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Chromosomes…Now you see ’em, Now you Don’t November 22, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Educational Ranting, General Ranting, Religion, Science and Technology.
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darwinAs a biology teacher I am constantly bombarded by the never-ending conflict between the forces of Creationism and the minions of Evolution. It becomes a new adventure in conflict management each year. Occasionally it becomes difficult as my own personal views enter the conflict and so I have chosen this opportunity and venue to present my own opinions.

As a committed Christian I am disinclined to embrace the scientific view that all life began as a random combination of chemicals in some primordial sea. It is, however, on rational grounds that my strongest objections are based.  The theory of Spontaneous Generation is described as “the hypothetical process by which living organisms develop from nonliving matter; also, the archaic theory that utilized this process to explain the origin of life. According to this theory, pieces of cheese and bread wrapped in rags and left in a dark corner, for example, were thus thought to produce mice, because after several weeks there were mice in the rags. Many believed in spontaneous generation because it explained such occurrences as the appearance of maggots on decaying meat.”   The theory was refuted completely in the 18th century and yet here we are in the supposedly enlightened 21st century, embracing the same idea. A combination of simple chemicals somehow mixes together with no outside influence beyond lightning or sunlight to form life.  The animate springs from the inanimate.  We are unable to duplicate or observe this phenomenon of generating life.  All efforts have been unsuccessful.  (See the Bubble Theory and the Primordial Soup Theory by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey).  No matter how many eons of time pass, the chemicals just don’t mix to form the necessary proteins.  Contrary to popular opinion, life doesn’t just happen, thus the necessity of a prime mover.

I have no difficulty with the idea of Natural Selection.  Selective breeding and its results are an observable and replicable phenomena.  We have changed many species to fit our wishes using nothing but selective breeding.  It stands to reason that if we can create a breed of horses only a few inches tall by breeding small horses to small horses then in nature, the continued breeding of the strongest, fastest, and smartest organisms would reinforce those traits and the genes responsible for them and by this process a species may be improved and even change its appearance.  However,  the miniature horses we produce are still horses.  They can still breed with normal horses and produce viable offspring.  Their chromosomes still match up with any other organism of the species Equus ferus caballus.  Chihuahuas and Great Danes are all still genetically compatible.  They are all biologically the same animal. Selective breeding, whether natural or otherwise, can improve a species or modify a species but it can not transform one species into another.  Selective breeding can change the frequency of alleles that already exist but it can not create new ones or remove old ones.  Selective breeding can make a bigger dog or a smaller dog or a faster dog, but it can not make a dog into a cat.

It is said the mutation is the source of drastic genetic change and I agree.  However, one of the by-products of Hardy Weinberg is that recessive alleles can never be bred out of a population.  The recessives continue no matter how much the dominant genes improve an organism’s chances of survival.  Should a dominant positive mutation occur, the original recessive stock should still exist as well.  Those gene frequencies can be reduced but can never be completely removed from the population.  Should mutation lead to man and monkey, the origin species of the mutation should still exist.  Mutation and Natural Selection are not enough to cause extinction.  Also, in the end, mutation is a universally destructive process.  Genetic mistakes in the form of Huntington’s Chorea, Spina Bifida, Turner’s Syndrome, and the like are all too common in our world.  The X-men, on the other hand,  have yet to make an appearance.  Given the general degradation of the natural environment and the prevalence of harmful chemicals in the air, water, and soil, the occurring of mutants is becoming more and more common and  the chances of a positive mutant decline daily.

According to Schleiden, Schwann and Virchow, all living things are composed of, and give rise to offspring composed of cells.  Cells are the fundamental functional, as well as structural, units of all organisms, and the ONLY place cells can rise from is another cell.  I accept that with only one concern.  Given that life on Earth began at some point AFTER the Earth came to be, where did that original cell come from?  Cells as a vehicle for DNA and heredity are the only forms of life that we can find any record of, or can even imagine.  Absolutely no evidence of any other form of life can be found within the fossil record or in extant species.  As with spontaneous generation, cells don’t just happen.  The structures are too complex and precise to have just spun up from nothing.  Cells are orderly and elegant structures.  The idea that they could have somehow come to be spontaneously by trial and error is chaotic and messy.

Well there you have it.  This is my justification for my beliefs.  Please don’t bother to comment on how backward, misinformed, or deluded I am and I will not remind you of your ultimate destination when you leave this world for the next.  In the end, the only thing we can be certain of is that we do not and can not know what really happened.  The scientific method requires duplication and repetition to validate a theory.  As these things have not been possible and continue to be impossible, so validation or proof remain beyond us.  An honest scientist will refer to evolution and its attendant ideas as theories and it is only the sensationalist and pseudo-intellectuals who declare them to be absolute truth.  Matters of faith, on the other hand, require no such validation.  Faith allows the surrounded and defeated soldiers of the Alamo to turn aside the attack of a much larger army.  Faith persuades the martyr to face lions and tigers and bears (oh my) rather than renounce their beliefs.  Faith powers revolutions, creates heroes and moves mountains.  Only a fool discounts or denies the efficacy of faith.

NOW I remember what it was…. September 19, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Books, Religion, Science and Technology.
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I began a missive the other day concerning relativity and time dilation. I lost the thread about half way through and could NOT pull it together. While talking to our preacher earlier this week it dawned on me what exactly I was trying to say. I would like to first caveat my comments by saying that if you are of the Calvinist persuasion you will not like or agree with what I am about to say but I believe I can support my position with scripture.
There is a debate in Christian circles (hah! yeah like there is only ONE) concerning the doctrine of predestination versus the idea that all men are called to salvation. I can see both sides of the issue but I believe there is more scriptural basis for the idea that God calls all men and each has a right to choose, free of any destiny.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might
be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom
he justified, them he also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good
pleasure of his will,
Most followers of the Hyper-Calvinist doctrine use at least one of the preceding verses as their justification for over applying the idea of predestination. The doctrine of predestination is generally accepted to mean ” the divine foreordaining of all that will happen, esp. with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin.” (Merriam-Webster).

The trouble with that doctrine is that its purveyors mistake intention with foreknowledge. Once again, to define terms, foreknowledge is considered to mean “awareness of something before it happens or exists.” (Merriam-Webster). God is aware of the choices we will make but that does not mean He orchestrates them. The Bible is VERY clear about God’s intentions toward men concerning salvation.
1 Tim. 2:3-4 “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”
 
  2 Pet. 3:9  “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”

Salvation is open to “whosoever will”. We are instructed to believe and be saved. God would that all people should abide with him.

Does God have foreknowledge? Is He aware that some will not accept His gift? Yes but does that mean He ordered things to be that way in infinity past? NO. To say that would imply that all things are destined to be and that God’s will can never be thwarted. This is not the case. Our actions can hinder God’s will. It happens every Sunday in churches across America. Someone in the grip of making a decision looks down the aisle as they are preparing to step out during an invitation only to see some jaded, bored Christian texting or tweeting or playing Angry Birds during the invitation. Immediately the devil begins to whisper into the potential convert’s ear about how all these people are hypocrites and he or she should wait until they find a REAL church to be saved. The will of God is thwarted by simple human indifference. The mighty arm of God stopped dead still by some thoughtless child misbehaving.

Psalm 78:41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

1.Matthew 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

It is not only possible but fairly easy to balk God’s will. It is, however, a very dangerous and foolish thing to do, and the consequences are nearly always disastrous.

Finally, We return to the very verse most often used as justification for absolute election to, in fact, justify the more Arminian view (even though we are NOT Arminian and categorically renounce the idea of falling from grace).

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might
be the firstborn among many brethren.

According to Romans 8:29 God predestined those whom He foreknew or had foreknowledge of that they might be brothers of His son Jesus Christ.  Who, if anyone, did God NOT foreknow.  He was aware of all of us from the beginning of time and so all of us are intended to be among the brethren of Christ.  He also knew that some would not accept that offer.  He still reaches out to those with all the power and sincerity that the conviction of the Holy Spirit can muster if for no other reason than to hope that they will change their minds.  Free will is a powerful force in the universe.  We may have no other power to call our own but we always have the power to choose.  God’s view is not limited to one destiny path for all humanity.  There are hundreds of millions of individual threads of possibility each leading inexorably to the same place but each taking a different route through the lives of believers and unbelievers alike.  All of these threads are possible.  All you have to do is choose.  Choose Jesus.

Relativity and Time Dilation September 17, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computer and Technology, Educational Ranting, Religion, Science and Technology.
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Albert-Einstein-007Some days just seem slower than others. Perhaps there is a reason for this beyond a lack of patience.  During a recent physics lecture I was introduced to the idea of Time Dilation with respect to differences in velocity between two objects.  Albert Einstein, the distinguished gentleman to our left, initially described the effect in his work on special relativity.

For the better part of human history we have considered time to be invariant.  One second is one second no matter who or where you are.  In his paper, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies“, Albert Einstein proposed and supported the idea that time was, for the most part, based upon one’s frame of reference.  Galileo and others had suggested the idea many years before but Einstein’s work provided the math to support the observation.

An event, any occurrence that can be plotted according to time and position in space, can be observed relative to a frame of reference in Space-Time.  Einstein also defined space and time as two sides of the same coin.  Both are inextricably connected.  Thus an event may be located in reference to it’s location along the X, Y, and Z axis as well as a point along the time line.  Within it’s frame of reference, the velocity of a moving object may be accurately measured and known.

However, if the event is viewed from a different frame of reference it is possible for the coordinates to appear different to the observer.  In effect, the position, translation, and location in the time line may appear quite different.  Time is not a constant.  The new positions in space time may be calculated through a modestly complicated series of equations called the Lorentz Transformations.  Using these equations it is possible to take the X, Y, and Z coordinates and the time line position of an event in one frame of reference and determine the new position in space and time in another frame of reference.  Does anyone else need a Tylenol?

For a practical example, imagine two space vehicles traveling past each other in opposite directions, passing close enough so that both crews have a view of the interior of each other’s craft.  As they pass each other and both crews observe, the clock in each of their respective ships would appear to be keeping correct time while the clock in the ship across the way would appear to be going slower as it passed.  It turns out that not only do the clocks appear to be going slower but they indeed are moving at different speeds with respect to each other according to the frame of reference of the observer.  The difference in time (Δt) for both frames of reference may be calculated using the Lorentz Translations.  Time is not a constant.

There are many consequences to this strange behavior of time.  One of the most interesting is the idea of “Time Dilation”.  As an object moves away from the Earth, for example, and its attendant frame of reference, time for the object remains constant but the time stream on the Earth moves much faster.  One popular example is the “Twin Paradox”  One identical twin leaves Earth on a space ship and returns, for him, a few years later only to find that his or her identical twin is now very elderly.  As the velocity with which the frames of reference separates, the difference in the two time streams increases.

2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

God is not bound by our conventions.  We are not able to observe from His frame of reference.  In a real sense He is just beginning creation and, at the same time, ending it. He moves through time just as we move through space. In a sense we really are “already over on the other side.” If you are saved you are as sure for heaven as though you were already there. We have to read the book from front to back but God can see both ends at once. There is a lesson here somewhere but I am just not smart enough to bring it out.

And Finally…Here’s something we hope you’ll really like August 24, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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This is the final edition of Regan’s Rant on Internet Safety and Security. I would like to warn you about the fastest growing crime in the world – Identity Theft Fraud. The anonymity of the Internet is its biggest appeal. You can be whomever you think you are and no one can gainsay you. This situation, however, makes fraud as simple as introducing yourself to someone. People on the Internet, even good people, are not ever who they say they are. It’s hard enough to get to know a person in person. If all you hear are their ideas and thoughts, without body language, or facial expression, or life behavior context to back them up, then you do not have an accurate picture of the person. Much research is currently being done on the Internet by bringing two or more people together, allowing them to get to “know” each other online, and then introducing them in real life and getting their opinions. They are almost universally surprised when they do finally get to know their “friends”.

Identity theft is defined as assuming the identity of, or representing yourself as, another person for some personal gain or reward. There are any number of reasons for people to do this but the most common is to defraud government benefits. Social Security, welfare, HUD Housing, or any government agency that provides support is vulnerable to this sort of attack. In a recent case in Yakima, WA a man using the identity of a deceased Texas resident was able to get welfare for YEARS before any noticed.  Recently a ring of 5 Russian nationals was indicted for conspiring to sell 160 MILLION credit card numbers.  There are only 200 million or so people in America.  And finally, from our “How Romantic is THIS” file; A couple financed their Disney Engagement trip with money scammed from Seniors online and in person.

Someone goes through your trash and gets a credit card application. They are sent out all the time. They fill it out with a bogus social security number and mail it back with a PO Box instead of the home address. Nine times out of ten they will get a credit card with YOUR name on it registered to YOUR home address. They will max the card, you’ll get the bill and then when it gets declined, find a new “patron” and start over. It is much easier than you think to get a credit card because creditors are desperate to get all the customers they can and don’t often check the applications as carefully as they should.

Social Security numbers on the Internet and the names they belong to go for about $5 apiece on black market web sites. Blue Cross policy names and numbers are more in demand. They run about $600 per number. Quite often you will never know that you are victim of identity theft until something goes wrong. You could be a resident of, and voting in, another state for years and never know it because there is no requirement for any official ID at any voting facility in any federal election. Sometimes all it takes is a library card. If a felon can only get a utility account established in a small town somewhere using your name, then they are set for life. A current utility bill is usually enough ID to establish an account with a “rent to own” facility (you should not use these) and then once they have established themselves as YOU, the sky’s the limit. You will start receiving collection calls from people and companies you have never heard of. Your utilities may be disconnected and various items may be repossessed. Your income tax refund or paycheck can be sequestered. All in all, a bad day.

Security measures to prevent this sort of thing are simple. Invest in a cheap Office Depot cross-cut shredder and use it. Keep things like credit card offers, utility bills and receipts, old bank deposit slips, in fact ANYTHING with your name and address that could be used to do anything needs to be shredded. DO NOT JUST TOSS IT IN THE TRASH. There are fortunes to be made for persons with no morals and little hygiene. If you are willing to crawl through a little garbage at the dump then you can find all SORTS of useful things. It is VERY common for thieves to drive around in front of the garbage truck rounds and check out dumpster to find whatever documents the household may have thrown away. As most trash rounds are during the business day, you will never know they were there until you start getting bills.

Don’t post anything online that a friend of a friend might see. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Recent research has shown that a great majority of people respond to friend requests on social media almost automatically. Everyone I have asked has at least SOMEONE on their friend list that they really don’t know. “It said he was friends with a friend of mine” is the common response. Never do they realize that the goal of a fraudster is to get a friend relationship with one person and use that person’s friend list as their fishing ground. Facebook goes so far as to SUGGEST people for new members to friend. Talk about making life easy for the crooks. Be SURE you know who your friends are. The best online friends are people you already know.

Disinformation is still your best tool. Don’t give out your real birthday. Don’t put addresses in your profile. Don’t even list your home town. The less you give thieves, the harder it is for them to work. Choose an online name and make sure it is not traceable to your real name and address. TURN OFF geo-tagging in pictures that you post. Do you really WANT to tell a predator that your toddler plays at a certain park in a certain area, every Tuesday? If you are going to post a trip destination online, make sure you are already home first. Then you can tell everyone how great a time you had and not worry about someone taking that opportunity to clean out your house.

These are just some ideas. You can most likely come up with many more on your own. Research identity fraud on the Internet. Know exactly WHO your kids associate with online. Be aware that, just like anywhere else, the Internet is a place where hazards are. Now you know…an knowing is half the battle. (Does anyone remember that commercial or is it just me?)

OK So Now What Do We DO About It? August 22, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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Yesterday I began a diatribe on the dangers of the online community. I think it only fair then if I offer some advice about handling the perils of the cyber-world. There are many different strategies that can be effective. What I suggest is just a compilation of the most common and useful.

The first and foremost strategy is the universal mantra of any system of self-defense. Be Aware of your surroundings. You can’t go wrong if you pay attention. Are you on Facebook? There are certain ads or offers you need to avoid. Are you posting an image? Is it one you want your Gran’mother to see? Are you making a brilliant political observation on Twitter? Would you mind if your boss read it? Pay attention to where you are and what you are doing. You wouldn’t walk down a dark city street without looking around. Why should you do that on the Internet.

Rule Two says, “They don’t need to know everything about you.” Would you consider yourself a Facebook customer? Guess how Facebook considers you? You are INVENTORY. Just like those cheap plastic dish mats at Wal-Mart or the cheapie low budget DVD section at Hastings, YOU ARE PRODUCT. What are they selling you ask? Why, they are selling YOU. Your name, address, phone number, likes, interests, web browsing habits, shopping habits, spending habits, credit history is ALL for sale. One of the fastest growing industries today is data mining. Facebook is classified by the Federal Government as a data mining company, NOT a communications service. Every time you add a movie that you liked or enter your job or education level into your profile you are paying them. They take this information and sell it to people like Amazon or any other online marketing presence so that they know what to sell you. Have you not noticed that when you buy something on Amazon, the ads of Facebook immediately change to whatever it was you last bought. Advertising is being targeted at you based on your life. Search for something on Google and see if they don’t start targeting those items to you in the ads on Facebook or Twitter. Its a network. They are all connected and the sole purpose is to get you to spend money. As far as it goes, this is not a bad thing. However, if you are looking for a job and your prospective boss purchases information about you it can directly impact your chances. According to the Bureau of Nosy Statistics, 67% of employers have passed over a candidate THIS YEAR alone for information they obtained online without that party’s knowledge. The upside is that a like percentage of employers have hired people because they were impressed with their online presence. If you are posting pictures of your latest drunken spring break shenanigans in Mazatlan, which group do you think you will fall into?

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to present calculated disinformation to the machine. Make up a birthday, for example. A prospective employer finds your profile at MadamSpanksalotsFreakyFetish.com but because he can’t recognize you behind that rubber gas mask and the birthday is different from what is on your application they can not use that against you. Don’t fill out ANYTHING with your correct name, birthday, place of employment, religious affiliation, or other things that can impact a person’s opinion of you unless you are comfortable with the consequences. This is ESPECIALLY important for children and teens. Predators of all kinds search social media constantly for personal information that they can use to get an inside track on your children. People who know you in person will already know what your birthday is and will likely not send you a card anyhow. Internet people don’t NEED to know. They are not going to send you a card either. People you have been chatting with for three months are NOT your friends. Don’t tell them that you are “at the movies” or any other status like that. What you are really posting is “my house is empty, please come and steal my stuff.” This is especially bad if you have your address or home town posted as well. Would you take out an ad in the local paper saying “We are on vacation and won’t be back for a while? Why would you do that online where people actually READ the stuff?

Rule Three is KNOW HOW TO USE WHAT YOU HAVE. This is VITAL for parents of teens with smart phones. You need to be able to pick up your kid’s phone and know immediately who they have been texting, calling, or posting to. You need to know EXACTLY what pictures they have posted and to what services, and you need to know what web sites and chat rooms they visit. Learn the lingo. If you are looking at your children’s text history and you see someone sending GNOC to your daughter, and her reply of CD9, you have a problem. He just asked her to get naked on camera and she, rather than screaming and throwing the phone in disgust, told him that her parents were in the room. This is not a good sign. This link will take you to a dictionary of common texting terms. It would not hurt to look.  According, once again, to the Federal Agency responsible for keeping up with stuff like that, 70% of ALL teens are involved in sexting.  (If you don’t know what that is, ask your teenager.  I promise that they will.)  51% of high school girls have sent a sexually explicit photo to a boy in their class.  It happens daily.  It happens in big cities and little country towns.  It happens in California and in the Bible belt.  The WORST thing you can do is think that your kid is not involved.  In many areas it is a rite of passage in MIDDLE SCHOOL for girls to send topless pictures to boys they have a crush on.  Other GIRLS pressure them into it.

Rule Four; if you choose to purchase online, buy from a reputable dealer.  If you buy from an individual, use a certified and reliable “go-between” like eBay.  I know that 1000 Megawatt laser on Wild Weasel’s Laser Emporium looked cool but if they ask you for a credit card and don’t send you to a secure site (https: and not http:) then you need to give it a miss.

Next, DON’T store password in your device, especially a phone.  They get lost all the time.  If someone finds it and browses to your amazon account, your stored password in a golden ticket to max out your credit card.  Don’t take online marketing sites up on their friendly offer to establish an “account” to make purchases easier.  You enter your payment information once and then you can “one click” purchase items.  This is a recipe for disaster.

You really don’t need me to tell you these things.  All you have to do is pause and think for just a moment before you post, blog, or buy anything in the virtual world.  Make sure your children a emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle the responsibility and temptation of Social Media before you send them out the door with a smart phone and unlimited data plan.  Remember that ANYTHING you put into a digital format of any kind and post anywhere is suddenly public domain.  There is no such thing as privacy.  By posting it you agree to whatever terms and conditions the website owner can dream up.  There are no rules.  It can be fun or dangerous depending on you taking responsibility for yourself and your family.  Tomorrow night we will discuss identity theft and geotracking in photos.  See you then.

And Now for Something Completely Different August 21, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, News and politics, Religion, Science and Technology.
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My hovercraft project is on hold for the moment. I would like to rant about something else near and dear to my heart. I spent the day having information thrust upon me in the form of Teacher In-Service Training. Every teacher in Texas gets a certain amount of it each year before school starts and usually it is viewed as an interruption to the all-important job of getting the room ready for the new year. This day and this particular training were the exception.  We, the faculty and staff, were addressed by a fellow named Mark Seguin from TBG Solutions.  He is a risk management consultant who specializes in Internet and Social Media.  To say the least I was impressed.

Ordinarily I feel pretty comfortable with Social Media and my involvement in it.  I am aware of the risks more than most people because of my interest in and affinity for all things technical.  I have been in the computer business for 15 years and the software development trade for 5 years.  I do my best to stay abreast of new developments simply because I enjoy technology and electronics.  When I say I am aware of the risks it is because I have conducted similar classes myself for various and sundry groups.  I am not sure if it was his presentation style or some bits of new information presented in a way that really made me think but this, I feel, was NOT the usual waste of time that I ordinarily view corporate training sessions as.  Having said that, I would like to share a bit of what he presented for the benefit of my readers.

If you are reading this then it is likely you are at least moderately familiar with technology in general and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Istagram, Linkd-In, et al.) and its use.  Firstly, know that I am a fan and advocate of Social Media and I believe that like all technology, it is neither good nor bad, but merely a tool to be used or abused.  Social Media can bring worlds together or it can tear worlds apart and all with the click of a mouse.  If you choose to involve yourself then you should know how to protect yourself and your family from the people who would abuse it.

As Americans we have an often misplaced faith in the world around us.  For a country so determined to leave religion behind we take a great many things for granted.  We believe that bad things won’t happen to us.  After every hurricane we see people in Florida on the news programs who are amazed that their homes were just destroyed by a storm.  It happens every year and yet people are still surprised.  People in Southern California can’t believe it when an earthquake or mudslide devastates their town.  Meanwhile people still keep building houses on Florida beaches and California hill-sides.  We have built a huge and very fragile web of interconnected pieces that can come crashing down with the slightest ill wind and yet we are still surprised when it happens.

The Internet and cyberspace are no exceptions.  Everywhere we go, in the cyber-world or the real world, there are people who are willing and able to exploit some aspect of our lives for their own gain.  Be it money, sexual gratification, or just some twisted sense of superiority, some people will try anything to take advantage of others.  The anonymity of cyberspace makes it a particularly tempting target.  You can be whomever or whatever you want.  Wanna be a werewolf or an elf or your favorite anime cat-girl, there are places to do that online.  If you are ordinarily a shy and withdrawn person, the Internet is a place where you can be wild in the extreme.  Cyberspace is the last frontier and possibly the last bastion of freedom in America.  You can be a preacher, a teacher, or a writer using nothing but a network connection and your own ability to share information.  However, you can also be a racist, a pervert, or a thug and it is very difficult if not impossible for the consequences of those actions to come home to roost.

The Internet is often compared to the Old West in American History.  Civilization was a long time in coming to the western half of the country and people were obliged to fend for and defend for themselves.  Some thrive in this environment and become more than the sum of their parts.  Others see this as an opportunity to exert power over the people around them.  Everyone was expected to carry a gun and if you carried one you best know how to use it.  There were often no police or public services to depend on.  If you had no food you starved.  I will not be drawn into a discussion of survival of the fittest but suffice it to say that people were expected to be responsible for their own lives.

In our real world today, personal responsibility is a dirty word.  We trip over our own feet and fall down in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Do we brush ourselves off, laugh at our own clumsiness and get on with life or do we sue everyone from the owner of the parking lot to the construction company who paved it to the street light vendor who made their lights too bright?  Pedophiles, alcoholics, rapists, drug addicts…no one is too blame for their condition.  It is society, the school, the church, the police, the government,  SOMEBODY ELSE!  We are pampered and policed and politely herded through life like sheep until we go online.

Have you ever gotten an email from someone purporting to be an African banker, British Solicitor, or French Lottery Official?  They want you to contact them about an inordinately large sum of money that you have received.  They only need a bank account and routing number to deposit untold riches in your name.  You have received those emails.  I have received them.  Everyone you know, with an email address, has received them.  Guess what???  If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t keep sending them.  Has anyone ever created a Facebook or Twitter account in your name and then said mean and hurtful things to your friends while disguised as you?  It happens thousands of times a day, every day.  Girls from 9 to 90 (well maybe not that old but you get the idea) are being persuaded to post incriminating pictures of themselves to online suitors who promise faithfully that NO ONE will EVER see it but them.  Yeah Right!  And then they are amazed when those pictures show up at school or at their work place.  Are you beginning to see a pattern here??

I am not an advocate for Internet censorship but I DO promote responsibility for your own actions.  If it sounds too good to be true, it IS!!  If you are not 100% sure of something DON’T DO IT!  That is the first rule of the Internet.  What’s online is just that….public…online…out of your control.  If you absolutely MUST post naked pictures of yourself then expect them to be seen by everyone you know and many more people you don’t know.  If someone promises to send you a million dollars by electronic transfer to your account, don’t be surprised when your debit card is declined the next time you pull up to an ATM because there is no money in your account.  You wouldn’t give that information to some stranger on the street but you were more than happy to email it to someone from Nigeria just because they PROMISED they were on the level.  P.T. Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am beginning to think he underestimated. <to be continued tomorrow>

 

DIY Hovercraft Day 2: Do you have the Guts?? August 13, 2013

Posted by regan222 in build, Computer and Technology, DIY, General Ranting, hobby, hovercraft, Science and Technology, Sculpt.
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Why yes, thanks for asking, I DO have the guts. I salvaged an old toy class RC car and now I have a drive motor for the directional fan as well as a servo to swing that fan from side to side. They are already hooked up to a 27 MHz radio receiver and I also have a radio transmitter that talks to them. I have all the pieces in place to build my hovercraft. Now I just need to figure out exactly how to mount the servo, directional fan/motor, and batteries onto the chassis. Tomorrow I will work out those details and then take a moment to paint before I hook everything up.

Before

Yeah…I know it seems kind of a shame to take apart such a classic example of American er Japanese know-how.  But it only cost $9.00

 

after

And after some minor surgery we have a 7 volt motor, a servo, and a 27 MHz receiver along with various gears and bits to mount onto the hovercraft.

 

Remember to feel free to comment (constructively) as the project moves along.

DIY Remote Control Hovercraft August 12, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, DIY, hovercraft, Science and Technology.
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I became interesting in building a remote control vehicle when I purchased a remote control robot as an example tool for my high school robotics class.  (I teach Robotics and Automation among other things.)  I have a Netduino board available to use a control feature but I decided this time to salvage a few radio control toys to get the servos and receivers and remotes already built.  Radio Shack had a clearance on remote control cars and so I spent $20 and got four of them.

Step I: Design and Planning:  This is NOT my favorite phase.  I looked around the Internet for ideas to steal…er I mean…inspire me and came up with the following:
a.  The chassis should be constructed of Styrofoam.  It is relatively easy to work with (yeah right) and light-weight so it should not require a huge amount of power to achieve lift.  The chassis should be basically vehicle shaped.  I am not saying exactly WHAT vehicle it is shaped like but hey…its the first thing I ever sculpted so give me a break.  I glued 4 large pieces of Styrofoam (about 18″ x 24″) into a block and then used a combination of hot wire and serrated knife to sculpt the general shape.  I used an ordinary power sander to smooth things up a bit.  It could look better I know but I suspect this will work.

b. The lift motor should be a 5″ computer fan that I had laying around.  It is 6 volts and 380 mA and runs at about 2000 rpm.  I think it will provide enough lift to get the vehicle up and floating.

c. The skirt will be made of green garbage bags cut and hot glued into a relatively air holding skirt.  I have not begun this phase of construction yet and so it is open to debate.  (Anyone have any suggestions?)

d. The directional control will be provided by one or possibly two 7v DC hobby motors mounted on the steering servos of my salvaged remote control cars.  The DC motors provide the push and the servos listen to the remote and rotate the motors to provide steering.  The motors are not heavy and neither are the servos.  I should have plenty of power in the lift fan to support the chassis, motors, servos, receivers, skirt, and assorted wiring.  If not I can always find a bigger fan or motor to lift with.

Today I shaped the chassis and carved a place for the motor.  Pictures below are of what I have so far.  Please feel free to comment constructively (Telling me what a terrible sculptor I am is NOT constructive) and offer suggestions.

bottom view front view side

 

 

The Great Social Network Debate…or “Excuse Me but your hash tag is all over my twitter feed” August 11, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Religion, Science and Technology.
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I would like to change gears tonight. A debate is raging across the ecumenical landscape of America today. It has to do with the appropriateness of Social Media as a witness tool. The old-line traditionalist says “Twitter is of the Devil and has no place in church work. Anyone who uses it is doomed to spend eternity tweeting weather conditions from the pit of Archon.” On the other hand, the post-modern wire-head believes that Facebook is the only way to contact the lost and that most likely Jesus would have had a better reception for his Sermon on the Mount if James and John had run a live commentary podcast while it was being delivered. Who is right???
The Bible tells us that salvation comes by grace through faith but begs the question…
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
Without a contact of some kind there is small chance that someone would believe. Cognitive thought is based upon the framework of language. One may be emotionally lifted by a moving melody, or inspired by a beautiful landscape but in order to believe, we must have a template to hang our faith on. I would go so far as to say that without some frame of reference to hang the abstract construct of belief on, there could be no belief. Language provides the framework.

Christians have been using Social Media for many years and likely most did not realize it. Have you ever handed out a tract? A short presentation of the Gospel in some format that people can read and understand. How is this different from a Facebook post or tweet or blog entry? The only difference I can see is that a paper tract reaches only a few people at a time and most likely ends up taking up space in a landfill. A Facebook post or blog entry may reach thousands if it is shared and it requires no effort at all to create. Social Media does indeed have a place in evangelism.

However, and you knew there was a however, right…The impersonal nature of social media and its isolating factor can be a huge hindrance to the work of the Lord. We post spiritual missives and trite platitudes and never consider the human condition of our audience. Part of the power of the message we preach comes from relating our own personal experience. That’s why they call it witnessing. We are telling others what happened to us, what we saw or felt or experienced. This is the most powerful message we can bring. It is hard to be truly passionate about something second-hand. Social Media can take away the personal touch and passion that helps others know that what they are hearing is the truth. When we believe others can hear it in our voice and see it in our eyes. It gives the message credibility.

In short we must reach a balance when dealing with Social Media as a witness tool. It can spread the Gospel to many people at a time and it can inspire and uplift but it can never project the sincerity of a believer sharing his experience with the Lord. Every tool in a toolbox has a task. We must make sure we are using the right tool for the job and we should not judge others on their choice of tools. We are known by our fruit. The Lord’s word will never return void or empty. A word spoken for the defense of the faith is never wasted but neither should we cut ourselves off from the world. Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners. His message was always delivered in person. We can’t afford to let that aspect of ministry slip or we will be less than what we could be.

CSI workshop Thoughts August 9, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Educational Ranting, General Ranting, Science and Technology.
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Would this be useful?  I think some