The Bran Report

It's good for parts of you that you'd probably rather not think about.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The Tower

I don't have a religion, and there are a variety of words for people like me. Some are kind, some less so, but mostly they are attempts at technical terms so that we can have a jolly old debate over definitions.

As they go, I rather like "cognitivist" because it addresses what I think is the number one reason for having no religion: That you view the questions that religions purport to answer in the same way that you view questions like "Do whales sleep?" or "What are pulsars?". That is, that questions have answers that are either correct or incorrect, and that the default state of being is that no-one knows.

Being a Cognitivist isn't easy, because the way the majority of the world deal with religions just plumb makes no sense. For example, why does the overwhelming majority have the same religion as their parents? Children believe what their parents say, sure, but they don't have the capacity to really think about issues like death or conscioussness- that is, from this viewpoint, they can't have a religion. By the time they can, they should be forming their own opinion. And yet, the rest of the world seems happy to accept that Catholic parents have Catholic babies. It's a bit of a puzzle.

It's fairly clear that the epistemology we're using isn't the industry standard. Some atheists have tried to undeline this with parody religions. Not to stray too far from being polite, but some might say that this sort of thing is sometimes naturally occuring.

Not, of course, that Tom is of himself more baffling to my eyes than Benedict, but for some reason most people seem to think about religions quite differently if they were founded in the 20th rather than 2nd century. Again, this is not something that makes sense to us "thinkers and testers".

But failling to understand is no excuse for being rude, and I try to keep my discussions about religion very dry. That's one little nugget of my value system there. (It also seem to be a common idea that since religions can provide ethical value systems, if you don't have a religion then you don't have any morals. The analogy is the idea that pedestrians don't listen to the radio.)

Cognitivists are humans and so, of course, they have morals and values- it's just that they arrive at them on an individual basis. Still, one that's common is reacting to the callous horror of the world by saying "OK, let's make it better". Let's cure diseases, and plant gardens, and try to get along. Let's make a difference.

Genesis 11:
4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

Sadly, another common value is "We are different from those with religion, and we are their enemy". It's counterproductive, but there are times it's hard not to sympathise with Esau and Edom, or the men of Shinar. It makes no sense to set yourself up as someone's enemy. Besides, there are often enough issue to discuss anyway.

7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

Friday, September 15, 2006

iTunes 7.0

So iTunes 7.0 dropped last night. So far, my impressions are good. The way it now handles syncing with an iPod? Yeah, I like that. The "flip through the cover-art images like it's a stack of CDs" feature is kind of fun.

It also now downloads said artwork automatically from the iTunes store. I find this suprising, since the last two or three editions have been, as far as I can make out, code upgrades to stop third-party programs from downloading art through the iTunes store. Still, it's a welcome improvement. It'd be even more welcome if I hadn't dedicated a weekend to manually getting the art off Amazon a month ago.

There are things I don't like though:

  • Guys, do you really need to change the way it looks every time? I liked the blue-and-green thing.
  • The way this version handles iCal has re-fueled my desire to play with an application that is essentially useless. My geek genes don't care, I'm still going to spend days subscribing to calendars that alert me when the Minnessotta Vikings have a game.
  • The level of integration with the iTunes store is fun, but Digital Rights Management makes me feel like a god-damned criminal. DRM annoys honest people, and is seen as a challenge by pirates. It's like being carded trying to buy milk.

I will probably talk about DRM more at some future date, because I have extremely few concerns in my life.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oh man

Sorry, guys, I'm in a rush now. I was having this dream about storing my clothes and magazines in a hedgerow, and as a consequence I overslept by the eight minutes I normally allot to bloggin'. As such, I'm just going to brainstorm this one while I try to remember where I left my shoes.

  • Medical textbooks need to stop putting photographs on the cover. OK, you've written a book called "Explosive opthamology". I get it.
  • Relgiion, huh. What's up with that?
  • I need to stop buying my milk at the liquor store.
  • Yesterday, Bran was the only food I ate that didn't have "Mexican" in it's name.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And this is after I disabled two email accounts earlier this week

Good morning, email.
I love you too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Occupational Hazards

Being a bookminer is not without it's hazards. True, we're not up against the Black lung or fallin' in, but that doesn't mean that working in an airy regency building is any less arduous.

Consider, for example, Clamp thumb, the condition of having a ridiculously over-muscled thumb on account of handling books in a danger-will-robinson kind of fashion.

What I'm suffering from right now though, is Book Throat- an irritation arising from the fact that the air I breathe at work is enriched with the sloughed-off tinger-tip skin cells of a dozen generations of student scientists.

Fun thought for the day: Where does dust go when you brush it off shelves? It swirls around in the air, mostly, until you breathe it in. Don't worry though, because almost all of that will be caught in mucus or on the tonsils and swallowed reflexively.

Enjoy your breakfast, everyone! I'm off to move a few tons of the Journal of Geological Sciences.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


My box-room here in the tower is a mess. There are three chief reasons for this.

1) The size of a room determines how much mess there can reasonably be before you have to start shoving piles of stuff around in order to open doors or use the desk. In my case, this happens when I leave a tube of toothpaste by the sink basin thing.

2) Work. 35 hours in one week? Now, you all know I'm not prone to hyperbole, but no-one in the history of the world has ever worked half as hard as I do.

3) Wire coat-hangers. When I put them in there, they were neatly stacked in a small area of the wardrobe floor. A few days ago, I pulled one out and hundreds of others said "Hey, let's all go! We're already all tangled up, it'll be an adventure!"
Due to factor 2) I was suffering from a certain lack of creative thinking, so I solved this issue by shaking the tangled mass untill all but one had fallen in a heap. I honestly don't know how they cause so much trouble. You could explain their numbers and enthusiastic attacchment to each other by saying that they've been breeding in the dark of the cupbaord, but I reject that because a) it is shameful animism and b) it implies that my household furnishings have a more active lovelife than I do. And that's just depressing.