Just a quick post to let you all know that Mickey and I are going on vacation. We’re driving down to California, where we’ll be spending the week with my cousin Ethan and his wife Cortney. We’re really looking forward to this, both for the change in location and climate, and also to see friends and family again.
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New Album

This evening I transferred Mickey’s images and descriptions from the old visual gallery to the new gallery system. Unfortunately, the comments did not survive the transition (feel free to leave new ones, though!).

I’ll begin transferring my own images at some point in the not too distant future. Probably when I get back from California (we start driving down tomorrow night).

Sippy Cup

A few weeks ago, Mickey and I decided to go to Cat in the Hat. She was interested in the set, having read about the vast foam set they had built, and I’m really open to pretty much anything. We went to the last show of the evening on a weekday, which mean that we had the entire theater to ourselves, literally. Needless to say, we heckled and laughed and bounced around, and had a far better time with the movie because of this than I think we would have otherwise.

We came in already a bit punchy, and decided to splurge on the combo popcorn and soda… “for only a quarter more” we got fully a HALF-GALLON of sprite, in a giant caricature of a normal sized cup. It had all the proportions correct, it was just… larger, in every dimension. It even came with a slightly wider, extra long straw. They were obviously clearing out old stock, as it had wrapped around its middle images from Matrix Reloaded (not even Revolutions).

Needless to say, by the end of the movie, it was still half full (and that’s with both of us working on it). We took it home, I drank the last of the soda, and then it was put away (washed).

This, my friends, is the ultimate sippy cup. Gripping it carefully with both hands, you suckle the giant straw, pulling ounce upon ounce of cold water down your throat. I feel like I’m three years old again, finally upgrading from the little cup with the sippy top to the big cups with the sippy top. The proportions are correct, and it really just strikes me as a beautiful, marvelous thing.

Who knows how long it will last, what with being a large cheap plastic cup, but for now at least I will appreciate it, both for the sensation of being three again that it gives, and for helping me keep hydrated for once.

Animation Fascination

My animation fascination continues. Someone recently posted a link over in the PA:AC to a music video done for a Canadian band called “Pilate”.

While the music is “emo”, which may not be everyone’s bag (I liked it, but I have indie/emo leanings), the video is interesting and well crafted. For those not on broadband: it’s an animated music video of a little ghost riding around in the back of a taxi, taking pictures. You can find it at:


New Gallery System

I finally got fed up with the Movable Type work-around photoblog system that I was using, so I looked into Gallery. Gallery is very technically robust and complex, yet extremely easy to update, so it seemed worthwhile.

I haven’t yet altered the layout to match more closely with the rest of the site. (I wasn’t kidding when I said it was technically complex.) One of the nice things that it adds is the ability to register an account with the system, which enables you to leave comments and vote on your favorite images.

It also means that I can set people up with an individual album once they’ve registered an account. This would/will allow my friends to have a space for uploading images of their own, for a shared community gallery. Pretty cool, huh?
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New Site Design

Surprise! I’ve changed the site design (pretty significantly). I really like this design: it is set up so that at a glance you can see the most recent entry in all categories. I realize that some of you might not like the new design, but I ask that you bear with me: humor me, and you might actually end up liking it. I know I have.
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Annotation: The Hidden Words

I’m not exactly sure how to define The Hidden Words. They aren’t prayers (though you could use them as such), nor are they stories, or rules (per se — some feel like they come close). I suppose they could be considered meditations or explorations, and that would come closest to defining where they fit as a collection of writing.

I’m going to have to do some digging to see if this is the complete “Hidden Words,” or if it’s a selection from them: the title is a little ambiguous, in my opinion. The book is fairly small, with a small but readable typeface, and really trims away anything extraneous: the introduction/preface is one page, most of which is taken up by explaining how the book is arranged, and it doesn’t bother with an actual table of contents. The first half is a collection of Hidden Words translated from Arabic. The second half is a collection of Hidden Words translated from Persian. A few pages at the end discuss the basic principles of the Baha’i Faith and the rules we live by, and a brief biography of who Baha’u’llah was.

Of the two collections, I far prefer the Persian translations. The Arabic seems more terse, and almost accusatory compared to the Persian Words. I am not sure if this is because they were written at different times, or if it is just part of the nature of the differences between the two languages. Despite the Persian Writings being longer and more complex, I found them easier to read and understand by a significant margin. While I suppose part of this is perhaps the quality of translation, I think there is something more to it as well. I felt less like I was getting admonished and more like I was getting informed, which is a pretty significant difference, in my opinion.

Allusions to the past seem to interest me in particular, so it should be no surprise that the selection that most caught my eye was one Baha’u’llah wrote reflecting in the covenant made on Mount Paran when Muhammad gathered his army of 10,000 men to take back Mecca. It reads:

Call ye to mind that covenant ye have entered into with Me upon Mount Paran, situate within the hallowed precincts of Zaman. I have taken to witness the concourse on high and the dwellers in the city of eternity, yet now none do I find faithful unto the covenant. Of a certainty pride and rebellion have effaced it from the hearts, in such wise that no trace thereof remaineth. Yet knowing this, I waited and disclosed it not. (Baha’u’llah, 71)

After reading this passage, I became curious as to what exactly he was talking about, finally managing to track down that Mount Paran is a mountain in Pakistan, and is a key holy place in Islamic scripture (though they are not necessarily the same mountains… it is a source of great debate, according to The gist of the quoted passage, as far as I can tell, is a rather directed indictment of the Imams and other religious leaders of Islam, stating that the true intent and nature of Islam has become corrupted and changed. I am definitely intrigued by the concept of searching through other comments such as these and discovering more and more back story as to what exactly Baha’u’llah was referencing.

I may be jumping the gun in saying this, but I do expect that I’ll be returning to the Hidden Words on more than one occasion, as my depth of understanding grows, reassessing what I’ve already read. I do strongly suspect that there is a lot more buried under the surface of these writings that is worth examining.

Baha’u’llah. The Hidden Words: Selected Writings of Baha’u’llah. Baha’i Publishing Trust.

Annotation: Abdu’l-Baha, Einstein, and Ether

While not directly relating to spirituality or mysticism, I recently came across a small book about the Faith’s take on modern science, in particular the 19th century concept of Ether. It interested me, and seemed topical enough to read and comment on. The book is short, and consists of a great deal of reiterating the same point over and over again, the entire piece written as a counterpoint to some scientists’ refutation of Abdu’l-Baha’s infallibility (and by inference, Baha’u’llah’s infallibility), based on some statements Abdu’l-Baha made in reference to Ether around the turn of the century. Even the brevity of this book still felt too long to the point of irrelevance: it makes a valid point combined with defensive spin doctoring, which frankly I think could have been addressed with a single page containing Abdu’l-Baha’s actual commentary and an explanation thereof.

The whole hullabaloo is silly. The concept of Ether (the mechanical, physical medium found in space which facilitates the passage of light, not the chemical) has been largely discredited for years, disproved shortly after the turn of the century by Einstein with a specialized application of the Theory of Relativity. Unfortunately, Abdu’l-Baha made several references to Ether over the course of his Guardianship (along with a variety of other scientific breakthroughs that have all since proven to be true), and this has been apparently an arguing point for scientists to disprove the claims of Baha’u’llah’s divinity (since Abdu’l-Baha was Baha’u’llah’s son and the Guardian of the Faith after Baha’u’llah passed on, he was theoretically infallible).

It’s true, he comments on Ether on several occasions. The only issue here is that the scientists who are arguing against the Baha’i Faith are ignoring the fact that he also explicitly qualified the use of the term as an intellectual concept, not a mechanical medium. Much in the same way that there is a current push to return to using the term ether (or aether) as a conceptual terminology for the space-time “fabric.” Abdu’l-Baha applied precisely the same attributes to Ether as Einstein did to his Space-Time fabric: it is a difference in terminology, not in idea.

That’s all. It’s really that simple. What I just explained in two paragraphs is really all that Matthews says. He just says it over the course of a few pages (albeit with a bit more background, explanation, and quotes from relevant sources), and then reiterates the exact same information again, repeating this process for a good 40 pages (as I said, this was not a very long book). He comments on the independent conclusions found by a group of scholars examining the subject down in Australia. He adds quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s take on the matter, which is just another reiteration of the same information, namely that Abdu’l-Baha was talking about a concept, not the physical medium known as Ether. He adds quotes of various prominent scientists, Einstein included, who use the term Ether in exactly the same way.

I understand that he really wanted to hammer his point home, but to a certain extent it felt like he was just padding the length in order to justify the cost of the book. Not only was it lengthened by the heavy use of quotes and citations, but the references list of where he got his information was easily an extra 6 pages. I will admit that I have a certain bias in favor of brevity, thus I do think that sometimes you just need to know where to stop.

Matthews, Gary L. Abdu’l-Baha, Einstein, and Ether. Stonehaven Press.

Schoolwork Cha Cha

This will in theory be a quick post, as it’s already 12:30am and I really ought to be in bed snuggling with my wife.

I spent most of the day stressing over getting back into the writing swing of things. After an extended period of dwindling amounts of writing, let alone academic writing, I was feeling particularly unsure of my capability to write in even an informal yet scholarly way. I found ways to put it off (as I’ve been putting it off for the past few days, cleaning my office for instance), such as making myself a far more complicated dinner than was really necessary, and making a checklist of things I need to do daily or at least weekly, because I have a habit of being forgetful.

I finally sat down and started to write, and after getting a paragraph down, I found myself finally getting back into the routine, which felt really good (nearly as good as when I get going in a creative bent… a feeling that I still remember, though I haven’t felt it in far too long). Four pages later, I have two informal annotations done and proofread (thanks to my lovely wife, Mickey, who I am convinced is the patron angel of editors), and feeling pretty comfortable about finishing up the last of my packet tomorrow for mailing either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Yes, that will make it fully two weeks late. My advisor IS aware that it is late, and has been quite patient with me thus far.
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