Saint Death (La Santa Muerte)

Latin American (in this case Mexican) idolatry knows no bounds.

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Open Pollination and Open Source

In recent years I’ve taken an interest in “heirloom” varieties of garden produce. Although up to now what I’ve planted has been a mix of hybrid and open pollination varieties, this year I am thinking about going fully into “open” seeds. For some things it makes sense, but since I never save seed from radishes or carrots, I may still stick with store-bought hybrids for those. For a gardener in the First World the practical advantage of using open pollination varieties is that you can pretty much count on having the same results year after year, all other factors being equal. With hybrid seed you will not have the same quality in the next season if you save seed.

Check out:
Heirloom Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange

From the Depths of the Earth to the Heights of the Sky

Late last year I wrote about Desulforudis audaxviator, a pretty impressive microbial species that lives well beneath the Earth’s surface. It was found forming its own one-species ecosystem deep within a South African gold mine. This demonstrated further the incredible lengths to which life will go in adapting an adverse environment, and raised hopes that it or at least part of its genome might be used in a distant-future terraforming project. Think Mars or Enceladus. Now another handful of potentially hardy microscopic species have been found living at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. If this turns out to be accurate and they are actual examples of life in the upper stratosphere, it means that there are species capable of enduring terrible cold and lashing ultraviolet radiation.

How cool would that be?

Some are looking at this and asking if this means there may be this type of life on Mars or elsewhere. Perhaps. What interests me more, though, is the same point I bring up above. Terraforming other planets and even moons would entail transforming an uninhabited environment ultimately into something habitable by humans. The first wave of life going to such a place would need to be able to withstand extreme temperatures, radiation and other conditions while breaking down and/or creating elements in the environment to permit successively higher forms of life to move in.

Frankly, I rather hope no life is ever found elsewhere in the solar system. If it is, I’m sure that conservationists will come along questioning the ethics of modifying those environments and potentially killing off extraterrestrial species, no matter how microscopic. I say they should either be incorporated into an overall terraforming strategy or else preserved in labs, permitting the project to move forward. It would be exceedingly simpler, though, if they didn’t exist in the first place.


See Also:
New Stratospheric Bugs Probably Not Alien (Wired.com)
Solitary Species (Igneous Quill)

O Orkut e a Concupiscência Humana

“Ninguém, sendo tentado, diga: Sou tentado por Deus; porque Deus não pode ser tentado pelo mal e ele a ninguém tenta. Cada um, porém, é tentado, quando atraído e engodado pela sua própria concupiscência; então a concupiscência, havendo concebido, dá ã luz o pecado; e o pecado, sendo consumado, gera a morte.” Tiago 1:13-15 (João Ferreira de Almeida Atualizada)

O cristianismo bíblico descarta a possibilidade de alguem ser tentado por forças externas a pecar. Sim, a pornografia pode ser uma tentação para um homem, e também a bebida e outras coisas semelhantes. Porém, a foto de uma mulher pelada ou garrafa de cerveja não fazem o homem pecar. A responsabilidade permanece com o homem.

No caso da pornografia, concordo que não deveria existir a exploração da aparência física de pessoas somente para fins sexuais. Não posso, entretanto, procurar proibir esta forma de expressão, sendo que acredito na democracia e na pluralidade de pontos de vista. Existe arte antigo e moderno que utiliza a forma humana nua. Uma lei restringindo a pornografia correria risco de não distinguir bem entre pornografia e arte. Além disso, se o direito de outra pessoa se expressar está limitada por lei, meu também pode sofrer limites legais.

Sabemos que tem muita gente sem resistência à bebidas alcoólicas, e existem grupos como Alcoólatras Anônimos para ajudar tais pessoas resistir o vício. Todas a cervejarias deveriam, então, se fechar? E os bares também? Seria uma injustiça muito grande para nós que, sem excessos, gostamos de apreciar um bom chope de vez em quando. Lhe afirmo que nunca na minha vida fiquei bêbedo, mas já bebi vinho e cerveja. Quando que foi que o ponto mais fraco da sociedade virou o nível aceitável para todo mundo?

Agora no Brasil existe uma polemica que me pareça aflige mais a comunidade evangélica do que qualquer outro grupo. A rede social Orkut já sofreu ataques jurídicos no Brasil, devido ao fato do site seguir as leis dos Estados Unidos (onde os servidores estão localizados) que permitam a livre expressão de pontos de vistos poucos aceitáveis, como o racismo. Também tiveram acusações, aparentemente com alguma base na verdade, de pessoas utilizando o site para a exploração infantil. Acredito que o maior ataque, entre todos, vem da Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus. Esta denominação que espalha a falsa doutrina do evangelho da prosperidade anda atacando o Orkut na Folha Universal e pelos transmissores de TV e através de sua considerável influencia política desde que alguns perfis foram criados falando mal do bispo-presidente da IURD.

O que está sendo dito agora entre os evangélicos do Brasil é que o Orkut está acabando com casamentos. Homens e mulheres casados estão procurando e encontrando amantes através do site. Que a traição existe não é novidade. Também não é novidade que, em vez de criticar as pessoas que seguem seus desejos carnais, o meio utilizado está sendo culpado. Acredito que esta situação tem muito mais haver com a “honra” do Bispo Macedo do que com adultério, mas mesmo se fosse somente uma questão de imoralidade sexual, isso não significa uma falha moral por parte do site.

Eu não gosto do Orkut, mas isso é porque acho o site feio, mal-feito e difícil a usar. Prefiro muito mais o Facebook. Tenho certeza, porém, que se Facebook pegasse fogo no Brasil, receberia as mesmas queixas fracassadas que Orkut recebe agora.

Procuro o mal dentro de si mesmo, antes de qualquer site, pessoa física, pessoa jurídica ou outro ente.


See also:
A Ira da IURD Contra o Orkut (Igneous Quill)
Só Para Comparar…. (Igneous Quill)

How About An OpenBerry?

Open Source Software isn’t news to me, but Open Source Hardware was, until last week. Somewhere I read an article about hardware hackers and open source projects, and after a link click or two I found this fascinating post about a guy making his own “OpenBerry.”

Yes, it’s quite a bit thicker than a Blackberry, and there’s no case. He also didn’t show us a nifty GUI for it either. It is obviously a work in process, and since it is open source anyone who feels like tinkering with the design and functionality is welcome to do so.

I like the idea.

So I’m Learning to Program in Python

The Zen of Python
Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.

Readability counts.

Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you’re Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than *right* now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

Namespaces are one honking great idea – let’s do more of those!

Tim Peters (Public Domain)

Really, I should be learning Ruby. It’s the primary development language of the startup I work for in New York. Granted, I’m the customer service rep and not a developer, but as someone trying to get into system administration and perhaps development it would make sense to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn Ruby. Instead, I’m learning Python.

Several months ago I began toying around with the idea of learning to program. One of the sites I found that has been the most helpful was simply entitled “Learning to Program.” This tutorial was written mostly for Python, with a little JavaScript and VBScript thrown in (both of these latter I’m skipping for now). Lately I wrote my first – albeit very primitive – program in Python. It’s a little interactive question and answer file I wrote to show my 11 year old daughter. She liked it, by the way. [Click here to download a copy. Run it from the command line.]

I’m not ruling out the possibility of learning Ruby. It seems like a very good programming language, one that may be in increasing demand. Python seems likely to remain my language of choice, though. Who knows? Maybe it will pay off.

Angola’s Path to Prosperity

Angola is a Portuguese-speaking African nation that until 2002 endured a bitter civil war. The people are desperately poor and the nation’s infrastructure was largely reduced to rubble in the war. Though the majority religion there has been and remains Roman Catholicism (an inheritance from colonial times), newer evangelical/pentecostal churches have been making inroads. From the types of churches gaining adherents in the country, such as the Brazilian-born Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), it is clear that what attracts people is a more emotional worship experience and the promise of material prosperity in this life through faith in God.

The UCKG in particular is a prosperity gospel preaching denomination. It has ripped off thousands of gullible folks in Brazil and elsewhere through invented rituals involving a “sacrifice” of money into the offering plate, combined with faith. They teach that the faith of the believer, enacted through the sacrificial giving of money to the church, actually forces God’s hand and makes Him bless the believer with material prosperity and/or health. Their clergy say this is the way God has made things to be.

It is all, of course, a lie.

The question of Catholicism losing or regaining ground in Angola is of no interest to me. For the most part I view this quarrel as a struggle among different franchises. What is overlooked in all of this is the genuine need of the people. Angola needs rebuilt roads, bridges and telecommunication networks. It needs more schools and qualified teachers. It needs doctors, engineers and technicians. If some denomination or other non-profit (heck, even for-profit, for that matter!) is interested in helping Angola, then get busy working on these areas. In any event, please drop the crap snake oil preaching.


See Also:
Catholics hope Pope can win ground in Angola (Reuters)