He's not there

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

- Tradition Christian Easter Hymn

Although, personally, I would prefer something set to the tune of She's Not There by The Zombies

Well some one told me about him - the way he died
Well some one told me about him - how many people cried
But it's too late to say you're sorry
You should have known, you should have cared
Please don't bother trying to find him
He's not there

Well let me tell you about the way he looked
The way he'd act and the colour of his hair
His voice was soft and cool
His eyes were clear and bright
But he's not there


Image nabbed from here.

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Descent Into Hell

Today is the Easter Vigil, when we wait for Christ to rise from the dead. Many Christian traditions recite the Apostles' or Nicene Creed, which contain the lines He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to dead. On the third day he rose again. Some translations use the word Hell instead of dead.

One of the apocryphal pieces of literature, The Acts of Pilate (popularly renamed The Gospel of Nicodemus during the Middle Ages, tells of Christ's descent into the dead. t was written sometime between the mid 2nd and mid 3rd centuries and reflects a particular understanding of the events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection among early Christians sometime around 100 to 200 years after the fact. The text paints an unflattering picture of Jewish involvement in Jesus' death.

Below is my retelling of Christ's descent into Hell. Even though it is not canonical, I find it a very beautiful, moving and inspiring work of early Christianity. (As it is my retelling, it is not wholly accurate to the original source, though it is pretty close.)

After the crucifixion and death of Jesus, Satan was beside him self with pride and descended to Hades to gloat.

"Insatiable one, great devourer of all men, hear me," said Satan. "I have just won a great victory against one of the race of the Jews - an impertinent named Jesus who caused me great injustice in the world. Wherever he found my servants, he persecuted them; and those whom I had made blind, or lame or leprous, or otherwise infirmed, he healed with a single word; there were also many whom I had prepared for death and, again, with a single word he restored them to life."

Hades said, "If he was as powerful as you say, doing such things with only a single word, then I find it amazing that you were able to crush him. I don't see how you could have been able to withstand someone so powerful."

"Insatiable one, great devourer of all men, are you telling me that you are frightened because of what I have said about him? He was only a man; a man with the insolence to call himself the Son of God. It was this conceit I seized upon and worked it upon the Jews until they seized him and had him crucified. As his hour approached, he feared death as all men do, saying, 'My soul is sorrowful, even to the point of death.' And then, just as his spirit prepared to leave his body, he cried out in a loud voice, 'My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?' You see, he was only a man. Now prepare yourself to hold him firmly in your power when he arrives."

Hades said, "Prince of darkness, son of perdition, didn't you tell me that with a single word he freed from death many you had prepared for their graves? If he was able to free others from their graves, then with what power do you propose I should hold him? You say you heard how he feared death; I think he said this to trick you, to lull you into false security as he laid a trap for you. It was not long ago that I swallowed up a man by the name of Lazarus only to have him forcibly snatched from my bowels with a single word. And, if I am not mistaken, it was this same Jesus who did it. I am afraid that if he enters here, then all whom I have swallowed since the beginning of the world shall be torn from me. I swear by the darkness which encompasses us, if he enters here then none of the dead will be left for me."

While Satan and Hades were speaking, a voice like thunder sounded, "Lift up your gates and allow the King of Glory enter."

Hades said to Satan, "Go and keep him from entering - if you can." Then Hades said to his demons, "Secure well the brass gates with bars of iron. Stand vigilant and watch every point. Do not allow him to enter or we shall be lost."

Again the voice sounded, "Lift up your gates and allow the King of Glory to enter."

Hades answered, "Who is this King of Glory?"

The angels of the Lord answered, "It is the Lord strong and mighty; it is the Lord mighty in battle," and immediately, the brass gates shattered into a myriad of pieces and the iron bars were crushed and all the dead who were bound and fettered were freed from their chains.

The King of Glory entered like a man and all the darkness of Hades, to the farthest crevice, was made light. The multitude, which Hades had swallowed since the beginning of the world, gathered before Him.

Jesus seized Satan by the scruff of his neck and handed him over to the angels, "Bind his hands and his feet and his neck and his mouth." When he was bound, Jesus handed him over to Hades and said, "Take him and hold him until my second coming."

Hades took Satan and said to him, "There is not one dead left in me. All that you gained through the Tree of Knowledge you have lost through the tree of the cross. You sought to destroy the King of Glory but, instead have destroyed yourself."

Jesus stretched out His right hand and with a loud voice called out, "Adam, first formed among all men, come to me." From the multitude Adam came forward and Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up. Then He turned to the multitude and said, "All who have suffered death because of the tree which this man had touched, today I raise up through the tree of the cross."

Adam, full of joy, said to Jesus, "I give thanks to you, O Lord, because you have raised me up from the lowest depth of Hades." And Jesus blessed Adam with the sign of the cross on his forehead.

Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Moses, who led my people out of the bondage of Egypt, come to me so that today I may lead you to Paradise." Again He called out, "Abraham, father of a great nation, come to me. Today I raise you and your descendants to Glory." Each in turn, Jesus called out the names of the patriarchs and prophets and martyrs and descendents, blessing each on the forehead with the sign of the cross. And each of the righteous gave praise to Him saying, "Praise and thanks to you, O Saviour of the world, because you have raised us up from the depths of destruction."

After He had named and blessed each one, he led them into Heaven, holding Adam by the hand.

Image nabbed from here.

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Into your hand I commit my spirit

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.

Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord,
faithful God.

You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.

I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities,
and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.

I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.

For I hear the whispering of many
— terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.

Do not let me be put to shame,
O Lord, for I call on you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.

Let the lying lips be stilled
that speak insolently against the righteous
with pride and contempt.

O how abundant is your goodness
that you have laid up for those who fear you,
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of everyone!

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots;
you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.

I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from your sight.”
But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.

Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.

Be strong,
and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

Psalm 31

The image is Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross




"Do this in memory of me."

Today is Holy Thursday in many Christian traditions and it is (at least in my faith tradition) commemorated with a remembrance of the Last Supper as well as ritualistic washing of the feet (though, not all parishioners get their feet washed - usually, just a few are preselected).

The Eucharistic celebration is an ancient Christian practice and some rules / guidelines are given for it in the Didache (or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles). It is most commonly dated to have been composed in the early 2nd century. Although some date it as early as 70 C.E.

CHAPTER 9 : eucharistic consecration

9:1 Now regarding the eucharist, give thanks in this way :
9:2 First concerning the cup :

"We thank You, our Father,
for the holy vine of David Your servant,
which You made known to us through Jesus Your servant.
To You belongs the glory for ever."

9:3 And concerning the broken bread :

We thank You, our Father,
for the life and knowledge which You made
known to us through Jesus Your servant.
To You belongs the glory for ever."

9:4 As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, and was brought together to become one, so let Your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your Kingdom, for the glory and the power are Yours through Jesus Christ forever.
9:5 But let none eat or drink of your eucharist except those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord. For concerning this did the Lord say : “Give not what is holy to dogs.”

Taken from here because it is a nice English translation that does not suffer from burdensome use of stuffy anachronistic language.

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Le Pingouin is probably not what you think it is.

Discovered over the weekend that le pingouin is not a penguin, but a type of auk known as a Razorbill.
The French translation for penguin is manchot.

Apparently, this is a common error. Not surprising since many languages clearly have some sort of agreement on penguin: pingüinos (Spanish), pinguine (German), pikkewyn (Afrikaans), pinguino (Italian), pingwiny (Polish), pingvinfélék (Hungarian), pingüim (Portugese).

Images nabbed from here and here.

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Random pictures and thoughts

As promised, side by side (well, top by bottom) comparison of the Fly scanned handwriting and my actual handwriting as it appeared on the page.
The Fly and other digital pens require a special paper. The paper has a series of dots printed on it in a pattern. It is a sort of two dimensional barcode. According to Wikipedia, if the entire pattern was printed out, it would cover an area in excess of 4.6 million km2.
Last weekend, 51cm of snow fell in Ottawa. As you can see, the backyard is filled almost to the top of the fence with snow. Which means the snow is close to 5 feet deep. More than 411 cm has fallen in Ottawa this Winter. There is more snow expected this coming week. We have a chance to break the 1970/71 snowfall record of 441 cm.
I think less snow fell in Montreal. As you can see in this photo, the snow only goes about half way up the fence. Making it maybe 3 feet deep at best.
A blood orange.
The inside of a blood orange.
videoThe first animated film I have ever made (if you disregard flipbooks). I think it took about 20 minutes to (1) shoot 26 frames, (2) upload them to the computer, (3) get them into Microsoft Movie Maker, (4) adjust the duration of each frame (twice) down to 0.2 seconds. The whole short runs for 5.2 seconds. The kids were impressed.

Uploading the video wasn't too bad. However, the processing step seemed to take forever.

Photo and video credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

[17-March-2008 @ 10:05. Just noticed that for some reason the video does not show up in the posted blog, though it is visible in preview mode. Any tech help would be appreciated.]

[17-March-2008 @ 12:24: Combined teh writing samples into one image. Makes it easier to do the comparison.]

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Shoo Fly Shoo

Recently I purchased the Fly Fusion Pentop Computer, just because it looked so cool (and I had some spare money to spend).

It is pretty cool.

To get best handwriting recognition out of it, you do have to print in a fairly clear manner, which I can, though it is a bit of an effort and slows me down as I consciously try to form the various letters. On the other hand, the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology is pretty good if you print nicely. If you don't then it is a bit of a mess.

Below are two samples of writing: one done in nice tidy print, the other in my usual scrawl.

It does quite well with the first sample and horribly with the second. Obviously my normal upper case block printing is pretty hard on the OCR. And it certainly doesn't seem to like the way I prefer to form my letters. It may have helped to be sitting at a table rather than lying on my stomach on the bed scribbling away, but, then again, it is the portability I want.

An interesting observation is that the strokes are more segmented than my actual writing is - making it look as though I have a shaky hand when I write. I am not sure if this is a result of the way the Fly encodes my strokes, or perhaps I am rotating the body of the pen as I write, thus introducing distortion in the recording. For example, the opening R in Rowan has smooth curves in the captured image and on the page. The f in five is very segmented in the captured image, but smooth on the page. It seems even worse in the second sample. I will upload scanned samples of the pages this weekend.

Fly Captured SampleOCR Result
Rowan had invited his friends over three days earlier, His home was a mansion situated in the centre of
• 25 acre lot, five acres to a side, in an exclusive part of town. He had purchased up all the adjoining properties It had not been that difficult because with Rowan money didn't just talk, he could make it sing.

Persuading the city to rezone the land, to close off roads and redirect roads was a little more challenging, but nothing
• new museum, park and endowment couldn't help assuage.
[Pretty good if you ask me]
Recently, Ts Fascists Erg THE F<y Fusion PENTOP COMPUTER,

THERE is A p/z--7=c-72.2--71 ilsnnarz OF WRITING To Engulfs BESTPSSS, is↳ RECOGNITION. HOWER, since IT 1), FFERS FROM My osuna Sanwa, i Hsiu To SLOWDOWN.

A 󰀀1󰀁 cy ⇐ o=c-H/d K<M

No Paths to ✓ WXYZ

an b a def g. h ij k Imp opz-

-£ a ✓ a xy,

• i 2345678;

Ta can also print in a manner that is reasonably close to the way the F<y system wants me to, but there are challenges, such as my desire to join certain letters as is write.
[This is mostly crash and burn.]

An even cooler looking pen is the Pulse smartpen, but I will hold off purchasing it until I see how indispensable the Fly Pentop Computer becomes.

The main downside of the Fly is that it is a little bulky.

I think one of the actresses on the Fly page is Kelly Vitz who played Magenta in Sky High.

The actress for the Pulse smartpen is wearing lenless frames, which I found annoying (not that the chatter of the Fly kids was wasn't annoying also).

Image samples copyright Richard of Forbidden Planet.

Fly Fusion Pentop Computer image nabbed from here

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Green Technology Good. Actually Works Optional.

I think most people underestimate how much energy it really takes to power things. A quick trip to your local science and technology museum / centre should quickly dispel any misconceptions. These places usually have a stationary bicycle connected to a generator and you are encouraged to peddle to try and light a lamp or two. It doesn't take much peddling to realize that it takes a whole lot of work to light a lamp.

This realization did not occur to the inventor of an environmentally friendly lamp dubbed the Gravia or to the judges judging it.

The idea is that the energy from a slowly descending weight is converted to electricity and used to power high efficiency LEDs, providing approximately 600-800 lumens of light over a 4 hour period. At the end of 4 hours, you just flip the lamp over and the whole process begins anew.

It sounds great ... except the energy output seems a little out of whack - especially if you have ever energetically peddled one of those stationary bikes in a science centre. (I also have a dynamo powered flashlight and have a feel for how much effort is needed to keep the light reasonably bright - though, nowhere near bright enough to light a room.)

A 40W light bulb gives off between 400-500 lumens of light (the amount depends on the bulb - long life bulbs give fewer lumens because they are not run as brightly) and a 60W light bulb between 600 and 800 lumens.

The total power available from the system (assuming a perfect system with no losses) is 270 Watts. Period.

This is enough to light a 40W bulb for 6-3/4 seconds or a 60W bulb for 4-1/2 seconds.

A high powered LED (420 lumens @ 8W) would burn through the power in 33-3/4 seconds.

Assuming we had device that converted 100% of the energy into light, at 600 lumens output, we would still burn through the energy in 5 minutes and 7 seconds. At 800 lumens, we would use up the energy in 3 minutes and 51 seconds

None of those remotely approach the promised 4 hour running time. If the energy were delivered over a 4 hour period, the device would be capable of a continuous output of 18.75 mW. Good enough to run an LCD watch or clock or calculator, but not much else.

Using our mythical 100% energy to light converter, we get an output of 12.8 lumens at that power level. Which is pretty dim. Dimmer than a nightlight.

As the website says for its judging criteria: Entries were evaluated on the following criteria: innovation, clarity of design, originality, form and presentation. Being even remotely plausible was not a criteria.

Image nabbed from here.

We can calculate the energy available in the system (assuming a perfect system with no losses): it is a 50lb weight falling over 48 inches. Converted to metric that is 22.73Kg over 1.22m.

Force (F = ma) available from the free falling weight is 22.73Kg x 9.8m/s2 = 222 Newtons (Kg-m/s2).

The entire energy (E = Fd) available in the system is 222N x 1.22m = 270 Joules (Kg-m2/s2).

If you use up 1 Joule per second, you use 1 Watt (N-m/s2) of energy. So the whole system has a grand total of 270 Watts of power available for use.

The continuous power the device is capable of outputting per second if run over a 4 hour period: 270W / (4 x 60 * 60) = 0.01875 W/s or 18-3/4 mW per second.

The theoretical maximum lumens per watt of power is 683 lm/W.

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"[Y]ou're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind." There was a long silence.

"I claim them all," said the Savage at last.
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World




Another Winter Photo Blog

We got 28cm of snow on Wednesday, bringing the total snowfall total to 355cm in Ottawa this Winter. This makes it the second largest recorded snowfall. The previous record was 441cm back in the Winter of 1970/1971. We are supposed to get another 20cm or more this weekend. So there is still a chance we will beat the old record.

I tell Sofia and the kids to enjoy it because they may not see another snowfall like this for another 40-50 years.

Picture of a previous snowstorm, but the effect and result is pretty much the same.
Following the snowstorm, the trees were nicely covered in snow crystals.
Close up of snow crystals on a branch.
Snow crystals on pine needles.

Photo credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

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Two Questions (well, really three)

  1. When does a difference in opinion, understanding or perception cross the threshold and become a mental disorder?
  2. When does confidence and certainty become delusion?

I am reminded of the story of a woman many years ago on CBC radio, who told how her parents had her diagnosed as insane and committed as an adolescent because she was lesbian.

While I may not agree with her and I believe her behaviour to be wrong (yeah, yeah, I am on the conservative end of the spectrum here), I certainly do not think she was insane.

So what is the difference between being "wrong" and having a fundamentally disordered perception, understanding and experience of the world?

To adapt a saying: I may not know what insanity is, but I know it when I see it.

Principally inspired (bits copied verbatim from my comment) by a post on Barbara's blog.

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Five Facts

SweetiePie has invited me to share 5 facts about my self.
  1. I am male.
  2. My first name is Richard
  3. I am 42
  4. I am married
  5. I have two children
Ok, maybe that is a little too factual and not sufficiently revealing. So the question becomes one of, "Do I recycle old tidbits of information from my blog? Or do I give you fresh pieces of information?"

Since I want to encourage people to read this blog, I prefer not to give out previously revealed information. On the other hand, I also don't want to give identity thieves too much personal information. Oh! The dilemma, the dilemma.
  1. I am sinister (in Latin nominative).
  2. My hair is naturally curly (and increasingly grey).
  3. I cannot read Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince or The Selfish Giant without crying. Actually, I cannot even finish them. These are the only two stories that affect me so and I unable to share them with my kids.
  4. When I was much younger, I didn't quite understand the movie classification system. I thought G meant Good, PG meant Pretty Good and R meant Rotten.
  5. When I was 7 years old, I read a book called, A Doctor Explains Pregnancy to an Eight Year Old. I felt very grown up reading a book targeted for older kids. My mother gave me this book because she was getting tired of trying to field my questions about pregnancy. What I took away most from the book was that cows and humans gestate for about 9 months, whales gestate for about 13 months, and mice gestate for 21 days.
Image nabbed from here.

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Drip. Drip.

I took the kids skating this past Sunday and managed to take 389 pictures during that time. It becomes so easy with digital cameras nowadays - especially when they feature a nice, easy to use burst mode.

I also managed to capture some shots of dripping icicles. If you click on and enlarge the pictures, you can see the drop of water forming and falling. It was a nice surprise to discover when I looked at the picture (they were shot in burst mode).

Photo credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet.

Sorry, I was a little too aggressive with the JPEG compression settings.

[05-March-2008 @ 11:00: added text about the drop forming and falling.]

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Message in a bottle

Hye has invited me to put a message in a bottle.

When I was younger, I used to dream of discovering something unique, import and of value. I did look for bottles with messages, buried treasure, fossils, or gold deposits. Sadly I never really found anything. I did find pyrite (Fools Gold), and some small fossils (various shells and parts of crinoids, but never trilobite. sigh. Though, Jason did find a fossilized shell 3 or 4 cm in length two years ago. Definitely, the largest fossil we have found).

However, I have never thought of putting a message into a bottle.

(The uber-geeky among you should recognize the phrase.)

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Quick! What is the cosine of the cube root of 31?

Yesterday someone shared a useful tip with me: should you be the victim of a robbery in which you are forced to withdraw money from an ATM, by entering your PIN backwards you will send a silent alarm to the bank which will then notify the police.

I restrained, but probably not entirely successfully, the urge to laugh.

It sounds like a great security measure, unfortunately, it is impractical. Under normal circumstances I presume it is hard enough form most people to mentally reverse their PIN (it is for me). Under a stressful situation, I presume it would be pretty nigh impossible.

Further there is the problem of people using palindromic PINs like 1111 or 2332 because they are easier to remember, this person replied, "Well, I guess you're screwed then."

I also wondered why I had never been told or informed about this. The person answered back, "I guess they don't want it general knowledge so the criminals don't know about it."


If such a system were implemented, it would be simpler to just use the standard numeric code for help 911 (this code may vary with country, in Great Britain it is 999).

Furthermore, even if it did work as advertised, it is highly likely the police will arrive well after the robbery occurred.

A little research this morning found this debunking of it.

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