The Telling

The Telling, by Ursula K. LeGuin is the story of an earth woman, Sutty, who is sent as an observer to the world Aka by the galactic council called the Ekumen. Aka is world where a materialistic, atheistic, hierarchical culture has taken over and brutally suppressed the former “spiritual” communal culture. The bulk of the story deals with Sutty’s attempts to discover and, perhaps, help preserve that second culture.

I found the following passage interesting, as it expresses poetically what I have attempted to describe using concepts from artificial intelligence about the difference between animals and men; that animals are fixed goal creatures while man, having no fixed goal, creates his own goals. LeGuin writes:

"As they struggled to understand each other, Uming Ottiar showed a bitterness, almost the first Sutty had met with among these soft-voiced teachers. Despite his impediment he was a fluent talker, and he got going, mildly enough at first: “Animals have no language. They have their nature. You see? They know the way, they know where to go and how to go, following their nature. But we’re animals with no nature. Eh? Animals with no nature! That’s strange! We’re so strange! We have to talk about how to go and what to do, think about it, study it, learn it. Eh? We’re born to be reasonable, so we’re born ignorant. You see? If nobody teaches us the words, the thoughts, we stay ignorant. If nobody shows a little child, two, three years old, how to look for the way, the signs of the path, the landmarks, then it gets lost on the mountain, doesn’t it? And dies in the night, in the cold. So. So.” He rocked his body a little." (pg. 143-144).

I have to assign this book to second tier status; while it was a moderately enjoyable read, it isn’t “
The Left Hand of Darkness” or “A Wizard of Earthsea”.


Wives, Submit!

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. -- Col 3:18, NRSV

There is a great deal of controversy over, criticism of, and animosity toward this Bible verse.

I don’t think this passage would have received the same response if St. Paul had written, “Privates, be subject to your Sergeants” or “Journalists, be subject to your editors.” We understand that in organizations some form of hierarchy is needed in order to advance the goals of the organization. Someone has to set direction and deploy resources among groups that might not always be in agreement. And, certainly, marriage is an organization, even if just an organization of two.

If hierarchy isn’t the problem, then perhaps it’s gender specific roles. Someone shouldn’t be assigned a role simply because of their sex. Surely the rule ought to be “the best person for the job.” Of course, this begs the question, “what is the job and what constitutes best”? As just one example, women are typically concerned with security, while men are often risk takers. What is the optimum balance of the two in a marriage? I won’t pretend to know the answer. I will, however, opine that it’s my experience that if fathers want happy, well-adjusted sons that they will have to loosen the wife’s apron strings on the boys.

Yet when St. Paul dictated this letter to his amanuensis, I don’t think he was giving consideration to these or similar factors. Instead, I think he based his admonition based on Genesis 3:16 [NRSV]:

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

That mankind fell in Eden is one of the central doctrines of Christianity. And while Jesus came to redeem not just man, but all of creation from the Fall, that redemption is not yet complete. I think Paul is saying, in part, to not run ahead of God’s redemptive timing.

I also find it interesting that the other consequence of the Fall for women was pain in childbirth. Today we use a number of techniques such as breathing exercises or modern medicine to lessen labor pain. In a similar vein, I think that Paul realized that love would ease the pain of the marriage hierarchy because he immediately commands husbands to love their wives.

We all know of hierarchies run by selfish individuals. The CEO’s who line their pockets at the expense of their workers; the workers who negotiate their benefits at the expense of future workers; the managers who expand their empires solely for the sake of status or supposed job security; the husbands who are tyrants to their wives. The litany of the evils of selfishness is endless.

In the end, perhaps that’s one reason why this passage is so disliked. Selfish people do not do well in hierarchies unless they are at the top, or can force the top to do their bidding. But that is not how relationships based on love are supposed to be.

TSA Images

The controversy over the images taken by the TSA is increasing:
  • The TSA says that the scanners cannot save the images yet Gizmodo shows 100 images from 35,000 illegally saved images from a courthouse in Orlando, Florida.
  • Scientists are speaking out about the supposed safety of the devices, for example, this letter from four faculty members of the University of California at San Francisco.
  • The threat of a $10,000 civil suit against a man who refused scanning then told a TSA agent that he would file a sexual assault case were the agent to touch his “junk," was told to leave the airport by TSA agents and then, after receiving a ticket refund from American Airlines, was threatened with a lawsuit by another TSA agent.
  • One Florida airport is opting out of using the TSA to screen passengers.
Markku, a member of the “Dread Ilk” over at Vox Popoli (warning: possibly NSFW images), took the left image from this Gizmodo article and performed some simple image manipulation operations. He writes:
What I did was, I created a grayscale image of it in GIMP. I applied selective gaussian blur (I don't remember what exact values.) I removed the necklace, the watch and the objects at the belt by using clone brush tool. Then I used this tutorial to apply it as a height map to a grid with resolution 400*400, and scaled the height and the depth dimensions to what looked correct.

Looking at the model from the side, I selected the lowest vertices with rectangle select and deleted them. Then came the artistic part (in addition to the removal of the objects, but if the person has none, this is not a problem), which is hard but not impossible to do as an algorithm: I smoothed the roughness in sculpt mode, until I was satisfied with the model. I placed a blueish hemisphere light over the model, and a white, omnidirectional light in the direction where the sun would be. I colored the material to skin color and lowered specularity to almost none.

Had I used more time, I could have made the skin look much more realistic. This was just a proof of concept. And when you have made a realistic skin texture once, you could apply it to any model without extra effort.

He then added:
Still far from photorealism, but won't leave many secrets about your body unrevealed, either. Plus, increase radiation resolution, and you could almost certainly reconstruct even the face.

Note: I modified the
source image in Photoshop by cropping and resizing to better match Markku’s result.


Moon over Yonah Mountain

Becky and I had planned to visit Johnny in Illinois this weekend for an early Thanksgiving. However, after scheduling time off from work, we found that no hotels were available in Champaign-Urbana. Something about a home game and “Dad’s Weekend”. So Becky decided to visit Helen, Georgia on Friday, instead.

We began the day by stopping by LifeWay Christian Stores in Buford. Becky wanted to pick up a Veggie Tales DVD for the church library. LifeWay was giving away a one volume edition of
The Chronicles of Narnia. The only problem is that it’s a “heretical” version: the stories are presented in chronological order instead of publication order, so “The Magician’s Nephew” is in the first instead of sixth position. Still, it was free and my seven volume set is somewhat dogeared.

We drove to Helen and ate lunch at North Georgia Bar-B-Q. The pulled pork and sauces were very good but the beans and stew were average at best. All seating is outdoors.


We spent some time at the
Helen Arts and Heritage Center as part of the 2010 Arts Tour. We watched pottery being made and spent some time with a wool spinner. This sea serpent caught my eye and I took a picture since my daughter likes dragons. Sea serpents are related to dragons, aren’t they?


We went to Raven’s Cliff Falls and hiked somewhat over half of the trail. We weren’t able to cover the full five miles as we arrived too late in the afternoon and we wanted to be back to the car well before sunset. On the way back to Helen we stopped at an overlook to take some pictures of Mount Yonah.