny to see the Pope in the news for talking about science. (Google it and read a few articles if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

The notion of God-creation has always transcended any explanation of how it physically happened. That is, how it physically happened doesn’t matter. Looking to physical explanations misses the point of the belief; after all, without a conscious entity that intends for certain things to happen, nothing ever happens for a “reason to be fulfilled.” Creation is an inherently metaphysical thing.

This is an imperfect comparison, but let us say that there is a child playing with LEGOs. He builds a small house with the LEGO bricks. Where did the house come from? Did it come from the child’s mind, or from the LEGO bricks?

To answer that the house came from the child’s mind is not to deny that the house is made of LEGO bricks.

Of course, what’s really ridiculous is how the media likes to portray the Pope’s words as being anything special in the first place, as if there is some gap to fill between science and Catholicism in the first place, or as if the ideas of the big bang and evolution ever conflicted with anything in Catholic teaching at all, or as if previous popes haven’t said similar things.

I may have blogged about this before, but I think some of it stems from a misunderstanding of science especially. Science is often used as an excuse to reject anything religious (because them Christians is weird and them organized religins is the devil!) with the assumption that if something is “science”, it can be “proven” with some sort of materialistic evidence, which could be found in some science journal somewhere. Of course, this really isn’t “science” in the traditional sense; this is the Science! of the modern man, the Science! that saves us from being obligated to defend or argue for any sort of morality. Disagree with a religious person about anything, and never fear, because Science! is on your side!

But the physical sciences never actually prove anything to be completely correct, nor do they somehow auto-generate any explanations for anything. Rather, we humans come up with explanations based on observations and predictions, and science gives us a means by which to disprove the explanation, so that we can form a more accurate explanation. That’s what science mainly is: a method by which to disprove explanations.

So firstly, science depends on the metaphysical; it makes no sense trying use it to reject the metaphysical. And secondly, there’s no “gap” between science and theology. Theology doesn’t make “scientific” claims in the first place, anymore than someone saying “I love you” to someone else is ever meant as a scientific hypothesis.

Fake geeks

On tumblr, author Neil Gaiman was asked: What’s your opinion on there being “fake” and “real” fans/nerds?

Neil Gaiman goes on to not really answer the question. He says, “I think all people, not to mention fans, nerds, geeks and suchlike are real.” OK… but that wasn’t the question. The question was about fake fans/nerds. Not fake people. He goes on to say that he tells people at his book signings that he’s glad they read his book, no matter their self-proclaimed level of fandom. I think any author with any business sense would do the same. But, again, that really wasn’t the question.

So I think the Internet needs my opinion on the subject, because I am a blogger, and this is what bloggers do: write opinions nobody asked for.

(On a side note, if you Google the term fake geek, you seem to get a lot of stuff about a meme called Fake Geek Girls. I had never heard of that, and don’t really know what it is. This post is only about the idea of “fake geeks” in general, or “wannabes nerds.” As franchises long considered geeky have become mainstream in the last ten or fifteen years or so, and as media companies cash in on the popularity shift, there seems to be a bit of a culture war regarding who’s turf these geeky franchises belong to. This post doesn’t really address that either, though certainly this shift has given rise to a modern epidemic of “fake geeks.”)

Yes, there are “fake geeks.” These are people who claim to love something, but really only want other people to think they love it. It’s nothing new; vanity of this sort has existed since the first caveman lied about how many wooly mammoths he’d slain. (He was a fake wooly mammoth geek.)

The true geek is like Donkey from Shrek; he might be really annoying, but he’s happy with himself. The fake geek is like Shrek, at least the Shrek at the beginning of the first Shrek movie. He puts on a tough-guy act, pretending he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him, but he’s actually very insecure. (That is why a “fake geek” cares about the label at all.)

Fake geeks care too much about their reputation. You can spot these sorts of people because they care more about showing other people how geeky they are than actually geeking out on the subjects they claim to geek about.

For example, you cannot claim to be a chess geek if you don’t know what en passant is. If you truly love chess as much as you claim, you’d know the rules. That said, it’s OK to be a chess beginner. As Gaiman says, everybody starts somewhere. It’s not snobbery that’s keeping chess geeks from accepting anyone among their chess geek ranks. But the geekdom has to be earned; you don’t get to bestow it on yourself after your third chess game.

And, again, that’s OK. True geeks are out there and ready to help you rise to true geekdom. True geeks love being paid their geeky dues. But you have humble yourself before your geeky interest, and you have to be honest about wanting that true geekdom, because you’re going to have to work for it. If you want to be a chess geek, but don’t actually want to put in the long hours staring at a chess board, reviewing Bobby Fischer’s games, and reading Vladimir Vukovic, no geekdom for you.

If you truly love it, that shouldn’t be hard. True love leads to true geekdom.

But if you’re just in it for the perceived social glory, forget it. You are a fake geek.

“Fake geeks” can be a problem for real geeks because fake geeks are incapable of geeking out about their supposed topic of geekery. When you claim to be a geek just to impress people, but then can’t engage in a geeky conversation with a true geek, you’ve just wasted that geek’s time. That true geek spent a lot of time earning his geekdom, and he’s starving for some deep geek conversations and geeky social bonding. When you claim to be a geek but then can’t actually geek out, it’s tantamount to slapping that geek in the face! How could you be so mean to a geek?

A “geek” is like a “genius”; it’s a subjective label we give to others based on our own impressions of them. Sorry, but you can’t come up to me, proclaim to be a genius, and expect me to be instantly impressed (even if you truly are a genius, which you’re probably not if you feel the need to tell me about it). Similarly, if I am not impressed by your apparent shallow knowledge of a subject, I’m not going to consider you a geek. You don’t get to decide for me how impressed I’m supposed to be by your fandom. But, as I said, it’s subjective. If you claim to be a quilting geek, I’ll probably take your word for it, as I know very little about quilting. But if you claim to be a SpongeBob geek and can’t recite the FUN song, I’m seriously going to doubt that you truly love SpongeBob.

(Even worse is when people claim to be geeks about what you love, but then claim to be offended about what they don’t like about it, as though you too are obligated to be offended with them by virtue of your shared interest. True geeks know what I’m talking about.)

As I’ve said before on this blog, when you truly love something, you don’t care about what other people think anyway. So anyone who’s truly concerned about being labeled a “fake geek” is most likely that very thing.

Now, all that said, this isn’t the perspective from which Neil Gaiman is speaking about the topic. If you’re selling something, the last thing you’re going to care about is a customer’s level of geekery. A dollar is worth the same amount from anyone. Probably 95% to 99% of his sales come from non-Gaiman-geeks, including myself, and he’s savvy enough to not upset us. I’m not saying his views aren’t genuine. I’m saying they come from the perspective of someone who’s selling a product, not a true geek who’s been blatantly lied to by a fake geek.

Hypnopompic hallucinations

I woke up this morning staring at the ceiling, and on the ceiling was the clear image of a young woman’s green eye staring back at me.  I blinked my eyes, made sure I was awake, but the image lingered.  After a moment, it faded away, but I thought the incident was rather bizarre and somewhat creepy.  It was as though a random dream image had been burned into my retina so that I could see it even in waking life.  I’ve had minor sleep-deprivation hallucinations before, but this was more vivid than those.  It looked a bit like a fragment of a Vermeer painting:

greeneye2

Some internet searching confirmed that I’m far from the only one to experience this sort of phenomenon.  According to Wikipedia’s article on the hypnopompic state (the state of consciousness leading out of sleep):

When the awakening occurs out of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which most dreams occur, the hypnopompic state is sometimes accompanied by lingering vivid imagery.

So, assuming the vision was not actually a dream-seer from another dimension spying into my waking life, or a mystical prophecy that I am to meet and wed a green-eyed beauty (although I’ll leave those possibilities open), I’m guessing a “hypnopompic hallucination” is what it was.

And, come to think of it, I’ve had these sort of hallucinations before — with music.  It’s not uncommon to wake up to beautiful music that isn’t there.  I’ve just never had it with such vivid imagery before.

Oh, and the dream that preceded the hallucination was quite nice.  I was exploring a university campus, but it was in some royal futuristic steampunk world.  The university buildings were like gilded palaces, curved like the sides of pirate ships.  In one room, I witnessed a number of gamers playing a grand war game involving a bunch of little toy soldiers that were moved about a wire mesh grid.  When soldiers from opposing armies clashed and fought, mini-games involving dice and cards were played to determine which piece would defeat the other.  It looked like a lot of fun; I need to design the game for the real world now.

With new headphones, new album in the works

Last month, I was finally able to get my hands on a new set of headphones:

headphones

The Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones.  They’re an older model, but still of a professional caliber, and right within my budget.  And they’re rather wonderful; I’m really pleased with them.

So, while procrastinating on fiction writing, I’ve been rediscovering the magic the music composing, and have already composed two tracks, roughly ten minutes together, for my next album.

This album will basically be a collection of short musical pieces that each go along with a fairy tale I’m writing; I’m aiming for about ten to twelve tales in all.  The tales themselves will be released for free online (though I might put together a CreateSpace paperback, mostly for my own guilty pleasure).  The album itself will likely be released through my bandcamp page, with some corresponding YouTube videos.

Speaking of YouTube, I’ll probably "monetize" my channel sometime soon.  While I really hate subjecting viewers to ads, monetizing your account is the only way to get custom thumbnails on your videos, and I really hate the automatic default thumbnails on my videos at the moment; they look abstract and bizarre, and they’re not doing me any favors.  I’d like to have titles on there, and some recognizable "style" to them.  I still like using the Music Animation Machine in the actual videos, though, rather the fantasy art like some YouTube composers use; I find the Music Animation Machine’s visuals are just a lot more captivating and engaging.

Anyway, of the two tracks I’ve written at the moment, one is orchestral, while the other is a sort of bitter-sweet lullaby for harp and two whistles (tin whistle and low whistle).  Of course, they both feature my typical song-ish melody-driven style.  They still need some tweaking, but I’m very pleased with them so far.

The new headphones are simply excellent for composing work.  Looking forward to continuing the work.  Of course, this is only delaying my work on that book on melody writing, on which I’ve hardly made any progress since my last post, but becoming obsessed with the joy of melody writing again doesn’t hurt, I guess.

I’m also spending this week trying to get my internal clock back on a normal schedule.  Since college, my internal clock refuses to stay on a 24-hour schedule; it seems to be slightly longer, so it tends to slowly shift out of whack, until it’s almost completely backwards, and I have to force it back into some sort of normalcy, which neither my mind nor body appreciate as they fight against it, making me randomly tired in the afternoons, wide awake in the middle of the night, hungry and not hungry at random intervals, random headaches (which I get anyway, really), etc… lots of fun.