Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Songbird

Get SongbirdSo there's this program I really like. It's called Songbird, and it's basically a web browser (based on Mozilla/Firefox) and mp3 player (a.k.a. iTunes...). It makes it really easy to play music that you find on the web. It just came out with version 0.3 (biggest improvement in this release: tabbed browsing), and while not good enough to become my full-time browser or media player, it is a great idea and it's an awesome way to find new music--it links to a ton of cool music blogs that have cool music you've never heard and automatically adds mp3s on the site you're on to your playlist. Check it out if you're adventurous and a bit computer savvy. Or just go to some of the music blogs yourself, like Hype Machine or Skreemr. And don't worry, it works on Linux too!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gray Areas

"The devil is in the details," "God wants things to be simple," "those who aren't with me are against me," and "The way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night." People use these lines and others like them to try to draw a perfectly straight line between good and bad. Everything is black or white to them. Sure, we might not quite know every single thing yet, but with some prayer and fasting and pondering we can find out basically everything we need to know, no exceptions (except maybe really trivial things).

But what about gray areas? I know people who really believe that complexity/ambiguity/doubt (all are tied together in their minds) are all from the devil, end of argument. But I love exploring gray areas! I love the idea that there's a lot of stuff we just don't know and can't know and I actually hope that even in the eternities, despite certainly gaining insane amounts of knowledge compared to what we have here, we still don't know some things. Am I just of the devil, or what?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Harry Potter as Homophobia Litmus Test

So perhaps by now you've heard: Dumbledore is gay. While I don't really care one way or the other*, I've found it really interesting to talk to people about it. At BYU, a conservative university by all accounts--especially on issues of homosexuality, the response has been almost universally negative, at least from the few people I've brought it up with. When I ask why they care so much--they all get somewhat mad about it--the general answer has been that they feel J.K. Rowling only did it out of some pro-gay agenda, to make homosexuality appear "normal." I have pointed out to them that many people are, indeed, born gay and that our church has even said that at least some people will not be able to overcome homosexual attractions in this life. But the fact remains, none of my friends seem comfortable with a beloved character in a children's book being gay.

At least from the BBC article, it appears that Rowling was pretty reluctant to go public with the news of Dumbledore's sexual orientation, only doing so to answer a question about whether he found "true love." That doesn't sound like a very rabid pro-gay, nuclear-family-destroying woman with an agenda to make everyone vote to legalize same-sex marriages. Can't we at least give her the benefit of the doubt, that she included a character who, like many of her readers and many people all over the world, is attracted to members of the same sex? I don't see that as even advocating homosexuality, it's more of a question of being realistic. I have no idea how many total characters there are in Harry Potter*, but I know it's a lot. Enough that if it were real life, chances are there would certainly be at least one with same gender attractions. Is it so bad to mirror real life?

I don't think my friends are consciously homophobic, but they certainly aren't comfortable with anyone they thought they respected and admired turning out to be gay. The fact that a person's sexual orientation would make him or her somehow less in their eyes is sad to me. I know my friends are better than that, it's just ignorance of the issue. I don't think most of them have ever met a person who was both openly Mormon and gay. But how do you go about changing people's perspectives on such a sensitive topic?

*Disclaimer: I once read about the first ten or twenty pages of one of the Harry Potter books and wasn't very entertained, and I saw the first movie and hated it (though I hear the later ones are supposed to be better), but that isn't what this post is about. That's just to let you know I have very little actual knowledge of, or interest in, the Harry Potter universe.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

counting

So out of nowhere, the bathroom door in my apartment started closing all the way. Small miracles are great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

There was an interesting blog post at the LDS Science Review about the scientific method vs. spiritual revelation which asks if spiritual revelation has some of the same limitations as the scientific method does. I think it's pretty clear that spiritual revelation isn't a black and white thing, it can be a difficult process, often approaching truth gradually (line upon line) rather than just getting the full answer all at once, and it is a fact that some people have come to wrong conclusions despite faithful prayer and searching. To me the biggest difference between the two, though, is first the spheres to which they are applicable--spiritual versus physical truth--and reproducibility: scientific experiments have to be able to be independently verified to be considered valid, and while anyone can receive a spiritual witness to eternal truths, there are a lot of variables that are very difficult to quantify, so I don't consider such witnesses to be independently verifiable in the same way as scientific findings. Summary: both good, both useful, and both required for us to progress as far as we should.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

apparently, I'm depressed

Yesterday I took advantage of National Depression Screening Day (yeah, I'm pretty sure that's made up), and the verdict is that I am likely depressed. Meh. Nothing to do.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hi Bingo

If you've never seen this short film, then you're missing out.



I agree with the first youtube commenter: After this animation, your life will never be the same again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

a decidedly liberal day

Listening to Harry Reid on campus, watching The Laramie Project and discussing gay rights, and making signs to save Burma! Sometimes being a liberal at BYU is the best.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

facebook loser

Do you ever happen to be online right at the moment someone writes on your wall, but you don't respond then because you're afraid that that person will think you're a facebook loser who is on it all day? Sometimes I wait hours or days before I respond when I could have done it in 30 seconds. I'm sure that makes me a lot cooler, huh?

And it's even worse for me because I'm enough of a nerd to have a little message pop up every time an email shows up, so I just have to be at my computer and I will immediately know whenever someone writes on my wall and puts me in the dilemma of whether to look like a facebook loser or ignore a friend. I just can't win. Which I guess makes me a loser.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

covers

I don't know why, but I have a soft spot for cover versions of songs. They don't even necessarily have to be "good" for me to like them, though of course that helps too. This is a random list of cover songs that I enjoy:

Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
Faith - Limp Bizkit
Twist and Shout - The Beatles
Because - Elliott Smith
Hurt - Johnny Cash
Mrs. Robinson - Lemonheads
The Boxer - Bob Dylan
anything Joan Baez covers
Big Yellow Taxi - Counting Crows
etc.

Any I missed?