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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

5 Degrees to Kevin Bacon

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Last week, I had my 9 seconds of fame. Carter Aviation Technologies was featured in a segment of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, and they actually used some of the footage they shot that had me in it. Between one scene talking to my boss, and another looking past the back of my head to see what was on my computer screen, I was on screen for about 9 seconds all together.

So, now that I've been on TV, and my boss has been in several documentaries, I can count my degrees to Kevin Bacon (technically, I was very briefly in another documentary a few years ago, but it was so brief you had to pause the video to make me out). Anyway, here goes:

Jeff Lewis -> Jay Carter, Modern Marvels
Jay Carter -> Bob Simon, 60 Minutes
Bob Simon -> Larry King, Larry King Live
Larry King -> David Hayman, The Jackal
David Hayman -> Kevin Bacon, Where the Truth Lies

So, I've got a Bacon number of 5. (Yeah, I realize documentaries and news aren't exactly the kosher way to do it, but that's the only way I can.)

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Added 2007-10-01: Well, I was in a hurry when I wrote this entry originally, and there are two things I'd like to add. First, I wasn't the only one to get some screen time. A few other co-workers who aren't normally in documentaries also got their chance to call up relatives about being on TV. (That shot where they're all walking out of the trailer took 3 takes to get it just right.)

I also wanted to add that we all thought the documentary was very good. Carter Aviation Technologies has been in other documentaries before. Sometimes it's such a short mention that it's hardly worth it, and sometimes the documentary makers just get things wrong. But Modern Marvels did a very good job of explaining our concept.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Website Update- Photo Page Generator v2.2

I've made some slight modifications to my Photo Page Generator program, so it's now at version 2.2. I've uploaded the updated version to my Programming and Downloads sections. The main upgrade is the ability to use 3 different resolutions of the same image. This could be useful for an archive of images that are high enough resolution for printing. The way I've used it is to have 1.) low resolution thumbnails, 2.) intermediate resolution for previewing, and 3.) high resolution suitable for printing (specifically developed for this site: http://www.cartercopters.com/catma/, which is still unfinished at the time of writing this update). I've aslo improved the readme file. The full list of updates is available from the history in the readme file.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TV Host Not Sure if Earth Is Round or Flat

Now, I don't use this blog much simply to post links to other sites or other people's blog entries. I mean, this blog isn't popular enough that a link from me would really increase traffic to another site at all, so I usually only link to other sites when I have something to add. But this topic strikes a chord with me, so I thought I'd include this link.

For years, I've been saying that rejecting evolution was about like rejecting that the Earth was round. I thought that doubting a roughly spherical earth was such a ludicrous position, that it would only be the craziest of the crazies that thought that way. Surely, in the United States, where everybody gets an education, any reasonably normal person would know the shape of our planet. Well apparently, my definition of "reasonably normal" doesn't include talk show hosts:

Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View, stated that she isn't sure if the Earth is round or flat.

You can read more about it here.

To be fair, after watching the clip, from the way she's talking I get the feeling that she may have made a poorly worded statement just for the argument, and that she didn't really believe it, but she refused to back down from her point because she didn't want to admit that she was wrong. I'll admit, I've sort of done that before, but never with an arugment so stupid as that, and never one that was very far from my actual position. So, even if this woman's not dumb as a post or comletely ignorant, she was willing to say she wasn't sure what shape the earth was during a debate and not be completely embarrassed by that. So, even giving her the benefit of the doubt, she obviously doesn't have that much respect for knowledge.

I never watch The View, so I don't know what their show's all about. Maybe it's kind of like an upscale Howard Stern - have a moderator bring in a few crazies just for entertainment value. If that's the case, they certainly do a good job at it. I just hope that it's not a respected talk show, that people listen to for informed debate. On the other hand, I haven't heard much from the other hostesses, so I don't know if they all have views as weird as that Shepherd lady - maybe she's just the comic relief or the designated punching bag, to make the other three look good.

Anyway, I'm shocked a person with that mindset could get a job that pays that well, spouting off that type of nonsense, too. Where do I sign up?

added 2007-09-21: I just talked this over with a guy I know. He thinks I'm being too generous - he thinks she's just a moron. But, we both agreed, that even if she was doing it to defend a previous argument, unless it's some philosophical point about solipsism or a Matrix type universe, any argument that requires you to admit that you don't know if the earth is round or flat is a really, really bad argument.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No New Entries

Well, once again I've been so busy responding to comments in previous entries, that I haven't had time to make a new standalone entry this week. But, I think my two responses in those threads are pretty good, so read them if you're interested.

I've decided to slightly modify my update per week goal. I will still try to post an update per week, but if I make a change to my main website, the entry where I describe that will count towards meeting my goal (I used to not count the Website Updates as a real blog entry towards my goal). It's all to do with the limited amount of time I have to work on this - it's mostly during lunch breaks at work, after all. So, if I take the time to modify my main site, I figure that's enough effort put toward the online world for that week. And hey, it's still new content that I've come up with being advertised on the blog. It's better than simply posting links to other people's web pages.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Website Update- New Section, Religious Essays

How's that saying go, "Never discuss work, politics, or religion?" Well, I break all three of those rules on this site. Considering the third one of those, since I have recently gone through some changes, and no longer have the same beliefs as what I stated in older essays, I thought it would be most honest for me to discuss my current beliefs. So, if that's the type of thing that interests you, I've added a new collection to my Writings section, Religious Essays. Since it is such a different theme than most of this site, and probably bound to ruffle a few feathers, I've decided that this is the only mention I'll give it here in my "Latest News & Updates" section [the previous sentence applies only to my main site, and the News & Updates section on my home page]. If I do make any changes to it, or add any new essays, it will be noted in the History section at the bottom of that page, and possibly on my blog.

My Hundredth Blog Entry & An Announcement

Foreword & Disclaimer Added 2007-09-14

Okay, in the feedback I've gotten to this (from a blog comment, e-mail, and a especially some real, live conversations), people seem to have a problem with the word, "atheist." Atheist has different shades of meaning depending on who you ask, and in the more popular usage, perhaps I'd be better described as agnostic. In the comments to this entry, I brought up the term, "freethinker," and I'm beginning to think that I might like that even better, since, as I point out in another comment, I think the thought processes we use to arrive at our conclusions are as important as the conclusions themselves. And by stressing the process, and not always the final destination, it allows you to find more commonality with people who came to different conclusions. My point is, if you're reading this entry, please don't get hung up on the term, "atheist." Please read what my actual position is.

I'd also add, that if you read this, and find it very objectionable, and also happen to know where I work, don't take it as a reflection of the others where I work or the company. As far as I know, I'm the only non-believer. Plus, every other week when we go out to eat as a group, somebody always says a prayer (never me, of course).

Doing some maintenance on my blog recently, I noticed that I had 99 entries so far. That makes this entry 100. So, for my hundredth entry, I wanted to make it something kind of special. So, I have an announcement:

I'm an atheist.

Okay, so it's not an earth shattering announcement, but it's something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. It probably comes as no surprise to many people - indeed, my family and many of my friends already know. And anybody that reads this blog and the essays on my main website would have seen how I'd been moving away from Christianity (such as this essay, where I'd finally decided that the Bible isn't divinely inspired). And, I've been leaving comments on other blogs discussing my atheism, even though I wasn't open about it on my own blog. I'd even already received some e-mail from people accusing me of being an atheist long before I actually became one, simply because I accepted evolution.

Okay, first things first, let me get a few things out of the way (by quoting and paraphrasing from other essays I've written). I didn't become an atheist just because I didn't like going to church Sunday mornings, or because I didn't want to have to follow the rules anymore. I don't "hate God" (it's a little hard to hate an entity you don't believe in). I read the Bible. I studied science. I read up on philosophy. I became an atheist because that's the way I think the universe really is. And don't confuse atheism with Postmodernism or Nihilism. I still think there's an objective reality. I still worry about how to be a good person. I just no longer see a god as being part of that.

Second, don't confuse atheism with certainty - I'm not absolutely one-hundred percent certain about anything. However, I'm about as sure that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun as I am that the Bible was written by people, and that a God as presented in the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not as certain that no type of divine being exists at all. I don't see an absolute reason why there would have to be one, and I haven't seen any good positive evidence for such a being, so the default position is to doubt its existence. But, I still can't be positive that a god/gods doesn't exist. So, I leave open the slight possibility that gods could possibly exist, but I base my worldview on the idea that they probably don't.

For various reasons, which I'll get to in a little bit, I've held back announcing my atheism on this blog. But, I've really wanted to do it for a while, now. If it was just my normal website, without this blog, and without some of my religious essays from my writing section, I wouldn't have worried about it at all. After all, what does atheism have to do with aviation, or programming, or installing a Koyo radiator in a 1994 Mazda RX-7? But, I do have essays and blog entries that deal with religious themes. Considering that the last time I explicitly stated my position I said that I was a Christian (either here or here - I can't quite remember which was last), even though it's not directly relevant to some of my more recent essays, I thought some people might feel misled were they to find out I was actually an atheist, so I figured it was about time to let them know my true position.

I also wanted to be able to share my thoughts on different matters. I put a lot of thought into leaving behind religion. It wasn't just something I did overnight, it really was a process. And, during the course of that process, I wrote several essays about it. Those essays, not intended for any audience in particular, were a way for me to organize my thoughts on the matter. But, now that I've been an atheist for a little while now, and I'm becoming more comfortable with it, I would like to share those essays. Since that would be kind of difficult to do without being open about my position, that was another reason I wanted to announce my atheism. Additionally, there have been several topics that I would have liked to have discussed on this blog, but steared clear of because they were directly related to atheism. So, after this post, I will be able to discuss those things. (But don't look for this to become an atheism themed blog - the more comfortable I become with being an atheist, the less I feel like dwelling on it. So, look forward to more of the same that you've come to expect from this blog.) So, since I said I wanted to share those essays, I'll take this opportunity to announce a new section on my website, explaining my reasons for abandoning Christianity, and a little about the actual journey I went through:

Religious Essays

So, why have I kept this a secret for so long? Fear, mostly. I've seen several surveys indicating that atheists are rather distrusted in this country; some studies actually indicated that they're the most distrusted minority (like this one - here's a link to another article discussing that study, in case the first link doesn't work; though, I'm sure that how you define "minority" has a lot to do with which one is the most distrusted.) Add to that the fact that I live in Texas, in the heart of the Bible belt, and you might guess that I'm not exactly surrounded by people who would be open to atheism. To be honest, my fear isn't mainly for myself. If I was single, I'd have written about this a while ago. But, I have a daughter, and I'm a little concerned about how people might treat her knowing that her father is an atheist, so that was the biggest reason I haven't been open about this on my website.

There's also the issue of how my family would take it - not my immediate family, of course. I already said up top that they knew. But I'm a little concerned as to how aunts, uncles and cousins might react, especially if they happen to come across it on my blog, and not talking to me personally. (And with me living down in Texas, and most of my family being up in Pennsylvania, that's a pretty good possibility).

But, in the real world, so far nobody who's learned that I'm atheist has seemed very perturbed by it. Maybe this has a little to do with who I've chosen to tell - I haven't yet told certain coworkers and ex-neighbors who go to church every Sunday and Wednesday (actually, I haven't told any coworkers, since religion is a topic that only comes up every once in a while in passing - work isn't really the place for theological debates). Most people who find out, after maybe a brief widening of the eyes, and asking me, "Really?" just seem to move right past it. I guess, they already know me and my character, and I don't go about trying to convert people away from their religion, so whether I believe in a god or not just doesn't make that much of a difference. I've also been surprised by the number of people I know who turn out to be non-Christian, whether they're atheist, agnostic, or still believe in some type of god, but don't buy into Christianity, anymore.

Plus, I think the people that would be most upset by finding out I'm an atheist would be nearly as upset by some of the other things I've written on this blog and website (the aformentioned essay denying the divinity of the Bible, the essay where I support gay marriage, or just about any of the entries from this blog where I criticize Biblical literalism or Christian fundamentalism). And besides, it's not like I have a hugely popular website. I get a few people reading my blog and some my controversial essays, but nothing compared to other blogs and websites, and very little, actually, compared to the rest of my own website. I have a hard time imagining that some person from my town, who knows me just enough to know who I am and who my family is (and therefore to be able to bother my daughter), but who doesn't know me enough to know my character, or at least to confront me directly about my atheism, would come across this blog.

So, that's about it, I guess. I'll repeat the link to my religious essays section, so that if you're really interested in why I'm an atheist, or what exactly my current stance is, you can go read it there.

Religious Essays

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