You know your office is cold when you use fresh copies hot off the printer to warm your fingers up.
I’ve found a new toy – the “Chess Tactics Server”:http://chess.emrald.net/index.php. It’s basically a free website where you go to solve thousands of chess problems. You’re presented with scenario where you have to choose the next best move (or set of moves) before the clock runs out and are rated based on whether or not you found the correct solution. The faster you solve it, the more points you get. Solvers start with a rating of 1500 (based on the popular “Glicko system”:http://math.bu.edu/people/mg/glicko/glicko.doc/glicko.html). Right now I’m hovering right around 1100, so I think I’ve hit my actual skill level at the moment. The goal is to improve my rating by doing more and more of these problems.
For chess enthusiasts rushing over there to check it, take notice that the site works best in Internet Explorer. Tell IE to _never_ check for newer versions of stored pages (Tools –> Internet Options –> Temporary Internet Files –> Settings –> Check for newer versions of stored pages –> Never), or else the clock will start counting down before the board even finishes loading.
It’s kind of fun, and you can solve as many or as few as you like and then go do something else for a while. So, if you like chess, go give it a look-see.
Some time back, I read a review of _Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith_. I don’t remember where I read it, but I do remember the reviewer being disappointed in how easily the Jedi were dispatched by the clone army. The comment made was something to the effect that the Jedi were destroyed far too quickly and easily for ones who, individually, were more than a match for an army. This is a mental image that has stayed with me ever since.
I can just visualize a camera shot, focusing in on the grim but determined expression of a lone Jedi warrior. The camera pans out to reveal several Stormtroopers, so it’s clear that battle is afoot. But as the camera continues to pull out, it also begins to ascend, giving a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield, and you realize that the Jedi is facing a legion of the Emperor’s best. Thus begins a battle sequence – the Jedi lights his saber and rushes headlong into battle, his robes blowing in the wind. He has a blinding speed powered by a mastery of the Force, the ability to brush his enemies aside with barely a wave of his hand, and the capacity to anticipate every move of the soldiers he is destroying. Blaster bolts illuminate the field with an almost blinding intensity, and at the center of it all, a lightsaber moves with such speed that it looks almost like a solid orb of light. When the battle is done, a thousand Stormtroopers lie dead on the killing fields with the sole survivor being the Jedi Master, robes singed, wounded certainly, despite his power and advantage. And the expression on his face as he clips his lightsaber to his belt again is one of bitter sadness. It would make for a powerful and moving action sequence, the way it plays out in my mind.
It’s a battle sequence I would love to see realized but which I suspect never will – George Lucas simply hasn’t the imagination, the vision, or the ability as a screenwriter to see it happen. I don’t even know if this was ever what he envisioned his Jedi warriors to be, these almost godlike people who roamed the galaxy as peacemakers and diplomats, where possible, and fighters and warbreakers where not. But it’s an inspiring vision, nonetheless. Perhaps a fan film will someday add to the voluminous universe Lucas created (or a remake of Episodes I-III) and do a Jedi battle the way it _should_ be done.
We can only hope.
My wife bought me this game for Christmas since it had been on my list for quite a while. _Prince of Persia_ is basically a game of puzzles, with a healthy dose of sword fighting thrown in for a change of pace. It’s a short game – I completed the whole thing in just under 10 hours of gameplay. It requires both brains and coordination to make it through, as booby traps and pitfalls abound. There isn’t a whole lot to the story – as plots go, it’s fairly basic and could probably be told in under five minutes. But this game doesn’t actually need much of a storyline to be fun (which is probably one of the only times you’ll ever hear me say that). The enjoyment here is in solving every riddle and finding solutions to every secret.
One of my favorite features of the game is the cinematic effects. The camera angles shift as you move along, providing you with unique and interesting viewpoints. Of course, these camera angles can also sometimes be annoying, but such instances are few and far between. The fighting sequences are both fun and frustrating, but once you get the rhythm, they’re generally pretty easy ((‘Easy’ here is a relative term.)) to move through.
I really enjoyed this game, so much so that I’ve already started a second run-through, and despite having beaten it once, it’s actually no easier the second time around. Of course, a healthy dose of over-confidence may be partially to blame for this.
_Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time_ comes highly recommended from me.
A question for my active readers (all three of you) – if I were to install a “threaded comments plugin”:http://organisiert.net/yatcp/ that lets folks reply to other comments in a discussion, is that something you would be interested in and find useful? Obviously, feedback here is very welcome.
Too bad there isn’t a version of Akismet for Gmail.
It’s amazing how 31 degrees can feel positively balmy.
I know I’m probably going to take a beating for writing this, but here goes, anyway.
I suppose you could say that I’m a “pressuppositionalist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositionalist – I tend to follow an apologetic approach that believes it is impossible to find “meaning in anything where man himself is at the center of the pursuit for truth and understanding”:http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa210.htm. I carry with me a “certain set of core beliefs and assumptions”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/04/16/saturday-april-16-2005-at-0812-pm/ that guide and govern, not only those things that I do, but also the way I fit together all knowledge into a cohesive whole.
It’s interesting – when the evolutionist looks around him and witnesses nature, “he sees millions of years of natural selection at work”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/10/mountain-musings-2-whats-god-got-to-do.html; when I look around me, I can’t but believe that _something_ had to have put all this in place. This belief is based purely in logic and observation – I just find it impossible to think that chaos at the beginning of time could have somehow found its way into some sense of organization that just naturally progressed over billions and billions of years to what we have now. That, to me, requires a much greater leap of faith than believing in an intelligent creator. From everything I’ve seen and witnessed and studied, the natural state of the universe at large tends toward entropy. Everything that currently exists is moving steadily toward a state of decay and decline, not the other way around. This has ever been the way of things. So I find it much easier to believe that everything started in a state of perfect order that somehow began a downward spiral toward chaos.
Both of these viewpoints are based on a set of presuppositions. For the evolutionist, there is no God, no creator, no intelligent designer, merely a “long process of natural selection”:http://skatje.com/?p=103, with new species adapting to their environments until we have the diversity that we see today. And natural selection makes some amount of sense, since it _is_ directly observable in the world around us – the strongest of the herd survive while the slowest, sickest, and least able to adapt die off, thus strengthening the species as a whole. I just have trouble believing that natural selection could ever have, ultimately, brought humanity into existence from a single-celled bacterium – and I have yet to see compelling evidence that states such. For the creationist (or the IDist), there must have been something intelligent and powerful to have set all this in place, that there is no way for something like this universe in which we live to have come about by chance or some evolutionary process.
Consider this – what if the all that scientific data that has been collected on the origins of the universe and the evolutions of the species can’t be trusted? Secular scientists place a lot of faith in rationality. They place man at the very center of rationality itself by presupposing that systematic, scientific study will eventually unlock all the secrets of the universe – or at least that’s the goal and hope – and this methodology _does_ and has worked in a great many areas of study and research. But what if scientific study as it relates to these two macroscopic issues has been placed in the wrong context? What if, by placing man at the center, by assuming that if we only ask the right questions and study things in as unbiased a manner as possible, what if in doing science in this manner, we are getting it wrong? What if this basic assumption in secular science has led to a great many misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the data we have?
I believe that faith and science _can_, indeed, “complement each other”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/. When “framed in the context of an intelligent designer”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/, the scientific data that seems to lend itself so strongly for evolution yields a very different picture. And contrary to popular belief, scientists who believe in intelligent design _are_ still scientists who work within the constraints of their field. The data I’ve seen on sites like Answers in Genesis is the same data I’ve seen shown on secular science sites, with the same explanations of what it means. The difference is that Christian scientists provide alternative solutions for why some of that data might be misleading. It is unfortunate, in a way, that many of these explanations can never be verified, as they are the result of “unreproducible events”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/#comment-8899. Similarly, neither can secular scientists prove their claims about the origins of the universe for the exact same reason. Despite objections from the secular community, Christian scientists _are_ able to provide a complete, unified response for their conclusions based on their presuppositions. And theirs is a response that makes _much_ more logical, rational sense to me than the origins answers that secular science sometimes provides.
And this is where faith bonds with science. We believe, based on a record given in the Bible, that the Earth looked a certain way during its beginning. Framing scientific data into this context provides an explanation why, for instance, “carbon dating may not be as accurate”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/carbon_dating.asp as is generally assumed by the secular scientific community. Because none of these events that various groups believe in – Creation, Big Bang, Great Flood, evolution – can actually be reproduced and examined first-hand, certain things must, by necessity, be taken with a certain measure of faith. This does not stop scientific study itself, nor should it. Mankind is, by his very nature, curious and so there is a great deal of worth to be derived from such pursuits. But the scientific community, no matter what camp, should bear in mind that personal presuppositions are going to greatly influence the way the collected data is interpreted.
So does secular rationality actually fail when faced with its own presuppositions? We can only wait and see, but I would posit that, yes, it does. Mankind is a “limited”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/09/05/finite-to-infinite-2/, “finite”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/04/05/finite-to-infinite/ creature, and as such our abilities to know and understand will always be subject to that limitation. If science, by itself, reveals anything to us with regard to the origins of everything that is, it will be that we can never know everything and that some ‘secrets’, like how the universe began or where mankind came from, will never be answered by science alone.
But don’t mind me – those’re just my presuppositions talking.
Once again, the spam storms have returned. Several have even made it past Akismet to appear on my blog. As a result, I’m giving the WordPress plugin “Bad Behavior”:http://www.homelandstupidity.us/software/bad-behavior/ a trial run. Already, I’m liking what I’m seeing – the number of spam in Akismet’s queue has gone from hundreds down to just 8 since I cleared it out this afternoon. This is another plugin that is probably going to stick around.
I’m also going to give “Share This”:http://alexking.org/projects/wordpress a trial run, just to see if anyone actually like my writing enough to give some extra publicity. Let me know if you spot any problems and just what you think of it in general.
I do love the “WordPress”:http://wordpress.org community. The software is continually upgraded so that it’s constantly getting better. And when a plugin breaks, it isn’t usually long before the plugin author updates it for the latest version of WP or someone finds a workaround. When I upgraded to WP 2.1, I noticed that a handful of my favorite plugins were either themselves broken or broke WordPress itself. Here’s the shortlist:
- “LiveJournal Crossposter”:http://ebroder.net/livejournal-crossposter/ – This was the one that actually broke WordPress itself. I made the mistake of leaving it turned on when I ran the upgrade (I got lazy), and it actually mucked with the install itself, preventing a couple of tables from updating and populating properly. I had to revert to a previous version, as a result, and then re-run the upgrade with the plugin turned off. The author of this plugin hasn’t yet updated this plugin (or even acknowledge comments left by me or others notifying him of the incompatibility), but one savvy user “found a way to fix it”:http://ebroder.net/livejournal-crossposter/#comment-28836. So, thanks to Dotan for supplying the solution until Evan can get around to issuing an official update.
- “Sideblog”:http://katesgasis.com/2005/10/24/sideblog/ – I notified Kates that his plugin was causing entries with more than one category to display once for each category. I was suddenly having multiple copies of some entries showing several times over, even though said entry was only in the database once. Kates said he’d get to it when he had time, and within just a couple of days, the update had been released. I love this plugin for keeping my one-line entries and linklog on the sidebar. Oh, and despite what the plugin page currently says, Sideblog is actually in its 3.6 iteration and works splendidly again.
- “Subscribe to Comments”:http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/subscribe-to-comments/ – I’m not sure if it was an incompatibility issue with WP 2.1 or something else, but I was notified that this plugin was returning a header error when people left comments. So I turned it off, only to find that I didn’t have the most recent version. So I updated, and now it seems to work great again. The admin interface is much more crisp and complete, actually displaying everyone who has ever subscribed to comments and letting me see at a click which entries they’ve subscribed to. Very clean, very nice.
Those are the major plugins I use that needed upgrades. Everything else had either been upgraded already or still worked with the new version of the software. All this within just a couple of days of 2.1′s release. Did I mention that I love this community?
Anyone else have any cool plugins they’d like to recommend or that needed upgrades?