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Deconversion topics (1) Tue, Dec 24, 2013
If I were to summarize why I abandoned Christianity in a few concise ideas, here's what I would point to: 
  1. Homosexuality.  Gay people aren't gay because they want to be gay; they're born that way, as are animals.  If God created people, he created gay people.  But God doesn't like homosexuality.  So either God made a mistake, or homosexuality disproves the existence of God.
  2. Evolution.  It's not a debate; we have fossils.  And unless God had the foresight to bury animal bones under specifically measured layers of dirt in order to trick future humans into believing something else, the creation story isn't true.  That means the Bible isn't completely true.
  3. New information.  In light of, or as a result of, the previous points, I realized I was at a disadvantage concerning new information.  There are only so many ways the Bible can be interpreted, so new information either agrees with it or contradicts it.  Homosexuality contradicts it.  Evolution contradicts it.  It's concerning how difficult it is for a person to change their mind about something.  I realize this cuts both ways, but at least I changed my mind once.
I realize these are ridiculously one-sided arguments (hello internet!), but they were essentially the focal point of my deconversion. #religion

Rules of conversation Tue, Dec 24, 2013
Scott Adams mentioned a few simple rules for conversing with people in his recent book
  • Ask questions.
  • Don't complain (much).
  • Don't talk about boring experiences (TV show, meal, dream, etc.).
  • Don't dominate the conversation. Let others talk.
  • Don't get stuck on a topic. Keep moving.
  • Planning is useful but it isn't conversation.
  • Keep the sad stories short, especially medical stories.
He was talking about starting conversations with people you don't know at public functions and parties and whatnot, but I think the idea applies to really any conversation.  I was involved (unwillingly) in a conversation yesterday where a person broke more than half of those rules in the course of a few minutes.  I wanted to stab my eyes out with a fork just to change the topic.

On running Thu, Dec 19, 2013
I have an unusual relationship with running.  I enjoy running, but I often hurt myself by running too far, too fast, or incorrectly.  But if I could, I would run more.  Here are some reasons why running is awesome: 
  1. It takes no talent.  No one has to be taught how to run.  Sure, there are ways to improve and become faster or better.  But the first movement children make when they stand on two feet is some combination of walking, running, and falling.  Watch people on treadmills or at a race:  Everyone runs different, and that's ok.
  2. It requires no special equipment.  Sure, running shoes are helpful, as are quick-drying clothes, pedometers, heart-rate sensors, and GPS devices.  But none of those things are essential for running.  Barefoot running is a thing.  Though you should probably at least wear clothes, because otherwise you'll get arrested.
  3. It can be done pretty much anywhere on earth.  You can run on paved roads, dirt paths, grass fields, concrete cities, tracks, treadmills, beaches, mountaintops and underwater (to some extent).  Every other form of locomotion has at least some sort of geographic limitation; you can't ride a bike on snow (usually) and you can't swim on land (usually).  You can run anywhere.
  4. It's free.  There's almost no way you can be charged money to run, aside from a race or a gym membership.
  5. You can do it forever.  There's a common belief that running is bad for your knees, but that's not entirely true.  If you've ever seen an old person run, it's clear there are no age limits.
Run, rabbit, run. #health

Inspirational books Tue, Dec 17, 2013
A few months ago, I was reading a book about running.  As might be expected, it inspired me to run more.  Since then I adjusted my form and increased both my time and my distance.  Not too shabby. 

Another time I was reading a book about scientific research and discovery, and it inspired me to do more research at work and publish my findings.  That's a slightly harder thing to just go out and do, but I'm making progress. 

And currently I'm reading a book that happens to talk about proper dieting.  I know I currently don't eat very well, so I won't be surprised if this book inspires me to eat better. 

What I find interesting is that I'm somewhat unintentionally making life changes because I happen to be spending my free time reading books that are at least somewhat focused on those topics.  What this tells me is that books (and by extension, movies, TV, and other forms of media) have the power to change small aspects of my life if presented in the proper context.  Used properly, that can be a pretty powerfully good thing.

College football rankings over time Wed, Dec 11, 2013
I was curious how college football rankings change over the course of a single season, so naturally I scraped a bunch of data from ESPN and made a graph: 

Specifically, I looked at the AP Top 25 and only plotted the teams that started the year in the top 10 spots (because looking at a plot of all 25 is a mess).  Here are some observations: 
  1. Half of the top 10 teams at the beginning of the year are members of the SEC.  That sounds about right.
  2. Half of the teams that started in the top 10 finished in the top 10.  Of the remaining five teams, four finished in the top 25.  What happened to you, Florida?
  3. Alabama and Oregon were ranked in the top two spots for 10 out of 16 weeks.  Neither team is playing for the national championship.  That goes to show you consistency doesn't matter.  Winning at the end matters.
  4. The two teams that are playing in the upcoming national championship game and who are ranked numbers one and two aren't included on the plot.  Florida State started the year at number 11, and Auburn didn't make the top 25 until week 8.  That's a little ridiculous.
In conclusion, I quite enjoy college football. #sports

Cubicle farming Tue, Dec 10, 2013
A common thing I hear from people who currently work in a cubicle type of office environment or plan to do so in the future is that it's terrible to be stuffed in an enclosed area with artificial lighting and water coolers and whatnot.  This is a feeling I absolutely don't share.  I like cubicle farming.  I like sitting at a desk, working at a computer.  I like having a space that divides my area from the areas around me.  I understand the complaint, and maybe I'm having a particularly good day, but I like my cube.

Kid birthday parties Wed, Dec 04, 2013
I have a personal policy:  I don't go to birthday parties for kids.  I'm a damn adult.  Why would I want to sit around with a bunch of screaming, snot-faced kids, and eat cake and watch cartoons?  Actually the only thing I don't like from that previous sentence is the presence of children.  I'd eat cake and watch cartoons all day, but I don't need to watch some stupid kid unwrap presents in order to do so. 

When I share my policy with other adults, they pretty much universally agree with me.  But there's this underlying feeling of obligation that I simply don't share.  I'll put it this way:  I don't remember the presence of a single adult at any birthday party from my childhood.  Your feeling of obligation is manufactured.  Just don't go.

The last Thanksgivukkah Mon, Dec 02, 2013
The recent American Thanksgiving holiday occurred during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah for the first time in over 100 years, and the next time will be in about 80,000 years.  I think it's safe to say it'll actually never happen again, for a pretty simple reason:  Religions and societies don't last that long.  Granted, we have kind of limited data on this.  I ain't no scholar, but the oldest active religions are maybe 3000 years old, and the oldest continuous civilization is around 5000 years old.  But it would be at least a little naive to think Judaism will still be around in 80 centuries, and it would be ridiculously short-sighted to assume America will still be a nation then.  Not to mention the fact that humans will probably melt the earth with nuclear weapons or die off from a pandemic before then.  Either way, happy holidays.