May 2008

2008 05 27
Recently read: Daniel Radosh’s Rapture Ready!

Posted by in: Books, Religion

Daniel Radosh. Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture

Daniel Radosh may have questionable taste in blogs — we’re currently on his blogroll (though misspelled, as usual) — but it seems he has redeeming qualities as well. Some of them are on display in Rapture Ready!, his exploration of, well, you already read the subtitle. Actually, the subtitle of the book is a bit misleading. Radosh confines himself mainly to white evangelicals. As quickly becomes clear, although white evangelicals are only a subset of American Christian culture, it’s an extraordinarily complex subset, with material enough for a much longer book than Radosh ended up writing.

From my point of view, Radosh is a nearly ideal writer for this material. For starter’s, there’s his own attitude to religion. He practices “Humanistic Judaism,” meaning that he “embrace[s] Judaism as a human development that grants meaning to human lives, without reference to the supernatural.” So, he says, “I belong to a congregation, I study the Hebrew Bible, I go to services with my family and light candles on Friday nights.” What this means in practice is that Radosh writes as an outsider to the world he’s documenting in fairly significant ways, but that he’s open – more open than I tend to be as an atheist – to at least some of what he finds there. This mix of scepticism and sympathy makes the book much more than it could have been, simply an opportunity to laugh at the sillier manifestations of Christian pop culture. To be sure Radosh does poke some fun. He gets angry too, and on pretty much the right issues. But the reader comes away with a much fuller sense of the complexity of this world, which, like the secular world, has some room for intelligence, doubt, left-wing politics, and more. Not bad at all.

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2008 05 21

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Jamie has a post up about Israel’s recent diplomatic activities (negotiating indirectly with both Syria and Hamas) and the way it cuts against current U.S. priorities in the region. He notes:

So it seems that while Bush may be stuck in 1938, everyone else is trying to live in the world as it exists now. The problem is that the next US president, whoever he is, could screw this up by trying to impose “leadership” of some kind on the situation.

This has long fascinated me. Take the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The U.S. has been directly involved in this for years, most notably as a diplomatic and military supporter of Israel and as a mediator. It has as a consequence invested an enormous amount of prestige in the issue, and absorbed quite a bit of criticism which it has some interest in deflecting. And so I think that at this point it is next to impossible to reach a settlement without at least the perception of significant U.S. involvement – not because the U.S. has mad negotiating skillz, but because at this point it would deliberately scuttle any deal – no matter how good, no matter how just – for which it could not take the lion’s share of the credit. And I think this goes no matter who we imagine President: Clinton, McCain, Obama.

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2008 05 20
Shake your booty

Posted by in: Anecdotal, Dance

I was at a wedding this weekend, and so had occasion, once again, to observe people dancing. Although I find the values and goals of religious extremists abhorrent, I think that their hatred and fear of dancing makes perfect sense given those values and goals. It’s just so hot. Indeed, perhaps in part because I don’t see dancing all that often, whenever I do I’m struck by how incredibly openly sexual and, dare I say it, lascivious it all is. I think if I were an alien studying human behaviour and I knew just about everything there is to know about human beings except that we danced, I would not have predicted that it would be permissible in public. I’m not, of course, and it is, and thank goodness for that.

Howls of outrage (5)

2008 05 10
Working around md5sum’s lack of support for wildcards

Posted by in: Odds and ends

[Update 5 minutes later: No wait! It’s even easier. md5sum does support wildcards for creating checksums, just not for checking them. So I can skip wxchecksums and just do this (from here) in the directory before uploading:

ls -l; md5sum *.* >> md5sums.txt

Then transfer any new files in the directory and md5sums.txt up to the server and there do this:

md5sum -c md5sums.txt

Much simpler. Sorry to waste everyone’s time.]

Sometimes I need to verify the integrity of a bunch of files on a server. It’s easy to check one at a time:

1. Generate the md5 files using wxchecksums.
2. Transfer the files and the md5 files to the relevant directory on my server.
3. SSH into the relevant directory on my server.
4. md5sum -v -c filename.md5
5. Wait for the ok.

And of course you can check more than one by changing step 4 to:

md5sum -v -c filename1.md5 filename2.md5 filename3.md5

And so on. But what a drag. Obviously, in these circumstances you’d expect to use a wildcard:
md5sum -v -c *.md5

I was surprised to discover that this doesn’t work. It turns out that md5sum doesn’t accept wildcards. [UPDATE: For checking sums, not for creating them. See below.]

OK, fine. First try was this dude’s suggestion. It didn’t work for me. If you know why, please drop a comment. And yes, I’m a n00b. No need to rub my nose in it.

Another try: It turns out that “MD5SUM has an option to automatically compare a calculated MD5 digest to an expected result.” So if you have a bunch of files to check the problem is simply one of taking every file ending in .md5 in a directory, collecting the contents of each file into a single text file, and then feeding that text file to md5sum.

cat *.md5 >> md5sums.txt | md5sum -c md5sums.txt

And it works!

Anyway, laugh all you like, but for what it’s worth I didn’t see this anywhere when I was googling around a bit, so I thought I would put it up in case anyone finds it useful. Corrections, improvements, suggestions welcome in the comments.

Howls of outrage (5)

2008 05 05
One man’s modus ponens…

…is another man’s modus tollens.

I really wanted to read this review, but after reading its first sentence, I realized that logic prevents me from doing so1:

If you are interested enough in epistemology to be reading this review, then you must read the marvelous book being reviewed.

1. Chris, this post is meant to make us philosophy types chuckle. No need to point out all the ways in which logic does in fact allow me to read the review and not the book. Just go quietly back to preventing future deaths of little kittens, OK?

(Thanks to noz in comments for helping me figure out how to make makeshift footnotes.)

Howls of outrage (5)