The Gospel of Judas

04/06/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion


After just having read "Misquoting Jesus", it's interesting that another manuscript discovery, though it has been around for a while, is being revealed right around now. It is the Gospel of Judas, and implies in this Gnostic text that Judas was fully aware of and encouraged by Jesus to betray him.

It's a third or fourth century document, and it may not tell us much more about the actual history of events, but it does go to show how many Christian traditions and stories had sprung up.

The National Geographic Channel will have a special on it on April 9, 2006.


Bad Driver Database

04/01/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Ethics


We encounter our share of bad, weird, drunk, inexperienced, inattentive, cell phone-using, extremely impatient and just plain dangerous drivers.

I had it in mind that I would love to start up a communal database of bad drivers - their license plates and what they did, as a communal warning system, and just to feel like I'm "doing something", even though I can do precious little about the drivers themselves, who generally evade police scrutiny. If we got repeats in the database, that would be a clue for high avoidance of said people, or perhaps actually getting on the phone and calling into the police when you encounter them yet again pulling the same crap, instead of just swearing and leaving them be.

I thought the disclaimer would have to be pretty interesting in order to do something like this. It would have to have no legal force.

As with many good ideas, somebody's already done it.

(Although, also, as with many good ideas, you don't know somebody's done it until you get the idea in your head :) )


Getting Your Shots

04/01/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Travel

There are a few needles and such that you need to get stuck with before going to Africa. Yellow fever is the only "mandatory" one, but there are few others you are advised to get.

Hepatitis A vaccination proper is relatively recent (since I went to China, anyhow) - you used to have to rely on Immune Globulin. Typhoid comes in an oral "live vaccine" form now: take one pill of four every second day, and you're good for seven years. Those have quite alarming stickers on them, and need to be refrigerated. You can have the shot instead, which lasts for three years. Both of these diseases can be food-borne, which is why it's a good idea to get them.

I was a little surprised to find out that they now have available a rabies vaccine. It's pricy (I can't remember if it was $225 or $275 a pop), but impressive that it's available.

The yellow fever vaccination is also a live vaccine, and is injected into the fat, not the muscle, of your arm. If we feel woozy and tired in 1-2 weeks, it's apparently very likely from this.

If you have food allergies, vaccination can be tricky. The oral typhoid vaccine contains lactose, and one of the shots contained egg, but they're very good about going over all of this.

If you're a Calgarian travelling overseas, especially to somewhere "interesting" (e.g. Mexico, Asia, Africa), contact the Travel Clinic. It's located by City Hall. Make sure to do this well in advance of your trip, by a few months or maybe more, since they are occasionally heavily booked. Expect it to take about an hour, or a little longer if you have concerns.

There's one more vaccine we might book in for, that for meningococcus. It's generally limited to sub-Saharan Africa, but we'll be watching for other reports, especially since we'll be at Jinja near an orphanage. It's a bit pricy, though, and the risk is still pretty low for the location and amount of contact we will be having.


Misquoting Jesus : Bart D. Ehrman

03/29/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Books, Religion


The subtitle on this book: "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why".

This is an extremely interesting book, all about the changes, intentional or otherwise, that occurred in the New Testament and in the source materials for the New Testament, how we know this, and how textual critics decide what's changed, why, and what may or may not have been in the "original".

The author himself had a pretty interesting journey to this point. Starting from a relatively "normal" Christian background, he joined the ranks of the "born again" as a high school sophomore. He was convinced by a charismatic fellow to take his Christianity to the "next level" and study at the Moody Bible Institute.

One thing about the "born again", which is exemplified at Moody, is to treat the Bible as the inerrant, inspired word of God. What distinguished Bart here is that he was disturbed by the fact that we don't have the originals, a question which did not interest his classmates in the slightest. When he decided to look into this further, he got wind of textual criticism, and wanted to take it up, but to be the highly religious emissary in this slightly more secular world.

Moving to Wheaton (where Billy Graham graduated from) and finding it awfully liberal (!), he moved on to Princeton Theological Seminary. There he learned to read the Gospel of Mark in the original Greek. His paper for this at the end was the cause of his first realization... well, it's best in his own words:

My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words [relating to the contradiction of whether Abiathar or his father was the high priest] involved and was a bit convoluted. I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: "Maybe Mark just made a mistake."

...and so began the rest of his journey into textual criticism.

Full story »


Language Exchange and The Kamusi Project

03/28/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Languages


Here's an interesting little site, essentially the modern-day equivalent of seeking out pen pals in other countries, but with an eye to learning languages. There are a lot of people online, with varying levels of skill in varying languages. I'm learning Swahili, so I paid for a membership to write (the Classmates model - that you can read and be sent anything for free, but you must pay if you want to initiate contact), and got a pen pal already: a tech support guy in Nairobi. It's pretty interesting.

There are actually an astounding number of people on there. One very handy feature that they have is that you can search for people by what they're learning, what their primary language is, and by last login date, so people who logged in more recently are at the front of the list. That makes it a lot easier to identify people likely to respond. Nifty.

The interface is a bit rough, but workable. The most annoying bit: posting doesn't work well in Mozilla Firefox. I'm a bit annoyed at having to switch over to IE for that one very important function.

Yale's Kamusi Project is a very, very handy resource for Swahili learning - the word lookup alone grabs phrases and colloquialisms as well, which gives you more means to say things than plain online dictionaries do, and there are songs, poetry, grammar, etc.

It's on hold pending donations, though, but the resource itself remains up.


Evolution For Teachers

03/28/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science


Berkeley has a great, simple, straightforward site for teachers on evolution. In the wake of the recent expansion of fundamentalist (at its core) attacks on evolution despite a century and a half of solid science behind it, it's especially heartening to see some outward-facing educational and mythbusting programs about evolution, pro-evolution instead of merely anti-anti-evolution.

Most appreciated are the decent and occasionally funny cartoons and pictures that are sprinkled liberally throughout the pages. This one showing that evolution doesn't involve creatures "trying" to evolve something is cute, but I must say this one is my favourite, especially since the church down from where I used to live posted the pithy inanity on their sign, "Does evolution rob our children of hope?"

The site may be intended for teachers, but quite frankly, this is a great resource for anybody, just as good or better than their evolution site for everyone.

Way to go, Berkeley, and especially the folks who worked on it!


Trying To Sneak Intelligent Design into New York State

03/28/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

Of all places that should be relatively immune to Intelligent Design Conjecture, but there's work afoot trying to get a bill through again that would make Intelligent Design part of the curriculum.

That these bills come up so often and get so far is disturbing.

I've seen some of the course materials that the forces behind bills like this have come up before, and they're entirely based on old, misrepresentative creationist arguments. Expect dishonesty masquerading as "fairness".


Clothing In A Can

03/27/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions


Clothing in a can, who'd've thunk?

I mean, you can make clothing of a sort out of silly string, but it's not all that practical.

Mind you, this company is early days, but it's fun to think about. Insta-turban. The Modesty Patrol. The next level of skintight wear.

I can see cans of this stuff being owned more than used.


Adding Insult to Jailery

03/26/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Internet, Spamming


After having suffered through a lot of comment spam this past week (not just on my blogs, but on the gardening forums as well), it was nice to reflect on the Secret Service catching Adam Vitale and Todd Moeler, but it's been more interesting to watch what's been going on with Christopher William Smith, a.k.a "Rizler".

He turned out to be the owner of an internet pharmacy involved in spamming, not surprising given his earlier activities, prosecutors looked for and got a preliminary injunction.

He then got caught coming back from the Dominican Republic on forged documents and in violation of his pre-trial conditions.

Now, for the icing on the cake... well, maybe the filling, since the icing will likely be any sentencing involved, that he was caught calling from jail trying to arrange intimidation and/or a hit on witnesses. Wow.

Sometimes, we're amazed, but not often surprised. Who knew that spamvertised pharmaceuticals could be linked to criminal behaviour?


Animal Experiments I'd Like to See

03/26/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

A while back, when we were chatting to someone who works for the Calgary Zoo, we heard tales of the extremely tame porcupine that alarmingly wanted up on peoples' laps. That led me to thinking, in addition to Dena telling me that there's now a surprisingly adorable porcupine baby at the Zoo now... there are some animals that are right on the verge of tameness, or other interesting characteristics, that have some characteristic that would prevent them from being good pets.

Here are things I'd like to see:

  • Popcupines without needles would be great
  • Skunks without muskiness
  • Beavers without their wood-gnawing habits (I got to pet a rescue animal once - oh my god, their pelts are soft)

I've seen some very smart dog behaviour as well. One experiment I'd like to see done is to breed dogs almost purely for intelligence. How intelligent could they go? Would there be some unexpected findings?

How about birds?

I'm also a little inspired by the fox-taming study done in Russia (I'd LOVE a tame pet fox!). Amazing what was able to be done in 45 years.

(A more thorough look at the study can be found here. It's ironic that his direction was caused because he committed to genetics, which could have had him executed in the early days of Lysenkoism.)

So how about it, Science? :)


Jamie Oliver Cookware

03/23/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Cooking


These pots and pans seem to have been T-Fal coming up with minor modifications on their line for Jamie Oliver. We had this on our gift registry at the Bay when it was half off, and by their registry rules, we got it at the sale price even months after our wedding.

It's a nice set of pans. We went for the anodized set. It's all T-Fal, which has the "hot spot" technology on their frying pans. Now mind you, the "hot spot" isn't as futuristic as I was hoping. The pattern disappears at the right temperature, it doesn't glow or blink or anything ;)

The thing that strikes us most about this set is the much lower heat you use them at on your stovetop. We can boil and fry things on medium heat. You're not supposed to use these on maximum heat on the stove. We're a little worried about one of the pans we left on heat 7; we'll see how it recovers from the layer of carbon on it.

You get a pretty good workout from these. The pans are pretty heavy, the handle stays pretty cool, and though we haven't tried this yet, you can put the pans from stovetop to oven or vice versa - there's silicone in the handles, and everything will tolerate oven heat. It's a pretty nice-looking set, fairly scratch-resistant, and came with a nifty set of tongs.

Now we can throw away and/or give away some of our bachelorware! At long last! :)

UPDATE: Saw four brands go head-to-head on The Shopping Bags, and was most gratified to see that they preferred the Jamie Oliver set as well :)


The Aristocrats

03/19/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Movies

We rented this one on DVD, along with Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo (even for light-hearted entertainment, Deuce Bigalo II was somewhat of a stinker).

You know what? We couldn't even watch the first ten minutes. We skipped through the rest of the sections trying to find something watchable, but never found it. We have never done that with a DVD. We even toughed out our previous vote for stinkiest movie ever, "2001: A Space Travesty".

It's not that we can't take a dirty joke. We engage in our own "gross-out" contests every now and again (and I usually win - I'm not sure that's proper to brag about, though *grin*). It's that it's not particularly surprising or novel in all its forms. Everyone seems to be trying to simply out-disgust one another, and the name of the movie is always the punchline.

The editing is choppy - in most spots, it just goes from comic to comic to comic - the joke is simply disgusting, and repeated over and over again, and a lot of the time, they're just talking about the joke. Talking and talking and talking. Cripes, I don't come home to my wife and natter on "oh god, I'm trying to break apart this particular hierarchy of classes that are tightly coupled and removing the event handlers into the new shared context so that I can make them peers but there were tricks that were being used to bla bla bla bla bla bla bla" for minutes on end.

It seems to be a movie by comics for other comics and for pretentious newspaper movie reviewers. I cannot believed that the Tomatometer Rating of this movie is so high. Then again, I can't remember the last time a movie critic apart from Roger Ebert consistently ever gave unpretentious movie reviews ;)

If there's some meat in this documentary, it takes a while to get to it. Its sin in my eyes is making it too boring to get there. I'd give it a miss, unless you're drunk.

Fortunately, when we switched the DVD off, there was a most peculiar Mad TV episode with John Cho from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle tormenting Bobby Lee. In addition to having Bobby Lee dance around in his undies in a Power Rangers mask with a robot, he gets him to prepare for his interview by merrily flossing his teeth, which when he spits spews out a gusher of blood, after which he smiles. A guilty chuckle, but it sure saved us from a bad "we rented two stinkers from New Releases!" mood. Thanks, Bobby Lee :)


On The Eyeway

03/19/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

Well, I've got off and gotten myself a pair of glasses, my first in years upon years. I've been a contact lens wearer since the end of high school, and I sat on and destroyed my last pair of glasses some time ago. I don't remember when.

This is so that I can go ahead and get myself laser eye surgery. My eyes have taken a fair bit of abuse from contact lens wearing, and I'd like to be vision-correction free by the time I go to Africa.

I must admit that I let my wife go first - she's had the surgery for well over a year now, and let me in on the details, at least with Lasik MD:

You're not supposed to have worn contact lenses in the past little while (I heard 'three weeks' bandied about, but it could vary from that) so that your eye is its natural shape. There's a lot of waiting around on the initial checkup day and the surgery day, so bring what entertainment you can. On the initial checkup day, they will put dilating drops in your eyes. So, ummm, don't drive on that day. Or at least don't expect to drive back home :)

The procedure itself, from what Dena says, takes practically no time at all. The cornea cut is pretty quick, they laser under where the flap was and then put it back. There is some recovery time afterwards in the office. You must wear Terminator-style sunglasses (provided) for the first while afterwards, and put eyeguards on to sleep. If you can sleep right away, that will get you over a lot of the uncomfortable time after surgery, because there will be some pain and itchiness.

Keep refreshing eyedrops around and use liberally. The pain and itchiness will decrease. You'll have visual halos for the first few months, which will disappear. Then you'll wonder how you did without it. If you've been wearing glasses for most of your life, you will be pushing a pair of phantom glasses up your nose for a while.

I'll give them a shout on Monday to see when scheduling is possible. It's possible that I'm not a candidate for LASIK - I might have too-wide pupils, or too little cornea to work with, but I'll find that out.

Ought to be interesting. I'll tell you how it goes :)

Comment by Adam:

Good luck with the lasik. Having gone through it myself, I concur with what you said, both in terms of process and recovery. For me as a regular glasses wearer (I couldn't handle contacts in the Alberta dry air) there was the relief of not having constant irritation on the bridge of my nose of on my ears from where the glasses rested, as well as no longer needing to worry about them constantly fogging and freezing during winter. On the downside, it meant that nice sheltered area behind the frames was gone which makes walking in the wind a bit more uncomfortable... You won't keep the incredibly sharp vision you get immediately (or within a couple of weeks) of surgery but it does stay good for, well, dunno really, but it's now 8 years since I had it and the eyesight is still fine.

Comment by Ritchie:

I've been wearing contacts for a long, long time, so the "sheltering" effect will not be something I notice and miss, hopefully :)

One thing, though, with the contacts out of my eyes for a couple of days now, my eyesight has taken a definite downturn. Not a lot, but enough to make some things turn a bit blurry with these glasses. I guess the contact lenses were holding my eyes in shape. Ugh, I'd almost forgotten how horrible my eyesight is.

I've been getting motion sick from having the refraction point so far in front of my eyes and nearly took a tumble down the stairs the other day.

I guess that all in all, this makes me look forward to the surgery a lot more than I would be had I still been wearing contact lenses.

I filled out their online appointment form, and they got back to me pretty freaking fast. It was amusing the spots at which they were surprised that I was very well-prepared information-wise ;) So, I've got an appointment on April 20. Hopefully, my eye won't still be recovering its shape (unless it's to get better eyesight) by that point.


Seedy Saturday

03/16/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A], Gardening


The University of Calgary Community Garden is holding a Seedy Saturday this year on March 25 at the Montgomery Community Centre. It seems to be some sort of deal where folks sell and exchange open-pollinated seed, with an eye towards foodstuffs.

There's a community garden up at the University of Calgary (well, now!) with an open invitation to visit throughout the year.

Ought to be fun - maybe I can drag along the in-laws and perhaps look for something for the tomato-growers in the crowd :)


Europe 2005 Trip - Part I

03/12/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Travel


This is going to take a while to put it together - I've barely covered the Geneva part of the trip, but I thought I might as well get a start on it.

See the first part of the adventure here :)


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