red echo

A web journal by Mars Saxman: my life, reflected and filtered

June entries

Archived Entries for May, 2004

May 25, 2004

Still alive. My sister's graduation is over; my family has gone home. I'm in New Haven for a few days helping my sister move out.

fascinating eerie photos of Gunkanjima, also called Hashima, a completely abandoned island in Nagasaki harbor. At its peak in 1959, it was the most densely populated place in the world, and produced millions of tons of coal from mines tunneled into the seabed. I love stuff like this.

May 19, 2004

I'm leaving for New York tonight. I'll meet up with my family at JFK tomorrow morning and we'll spend the next few days touring the city. Saturday we'll head up to New Haven for my sister Melissa's graduation ceremonies. Tonight's flight will be murder, but I'm looking forward to the trip overall.

I'm bringing my laptop, but 'net access will likely be sporadic until next week, so please be patient if I take an unusually long time to respond to your email. I'll be back home in two weeks.

(Two weeks with no musical instruments: how am I going to survive?)

May 18, 2004

Spray chalk on glass, masked by lace: clever!

Research: Adam will understand

May 17, 2004

For some reason my musical drought decided to clear itself up yesterday afternoon. I remembered a lyric piece I wrote weeks ago, and a melody and some accompaniment ideas suggested themselves. Off I went to record, and got a reasonable rendition of the song laid down. Then I started getting ambitious... By the end of the afternoon, I had shanghaied my friend Alex into recording a couple of soprano parts, and the result was a soaring four-part chorus, with a strange modal edge, that sounds positively delicious when you crank up the reverb. I've always wanted to include symphonic and choral elements in my music, and this time it finally seems to have come together.

Continuing in this theme, I concluded my evening by attending the compline service at St. Mark's (better known to Seattleites as "the box on the hill"). This is apparently a well-known and long standing Seattle tradition; the cathedral wasn't packed, exactly, but there were hundreds of people there, and the average age was much younger than one would expect for a church function. The mood was accordingly casual - people sitting on the floors, laying on the steps, scattered everywhere: quiet, relaxed, meditative. It was about as far from the brightly lit suburban warehouse church experience as I can imagine.

The music was gorgeous; a lot of plain chant with occasional forays into harmony and counterpoint. It was quiet, reflective, and sat gently in the space rather than filling it. The effect was impressive; I felt... uplifted, joyful, almost ecstatic. It was an experience I definitely want to repeat.

May 16, 2004

May 15, 2004

The Infinite Cat Project: a snapshot of a cat watching the previous snapshot of a cat watching the previous snapshot of a cat... surprisingly endearing.

Pretty toasters

Pretty bikes

While good-looking to this biker wannabe, both of these bikes turned out to be cheap, gutless beginner models. The first is a Kawasaki "Eliminator 125" - and yes, that means it has a 125cc engine, which turns out a mighty 12 horsepower. (I've seen lawnmowers with more power than that!) The second bike is a mid-'90s Suzuki GZ 250, with a slightly less embarassing 20 hp engine apparently capable of reaching 70 mph (on flat ground with a tailwind, I guess). Apparently I have to learn how to look past the svelte exterior when I am picking motorcycles to ogle...

Pretty clouds

(This is not my photo; I found it while collecting source material for an art project.)

May 13, 2004

Interview with Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer, Jesuit, and curator of the Vatican meteorite collection. He has an interesting and unusual perspective on the Catholic Church's attitude toward science.

There's also a sense that the Church, in modern times, wants to show the world that it's not afraid of science, that it supports science, that it thinks science is a wonderful thing. Not only to reassure the scientists, but also to reassure the religious people science is a good thing. Don't listen to people who say you have to choose one or the other.

And there's two things going on there. One is the sense that, if God made the universe, and he made it good, and he loved the universe so much that, as the Christians believe, he sent his only son, it's up to us to honor and respect and get to know the universe. I think it was Francis Bacon who said that God sets up the universe as a marvelous puzzle for us to get to know him by getting to know how he did things. By seeing how God created, we get a little sense of God's personality.

He argues that the case of Galileo, while well known, was anomalous in church history, and that the Catholic church in general has supported and encouraged scientific research. He seems just a little bit too enthusiastic about the compatibility of theology and science for me to take him completely seriously, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

May 11, 2004

I have uploaded some photos from my weekend trip to Vancouver.

A complete explanation of men's dress shirts, second in a series also covering suits and pants.

May 9, 2004

Back. Alive. Fun weekend.

May 7, 2004

Off to Vancouver. Back Sunday night.

May 6, 2004

I learned something dangerous yesterday: basic liability insurance for a motorcycle is cheap. Apparently they figure that even if you hit someone, you won't be carrying enough mass to cause any damage. Of course, the cost triples when you add in underinsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection... but the notion that monthly ownership cost for a bike would be about $30, including fuel, is awfully seductive.

I'm trying to stay car-free all summer, really I am, but discoveries like this don't make it any easier. Current gasoline-powered lust object: a 1995 Suzuki VS1400 Intruder. Now there's a road-trip machine. I confess to being a little intimidated by the fact that its engine is as large as the one that drove my Samurai, though.

May 5, 2004

I went out for drinks and karaoke last night. Karaoke is fun - I'd never tried it before a few weeks ago, and now I'm jumping at every opportunity that comes along. I can't sing as well as I think I can, alas, but the standard is pretty low where karaoke is concerned. The crowd was fun, drunk, and happy, the song list had plenty of stuff I liked, and I had some good conversation with new friends. Altogether a nice evening. But ow, was it hard getting up this morning. This human was not built to start work at 7 AM.

May 3, 2004

A Skeptical Inquirer article, "Why is Religion Natural?", discusses the psychology of religion in more depth than one usually hears. It leads off with a table of common statements about religion - things like "religion is about explaining natural phenomena", or "religion creates social cohesion", and suggests more correct, or at least more nuanced, ways of dealing with those qualities.

When thinking about religion, one can make a number of very tempting mistakes, some of which are summarized in table 1. Here I want to discuss one particular view of religion, popular among skeptics, that I call the "sleep of reason" interpretation. According to this view, people have religious beliefs because they fail to reason properly. If only they grounded their reasoning in sound logic or rational order, they would not have supernatural beliefs, including superstitions and religion. I think this view is misguided, for several reasons; because it assumes a dramatic difference between religious and commonsense ordinary thinking, where there isn't one; because it suggests that belief is a matter of deliberate weighing of evidence, which is generally not the case; because it implies that religious concepts could be eliminated by mere argument, which is implausible; and most importantly because it obscures the real reasons why religion is so extraordinarily widespread in human cultures.

May 2, 2004

Beyond Voting: anarchist organizing, electoral politics and developing strategy for liberation. A thought-provoking, though excessively long, argument for voting as a legitimate anarchist tactic; sounds like a contradiction in terms at first, but it seems rather reasonable by the time he's done talking about it.

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photo © 2001 Stacie Mayes

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2003: Nov Dec

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