Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To the Islamic non-extremists

Once upon a time, there was a group of incredibly smart geeks who did all kinds of amazing things with computers. They found ways to make computers do things that the original computer manufacturers never even considered. They found ways to work around limitations in the computer design, and they shared their knowledge with others. In many ways, it is because of these individuals that the home computer exists, and does so many amazing things.

At some point, likely starting at MIT with the Tech Model Railroad Club (Geeks with trains) the term "Hacker" was applied to these individuals. It was a fitting term, as much of what they did was 'hacking' at technological problems, like you would hack at jungle growth with a machete to carve a path), making little tweaks here or there, trying to eek out every last bit of usefulness from a machine.

They even established a "Hacker ethic" - a set of tenets hackers should live by. In summary, information should be free, accessible, decentralized, and available to all, that technology can and should be used to improve quality of life, and that hackers should be judged by their abilities, not by their race, social status, degree, age, etc... They also included in their tenets an acknowledgement of the value of art, and the ability to apply technology in the creation of art.

They were “adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, [and] artists” (Steven Levy)

Then, somewhere along the line, a group of radicals, extremists started using the title hacker. It began with a small group who took the information idea to the extreme. Rather than evangelizing the idea of free information, they utilized nefarious means to break into systems and steal information. Then more individuals latched on to the name. Individuals who cared nothing for freedom of information, They used their technological intellect to write malware  for the pure sociopathic joy of proving their superiority, or for the purpose of financial gain through theft or extortion, or for other equally twisted reasons.

These criminals made headlines, and the media spread the news of these nefarious "hackers". They stole the term "hacker" from its rightful owners. It was no longer a title of respect.

What does this have to do with Islam? You are rapidly approaching the same point. Violent extremists have hijacked your religion. they defile the prophet they claim to defend. They are turning Islam to a thing of evil. It is becoming a dirty word, something look down upon, feared, hated.

It falls to you to fix this.And it is going to take more than a few web pages or infomercials. If you want to keep your name, you will have to fight for it. You will have to shout louder than the extremists. you will have to work, through (peaceful) dedicated political and evangelical action to disassociate the radicals from the term islam, you will need to use every resource available to you to remove from positions of power those who seek to foster radicalism. You will need to subdue their voice, make them irrelevant.

If you don't, and soon, you may very well lose your religion.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Favorite Videos - Lindsey Stirling

Lindsey Stirling is another recent find. I.... Absolutely..... Looove her! She is incredible! Amazingly talented. Energetic, enthusiastic, fun... A phenomenal individual. Her music is upbeat and positive, with positive messages, she has even taken a few pop songs with less positive messages and reworked them. I like that. I occasionally hear a song that I love the tune, but can't bring myself to purchase, or listen to, due to the morally and/or socially poor message (See string button mind magic for a bit more on that). So I love it when someone does a remake that I can feel good about listening to it.

The first video of hers I found was while looking for something dubstep to listen to. The music and the scenery are both amazing.


Then I found this one. The video is okay, nothing special (well, other than her amazing display of talent, that is... well... amazing !)  But I love the music.

Epic Violin Girl

This one is my favorite (so far). It is a beautiful remake of a dysfunctional video, providing a wonderfully positive message, beautiful, inspiring imagery.... I am not a sufficiently skilled wordsmith to put in prose my appreciation for this video.

We Found Love

This is the most recent one I have seen. It is just plain fun! Very appealing the the Fantasy, D&D, Swords and Sorcery, RPG Gaming geek in me.


She does cool costumes, and they are all modest! That is the other thing I love about her. I feel completely  comfortable letting my kids to see her material, without worries that they might get an eyeful, or an earful. On her website, she even lists that as one of the stipulations for covering her songs. (#3 below)...

Clip from the Q&A on her website.


Q: Can I perform a cover of your song/use your music for a performance/video/event/video game?
A: That should be fine; as long as:
1. Your video is entirely non-profit
2. You give me credit for the music
3. Your cover/video is CLEAN (no vulgarity whatsoever, modest clothing and behavior, minimal violence, etc. etc.)
4. You provide a link for people to purchase the music you are using from itunes, Spotify, or my website.
When you are finished, please send a link of your video to so that my team can “claim” the music on the video.
It would also be helpful if you provided links to direct viewers to my:
Website ( )
Facebook page ( )
YouTube channel ( )
Twitter ( )
I CAN NOT, by law, give you permission to use music from any of my covers.


How cool is that?!!
 (I also like that she isn't tied to a record label, which leaves me feeling that my money will go to her, and not to a cadre of RIAA/MPAA lawyers. I have all but stopped buying music from labels at this point, but that is another story for another time).

It is inspiring to me to see people like this, who are using their talent in a positive way, producing exceptional content, and providing it in a reasonable, practical means. I hope that she is incredibly successful (and I hope I can manage to see her live performance this October 11 in Salt Lake).

My Favorite Music Videos - List

Favorite Videos - Linkin Park

Linkin Park is a bit edgier here that most of the others on my list.  I like quite a few Linkin' Park songs. These are two of my favorites. I like both the message, and the videography of this one. Visually compelling and thought provoking at the same time.

What I've Done.

This next one is from there new album and has equally cool, if somewhat different visuals, and provides similarly intellectually and morally stimulating lyrics.

Burn it Down.

Favorite Music Videos - List

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Health Update: Weird Science and Angerpalooza

The Pentasa seems to be working for me. I have been drastically better since I started taking it. Very few bad days. It has been quite amazing.

So I find this kind of funny... Pentasa has a very good track record for helping with ulcerative colitis, which I don't have. It is used to treat crohn's, and has been classified as "safe and effective for crohn's. Some studies have shown it helps in 51% of cases in trials, vs 50% with placebo. In other words. out of 100 people, 50 people get better taking a sugar pill, 1 person gets better because of the Pentasa, and 49 people get nuttin'. You could argue that Pentasa helps only 1 out of every 100 crohn's patients. Yet it earns a "Safe and effective". Studies of aloe vera yield the same results, but aloe vera is not considered an effective treatment.

Don't get me wrong, given that I appear to be that 1 out of 100, I am very happy that Pentasa is considered effective, and therefore available as an option for me to take (side note, I tried aloe prior to Pentasa. It actually made my symptoms worse, which has been documented to occur  for some people, lucky me). But I do find it curious how similar results appear to yield very different labels in the scientific and medical community. Human bias? Profitability?

So it turns out Pentasa has an unpublished side effect, which appears to affect me. I first learned about it from a friend and co-worker who has had Crohn's since he was a teenager. A month after I started taking Pentasa he told me too watch out for bouts of uncontrollable anger. I didn't think much of it at the time, as I hadn't noticed anything. I checked with my wife, just in case I had missed something, and she hadn't noticed any behavioral changes.

I had actually forgotten about that conversation completely, until a month ago, when I smacked the plastic edge of the microwave with the side of my hand. I was at home with the kids, who were being unusually bratty, and I lost my temper. There was a lovely cracking sound. The damage to the microwave was... none whatsoever. The bump which erupted on the side of my hand was quite large and instant. Fortunately, no broken bones, but there is still a bump there a month later, and it is still tender.

A neighbor came over and watched the kids while I went to the emergency room to get it checked out, and I stewed about how embarrassing it was that I lost my temper like that, Then I started think back to how in the past three weeks there had been 3 or 4 times that I had noticed a feeling of anger. Just out of the blue, for no reason whatsoever. This led to a "What the heck is wrong with me? Am I going mad?" moment. Then I recalled my previously mentioned conversation with my co-worker about Pentasa and uncontrollable anger.

I have made an effort to learn more about this particular side effect. That has proven difficult. See, this particular side effect only occurs in 1% of patients, and only in males. There is a similar side effect in females - anxiety - which also has a 1% rate of occurrence. Perhaps they are the same mechanism, with varied results due to gender chemistry differences. <insert shrug here>

It is difficult to find much information because these side effects aren't listed. The law permits the exclusion of side effects with a rate of occurrence of 1% or less. Naturally, they are excluded. As a result documentation is very sparse.

But, now I know about it, and if I feel it coming on, I go hide, listen to music, read a book, fiddle with the computer... until it passes. If it is just me and the kids, we have worked out that I say "Code-red" then go hide, and the older kids will take the younger ones to the couch and read books to them until I return (we should probably have a few practice drills, just to make sure they remember and follow through...).

The tricky part, I am discovering is recognizing when I am having an event. It starts out, not so much as anger exactly, as... agitation maybe... And of course  as it is occurring, my first reaction is to simply try to stifle it. I am a grown man after all, I should be able to control my emotions, right? So I initially try to tough it out, which means I get further agitated.

So If you see me starting to turn green, just tell me to go to my room.