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Sunday, July 07, 2013
Rant: The Two Worst Things in the World - Part I: Religion
Posted: 9:52:00 PM 1 comments
I haven't done a good rant lately. I've had a lot of things going on in my life lately that I haven't had time to get angry at much of anything. Excepting idiot programmers, but that's been ongoing since I started my coding career.

However, there have been two recurring topics in the past few years that have eroded my patience to the point where I have to say something. And I have a lot to say. So much so that I am dividing this rant into two, and have titled it appropriately:

The Two Worst Things in the World.

Today, I will discuss what has become my least favorite thing. Ever.

Religion.

First, some background. I grew up pretty hardcore Roman Catholic in the small town of Eden, NY. For the longest time, my family attended church, and me and my siblings attended Sunday school and some vacation bible schools on some summers. I was an alter boy when I was young, and I even went as far to receive Confirmation, choosing the name of Mark in doing so. The problem was I never got the point of church. To be honest, I got more out of the whole Sunday school thing than I did sitting in Church. Priests droning on about something I didn't understand made no sense to me, so the bulk of what I learned about Christianity happened in the classroom, not the chapel.

This is where my confusion began. I had one school telling me that the universe was formed billions of years ago, and another telling me it was created by God. Certainly one had to be right and the other wrong, but I had no basis with which to make my decision. So, throughout school, I did not make one. I largely went through the motions, learning everything I could without making a decision.

It wasn't until after high school that I really received exposure to other religions. My boss at one of my early data entry jobs was a Muslim, and she didn't hide it from anyone. She wore some kind of exotic head dress that clearly identified her as being "some other religion". The biggest thing I remember is that it mattered to no one. There was no religious discrimination going on, no one upset that some Muslim was running the place. Of course, this was 1995, but still, the point here is that my first experience with people of other religions was that in the real world, it didn't matter what religion you were. Religion was a personal, private choice.

I quickly realized that there are many religions out there. Wikipedia lists 25 major religious groups with more than 30,000 people. Many of these religions conflict with one another, so everyone can't be right. Assuming one of these major religions is right, that gives each of them a 4% chance of being correct. More likely is, given the fact that humans are creative and have big imaginations, none of them are right. The problem is nobody knows a damn thing about the truth, but so many people claim to know that what they believe is the truth. And this is not counting all of the minor religions out there. Hell, a high school friend of mine INVENTED a religion.

Now, let's take the fact that we have these 25 major religions that conflict with one another. History is littered with so much religious violence that Wikipedia can't contain it all in one article. It's no surprise that the bigger the religion, the more space it gets in the article, not to mention that many of them have their own article to boot.

This is not saying that all religions are violent. In fact, Jainism is anything but.

However, think about this for a second. People KILL other people over this shit.

Religion makes good people do bad things.

Fast forward to today, and nothing is private anymore. With the advent of mobile devices and social media, things that once were private are now common knowledge. Unfortunately, this extends to religion. I can't tell you how many of my Facebook friends tout their religion on Facebook, when ten years ago I probably wouldn't have been wiser. Now that all of our beliefs are out there and public, well, guess what. 25 major religions that conflict with one another are at it again (still?), albeit on a much smaller scale. And with human nature the way it is, you have those that have to lecture, those that rebel, and those that just don't give a damn.

Well, put myself solidly in the third group. I've sworn off religion years ago because I've just seen it cause more harm than good. I've seen it wreck friendships and divide households. I've seen it blow up buildings. Sure, religion has done some amazing things, and I could spend hours citing them. However, in order to belong to a religion, 1) I'd have to believe something I probably don't believe, and 2) I'd be contributing to the animosity that happens when different people believe different things.

Life is too short for that. There are far more important things out there than having to worry about if I should believe there is a God or not, or what is morally right or wrong according to some scripture.

If there is a God (or Gods), hopefully He or She (or They) can judge me based on what I do with my life, and not on how many priests I've listened to drone on. And if not, well, I'll be glad that I decided not to waste my time.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013
On the move
Posted: 7:13:00 PM 0 comments
I know it's been a while since I've last posted something, and I apologize for that. My job leaves very little time for stuff like this, but I've been fairly motivated by recent events - namely my 12-year Internet service provider starting to really suck - to take inventory of the websites I run, and what I need to do with them.

So I came across this tweet today:



While the concept of winning an Aston Martin is appealing in its own right, what interested the geek in me was the fact that MSDN subscribers actually have free Windows Azure credits. Azure is basically a hosting service with a lot of bells and whistles. I checked and saw I get $100 per month credit, and started poking around to see what I can do. I've got a VM with Windows Server and SQL Server up, and am starting to look into experimenting with getting my pet project that has long since been ignored, Cheevos FTW!, up and running on Azure to see how much it'll cost, and how well it performs.

Well, then I got into the small problem that the database for Cheevos is pushing 200 GB. Yikes. I figure that since I have over 6 million characters logged with their achievements, I can afford to cut back some, but that'll still make for a fairly large database. So the plan is to split the database into two pieces. One piece would have the summary data - which runs under 1 MB - and would reside on Azure while the big piece would still be stored here. I'll periodically update the summary data on the server using some kind of API call that will update the database. Meanwhile, when a player enters their character name on Azure, it'll use the API to retrieve their data and compare it to the summary data and store who it loaded. Then I'll download that data back to the big database and crunch the summary numbers periodically. In theory, it sounds kind of smooth.

In practice, there's a lot I need to change about Cheevos to speed it up some, and hopefully this pass over it will give me the opportunity to get that site speedy again.

The next site to go over would most certainly be roncli.com, but that still has a LOT of work left on it before it's even ready for prime time. I've been flopping over whether to launch with just pages and the blog, or if I should wait until I have the music and gaming sections going as well. With the time I've been having lately, though, it's looking less likely that it'll be launched in a reasonable time frame, and by then I'll probably need to reboot the website all over again for a third time. Perhaps I need to just find a way to make time to work on all of this, but I don't see that happening in the near future.

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