Archive for September, 2011

27
Sep
11

Why

I have a friend who is always interested in learning, but is by coincidence largely uninformed in the areas which most interest me. We often have conversations in which either I will mention something interesting I have learned or she will mention something cool she heard about computers, physics, linguistics, or history, and the rest of the conversation will be an attempt by myself to explain the background and sincere attempts on her part to understand, often punctuated by questions that make me want to bang my head in frustation at how outlandish they sound to me. (This, incidentally, is why she is probably the best person to talk about these things with; she forces me to look at things from a different perspective.) It often seems like I am starting over from scratch, but I’m sure that she feels the same way when explaining budgeting, education, and other of her interests to me. One question that comes up far more often from her to me than vice versa, however, is “Why?”

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14
Sep
11

I Am Atheism

I am Atheism

by Randy Grant

EDIT: My story has been accepted for publication on We Are Atheism: http://www.weareatheism.com/randy-grant/

The title may sound a little grandiose unless you know about We Are Atheism, a project meant to gather atheists’ stories and encourage atheists the world over to come out and announce the truth. Just like any other minority (using the sociological definition, for atheists are a majority in many communities without even realizing it), atheists sometimes feel the need to hide who they are. In some cases this feeling is justified: People have been threatened with ostracism, loss of their jobs, vandalism, and occasionally outright violence when coming out as atheists, and in such cases, I encourage you to come out only if you are prepared to face those consequences. One atheist’s story that I find particularly compelling is that of Grappling Ignorance, an English teacher who suffered greatly when his community discovered that he criticised religion and promoted atheism on YouTube.

That sort of intolerance is a measure, at least in part, of the destructiveness of ignorance. Religious people think that atheists cannot be good people. Isolated atheists believe that they are the only atheists in their communities except the people whose lives they see fall apart when they come out. Sometimes those isolated atheists may even be the cruellest, hoping to hide their true feelings in vitriol, lest the same thing happen to them. I am here to teach you, to tell you that both are wrong. Atheists can be good people, and you, the closeted atheist in fear of becoming an island, as no man is meant to be, are not alone.

Everything after the cut, with the exception of the copyright info and some formatting, is what I submitted to We Are Atheism. First, a bit of bookkeeping, as suggested by the We Are Atheism website:

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08
Sep
11

SGML: Stupid Generalized Markup Language

I just unzipped an MS Word document (.DOC) and and an OOO text document (.ODT) to look at their respective XML because I was kinda curious. Microsoft has somehow managed to encode their documents so the content doesn’t show up inside what you can extract, but even so at first I thought I could almost guarantee it’s not as bloated as the .ODT, whose content file begins by defining the style of every single section of the document, and then goes on to assign every single word a separate style tag.

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07
Sep
11

Why I Actually Like a Miley Cyrus Song

Let me begin by admitting that I am a highly critical person. I criticise the things I like. The other day, I had a discussion spanning nearly the entire length of the song about how stupid I think Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO (and oh boy did I have reasons to back up my argument!), which ended when my friend retired from the argument in confusion after learning that I actually love the song. (What can I say? It’s just crazy fun.) Furthermore, I really don’t like Miley Cyrus as a singer. Her voice ranges from “approximately the quality of most of my female friends in a karaoke room” to “shrill chipmunk torture,” her lyrics are stupid, and her attempts to sound “country” come off as insincere considering that she has never lived in an environment lacking plenty of California influence. It’s especially bad in Party in the U. S. A., in which she attempts to sound like an innocent country girl only to feel comforted at the sweet country stylings of… Jay-Z and Britney Spears?

So, last night, after recommending some ASL song translations as examples to a friend who was wondering if she was the only person who found fingerspelling to be the hardest part of learning the language (answer: no, if you don’t want to break the flow of the conversation, fingerspelling is insanely hard), I settled back to watch a bit of Stephen Torrence, A. K. A. Captain Valor on YouTube. Among his ASL translations are Miley Cyrus’s 7 Things and Party in the U. S. A., so since I put everything on a playlist, I watched/heard them, and I realized that, while I kinda like Party in the U. S. A. in spite of its stupid lyrics, bad singing, and rhymes that don’t even rhyme in that slant way that some rap lyrics do1, I find myself liking 7 Things on its own merits, rather than just because it’s kinda fun to listen to.

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