Worlds & Time

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quick Disproofs of God: Argument from Entropy

1. Entropy affects everything
2. If God exists, he must be perfect
3. If God was perfect at any time, then entropy means that he is not perfect after that point.

Therefore God is not perfect and thus cannot exist.

I think that the obvious point of argument on this one is the first premise, that entropy affects everything.  However, there is really no evidence that there is anything that is not affected by entropy.  You'd have to basically prove that there are things that are not subject to entropy.

Also, just an observation, there's no evidence that entropy is limited to just the universe.  It may be an absolute inviolable law.  So even if God was "outside of time and space" there isn't any evidence that he isn't subject to entropy.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Quick Disproofs of God: Argument from Morality

1. If God exists, then there is objective morality.
2. If objective morality exists, then it must be apparent to all people, or at least all followers of God.
3. If there is any change in morality over time in the societies that base their morality on God and the Bible, then there is no objective morality.
4. Morality has changed over the last two thousand years, even among the followers of God.

Therefore, there is no objective morality, and there cannot be any being that has objective morality.

Some may suggest that societal morality is a bad baseline to judge the existence of objective morality, in which case society can actually be swapped out for any specific person that claims to have objective morality and someone else they agree to have objective morality (such as Jesus Christ).  As long as the morality of that person is slightly different than the morality of Jesus Christ, there is no objective morality.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Quick Disproofs of God: Ontological Argument

1. If God exists, he must be perfect.
2. If he is perfect, he must be objectively perfect.
3. Objectively perfect things do not exist.

Therefore, God does not exist.

Obviously the premise that most theists will have an issue with is the third one, but it appears to be quite true: There are no things that everyone could agree would be perfect.  Zero.  The more "perfect" something is judged to be, actually, the less chance it has of actually existing.  Therefore, it would be logically impossible for an objectively perfect being to exist.

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Friday, February 06, 2015

A thought that is entirely internal to the framework of Christian logic

I don't think that Andrew Wilson really understand what "sin" is, at least in the context of this clip. He badgers Ron to admit that homosexual sex is a sin, which Ron doesn't want to say because Ron knows that admission is damaging to his relationships with gay people (absolutely true, because gay people have been so long singled out as special sinners). However, Andrew doesn't acknowledge that heterosexual sex is very often a sin to God too and that men can commit the same sin just by looking with lust at other women (Matthew 5:21-30). All men, heterosexual or homosexual are sinners in the view of God, and I suspect that it would not be too great a leap to say that all men are sexual sinners in the view of God.

So he's asking Ron if homosexuality is a special sin, one that must stop when accepting Jesus Christ to the extent that many preachers lie and say that God will remove the temptation. Obviously that's wrong, because salvation doesn't work that way. Accepting Jesus doesn't stop men from lusting or coveting or anger, and those states of mind are, in the words of Paul, just as bad as the sins themselves. Christians have to accept that in accepting Christ, they will find salvation after they die, and in their efforts to live better lives on Earth, He will help them live better but not perfect lives.

My question is then, what life better exemplifies that of a Christian with homosexual attraction? Drugs, casual sex, and suffering the persecution of the church, or the embrace of the church and blessing of a stable sexual partnership in a homosexual marriage?

My final thought on this conversation is that Jesus said: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." The context was divorce, a sin, but it seems to me that those who actually know gay people know that they may habe been joined to their loving same sex partners by God. Let no one demand the separation of two gay men or two gay women as a prerequisite to joining the fellowship, as they have also been joined together by God.

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Quick Disproofs of God: Cosmological Argument

1. The universe exists
2. The universe has a beginning
3. Time also began when the universe began
4. The idea of being "created" requires linear time to have meaning
5. There was no concept of linear time "before" the big bang (indeed, even the concept of "before" the big bang is meaningless)

Therefore, the concept of "creating" the universe is meaningless.  Even if something was required to "create" then universe, that concept is negated by the fact that time began at the beginning of the universe.

This argument also covers the similar argument that God could "cause" the universe.  The idea of causation requires temporal dependence ("this action causes that result" requires the action to occur before the result) and therefore it is meaningless to say that anything "caused" the universe.

The subsequent premises are something to the effect of:

6. If the Bible is true, then God must exist (and conversely, if it is false, then the Bible's particular idea of God must not exist)
7. The Bible says that God created the universe

Since the idea of creating the universe is meaningless, then the Bible is wrong and God can't exist in that form.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Post-Publishing Perspective

In response to this DailyKos post and this New Republic article, I wrote the following comment that I think I want to save.  It's related to this other post here at W&T.

Until fairly recently I was working for a fairly major publisher (not one of the big five, but in the top twelve in the United States) in their ebooks division.

Between this article and the one at the New Republic, there are way too many things for me to comment on, but I will try to make a couple of points.

First off, I have absolutely no idea how the New Republic arrived at a 75% profit margin for each ebook sold.  The main reason that this number sounds bunk to me is because the margin on every single title is vastly different and the median margin is way, way lower than that.  If that's an average (and even then it sounds utterly outrageous), then they're not understanding the place of best sellers (mega hits) in the publishing world.

Also, "profit margin" more than suggests that these are "profits."  They're not, because NR is obviously only factoring in the one time production costs of an ebook and ignoring the massive costs of actually running a publishing company with sales and marketing & support staff, infrastructure, and the massive cost of publishing books that never earn out their advance.  I should also say, related to this, I was involved closely in the production of ebooks, and the actual creation of each ebook still requires thousands of dollars.  They're not as cheap or fast to produce as even my own managers used to expect (with the casual, "why do we even pay you?" arrogance when I couldn't create a book in two days for some Amazon promotion that they wanted to join).

Second, about bestsellers, they do make publishers a lot of money.  We had four titles at my publishing house that were bringing in a gross of $24 million a year some 30 years after they were first printed.  However, those kinds of books are insanely rare.

I already mentioned this, but most books don't earn out their advances.  Even if a book is phenomenal, that doesn't guarantee that it sells well.  The print book world is built on forecasting: you need to predict as closely as possible how many books a specific novel will sell, and then print that many.  If you guess under, you'll sell out and Amazon/bookstores will end up getting pissed because you can't fill orders.  Too many and bookstores will return books to you and you have to eat production and shipping costs for those books.  I was very glad that ebooks aren't like this, except that I was continually producing books that would sell twenty copies a year when I had just sunk $2500 into making them.  Generally, that book is going to take years to pay off.

The big books allow publishers to make the small books.  And take risks with some authors that try new things.

Third, most books (and ebooks) don't actually sell at the cover price.  There are always daily deals on Amazon, B&N, or Apple and sometimes they're ridiculous.  For example, one of the e-cookbooks that I worked on retails in print (and originally in e) for $40, and the ebook went on a weekend sale for $1.99!  And even with that, we only sold about 5,000 copies.  It bumped us up in the rankings and we eventually sold another 1,000 copies at the full print cover price (this is super secret publishing strategy, everyone).

But that means that the average sale price of a $40 book was $8.33 per book over that retail period.  This specific case was ridiculous, but this happens a lot on a smaller level.  On an earnings report you see the list price, and the average price per unit sold.  I think the best case scenario I saw on a year was about 90%, and that was the best case.  I would hazard to guess that most are lucky to do 75%.  And big promotions often result in 25-40% averages.

Fourth, about the Apple price fixing thing, the New Republic article mentions this in the last paragraph, but that was actually an attempt to prevent Amazon from becoming a monopoly.  Apple and the big five lost.  Yeah, it was about higher prices for consumers, but I think consumers might have won a short term victory at a long term cost.

Fifth, the cost of ebooks and writer's share:  Yeah, I disagree with the publishers on this.  I think a $9.99 ebook is a fair price (none of this $26.99 for an ebook crap) and I think authors should be making way more in e-royalties than they currently are.  Most authors I worked with had an e-royalty of no more than 15%.  Given a book sells a certain number, say a thousand copies, I think that it should go up to 25% or more.  Publishers aren't handling these aspects particularly well.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Meditation on Colton Haynes

There's usually some actor or artist that I've fixated on for some reason or another.  I've certainly posted enough about Erik Rhodes and Fredrik Eklund to imply that, but sometimes it's a more mainstream actor as well (and I'm not going to pretend that it's an actor OR actress because while I am loving every moment of Jennifer Lawrence's celebrity, I'm talking about another level of desire).

For a long time, for example, it was Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or JTT as he was known in the teen beat magazines.  Huh, have I ever actually said that before publicly?  To anyone?  I don't know, I don't think so.

The picture that I had of Jonathan was so nice and familiar and uh, . . . cute.  I had such a big crush on him that I couldn't imagine that people didn't think that he was the prettiest most-beautiful most-special . . . yeah, you get the picture.  There are still characters that live in my head that started off their fictional lives as Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Perhaps some of them as already fictional characters as portrayed by JTT that were further ficitonalized and adapted into the worlds in my head.

There are lots of guys living in there like that.  Who else?  I've had crushes on so many actors . . . all the way from A-listers like Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Lautner, Chris Evans and Josh Hutcherson to guys whose names you'll likely not recognize at all like Alexander Ludwig and Dan Wells.  And athletes like Alexi Nemov and *cough* Tom Daley and Matthew Mitcham.

So, anyway.  My current pop-culture crush is on Colton Haynes who, aside from being just about the most gorgeous guy that has ever lived, was on the show Teen Wolf and is now on Arrow.  Teen Wolf was/is my guilty pleasure.  For a show that should be crap though, it seems really well written and many of the side characters are just as lovable as the main characters.  In that it reminds me of Veronica Mars, I suppose.

When I first started watching Teen Wolf I found Colton Haynes to be rather shallow in the character of Jackson.  Jackson's the white, athletic, captain of the lacrosse team and he's dating a cheerleader. He's basically the epitome of shallowness, actually, and the guys that they usually get to play the shallow white male characters are themselves shallow white males.  Funny how that works out, yeah?  So at the beginning I gave more love to Tyler Posey (werewolf), Tyler Hochtlin, (werewolf), and Dylan O'Brien (brilliant comedic sidekick).

Anyway, there aren't that many guys in the age range that are could convincingly play teenagers in high school that are great actors, especially the ones that are selected to play characters that fit those good looking popular kid roles.  So I saw Colton Haynes playing such a character and didn't give him much of the benefit of the doubt.  To be clear, even though he was an actor in a show, I presumed that he was likely as superficial, conceited and bitchy as the character that he played.  I assumed that he was just as pretty in real life as he was in television land, but that's just television for you.

And then the character had additional characterization, as is the wont for characters in well written television series, and all of the sudden I found that I was actually feeling for this rich, gorgeous jock that was supposed to be the major high school (re: "normal life") antagonist.  Because I had, unwittingly, granted Colton Haynes a powerful version of suspension of disbelief: that he was the character that he played.

So when the character showed off fear and anger and confusion and pain I was surprised because I believed it.  It was acting, I know that, but it was excellent acting.  It was a powerful and professional and amazing performance given by someone that had to have really worked at it, thought about it, and then made the role his own in a way that few great actors can.

Or perhaps not.  Maybe Colton Haynes really was afraid, angry, confused and deeply hurt when those scenes were filmed and he and the director used them to get a good performance.  But he's pretty and a television star and honestly I doubt his life has held enough fear, anger, confusion and emotional pain to draw on them so brilliantly, so I'm just going to have to chalk it up to being a very good actor and playing a character.

Here's where I have to complain for a moment.  Jackson was the focus of the second season of Teen Wolf.  It was around his character that a lot of the mystery and action takes place, and it leads up into a grand reveal and a hint at the following season and then . . .

Colton Haynes leaves Teen Wolf and moves over to the show Arrow.  Well, crap.  It was hard to watch Teen Wolf stumble over that, because it was clear that they'd written Jackson into way too much of the third season and they didn't want to change all of the plans that they'd laid out so carefully.  So they had to force some of the characters into awkward positions and do some things that were sloppy before (and I hope this is true) being able to settle back into the flow of things.

I have to say that at first I had a bit of nasty feelings toward Arrow for poaching one of my favorite things about Teen Wolf.  Arrow does have a lot going for it.  Stephen Amell, the male lead, is very attractive (albeit not as hot as Colton Haynes), and it has both John Barrowman and Summer Glau in it, both of whom I like.

But it's not as well written.  It has some issues with how tightly plotted it is, and there are also some serious characterization problems where characters vacillate on what should be core beliefs and principles.  It has some opacity on moral questions: is it wrong to kill someone as a vigilante or not?  The show hasn't decided, and so the characters don't know what to think about it either.

The other issue is that Colton Haynes is woefully underused in his role as Roy Harper.  Roy has an interesting story line, with his life as a poor mugger/thief conflicting with dating one of the richest women in the city and his obsession with following "the Hood" changing what his life means.  But he's on the second rung of supporting characters, being a supporting character's significant other in a show with a surprisingly large cast.  So he doesn't have enough screen time.

I will say though, Colton is a good enough actor to add some great detail to his limited screen time.  In one of the most recent episodes of Arrow that I watched he walked into his girlfriend's mansion with her so that she could interact with her mother (does it still count as passing the Betchdel test if one of the women's male partners is present but nearly silent as they talk about non-men related issues?) and he stares around, wide eyed, because the character has never been there before, and honestly the character has probably never been in such an expensive home in his life.

As I've said, Colton is a good actor, perhaps even a great actor.  And he's got the movie star looks to back up his actual skills (although I can't decide whether that will help him or hurt him in the future).  And we get to see the occasional snippet of him behind the scenes in the social media presence that actors are required to keep these days.  And I've pretty much fallen for what I see of him.  That doesn't mean that he wouldn't absolutely hate me if he ever met me, but I've crushes on plenty of guys that didn't return the feelings before.

Speaking of which, I will say that I wish he was gay. It doesn't matter to his attractiveness whether he is or not, but it's harder to have a crush on a guy when you know for a fact that they can't return those feelings.  Not impossible, just harder.

Anyway, in the meantime, I wish him a good life.  Happiness, privacy, and moments of fun and peace.  

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Gay Marriage in New Mexico

Congratulations to my home state, New Mexico, for becoming the 17th and most recent state to allow gay marriage. 


Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sneaking Out

Friday, November 22, 2013


Is Obama "expanding" the US Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit?

No.  And if you think the answer is yes, then whoever you've been listening to is lying to you.