Friday, April 16, 2010

It Must Seem Like the World is Ending to the Fanatical Believers

Earthquakes, volcanoes, meteor showers, global warming -- and now...

The National Day of Prayer is declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

Yes, believe it or not, the Congress-approved NDoP has been ruled by a Federal Judge to violate the Lemon Test, the 39-year-old landmark case that set the precedent and three-pronged requirement to determine legitimacy of a law or decision when touching on religious matters.

Especially after the massive hype over yesterday's "Tea Parties", where the scalding mugs of teabagged hosts whipped up a frenzy of hysteria over government involvement in things they feel shouldn't be regulated - like caring for the sick, housing the homeless, taking in the orphans and providing safe, clean, reliable food and water to all. You know, all those evil, socialist, demonic things that no "True Christian" would want to see.

I can't wait to listen to the talking heads explode with indignant anger and pumped-up piousness. I can only imagine the tears that will be streaming down the face of Glenn Beck and his cronies. I just know this is going to be appealled to the highest court -- and unless the religious right gets some sort of Divine Miracle, it's going to be confirmed.

And the great part is, many of the arguments used to promote and "justify" the NDoP are the same ones that have been cited in support of the "Under God" clause that was added to the Pledge and "In God We Trust" on our money. Take note, godly believers - NOT ONE OF THESE THINGS WAS ENACTED BY THE FOUNDERS!! In fact, all three were started during war, and pushed almost exclusively by prominent religious groups as a means of separating the "righteous" from the "godless enemy".

Oh, and that whole "tradition" argument that many have tried to claim? You know, the one that goes "but we've been doing it since the founding, so it must be good." Try substituting "slavery" for "prayer" and see if you can justify your morals with that. Good luck with that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Man, the universe is FRICKIN' AWESOME!

Seriously, how can anyone NOT consider it incredible, from the multitudinous scales and levels of the entire universe, from the teensiest bits of quantum foam to the utter-mind-blowing-immensity of the universal sight horizon? And the thought that even those depths, 14 billion light years away, is still not the ultimate limit of just our universe - it's just the fact that we couldn't see any further away, even if we tried.

Here's a fantastic site that gives a good scalable view of everything (and I mean everything) from strings vibrating at Planck length, all the way through the entire width of the universe. I advise you not to view this if you are too wrapped up in thinking the universe is less than 10,000 years old -- it will quickly disabuse you of that error.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I've seen the light! I've been converted to a new religion!

I've been a PC/Windows user for over 20 years. The last time I spent any time on a Mac was in college, and that was multi-generations ago in computer years. I graduated from Win 3.1 to 95, through 98 and XP, dabbled a bit with Vista before falling in love with Win7. I use MS Office regularly at work and home, and although there have been some difficult and trying times (BSOD, virus/spamware bloating the system, peripherals and 3rd party software not wanting to work, etc), I was basically satisfied and content with where I was. I’d played with my daughter’s iTouch, and I’ve even got an iPod nano (tiny little green thing that I can play all my 80’s hair-band rockers on). But I’ve never really been interested in the Mac computers, and I had all the excuses to justify it – to expensive, too fancy, not compatible enough with Windows, don’t need it, etc.

Then my world was turned on its head.

I got my new 21.5" iMac exactly one week ago, and I am amazed at how fast, easy and brilliant it is. It runs circles around Win 7 (and I was truly impressed with Win 7 as a massively wonderful upgrade to the MS-OS). I hadn't realized how much better the MacOS is -- Windows is probably still several generations behind the curve. I remember in college how easy the Macs were to use, and even though I do recall when Win95 came out that it looked like the last MacOS I had used 5-6 years prior, I didn't want to shell out the cash for a Mac. Besides, Windows and Office were "good enough" for my needs.

Some people say that you can get "more bang for your buck" with a All-In-One (AIO) Win-PC (bluray, more USB slots, HD tuners, etc), but what do you sacrifice for those options (and they are optional)?

Speed, memory, power, finesse, and pure artistry.

My iMac has a 3.06Ghz Core Duo chip (I wanted to get an i5 system but I didn’t need the 27” screen – no matter how big and beautiful it is), an ATI Radeon 4670 HD chip, 4GB of RAM, a 1TB HD, and a 21.5" full-HD 1920-by-1080 display, wireless keyboard and mouse. Even your own tests show that the iMacs are by FAR the fastest AIO computers. This system is a graceful and speedy gazelle in a field of lumbering, clueless water buffalo.

Not only is the Mac OS faster, sleeker and more intuitive than even Win 7, my Mac didn't come bloated with all the adware and "trial" programs that bog down nearly every PC. The software it does come with is amazingly useful and feature-packed. I've got more memory, HD space, processing power and screen resolution than any of them. I can (and have) installed a virtual PC complete with Win7 and all the MS Office bulk, and it runs faster and smoother in a virtual window than it did on my old PC.

All of this luscious, tasty goodness is then packaged in a console that looks like it belongs in an art museum. Seriously, have you looked at the iMac compared to a Windows desktop or laptop? Brushed aluminum, slot drive DVD, crystal-clear front, a black bezel that hides the webcam, and only one cord needed to operate. It’s a perfect synergism between minimalism and function, uniting in what could the one of the most beautiful technology pieces ever made.

Oh, and I've got to say something about the keyboard/mouse combo. I thought the keyboard was undersized, and the lack of a 10-keypad initially bothered me. I even considered buying the wired Mac keyboard (same elegant, minimalist design, but included a 10-key and extra USB port). But not after using it for a week. This tiny little sliver of aluminum is rock-solid and smooth, and it's a breeze to type on.

As for the mouse -- WOW! The addition of the touchpad on the top makes it so innately simple and joyous to use. Set it so I can "right-click", and I can two button, three button, scroll up/down AND left/right without moving my hand. I can move back and forth between webpages (or documents) with a quick two-finger swipe. Tracking is phenomenal and precise. It's a combination of art and technology that simply isn't found in the PC world. Sure there are wireless keyboards and mice (and trackballs, pads, etc) for PCs, but the Mac stuff is so far ahead, it's not even fair.

Add in a copy of iWorks 09 (to go with the phenomenal "free" iLife suite), and you’ve got a genuine superstar of a system that will run rings around nearly any PC you want to compare it to. I paid just over $1700 for the entire system (software included), with a 3-year comprehensive warranty and service plan. That may seem like a lot, but just try and piece together a WinPC with comparable specs for that price. And don’t forget the software – Windows 7 and MS Office to match MacOS and iWorks, not to mention a decent photo and video suite to compare to the iLife suite that comes gratis with every Mac.

I think you'll be hard-pressed to find an AIO or laptop which is even capable of being upgraded to this level. I know it’s possible to match it with a full desktop PC, but then you’ve got this big, ugly box to find a place for. Oh, and a monitor that will match the size and performance of the iMac. Add it all up, and the cost of a comparable feature-set will easily equal or exceed what you'd pay for a Mac. I know – I tried it on Dell, HP, Best Buy and Tiger Electronics websites. Last but not least, don’t forget the comprehensive three-year service and support warranty.

At best, you can get a little cheaper (maybe 7-10% less) if you skimp a bit on some of the parameters. But then you have to factor in the elegance, aesthetics and overall clean integration of the Mac, which does count for something (if not in real dollars).

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m a Mac-convert. In less than a week, I’ve committed myself to a long-term relationship that will probably never end. Or at least, won’t until I fall in love with the iPad.