Remembering Our Dead

Violence of any form is a Human issue. It is not a gay issue or a straight issue. Violence against our fellow Human being affects us all. In this day and age when we have found (in law at least) freedom to choose your religion, freedom to be male or female, freedom to not be abused based on your race, there is still one group of people that are quite often legislated against.

It is hard for us to call ourselves a free country when there are those among us who are being attacked and killed regularly for all of these things. It is even harder for us to change this when our law makers are actively writing laws against one of these groups.

The sad truth is that people die way too often, just because they loved the wrong person.

I know I am a bit late posting this, as it is now nearing November 21’st in the mainland US, but 20 November has been declared by the GLBT community as the Transgendered Day of Remembrance.

I myself am straight, and married to a wonderful woman, but many of my friends and even members of my family belong to this community. This is a human rights issue that has been of concern to me for many years, so I can’t let the day go by without saying something.

The following link goes to a website that should be self explanatory. The people on the list were brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, lovers and friends. In some cases they were even mothers and fathers.

What they all have in common is that they died for being different. They did nothing to harm anyone else. They were just not “normal” by some random individual’s definition of normal.

Every year this day is remembered, and has been for a number of years. Every year, this list is longer. Many of the people on this list are American. We cannot call ourselves a free country as long as we are allowing these things to happen.

Twenty Media Outlets say that Torture is Free Speach

Torture is not protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In fact, it is not supported in any amendment.

The first amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

These words that we hold so dear where meant to have a few common sense obvious effects. They were intended to protect everyone’s right to worship or not worship as they please. Even though the phrase “One Nation Under God” appears often in American politics, you do not have to follow that god.

Secondly, they are intended to protect the rights of the common man to object to the behavior of his government in a very visible way without risk of backlash (in the case of protest), or in a more verbal but quieter way (in the case of petition).

Third, it protects the rights of the press to record and distribute information, even if that information is not comfortable for the people in power.

Our country was founded because the powers of the time did not practice these things. To insure that our new government did, they codified them in the very document that acts as the foundation of our Union.

It is this document that we look to in order to judge the validity of every law that is passed in our country. It is not a perfect document, but it is one that a lot of people have put a lot of thought into. This is why we have amendments to start with. To many people, the first amendment is the most important, for the reasons stated above.

Its sole purpose is to protect the little guy. More importantly, it is to protect the basic and natural behavior that can be expected of any rational human being when their rights are trod upon.

The entire document is primarily about protection of these very people. No where does it say that an outside entity has the right to torment, harass, and torture any citizen for any reason.
Enter Westboro Baptist Church. I do not normally speak like this of anyone, but they are a hate group that hides behind their “God,” and a twisted interpretation of the first amendment while they torture the families and loved ones of our nations fallen. I put “God” in parenthesis, because of all the various denominations of Christianity (of which they claim membership) that I have experienced, NONE of them worship a God that would condone the torture of people in his name.

Now that I have spoken in that manner, I should probably explain WHY I feel the way that I do. I am sure that there are those who have not heard of them.

These people do not picket companies. They do not picket government buildings or events. They do not stage independent rallies to share their views loudly with the world.

No, they crash funerals. They travel around the country, protesting funerals. They watch the news, and scour the air ways and internet for word that a fallen solder has come home for their final rest, and they put together a personalized protest just for him or her, complete with photographs of the fallen so that the families know that it IS about them.

They are fond of slogans like “God Hates Fags” (Yes, the URL above really does appear to be theirs), “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” and “Thank God for IED’S.”

Their website (linked above) even has a schedule of events that they plan to picket in the near future. I have looked over the list, and on it they have three protests scheduled in the near future (one yesterday) for military funerals. Three are flat out anti-semetic. The rest are mostly either against other Christian groups, or Lady Gaga… No, that is not a joke.

Of the ones that are not military funerals, several of the others are targeting families not organizations.

They go around saying hateful, hurtful, angry things, and getting in the faces of people who THOUGHT they had gone through the worst that life could offer them. People who are already dealing with the loss of a son, a daughter, a husband, a brother, a wife… Suddenly they find themselves the focus of a terrorist attack, carried out by their fellow Americans!

I have been thinking about this for a while. I am an American Sailor. The idea of going to war is a little scary, but it is no where near as terrifying for me as the idea that if I were to die, my mother and father would likely be tortured by these people. While they are still working their way through the grief process, they could find themselves receiving messages that people were glad I was dead. “God hates Fags! God hates the military! I am glad your faggy son is dead.” That is the kind of things that these people are saying at these protests.

The constitution guarantees your right to stand outside of city hall and yell whatever the hell you want. Right or wrong, you can protest the local bank, or the health department, or whatever organization that has you pissed off this week. Fill out the paperwork, and get your permit. You are good to go.

The constitution does not however give you the right to be disruptive, and hateful, and threatening, and vulgar, while people are carrying out the single most solemn ceremony that exists in any faith.

When someone has died and their loved ones are laying them to rest they should be allowed a moment of piece. They are sure to have many sleepless and painful nights even without outside interference. When people are in pain, the proper response is not to intentionally make it worse.

What I have said may seem like common sense to a lot of people, but apparently not to everyone. The case of Snyder vs. Phelps is heading quickly towards the Supreme Court, and amicus briefs are being filed in support of both sides.

This is part of what finally convinced me to take the time to write a full blog entry on the subject.

In an article in Stars and Stripes, dated 18 July (It may have a different date stateside), they speak of 20 media groups that are siding with Westboro Baptist Church on the issue. It seems that they feel that psychological torture of individuals (individuals, not organizations) is protected under the first amendment. In the case of Snyder vs Phelps, they flew all the way from Kansas to Maryland to target a family. They could have just as easily made the same statement in ANY other situation, and I would not object. I do not agree with them. I think they are hate mongers and bigots, but they have a right to be.

However, I do not agree with the assertion that their right to be bigots allows them to attack people.

There is a blog entry (basically very similar to the printed paper article) at the Stars and Stripes site. They list the organizations there.

I can see the organizations worries, but they fail to see the difference between news coverage of an event, and personal attacks on individual citizens. They fail to realize that the issue here is nothing like a reporter covering a story. It is more like a mugger being told he did a good job, and was welcome to keep at it.

People have to know that there is a line between peaceful protest, and personal attacks.

It is late, and I am running out of steam, so I will leave off here. I know it is not often that I get two blog entries in the same month (or quarter for that matter), but some things have to be said. Some things just make your head want to explode.

This is one of those things.

The Apple AT&T Lawsuit has issues

The AT&T class action suit is claiming to be anti-monopoly and anti-trust. Monopoly: One company has exclusive access to sell a TYPE of product. The iPhone is NOT the only smart phone, and the others are NOT being sold by apple. Trust: Two or more companies conspiring to set prices on the same sort of product. This is usually to split up market share (i.e. neither of us are likely to lose customers to the other), or more often to hedge out some third party (i.e. He is not one of us, so if we both undercut his prices, then he won’t get business).

AT&T and Apple may be setting prices together, but they are not the same kind of company. One makes a popular telephone, the other provides communications services for that phone. Them cooperating does not make a trust possible.

Please people, if you are going to bring suit, there is nothing stopping you, but do NOT set the precedent of redefining legal terms. When you do that, it muddies the water for everyone.

I have yet to hear of anything that AT&T or Apple is doing to harm customers. There is nothing stopping you from buying any other smart phone (at a lower cost). There is nothing stopping you from going to another phone provider (T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, just to name three).

They are not conspiring with their competition to set prices, and they are not the only providers of smart phones. They aren’t even doing a very good job at hedging out other smart phone providers.

The iPhone is a very nice piece of gear, but that does not make it a human right.

vi And vim

I keep seeing a comment pop up here and there on the web that is starting to anoy me just a little. Long time vim (vi) users seem to be constantly explaining how wonderful their favorite editor is and then say that there is a steep learning curve to using vim.

Quite frankly, that is a load of bull.

In their defense, for many of them it has been many years since they used anything but a full featured text editor.

They forget that their target audience is used to notepad and the like where simple things like search and replace are still new and shiny toys.

I say this because most of these speaches at least indicate that they are targeted at relative newbies.

A word of advice, it takes less than five minutes to learn enough about vim to do everything you can do in notepad or nano.

Unless you are using something similar to emacs, or one of he vi offshoots it will take you less than a day to get up to the same level of productivity in vi that you are at in your current editor.

At that point you can learn all the scary bits that everyone talks about at your leisure.

Don’t be scared. Give it a try. Worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and go back to whatever you are already using.

And for those who have found the ideal text editor for use on their local machine, vim is still worth playing with. It truely excels at editing files on a remote server.

If you have shell access to the machine, then there is a good chance that vi is already installed or that your admin will be willing to install it for you.

If you are the admin, there us a version of vim for pretty much every OS. 🙂

Vim is not a pretty editor, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in style.

The Perfect Game

The best games start with a solid idea of where they are going, and how to get there. A path is laid, so that if everything goes smoothly the GM knows where to go next.

It is also important that the Game World is fleshed out a bit, and alternate paths are charted to get to the final destination.

Finally, once all this preparation is done, the GM has to make the ultimate sacrifice (from the perspective of a world creator). He or she has to give up part of his ownership of this world. He or she has to be willing to let the players take the rains of their character and go with it. The best games are a shared virtual reality created in the minds of the Game Master and the Players. It is not a straight forward game. If players wanted that, they would stick to the computer.

The best game is a living, growing, evolving thing. The characters that you will always remember are not the ones that you spend hours upon hours dredging out of a book filling your head with numbers and lists of powers and plans of grandeur. The character you will remember twenty years from now is the one that got away. The one that woke up one night at the gaming table, leapt forth from your mind, and never returned. The character that took on a life of its own. No matter what you thought you wanted for him or her, they had other ideas.

When the game takes a life of its own, independent of the individual gamers but thriving within the mind of all of them, that is the ultimate game. That is the game that you will find maybe a few times in your life.

It is like the surfer’s ultimate wave, the climber’s ultimate mountain. It is the kind of game that spawns novels that refuse to have a sequel, but leave people begging for one none the same.

I know that as a GM, I can only ever hope to come close to creating such a creature, but it is the goal.

Can I do bilingual blogs? バイリンガルにできますか?

Maybe I should start writing bilingual blog entries.

My Japanese is not so good, so at first it will probably result in funny looking blogs.

Eventually, I will be able to write properly.

My English should be readable at least. 🙂

Any bilingual Japanese and English speakers out there, feel free to correct my Japanese!






You have to wonder sometimes at the intelligence of spammers.

Lately, I have been seeing a lot of spam sent to religious mailing lists advertising porn. I am not sure what the sender was thinking. I am guessing that it was probably a bot. They harvested the email address from someone’s list and sent it off. Either that, or the bot was simply designed to troll through the yahoo lists, and saw that the list had a LOT of members. Most religious lists do. 😛

I just wish that the spammers would show a little more discretion. Spamming a religious list with porn sites is just kind of wrong somehow…

Microsoft and DRM

I am not a Microsoft fan. I use Linux on my own computers, windows mainly just at work because that is what my employer uses. Lately I have been hearing a lot of people complain about Microsoft and “their” DRM initiative. They feel that Microsoft is using DRM to strong-arm people into using their OS, since their OS is the one that can legally use the DRM enabled software. A lot of this sentiment comes from a misunderstanding of what DRM is. A lot of this post is similar to one I sent to a mailing list. It was in response to the assertion that Microsoft and Macintosh have a choice of whether or not to include DRM software in their operating systems.

There is one big issue. There are still a LOT of people among the average consumer that thinks of their computer as a “DVD Player Plus.” If Microsoft and/or Intel cannot provide them with that, then they lose a rather large chunk of the consumer base. They are too Large, and in the media too often to do this illegally without major repercussions. This means doing it legally, which means, sorry for the vulgarity, Hollywood has them by the short hairs. This is the same reason that the Packaged distros no longer ship with full DVD support built in. It is not because they do not have the ability, it is because they do not wish to face the legal firestorm that would result if they did so. Hollywood is watching us. They see us as a threat. 😛 They are convinced that we will watch DVD’s under Linux in an unlicensed manner. >:)

From a purely moral standpoint, I personally feel that watching DVD’s under whatever platform is a Fair Use matter, as long as you have a legal copy of the DVD. I wish the courts still felt that way. :/ Instead, the organization producing your software has to pay out the nose for you to be able to use it legally.

I wonder how hard it would be to start a fund geared specifically towards raising the money for licensing of a DVD player program. The only problem is that while the majority of the code could be open sourced, the Important part, the part that actually decodes the video stream, could not.

Basically though, Hollywood is driving the DRM issue. 😛

In order to continue providing legal DVD playback under windows, they have to shell out the cash for the license. Under the terms of the license, it is revocable under most any reason that the corporation wishes. The thing is easily as bad as one of MS’s EULA’s.

I would say though that there are plenty of reasons to dislike Microsoft even without the DRM issue. ^^;; Yes, it is an agitation, but we cannot focus directly on MS if we hope to solve that problem. That will have to become an issue of dealing with the media industry.

We can encouraged MS to fight it, and if they choose to do so (and more importantly hold their ground) Then they can be a strong ally in that one area. They made noises in that direction once, but it only took a few threats from Hollywood lawyers to get them to back down. That WAS their decision, but it was a business decision based on how much it could cost them in the long run, and the fact that the courts they would have to deal with were already a bit angry with them anyway.

*grins* All it takes is one agitated lawyer to cause problems for a long time. ^^;; If you ever go to court, Don’t tell the judge he is computer illiterate.

Things we can target MS on. 😛 Lousy performance. Strong-arm tactics (though we need more support from the computer manufacturers for this one), frivolous patent suits, jacked up standards. These things alone (especially performance issues, and jacked up code) are more than enough reason to dislike MS. Most of the reasons people apply to them work just fine. 😛 We just need to make sure to keep each issue in proportion.

A Bit of Advise

Everyone needs to choose their battles wisely.
I am not saying you should turn away from a strong enemy, or that cowardice is the right route.  Instead, what I am saying is that you need to insure that you know your enemy.
If you are going to engage a target, then make sure it is the right one.  Do not overestimate your enemy, and end up aiming six feet over their head.  Do not target a perceived enemy for the flaws of another.  Do not paint an unrealistic image of your foe, because that will make it harder to gain allies.  If you are going to fight a battle, make sure to do it on realistic grounds.  We cannot defeat a foe by punching at shadows.  We cannot garner allies through spreading lies, to do so is dishonorable.   We should make sure our allies know what is real as well.

Newton’s Mechanistic World and it’s impact on Religion.

What follows is a paper that I wrote for a class. (So, Ma’am, if you see this one I realy wrote it, I didn’t just grab it off of this blog page) 😛
The paper was not great, but I hope that it got an A, I should hopefully find out soon.  🙂
I may do a review later on the books that I used for this course (REL340 Science and Religion).  One of the books is excelent, the other is not so great.  🙂


The Heliocentric model presented by Copernicus did much to explain where the planets moved, but not why.  Kepler had presented theories on the locations of the planets, but still no real evidence of why or how.  Among Newton’s greatest achievements were his studies of celestial mechanics.  He sought to explain what those before him had not (McGrath, 1999, p. 16).

Newton’s contributed greatly to this body of knowledge, but his greatest contributions perhaps were simply a new way of looking at the issue.  He saw connections between information that people before him had seen as unconnected, and he gave more detail to ideas that had only been discussed as vague concepts before that (McGrath, 1999, p. 16). 


Newton used basic measurable concepts such as mass, space, and time to investigate the motion of objects, and their interactions with one another.  First he focused on the laws of motion.  His three laws lay the foundation for the study of motion and the interaction of objects with one another (McGrath, 1999, p. 17). 


He looked seriously at Kepler’s laws and how the planets interacted in light of his own theories.  He was able to see that while Kepler’s laws seemed by themselves somewhat arbitrary, when applied along side the laws of motion they were plain to see.  At the core of these studies was his belief that the same laws that applied to objects in relation to each other on the earth would apply equally to the celestial bodies.  Applying these assumptions, he was able to calculate the duration of the moons orbit around the earth with an error of only ten percent.  It was later discovered that the error was simply caused by a misunderstanding of the moon’s distance from the earth.  When later studies were able to accurately measure the distance of the moon, the calculations and observed time matched (McGrath, 1999, p. 17).


Newton’s studies led quickly to a mechanistic view of the world.  That is the view that the world operates according to a set of fixed laws, much like the gears and springs that cause a clock to operate.  This mechanistic worldview was embraced by many who saw that it encouraged the idea of design.  It was seen to indicate that there was a guiding hand in the process of creation; How else could everything be so structured and work so fluidly together.  Newton himself supported this view  (McGrath, 1999, p. 18).

“The success of Newton’s mechanistic world view led to a significant religious development. . . .  It can be shown without difficulty that Newton’s emphasis on the regularity of nature encouraged the rise of Deism.” (McGrath, 1999, p. 18)


In this way Newton’s theories supported a non-confrontational model of science and religion in that in his view and the view of many of those who followed his studies, science and religion converged.  The two complemented each other.  God was the great creator.  It was he who built the great device that was the universe.  From him all science flowed, and all of nature pointed to his existence just by it’s very eloquence.  To Newton, and the Deists who clung to his theories, no words needed to be written for a man to see God in the very fabric of creation.



Alister E. McGrath, 1999, Science & Religion, Maryland: Blackwell Publishing