Blogging 101, Day 1: Who Am I, and Why Am I Here?

I have had this blog for a while, and I sporadically update it. However, I received the notification regarding the latest blogging course being provided at The Daily Post, and I thought that it might offer me the opportunity to develop a better blogging habit.

It is September the 15th and the first assignment is in. Who am I, and why am I here?

This is a timely assignment. My daughter has just started at a new school, and has been given her very first piece of homework. There was some maths, but there was also a page where she was asked to draw a picture of herself and to write a little bit about herself. I was helping and encouraging her, so we got some scrap paper and wrote phrases about her. These were things like ‘Likes and Dislikes’, ‘What others think of her’ and ‘What her aspirations are for the future’. Sadly she chose to write only a very little on the page itself. Like most of us, I suspect she was nervous of putting herself  ‘out there’ for her teacher to see.

I thought it would help to do something similar.

Likes:

I am an unabashed geek. I love to play around with computers and gadgets of all kinds. I love to push the envelope on the way that I use kit. I tend not to run the default system where it is practical to hack things. I’m a huge fan of Linux, and I use it as my main operating system at work (on servers and my own desktop computers) and at home (though my laptop is dual boot so my wife and daughter can use it).

I love Italian food, particularly pizza.

I would spend most of the day where I wasn’t using a computer reading. I like to read a weird plethora of books, often ploughing my way through instruction manuals and user guides for software, but I also love fiction.

My favourite author is Jane Austen, and my favourite book is Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read it so often that I can recite sections of it, I can pick up a copy and pick a page at random and start reading, and will know exactly what has happened beforehand and what is yet to come.

I like animals, especially dogs. I also enjoy walking the family dog, especially in the morning when I take the time to think about the day ahead.

Dislikes:

I’m firmly of the opinion that life is too short to waste much time on hate. But there are some things which will cause me to get my soapbox out and go on a rant. Today isn’t the day to be so negative.

What People Might Say About Me:

Of course, the real answer is that you would have to ask them. I aspire to many things. How well I succeed I simply don’t know.

Aims and Aspirations:

I’m not a particularly ambitious person. I like my job, and I love that I get to spend time with my family who are the most important thing for me. I aspire to collect knowledge and to learn every day. I watch my daughter and enjoy the fun and pathos that she brings into my life.

There you go. A little bit of introspection about who I am.

Why Am I Here?

The answer to this depends on how profound you want to be at this particular juncture. I’m here, writing this blog because I like the idea of writing. I like the idea that ideas shape language and language shapes your ideas, and I want to pummel my ideas to see what happens. I am also here because if I have one major weakness when it comes to writing it is that I am hopelessly verbose. I think the best cure for this is to develop a less verbose habit, and that is best done by practice.

The other answer is that, as far as I’m concerned I’m here, like all of us because of an accident of cosmic happen-stance. As far as we can tell there was a rapid inflation of space-time about 13.6 billion years ago. As the space expanded it cooled and condensed into elementary particles which clumped together into simple elements which then clumped into stars which lit up the early universe while turning lighter elements into heavier elements. The stars exploded scattering their remnants into space where they clumped again to form other stars. Some of the elementary material clumped into smaller balls of matter which rotated around the stars and cooled and coalesced as planets. One of the planets, nothing special just happened to have the right conditions for the formation of very simple self replicating molecules. These molecules began a race which would eventually be labelled ‘The Survival of the Fittest’, and began to change with replication, eventually forming simple cells, then multi-cellular life and then a myriad of life forms each ideally suited for the conditions found on the planet.

Eventually one of the higher life forms on the planet developed a slightly different mechanism for survival. Whereas other life always relied on bigger teeth or stronger muscles this animal relied on a brain which was capable of modelling the world around it and cooperating and making tools. The human race took this ability and ran with it, and soon (in geological and biological terms) this species covered most of the world and were more successful than any other species apart from bacteria.

And then came the computer, and the internet and the infinite number of monkeys battering an infinite number of keyboards…

I don’t believe in any deity. And even if you were to provide information which showed that there was a finger on the button that triggered the big bang I would not consider any of the claimed gods worthy of worship. They all reflect the bigotry of their creators and the social mores of the time they were dreamt up.

 

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New Life and Not Life.

A weathered grave stone and a small drift of snowdrops.On my morning walk with the dog I was struck by the juxtaposition of this weathered old grave stone and the snowdrops at its base. I’ve just signed up for BlipFoto and it made for a good photo of the day for that too.

The head stone is in the church yard of St. Mary’s in Linton, Cambridgeshire. When standing in front of the stone you can just make out that there is text carved into the stone, but it is so weathered it is difficult to make out. Maybe I will try one morning to read what it says.

The church yard in Linton is very much the classic country church yard that you might imagine when reading or listening to Gray’s Eulogy Written in a Country Churchyard. Most of the head stones date from the late 1800s or the early 1900s. They come in a range of shapes and sizes and states of repair. This one caught my eye partly because of the rich lichen colouring around the upper section and partly because it lies just to one side of the path I always use through the church yard.

2013 Book Report 21: When It Was Dark – Guy Thorne.

I read this book on my Kindle, available here.

I can’t remember why I went out of my way to get this book. I have a feeling that it was mentioned somewhere else, and I made a mental note to get hold of it. I’m glad I did, though I have a feeling that Guy Thorne wouldn’t have approved of my feelings on reading the book.

The book was written in 1902, and it reflects the time when it was written. Summarising the story as bullet points:

  • A respected and well known biblical scholar has a weakness for the high life beyond his modest academic salary to support. He also has an ongoing affair with a lady of the stage.
  • Because of his proclivities the scholar finds himself in serious debt, having already been rescued from ignominy several times by a rich patron who is a member of parliament.
  • The patron offers a way out of debt for the scholar, offering to clear all his debts and to set him up with a regular payment in the future for a simple service. The academic is to travel to ‘The Holy Land’ and set up a tomb with indications that show the tomb to have been the one in which a crucified Jesus is laid. Evidence is then to be added to show that Jesus did not rise, but that his body was removed by Joseph of Arimathea.
  • The protagonist in the story is a young priest working in an industrial town in the north of England. He keeps the faith in the face of the doubts sweeping the world’s Christians. And it is he who eventually finds a way to expose the falsehoods.

Reflecting The Early Twentieth Century Norms.

There are many aspects of the book which look odd or quaint from the early years of the 21st Century. There is clearly an anti-Jewish bias in the book demonstrated by the fact that the rich patron is a Jew. This was quite normal for Christians of the time (a fact which is glossed over by Christians desperate to blame atheism for Hitler and the Nazis). The idea that the loss of faith immediately leads to a break down in law and order is the sort of thing that the more fanciful evangelicals cling to as well.

As an atheist myself, I found this an enjoyable vignette which demonstrated the thought processes of a simpler time. It is undoubtedly a product of its time, something that could never have been written later, at least in Western Europe. As far as I can tell, the Americas could still produce material like this and expect it to sell by the bucket load!

Can I Get A Witness?

Looking out of the window this morning we realised that our road was in for its regular visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I wasn’t really that bothered as they seem to have skipped our house for a while. But today we got a visitation.

I was in the mood for a heated debate. And I quite enjoyed it. I let them know right from the start that I thought that the bible was poppycock. They threw all sorts of stuff at me. The idea that science was confirming bible stories, the world would be a better place if everyone followed the bibles rules etc.

For instance: ‘Do you think the world would be a better place if people followed the teachings of the bible?’. I said that while it was clear some of the moral codes in the bible were useful, most of them were a reflection of the time and place that they were written. It made sense not to eat certain foods in a pre-refrigeration desert society where such foods would make you ill. Just like in Islam, a religion born of an arid region it made sense to have a hand that you kept clean and one you allowed to be less so. But the rules were for a time and place. In a world where we understand germ theory, have disinfectants and access to plentiful water these rules were less useful. But then some of the rules are just bizarre. Does it matter if you wear clothing of mixed fibres? And other rules are just objectionable, especially those around the roles of women.

As to the idea that the bible was being confirmed by science, I gave that very short shrift, pointing out that the bible seems only able to be confirmed by science by a retro-fitting of interpretations. I likened it to the predictions of Nostradamus and how people found indications of events like World War II in his texts, but only ever in hindsight. The bible, like Nostradamus has never had any predictive ability.

I enjoyed the whole thing. But I don’t think I will be hearing from them any time soon. Maybe I should have recommended ‘The God Delusion’ while they were here…