Thoughts of a geek

9 February 2013

2012 in review

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:47 am

At the start of last year I wrote out some objectives for the year. This is a bit late being February already, but now that it is 2013 it is time to review how they worked out over the year. So going through the list from that post:

  • See some more of the world: I did see some more of the world. I did the east coast trip, and caught up with Teresa, Jordan and Kirsten. Unfortunately I did not manage to see Dave or Carlton, or various other people further away. It was enjoyable, I saw some new things (Niagara Falls, museums in DC, Boston…), met some new people, and had some fun dances. I went to Poland and Hungary, which ticks off the two more European countries. Though I think my intent with this was to take two trips, so I did not quite do that. I toured around Scotland for 9 days with my parents, which was excellent (apart from the rain), and we saw lots of beautiful scenery and castles. The only new place I went in the UK other than that was down to the Isle of Wight with some interns and other Googlers, which was pleasant enough.
    • Visit the east coast of the US / Canada, and see at least 3 of the 5 friends I know over that way: 0.9
    • Visit at least 2 more European countries: 0.8
    • Visit Scotland: 1.0
    • Visit 2 more places in the UK: 0.5

    Overall: 0.8

  • Improve my dancing (and enjoy it): Dance-wise, I did a couple of workshops and a few classes in Balboa, but then did not keep it up or get practice much. I have not really done any in the last six months or so. I have done a fair bit of Lindy and blues though, including going to several weekend festivals (Blues Shakedown, Berlin Blues Explosion, Blues Baby Blues). I went to LSF again as well, though did not find it as good as 2011. I did a bit of Lindy in Wellington while I was back, and it made it along to one night of NZX up in Auckland as well. Getting friends along proved a bit more difficult. Oh, and I managed to find some Lindy or blues in Toronto, Krakow, and of course New York City when I was there (which were variable, but interesting nonetheless), plus a great contra in Princeton.
    • Learn at least one new dance this year (probably Balboa): 0.3
    • Go out for social swing (Lindy Hop) dancing regularly: 1.0
    • Take some classes / workshops to improve my blues: 1.0
    • Do some swing and/or blues with friends while I am back in NZ visiting: 0.8
    • Go to the London Swing Festival again: 1.0

    Overall: 0.8

  • Work out where I stand with God, and what that means: No progress on this one really.
    • Discuss more with some friends. Not sure exactly what: 0.2
    • Finish reading some of the books that are on my shelf, and write up some responses to them: 0.1

    Overall: 0.1

  • Improve my social life, and build and maintain a good group of friends with whom I regularly do things: I had a people over for a barbecue for my birthday. I cannot remember what else, maybe that was all?
    • Host at least 3 social gatherings (parties / dinners / whatever) at my flat: 0.3
    • Any other ideas I come up with: 0.0

    Overall: 0.2

  • Improve how I dress: I bought a suit to wear to Daniel and Sharon’s wedding, and have not worn it since. It felt awkward. Otherwise no improvements to my fashion sense or wardrobe.
    • Buy a suit, or at least something a bit more formal, for the odd occasion when that might be necessary: 0.8
    • Find other ways to improve in general: 0.0

    Overall: 0.4

  • Maintain other hobbies: I did some baking, but do not think I made stuff for other people as often as once a month sadly. I did not do any work on theQuotebook, Fridge or anything else, nor any further electronics projects.
    • Bake something for other people at least once a month, preferably more often: 0.4
    • Do some work on my existing programming projects such as theQuotebook and Fridge: 0.0
    • Do some work on electronics projects, such as the paper keyboard I started on last year, some kind of floor instrument, or something else based on the Teensy: 0.0

    Overall: 0.1

I have some ideas for this year as well (and have even started on one of them), but I will leave that for another post, and I think I will organise them differently.

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20 September 2009

Faith, God and all that jazz

Filed under: Christianity, Me — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 11:10 pm

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now, a couple of months I guess, following a few conversations with a couple of people.

I guess I will start off with where I stand. I consider myself a Christian. Certainly I have all the obvious trappings: I go to church every Sunday, read the bible daily, go to a bible study with people from church most weeks, try to pray. I try to live my life, make decisions, from a Christian worldview. I try to be open to discussing my beliefs, ‘faith’ if you will, with others, as this is interesting, worthwhile and indeed a vital part of a Christian life (I Peter 3:15, Mark 16:15).

However, I do find it difficult to explain, and I think this largely comes down to not having a very clear idea in my own mind. On that note I would like to post a few questions, and list (my interpretations of) some people’s answers to them so far. I also include my own in some cases.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts (different answers to the questions, comments on the existing answers) and discuss further, either here or — better — in person. I have been particularly frustrated over these things over the last two or three months, and have found it difficult to talk to people, so this is an attempt to get some of my thoughts out in the hope of being able discuss them further. This is mainly aimed at Christians, but extends to anyone.

What is faith?

  • Blind belief, in the absence of evidence — obviously, I find this an unsatisfactory definition. There needs to be some way to discriminate between things in which you should have faith and things in which you should not.
  • Belief that something is a certain way, or that something will happen, based on past experience and testimony (direct or indirect) of people whom I trust. ‘Faith’ then is very closely related to ‘trust’, perhaps even the same thing. This is my current working definition, but some people I have talked to find it unsatisfactory. I do not really understand why; apparently it is insufficient in some way?

What is the basis of Christian faith?

  • The Bible — this requires first an argument for the historical accuracy of the bible, and then trust in the people whose witness is recorded in it (for example in the gospels). This is difficult due to the lack of a personal relationship, so it becomes a rather indirect thing.
  • Other people’s testimony — friends, family. Again this comes down to accepting what people say based on personal trust in them, which in turn comes from knowing them, observing their words and actions and judging their trustworthiness from that.
  • Supernatural experience — some sort of experience beyond the usual which provokes or confirms a belief in the God conceived by Christianity and described in the Bible. Some people certainly describe such an experience, to greater or lesser extent, or even it being a regular thing.

How does God talk to you?

  • The written word of the Bible is God talking to you — but, it is hardly personal then.
  • While reading the Bible — how?
  • Through other people — He sends people to say things to you, and so what they say is in a sense God talking to you. But then, how does He tell them what to say?
  • Just talking directly to you — again, how? What does this mean, how is it experienced?

How do you know that God is talking to you, and how do you know what He is saying?

  • You hear distinct words
  • It is more of a general feeling of some sort — but then how do you know that it is from God?
  • A ‘prompting’, you just think of doing something — but we often think of doing things. How is this ‘prompt’ different? ‘Prompting’ is a vague term. Perhaps this is the same as or similar to the previous answer.

What does it mean to ‘believe’?

  • A belief is a theorem (in the sense used in mathematics). That is, a statement is ‘believed’ if it there is a proof for it. I know that Peirce’s law holds in classical logic because I can write a proof using only the axioms of that logic, so I can say “I believe that Peirce’s law holds in classical logic”. Nothing can be believed beyond what can be proven, so belief is limited to the formalisms of mathematics. This does not include any of the sciences, as even physics is just a matter of attempting to find a consistent model which fits observed phenomena; no proof is possible as physical laws are only guesses which happen to match reality in a few observations.
  • A belief is a working assumption. I ‘believe’ that the sun will rise tomorrow insofar as I assume it will based on past experience, and so I base my decisions and plans on that assumption. Beliefs then are not certain, cannot be proven, but are necessary for decision-making and, well, life.

Note that the first and last questions are of definition, so it is more a matter of how you choose to define faith and belief than any intrinsic reality. Consistent and agreed-upon definitions are, however, vital to any meaningful communication.

14 August 2009

Things I should do

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:59 pm

I have been a bit slack lately about getting much done. I keep thinking of things which I should do, but mostly do not get around to doing them. In the hope of improving this I list here some things which I should do:

  • Implement mDNS abstraction layer for stereo using Avahi DBUS bindings, sort out ant script, and get stereo head to a usable state on Linux. (Or, bug Stephen to do it.)
  • Write various blog posts I have been thinking about (last.fm client, friends, childhood memories, more to life, questions).
  • Work on theQuotebook, maybe look into Facebook integration.
  • Do more baking.
  • Catch up with various people I have not seen for ages.
  • Work out what to do for a chassis for the robot I am building, add the remaining wires for the motor controller, and filter capacitors.
  • Talk more to people about conceptions of God (relationship, hearing from God, basis of faith…), and maybe blog some thoughts and questions.
  • Organise a group of people to do the Skyline Walkway some Saturday.
  • Work out what I am doing with my life, what I want to do and what God wants me to do, where I am going in the mid- to long-term, what to do next year…

Feel free to bug me about doing any of these things. Or maybe other things.

9 July 2009

On my mind

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:48 pm

I think the things that occupy my mind at the moment, worry me I guess I could say, can be divided into four main categories:

  1. The future
  2. God
  3. People
  4. Girls

By ‘at the moment’, I guess I mean this year. And that order is not particularly significant.

Expanding a little.

The future — well, what am I doing with my life? For rather a while I had been very focussed on study, completing my degree. Well, I got the degree, I got good grades, I graduated, but what does it all mean in the end? Yeah, I got a job. A good academic record and work experience do help with that. But now, what? Was all the effort and stress and everything worth it? And what should I aim for now? Do I have anything to look forward to, or is it all downhill from here? I do not even know what I want, really, which makes aiming for it, planning, rather hard. I guess I like to have a plan.

Well, that was more about the past than the future. Some possible possibilities are:

  • Travel: But that would be expensive, for no clear benefit, aim or purpose. Where would I go? And with whom?
  • Work: Going where? Why? Though yeah, earning money is kind of necessary to live.
  • Further study — perhaps a Masters or even a PhD: But in what? I am severely lacking in inspiration (okay, this is not limited to study, but is particularly relevant to embarking on further study I think). At Vic, or somewhere else in NZ, or overseas? No option is really compelling.

Direction and purpose would be nice.
And what about God, in all of this? Apparently my aim should be to serve Him somehow. It is unclear how I should do that, what effect that should have on my decisions. Well, that leads nicely into my second category…

God — by which I mean faith and Christianity and so on. I am not sure what to say. God seems… well, distant, to say the least. Presumably that is my fault. Actually God is a bit of an odd one out on this list; He is not necessarily on my mind all that much, but He should be. I think?

People — relating, talking, spending time with people. What are friends, what should friends be? How should I treat friends, and what should I expect from friends? Who should I consider my friends anyway? Facebook says that I have 222, but I am pretty sure that it is lying (-;. People are hard.

Girls — well, girls are people too, with all the difficulties that that entails. I am not sure what to say, at least in this public context. I guess I will say nothing more.

There is of course overlap between all of these.

Soundtrack for this post: Simon & Garfunkel ‘Leaves That Are Green‘, Jonathan Coulton ‘The Future Soon‘, The Echoing Green ‘Suffer‘ (it can be found on The Best of IVM Vol. 1). And after that, perhaps some Apoptygma Berzerk. I have been listening to them a fair bit over the past week or so anyway.

14 June 2009

Glad

Filed under: Christianity, Me — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 5:31 pm

I am glad that I do not get sick very often. And even when I do it is generally not very bad really.
I am fortunate to have a good flat this year, with a bunch of pretty good guys really.
I am fortunate to have enough food to eat, access to the Internet, reliable electricity and running water.
I am glad to have met and come to know a little many people over the last few years.
I am glad to be part of a good church.
I am very grateful to my parents for bringing me up and caring for me, and for everything they have done for me over the years, the time they have spent with me and for me.
I am glad for the times friend have shown care for me, talking to me, asking how I am, doing things together, making time to see me.
I am fortunate to have a good job, even though it is frustrating at times, but doing what should be relatively interesting work with some intelligent people.
I owe all to God, Yahweh, who sent his Son to die for me, sinner that I am, that I might be forgiven and restored to relationship with Him. I still do not know how this works, but I am told that it is true and I must believe it. Without God’s grace I am hopeless. With it I must live for Him, somehow.

28 May 2009

Swing swing

Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 11:30 pm

Swing swing.
Swing, swing.
It is cloudy tonight, though there are some bare patches. Stars visible briefly. The clouds move quite rapidly. I can see the Southern Cross. Now I cannot. The breeze gets up a bit.
10:14 pm now. Early, comparatively. I wonder whether I will sleep tonight.
I can hear something breathing heavily. Irregularly. Some animal I guess, but I cannot see it. Looking around for it, listening carefully. Unnerving.
Back to the swing. Music back on.

Time to stop swinging. Need some certainty in life. On whom to rely, to depend?
Here I sit. Not in the hall of the mountain king. Ouch, too loud suddenly.

The breathing seems to have stopped. Odd.
Perhaps no human will keep eir word. God does, apparently. Not quite sure what to make of it though.
God should be all I need, apparently. But human relationships would be nice too. Should be nice. Some sort of connection? I am not sure how to find it, or make it. Things seem not to work out. What does that mean? Why?
Always why. And how.
Ha, and when.

Just walking now. Downhill. Perhaps I will run later.

I really must get some decent headphones.
What would it be like to be able to control my mind more? Less wandering?More productive? More focussed, less distractable, pointlessly and uselessly sidetracked? What is important in life? What can I do? What can I even hope to do, to achieve?
Keep walking.
Cannot stop, cannot stand still, going nowhere.

Ran. Just a little.

18 December 2008

People

Filed under: Me — Tags: , — qwandor @ 11:26 pm

People are important.
People are unreliable.
God is reliable.

Discuss.

16 May 2008

Truth, faith, science and religion

I came across an interesting blog article recently, entitled Internet Arguments and the Search For Truth. It discusses the meaning of ‘faith’, and its relation to religion and science. The author has some interesting things to say about ideologues and debate, and I recommend reading it.

Whether science and religion can co-exist seems to be a common topic of disagreement and confusion, especially the divide manufactured between ‘Creationism’ and ‘Evolution’. Certainly it was a common theme to the questions people had to ask last year when the VUW Christian Union ran our Ask God in the Quad event here at Vic, and it has come up again this year.

Unfortunately some Christians have quite strong and loud beliefs along the lines of ‘God created the Earth in 6 (24 hour) days a few thousand years ago, this is the only possible way of interpreting the bible, and Evolution is an evil plot by Science to destroy people’s faith in God’. For their own part, their opponents often have equally fundamentalist views that Evolution conclusively disproves all religion, without even understanding very well what Evolution means.

I see no contradiction between science and Christianity. I am no biologist, and I cannot claim to have a terribly clear knowledge of exactly which of the claims grouped under the popular heading of ‘Evolution’ are generally accepted by the scientific community from what evidence. The closest I have come to studying evolution is the use of evolutionary computation techniques in AI (genetic algorithms, genetic programming, etc.), where they are a useful technique for optimisation and machine learning. My understanding is that there is a clear case from fossil records that there has been change with species throughout history, and a fairly clear case for speciation and common descent (at least to some extent), but there is no scientific consensus on how life came to exist in the first place. There seem to be a range of models for and hypotheses on abiogenesis, but no substantial evidence.

There are in fact quite a range of views within Christianity on the origins of life, based on different interpretations of the creation account given in Genesis. OriginScience.com gives one useful comparison of some of the views, from the perspective of a proponent of Old-Earth Creationism. TalkOrigins has a much shorter summary of some interpretations.

Christians have been thinking about these issues for quite a long time: Augustine of Hippo (a Christian theologian and philosopher who lived from 354 AD to 430 AD) had some interesting attitudes towards the interpretation of the Genesis account (as well as open-mindedness in general). He makes the excellent point:

In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.

Davis A. Young has written a good article about Augustine’s views that I recommend reading, both for non-Christians and Christians.

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