Category Archives: digital world

spirituality

Our use of language, words, and communication is a very spiritual affair. After all there is little material component to reality. As the physicists are noted for pointing out there really is no stuff at the bottom except fields, forces, and information. Material is so 19th century.

Michel Foucault tried to get us to consider that the practices that are most important for us, including the conversations and letters we share with each other are spiritual practices even as our poetry and prayer is. We have gotten rationality down pat in our computers. But consciousness and self consciousness, not yet. That doesn’t mean we won’t, but we don’t understand it well enough yet to program it. It may be in trying to program it that we begin to understand it better. Morality of whatever kind is for us a very spiritual exercise because its practice is the admission that there is meaning beyond the redness of tooth and claw.

How can poetry not be a spiritual affair. The modern materialists have done so much to make the precious banal. In an effort to keep God out, they have reduced themselves to plankton, all the while acting as if like gods they could banish their spiritual natures with a wave of their hand. (I don’t say “spiritual natures” like there’s a God-sized hole in us that can be filled only by following this or that rubric.) Our spiritual nature is consciousness and self consciousness, a mystery of magnificent scope.

I know Christianity and all the major religions have some take on the afterlife. But I side with Plato who says we shouldn’t be scared of it since we can know nothing about it. Even though in the mouth of Socrates he elaborated a marvelous tale of the afterlife, reincarnation, et al in the Phaedo he denied anything like knowledge about it.

Kant thought that without God, freedom, and immortality, morality couldn’t exist. I don’t know that, but as mysteries they are magnificent in scope. There is no easy answer to them, or categories we can put them in. The modern materialist would banish such language, but it persists, even if there is no resolution to debates about it. Looking for proofs for or against Kant’s foundational principles is a problem that can only be solved by taking a transcendental position (too high for mere humans.) That system in which freedom can be proven is larger than the system we live in. We can assert it. We can’t prove it. We also can’t prove that it doesn’t exist. It remains conditional in a philosophic sense, suspended without resolution, even though we act as though it does exist and hold each other accountable as if it exists.

I let the materialists have their say. It comforts them to eradicate the opposition. Hot air really.

disabled mac app store

OK, so sometimes on the bleeding edge, you get cut. I am a user of Keynote 5.3 (iWork ’09). I use it every day! The new version, which I installed with Mavericks took over my presentations and wouldn’t let them go. In fact, because I had installed Mavericks with my laptop screen down, and was using the external monitor, Mavericks thought that the external monitor was the main monitor. So it wouldn’t/couldn’t show the slideshow at all in an alternate monitor. Bad decision on its part. I had to reinstall Mountain Lion, then reinstall Mavericks with my laptop alone to force it to treat my laptop as the main monitor. Then, even with Mavericks forcing me to use the external monitor to show my presentations, Keynote 6 captured my presentations and wouldn’t let them go without a lot of stupid workaround. The chief insult was the huge shift in workflow it required.

I thought that allowing Apple to test my system to upgrade me when it thought I needed it was fine, because, well, Apple has normally been sensible. But now that it wants to upgrade me to Keynote 6 every time it detects that I have trashed Keynote 6, it is time to turn off the automatic updates.

Power users of Pages and Numbers are whining also. But since I only use Pages for billing, and haven’t left Excel (after a short dalliance with Numbers), I don’t care so much about them. But Apple forcing me to change my workflow because it thinks I’d be better off with Keynote 6 is a little much.

misplaced confidence

I believe that software has two test phases. The first is in the confines of trusted groups, developers, and beta testers. The second test phase is the initial release, where customers find bugs that couldn’t be found without them. That is, the software company has clean machines that test basic functionality. The customers have dirty machines with sometimes terrible defects. The software tested on those machines in the real world is more likely to show whether the software is robust or not.

Well, I can’t make up my mind on this problem. I downloaded and installed Apple’s Mavericks on top of a Mountain Lion installation. Foolishly, I trusted it, and didn’t do a complete backup before I started. I haven’t in the past found Apple’s software to be buggy in any really devastating way.

But when I went to project my slide show the next day, the show refused to project properly. I found a workaround, but it really sucked and was inconvenient. This is what happened. I use Keynote for my presentations. Keynote has been a robust and on many accounts, flawless, piece of software. Mavericks allowed me to update my version of Keynote to version 6. It was an easy installation, and that part went fine. I was a little distressed that the user interface was so different, but I knew I would find my way around eventually. I thought that it wouldn’t stop me from presenting the next day, the shows I was using were already set in place, and didn’t need editing. I was wrong.

At home, I have a single external monitor. I plug my Macbook Pro into a 40″ Samsung TV. It works great. No issues. But it looks like Mavericks thinks my external monitor is the primary monitor. When I do my presentations, the external monitor is my secondary monitor. So when I tell the presentation to play on the external monitor, it plays on my laptop. I will have to figure out a way to fix this. Unfortunately, I think I will have to revert to the prior installation on a week old backup, then restore newer files, reinstall Mavericks without the external monitor hooked up, then we’ll see what happens.

limits of rationalization

The problem of what we can think and how we systematize what we think, the boundaries between what we teach and what we know always emerge when I run into people, (students, professors), who think that they have all the categories in place and a place for each bit of knowledge that can be acquired. This is a form of foundationalism that immediately calls up the process of our discoveries in the twentieth century, that an exact interpretation of our world, the proofs we might offer, and the certainties we might give as answers to the issue of what we can know must be left to the fuzzy borderlands that stretch beyond our technologies.

By technologies I mean not only the physical reach of our civilizations, but the practices of the self that enable us to live within that reach. Not only is our physical technology extremely dangerous to those who will not control their interface with it, but the technology itself, a prodigious intelligent machine thinks nothing of the beings that inhabit it, and can’t will their safety. Its automatic responses reduce the freedom to move, act and choose a future course of events, limit and restrict what can be known.

In a similar fashion, the rational technology of our civilization, reduced to axioms and formulas, both create a comforting residence for the unimaginative servants of that technology, and a dangerous limitation on the expansion of our knowledge. Definitions and categories, themselves useful in turning words and ideas into technologies, fail to extend themselves to the possibilities that lie beyond that technology. Just as a label restricts the movement of an individual by subjecting that individual to a set of written, spoken, and unspoken rules, so categories and definitions set boundaries on what is knowable, and limitations on the discovery of truths. Categories and definitions, not true of themselves, are but artifacts of our civilization or some previous one, whose use is to create some technology that gives us ability to manipulate our world. Reliance on them is particularly helpful for managing ordinary issues, but of no help for discovering how to manage new knowledge. Attempting to do so would be something like reverting to Newtonian mechanics for solving some riddles that arise in Einstein’s theories, or, as Galileo famously criticized the proponents of Aristotle for appealing to authority when faced with the results of his empirical examination of the heavens.

Don’t get me wrong, when our theorizing reaches a certain level of competence, we find it useful to turn it into technology. But we have to recognize the limitations of that technology in order to look beyond it. We must be cautious not to try to answer questions that are no longer being asked. Why should we still ask how the laws of physics changed when the universal flood took place according to the biblical record? Well, we shouldn’t. Not only do we know that there wasn’t a universal flood, but that the timeframe for local Mesopotamian floods is perfectly coherent with the biblical record. Add that to the forms oral history took, the local nature of their cosmos, and the explanation for the record as it stands in the Bible do not require a transformation of physics into something unrecognizable. Add to that the fine-tuning argument (anthropic principle as yet unresolved) and you retain a universe with constant physical laws. The worried believers will then place this discussion outside of their reality and dismiss it. But have I valued the text less than they by understanding the context under which it was written? Not really. I have valued it more for what it is instead of what I wish it to be on the basis of a faulty hermeneutic. I have retained the truths inherent in the Bible while they have manipulated the text to create an alternate universe.

What I am asking the reader to do is to consider the use of our rational technologies, philosophies, theologies, psychologies, scientific theories, et al with their axioms and rules of inference, with their ability to map out the rational landscape. We must recognize the limitations of such approaches to philosophical knowledge. They have great powers but by their nature restrict. They forbid asking questions of a certain kind, because those questions are double edged. They not only speculate, but worry the certainties and coherence of the systems they are part of.

One standard presupposition in my repertoire is that reality is richer than any of our theories can draw out. In all of history, the wonder of new discoveries and the profligate productivity emerging from them has never disappointed this presupposition. The greatest value of this metarule is that it doesn’t create rules, but incites us to permit curiosity and explore the wonder that the natural world and our minds provide.

So as much as I explore the reaches of our ancient and current theorizing, I never let it rule possible theorizing. I remain open to the wonder that emerges naturally without saying beforehand where it will lead. This is risky behavior, because it could lead me to rebuild my core beliefs. But the risk I turn away from is that of being turned to stone, trapped in a system from which I may not be able to escape. What poverty.

the evils of wikipedia

I keep hearing from my academic colleagues that Wikipedia is problematic, faulty, and unreliable. The last time I checked, Wikipedia was judged to have 5 errors per article while the Encyclopaedia Britannica had only 3 errors per article. So if Wikipedia is so bad, why do we consider the Britannica to be a model?

Frankly, I would like to see student papers with only 5 errors. That would make my grading so much easier. I would also like to see scholarly books with only 5 errors, misstatements, or problematic conclusions.

I think the critique of Wikipedia is problematic. First of all, anyone who does scholarly research processes errors with a grain of salt. The author may have claimed to know something that turns out to be false. Knowledge at the time of the writing may fully support the error. These errors are forgivable, and we forgive them all the time. But, to accuse the author of intentionally deceiving the reader tangles the critic in an endless argument about intentions, which can’t be proven. There is a strong bias in our reading of factual, scholarly material that the author intends to tell the truth. The argument posed by the author may be good even though the evidence cited for it is faulty.

Second, though the material in Wikipedia is crowd sourced, it is nonetheless more than often vetted by multiple viewers. I read many summaries of arguments in Wikipedia and find them to be often useful. There are also summaries of materials I have read that I don’t necessarily agree with, that need modification, that need references and links. I would not know that without my expertise, and yet, the article may be useful even with the errors.

Third, if we are looking to Wikipedia for the whole picture, we are being unfair. Why should we expect more than it is able to provide, even though it provides a great deal? It has many resources not easily available in a library book or journal, and links to internet resources that include books and journals.

Fourth, the articles are uneven in treatment. That may be so, but there are also warnings on the pages to tell you if the arguments proposed need support, or editing to provide additional resources.

It may be a good starting place for research, resources, links, definitions, and catalogs of books and articles to be read. That’s a powerful argument for using it. It is not the only resource, but with our internet presence it is the most readily available one. In addition, it is a trivial procedure to get answers there. Most often, when doing a web search on some arcane subject, or a popular author, et al, the first link that pops up is wikipedia. Trying to get information from online school libraries, or libraries paid for by schools is a multistep process, often guarded by passwords and byzantine web portals. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used for serious research. But if they should, it would be helpful to take the resistance away from the system, and require a password only when someone wanted to access a particular document after the search and preliminary investigation pointed in that direction.

For those who complain about the quality of the articles in Wikipedia, I have one suggestion: Get involved. It is often the experts who complain. I ask then, why they are not contributing? Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

drupal

Gosh, the installation was easy. My server offers it as an easily installable option. Click . . . done! I find that I need to update and advance my web mojo to keep up with one of my clients. So I am spending hours and hours learning how to do stuff I shied away from before.

That’s OK. It is the pathway now between fear and trembling on one hand and dread on the other.

I finished two projects this week that were sort of looming over my head. They were obligations to the academic community I am a part of and had been ignoring. The first, a review of Amos Yong’s book The Spirit of Creation for a journal that included comments about the book and Amos’ response to them. Dread kept me from that one. I couldn’t face the knowledge of that subject for a while, after I had thoroughly indulged myself in it. The second project was reading a book on theology for Brill, title and author’s name were withheld from me so I could review fairly. Good book, interesting thesis, but I don’t know when it will come out. I had forgotten to do it, and an email from the publisher reminded me. So fear and trembling pushed me to finish it.

Drupal, an open source web development system, a CMS. Interesting, simple structure. I am just beginning my journey.

Today I am going to the movies with my Alpha unit in the afternoon, and pick up my spouse from the airport in the evening.

new server

Dang, I always get myself into these things. I took the bait and upgraded my server. What it means is that I am having to learn all over again how to behave in the newish control panel. I am still at Media Temple and so the transition is not so rough. They have a terrific knowledge base that gets me through the pinches, but since the host works so well, and I have had to do next to no maintenance this year, I have forgotten most of what I know.

S’OK. I expect to be up to speed soon, and working all this out. It is close to 2 AM yet, I am happy that I got this blog to work. Great!

I am saving a bit of money though, and even though it’s a hassle upgrading, I have learned in the last 1o years as a hosting provider, that if you don’t upgrade, pretty soon your websites get left in no man’s land, the empty basement, with no maintenance, and the hackers eagerly hacking into seemingly forgotten sites.

That happened to me once at CIHost.com. I discovered to my dismay that my site had become a spam outlet, and the index page a popup generator. I lost control and got shut down. You never expect that, but it happens. CIHost is now forwarded to another provider. They lost control also and died.

OK, so I’m happy about upgrading, except all the work involved.

a string of debacles

Sometimes I wonder if what I do at AGWM Communications is worth what they pay me for. We bought a new barebones computer to build for development here. When I had it all built and tested it, it wouldn’t come up. So after talking to Shuttle tech support, I bought another processor and memory, swapped the old ones out and tested again. Still, no joy. So, we ordered a new barebones and tested it. When it came in, I had another monitor I brought in for Tonny to build the touchscreen with, a nice, widescreen monitor. The new computer fired right up with the original memory and newer processor. Great! So then, the OS had not arrived by that time, so I emailed the seller. They had not shipped it, but did so pronto, and I got it on the cutoff day. I hooked up the new barebones after finishing the build, and hooked it up, started it. No joy. So I thought, maybe the monitor was screwed up, and used another one. Up it came and the build is proceeding properly.

OK, I thought, oh my gosh, all the trouble with the original barebones, and tech support, and finally RMA hash up, no box, etc. Money down the drain? I should have used another monitor in the first place, or at least suspected it. But I didn’t suspect the monitor because I have been using it for a few years on my Mac and it works fine. Something in the generic DVI driver in the Shuttle couldn’t hook up, and so I thought the computer was bad. Shame is washing over me in waves.

I know why AGWM Communications keeps me on the payroll. It is because in general, I keep everything else running, even ten-year-old equipment that in some other shops would have been recycled years ago. Thanks guys and gals for all the love.

hard to believe

I’m almost relaxing now. Last year in the beginning of January, I realized that my old web host, CIHost was suffering terminal invasion. My own website olena.com had been hacked and was spewing out spam, etc. OK. Stuff happens. So, tired of being in my own dedicated server, and tired of being the last to be updated, and then only if I begged and paid, I moved away from CIHost to JustHost on a shared server. After a year of minimally frustrating activity after the flurry of work from the move, I got tired of their fuzzy administration and screwy tech support and asked them to consolidate all my billing. One record, one administration. I had no idea what kind of a firestorm that would light. They consolidated all my billing alright by (without my permission) putting all my clients inside olena.com as addon domains, all the data which was in the http directory of my own domain.

Then, to add insult to injury, they couldn’t move the databases over without a lot of cajoling tech support and endless waiting on hold. What a mess! Then there were email problems and poorly behaving web sites, etc. It was grinding me to a pulp with worry for my customers even though olena.com seemed not to be suffering too much.

I examined new web hosts and moved my most irate and oldest customer over to Fat Cow. I don’t blame him for being irate. He is happy now. For the rest I finally settled on a cloud server farm called Media Temple. The dedicated servers are virtual. In other words, a number of dedicated virtual (dv) server clients are on the same hardware, but it is as if they are all on separate servers.

I am not one to leave things alone, and I hit the repair button in the virtual server control panel when I couldn’t get the backup utility to do what I wanted. All hell broke loose, or maybe just my stupidity broke loose of its usual moorings. The entire server became invisible from the net, email, web hosting, etc. It was completely off line while it repaired itself. It took an hour before I had the courage to hit the restart button, after I had called tech support and they told me “good luck, you’re on your own, here’s a file that might help.” The server came up happily and it was working 100%. I can hardly believe I dodged that bullet. I am sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But 24 hours later, as hard as it is to believe, I think things may be OK. I am not going to hit that repair button again, unless everything is completely broken. I hope I am not stupid enough to break it like that.

i hate updating wordpress

There always seems to be the risk of losing data. Therefore I avoid doing it. It seems like a big waste of time. Yes I recognize that the slackers and crackers have found ways into the code to hijack web sites, but who in the world cares about this one? Yes, I do, but besides me? So much!!