|reid at your own discretion
||[Feb. 20th, 2009|03:42 pm]
|||||The Frenchmakers - Miracle||]|
These past few weeks have had some interesting events mixed in with the usual problem sets and coding projects.
Baptism & Religion
On Feb. 8, I went to a friend's baptism with my roommate Arthur. Arthur and I discuss religion and beliefs a lot, often when we're at dinner at the dining commons. We are both atheists, and generally consider ourselves logical thinkers. We had dinner that night with some of the more devout Christians who went to the baptism. A conclusion was reached that the religion involves confessions of faults, followed by a sense of all sins being forgiven by Jesus. This seems to take away a sense of responsibility for one's actions; the will of god absolves any who admit guilt? I find it a little disturbing how the religious groups on campus seem to prey on people. For instance, there have been times when Arthur and I see someone sitting alone at dinner, and an evangelist comes up to them, eventually asking about whether they have accepted god, read the bible, etc. It seems a little aggressive to me; even fraternities and clubs aren't so active in their assimilation.
I think it's interesting that people can take faith so far as to eliminate logical reasoning. From what I've experienced, the more religious people I've been with have very weak arguments for their blind faith, yet have very strong rhetorical defense based on sidestepping questions and challenges to their faith. What's also disturbing to me is that there are so many literalists who take mythology and lack the understanding to realize that the underlying meanings are the purpose of the story, and fail to realize that they are extraordinary constructions.
Religion is an outdated model of thought. It was made to fill philosophical gaps in early cultures' understanding of the world. These gaps are caused by the confusion surrounding questions such as "what happens when we die?", "why am i alive?", "why does life/the universe exists". I think the question of death arises because evolution brought humans a tendency to be curious, but the physical description can be explained perfectly with scientific physical models. For the other questions, I think it's interesting to notice that they are based on an assumption that there must be a reason for existence of the universe. Infants find comfort in the warmth of an elder, making sure the world is kept secure. That same comfort is sought in religion in the form of a higher being. I don't mean to offend anyone, but this is my analysis of the universe. I believe I'm entitled to it: I live in it. The kernel or inductive base case is the beginning of the universe, and everything else is just an inductive step following laws of physics and mathematics.
Beethoven & Music
My Beethoven class is opening my eyes to a new degree of depth in music. Beethoven created an image of an artist as a tortured individual peerless genius, that lingers today. I enjoy technical comparisons of his music with Mozart. Mozart is measured and follows typical rules of music perfectly, with structured precision. Beethoven introduces many motifs and produces music that has the organic nature of growing from a simple kernel into an unpredictable yet structured composition.
Tennis & Health
I've played about 11 hours of tennis since the beginning of the semester. I would be playing more, but the weather and my workload often impede the regularity of my recreation. I have been working out with weights more than in previous semesters, and it's been helping me last longer when I'm playing. It's probably most noticeable in my ability to keep good pace on my serves even after over an hour of play. I need to work on my footwork, which has gone downhill. I also need to work on seeing things before they happen, and planning out points. I also noticed that when I hit the ball earlier, I can get a lot more power; previously I was hitting the ball farther back relative to my torso, so I couldn't build up as much momentum for the contact point of my swing. I hope to improve as the weather allows me to play more.
Markers & Passive Reactions
I noticed in the past 4 years at Berkeley that people at the board, whether professors or graduate students, seem to fear throwing out old erasable markers. People complain when they uncap a marker, begin to write, only to have the ink barely visible on the whiteboard. Then they recap it and put it back. Why don't they throw it away? The worst is when it's a really smart professor who keeps using the same pen each lecture that he puts back again and again...
I see the potential of people as a limited resource. When you are a baby, you have limitless potential; you can eat only healthy food, learn everything as quickly as humanly possible, and live a long and productive life. Imagine a gigantic pristine block of marble. This is your potential when you are born. Then you sculpt your future out; mistakes are bad breaks in the stone, and it is difficult to change your end result once you have gone far in a particular direction. You don't get a second chance, and if you want something truly spectacular you might have to risk chiseling into fragile parts of your potential.
End of the World
The human race is ruining its potential. I think the idealistic intertia of society has already cursed us to an eventual dystopia of rising tides and tinted air. Carbon emissions are known to be a threat to existence, but our addiction is too great for any change to take place.
Oh, and the economy sucks too.
Cosby & San Francisco Symphony
Over Valentine's Day weekend, I went to Bill Cosby performing at the Paramount Theater in Oakland and the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall in SF. Both performances had audiences largely dominated by relatively elder crowds.
My brother bought tickets for the whole family to see Bill Cosby, and on Saturday we jumped in the Pilot to get our laugh on in Oakland. He started off slow, but once he seemed to get into a rhythm he was very funny. He seemed very comfortable in front of such a huge crowd, and talked insightfully about a variety of life topics. Afterwards, we headed to Fenton's Creamery for some great ice cream and chili cheese fries.
On Sunday I went over to Stanford to meet Doreen in her red PT Cruiser. She drove us up to SF and we watched the SF Symphony perform Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Stravinsky's Symphony in C, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. The trip stemmed from Doreen's desire to see the percussion perform the Scheherazade piece. To get the best view, we got cheaper seats directly behind the symphony in a sort of balcony, facing the conductor. I had never been in such a position, but the sound was amazing, and we could see the conductor head-on. I strongly desire to go back to hear more of the SF Symphony; the entire performance was excellent, from individual solos to the balance of the entire symphony. Going back to mp3 recordings of music played from mere speakers seems unfair to the composers and musicians who perform them. It was a strong reminder that there is no way to capture the range and acoustics of being in a hall with talented musicians.
To close, I shall include some of my animations from my CS184 - Graphics class: