Monday, February 26, 2007

Andrew The Evangelist

You know what's odd? I have had less success in getting people to switch browsers than switching computer systems.

I have convinced a number of people to get a Mac as their next computer. In the summer of 2004 the McKay family was a PC - Linux family. Today we're a Mac family. My brother and sister each have a Mac laptop. I'm on my second Mac laptop. My dad just got a 24" iMac for Christmas.

When I arrived in Ottawa the McQueens were PC people too. Then my brother, Jack, and I convinced Jane to get a Mac laptop for when she went to university. She fell in love with it. As did her brother, Bruce, and the rest of the family. When it's time for their next family computer, or when Bruce goes off to school they'll be joining the Mac club.

One time I was in CompuSmart and started selling a Mac to a poor innocent customer that happened to walk in and look at the Mac display while I was standing there with too much time on my hands. I don't know if she ever did get a Mac.

A couple at work read some of the Vista license restrictions and have decided their next computer will be a Mac.

A previous co-op student at work said she'd like her next computer to be a Mac.

And, yes, I'm forever bringing my laptop to people and demonstrating the neat things it can do.

Granted, I haven't been the sole reason any of these people switched. But I have certainly been part.

But to my knowledge I have only gotten the McQueens, and one other person to switch browsers.

Something seems off-kilter about that. Switching browsers is really really really easy. And free. If you decide "Nah, I'd rather risk getting spyware that will download childporn to my computer, then distribute it without me knowing, having a lesser web experience with a zero percent chance of awesomeness and use Internet Explorer than use FireFox or Opera" then you can always switch back. And all it cost you was a few minutes of your time.

But when you switch systems, from PC to Mac, it's gonna cost you. Depending on the Mac you get, anywhere between $700 to $3000. And if you decide you'd prefer a PC you can switch back, but now you have an expensive paper-weight, and you're out a ton of money. Not to mention the learning curve to learn a new system. (Yes, Mac is infamously easier, but a change is a change, and there is a learning curve.)

Yet I've managed to be instrumental in having people take the bigger risk in switching systems than switching browsers.

And as for credentials? If I tell you "you should trade in your Ford for a Saturn" that's just my personal opinion. I'm not a car person. I just have my personal experience to draw on.

When I say "You should get a Mac instead of PC for your next computer." I have more credence. After all, I do have two Computer Engineering diplomas and a B.Sc. in Computer Science. So this is in my field. So I have the weight of lots of education, work experience, and my own personal experience.

When I say "You should use FireFox or Opera instead of Internet Explorer." I have everything I have for computer the power of ten. While I am a computer professional I am specifically a web programmer. I deal with browsers all the time at work, and at home. (I am a web programmer in my "spare time" too.) When someone in my position recommends you switch browsers that should carry lots of weight. It isn't just my personal opinion. It is my professional opinion and recommendation.

Yet, for the most part, it seems to fall on deaf ears.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call Steve Jobs and see if he'll put me on payroll.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I'm the Alpha-Geek

According to Today's article I am probably surging with rugged, masculine testosterone.

No, I did not watch my team kick butt in the SuperBowl. I did the winning myself. Not in football either.

See, a few of the guys at work decided play Risk, or Napoleon Risk to be exact, during the lunch hour. (The hall in which we reserved a room had three meeting rooms. Today the games down that hall were: Risk, Euchre, and Pictionary.) Near the end of the hour we'd all write down how many armies we had in each territory, and what cards we had so we could resume later.

To add to the excitement, and to shorten the games, we play Mission Risk. Now, this does not involve setting up Missions in the third world territories. Instead there are certain missions like "Take over Russia and Italy." Once you achieve your mission, you win the game. Nobody knows what anybody else's mission is.

My mission was to take over 21 territories and have at least 2 armies in each. After several sessions I achieved this goal. And, after reading today's article I could just feel my testosterone surging, and theirs plummeting.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, we have played two other games. I won both. Apparently, I am the Alpha-Geek. :) It looks like someone set up them the bomb, and as a result all their base are belong to me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Why Some Months Pass By Faster Than Others

I write this post on January 19. It feels like we've been in January for ever and a day. It feels like ten years ago we were celebrating the December Retail Season. And February is still two weeks away!

Why is it that some months seem to fly by and others seem to move at the rate of 0.25 days per day? I have a theory that tries to answer that question.

I developed this theory either when I was in school (a Monday to Friday week) or working for the Ontario Government (a Monday to Friday week), not when I was working a job with an irregular school. If you work a job with an irregular schedule you may think my theory is really crazy nuts. But if you have a Monday to Friday week then you may just think its plain nuts.

How fast the month passes depends, not on how many days are in the month, but on what day of the week the first day falls on. If the first day falls on a Monday or Tuesday it will be slow. If it falls on a Thursday or Friday the month will fly by faster than Superman looking for a toilet when he has diarrhea. If the first day falls on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday then the month will go by at a moderate pace. (Sunday slower than Saturday, and Saturday slower than Wednesday.)

The reason for this is that you never really pay attention to the day of the month on the weekends.

Take the scenario where the first day of the month is a Thursday. By Thursday you're more concerned that the weekend is fast approaching. Same thing with Friday. Then you ignore the dates on Saturday and Sunday. When you return on Monday you look at the calendar and see that it's already the fifth! You've only spent two days in the month and it's already the fifth! Furthermore, it's already the second week of the month.

But the month is still so new you haven't grown impatient with it yet. Then, the following Monday it's the 12th and you're already well into the double-digit dates, and the month is almost half over and you've only been in it for seven days!

Now, on the other hand, take a month that starts on Monday. On the first day of work it's also the first day of the month. After five days in the month you still haven't had a weekend. Then you have a weekend and on Monday it's the 8th. You're not even in the double-digit dates yet. You have to wait for Wednesday for that pleasure. You don't reach the middle of the month until the next (3rd) Monday, and what's worse is that (unless it's February of a non-leap year) you have 2 more whole Mondays in that month left! A total of five Mondays! Nobody wants five Mondays in a month!

If you don't believe me, think about how long this month has been and that it started on a Monday. Then pay attention to the next month (February) which starts on a Thursday. It will be fast. Just in case you think that it went by fast because it only has 28 days, pay attention to March which has 31. (February also presents the problem of it being a bitter, cold winter month which will create the illusion of greater length. March may turn out to be a nastier month, weather-wise, but at least March contains hope.)

UPDATE: Here it is, one month after I originally wrote this and look how fast February is going by. Today is February 19. It was February 1 just yesterday. The day before that was January 31. The day before that was January 31. And the day before that was also January 31. In fact, it was January 31 for four and a half days in total this year. And lets not talk about how many days January 30 took up.

Friday, February 16, 2007

And The Most Popular Topic of Conversation Is...

Remember my post about conversation? It turns out some psychologists were interested in conversation as well. They asked groups of people to get to know each other over six weeks, and record what they talked about. The most popular topic of conversation (58%) was music.

The study does not tell us why this is so. But guess what? Believe it or not, I have a theory!

My theory is as follows:
Almost everyone likes music. A lot of people are at least somewhat passionate about it. So, when trying to get to know someone it's a good topic to start with. It can also lead to CD trades, concerts, expanding one's own music taste, etc.

Sure people like movies and sports. There are probably more people passionate about music than movies. However some real sports fanatics would out-fan, and out-number music fanatics. But if you picture the average person, I think you'd more more likely to see someone who cares more about music than sports, or at least specific sports. A football fan won't have too much to talk about with a hockey fan.

I have often wondered why people like music so darned much. I do. I like to think I am passionate about music. But I can't for a moment think I'm alone. Lots of people are. And music is personal. What's beautiful music for one may be agonizing noise for another. But why is this so?

My theory on this is that music acts as the soundtrack of our lives. You hear a song, and it's associated with a feeling and/or emotion. You listen again, and due to the familiarity principal, the liking feeling is reinforced. Within the last couple of weeks I've started listening to more Celtic music. I told a friend who's really into Heavy Metal about my new-found appreciation. He said "That doesn't surprise me. You are from Nova Scotia."

I nodded, "Oh yeah....I guess that does make sense."

The other thing is that a song may have a certain "hook" that makes the song. Brittany Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time has that little piano "riff." I can't prove it, but I'd bet money that that piano riff made that song, and consequently her, a lot more popular than it and she would have been without it.

Sometimes music makes you feel like you want to feel, or sympathizes with how you do feel. Pink Floyd's The Wall is great to listen to when you want to be alone. Jagged Little Pill is good when you're angry at the world. Oddly enough, the Christian music I listen to doesn't sound much like the secular stuff that I listen to. (I'm still looking for the Christian version of Pink Floyd.)

And music tastes are as personal as fingerprints. Each person's is different. Even people who share the same music taste might name the same bands as their top five, but they're probably not in exactly the same order.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's Really Scary

Note: This blog entry is written as a response to to Kwilson's blog entry entitled "Redeemed, How I love to proclaim it!" where he quoted the end of a conversation we had. This is my response.

Consider the following verses:
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"
1 Corinthians 3:19

"Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."
Isaiah 6:10

"He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"
Mark 4:11-12

I'll get to those verses in a moment.

For the sake of this entry, assume the doctrine of the 'elect' to be true. That is, assume that God has pre-ordained who would be saved, and who wouldn't, before the world began.

First let's consider the following scenario: Let's say there is Church A and Church B. Both A and B believe in the inerrancy of the original Biblical texts. Perhaps A and B translate those texts differently, or perhaps they interpret a translation differently. Perhaps the differences in their translation or interpretation is a significant salvation issue.

Each church has it's own experts that attest to their translation and interpretation. There are very very smart people in both churches (as well as not so smart people). And there is apparent fruit in the people in both churches. There are changed lives. There are people who go in living like spawn of Satan and after a while end up with patience, self control, love, etc.

Now, each church is convinced that the other is in error on their doctrine. Enough error to think the people in the other church are not saved because of that error. When a new convert in A asks an elder "How come people in B just can't see the obvious truth about this?" The elder may very well reply with a quote of a verse I quoted earlier. "Well, son, their eyes have been blinded. Unless one repents then they must not be one of the elect." But the same conversation could take place in B regarding the people in A.

Now, usually 1 Corinthians 3:19 would be used in references to those who make no claim to Christianity. For example, the wisdom of the world says "Living together before you get married makes sense. Sort of a trial-run." Christians would say "No. Better wait 'till you get married before you live together." In this particular example the statistics are on the side of the Christians. You're marriage is more likely to last if you don't first live together. (However, take note that that is correlational observation, not a statement about causation.)

A while ago I was discussing Trinitarianism with a Sabellianist. He warned me that Jesus said "Unless you believe that I am who I say I am, you will die in your sins." I said "And I have no problem with that." meaning 'Jesus claimed to be the son of God, and I believe his claim to be true.'

It would have been a whole lot easier had Jesus sat his disciples down, told them to get out some paper and pencils and write down what he was about to say, then told them "Listen, this is how it is: God is one being, but three separate, yet co-existant, persons who all share in the attributes of God (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence). There's the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, in that hierarchical order. Yup, we're all persons. And, by the way, submission does not imply inequality." But, the fact is, he didn't do that (or at least it's not recorded). Instead throughout the Bible we get hints of that. The Old Testament was all about "There is one God!" Then during Jesus' ministry he makes the claim "The Father and I are one." Then he goes and makes distinction between him and the Father; and the Holy Spirit. Then we see more of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, where He is referred to as a person. From all these things taken together we derive the doctrine of the Trinity.

It's not an easy or intuitive doctrine. Heck, it took the church fathers around 300 years to figure it out and decide it was official doctrine. This got me to thinking "Even a lot of non Trinitarians understand that to get into a right relationship with God they need to confess their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. God sent his only son to die on the cross. It seems God is bending over backwards to make it as easy as possible for people to enter into right relationship with Him, to bring them into the kingdom. Then what does one need to know to be saved? It seems to me that the stuff that God wants us to know for sure would be laid out plain as day in the Bible, stuff you just can't miss!"

But then I see verses like Mark 4:11-12. Stuff is being hidden lest the non-elect turn and repent. Stuff might be hidden from the Baptists, stuff that seems foolish to us. Stuff that makes sense to others in Christendom. How do we know which of us is blinded lest we turn and repent, and which is actually right? If you're part of the blinded group then no matter how much you search the scriptures you won't find the answer. The only way you'll find the truth is if God changes His mind and de-blinds you. You could get 10 doctorate degrees in theology and you would still miss it! But you probably would, at some point, think you have it, totally convinced you're saved and part of the elect. And one who is part of the elect may find the answer in Sunday School when he's 5.

So, what's really scary is that you could be convinced that you're part of the elect and you're really not, and you can't know until it's too late and there's really nothing you can do about it.

Before anyone replies saying "Ahhh, but the Bible says such'n'such" remember you're seeing with the eyes God gave you. If you're part of the blinded group then you could quote the whole Bible to me and it wouldn't make a difference to me.

And if anyone (I know) says something like "yes, but you're assuming the doctrine of the elect to be true, and we know it isn't because of the following verses...." I will buy a plane ticket to wherever you are and give you the glaring of a lifetime on two counts; 1) because of what I wrote in the previous paragraph, and 2) at the very top of this post I said "assume [the doctrine] to be true." The same thing applies to anyone who argues that my logic is flawed because Christianity in any of it's forms is wrong. While not explicitly stated, it was implied for this post.

And, yes, I know that getting saved hasn't much to do with how much you know, but rather how you respond when God calls your name.

It wouldn't be nearly as scary if the doctrine of the elect wasn't true. Then to get saved all you'd have to do is put your faith in Christ, don't loose it, and you're set for eternity. You wouldn't have to worry about not being one of the elect.

Another way that wouldn't be nearly as scary is if the number of the elect is a lot larger than your typical Evangelical may think it is. The way some talk, you'd think you needed to have an MDiv to be saved.

Take the Jehovah's Witnesses. They reject the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems foolish to them. I've talked with a number of them and they ask me what it's like having a "Schizophrenic God." So, if they're right then The Trinity is a false doctrine, us Trinitarians are worshiping a false god, and are destined for the grave.

Now, we Trinitarians have our logic as to why their version of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is foolishness. But if they're right, then our eyes have been blinded, and we're just blowing a lot of hot air around.

But if we're right, and they're wrong, than they're the one blowing the hot air around. And there's not way to know until we all die and see who made it and who didn't.

But I think if you ask a Jehovah's Witness, and a Baptist, to each break it down and tell you as simply as possible, how to get saved, they'd each tell you "You can't make it on your own. Nothing you can do will be good enough. You can't buy back your way into God's favor. You must put your faith in Jesus Christ and ask forgiveness from God through Jesus." If that truly is it, as long as you do that, regardless of doctrinal beliefs, then you'll be saved, then the number of the elect is a lot larger than a lot of Evangelicals believe. That means that a lot of people believing heresies are saved. Then the non-Elect are those who have no interest in God at all, or reject Jesus as a savior. Then when Atheist Andy meets God the conversation may go something like this:

Atheist Andy: Woah! You really are real!

God: Yeah. Always have been.

Atheist Andy: How come I didn't know about you? Why didn't you ever show yourself to me?

God: You weren't interested. You never really wanted to know me anyway.

Atheist Andy: Fair enough.

Anyway, it's scary because it's a logical question with no possible logical or intellectual fool-proof answer (except the two that I mentioned: the doctrine of the elect is wrong, or the number of the elect is larger than estimated). You cannot use either scripture, nor your intellect to come to an answer. And even if an angel of the Lord were to appear to you telling you the answer, how could you be sure? Even the Devil comes disguised as an angel of light, and if you're not part of the elect then you can be deceived.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Gee....Ya Think?

And here I was worried that I'd be running out of "Today's Article" articles then I saw this article in Psychology Today.

Executive Summary:
Women send mixed messages to men.

Of course, I think the whole thing about reading women has a few problems. For one thing, when it comes to signals it is 100% unimportant what signals are sent (from either sex). The only important thing about signals is what is being received, which may not be (and in many cases is not at all) what is being sent.

For example, I have heard of the following signal as a way to tell if a girl likes you from two completely separate and distinct sources (except that they're both women):
You walk into a room, and if a girl likes you she'll start whispering with her girlfriend(s), occasionally looking at you, and the only thing you may hear is giggling.

Signal being sent from girl to guy: "I like you, that's why I'm talking about you, and giggling, with my girlfriends. This should get your attention."

What a guy (remember ladies, guys are usually pretty logical) thinks when he sees this: "I walk in and she starts whispering, followed by laughter. They keep looking at me. It must be about me. They're whispering, therefor I must not be supposed to hear what they're saying. If they're trying to prevent me from hearing what they're saying then it's probably not good. If it's probably not good then it's probably bad. Oh great, and now they're giggling. This must mean they're making fun of me."

If the guy has any insecurities about anything, he assumes they're probably making fun of that. So in the effort to send out "notice me" signals, the girls have probably made the man feel pretty small, annoyed, and the opposite of what the intended effect is.

This is the first thing that will drive a guy away. The second part of this scenario is that it is very difficult for a guy to try to pick up a girl when she's with friends. Especially after the whole lot of them were busy making fun of him a minute ago.

Apparently, this signal is spread across many cultures and many times, as are many signals women send to men. And women all seem to know all these signals. It's like they all got together and drew up a body-language dictionary of signals to send men to show interest. But what I find funny is that nobody has bothered to tell men what these signals are. So guys are left to their own devices when it comes to decoding signals women send. Ladies, this is generally how a man interprets signals: "If I were to do that, what would it mean? Would I mean to be showing romantic interest? Or just friendship? Or general disgust?"

So, this was just one of those studies that shows something that a lot of people already know, like when a study comes out that says "eating vegetables is good for you, and eating lead-based paint is bad for you."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Need A Hobby

When I moved away from home to go to college in 1996 I gave up my hobbies so I could concentrate on school. After one year of school I moved to Toronto to work for a year. My goal was to save as much money as possible to go back to school. This required lots of working irregular hours. Not much time for hobbies. In 1998 I went back to school.

When I graduated from college in 2002 I got a job with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. I decided to start working on my degree, but not until the fall. I figured after four years of straight school I deserved a break.

During that summer I did some Java programming and taught myself PHP and started working on MySQL. During that time I also really worked on improving my guitar-playing skills. Then in September I started school at Algoma University. I haven't had time for hobbies since.

Then last month I finished my last class in university so now I have effectively graduated. I don't have a whole lot time on my hands. But I do have more time than what I'm used to.

Recently it occurred to me I don't have a lot of hobbies. I think I should pick up a hobby or two. A hobby being defined as an activity that is different from your profession in which you engage for the pure enjoyment of the activity.

I guess I do have a few hobbies already:

  • Coffee Cup Art
  • Music (I play guitar and drums)
  • Blogging

These two hobbies are questionable:

I consider this one questionable because some people say that everyone should read anyway, so hobbies should be activities other than reading. I was recently reading a time management book that said that everyone should read 25 books per year, as well as maintain two hobbies. If one of those hobbies becomes your profession, get another hobby. I'm not sure if I really buy that line of reasoning. I think most people wouldn't, so reading would be a hobby of mine.

Computer Programming

I consider this one questionable because it is close to what I do for a living. Now, I do program for fun, as well as profit. (However, I do own a computer programming business, so for tax avoision purposes, all programming I do is work.)

Here is a list of activities that will most likely never be a hobby of mine:

  • Anything athletic. (Although I used to play a variation of the game of golf. In golf you hit the ball towards, and ultimately into a small hole a few hundred yards away from where you originally hit the ball. The variation I played was that when I hit the ball it would go into the woods, water, or a parallel universe. Although I think I gained some skill in the golf-club throw sport.)
    This also includes watching Sports. The SuperBowl is this Sunday, and I'd rather have my appendix and tonsils removed by a Chuck Norris style operation (ie: he removes them with one fowl swoop of his fists) than to watch it, except for the fact that I would start getting some much needed sleep within the first twenty minutes of watching it.

  • Computer games (including XBox, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc.) I don't know why, but those just have no hold on me.

Apparently, my lack of hobbies makes Christmas shopping for me a difficult task. But since I generally ask for cheques for Christmas, it works out.

Apparently, I never really talk about my hobbies or interests. I've had people tell me, after knowing me for months; after talking with me, conversing me all that time, tell me "Andrew, after all this time I don't know you. Are you an athlete? Are you a musician?" I figure either they weren't listening, or I wasn't talking. I think that there are a few things about me that if you don't know then you can't really say you know me:

  • I am a Christian

  • I am a musician

  • I hate sports

  • I'm a (computer) geek

So, anyway, there isn't really much point to this post. Hence the "My fish died today" tag, signifying that this post is a pointless stream of consciousness that allows you to peer into my life.

I would like to pick up some more hobbies. But right now music keeps me pretty busy. I'm on two worship teams (read: music teams) at church right now. Between practicing at home, and practicing at church that keeps me pretty busy.

I am also really trying to learn French. Has anyone else noticed that learning Japanese is a lot easier than learning French?

However, I would like to hear what you have as hobbies. I find that people have interesting hobbies that I know nothing of. So, please, leave a comment with a few words of your hobby.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Procrastination (Part II)

In an earlier post I mentioned how I would like to find a conversation algorithm, and how I owned a book that showed the mathematics of marriage in dynamic non-linear models. Wait sec. I didn't mention that. I had originally mentioned it, but deleted that bit. Anyway, just a few minutes after I wrote that post I found this article where Dr. Piers Steel represents procrastination in a mathematical formula.

It seems the desirability of a task is directly proportional to the expectancy of succeeding in that task and the value of completing that task, and inversely proportional to the immediacy or availability of that task and one's sensitivity to delay.