How Religious People Think

Having been brought up (i.e. indoctrinated) as a Christian, I know much more about Christianity than about other major religions, like Islam or Judaism. I will therefore use Christianity as an example, but I’m fairly confident that the case that I make can be made very similarly for other religions.

Any rational person, not necessarily atheist, but at least not indoctrinated with Christianity, when confronted with the Bible, will first note that it’s just a book, written over a long period of time by lots of people, but still just a book nevertheless. Upon reading it he’ll discover that it’s chock full of contradictions and falsehoods, so it might possibly make for some nice and a few not so nice bedtime stories, but it’s certainly not a book worthy of basing ones life on.

The Christian has a different approach. He knows the bible is the word of god. God does not contradict himself, nor does he spread falsehoods, so the christian would seem to be in a bit of trouble when confronted with them, but of course he is not.

You can point out a contradiction to him, like the completely different genealogies of Jesus in the gospels, and he will twist the words as long as it takes for the contradiction to vanish, because, obviously, they need to be twisted, because the bible does not contradict itself.

You can point out to him that the story of creation put forth by the bible is so at odds with what science has found out that it’s not even funny. He will, depending on which christian sect he belongs to, either tell you that genesis is not meant to be taken literally and is just symbolic, i.e. a story, or that it is meant to be taken literally and is, in fact, true. God created the universe a few thousand years ago, but made it look like it was billions of years old. He will point out that there are holes in the fossil record which biology cannot explain. Of course, what he cannot explain is why god would want to fake such an old universe, but then put in those holes.

He does not have to explain, however. God works in mysterious ways and whatever he does makes some kind of sense, even if we cannot understand it.

The christian is thus equipped with a vast array of weapons to destroy any problems that reality lays in the bible’s path. He can twist words, he can declare passages to be just symbolic, he can declare reality to be a fake and even if that doesn’t work out, he can declare that it doesn’t have to, but that it makes sense nonetheless.

He does all these things because he knows that the bible is true. This knowledge is stronger than any fact or logic, so trying to convince him of the contrary will not work.

Chris Bliss Diss

It seems that lately lots of non-juggling people have become quite excited over Chriss Bliss’s juggling routine video. The funny thing about it is that, to a juggler, the routine looks ridiculous. The juggling isn’t really hard and the perfect lead-in to the routine would be “Chris Bliss will now show you what it would look like for somebody with a severe case of Parkinson’s disease to juggle!”.

I’m not saying Chris Bliss is a bad juggler, but he certainly is very far from being world class with 3 ball. I’ve seen harder 3 ball routines performed without a drop in much better form (i.e. without the Parkinson’s touch). Luke Burrage‘s routine, which is perfectly choreographed as well, comes to mind.

Neither am I saying that it’s not permissible to entertain an audience by doing easy stuff! It’s show business, and the only goal is to entertain people, which he obviously does.

All I want is to set the record straight: Entertaining as Chris Bliss’s juggling routine may be (even for jugglers, but in a very different way), it’s nowhere near world class juggling. I’m also not the first one to speak up: Penn Jillette talked about it in his show on Free FM (they have a Podcast – subscribe to it immediately, it rocks!), and then, of course, the perpetually pissed off Jason Garfield did Chris’s routine with 5 balls and wrote a long rant about how much Chris and everybody else sucks. Read it, it’s hilarious!

Jason certainly cheated a little bit, though. He didn’t do the whole routine in one run. Look closely at the cut at 1:10, for example. Even so, what he did is so much more difficult than Chris’s routine that it’s hard to put it into perspective. Lots of tricks in his Jason’s video are harder for themselves than Chris’s whole show, by quite a wide margin.

At one point, though, something occurred to me and I wrote to Jason:

I just watched Chris Bliss’s video for the first time in its entirety (I couldn’t make it past one minute before) and it now occurred to me that Chris is so much more genius than anybody had ever thought. His routine is actually a parody of your 5 ball Bliss Diss routine and he did it before you even conceived that routine! That dude has psi powers! So, I guess now you should really give him the credit he deserved.

Jason promptly replied:

Exactly! watching his routine for the first time, I KNEW it was a parody of something. But it just didn’t exist yet. He is the Nostradamus of jugglers.

The Canon EOS 5D

On Saturday I rented the Canon EOS 5D from the Digital Kameraverleih (highly recommended if you’re in or around Vienna) and spent about 14 hours shooting with it, first at a portrait workshop at the Fotoschule Wien and then in a rented studio, shooting first Mascha and Karina, and then Jin and a friend of his. What follows are my impressions of this camera, in particular in contrast to my working camera, the 10D. This is, of course, not a quantitative review, and actually not a review at all. If you want that, I suggest you head over to Phil Askey’s Digital Photography Review.

The first thing one notices when using 5D is, of course, the big viewfinder. In my case, I actually take note of a big, “traditional” 35mm viewfinder when I switch back to the 10D. Suddenly, the viewfinder there seems to have shrunk by quite a bit. Seeing things larger makes compositing and judging the scene easier and more fun. One would suppose that it makes manual focussing easier, too, but that’s not really the case if you’re aiming for critical sharpness. Sure, the image you see is bigger, but then again, so is the resolution. To get a 12 megapixel image critically sharp, you have to be more precise than for a 6 megapixel image. Since the pixel sizes and viewfinder magnifications of both cameras are roughly the same, they cancel each other out, hence getting a pixel-sharp image on the 5D is pretty much as hard as it is on the 10D.

Another improvement in size is the LCD screen, which makes a very good impression. The images look much more lively and I found that I could judge image sharpness much better when I zoomed in than on the 10D.

The 10D is a slow camera by today’s standards, which is why I immediately noticed the 5D’s speed and responsiveness. Not only does it write to the CF card much faster than the 10D, you don’t even have to wait for the write to finish to review the images you just took. If you delete an image that’s not yet written, it just gets deleted from the buffer and never makes it to the CF card. Well designed!

The big selling point of the 5D is, of course, the image quality. The amount of detail this camera can capture is amazing. I am still impressed every time I look in detail at a good shot with my 10D, but the 5D is something else completely. Take a look at this self portrait, for example:

Read! My! Blog!

If you zoom in you can see each hair in my beard, each thread in my shirt’s fabric and it’s clear that I’m wearing contact lenses.

The detail comes at a price, however. Apart from the cost of the camera, significant investments in top-notch lenses have to be made to get a good performance out of the 5D’s sensor. My Tamron 28-75/2.8, which works wonders on the 10D, exhibits horrible edge performance on the 5D, even at small apertures. But even with very good lenses there’s the vignetting issue. The 24-105/4L IS USM which I used on the 5D vignettes very noticably wide open, especially at the wide end. The 50mm/1.4 is practically unusable wide open, while on the 10D, the vignetting is in most cases barely noticable. It has been said repeatedly that vignetting can be corrected in post-processing, which is true, but there is no cure for the loss of dynamic range in the corners.

Even with the right lenses, getting a perfect shot out of the 5D seems a lot more difficult than with the 10D, which is no surprise of course.

In the end, shooting with the 5D is much more fun than with the 10D and, if done right, looking at the shots it produces even more so. If money was no issue, I’d upgrade immediately to the 5D and better lenses. As it is, the 10D delivers everything I need (and more), and spending 3000 Euro for a little bit of fun isn’t worth it.


Why Juggling, Photography, Software, and Atheism, and why this blog?

The simple answer would be: Because they are topics that interest me and because I like talking about them and feel that I have a few things to say about them.

I am a juggler. What that means is that, much more often than necessary, I throw things in the air and, most of the time, succeed in catching them and throwing them up again. It also means that I go to juggling conventions around the world, sometimes perform on stage, and know lots of other jugglers. I also produced a few juggling videos with Thomas Dietz, a world-class juggler and good friend, and other fellow jugglers.

I am a photographer. Simply put, that means that I produce photographs. This production process encompasses not only the pressing of the shutter, but starts with the idea for the photo, and includes the set-up, the composition, the trial-and-error in all these steps, and of course the post-processing. I publish most of my photos on Flickr.

I am a software developer. Not surprisingly, that means that I develop software. I even do it professionally, i.e., people pay me to do it. Nonetheless, I like it so much that I devote parts of my spare time to a few private projects, about which you can read on my homepage.

I am an atheist. Not only does that mean that I don’t believe that there is a god, it means that I believe that there is no god. Unfortunately, I cannot do it professionally, because no one has yet shown willing to pay me for believing in no god, which I consider a
bit unfair, because lots of people are paid (by the Roman Catholic Church, for instance) for believing in one god. What I do believe in, though, is science and reason, and I intend to write one thing or the other about these topics.