Skywhale

The grey clouds washed above her head producing the lightest hints of rain.
She laid back into the cold earth to take fill of the pour.
The articles of clothing soon became as one with the water that fell.
Darker were the shades of colour that enveloped her.
Her mouth slides open and tongue extended; tasting the freshly made earthen tears.
The battered song of exhalement made real by the mist.
Too full did her mouth become and yet close it she did not.
The water overflowed and fell down her cheeks.
Staring into the grey ocean before her, traveling through the liquid stars;
Tensed muscles relaxed and broken dam let water flow.
Into her lungs did water replace air.
A gasp or two for the oil of life did she try for by reflex.
Settle yourself, she said, as the life water returns you to whence you came.
Tides receded and waves came no more.
Into the sea she went as she intended to from the start.
Swimming upward through a rush of canopy and light.
A momentary release of gravity revealed the weightlessness of the world above.
To her eyes were painted a most sensuous landscape.
Hills of vapor concealing rays of effervescent light.
Dancing aloft the gales were the trails of cloud.
At one point she thought she could touch them, eat them.
One reminded her of a shoe. The other of a train.
Another looked like a cat. Yet another looked like a brain.
She waited until the stars shone brightly through the thick of the night.
Their all too dim glimmer reminded her of their height.
Arranged in a way that made puzzlers go mad,
Diagramming them all made her feel far too sad.
Nay, she said, this is the one who should have feet!
And this is the one who shall sit a kings seat!
Lives of their own did she start to create
Leaving not a one subject to debate
These too became the friends of she
A skywhale for all eternity is what was meant to be
For time and time again was this all there was
Friends who had not met but were already spoken for
As happy as she tried to make the situation
Inside baked a swell, a yearning, for more
Fly higher, she cried, I want to go higher.
Higher into the sea of black; so that I may see the friends of old
Preparation, she said, prepare for the journey ahead
Foodstuffs and drinks did she not need
Not for that of a skywhale like her
But to grow again wings of a creature not yet imagined
And sprout them she did
And grow again the lungs of a creature not yet imagined
And grow them she did
And grow again the teeth of a creature not yet imagined
And grow them she did
Away sailed she, the skywhale of old
Off to a new sea of old friends
When arrived she was not as prepared as she thought
To distance she was baffled
To constitution she was awed
To time she was ignorant
But forward on did she sail
Eventually she met a friend from some years ago – the king
How are you king? It’s finally good to meet you!
As I am to you skywhale. Tell me why have you come?
What do you mean why? A face to a name do I seek!
A voice to an imagination must I connect!
To those ends I understand, dearest skywhale.
Sadly, I have neither this face or voice to which you desperately seek.
Surely you jest for you speak to me now, intelligently too!
Aye, I do but not with the voice you expect and not from the person too
Why? What are you then?
The rain, skywhale. The water and the mist. The vapor and the cloud.
Complete the voice, skywhale. Complete the person. Complete the king.
Eat of the stars did she, one after another, as commanded.
Some tasted like berries, others like melon.
All but the last star in the sky had been consumed
To which she looked on with distress, unable to eat another morsel
Why hesitate? asked king, why stop now?
I can’t, said she, there’s no more room
In where?
In me
In your stomach?
Yes
It doesn’t exist
Then why do I feel full?
Because you really are, or at least almost are
I’ll get sick
Nourishment can’t make one ill
There won’t be anything left!
That’s not true; move forward and take of the last bite
And bite she finally did against all rejecting reflexes
When at last, she opened her eyes.
Of air did her lungs fill once more
To expel the weight of the skywhale
Out came the water, out came the stars,
out came the crown of a king from afar
A shadow loomed above in the shape of a ship
One with the wings of a bird
Standing again, with her own two feet, she rose to the occasion
Waving her hands to signal it down, the time had finally come
The one hand greeted her saviours, the other clinched a blade

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Becoming Atheist

Some nights ago, at the time of writing, I was involved in a conversation in which the topic of religion came up. These days when I’m involved in such conversations the other participants typically recoil in shock, horror or disbelief regarding my views and rationale. However in a rather interesting turn I was given the question of “When did you know that you were an atheist?” to which is a point that I would like to elaborate on a bit further than the confines of that conversation.

Reflecting on the past, I can say with certainty that I was one of the fortunate few handful of children who grew up not having to suffer the indoctrination of the inherited subscription domain or having to be subject to the rather overt and horrifying recitations of scripture from either the aforementioned or any other subscription domain. Despite the fact that my mother, who descended from a largely Christian-based family, was evidently agnostic, she was far more pragmatic in the sense that she found it more reasonably sane to permit me to come to terms with these things in my own way. On that account it should be said that no one rational person could or should criticise her since the alternative would be reprehensible in the context of humanism. The interesting result of that though was that until the age of twenty, any thoughts I had regarding these matters essentially culminated in a vacuum i.e. there were no direct external influences on the thought processes. It wasn’t until then that any considerable effort was put into research and study of this.

Digressing, there is no way I could ever claim that I was spiritual or religious in any sense as a teen and young adult with that type of flexibility permitted. Interestingly enough, when I elected to start attending a local church every Sunday and then to take it to the lengths of participating in a Bible Study programme on Wednesday evenings when school was rearing its head the following morning (this went on for a year), there was never any blowback from my family for that. My grandmother may have been mildly pleased to see this but part of me thinks that she subconsciously believed that I was passively Christian and never addressed the issue with me. Even during that time, there was no epiphanous moment where all teachings, be they either direct (dogmatic, if you like) or translated via lateral interpretations, momentously forked my life onto the path of permanent subjugation and blind humility. In fact it was quite the opposite as it did little more than fuel the fire for questioning everything. Regardless, it never pushed me consciously to the point where the true realisation of my thoughts came to fruition.

Potentially ironically, for readers who are of the religious vantage point, and I should think it may be a fair portion of all available ones to choose from (religions and not readers), the climactic point was when my mother died.

To illustrate the backdrop to this a little more clearly, my mother was a recovering heroin addict. To this day the exact cause of her death can be associated with one of two possibilities: strictly an overdose due to relapse or an adverse reaction between medication she had been taking at the time and the relapse (the relapse was the constant). At the time of her death, she was a 39-year old single mother of three who had given up everything she had to raise her children to the best of her ability and also to take care of her mother who had fallen victim to emphysema and a myriad of ridiculously prolonged coalescing systemic failures, both physically and mentally, and clearly had battled with personal issues herself. During the funeral service, my grandmother was sitting forefront with the casket in plain sight bawling more than one would think possible for any person capable of doing so. As the pastor crossed her way, she agonisingly mustered the will, in between all of the tattered breathing and incoherent slewing of words it caused, to ask him verbatim: “Why did God take her? Why didn’t he take me instead?” In as cool, calm and collected a fashion as one can respond, without the slightest hint of hesitation that would indicate a momentary doubt in self-assurance, with all the conviction he could pour into a single statement, he knelt down to meet her gaze and looked her directly in the eyes and uttered the words “Because God decided it was time to call her back.”

Note that going forward, I’ll be referring to “God” in lieu of generalisations that I’ve used to this point.

Possibly because of the situation at the time, all I could feel was rage and anger toward this man. If any lines of condolence are to be offered, even for those within the context of the subscription, rationale like that is really the least kind and efficacious thing to say. What I had come to realise not long after though was that the man himself was not to be held accountable for such grievance, instead the principle of the religion to which he subscribed to deserved the vitriol. However there were several other things that became overtly apparent to me after her death that are detailed in following.

Right from the start, it should be obvious to any reader, I would hope, that arguing over the source of the reason he had given to her is essentially moot. Debate can be carried on over if this was the intent of God or not or if the recited line came from the scripture in either a literal or lateral interpretation, the former more plausible, but it ultimately deters from what really happened there and is largely irrelevant. Why? Consider the possibility of the situation whereby this man who uttered this line to her had been either (A) a man who subscribed to a different religion or (B) a man subscribed to no religion at all. It’s very plausible that had my grandmother asked this A or B man the same question, his response arguably would have been different in the sense that it may have lacked confinement within the context of religion or could have been more empathic. While it is also possible to suggest that the man as he were was simply caught in the moment and incapable of coming up with anything remotely sound at the time of being asked, keep in mind that he responded back to her without the slightest hint of hesitation. He was well prepared for that which speaks more toward his well-groundedness in the doctrines of his faith, and possibly even to an extent a resultant detachment from the human condition, than in the well-being of his fellow persons. Which, again, is not his fault explicitly.

Instead if you look at the phrase itself and think about its implications through invocation, things start to get a fair bit muddy. By any clear perspective it implies that even though God created all things, it is perfectly content with violating its own rules, ad arbitrium, regardless of the collateral cost. The key focus here is on two points: violating its own rules and disregard for collateral cost where both are very obvious violations of the ad nauseam human-centric agenda it is purported to exhibit. Projecting this onto the situation at hand, you then should be able to rationalise the statement as to mean that God cares about my mother and so decided, executively, that she had to die to come back to Heaven. Bear in mind here that her behaviour clearly didn’t warrant this type of reward if weighed against the faith but according to this emissary that’s certainly where she’s at. But God is also supposed to care about my grandmother who was forced to sit and stare at her daughter’s corpse and be told that she simply was instructed to return from whence she came. That then implies that God’s care is revealed to her in the form of anguish, misery and further declining health and this is supposed to forge her into a stronger person because of it? God is supposed to care about her three children in a similar fashion? It should be a clear cut case that provides evidence for the following statements:

  • God is immoral
  • God is one of the worst introverts ever conceived
  • God’s behaviour is more akin to that of a prepubescent child
  • God is incapable of being a solution, or shim solution, for the question of death as it pertains to living persons

Having read that, please take care to understand that I understand wholly that the summation of my rationale here has been well beaten and run through the philosophical ringer on more occasions than I even care to count. However as a moral agent it is absolutely impossible for myself to either outright or conditionally grant impunity to this God, as it were, simply on account of any of its other supposed omniscient, omnipotent or whatever other meta-man qualities it is purported to have. Any other of my fellow moral agents would be remiss to not see this instance for what it is and put to it the same scrutiny that we would to any other construct of our fellows on this planet.

I also want to take heed to mention that the idea of apostatizing had never occurred to me. Mostly because I wasn’t a subscriber to begin with but when I use that word here it’s to coyly describe the idea that I look for answers outside of the God that was invoked here, which the act alone seemed ludicrous when the answers were essentially obvious. What difference would it have made if by chance some other God had answers that this one couldn’t provide? If another had a different cosmic plan or a different set of ideas about our providence regarding the afterlife or how we get there or how we’re supposed to behave toward each other or in the name of (the agony), the fundamental flaws would always be the same and, by nature, derivative. The rather disgusting paradox where multiple religions exist proves, well enough I should think, that not only are deities/Gods constructs resultant of ourselves but also that they can provide no answers for any questions which we ourselves are incapable of answering by any functional means. While many have tried to capture the essence of “the answer for both life and the afterlife,” no one person, be they, humourously, either simply men or Gods, has been able to provide an account sufficient enough to subjugate our minds completely to. Actually, the phrase “the answer for both life and the afterlife” presupposes that there was a question to begin with.

The rest, as they say, is history. I could further present arguments to debate the existence of such a being or the implications of religion as a whole on our society but I wanted this essay strictly to be a brief account on the foundation for my religious divorce since most people ask.

Quote from Christopher Hitchens

An excerpt from his book Arguably: Essays from the first essay titled Gods of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenment which was a review of the book Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen:

“In 1821 Thomas Jefferson wrote of his hope “that the human mind will some day [sic] get back to the freedom it enjoyed 2000 years ago. This country, which has given the world an example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also.” I think that Allen is not wrong in comparing this to the finest passages in Edward Gibbon. She causes us to catch our breath at the thought that, at the birth of the United States, there were men determined to connect it to a philosophical wisdom that pre-dated the triumph of monotheism. It is the only reason for entertaining the belief that America was ever blessed by “Providence” – as Roger Williams named his open-minded settlement in Rhode Island, a refuge from the tyranny of Pilgrims and Puritans.”

A lot of people like to forget that these Founding Fathers ideally strove for a secularist society. One in which we’ve severely strayed so far away from.

Clicky Game – Development Journal 0001

Because I have no life, and because I really suck at having good ideas, the concept of Clicky Game was born.

Now ordinarily I wouldn’t bat two shits at this thing after having written something like that, but I wanted to use this as an opportunity to really dig deep back into C++ and use some of the features in C++11. I just want an excuse to use lambdas liberally. 🙂

I’m doing a few interesting things with this project. First of all, I’m writing it in Visual Studio. Yes, I know, blasphemy. The reason for this though is because my new job throws me into a DevOps-type position where I’m going to have to be writing code for integration into an ERP Package we use. Unfortunately they only provide an API in C# and since we’re a majority Microsoft Shop, I need a MSVS Primer. This would be it.

Sticking with the badassery that is MSVS, I’m trying out Team Foundation Server for VCS. This is drastically different from my traditional use of Git. So far, I hate it. It’s OVERKILL for a single dev such that it’s almost not quite suitable for a single dev. But we’re going to stick with it.

So far, I’ve had two solid days of coding (about 12 hours a day) and I’ve gotten into this interesting area where I’m very heavily extending the SFML Framework that I’m using for the major library. It’s actually a really good library. It’s just missing a lot of things that I need. For example, there is no native construct for handling 2D animation. I find this to be a little odd since it’s primarily a 2D library. But that’s sort of cool since it lets your roll your own implementation. It also doesn’t have any native constructs for UI. This leaves me in a bit of a predicament since there’s no real solid UI library that integrates with SFML (guichan is strictly for SDL/Allegro) so now my current task has been to create a bit of a library that does this.

Doing all of this seemingly extra work is actually pretty cool since I’m able to use modern coding features like named lambdas for event handling (by use of std::function wrapper for class member). As another challenge, all allocations are dynamic keeping as little overhead on the stack as possible. So far, this seems to have a tremendous performance benefit but, as you could imagine, it’s requiring A LOT of double checking for things like new/delete pairing, reference/dereference members for appropriate address/value access syntax, test assertions on members prior to use in expressions even in places where it may be safe to assume that the memory should be successfully allocated and the respective member instantiated, thread safety, cross-member asset access, etc… A lot of really interesting technical hurdles.

I think I’m going to do a little bit of a piece on this for the next installment of “Something with Greg” which is shaping up to be the programmer episode.

“Something with Greg” Is a Thing

I decided to keep going with my bi-weekly discussions and title them “Something with Greg.”

The first one will always be available on SoundCloud but starting with the one I released on Monday, the episodes are hosted via Libsyn. Right now I have federation on Pocket Casts and, as of today, I’m excited to say that I’m now on iTunes. All you have to do is search for “Something with Greg” on either app and you’ll be able to find the installments there.

My goal with this is to have nerdy conversations either with myself or with anyone else who wants to have a chat. I’m working on getting a guest for the next one but if anyone wants to have a conversation, please let me know and we’ll see if we can get something going!

You can get to SWG on iTunes here.

Extra Goodies to my Latest Something

I wanted to add some follow up information to my latest “Something” that I posted on SoundCloud last night. You can listen to it here.

One of the things that I talked about in some detail was having to resolder a DB-25 Male to DB-9 Female Null Modem cable. The actual process wasn’t stressful or anything but it was very time consuming due mostly to the constraints of the problem domain. I wanted to share a photo of the “Mad Scientist” desk that this turned into. I need to get better tools for doing this stuff. 🙂

Resoldering a RS-232-C DB-25 Male Connection
Resoldering a RS-232-C DB-25 Male Connection

I’m still looking into the digital signage programs for the Raspberry Pi. I’ll have some time today to dig into this. Of course I’ll be playing some video games tonight or watching anime so I need to balance that time out.

Projekt Vagabond Isn’t Dead. I Swear.

I’m starting to get back to a point where I can start working on this thing again and it’s like flipping through a kindergarten yearbook. Every now and then I’ll find something that makes me think I had a stroke of genius. Other times it’s like seeing a photo of that one kid you hated more than bees. Like you’d prefer taking nails hammered into your ears than listen to that twat for a single second more than you had to.

Tonight I had more of the latter instead of the former.

This thing has taken several forms starting out as a PoC Bash Script that was around sometime shortly before Ohio Linux Fest 2014 to a full-blown 15,000+ line C++ program which would have worked but I didn’t realize how insanely asinine packaging software has to be (I don’t have that kind of time, especially these days). But then I had the bright idea to simply make a Vagrant Box (I was already using Vagrant in the backend for handling a lot of things) and just distribute that instead of all this rigmarole. Funny thing here is that there are still quite a few snags.

As I’m typing this, the box is uploading to a cloud store that I’ll make available to the public tomorrow. I ran into some problems during this process.

  • I wanted to be a somewhat normal person and upload the Box to Atlas, HashiCorps repository of Base Boxes. I thought that would have been a great way to make this available to people. But nope! I don’t know if there’s a size restriction on the Box size or what but it just wouldn’t take it. FYI – the Box is about 780MB in size. The goal here is that someone would have simply been able to issue “vagrant up gregfmartin/vagabond” and get the VM. Man that would have been nice…
  • Google pisses me off to no end these days. Tonight was no exception. It still blows my mind that I can’t update or configure an Android SDK Installation from the terminal without either (A) getting bitched at for some ridiculous reason or (B) having to press ‘yes’ to accept fifty licenses for these libraries instead of just being able to use an option that will opt-in to any license requests that would come up. The former makes it literally impossible to automate an installation. Some people on GitHub have described a work around for this but it’s really hacky and I’m a little concerned about the platform portability of solutions like those so I’m avoiding them like the flu.
  • This all lead to my idea of just making the Box and distributing the Box that I’ve manually tweaked. This has issues in and of itself in that (A) the bundled software is static unless the user wants to manually update or (B) wait for me to to update and republish an updated Box (which I REALLY don’t want to do if I’m being honest). This leads into supplementary tutorial material that will be on the project’s website.

In case anyone is wondering, the reason why the Box is so huge is because it contains a fully updated Ubuntu 14.02 64-bit base image, required prerequisite software to use the Android SDK and associate tools/IDE, the Android SDK installation with all 5.0.1 components as well as all Support Libraries that are compatible with Linux (important to note), and the recent version of IntelliJ Community Edition. So yeah, it’s a little fat. That’s the size it would be on your disk anyway.

Tomorrow I’ll get all of the stuff up on the website like documentation and how to do things with it and what you can expect by using it as well.

Something tells me I’m going to have to make some changes to this before too long. 🙂