Archive for June, 2005


June 29th, 2005 No comments

Mr. Franklin Jennings, noting my admiration for the Curley’s pantry and my desire to build my own bookcases, has graciously offered his advice:

If you have a drill, and a steady hand, adjustable shelves are the way to go.

Cut two sides from 12″x1″ pine or other wood of your choice. Place a 1″x1″ cleat at the bottom of each, flush. Place same cleats at top, inset from the top by the actual width of your 12″x1″ (about 3/4″, but measure your wood to be certain.

Drill two series of holes down each side piece, to accommodate dowels which will support shelves.

Assemble top and bottom to sides. Attach 1/4″ plywood to back, which greatly stabilizes the box. Cut shelves and install with the dowels.

You’re a smart guy. Examine an adjustable bookshelf at Wally-world and you’ll see exactly what I am describing.

Good luck to you!

Thank you!

What’s funny (and kind of sad) is that I am quite familiar with the Wally-world adjustable bookshelves, through long association with Sauder furniture (as both a customer and as a former employee).

The points that have been stumping me have been (a) how to do the corner joinery simply? and (b) is a fixed shelf in the middle necessary for stiffness? All of the units I’ve seen have at least one fixed shelf. But, they use 1/8″ or thinner paperboard for the shelf backing, not 1/4″ plywood as you recommend. So, the plywood adds sufficient stiffness to make a fixed shelf unneccessary?

Not to mention the twin devils of (a) time! and (b) my practical skill levels being more like Maclin Horton’s than Will Hutton’s.

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Burning In Those Particular Neural Pathways

June 25th, 2005 No comments

[Hat Tip: Clayton Cramer]

Current scientific research is showing that first-person shooter games do generate specific alterations of the brain’s activity:

“This is not just a game,” German scientist Klaus Mathiak concludes in a new study of the brains of video game players.

The University of Tubingen neuroscientist analysed the brains of men aged 18 to 26 who are avid players of “first-person shooter” games. These are the most popular game category for young men: The players assumes the role of a character in a violent world, seeing his surroundings through that character’s eyes, and blasting away at all the bad guys who try to kill him.

As each player entered a dangerous parts of the game, his brain “lit up” with activity in a brain area associated with aggression, called the dorsal portion of the anterior cingulate cortex.

This high level of activity shows the players has a feeling of reality and “being there,” says a summary of the research by the University of Southern California, which worked with the German team.

But as the fighting actually began, there was a drop in activity in another part of the brain — the amygdala.

This is an emotion centre, where a person feels empathy with others, among other things.

Mr. Mathiak’s conclusion: It’s possible that reinforcing the circuits the brain uses to respond to a crisis with aggression, even violence, may prime the brain to act the same way in real life. [emphasis mine] After all, to the brain the video game itself seems to be real.

As well, the brain becomes accustomed to switching off — or at least dulling — feelings of empathy for others.

Past studies of young men who love these games have found higher levels of aggression, but haven’t come up with a direct cause-and-effect explanation for it.

I wrote about this on Slashdot back in 1999:

I suppose it’s too much to ask Jon Katz and the /. readership to actually consider the idea that Doom, Quake, etc. might in reality desensitize people to violence and gore, and be dangerous to the psyche of folks who are already too close to the edge?

Boneheaded, fascistic responses by school administrators (probably lawyer-driven) do not exonorate anything. It’s not an either-or, zero-sum equation — it’s quite possible that school is hell, administrators are fascists and Doom and Quake help set those kids at Columbine off.

I fully expect to hear “But I play Quake, and so to my friends, and we’re OK.” That may be true. But that makes about as much sense as arguing that alcoholism must not exist because you yourself are a moderate drinker.

Oh, well. Better to moan about clueless parents and administrators, get a thrill from reliving one’s own high-school angst, and feel noble by validating the the angst of current high-schoolers, than to actually reflect on one’s own life to see if anything should change on acount of this tragedy.

Do I want to see Internet censorship and banning of shooter games? No. But exactly what to you Doom/Quake players think you’re accomplishing by burning in those particular neural pathways?

File under “science gets around to confirming common sense.”

God have mercy.

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Amazing Conceits

June 11th, 2005 No comments

From Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationshiop with God by Dallas Willard (p. 106-107):

One of the most amazing conceits that creeps in from time to time into the Western branches of the church is the following attitude: “We are so much better now than in more primitive times that it is enough that we have a written Word of God without the kind of divine presence and interaction with humanity described in that written Word.” How obviously mistaken this is now at the turn of the millennium, as biblical truth and ideas serve less and less to guide the course of human events and as service to the old gods and goddesses of the pre-Christian world is explicitly reasserting itself in the highest levels of culture.

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"Why I can’t be Episcopalian"

June 10th, 2005 No comments

Bear with me, readers (both of you!), this is going to be a work in progress …

“Why I can’t be Episcopalian” — posted by Fr. Al Kimel as written by an anonymous Episcopalian. An excellent summary of what (a) many of us thought the ECUSA was, and (b) what it appears to in fact be today.

More later, hopefully, as I organize…

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Tagged with the Book Meme

June 8th, 2005 No comments

Dale has tagged me with the Book Meme, so here goes …

1. Total number of books I’ve owned.

Oy. I have no idea — I tend to count this in terms of “number of bookshelves required” or “number of boxes needed on moving day.” I keep purging, but there doesn’t seem to be much more room in the house.

A quick visual SWAG says about 2,000 downstairs, plus probably another 500-1,000 upstairs (this counts the kid’s library and homeschooling materials).

I’ve probably given away or sold almost this much previously, so let’s say a lifetime total of around 4,000 books.

I have said before that my Dances With Wolves name should be “Reads Too Much.”

2. Last book I bought.

My last book purchase was a career-related twofer, The Basics of FMEA and Building Embedded Linux Systems.

Due to space and time limits, I’ve learned to make good use of the library, so my bookbuying is well off the pace that it was at B(efore) C(hildren).

3. Last book I read.

Not Dies the Fire, but that’s because I’ve moved on while desperately awaiting publication of The Protector’s War. (Remember what I said about “Reads Too Much”?)

This is tough, because I tend to juggle a few at once. The last two books I completed are All Flesh Is Grass: The Pleasures and Promise of Pasture Farming and The Contrary Farmer’s Invitation to Gardening, both by Gene Logsdon. Other books I am currently working through are Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationshiop with God by Dallas Willard, Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character … in You and Your Kids! by Turansky and Miller, Is This Your Child’s World? How You Can Fix the Schools and Homes That Are Making Your Children Sick by Doris Rapp, and The Java Developer’s Guide to Eclipse by Shavor, et al.

Why yes, there was a reason I named this blog Eclectic Amateur

4. Five books that mean a lot to me.

Aside from the Bible, which gets to be at the top in a category of its own, here are some that come to mind:

  1. The Lord of the Rings. Read umpteen times in sixth grade and then some after that. It’s still one of my regrets that I haven’t learned to write in tengwar.
  2. The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. Heck, everything by C. S. Lewis.
  3. By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition by Mark Shea. Sorry, Mark — I don’t rate you quite up there with Professors Tolkien and Lewis. But, this little book was very helpful to me in articulating my view on sola scriptura, which of course has had other ripple effects …
  4. The Imitation of Christ. I would be a much better person if I reread this more often.
  5. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry.
  6. Anything by G. K. Chesterton.

OK, so that’s more than five. 🙂

5. Next!

Hey Bubbles, you there?

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