Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 on the very Biblical subject of Light

Thick DarknessSeeing is nice, but what if nothing can be seen? If I’m working in a mine and all the lights go out, I can see with my hardhat light for a while. But after its battery runs down, I can’t see at all. I can’t see the hand in front of my face. Blacker than black is all that I will see. But why? With the appropriate corrective eyewear I have 20/20 vision. All the rods and cones in my retinas are in perfect working order. The vision processing centre of my brain is working very hard. Why can’t I see?

Well there’s no light of course. My eyes need light in order to see. I will have to feel around with my hands instead. I can do that with hands, but unlike my tactile fingertips, my eyes can’t reach out and touch something. Eyes are passive. My eyes can’t scan the dark mine without light. And my eyes can’t generate their own light. In order for my eyes to work, light must get into them from outside and interact with them.

I don’t need to get stuck in a dark mine to have this trouble. The problem for seeing is not usually a lack of all light, just a lack of sufficient light. Several years ago we were skating at the rink, and my daughter (who was about ten or eleven) was practicing spins with a friend. I sashayed on over and informed the girlings that I would show them how it’s done. I spread my arms and kicked into a spin. No problem. Just like Elvis Stojko. Unlike Elvis, I didn’t have a toe pick, but I’m a man; I don’t need no girlie toe pick. Next came the part where you’re supposed to gracefully draw in your arms and accelerate the spin as your body preserves its angular momentum. I did that, but not gracefully. I snapped my arms to my sides and instantaneously accelerated from 30 rpms to in excess of 40,000 rpms. No exaggeration; I’m absolutely sure of the numbers. Well I of the toe-pickless-skates went down. Very hard. On my wrist. Searing pain from multiple sources traveled up and down the length of my arm. I fought the urge to cry like a little baby. My worried daughter said, “Oh, are you alright, Dad? Did you break your arm?” I smiled sweetly and said “Don’t be silly, honey. See you later.” Then I sashayed off the ice to find a bench to cold sweat upon, screaming silently and suppressing the pain-induced nausea all the way.

All that to tell you this. A week or two later, after the jammed elbow was almost back to it’s normal size but before the torn membranes had healed and before all the excess fluid had drained from the wrist, and definitely before co-workers had stopped calling me Katerina Witt, I had to get up in the night to check on the beagle or something. I didn’t bother turning the light on, so I saw only shadows and dim forms. I did not see the end of the landing at the top of the stairs. Down I went, somersaulting end over end, banging my braced wrist several times, and reliving the horror of the ice rink all over again but this time with feeling. It hurt worse than it did the first time. When my wife’s friend heard about it (how did she find out, I wonder?) she called me Mary Lou Retton. This ignominy happened because I couldn’t see properly, and I had stumbled in the gloom, which made my already bad condition worse. All because there was insufficient light. I will run into great trouble without light.
To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.
--- Isaiah 8:20-22
At the end of Isaiah 8, we are told of the state of the rejecters of God. They won’t acknowledge Him unless there is trial. Then they will blame him. They will look up and shake their fist at Him. This isn’t a hypothetical description. I know people like this. I’ve been people like this. It actually downright spooky how accurately this Isaian description describes the God-hating and blaming that goes on today.

But did you catch the bookends of this passage? Those who speak contrary to the word from God have no dawn. They are stuck in the darkness of night. And those who hate and blame God will be thrust into thick darkness. They will wallow in the gloom, and they will wallow in anguish.

This passage speaks of a bitter doom for the God-hater. Fear and worry, gloom and anguish, embraced by tight thick darkness. That is all that can be realistically anticipated by the God-hater. And this passage tells us that God-haters are already in this darkness, even though they may not know it. A perpetuity of night…they have no dawn.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
--- Isaiah 9:1-2
Nowhere in the entire earth can you find a book like the Bible that juxtaposes such wretched despair and dire portent with such delightful and unexpected hope. The people enmeshed in the thickness of dark, the people awash in gloomy anguish, cannot do anything for their own situation. I cannot make the dawn come if there is no dawn to come. I am stuck in the night.

But in the midst of the gnashing hopelessness the light does come. The Great Light comes. Light shines upon them.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
--- John 1:1-5
This is how it all turns out: The Great Light wins.

Monday, January 29, 2007

For My Mom

My mom wasn't sure how to get to Buggy's blog to read what I've posted lately.

Mom: click here.

Unfortunately, you won't find much from me there, other than this piece about why we should read the Old Testament. And since I've got two reports due this week, that probably won't change.

However, I can assure you that Neil's stuff is very good, if you're looking for something to read.

Talk to you soon.

Love, #1

Emitters and Reflectors

This is part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 on the very Biblical subject of Light

What will happen when the crowd at the Superbowl gets excited? Hmmm? The answer is that they will let off a great roar. When the secondary leaps into space and snares the football out of the hands of the too-slow receiver the crowd will instantly excite and will not be able to hold it in. They will cheer. They will emanate sounds. They will emit shrieks of exhilaration. They won’t be able to help it because they will be quite stimulated and excited. By the way, this won’t happen very much, because Superbowls are generally boring and lopsided blowouts. If you want some real excitement, watch or play some Canadian football. Expansive fields that are 110 yards long and 65 yards wide, 12 men per team, two point conversions, 20 yard endzones, uprights on the goal lines, only 20 seconds between snaps, acres and acres of space between the hash lines, lots of legal motion, and only three downs. Try it and you’ll never go back. Superbowl? Piffle. Give me the Grey Cup any day. My attendance at the 1985 Grey Cup in Montréal cost me a rabbit dinner when the B.C. Lions beat my Hamilton Tiger Cats. It was a very good game though.

What will happen when the tungsten atoms in a lightbulb filament get excited? Hmmm? The answer is that they will let off a great light. When the switch is flipped and the electrons start to flow the tungsten atoms will instantly excite and will not be able to hold it in. They will heat. They will emanate bright light. They won’t be able to help it because they will be incredibly stimulated and excited.

The tungsten atoms absorb energy when the electricity is turned on. We won’t get into too many specifics, but the tungsten is a great resistor, and the act of forcing a flow of electrons through it excites the constituent atoms. They heat up, and in the twinkling of an eye they start to shine brightly.

If we were able to visualize an individual tungsten atom, we would see that its electrons get hyper when the power is turned on. We are familiar with the notion of electrons “in orbit” about the nucleus of an atom. What happens when electrons get hyper? You might expect them to just orbit faster and faster, but that’s not quite the way the quantum world works. What does happen is that an electron will get “promoted” to a larger orbit shell. This is the atom’s way of absorbing and storing energy. It shunts its electrons into higher energy zones.

These high energy electron orbit-shells are not usually stable. Sooner or later, the electron will have had enough and it will drop back down to its old shell. But as soon as that happens, the atom releases the energy it stored when it promoted the hyperactive electron to the outer shell. As the electron drops back down, this energy is released. In the terminology to which we have become accustomed, the energy is emitted in the form of a photon. The electron “emits” a photon as it de-energizes. Remember how photons are merely little packages of light? Well, light doesn’t sit still. That little packet of light vacates the premises vicinity at a high speed. At light-speed, actually.

That little photon joins gazillions of its companions to blaze forth from the lightbulb and light my way to the hallway to kick the cat for being obnoxious in the middle of the night.

That’s where light comes from. All light, every photon, comes from some sort of atomic level event, either an electron releasing its stored energy, or from other more exotic microparticle events. Light comes from energy release. Light is a form of energy.

My superb career in high school football was mostly spent in defensive pass coverage. My mission was to prevent the other team’s receivers from receiving the ball. It was my job to either knock that ball away from its intended recipient, or grab it myself. It was not my job to put up my arms and let it go right through them into the arms of the receiver, but unfortunately that sometimes happened.

Photons are tangible somethings. Photons have no mass, but they are pure energy, which is more or less the same as mass according to our friend Einstein.

Photons routinely run into things. They run into the glass of the bulb part of the light bulb, but for the most part they pass right through that, just like the ball passing through my useless flailing arms. They run into plaster walls, and they don’t generally pass through plaster.

If I turn on the light switch, and if my wall is green, then the light runs into a green wall, and I see a green wall. If no light runs into a green wall (i.e. it is dark), I don’t see a green wall. The green wall is not a source of light, but it is a reflector of light. Most of the photons crash into the green wall and get absorbed. The green wall eats photons. It eats red ones and ultraviolet ones and blue ones. They really don’t carry that much energy, so the wall is able to absorb them without too much trouble. Strange as it may seem, the green wall does not absorb green photons. It can’t do it. Instead, the green photons bounce of the wall, and find their way through my coke-bottle glasses and into my eye, and I see a green wall. I see a green wall because the wall doesn’t like green. Curious.

Anyways, all light that we see, every single bit of it has either been emitted straight from the original source on a trajectory straight into our eyes, or it has bounced off something first. The sun is an emitter. The moon is a reflector. My wife is a reflector. The fireflies that hang out in my parents’ yard in the summer are emitters. My car radio picks up emitted FM photons in the day, and at nighttime it can pick up AM photons from hundreds of miles away because they are reflecting off the upper atmosphere.

That’s it. Not very profound. All light has an origin. Light has to start somewhere. Everything, everyone, is either an emitter or reflector.

I'm back!

Did you miss me?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Cross-posted at Chez Kneel

Neil and I have decided to do a BlogSwap. He's going to be posting on my blog for a bit, and I'll be posting some things on his blog. (Personally, I think I'm getting the better end of this deal).

This post will serve as a catalog--some might even call it a list--of crossover entries.

Buggy on Still Reforming

I see men, but they look like trees, walking

Waves and Spectra... or the post with the most mentions of Gummby ever

Gummby on Chez Kneel

Reasons for Studying the Old Testament

Monday, January 22, 2007

Waves and Spectra... or the post with the most mentions of Gummby ever

There is more light zooming around us than the sharpest eyed humans can see. Only birds can see the near ultraviolet hues that are all around us, and they use this extra information in ways that we can’t really imagine.

But do birds see the whole picture?

Nope. Birds don’t see all the light there is to see. Actually, with the use of technology we can “see” much more light than birds can.

But what is it we are seeing? Light is hard to describe.

Light is a thing, and it moves. Light travels from point A to point B, and it takes time to do it. Light does not travel instantaneously.

Light is not a thing, yet it moves. Light has no mass. Massily speaking, light is nothing. How can nothing move? Very strange. (The answer to this is that you don’t have to have mass to be something. Light is pure energy, which Einstein among others demonstrated is just mass in another form.)

Light comes in little discrete packets called photons. It is reasonable to speak of a photon as a particle of light. Yet light travels in what we can best describe as waves. You may say, “of course it would… waves of photon particles…”, but you would be wrong. It is reasonable to speak of light as a wave without any particle constituents such as photons. Confused? It gets worse.

A single photon (which is a tiny little thing, about the size of an electron (if in fact it has any meaning to speak of the size of a thing that has no mass)), will behave as if it is part of a wave, even if it is the only photon in the universe. This fact would be stunning, if I weren’t so inept at explaining it.

Waves have properties known as wavelengths, which is the physical distance between successive crests of the wave (or troughs). To understand wavelengths, think of the distance between whitecaps when it’s stormy at the beach. Waves also have frequencies… the elapsed time between the arrival of crests. Again, think of the beach, and the seconds that elapse between the crashes on the beach, as wave follows wave.

Back to our single photon in the universe. Let’s call it Gummby. Gummby is a particle and a wave at the same time. Gummby is heading towards a piece of paper with two slits in it. These slits are spaced to cause an interference pattern if a wave goes through them. Think of a breakwater with two openings. The crashing waves will find their way through the two openings into the sheltered harbour and interfere with each other in the harbour. There will be a grid pattern of double troughs and crests as the waves pass through each other.

Anyways, microscopic Gummby photon passes through one of the slits. You would expect him to pass straight through, right? But he doesn’t. He ends up in a weird unexpected spot on the far side of the paper. Oh well, Gummby carries on and decides that that was pretty fun. He takes a hard banking turn and comes around for another pass at the slits. He passes through one of the slits and ends up in a different spot than he did last time. Fun, wow! Gummby does this over and over, and each time his trajectory takes a little jig as he passes through one of the paper slits.

What’s going on? Is he deflecting off the edge of the slit? No, he’s not. Even though slits are narrow, they are millions of times wider than Gummby. He’s the size of an electron, remember?

What is happening is that Gummby the wave-particle is doing a wave interference dance as he goes through the slits, just like the waves in the protected harbour. But who is he interfering with? Gummby is the only photon in the universe. There is no one for him to interfere with. The answer lies in quantum mechanics. At the nanoscopic level, Gummby operates in the world of quantum mechanics, whose rules say that if we know Gummby’s velocity, it is impossible to nail down exactly where he is at any moment. All we can say is that it is probable that Gummby is here, and less probable that Gummby is there.

When Gummby passes through the slits and causes an interference pattern, what he is interfering with is the probability that he will be there, or here, or perhaps a little bit over to the left. Gummby is interfering with himself, with alternate locations for himself. It has been said that light is at its heart, a probability wave. But that would be attaching to much speciality to light, because when you get as small as photon Gummby, everything is just a probability wave, according to quantum mechanics.

The preceding spiel was intended to bafflegab the lone remaining reader into conceding that light is a wave, and thus has a wavelength and a frequency. Light always moves at the same speed, so that means the shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency. And since every photon is a little wave-packet of energy, higher frequencies also mean higher energies.

Visible colours are nothing more than light with different wavelengths and frequencies. The lowest wavelength visible colour (and thus least energetic) is deep red. All other colours fall somewhere in between. The highest wavelength is deep violet. Take a good look at the next rainbow you see, and you’ll notice that the light is ordered by wavelength. The violet and red colours are at opposite ends of the rainbow spectrum.

Now, transfer your consciousness into a pelican and take a look at that rainbow. Your birdbrain sees below the deep violet another colour… ultraviolet. What’s it look like? Well, it looks like ultraviolet, silly! Ultraviolet has shorter wavelengths than violet, is more energetic than ultraviolet (which is why it causes sunburns!).

Let’s keep shortening the wavelength of the light and see what we get. We will get a lot of increasingly energetic ultraviolet light, but if we shorten it enough we will get something called X-Rays. Keep going. Increase the frequency and energy, and reduce the wavelength, and eventually you will come up with gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

Now let’s go to the other side of the rainbow. Lower the frequency and lengthen the wavelength past red and you get infrared. Infrared light is something that we sense with our skin as radiated heat, but it is less actually less energetic than, say green light, which may seem surprising.

Next along the spectrum we run into microwaves, and then television and radio waves. Ever wonder why AM radio reception is not usually as good as FM in concrete buildings? The answer is that the AM wavelength is longer than FM, sometimes longer than the building itself, and there is just not enough room in the concrete jungle for the AM wave to resolve itself.

What is light? Is it only that stuff that we see? If so, what do we do with colourblind people, who would say that light is only as much as they see. What do we do with birds, who would scoff at our paltry vision, had they brains capable of scoffing? One of the only appreciable differences between aquamarine blue light and an x-ray is the wavelength of their respective photons. One of the only appreciable difference between pumpkin orange and Erv Weinstein's Eyewitness News broadcast on WKBW Channel 7, Buffalo, New York, is the wavelength of their respective photons. But they are all just different types light.

Light covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from Very Low Frequency radio waves (with wavelengths of over a thousand miles) to high energy gamma rays, with wavelengths smaller than you can even imagine.

When God created Light, this is what He created.

Very cool. Yes I know the very last reader gave up six paragraphs ago and that I’m talking to myself. Still, it's very cool.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Think My Template is Busted

Has anyone else been having problems with viewing my sidebar? I've noticed some issues, and I've heard from at least one other person who's had a problem.

Don't know what the issue is exactly. It seems to be happening in both IE and Firefox. But since I'm using the original template, and haven't even changed anything in months, I'm even more puzzled.

Any ideas?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is My Search For A Text Editor Finally Over?

I may have finally found the text editor for writing. Ironically, it looks a lot like what I used to use back in the days of 5 1/4 floppies.

is a 100kb Java notepad. It's sole purpose is to envelop your screen, so that you can focus on writing. (HT: Lifehacker)

(One cool thing about Java, unlike most other software, is that it is platform independent. In non-techie, that means it runs irrespective of your operating system. So Windows users, Mac users, and even Linux guys can use it.)

There are commands, such as Ctrl-N for a new file, Ctrl-O to open (or create) a file, Ctrl-S to save it, the typical Windows cut and paste commands, and Escape exits the program.

Nothing fancy--just enough to get you started on the task of writing. Oh, and you can customize the colours (I've set mine to the good old days of the amber monochrome!).

Of course, the real irony is that this program is basically a throwback to the DOS days. Sitting here and typing this reminds me of all those hours in the early 90's spent in front of monochrome monitors, on computers with RAM-only memory, and those keyboards with the very satisfying keystroke action--you know, the ones with the ke-chung ke-chung, that the faster you typed and harder you banged on them the more they seemed to work. Now those things were made for typing lots of code. (I won't get started on EdLine--I still get shivers just thinking about it).

So Microsoft has spent billions of dollars developing Windows software, and most of us have spent more buying it, only to have someone come along and provide what amounts to a DOS emulator, so that we can limit our focus on just one thing. (As an aside, I've often wondered if Windows software has contributed to the ADD population...)

Here's the kicker: I loved DOS. Still do. There are things you can do with the command line that take so much extra effort in Windows. I even tried going back to it a year ago when a laptop I inherited flipped out, but I couldn't get used to not having the simplest of Windows conventions, things like word wrap, ctrl-del to delete a word (which is not available on JDark, either), and mouse controls. I guess I've just gotten spoiled.

Still, there's something to be said for shutting out distractions, and being alone--just you and the words. If that's what you've been missing, then I encourage you to give JDarkRoom a try.

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I see men, but they look like trees, walking

And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
--- Mark 8:23-25

I'm trying a new concept: planning the end to a series before I start it. Because I want to break the blog, this post is very long and boring, and is the first of seven such snoozers. Actually the rest should be a little shorter. The topic is Light. Future titles are:
  • Waves and Spectra
  • Emitting & Reflecting
  • The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
  • Genesis Cosmology: Let there be Light
  • The Light of the World
  • Why Light?
Today we talk about kinds of sight. Starting at the top, we have 20/20 vision. Can't get any better than that. Next.

A man with nearsighted vision can not see detail in things far away. I am such a man. I am woefully nearsighted (20/240). But don’t be deceived. It’s not that I cannot see things far away; I can see everything that you can, but it’s just not in focus. I merely can’t pick out all the detail that you can. Nearsighted people learn to adapt. For example, if I know your gait, I can tell it’s you walking towards me while you’re still 50 metres away, even though you appear as nothing but a pulsing blob.

In case you think that nearsightedness is purely a curse, please allow me to demisinform you. The full scope of creation’s beauty cannot be experienced by the 20/20 crowd. You might say that the trees get in the way of the forest. I was never so awed by the wonder of the night sky as the time I took a walk on a cloudless night without my glasses. Every single one of the visible stars had diffused into boggling auras and the Milky Way jumped out clear as day. Now I frequently walk without my glasses on my face. I still keep them in my pocket, because I might need to whip them on to avoid deadly peril, and I only walk without them when I’m alone, because it looks kind of idiotic when I walk into dangling tree branches or trip over small children.

Another bonus of my nearsightedness is the ability to use the thickness near the sides of my glasses as spectrum analyzers. If I hold a straight edge against a white background and cock my head just right my coke-bottle glasses act as prisms and I can tell you the primary colour composition of the straight edge. Well, it’s exciting to me.

A man with farsighted vision cannot see things in detail when they are right in front of him. We are all farsighted to a degree, because we cannot focus on objects that are a mere millimetre in front of our eyes. Another benefit of my own nearsightedness is that my eyes are able to focus on objects closer than an inch to my eye. I’m very much better at closeup sight than your average 20/20 guy.

At least, I used to be better. The magic age of forty triggered some new ocular developments. I am now acquiring the coveted farsightedness that is common for adults of a particular age. I just tried it out, and I can no longer focus on objects closer than four inches. Combine that with my nearsighted inability to focus on items farther away than six inches, and you come up with quite a limited range of clear sight. I’ve got my regular glasses, I’ve got my end of the nose reading glasses, I’ve got my full power bug-eyed reading glasses, and I’ve got my contact lenses, but I refuse to get bifocals just yet.

Stéphane Dion has colourblind vision. A colourblind man cannot see all the colours that most people experience. But that statement is somewhat parochial. Let’s back up.

A blind mole rat is -- surprise, blind! It sees no light whatsoever. The blind mole rate is also extremely colourblind, because it sees no colours.

A dog has two kinds of cones in its retina. Two kinds of cones are simply not enough to see all the vibrant colours that we see. It sees in what we can best describe as shades of grey. Does my beagle really see in shades of grey? Probably not, but it doesn’t see any difference between red and green, or between red and blue, other than that they show up as different shades of the same colour. But between raids on the garbage can my beagle would scoff at you for saying she only sees one colour. You see, she has no access to your world, no access to the palette that you see. She thinks she sees lots of colours, but she has no idea what she’s missing.

A human being has three kinds of cones in its retina. We see all the colours of the rainbow. But you know what, if that is a true statement, then it is also true for my beagle. She sees all the colours of the rainbow that she can see, in the terms that she sees them, just as we do. Just like the beagle, we only see all the colours of the rainbow that we can see. But there are more colours in the bow of the Lord that we cannot see.

What human beings do see is the spectrum of colours from deep violet to warm red. We can see pretty comprehensively within that rang. Some humans are more sensitive to different shades than others, but most of us can distinguish thousands of hues and shades between violet and red. What we see is known as visible light, which is a circular definition if there ever was one.

Back to human colourblindness… A colourblind human being lives with a defect in one or more of their three kinds of rods, or they are actually missing a kind. The most common type of colourblindness involves an inability to distinguish between red and green. I have a friend like that. We and our kids were playing team lasertag once and the colours of the two teams were red and green. If you’re on the red team your gun flashed with red lights, and vice versa for green. My friend was helpless. He couldn’t tell friend from foe. He had to back himself into a corner and ask my father-in-law to point out the enemies to him. I think my father-in-law may have fingered me out more than my fair share, but that’s not a useful digression at this time.

What does my friend see? What is his vision like? I don’t know. I can’t crawl into his mind’s eye, and for his part he can’t even conceive of the splendour that my vision encompasses. Neither can Stéphane Dion. Stephane Dion is kind of like my beagle.

Like the mole rat, a completely blind man cannot see a thing. I really wonder what he sees in his mind’s eye? How does he “visualize” the world? I would love to find out, especially if he has never experienced sight. Just like I have adapted to my nearsightedness, the completely blind man would also adapt. Probably the better question to ask would be: What do his mind’s ear, nose, and fingertips have that mine inevitably don’t?

Buy hey, a completely blind man can see at least two colours that I cannot see with my eyes. He sees with his skin. He sees infrared when his skin warms up as he steps into the sunlight. He sees an an infrared silhouette when someone passes between him and a radiant fireplace. He also sees ultraviolet when his skin “burns” as he sits under the sunlight. I grant that this particular ultraviolet detection system isn’t very useful, because his brain doesn’t actually "see" the ultraviolet until he feels the burn, which might not be until long after he left the sunlight.

Okay now, all you young 20/20 vibrant colour seers. You’re feeling pretty special right now. You’ve got 120 million rods in each eye to detect light intensity. You’ve got several million cones in each eye to detect colour, and you have all three types of cone, so you are not colourblind.

I’m afraid you are colourblind, every last one of you.

Birds were created with four types of cones. Where we experience a vibrantly hued world granulated by cones that allow our brains to triangulate the entire visible light spectrum by detecting three different frequencies of light, the fowl of the air have a fourth cone calibrated to detect ultraviolet frequencies.

So what? Birds can see a little bit more of the rainbow that we can. Well it’s very much more than that.

Imagine that you woke up tomorrow to find that you really lived in a four dimensional world, and that the three dimensions you’ve always known were only part of the story. Can you imagine it? It’s difficult to do. We can describe it mathematically, but we can’t grasp it in our being. The comparison between our vision and bird vision is analogous.

The eagles don’t just see a little bit more of the rainbow. They detect the ultraviolet hues that are all around them in every object. They see things that we just can’t see, but are nonetheless very real. They don’t triangulate colours, they quadrangulate them. They add another colour dimension. Just as the world I perceive is exponentially more vibrant than my beagle’s, and just as my laser tag friend can’t conceive of a world of full colour, I can’t imagine what the sparrow sees, and my heretofore rich vision is orders of magnitude more beggarly than the tern’s.

I do not see the fullness of the Light around me to any appreciable degree more than my beagle does. But you want to know a secret? Neither does the hawk.

That's all for today, class. Everyone please wake up and go home now.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Matt was complaining that I haven't contributed any good content recently. That's not gonna change today.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Test Driving a Blog Client

I'm currently taking Performancing for Firefox out for a test drive. It is a Firefox extention for blogging.

I'll try to put up some feedback soon.

In the meantime, I'm curious if anyone else has used it and has feedback, or any other blog clients for that matter (Windows Live, or anything else).

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Monday, January 15, 2007

A Quick Question About Spacing

Here's a quick question, and I'm interested in the response? Is the second space after a period (and a colon, for that matter) obsolete?

I still use it in work documents, but only because of convention. I never use it in anything I blog or e-mail? So, is it fading out of existence, or have we created a modified set of punctuation rules for electronic compositions?

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Speaking of Writing...

Here are some links that those who are interested in writing (and I'm gonna go out a limb here and guess that if you're a blogger you fancy yourself as some sort of writer) might enjoy.

1) A Guide to Writing Well
According to Joshua Sowin (who obviously spends a good deal of time thinking about writing), the Guide is mainly a distillation of Zinsser's On Writing Well and Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, compiled as a refresher for "a stubborn and lazy memory" (his, not mine).
HT: Justin Taylor, who recommends that aspiring writers (and thus current bloggers) bookmark it.

2) Writing Tips from Ian McMillan's Writing Lab
Some British guy on the Beeb who has a writing radio show. It's quite good, actually. Anyway, here are some tips on writing (you can view them online, or download them from here). Note: they are probably the same, but just in case, look at this link and this link for alternative copies of the tips.

3) BBC's Get Writing Homepage
The BBC is spending the hard-earned quid of the likes of Warnock & The Muffin to finance stuff like this, so help them get their money's worth. There are links galore about writing and reading.

4) BBC Writer's Room Script Smart Links
Click thru one from the link above and you might end up at the BBC Writer's Room (it's a twisted path, so I've just gone ahead and done it for you). Writer's Room appears to be primarily geared towards those who would like to write for the BBC; however, two places there are more general and more helpful.

The first is a page on script formats. Anyone who's in the biz I doubt will need this, but for someone starting out, or for the invasively curious, it's interesting.

Second, if you'd like to produce said scripts yourself, the Beeb have produced some Word macros (named "Script Smart") to help with the process. Someone download them & let me know how they work--I am Wordless these days.

Tom Gilson (welcome, Tom!) added a link in the comment section, but it doesn't look like it took, so I am adding it here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lest I Forget...

A big thank you to the Shepherd's Fellowship blog for adding me to the blogroll. Assuming they've read me at all, and not just filched people out of Pyro Blog's blogroll or blindly taken a recommendation from my friend Chris Pixley (whose blog is dead but writes for the exceedingly exegetic Expository Thoughts), I can only assume they must have been reading during the week when I was away and Nick Nora Buggy and Kim filled in here.

Nevertheless, we'll take the link, and it is actively referring folks over here, so again, I offer a big "thank you."

Thank You

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Writing and the Christian Life

For years I've dreamed of becoming a published author. And, because of my unique bent (I must be part graduate assistant or something), I invested quite a bit of time in learning about writing.

I subscribed to writing magazines, like Writer's Digest and The Writer, reading the tips and trying to gain the right mindset. I researched genres, like Science Fiction and Mystery, so that I would be as familiar and equipped as I could be to make my run at being published. I watched Book TV on CSPAN2, to hear real authors speak about their books. I listened to the audiobook for Writing Down the Bones, enduring Natalie Goldberg's Buddhist and Lesbian remarks, to try to glean tips about writing. (I got one very important thing from her, which I'll share at some point in the future.)

And then there were the books.

I started hitting up the used bookstores, trying to get my hands on books that would move me further down the path. I filled my bookshelves with books about the craft. I joined the Writer's Digest Book Club to pick up additional titles like Roget's Super Thesaurus, so that I would have the right reference tools on hand.

After that I began the quest to find the rest of the tools necessary to get the job done. I researched software, looking for the right text editor, word processor, notekeeper--anything I could find to help with my mission. Of course, on a limited budget, I didn't actually buy any software, though I did run across RoughDraft, which to this day I use to write just about everything that isn't text based--ie, needs formatting. It's free, and everyone running Windows ought to have a copy of it installed on their computer. Someday I'll finish my review of it and get it posted.

(This software search is an ongoing process, by the way. I still look for writing tools every so often, though I think I've gotten everything that's sensible; one I don't have yet is Writer's Blocks, but that's because it costs $300--that's a lot of money for virtual index cards. Don't even get me started on how many text editors I have installed on my computer...)

Here's where I need to confess something: I'm a sucker for reading about writing. I love it! Among my favorites reads on writing are (in no particular order) On Writing, by Stephen King, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, by Lawrence Block, and Raymond Chandler's classic essay "The Simple Art of Murder," and the newsgroup musings of J. Michael Straczynski; I even have a book of "meditations for writers" called Walking on Alligators. Then of course, there is the abundance of writing books that sit untouched on my shelves, and though it's ever more likely that I won't be able to read them all, I can't bring myself to part with just yet.

But for all that effort, there was still something missing. I lacked one important element. The important element, in fact. See, in all my efforts to learn about writing, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of writing. The only one you can never break:

Writers write. And I wasn't writing.

It's cliche, I know, but true nonetheless, that for all my research, for all my books, both read and unread, I've learned more about writing by sitting in front of this screen and banging away at the keyboard than from all the rest combined.

Now at this point, some of you are saying "you're over 600 words, man, but where's the Christian life?" Others of you know where I'm going, because it's so predictably easy.

We've been talking about reading books, and about reading the Bible, but unless we're actually doing something, then it's all just an intellectual exercise. We're just going through the motions, and pretending there's something there when there's not.

Reading about Christianity, even the best books by Charnock, Owen, Calvin, and {insert theological heavyweight and/or favorite Christian author here} will not make you a Christian any more than me reading about writing made me a writer.

To be a Christian, you must have a relationship with Jesus Christ; merely passively reading books and yes, even the Bible, will do you no good if nothing happens as a result. So while I think it's great to set reading goals, and read through the Bible in a year, and all the rest, don't make the same mistake I made with writing. Earnestly pursue that relationship with him, so that your name will be published in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Book List for 2007

I debated how exactly to publish this. I thought about doing the standard reading list, but that sounded a lot like a resolution.

So I decided to go a different route. Instead of putting all the books I plan to read this year, I'm going to list books I am reading, along with progress reports throughout the year.

Stop back by to see updates.

January 2006

The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

We started reading this book last Saturday and read 50 pages. Wow! It's the first "real" book I've read out loud to them. Tried to read in the evenings, but that didn't go quite as well. Obviously, a bigger block of time is needed (without the little kids around to distract).

Baptism Fullness by John R. W. Stott

Looks like this will be on my reading list. We've started a sermon series on Acts at church, and next week we'll be talking about the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." The elders have asked homegroup leaders to read this book in case anyone has questions.

I've gotten as far as the Preface and Introduction, and it seems like it will be good.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Hymn: O Worship the King

My daughter has been practicing this hymn for piano lessons. In listening to her practice, my mind drifted to the words, and I was struck by the majesty and greatness of God. I'm thrilled to put this forward as my first Sunday Hymn offering...

O Worship the King

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, Whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

By: Robert Grant

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

That's a Depressing Thought!

Jonathan Moorhead asks: "Have you ever stopped to think that there are only a certain number of books that you can read in your lifetime?"

Yes, actually, I have. And it's kind of depressing. But unlike me, Jonathan makes some positive suggestions on how to spend the time.

Coincidentally, I was thinking about posting a reading log this year. Watch for it soon.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Glad I'm Not the Only One

Justin Taylor had this to say yesterday:

"For what it's worth, I'll make a confession: I'm one of those people who has never successfully made it through a one-year Bible reading plan. This year I'm going to try to incorporate listening to the Bible as part of my daily reading."

Glad to know I'm not the only one who is in this situation. I'm not a big resolution maker, but I am making it my goal to make it through this year.

I actually started a few months back, and made good progress by listening during my trip to Dallas. I've made it as far as Jeremiah 31 so far, and I'm pretty sure if I can make it out of the OT I'll be home free.