Scrupuli

blunt essays with sharp points

Do not cede moral high ground to Pope

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 28, 2010 1:21 AM–Lying about what the Pope said only erodes the credibility that you need when you are legitimately criticizing him.

As an atheist who considers supernaturalism to be a mistake which often leads to tragedy, and who condemns the disgusting Catholic sex scandal, I must still say that the Pope’s address is being intentionally misquoted.

C’mon, freethinkers. Passing this crap around as if it were true is as dogmatic as believing the crap that comes from the church. Having the freedom to find out what’s true is useless unless you also actually do it!

When combatting immorality, it is important to keep the moral high ground. Wouldn’t it be better if the Pope were criticized fairly for what he actually does say and do. When people make things up (or pass them around without due consideration) they only piss away hard won credibility.

The Pope did not say, as has been claimed, that pedophilia is defensible, nor say that pedophilia was normal back in his day. He plainly said the opposite. He said that there were some who championed pedophilia in the 1970’s, that their theories were completely lacking in morality, and that the negative effects are still evident today.

Learn something about the pedophile movement here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,702679-3,00.html and read the complete Pope’s address here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2010/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20101220_curia-auguri_en.html

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Geminid meteor shower TONIGHT: predicted to be best shower of 2010

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 13, 2010 2:59 PM–The biggest sky show of the year may be the Geminid meteor shower tonight.

First, watch for an hour starting at sunset (5:25 PM in Fort Worth). Get a good view to the east and watch for "earth grazing" meteors. They are rare, but if you are lucky enough to see even one you will be amazed.

Second, watch the peak of the shower, which is expected between 2:00 AM and sunrise, probably centered on 5:00 AM Fort Worth time. Viewing conditions for the peak are very good: the moon will already have set and the sky will be mostly clear.

Viewing tips: dress very warmly; lie down flat and look straight up; do not use binoculars or a telescope. Geminid meteor trails can appear anywhere in the sky.

Interesting fact: If you trace a path backwards along a Geminid meteor trail, you will find that the path intersects what is called a "radiant point", an imaginary point located near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini. This is the origin of the name of this meteor shower.

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New buttons and options being tested in Google Maps

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 10, 2010 1:10 PM–I am seeing some changes to the Google Maps user interface. These appear when I am logged in using Chrome, and not when I am using a Chrome incognito window. So perhaps I have been included in a beta test. Here is a slide show of the changes I noticed.

Click an image to zoom in.

PHOTO "0". This is a Chrome incognito window and shows the previous (stock) interface that I am familiar with. Just for comparison.

PHOTO 1. The new features are a dot above Orange Guy (this is actually visible in PHOTO 0 but it's the first I've noticed it), different Satellite and Traffic buttons, a magnifying zoom icon on the left hand side of the map, and a ruler icon at the bottom left corner of the map.

PHOTO 2. When the mouse hovers over the Satellite button, the controls area expands to show more options: the Earth button and various map feature that can be shown (checked), hidden (unchecked), or deleted (xed).

PHOTO 3. Expanding the "more" button adds additional map options, such as exploring an area through Wikipedia articles.

PHOTO 4. Clicking the dot above Orange Guy queries the browser for physical location to display it on the map, similar to Google Latitude. The strip across the top is the Chrome browser getting permission to share the physical location with Google Maps.

PHOTO 5. The ruler icon uncovers a distance measurement tool. Supply your own route as points along the path, and Google Maps will calculate the total distance.

PHOTO 6. Choosing "I'm feeling geeky" offers a wide variety of modern, historical, and "quirky" distance units to choose from.

PHOTO 7. The magnifying zoom icon lets you select a rectangular area. This takes most of the guesswork out of choosing an an appropriate zoom level, which seems like a great feature.

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The Power Of Prayer

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 5, 2010 3:30 PM–A folk tale, origin unknown.

In a small, conservative town, a sign went up in front of a small building under construction saying that it was to be a new tavern.

The local Baptist church started a campaign of prayer and petitions to block the bar from opening.

Construction progressed steadily, but the week before it was to open, lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.

The church folks were smug about this turn of affairs until the bar owner sued the church, saying that the church was either directly or indirectly responsible for his building being destroyed. The church vehemently denied that it had any responsibility at all in the matter.

At the hearing, the judge listened to the attorneys for both sides, then said, This is a most unusual case. Although no one has stated it this way, two things are obvious. What we have here are a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn’t!

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SourceForge Does Evil?

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 3, 2010 5:54 PM–I believe SourceForge has disclosed personal e-mail addresses (including mine) to untrustworthy third parties, for the purpose of spamming.

On December 2, 2010, I received an ad sheet by e-mail. The ads offer white papers at the cost of providing my industry, company size, and complete identifying information. Judging from the title—This Week’s Best IT Re:Sources—it is apparently the premier issue of a weekly mailing.

The mailing used the SourceForge name and logo, and SourceForge admit sending it. It was accomplished using third party service bureaus.

The advertisers who underwrote the mailing were: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Intel.

Based on SourceForge’s privacy policy, I believe I should have only received the mailing if I had first requested it, selected it, or been offered a choice about it. I also believe they should not have used service bureaus to accomplish the mailing, and I do not believe they used trustworthy service bureaus.

About The Mailing

I had only opted to receive the sitewide SourceForge “Site Update Email Alert”, a.k.a. SourceForge.net Update, a monthly newsletter which carries their security notices and other site related announcements, and no others except notifications of comments on a few individual bug reports. Up to now, I had only received these e-mails. And SourceForge’s media kit does not mention This Week’s Best IT Re:Sources, or offer any kind of mass mailings other than short four-line snippets in their newsletters. This Week’s Best IT Re:Sources has not been mentioned anywhere as a new advertising program that I can find. These facts suggested that somebody else sent the mailing.

Also, SourceForge has an in-house system which it uses to distribute its newsletters, but this mailing used an outside system. This fact also suggested that somebody else sent the mailing.

But the ad sheet was addressed to a unique e-mail address which I disclosed in confidence only to SourceForge and Gravatar. This fact suggested either that SourceForge did send the mailing, or that spammers stole my personally identifiable information from SourceForge or Gravatar.

Because either possibility raises a serious issue, I filed a private trouble ticket with SourceForge support.

Today SourceForge admitted to me that they sent the mailing.

About The Privacy Policy

The serious issue, then, is this. I believe SourceForge broke trust with me, twice:

1. They promise that personally identifiable information will only be used with permission. In their privacy statement, they say they may use the information for various good purposes. Especially relevant to this issue, they may use it

  • to notify user referrals of Geeknet services, information, or products when a user requests that Geeknet send such information to referrals

and

  • to allow the user to purchase products, access services, or otherwise engage in activities the user selects

and they promise that they

  • will not use or share the personally identifiable information provided to it online in ways unrelated to the items described above without first letting a user know and offering the user a choice. (Emphasis added.)

2. They promise only to share personally identifiable information with a third party in a manner consistent with the privacy policy, or when obligated by law. That is, when they have

  • a user’s permission,

or when they use a third party service bureau

  • prohibited from using users’ information for any other purpose

and who will

  • comply with Geeknet privacy practices, and other appropriate confidentiality and security measures,

or

  • as required by legal obligations.

They say that when using a service bureau they will still keep all the promises made in the privacy statement.

The mailing has links to elabs10.com and emailengine.com for mailing list management, and sourceforge.com and then to accelacomm.com for fulfillment. With Google Search I found that elabs10.com appears on some lists of domains blacklisted for spamming, and that accelacomm.com appears on a list of domains blacklisted for phishing.

Damage Control

In the mailing, they did appear to honor the part of their privacy policy which says they will provide instructions in each of its emails on how to be removed from any lists.

SourceForge have also apologized to me and said, The team has received feedback on this issue, and are working to ensure to make the purpose of these messages more clear in the future and that these messages are only sent to those that want them. This might be corporatespeak for, The people who broke the privacy policy have been properly spanked.

I hope so.

Citations

“GeekNet, Inc. United States/European Union Safe Harbor Privacy Statement.” SourceForge. GeekNet, Inc., n.d. Web. 3 Dec 2010.

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Faith Is Not A Renunciation Of Evidence

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 2, 2010 5:43 PM–It is not right to say that Christians make absence of evidence into a virtue and call it faith.

Courage, not irrationality, is the virtue of faith. The Bible defines faith as staying firm in your hope despite your fears, because the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And the Bible goes on to offer evidence that God exists and is trustworthy. So faith is defended by the Bible on evidence. Far from renouncing evidence, over and over, the Bible points to evidence as the basis for believing things.

Consequently, most Christians are quick to point to all kinds of evidence underlying their faith. A small minority renounce evidence, but they are not doing it right.

When Christians resist challenges to their beliefs, it can seem like they are renouncing evidence. But what is really operating is confirmation bias. That is not a religious virtue. Persisting in discredited beliefs is a human tendency at work in everybody. (It is one reason why the scientific method is so important: it guards us against our normal human tendency to fool ourselves.)

When you put the inconvenient facts in front of a person having false beliefs, you cannot expect them to quickly and easily embrace them. But in time and with repetition from various sources it often happens that they do eventually. This point of view helps me to be patient, and to be hopeful that I am making a difference even when it is not immediately apparent.

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Manic And Depressed All At Once? That’s Normal

by Scrvpvlvs
Dec 1, 2010 6:44 AM–In bipolar people, mania and depression are not opposites. Data suggest that depression and mania fluctuate independently. Instead of having a manic episode followed by a depressive episode, you may often experience both—or neither.

Here is the abstract of the study reproduced from the PubMed page.

1. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2010 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Depressive and manic symptoms are not opposite poles in bipolar disorder.

Johnson SL, Morriss R, Scott J, Paykel E, Kinderman P, Kolamunnage-Dona R, Bentall RP.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Johnson SL, Morriss R, Scott J, Paykel E, Kinderman P, Kolamunnage-Dona R, Bentall RP. Depressive and manic symptoms are not opposite poles in bipolar disorder. Objective: This study of 236 individuals with bipolar disorders employed longitudinal analyses to determine whether the symptoms of mania and depression can be understood as one dimension (with depression and mania as opposites) or two relatively independent dimensions. Method: Weekly severity ratings of manic and depression were assessed using the Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation—II for 72 weeks. The within-subjects correlation of manic and depressive severity was examined using random effects regression. Results: Contrary to the one-dimension model, mania and depression symptoms were not negatively related. Indeed, the correlations of mania with depressive symptoms were quite small. Conclusion: The data suggest that depressive and manic symptoms are not opposite poles. Rather depressive and manic symptoms appear to fluctuate relatively independently within bipolar disorder.

PMID: 20825373 [PubMed—as supplied by publisher]

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