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Psalms 93:1, Psalms 104:5, Ecclesiastes 1:5

Psalms 93:1 and Psalm 104:5, and Ecclesiastes 1:5

These passages from the Bible are the ones that got Galileo Galilei into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. These passages talk about, in some sense, the firm and established position of the earth. Galileo’s argument was that the Bible is a guide for spiritual matters and not one for physical matters. It boils items of a physical nature down to simplest terms so it can spend the most time on spiritual items. Galileo, of course, held that the earth is what rotated around the sun and that the sun was the center of the universe.

From Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany:

Hence I think that I may reasonably conclude that whenever the Bible has occasion to speak of any physical conclusion (especially those which are very abstruse and hard to understand), the rule has been observed of avoiding confusion in the minds of the common people which would render them contumacious toward the higher mysteries. Now the Bible, merely to condescend to popular capacity, has not hesitated to obscure some very important pronouncements, attributing to God himself some qualities extremely remote from (and even contrary to) His essence. Who, then, would positively declare that this principle has been set aside, and the Bible has confined itself rigorously to the bare and restricted sense of its words, when speaking but casually of the earth, of water, of the sun, or of any other created thing? Especially in view of the fact that these things in no way concern the primary purpose of the sacred writings, which is the service of God and the salvation of souls – matters infinitely beyond the comprehension of the common people.

Galileo went to prison, was branded a heretic, and publication of any of his work was forbidden. For a theory that was ultimately wrong! Yet Galileo today is remembered as one of the greatest scientific thinkers in history.

Was heliocentrism a religious belief to Galileo? I would not consider it so. But it was certainly a belief he felt strongly enough about to try and fight against the status quo. Could he have done that and also recognized that he may be wrong? Maybe Galileo could not do that. But I think scientists of today have no problem conceiving that they are probably wrong. …but that is ok. Because they are advancing science. Not staying stuck in a rut.

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We currently live in a pre-flip time. To our grand children or great grand children, we will live in a world that is completely upside down. Nothing we do today will seem right from their point of view.

To them, north will be south and south will be north. Odds are within the next couple hundred years the earth’s magnetic field will flip. Our magnetic field will get weaker.

Our children won’t get cool mutant powers. But they might get cancer more. Before the switch, or during the switch, the magnetic field itself will flip about. We might even get more poles than just two for a bit.

Aurora borealis all over the world. Except it will be named wrong. And hopefully by the time it happens we will have cured cancer by then, so that won’t be a big deal.

But invariably, they will be able to look back on us and exclaim how backward we all were. Some things will never change.

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Clever Humans Love God

God is a comforting thought. There is a being that understands you. He knows why you chose to be a programmer. Why you don’t quit your job. Why you said that to the woman in the elevator. Somewhere, unbelievably, someone Really Knows You. Deep inside. And more than that. He Loves what He sees. He made it that way and He Loves it. He Loves it like you loved the first girl you ever french kissed. He Loves it more than you love to fuck.

God is a comforting thought. Without God you are alone. Truly and pathetically alone. You can have a wife or a girlfriend and she will know you. But she will not Know you. Not ever. She won’t understand the potential you are wasting. She won’t know what you could become if you only ever stopped being afraid. But God does. He knows everything there can possibly be to know. About you.

God is a comforting thought. He doesn’t judge you. He is not your mother trying to make you do something you don’t want to do. He is forgiving of anything you do. No matter what it is, there is no way you can fuck up so bad that he won’t take you back.

God is so pure. So forgiving. So loving. There is nothing else you need in your life but God.

No wonder people believe in Him so much. No wonder they cling so fervently to the belief in Him. He makes life easier. He makes life bearable.

He is a comforting fantasy. Something to cling to. Like the hot girl who lives down the street or winning the lottery, he is a fantasy that makes falling asleep easier. Not so lonely. But just a fantasy. Like being able to turn invisible, or teleport. Just another very cool thought that has absolutely no bearing in reality.

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Why Writing Is More Dangerous Than Programming

Paul Graham today wrote about why Writing is Harder than Hacking. Graham talks about how programming is easier than writing because if you get something wrong in a computer program, you just go back and fix it. If you aren’t getting it right, you just keep trying again and again until it works. But with writing, this is not the case. Sure, you can go back and edit something you write, but as soon as someone reads it, it is done. You can’t fix it anymore. In general, people aren’t going to go back and re-read something you wrote to see if you got it right this time. Even worse than that, they are going to pass judgment. Mess up enough times and they will stop reading you. With programming, people expect bugs.

In other words, writing is more risky than programming. There is more riding on a single essay than there is on an algorithm or object model.

I don’t know how Graham feels on the subject, he never goes into detail, but from his blog post it seems to me that writing stresses him out more than programming. To me, it is the opposite. It makes me want to write more. I want to go back and edit my work over and over again. Stress out over it. Try to find the most clever possible way to phrase a subject. A sentence. To really surprise my audience. I love that. I went to college for writing but became a programmer. I’ve always found a lot of overlap, but in my head, I’ve really always wanted to be a writer.

This week at work I had to write a White Paper. A couple people from another department had started to write it, but it was abysmal. It was mostly a copy and paste from other documents. Some words from this, some words from that. A table here. A chart there. All done. It was a terrible hack job with no thought or care at all to what a white paper is supposed to be.

After some arm twisting, I said I would rewrite it. In truth, I wanted to do it. I haven’t written anything in years. A white paper is a persuasive essay. It is a marketing document that tries to convince your audience that your solution to a problem, your technology or approach or company is a better answer than any other out there. I used to love writing essays. In my past, I’ve won awards for my essays. Funny, clever, edgy. This white paper was none of those things. It was simply a professional marketing document that talks about why our solutions are more scalable than any other’s. But it was still a lot of fun.

First essay I’ve written in years. I published it internally to the people who were to review it. I was expecting feedback and comments. Things I may have left out. Places where the wording was weak. Where a paragraph didn’t flow. How I write sentence fragments all over the place (just kidding, I didn’t do that in the white paper. Just in my blog posts. I like them. I think they read well). Or even how the entire thing was trite or childish. I can take the criticism. That’s probably one of the biggest things you learn during writing classes at university – how to take criticism.

So when they do start giving feedback, I am disappointed. It is just… bad. Much like the original document. And I don’t know how to tell them their feedback is wrong without sounding defensive. I try to phrase things in my responses so there is completely no sign of ego (“The paper discusses…” instead of “I discuss…”.) But still I know they are reading my criticisms of their responses as me being defensive. I know I am making them mad with what I write despite trying not to.

Like Graham said, programming is easier than writing. I’ve never been worried about hurting someone else’s feelings with a program I wrote. Or of programming something wrong and someone taking it the wrong way. With writing, though, communicating your precise intention takes a lot of care.

I like to program. It is clean and done and logical. And I like to write. It is funny and shocking and dangerous. I like writing a lot more than programming. But I want to do both. I love doing both. Both tasks are creative and fun. But writing is just more dangerous.

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A Good Idea

I wonder if Vista will have this feature:

This is a utility that lets you drag around and move taskbar buttons. I, personally, like to have Outlook as my leftmost taskbar item. Then my RSS aggregator. Then whatever I am working on. But sometimes I have to restart one of those things and now they aren’t where I expected them to be.

So this very clever person has created this tool. Unfortunately, it isn’t very stable. From the website:

wsTaskborg was created after much research, experimentation and crashes, and even now it can’t be considered completely stable. Safer if automatic taskbar grouping is turned off. Moving buttons is also more stable than manipulating groups.


So… well, I am not going to use it. But it is a cool idea.

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