July 7th, 2009


clubs and groups and stuff ...

So, one of my functions over on the WSI site is to approve groups and sort them into the main group structure (there are currently nearly 800 groups there, so keeping things accessible is an on-going challenge). I just had to deal with two groups which were being set up as "clubs" ... usually when this happens, it's a teenage member starting them, but the gal behind these was 22, so I'm cutting her some slack in terms of not being an idiot.

I've never "gotten" the drive to form clubs like this. A long time ago, when the world was very new and the Web had not come into being, I responded to a BBS posting about setting up a "computer art club" ... at that point in time (using a Tandy Color Computer) I was trying to work up some design things, and had developed a pretty good style for certain types of graphics. MY assumption when responding was that this was going to be something along the lines of Users Group that would share tips, tricks, etc. about art created on a computer. What I found was 14-year-olds who would send out ("pen-pal" style) their hand-drawn doodlings via "snail mail" (although that phrase hadn't come into use yet back then). WHAT in that was "computer" but the avenue of initial connection? When I got the first envelope full of this stuff, it was SUCH a massive non-sequitur that it burned deeply into my brain as a "total disconnect" over the definition of what this "club" was about. Did this kid have nobody in the real world to show his "art" to? What possessed him to go through the effort of forming a "computer art club" that had nothing to do with computers?

Anyway, that experience rolls around in my brain every time I have to deal with some of these groups. Often, even months later, these will only have 1 member, since their "interest range" only applies to their originator. We're trying to be "open" on the site, so allow these to be created (and "make work" for me to sort them into the site structure), but they seem so juvenile and ephemeral ... the sort of things that kids will think up one week, be hot about for several days, and have abandoned (and forgotten) in another week. Of course, while they're "hot about it" you can't (as an adult) come in and say it will cease to be of any use within a month (because it's the most important thing in the world to them at that instant), but I find it irritating.

At least I changed the rules about uploading videos! Anybody used to be able to upload anything into the main video area ... after having had to deal with "The Gummy Bear Song" I put my foot down, so now if folks want to post "off topic" videos, they have to do it on their Profile page or in a group. I just wish "groups" could be set up so the just appeared on the originator's Profile page!

Good thing I don't have a lawn ...

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Snagged from Twitter:
@davidblaine   Shortly after noon on July 8, comes the moment that can be called 12:34:56 7/8/9. Happens only once over the course of history

Ooooh, sounds portentous!

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Another quote worth sharing ...

This one's from P.Z. Myers' blog:
This is something too many religious people fail to understand — you can practice your religion, other people can practice their religion, but you don't get to tell other people that they must practice your religion. If your crazy superstition says you aren't allowed to push a button on a certain day of the week, then don't. If your old myths claim that your god turns into a cracker when the right ritual is carried out, go ahead and believe that. If your dogma dictates that you should visit a certain magic rock before you die, then go ahead, make your pilgrimage.

But excuse us, everyone who doesn't have these wacky ideas has a perfect right to push the button, disrespect your cracker, or stay home and skip the crowds…and we also have the right to point and laugh at you. And if you are so intolerant, so irrational, and so vicious as to try and impose your foolishness on others, especially in such disgusting ways, then we have an obligation to use civic law and the power of the state to protect those others' liberties.
Now, I'm no fan of "the power of the state", but when it comes to protecting me and mine from religion, I'm all for it!

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More ...

Some times things just work out ... in the previous book reviewed here, Henry Lincoln's The Holy Place: Discovering the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World was referenced several times, and I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. So off I went to Amazon, and was able to snag a used copy (it does appear to be out of print). As regular readers of this space may recall, I've read quite a lot in the Rennes-le-Château genre over the years, so I brought "a lot of baggage" to this book, which might not be fair to it. It is an interesting book in its focus on the place, but ...

The supposed topic of this book, "the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World", is frustratingly hard to find within its pages. Maddeningly hard to find, especially given that the end papers of this hardcover edition are reproductions of detailed topographic maps of the region, but in such a scale that it's hard to even make out place names. If Lincoln and his publishers were able to get permission to USE these maps in the book, you would think they'd have done some of their graphing on the maps, but noooooooo ... it's all pentagrams and hexagrams showing "straight lines" through places on blank paper. Lincoln posits that the whole region was one vast "temple", anchored at various points by churches, etc., but at NO POINT in the book are these diagrams and descriptions plotted against the maps, which is supposedly how he discovered them. Sure, this was published in 1991 (in that time before the Web), so we can forgive him not using Google satellite imagery (there is a great view of Rennes-le-Château there!), but how blatant a "tease" is it that he didn't reproduce the very evidence that led him to his premise?

Call me unimaginative, but I also have a very hard time with the whole "diagram on top of the text" thing. There is a very complicated, convoluted, and arcane cipher involved in part of this, and this is eventually "solved" (albeit with certain echoes of the "bible code" text crunching), why then start drawing stuff over it like you're going to come out of the exercise with a treasure map? I'm also much less impressed with "pentagrams" that are grossly distorted so that their points, intersects, and centers can fit over certain locations. Show me a regular figure that fits and I'll start thinking that maybe there's a "grand temple" there ... but I'm guessing that I could come up with just as good pentagrams by connecting Chicago suburbs on a map as what's presented here. Oh, yeah ... and they're not shown on a map so we pretty much have to take his word on it.

I hate to seem this irritated, but there is so much stuff hinted at in here that's just left hanging. Lincoln implies that there is a substantial pre-historic (or otherwise "lost") city sitting there waiting to be dug up at "Great Camp", among other things, only it's impossible to find these places, despite the enticing photos reproduced in the book.

Again, maybe it's me, but I find these carefully drawn out diagrams of 5, 6, even 10-pointed stars and various grids less than convincing when one considers how "random" the placement of landmarks appear to be on their lines ... and, as the book goes on, these keep getting bigger, more complicated, and including more "stuff".

You might be surprised to find that, despite all these caveats, I generally liked the book, and found much of the material quite engaging. It certainly puts the focus in on this one small (I was quite surprised to see what a tiny place Rennes-le-Château actually is) mountain village, and the countryside around it. It was fascinating to read of the possible pre-history of the area, hints of which come up in older ruins, and ruins incorporated into later structures. Of course, the whole "Magdalen" aspect is of interest as well. Ultimately, though, I don't feel convinced of the sub-titular premise ... it seems to me that Lincoln could have made a very substantial case by linking his various diagrams to topographic maps or aerial photography of the sites discussed ... trying to merge his descriptions and lay-outs to Google imagery seemed to go nowhere.

As noted, The Holy Place appears to be out-of-print, so if you'd like to get a copy, you'll be in the hands of the used vendors ... however, this is available fairly reasonably (I got my copy for $2 plus shipping). While this suggests more questions than it answers, it certainly looks at aspects of the whole Priory of Sion mystery without bogging down in the more florid aspects of that story. This shouldn't be one's introduction to the subject, but if one has had some experience with the topic, it does have enticing bits to add.

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