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Pope Francis: a fresh face for the Catholic church

The Catholic church has a dingy image of money-grabbing elitism. But Pope Francis is doing an excellent job of showing how a life of humility, humanism and love is the way to go.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though I gravitated towards atheism in my teen years and more recently back towards Christianity. Catholicism never particularly struck a chord with me as it features rituals, works and doctrines more heavily than I see necessary.

As such, I’ve often viewed Catholicism in a negative light as it seems to bind people up for the sake of tradition and money, rather than allowing people to be truly free.

Catholicism doesn’t exactly have a rosy image. It is seen as a money-hoarding, elitist, trust-breaking, abusive system stuck in the 1500s that has little care for humanity. And one can hardly blame the world for feeling that way given the stories that have come out of the organisation in the past 30 years.

Going hand-in-hand with Catholicism is the Pope himself. I’ve never thought much of the papacy but the election of Pope Francis in 2013 has changed my view of his office considerably. Continue reading “Pope Francis: a fresh face for the Catholic church”

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Stats can be so misleading

As a new parent, I’ve found myself reading a lot about child-rearing and the like and one thing has become very apparent that is really starting to annoy me.

People parade statistics around far too much and hold them in too high esteem. Some examples of stats I’ve read recently include:

Breast-fed babies are 24% more likely to be upward mobile.

Breastfed babies are 41% more likely to go to college.

This sort of statistics drives me nuts, because it is so often misrepresentative of what’s going on.

People scanning those stats may quickly come to the conclusion that breastfeeding your baby will result in your child having higher upward mobility and being more likely to go to college. Continue reading “Stats can be so misleading”

Should I buy a Prius or mentor a teenager?

With as much as Portlanders love the environment and the outdoors, there are quite a few Priuses on the road. But with all the carbon released into the atmosphere from the Eagle Creek fire, could all that environmental consciousness and good have been undone by a reckless teenager holding a firework?

As a colleague of mine and I were talking about the devastation of the still-raging Eagle Creek wildfire, he mused about the environmental impact of this single man-made event. My curiosity got the better of me and I wondered whether the good deeds of environmentally-friendly Portlanders who buy Priuses have been undone by the firework-flinging teenager who (allegedly) started the fire. Continue reading “Should I buy a Prius or mentor a teenager?”

Blockchain: A revolution occurring right in front of our eyes

Blockchain is best known as the technology that underpins Bitcoin, but it is so much more than that. Its uses are endless and in the very near future, we can expect all trade to occur on a blockchain, as well as more abstract uses, such as electoral voting.

Over the last few years, if you’re Internet-savvy, you may be aware of blockchains. If you do, you probably know it as the technology that underpins Bitcoin. If you know more than that, you’re in a very small group of people who actually understand what it does and how it’s capable of so much more.

Let’s take a step back. For those who don’t know, Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency” which is a currency that uses cryptography to handle transactions. Bitcoin is not backed by any central government as most currencies are today (the dollar is backed by the Federal Reserve and so on) and thus, is not subject to the purview of government. It is in this vein that many people have perceptions of Bitcoin being used for illicit activities. And while it does afford a level of anonymity if one so chooses, its uses go far beyond that and the illicit usage is only going to represent an increasingly small percentage of Bitcoin’s users as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become more prevalent.

The reason that Bitcoin can work without the backing of a central institution like the Bank of England is what is known as triple-entry accounting, made possible by the blockchain. In modern accounting, we use double-entry accounting, which means that for every debit, there has to be a credit somewhere else. This system has been in use since the 1400s and provides error-checking, but doesn’t stop people from falsifying records (think of “cooking the books” a la Enron).  The “third entry” in triple-entry accounting is a cryptographically-secure public record of every transaction so that these transactions can be verified. This is the blockchain. When you make a transaction using Bitcoin, a record is made in the blockchain and now everyone knows that one wallet paid out some Bitcoins to another wallet and so everyone agrees how many Bitcoins are in each wallet. Continue reading “Blockchain: A revolution occurring right in front of our eyes”

Oregon’s pedestrian laws

A pedestrian stands at the side of a six-lane road with a speed limit of 55mph, but there’s no marked crosswalk. Surely you, the driver, have the right of way? Not in Oregon.

If you should ever come and visit Oregon, you need to be aware that laws governing pedestrians are probably quite different than what you’re used to.

The main difference is that every single intersection is a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not. So, whether you’re travelling on a residential street or a six-lane arterial road, if a pedestrian is waiting to cross at an intersection (that is, where two roads meet, not necessarily a marked crossing), you must stop to allow them to cross. Continue reading “Oregon’s pedestrian laws”

A new law for short cars

Teeny-tiny cars and motorcycles have burned me one too many times. It’s time for legal action.

I’m introducing a new law for short cars which I think will receive overwhelming support from the public. Here it is:

All vehicles shall park such that the end of their vehicle is aligned with roadside end of a parking space rather than the wall/sidewalk end.

Why might you ask? Well, I was just bitten again by this situation – a situation I’m sure you’re all very familiar with. You’re driving around the car park looking for a space and 10 spaces in front of you, you see an open space, so you commit, line up, turn in before slamming on the brakes because you realise there’s a teeny tiny car or a motorbike parked there.

All cars are now required to park such that their car is visible from the driving lane to avoid these infuriating incidences.

Elon Musk’s visions for the future

Elon Musk discussed his work to date, between Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company, what he’s currently working on and how he sees the future (spoiler alert: your house will have a solar roof and you may know someone living on Mars)

I see and read a lot about Elon Musk, between his appearances in the news and the technology and engineering articles that I tend to gravitate towards, but I don’t recall having ever seen an interview with him.

My love of Wait But Why has given me a very thorough run-down of Elon’s projects over the last few years between Tesla, Hyperloop, SpaceX and more recently Neuralink, and it has always been clear from the sheer scale of his vision that he’s a brilliant mind that is thinking decades ahead of us. However, reading about him and his projects doesn’t make you appreciate his genius quite like seeing him talk about them.

Elon recently did an interview at TED2017 and for 40 minutes, he and Chris Anderson talked about all of the projects that Elon is juggling. What is most captivating is the way in which Elon thinks about the future and rationally asserts how things are going to change in the future. Continue reading “Elon Musk’s visions for the future”

A Sky Full of Stars

I’ve wanted a tattoo in honour of Ellie for a while now and seeing how free and joyful Ellie is when she hears ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ was perfect for expressing my love of her in ink

Back in January, I went ahead and got my second tattoo. Whereas my first tattoo was for Marti, I decided that I also wanted one each for Ellie & Jack.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about exactly what I wanted to get that embodied Ellie and how I feel about her. One of my favourite videos that I have of Ellie is when she fell in love with Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars and she would rock out to the chorus when it came on. Every single time I watch that video, her uninhibited joy makes me smile. And every single time I hear that song, it instantly makes me think of her.

Ellie asked for a dance party

I knew that I wanted to use A Sky Full of Stars in my tattoo for her when one day I was vacuuming with my headphones on and A Sky Full of Stars came on. For some reason, I was overcome with emotion (to the point of falling to my knees and sobbing with joy, which has never happened before) thinking about how much I love Ellie, what a blessing she is and how one day she’s going to be a grown woman that I may have the honour of walking down the aisle. Continue reading “A Sky Full of Stars”

How to remotely access your VPN-connected computer with Dynamic DNS

By using a dynamic DNS service in conjunction with some static routes on your home computer, you can access your home network, files and computers remotely, even if your main computer which reports your IP to the dynamic DNS service is permanently connected to a VPN.

This is a problem that I’ve been trying to crack for a long time now. I want to be able to access my home network remotely. The problem seems simple enough, but there were a number of roadblocks stopping me from doing this.

Firstly, my Internet connection at home has a dynamic IP address. This means it’s hard to target it because the IP address changes regularly. The solution to this is to use a Dynamic DNS service. The way these services work is to run a utility in the background on your computer and report its current IP address back to the Dynamic DNS service. It ties this IP address to one of its own domain names or a custom domain name that you ascribe to them.

I started to pursue this option. I purchased my own domain name and got an account at Dynu, one of several free dynamic DNS services and attached my domain name to it. I installed the IP Update Utility on my home computer, added my account credentials and successfully started reporting my IP address back to Dynu. However, there was a problem…

My computer is always connected to a VPN. Thus, whenever the IP Update Utility retrieved my IP address, it was getting the IP address of my VPN, not my public IP address. Thus, if I tried to use that to access my home network, I’d instead end up at the servers of my VPN service. Continue reading “How to remotely access your VPN-connected computer with Dynamic DNS”

How to say sorry

It’s taken 30+ years of life experience and 10+ years of marriage to realise that there’s a LOT more to apologising than I ever thought possible, and frankly, most people kind of suck at apologising.

“I’m sorry” is one of the most common phrases in the English language, but probably one of the most misused.

Before I got married, I didn’t understand any of the art of how to apologise. I thought you did something, you recognised that it was wrong, you said sorry and you perhaps asked for forgiveness. I was missing out on huge swathes of psychology, intricacy and emotion behind the phrase.

Since getting married and learning both by experience and by reading, I have learned that there is so much more to apologising and I was certainly doing it incorrectly in the past. A quick rundown of some of the things that you’re probably doing wrong when you try to apologise: Continue reading “How to say sorry”

Greg Davies: perhaps my favourite comedian

Greg Davies is now a household name in the UK, where his down-to-earth comedy makes you feel like you’re having a laugh at the pub with your mates.

I just finished watching Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog by Greg Davies again and I realised that he may well be my favourite comedian.

Those of you outside the UK probably have no idea who he is, so for the uninitiated, he’s a middle-aged man that used to a be a teacher and found his calling as a stand-up comedian in his thirties.

He’s clearly a very funny man and I think that perhaps the most endearing thing about him is that he’s still just like the funny guy in your group of friends, who laughs his way through his stories. There’s no persona, he freely makes fun of himself, and you just want to be his best friend. Genuine bloke. Continue reading “Greg Davies: perhaps my favourite comedian”

OMG-so-good vegan biscuits & sausage gravy

Marti and I have tried many recipes for biscuits and gravy since becoming vegan, but they never really did the trick. However, we finally found the perfect recipe for each and they’re hands-down the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had (even ones that aren’t vegan).

We’ve been vegan for a good number of years now and, living in The South, we have an affection for biscuits and sausage gravy.

This calorie-laden carb-fest is usually served at breakfast or brunch, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t just have this for dinner…

Biscuits and gravy is something that we’ve tried numerous incarnations of since becoming vegan and have always convinced ourselves that there’s a few recipes which are good and rival the conventional ones, but it wasn’t until I put this dish together tonight that I realised I was lying to myself all this time. This recipe is out of this world and is easily the best biscuits and gravy we’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise. Continue reading “OMG-so-good vegan biscuits & sausage gravy”