Coal Mines and Anniversaries

First off, I’d like to wish my lovely bride a very happy anniversary. As she has already commented in her LiveJournal, we’re going out for dinner tonight, and then on Saturday we’re going to the Utah Phillips concert. A year of marriage has passed, and I’m still glad I did it. Sure, we have our rough spots and arguments, but not nearly as bad as some people, and we work through them pretty quickly. All in all, it’s a good way to be.

Second: Work! It seems that God has a very strange sense of humor… it seems like whenever I’ve about given up and decided that we’re going to have to move to DC, he throws us a crumb (not even a bone). Just enough to keep the hope of staying out here alive. On life support, but alive. So, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m now employed as an XBox game tester for the company that does the testing for Microsoft. It pays $9.25, and is extremely sporadic. Went two or three weeks calling (as it is an “on call” position) with no luck, and then finally I was supposed to work this whole week (full 5 day shift).

That fell through, the size of the shift shrank, so the new guys (like me) were cut. Enter a call from the Apple Store down the street, who have my resume and would like to interview me for a position (what position is not yet clear). I’m hoping it’s a Mac Genius position, as I think that would make me most happy of the potential roles. The interview is tomorrow.

Also enter a new job posting over at OmniGroup, for a Support Ninja position for their web browser, OmniWeb. I SO fit the qualifications, and needless to say I sent off my resume that very evening. I haven’t heard back yet, but that’s fine. I hope I do get a call back, though.

So while all that is happening… I get a call from VMC (the game testing gig), saying “So, are you available Wednesday and Thursday and possibly Friday?” Since I’d scheduled my Apple interview for after work would be getting out back when I thought I’d be working this week, my schedule was, in fact, free.
Continue reading


As some (most) of you know, I’ve been on a MUD called AVATAR for seven years now. One of the things that really kept me playing it for so long was the sense of community that exists there. It’s like an extended family in many ways, and was made moreso by getting to know some of the players and other immortals in real life. (For instance, the owner of the MUD, Snikt, is both a friend and a business partner, and we would never have met without the MUD.)

One of our regular players died last night. Last week he had gone in for a routine tonsillectomy, and during the operation they knicked an artery. He was sent home afterwards, but ended up back in the hospital the following night, and slipped into a coma not long after. It continued to get worse, with a period during which he was brain dead for six minutes, causing irreversible brain damage even if he ever awoke from the coma. His parents signed a Do Not Resuscitate order yesterday, and he passed away at 1am last night. He was 19.
Continue reading

Essay: Faith vs Religion: My Personal Exploration of Spirituality and the Baha’i Faith.

During my recent residency at Vermont College, a friend told me a metaphor for religion that bears repeating: “Religion is like a supermarket. We enter with needs and wants, and we go through filling our basket with these things. But we do not have to buy everything in the store.” I found this anecdote particularly relevant to my own search for spirituality. It sums up my philosophy on organized religion remarkably well.

I was born and raised as a Baha’i. In fact, my namesake was a writer who chronicled the early days of the Baha’i Faith (a hefty tome called The Dawnbreakers). The basis of the religion is that Baha’u’llah is the most recent messenger of God, one of a long line that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad. The Baha’i Faith’s core beliefs revolve around the concept of world unity and equality.

All in all, those seem to be a pretty solid groundwork to base a religion on. It stands to reason that since humanity continues to grow and mature, the Word of God must be updated from time to time. This is further obviated by man’s fallible nature: considering the known level of corruption that has existed in the seat of power of various religions in the past, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the original message is not nearly as pure as it once was. And as for the principles for a religion to teach, compassion and equality are really rather high on the list of ideals I’d like to see encouraged.

I was one of four Baha’i children in my school district (two families: my brother and I, and the other family had two girls). Growing up, I always looked forward to Baha’i holy days, because it meant that I had an excused absence from school on those days, which our community would often do interesting things for (one holy day that happens in October, we would hike a mountain each year and say prayers at the top, things like that). Really, it was a rather nice religion to be raised a part of. That said, at this point in my life, I am really more of a “lapsed Baha’i” than anything else.

There are reasons for this. At the surface, there is the frustration in being part of a minority, and regularly having to explain what the religion is about. Also, there was the frustration of school functions which were largely christian in nature (and let’s not forget the mandatory “non-denominational” services with the Boy Scouts). These frustrations weren’t exactly conducive to following your own beliefs.

On a more personal level, the religion itself pushed me away. While I like what the Faith teaches, the great majority of Baha’is I’ve met were well meaning, very nice, intelligent, and FLUFFY, for lack of a better term. When I say “fluffy”, I mean that it feels like they are “born-again”, and are trying to be EXTRA loving and religious in order to make up for lost time. I don’t think this make them bad people, but it does make me uncomfortable at some fundamental level. I feel that while we should always strive for excellence, we must also balance that with moderation: anything taken to an extreme, including religion, isn’t healthy. Please also note that I am making a distinction between religion, and faith. It is an important distinction, and really the crux of what I’m talking about.

I believe in Baha’u’llah. I believe in God or at least some sort of higher power that may as well be called such. Also, I like what the Baha’i Faith teaches as a basis for religion, but it is the religion (and really all others I’ve run into) that I am bothered with. I am an introvert and a generally private individual (this paper, itself, has taken a great deal of tooth-pulling to even write), and find myself somewhat irritated that others try to foist their take on what is at its core a personal relationship with one’s connection to the universe, for the sake of organization. We as a society busy ourselves by meddling in the personal lives of our neighbors rather than realizing that it is not our place to judge the actions of others. This is the difference between faith and religion: faith is by its nature private, it is the communion between god and yourself. Faith is the contemplation and belief in certain things (whether it is the nature of the universe, or guidelines for better living in the here and now). Religion is taking faith and making it a spectacle. It compartmentalizes and socializes belief, so that instead of gleaning your own conclusions (going back to the supermarket metaphor, buying the things on YOUR list), you are told what you should believe (everyone receives the same “rations”).

And instead of realizing this and doing my own thing and not worrying about the rest, thus living a fuller, richer spiritual life, I get worked up about it. I spend my energy railing about how frustrating and disillusioning organized religion is in an age of distributed communication and knowledge, where it is easy to find the holes and flaws in any religion. Of course there are flaws in religion. They’re made by man. We’re not perfect. That doesn’t mean the principles of and the basis for the religion is wrong.

What I’m saying is that there should be more effort made to separate the religion (the structure) from the faith (the content). Let people make decisions for themselves, give them the material to make educated choices, and see what happens. If someone decides that they want to combine aspects of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Baha’i, then so be it, more power to them. That doesn’t mean that the next person won’t decide that a combination of Judaism and Hinduism is a better fit for themselves. Let us as a race awaken into a Collective Conscious (vs unconscious), and bring it all back to what really matters: the individual’s relationship with God.

Why, MT, WHY?

So, Movable Type 3.0 was released yesterday. I of course found this out by them sending out an email saying “Yeah, we kind of dropped a bomb with this one…” to which I promptly said “HUH?!?” and dashed off to read about what is going on.

MT 3 is out, and has all the features they’ve been talking about having. That’s good. The bad? A SIX HUNDRED DOLLAR PRICE TAG. In the time between 2.6 and 3.0, they decided to “improve” their licensing structure by taking a page from UserLand and dropping a unmerited price tag onto software that is competing (and it’s honest to god competition) with FREE SOFTWARE.

They do offer a crippled free version, with the caveats that it can only have ONE weblog in the installation, and only ONE author. Further, there is a CPU restriction on that installation, so you can’t even install the free version on a dual processor for testing purposes (and you’re SOL if the server you’re hosted on happens to be multi-processor).

Suffice it to say, my “upgrade” will be taking a while longer. Like, however long it takes for me to go learn Flash and MySQL, which I’ll use to homebrew my own setup. I am VERY disappointed with their decision and apparent complete lack of market research in developing an effective pricing model.


First: I’ve been wasting far too much time over the past day or two reading the back archives (all 1300+ entries) of Neil Gaiman’s blog. It’s delightful reading, but damned if there isn’t a lot there.

Second: Kurt Vonnegut weighs in. An interesting read, and I’ll leave it at that until someone chooses to comment about it. Thanks to Mickey for pointing it out to me, and thanks to whoever pointed it out to her.

Toodles, I’ll post more later.

Weekend in the Sun

This past weekend was delightful, pure and simple. It started early with Mickey coming home after a half-day on Friday (if she works even just an hour longer on the rest of the work days, then that means she can take a half day on Fridays). We ate, then went shopping for various knicknacks (cross stitching materials, clothes, et cetera), then went and saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I really, REALLY liked. It was surreal, sublime, and very much a Charlie Kaufman movie. I felt that both Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet did fantastic jobs with their roles, and there are some real moments while jaunting around inside Carrey’s head. (In particular, I’d like to point out any of the scenes where he’s a child.)

One of the interesting things about the movie (to me, anyway) was that we see the feelings and emotions and thoughts of this character who is incapable of saying it in the real world. So we (the audience) becomes endeared to the character, because we see this nakedness. WE see how much he cares about Winslet’s character. We want them to be together, and after all why wouldn’t they after that level of honesty? She’d have to have a heart of stone to not be with him after that.

And then you remember, it’s all in his head. She doesn’t know ANY OF IT, and may never.
Continue reading

I gots me a job

Well, the constant job searching for many months finally paid off. I had my orientation today — mostly just signing LOTS AND LOTS OF PAPERWORK. Said paperwork also included not one but TWO NDAs, so unfortunately I won’t be able to talk about my work all that much other than generically.

The job is that of game testing for the XBox. The pay is $9.25 an hour, and I am only “on call”, so some weeks will be a lighter work week than others, but the bright side of this is I can choose how proactive I want to be. It also means when things come up (like the time spent away in Chicago this June for a wedding), I’m simply not available for work that week.

They also offer benefits, training (and I don’t mean “job training” — I mean they offer classes in various tech related topics), and other nice things… they’re even willing to help you polish your resume so you can land more permanent work. The drawback is that it means being AT WORK at 7am, at least at first. Work starts at 8am, but until you’ve done it a bit and know the routine, they want you there by 7. I’ve never been much of a morning person, but really this just means getting up… two hours earlier than I do now (and, in fact, earlier than I had to get up for school, which used to start at 7:50am).

Going back to the scheduling thing, talking to the lady giving my orientation, it sounds like generally it’s 2-3 days a week, and that a 5 day work week doesn’t happen all THAT often. While we could certainly use the 40 hour work week (and the potential for overtime that doing a full week allows) in terms of money, I’m actually kind of relieved about this, since it means that I’ll be able to continue to dig into this semester.

All in all, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m aiming to start work on Tuesday (Saturday is Mickey’s birthday, and she has a half day tomorrow at work, plus Sunday is Mother’s Day, and Monday I have an appointment).
Continue reading

Orkut and Star Wars Day

Before I continue: yesterday was Star Wars Day, so in honor of that — May the 4th be with you.

I just also wanted to give a quick shout out that I’m finally in Orkut, so feel free to add me as a friend if you are a member or end up joining. It is yet another community service — a mechanism to keep in touch with friends, network with people, and find dates if so inclined. It’s actually pretty nifty, and allows you to join or create community user groups so people can join communities about their interests. I very quickly joined about 20, because they sounded interesting — we’ll see what comes of it.

I even found an old classmate of mine from High School, whom I haven’t heard from or about since graduation. He was a hell of a nice guy, though, and I’m glad to be getting back on each others’ radar a bit.

That’s all. Short post, huh?
Continue reading