Jim McGaw's Blog


Hiya. I'm an open-source web engineer who likes to write.

Game of Words

I wrote recently that religion is all about the search for truth. Perhaps that's not true, so much as it is a search for understanding. I'm still not particularly comfortable with all of this. Until relatively recently, I thought of myself as some kind of Christian, albeit a liberal and non-fundamentalist one. I had this belief not because I had ever investigated the religion itself and found it satisfying, but because I absorbed some of...

Toxic Fumes

About 10 years ago, I saw M. Night Shyamalan's film The Happening. This film starts with large numbers of people killing themselves for some inexplicable reason. They seem possessed, in a trance-like state, before walking off the ledge of a tall building or jamming a pencil into their own necks. Like most of M. Night's movies, this is left as a mystery for the first part of the film. Abandon all hope of enjoying the...

The Flying Saucers

There's very little that I can say with certainty. This came about very recently in my life, and at first, I thought it was a problem. You lose self-assuredness, and you begin to believe that your brain is somehow in decline. You used to know everything, and then, all of a sudden, it feels like you know nothing. You second guess every thought that crosses your mind. This is what comes with being wrong just...

The Moralizers

It is morality that drives people to learn about philosophy more than any other topic. Indeed, this is what drove me to seek it out my first year of college. I learned from this class that I would never be interested in becoming a philosopher, because I didn't want to become a long-winded professor droning on in monotone about the nature of right and wrong in a manner that ultimately boiled down to personal interpretation...

Age of Reason

I find Biblical literalism confusing. We live in a scientific age. Our modes of thinking about the world were born of the Enlightenment and the philophical ideas that sprung from this era. We value reason, evidence based on empirical observation, and truth based on this evidence. I'm not a scientist, and I don't fully understand how to properly go about applying the scientific method, but I can bandy the term falsifiable around like I know...

Tales of a Scorched Earth

For me, this really begins about 10 years ago, while I'm having a discussion with a friend. I can't remember what it was we were talking about, save for the fact that my friend is belittling the intelligence of creationists. True to his nature, he's not just making the point: he's also seeking confirmation that I agree with him in full. I shrug, and refuse to answer. This visibly bothers him, and he presses me...

Bonfire in the Rearview Mirror

For the last week, I have been following the progress of the Thomas Fire in southern California as it approaches the city of Santa Barbara, the place I recently moved away from. This is the fire that killed firefighter Cory Iverson, though that didn't happen near SB. I awoke yesterday morning to the news that, due to strong winds, the fire had spread west in the mountains to a place called Parma Park. This is...

Quid Est Veritas?

A couple of summers ago, on a gorgeous evening in June, I was taking a stroll around a public park when a very friendly stranger approached me and struck up some simple conversation. I've been around the block enough times to know where these conversations are going. What the person is trying to sell me varies, and you can usually figure it out from their initial approach, but sometimes I'm surprised. Despite my being used...

Not Invented Here

I first became aware of the concept of "Not Invented Here" in the context of software development. While it applies to many different domains, it's particularly prevelent in software just because of the typical hubris of your average programmer: that it is more fun to write new code than to read and adapt someone else's code for some given purpose. We programmers love to create, but no one wants to maintain. This concept applies to...

Bias

A friend of mine sent me the most recent TED talk by Robert Sapolsky, a hybrid professor of primatology and neurobiology at Stanford, which is a synopsis of his most recent book distilled into the usual TED summary. In a nutshell, a couple of key points (and with apologies to Dr. Sapolsky): whether a violent act is deemed either good or bad depends on context and the person making the judgment, and the origins of...