Website Update Archive

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Putting This Blog in Perspective

PerspectiveI wanted to expand on something I wrote a few years ago in the entry, The Misleading Image of Bloggers. If you come and visit this blog and read my entries here, I think it would be very easy to get a misleading image of what I'm like in real life, and maybe even some misunderstanding over just how strongly I really feel about certain issues.

First of all are the topics I discuss here. I write an awful lot about religion and politics on this blog, as well as skepticism in general. Those are topics that interest me, but I know they're not topics that interest everybody, and even if they did, they're not necessarily polite topics for dinner conversation. Nobody wants to be that guy that's always starting a religious or political debate every time you hang out with them. Granted, I do like to discuss these things when they come up, but I usually wait for other people to bring them up. If you happened to meet up with me on a Friday night to go grab a beer, chances are that these topics wouldn't even come up. So, this blog gives me an opportunity to write about these issues without boring my friends.

Plus, it's not like I only think about religion and politics. Like I wrote in that older entry, "Nobody except my friends and family really cares what TV shows I've been watching, what I've been eating for supper every night, the chores I did around the house last weekend, the grades my daughter makes in school, how she did at her piano recital, or many of the other things I do or talk about on a daily basis." I write about certain topics because I do think there's an audience that will like reading about them. And even if it's not a huge audience, at least it's a bigger audience than just my wife and parents, who are just about the only people that would want to hear about all my mundane day to day experiences.

Second is how I feel about the 'opposition'. I criticize religion, creationism, conservative politics, climate change denialism, etc. And while I may at times call out certain individuals holding those positions, I don't mean to imply that all people holding those positions are bad people, nor necessarily even the specific individuals I'm calling out. All people have a multitude of views on a multitude of issues, and I seriously doubt that any one person is going to agree with me on everything. So, when I criticize creationism, for example, I'm specifically criticizing just that one belief. I don't think most creationists are bad people. I think they're just mistaken about that particular issue.*

Moreover, while I criticize religion a lot and think that on balance it does more harm than good (see the previous entry, Why Do I Spend So Much Time on Religion, for plenty of examples of the harm of religion, including fire bombings and persecuting children as witches, or a recent entry, Christian Privilege, showing the undue privilege religion receives in our culture), I don't think it's universally horrible in every aspect. Religiously motivated soup kitchens and homeless shelters do good in the world. Christmas bazaars and pot lucks can foster a sense of community. People who have had traumatic experiences can often find comfort in religious beliefs.

In addition, I hold people to different standards depending on the situation. I've already written about this in the entry, Run of the Mill vs. Big Name Creationists. Most people never had evolution presented to them well in high school biology, and don't have much reason to study it, now. As I wrote previously, "It's hard to get good and pissed off at someone who believes something and hasn't ever been shown a good reason not to believe it." But when someone like Ben Carson, a respected neurosurgeon, goes and gives a presentation to the public, or participates in public debates, then I do expect him to have done enough research to understand the issue and speak about it knowledgeably. And then there are the prominent creationists / creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis, or Kent Hovind, or Ray Comfort, who I know have been exposed to credible science, yet continue to spread their falsehoods. And even though I just used creationism for my example, that's not the only issue where I look at things this way. It applies to politics, science, and a whole bunch of other fields. I get much more upset with people who should know better but continue to spread misinformation.

In real life, I have friends of all types of religious and political persuasions. I have friends ranging from fundamentalist Christians to Muslims to agnostics and atheists, from young and old earth creationists to evolutionary biologists, from die hard Trump supporters to people who are far more liberal than me, from gun rights absolutists to people who would like to see more gun control (though no one I know of who would advocate outright bans). We get along because most of the things we do on a daily basis are talk about work, or vent about personal problems, or get together for a crawfish boil, or go out to happy hour, or help each other move, or, well, all the normal stuff everybody does.

So, if you're reading this blog, and you think I'm attacking you personally, please keep in mind that that's usually not my intent. I try for the most part to be civil and criticize ideas, positions, or policies. If I've crossed the line and written something offensive, then I apologize, and I would ask you to point it out to me so that I could address it in the future.

And keep in mind that this entire blog is only a small slice of my views - the ones I think people would be interested in reading. If you ever met me in real life, even if we disagree about these issues, there's still a very good chance we could get along just fine and find common ground in other areas.

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*As a side note on that, though, I'm not so naive and idealistic as to think that everybody is always acting honorably. I've written quite a bit about Ray Comfort on this blog over the years. I know he's been exposed to the science regarding evolution, but he repeats the same falsehoods year after year. And he still uses dishonest tactics like quote mining and selective editing to make documentaries. It gets harder and harder to believe that he's not knowingly using dishonest tactics.

Image Source: Return of Kings

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Website Update - Mexico Photos Online

When I posted my Bonaire Photos, I said that I had a few more vacations to catch up on. Well, I just finished up with the first one of those overdue trips:

Mexico 2015 Photos

We went down to the Yucatan peninsula for a week, to go snorkeling with whale sharks at Holbox Island, scuba diving in Cozumel, and to see Chichén Itzá while staying at Playa del Carmen. It was a great trip. Here's a sampling of just a few of the pictures. Follow that link to see them all, and in high resolution.

Mexico Photo 1
 
Mexico Photo 2
 
Mexico Photo 3
 
Mexico Photo 4

I am trying something a little different with the photo page this time, and may update the rest of my photo pages if I like the way it works out. Previously, I've used a JavaScript to automatically resize the photos if they were too big to fit in the browser window. It was in keeping with the liquid layout I'd always liked in the past. However, with the proliferation of smart phones and browsing on the small screen, that JavaScript interferes with the two fingered zooming so many people have become accustomed to. So, I'm trying a fixed layout this time. If you're browsing on a computer, your screen should be plenty big to view the photos. And if you're browsing on a smart phone, you should be able to zoom in or out without any issues.

Of course, I updated the Photos page to add a link to the Mexico photos. I've still got a few more trips to catch up on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for January 2017

Top 10 ListJanuary has come and gone, meaning it's time once again for me to look at the server logs to see which pages on this site have been the most popular.

There was one newcome to the list this time, Donald Trump Unfit to Be President - Vote for Hillary Clinton. If only it had been popular back in November when it could have made a difference. : ( I suspect it made the list in large part because of a Quora answer I recently wrote which became pretty popular (over 200k views so far), Why do Hillary supporters not understand why people would vote for Trump?. We'll see if my blog post stays popular once that Quora answer runs out of steam and quits getting so many views.

There was one entry that didn't make the list, but didn't miss by too much (it was in the top 20), and I'd like to call attention to it because I really like it a lot myself, Sketching Art Masterpieces from Memory. Inspired by a study on memory involving drawing bicycles, in an attempt to see how well we really remembered well known famous objects, a co-worker and I tried sketching art masterpieces from memory. We didn't do so well, but it was a fun activity, and one I'd recommend to everybody.

Top 10 for January 2017

  1. Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  2. Tank Game - QBasic Source Code
  3. Autogyro History & Theory
  4. Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  5. Donald Trump Unfit to Be President - Vote for Hillary Clinton
  6. Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  7. Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
  8. A Skeptical Look at Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
  9. Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?
  10. A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes

Website Update - Artwork Page

In the spirit of sprucing up that I mentioned last week, I've made a few changes to my Artwork page. Granted, it's far from the most popular page on my site, and I'm not a particularly great artist, but I figured I could at least improve the appearance of the page. Here's a link to the old version, if you're curious what it looked like before.

To give a taste of what you'll find there, here are three different images from that page. The first two are from two different series, so there are related images on the artwork page. The series used programs I wrote myself to generate the images (with some post processing in another program for the first one). The third is one of those 'Magic Eye' type stereograms. I discovered those way back in a contest in Games magazine, years before they became popular in mall kiosks. I was thrilled when my parents bought me a book that came with the software to make my own. Anyway, go visit the artwork page to see these pictures in higher resolution.

Artwork on jefflewis.net


Abstract Image

 
Circle Gradient Abstract Image

 
Mouse Head Stereogram

Friday, January 27, 2017

Website Update - Bonaire Photos Online

Let's end the week on a good note. I've finally gotten around to posting the photos from our last family vacation:

Bonaire 2016 Photos

I've decided to change the focus of my photo pages. Way back when I first started this site, there simply weren't anywhere near as many pictures available online. So, some of my photo pages actually turned out to be really popular because they were some of the only/best online photos available for certain locations (my French Polynesia Photos were especially popular). In turn, I tried to post photos that would be interesting to the public in general. But now, with travel sites, photo sites, Facebook, etc., photos are ubiquitous. Nobody's going to come to jefflewis.net in search of the best photos from Bonaire. So, I'm no longer worried about interesting the public in general, but rather friends and family who are the ones most likely to come looking at these pictures. Consequently, I've included a lot more pictures of us, not just the scenery.

Anyway, here's a sampling of just a few of the Bonaire photos. Follow that link above to see them all, and in high resolution.

Bonaire Photo 1
Bonaire Photo 2
Bonaire Photo 3
Bonaire Photo 4


Of course, I updated the Photos page to add a link to the Bonaire photos. While I was at it, I also snazzed up the Graphics menu page (it used to look like this).

Now I've just got to catch up with a few more vacations I've been meaning to make photo pages for.

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