Church cancelled due to lack of god#

"I never really liked getting up that early on the weekend anyway, but continued to do so out of gripping fear of having my entrails eternally ripped out by flaming scimitars after death," Gregory H. Tensdale, 51, said. "But now that I know it's all just pretend, I am no longer terrified."

Wendell Wallach on machine morality#

Periodic crises in which technology is complicit will moderate the more optimistic belief that there is a technological fix for every challenge. […]

An agent must have sentience and feel pleasure and pain for us to have obligations to it. Given society's lack of concern for great apes and other creatures with consciousness and emotions, the bar for being morally responsible to (ro)bots is likely to be set very high. […]

Our evolutionary and cultural ancestry has bequeathed us with an adaptive toolbox of propensities that compensate for each other. These compensating propensities may fail us at times. But I personally lament the pathologizing of human nature and the aggrandizing of what future (ro)bots might achieve. Our flaws and our strengths are one and the same. We humans are indeed remarkable creatures.

We may be more closely related to bonobos than chimps#

The concept of the ‘killer-ape' offers a pessimistic reflection of humanity and its genesis, but the latest research shows that [bonobos,] a primate species whose success is based on mutual aid and pleasure, not violence, is a better model for human origins. […]

More research is needed before any conclusions can be reached, but the study raises important questions about the emphasis on chimpanzees as the model for human origins. "If[, with respect to a common ancestor, the genetic substitution rate in chimpanzees] is higher [than in humans,] then [chimpanzees] should have indeed diverged more from a common ancestor," says Eisen. "Bonobos might be more similar to the common ancestor of humans, chimps and bonobos than chimpanzees are and thus make a better model for learning about early human evolution."

Electrons are near-perfect spheres#

To be precise, the electron differs from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm. To put that in context; if an electron was the size of the solar system, it would be out from being perfectly round by less than the width of a human hair.

Fling mini joystick for smartphones#

This looks great … for when you've already beat a game on the highest level, but want another challenge … like playing it with just half the screen visible.

(Some days I feel like I'm the only sane person on the planet.)

HazeOver#

Heavy multi-tasking kills your concentration. Get rid of distraction and focus on your current task. Let this tiny app emphasize the active window by fading out inactive ones.

I'm digging this app. It's kind of a cross between Mac OS X's normal windowing behavior and its (nearly secret) single-application mode.

I set the dimming intensity to 80% (the max), and the animation to .25 seconds. It's nice.

(Yes, this app almost certainly drew inspiration from Spirited Away and Isolator.)

Update: Regarding single-application mode, a reader wrote to me with the following anecdote:

I actually forced my parents into single-application mode some time ago without telling them I did it. They actually don't know you can have more than one window open at a time anymore. I've never heard one complaint.

Brilliant.

10 dinosaurs that aren't what they were#

As new studies and discoveries are made, dinosaurs are becoming so much different from the way we always imagined them that, today, many of us have trouble recognizing even our childhood favorites. I give you ten classic dinosaurs that have changed radically due to new paleontological discoveries. And they may still change a lot in the future! Note: each entry has two images - the first is the previous image of the dinosaur, and the second is the new. Dinosaur before and after shots!

Why Majd Taby hates Google Chrome, but continues to use it#

Chrome has long been my browser of choice; there are few things I dislike about it. That said, I agree with Majd when it comes to the title and status bars:

[W]hen you have many tabs open, you have to rely on a tooltip to figure out what the title of the tab is. […]

The status bar can be in one of three states: Bottom left, hanging off the window if it fits, or on the bottom-right. As you move your mouse in the bottom left corner, the status bar will move and jump around erratically.

Drives me nuts.

The Hit List v1.0

June 03, 2011

Earlier this week it was announced that The Hit List had finally reached v1.0, and that the iPhone app currently was being reviewed by Apple. A huge congratulations to Andy Kim, the developer.

2.5 years ago I paid for a pre-order license for THL because when it came to my workflow it was, by far, the best of the big three Mac task apps (i.e., OmniFocus, Things and THL). I loved it, and sang its praises to anyone that cared to listen. In the beginning it was adding features at a decent clip, and there was semi-normal communication from Andy.

Then, silence. Andy just kind of shut up and left all of us in the dark. He'd pop up on Twitter or the user group every few months to let us know he was alive, and would offer the tiniest bit of information regarding the status of the app so that we'd stay faithful. And we did, for a long time.

Then he started discussing the iPhone app, development of which dragged on forever and forever, just like the Mac app. This at a time when Things and OmniFocus were announcing features left and right (well, mostly OmniFocus); both have long had iPhone and iPad apps, and OmniFocus has had great sync support between its clients for a while now. In view of the silence, I went all in with OmniFocus a while ago, but not before bouncing around between it and Things a good many times.

I don't know what happened with Andy and development of the app(s), and frankly, it's not my (or your) business, but I, and many others, would have appreciated a bit more transparency, honesty and realism along the way. I emailed Andy a little over a year ago and asked for a refund of my $50 pre-order. I never heard from him. (That's fine; as far as I know I was never promised a date by which 1.0 would ship, and so my request was just a shot in the dark.)

I'm scared that once I play around with v1.0 a bit more I'm going to be sucked right back in to its delicious interface and flow. I'm scared that the iPhone app will be great. I mean, at this point it kind of has to be, right? I'm scared that I'm going to want to migrate everything back to it.1 Again. (Clearly I hate myself.)

I'm scared I'm going to go through all that trouble and then there's not going to be a peep from Andy for six months, the iPad app will be put on hold indefinitely, etc. I have almost no confidence in the apps' future development, and Andy doesn't seem to want to try to fix that lack of confidence, which seems odd to me. I hope he rights this ship, because the app is so great, and has the potential to be the greatest.

Anyway, if you're not carrying around all of this emotional baggage (ha!), you may want to give THL a serious look. It's beautiful, fun to use and probably still my favorite of the big three, but I wouldn't expect much from the developer when it comes to future updates. (I hope I'm soon made to believe otherwise.)


  1. The one major hiccup for me would be the fact THL doesn't support due times. You can define the day obviously, but not a time within the day, and I don't think you can get THL to actually pop up an alert of any sort when something is due. In addition to tasks, I now put most of my meetings, doctor appointments, etc., into OmniFocus, and use the "due times" to alert me ahead of time. (I guess one workaround might be to put the "due time" in the task itself, and then just train myself to more routinely look at what's due each day.) 

Hopefully Sunny#

Hopefully Sunny is a really simple web app. You sign up with your email address and zip code, and we email you each day with the forecast for the next 4 days.

Love this:

Most people check their email before they check the weather. That means that by sending an email we can cut a step out of our lives every morning.

Subscribed. (Via Minimal Mac.)

Red Pop#

[A]n iPhone 4 accessory that adds a big, red, juicy camera button to your phone.

*Sigh*. This is all getting a bit ridiculous. Apple, please just either add a dedicated camera button, or allow developers to repurpose the volume buttons when a camera app is being used. Please. (See also Canopy's Kapok.)

Putting faith in its place#

Religious people fail to recognize that debunking claims about the supposed existence of a god or gods is what critical thinkers and scientists do in their quest to understand the universe in an intellectually honest way. Part of that quest is a responsibility to expose flawed logic about the universe. These are some of the reasons that critical thinkers discuss and argue religion with religionists.

Unfortunately, in many countries, faith and religious credulity are viewed as being somehow superior to critical thinking and science. This leads religionists to formulate a suite of fallacious judgments about those who do not share the same beliefs and those who do not have any beliefs. Worse, those fallacious judgments become actions when religionists bully, oppress and repress others who do not share their beliefs. When words become actions, it becomes obvious to everyone that religionists have betrayed their own faith by behaving in a way that is not consistent with their beliefs as they themselves profess them to be.

What a wonderfully cogent comment on this subject that fascinates me so much, and on which I spend so much time studying. (To be fair, some of the stuff in the related video is as applicable to atheists as it is to theists.)

Religion, or more specifically, faith, has always seemed to me to require levels of cognitive dissonance and willful suspension of disbelief that I just don't think I'm capable of achieving. I look at faith almost as a cop-out--an excuse to not have to think critically, and an invitation to explain away as magic nearly anything.

On the plains of Africa 100,000 years ago things may have been a bit different, but the world's a much smaller place now, and while some of the biggest questions remain, many of things that were thought to be unknowable millennia ago are today known and understood. There are fewer and fewer excuses for being ignorant about our world and our origins.

As long as the robots let humans exist (ha!), religion will persist along with (some of) them, but science eventually will push to the far fringes of society all of those whose worldview is informed mostly by wholly irrational beliefs and rituals.

The case of the vanishing disk space

June 01, 2011

This morning I woke up to find an iTunes pop-up telling me that the app couldn't write to the disk because it was full. I thought that was odd because last night when I left the computer I knew there were at least 30GB available on the disk.

SuperDuper! ran early this morning and I have it set to close itself once it's done doing its backup thing. However, it was still open when I hopped on the computer this morning. It had never finished. I looked at the log and it had made it through most most of its routine, but then I saw this at the very bottom, and nothing after it: "04:44:39 AM | Error | ****FAILED****: result=256 errno=22 (Unknown error: 0)."

I had no idea what that error number signified, and so I started digging around my machine. After coming up empty, I deleted about 500MB worth of stuff and rebooted.

When the system came back it still was missing those 30GB. Oddly, it also seemed that whatever disk space was left was shrinking right before my eyes, in real time. I jumped into the terminal and fired up lsof to see if I could nail down the culprit. Nothing. I'm not going to lie, I was kind of freaking out at this point. (Maybe this was VM and I was just more sensitive to it given the situation?)

Then, for whatever reason, I decided to have a quick look in /Volumes, and sure enough there was "backup," "backup 1" and "backup 2." I thought that was odd because I have just two backup drives connected to this machine, "backup" and "backup 2." I unmounted the two drives from within Path Finder, and when I jumped back into the terminal the only mount point that remained was "backup."

I looked at its size and it was clear that this was the beast that had gobbled up my remaining disk space. A quick sudo rm -rf backup and I was back in business.

I'm still not quite sure why the backup volume was duplicated on the source volume (until it ran out of space), but maybe it had something to do with the fact that this was the first backup I attempted since formatting and restoring the source drive from the backup drive? If you've any thoughts, please get in touch.

Depth-of-field explained#

This 20 minute video provides a detailed explanation of depth-of-field and the factors that affect it. This tutorial was designed specifically for filmmakers who use or are planning to use 35mm depth-of-field adapters. The information can also be applied to still photography and other suited mediums.

This may be the best DOF description I've ever seen, and is essential viewing for all you photogs out there, even if you already know much of the material. (Via Richard Wanderman.)

Griffin's Xpo tablet stand#

This stand may offer the best combination of functionality and portability I've yet seen. I've owned Griffin's A-Frame, which I thought was quite nice, and Twelve South's Compass, which I disliked and got rid of rather quickly (the folding feet never set quite right, and the rubber on one of them was crooked and couldn't be fixed).