Holidays, Everyday

23.36.09 - Mark

Holiday Star It seems like no matter how long the shopping season gets stretched out, the holidays themselves get shorter, and people loose all perspective of the world. It's worth remembering that every day of the year should be spent doing something neat. Make something, seek out a new experience, help someone, or just make a complete fool out of yourself to make someone smile. No matter your faith or beliefs life is pretty pointless if you go around hating it, yourself, or others.

Holiday Star - View Large (2816 x 2112)

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An Atheist Christmas

00.48.57 - Mark

My family (and the friends that may as well be) is a mix bag of Religions, from atheists and agnostics to Christians from several denominations and even a would be Jew, and that's just our affiliations - there is a religious tolerance and acceptance and true appreciation for varied faiths that goes much further than intellectual knowledge or passive acknowledgments. Most of us have studied more than one faith - my brothers and I were all brought up in a Methodist Church while attending a Catholic School - and we've all settled on something we believe.

So when Christmas comes around and some extremist "Christian" goes off on ignorant rants on the "True meaning of Christmas" and makes attempts at protecting the Christian faith (The overwhelming majority faith in the United States) by trampling less well represented faiths we have a tendency to step up and defend. I've been doing it a lot this season and there are scattered traces floating around this site.

It's not an easy conversation to keep a conversation and quickly degenerates into lies and misconceptions so deeply rooted it's impossible to correct, then more bigotry, and with an end result of those of a "faith" arguing that if non-Christians don't like Christmas then they shouldn't celebrate it or any other "holy days".

There's a sad commentary in that.

I, as an extremely secular person, have spent most of this evening with friends celebrating the holidays. I've wrapped gifts to put under a decorated Christmas Tree (one nicknamed our heathen tree, and another we're calling the Hanukkah Bush), we've decorated sugar cookies, listened to seasonal music from half a dozen versions of the 12 Days of Christmas to Weird Al's "The Night Santa Went Crazy", we were eating some good food and drank some egg nog. All in all it was a wonderful evening spent with friends and family. It's been true several other nights this week, such as last Monday when we visited a festival of lights in Winston Salem

Yet by some twisted version "Christian" logic, I and a couple others involved, should be barred from such festivities because we weren't Christian. You have to imagine that anyone who would deny other's a good time because of something as trivial as a difference in religious beliefs, must be pretty unsure of their own convictions.

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Life at 2x

23.38.48 - Mark

I feel like I'm trying to cram two weeks into one right now, and it's not because of the holidays.

We've got a family friend visiting for the week and the plan has been going around the area doing quasi-touristy things, and I'm the main host for a few days. Today the guest and I went out shooting photos in the Mountains more or less until the sun went down (and then some) and then the family unit plus friend went to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in the Winston Salem area, which while amazing, but it has taken up a large chunk of the day (~5 hours) and I'm typing this while waiting for some pasta to cook. The photography has the added side effect of adding more images and movies to my need to process and want to process queues (expect some new HDRs and Panos)

At the same time as all of this I've got a list of people I need to call for various reasons from tech support to photographs to web work. I though people were supposed to slow down and enjoy the holidays?

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More is less

23.28.50 - Mark

Cost of 10 replacement bulbs for a stand of lights : $.97 at Walmart ($.097 per light)
Cost of a strand of 20 lights (plus some extra replacement bulbs) : $1.23 ($.062 per light)
Cost of a strand of 50 lights (plus some extra replacement bulbs) : $2.00 ($.04 per light)

I went with the strand of 20 over the replacement bulbs and transplanted them into the old long strand I was fixing up, but it feels weird from a Maker / Fix it point of view. I'm supporting a culture of throw away goods and the replace it over repair mindset in order to fix something.

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God Hates Christmas Trees

10.11.49 - Mark

Today's fun Bible verse Jeremiah 10:2-4

(2)Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.(3)For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.(4)They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

In short, God hates Christmas trees. When you really look into it, it's amazing what made it into the Bible.

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Hunting for something

10.27.13 - Mark

Yesterday my family went Christmas tree hunting. It still feels too early to start celebrating Christmas, but my mom wanted to get the trees yesterday so we drove up to Santa's Delight Christmas Tree Forest in Virginia. The place lets you pick and cut (and drag) your own tree, and picking and cutting down our Christmas tree is an old family tradition going back farther than I can remember. The farm and Virginia is nested in between a few mountain peaks, and is really photogenic so I armed myself with my camera. I took a few good photos, mostly family, but towards the end of our hunting a colorful sunset started forming.

It's probably the mountains, but truly beautiful sunsets are rare in North Carolina, and I've yet to see one that really matches the sunsets we had in Iowa where dirt and debris provided deep rich sunsets. Last night in Virginia however, something was working right, so I turned on exposure bracketing and snapped a few series. I was hoping to get a short HDR panoramic series, but for some reason Canon doesn't allow exposure bracketing when shooting in manual so unless I can work some major photoshop magic I'm not getting a panoramic. I did however get a good single frame set, and after playing with it in photoshop for an hour, I've managed one rich HDR photo from the farm:

High Dynamic Range picture of a sunset over Santa's Delight Christmas Tree Farm in Carroll County, Virginia

Sunset over the Trees (View Large - 2793x2088)

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Mole Day

23.54.16 - Mark

I forgot that today was Mole Day, it's not quite as memorable as Pi Day, but more entertaining. The better science teachers in my life were probably igniting fireballs in the school parking lot about 18 hours ago. Much more amusing than watching the movie Pi

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Slow Moving Hordes

11.48.12 - Mark

Thanksgiving brings together large numbers of very slow moving people, and I can't easily blame it on the Turkey. Normally I'm lucky enough to not have to do any traveling around the holidays, but this year my brother needed to be picked up from Savannah, GA for winter break Wednesday morning, and while I can drive the required 12-14 hours in a day, it is not fun. While getting down there was easy enough, coming back Wednesday was insane. What was 6 hours going south suddenly became over 8 hours coming back thanks to some insane traffic patterns.

I'm not talking about a handful of idiots driving under the speed limit either. Every single time we hit a major city the interstate highways suddenly became Interstate parking lots. One segment around Charlotte was bumper to bumper traffic four lanes wide crawling along under 10MPH for 12 miles. (We did some rough math and guessed that was nearly 24,000 people stuck in northbound gridlock). Once it cleared, there was no sign of an accident, no speed traps or construction or bad road conditions. It just cleared up magically. And we had similar experiances in at least 4 other places (thankfully they were not 12 miles long). It wasn't uncommon to see car lights going to either horizon, miles and miles of cars waiting to move a few more inches before stopping again. I've seen traffic move faster on highways burried in several inches of snow and ice. Completly fucking insane.

Of course thats before Thansgivings. Today is the ultimate consumer holiday, Black Friday As a geek its up there with Halloween and Talk like a Pirate day as favorite holiday. Portable DVD players for $20, ubercheap desktops and laptops, nearly free after rebate optical media (black and otherwise) and dirt cheap disk drives. It's a great time to stock up on parts for a year, and one that I tend to take advantage of. Last year I got a late start, doing most of my work after 8 AM. This year I started just before 5 AM. The crowds were mindblowing. One big box store had a line for registers wrapping all of the main isles, and plenty of people packed in around the merchandise. At a Target store that opened at 6, I got into line at 6:08 and was walking in as a decent flow of people with carts overflowing with spoils were walking out. Fortunatly things were peaceful, otherwise you very easily could have seen fights over avalible shopping carts, let alone products.

While it can be stressful when everyone else is as slow as a lava run, my slothiness in getting to some of the stores wasn't entirely unproductive. I walked into my main target store (Staples) for a hard drive and a couple other things at a quarter to 10, and while all of the $20 200GB hard drives were off the shelf, the ones that had been reserved freed up at 10 - and I still get the rebates.

If nothing else, Black Friday is an experiance.

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I Hate Columbus Day

15.28.41 - Mark

While I'm not going to say that Columbus Day is the stupidest holiday to be recognized in the United States. It is unquestionably the stupidest holiday celebrated in the US.

Only an entity as severly messed up as the United States Bureaucracy would take a day off to honor a genocidal tyrant and religious fanatic.

Banks are closed and mail won't be delievered because some european with particularly good marketing set foot on a carribean island - whose population would soon be killed or enslaved.

Of coruse today isn't just Columbus Day, apparently it's also Leif Erikson Day (with it's own Presidential Proclamation)

What a weird world we live in...

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