Sunday, August 19, 2007

So, self-hatred is popular now...

All right folks, I'm still trying to figure this out. Why is it popular to hate where you live?

I'm at work, having a conversation about my move here from Dallas, and why I like Kansas City a lot more than Dallas. Just a couple things I've observed while living here - less traffic, etc... And up comes the local self-hater. "Yeah, you might THINK traffic here is better than in Dallas, but just wait until something closes..."

I can understand the occasional "I live in misery" joke, but honestly people... Spoken by an immigrant into this area - if you don't like where you live, MOVE THE $@*& OUT. Kansas city is a great place to live. The climate here is temperate compared to Dallas or Houston - don't tell me about heat + humidity until you've been near Houston or had a nice wave of moisture from the coast come over when the temperature outside is already well above 100, without a "heat index".

I don't get people who just complain and bitch for the sake of complaining and bitching. If you want to be politically active by getting the word about REAL issues - then you are acting as a positive force. But frankly, I'm really tired of people dogging Kansas City just because they live here.

It's not just a Kansas City thing either, when I was in Dallas, people used to love to bitch about how much Dallas sucked. I really wonder how people make it through life, always hating everything about it. Maybe they love to hate?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Would I go back?

This question has raised itself a few times recently. Would I return to the religion that I left? It's a tricky question for me, because there is so much emotional baggage attached. There are times, I wake up, and I actually do feel inclined to put on a suit, and head to a Sunday morning meeting. Over the year, those times have reduced, but it still does occasionally happen. One of my friends recently stated to me, that they couldn't be involved romantically with an ex-member because of the fear they would have about them going back. I must admit, at times I have had this same fear in people I've been involved with.

But, would I go back?

It's a funny thing, my answer to that question has remained the same: No. However, my answer to the follow up "Why" question has.

Previously, my answer would have likely been some gibberish about doctrine, or child molestation, or blood transfusions, or the issues with biblical contradictions in the literature. But, when that question was so recently posed, those prior things never even came up.

Some things in life act as ground for you. That ground is a part of your life that you can look back at, and use to chart your course in the future. These are the things that our personal compass works off. A well grounded person has benchmarks that aren't trivial. They are solid fixtures around them. When making a decision about faith and God and who you want to be in life, the ground for that decision must be strong for that decision to be meaningful.

When I first came to Kansas City, a 23 year old boy, my ground was barely tangible. The reason why I couldn't go back? It just didn't seem right to be there. The arguments I could make in regards to the Bible and prophecy and all, did have solid facts around them. But, argument can easily convince people of things that are less than factual - and denial can work in to cause one to reject things they thought to be true. Sitting on a guest room bed that first night, the world spun around me, and I longed for the comforting embrace of familiarity inside the walls of my former church. I sobbed myself to sleep.

A lot changed after that night, and over the year that followed. I faced my father, and in doing so, I feel, grew into adulthood. I left home, worked, played, 'fell in love', made friends, did some stupid things, did some smart things, saw people, enjoyed new experiences, and made solid memories. As I did this all, I never realized how I was changing as a person, and the new things I was using to make judgments.

Why would I not come back today?

The first thing to come to mind is not some explanation of the Bible, some random fact about archeology or history, some piece of trivia. The first things that came to mind?

A (now) 4 year old boy, seeing me in the front door and shouting "Anwooo". Then, lunch on a Sunday after a 45 minute drive to see a newlywed couple. A phone call with the mother of that same 4 year old boy, and smart ass comments by her husband. A party for a friend moving into his newly purchased house. A wedding and all the guests that came. "My first love" with a strong and passionate woman. Christmas dinner with a coworker. Going to an Indian (near Pakistan India) Birthday party and watching the amazing mix of American and foreign cultures.

I look at these things, and they give me a much clearer view of the world around me. I once wrote that the perfect Holiday was not an actual day, but the collected memories that someone builds around Holidays. At one point, I felt like an outsider looking in, and while that feeling is still there, I realize now, that I have started the process of building a new life. I have been adopted into a wonderful and loving family.

So, why would I not go back? I only need to take a look at the people around me, my new adopted family to see why. It's not even a question. Any religion that would tell me that this family is something of evil or demonic has at that point shown itself so. Unlike what the religion said about those around me, they aren't selfish, immoral, backstabbing people. Yes, they aren't perfect. But frankly, the people in that old Church caused me far more harm over the years. When I saw one member of the Church, and listened to her cold comments, and realized what an icy Bitch she was, versus the person she portrayed herself as earlier... And when I hear talk of how I'm obviously troubled or evil by members of the Church.... All of these things, I see in stark contrast to the people here.

And the amazing thing, if I went back to the Church, these people here would still talk to me - but they would cry that I couldn't talk to them.

That is why I don't go back, and can not even begin to picture it happening.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The peril of smart pointers in C++

It's a general pattern I've seen in several large C++ code bases. Either through the standard std::auto_ptr, or from some custom contrivance, a block of code throws around smart pointers and memory allocations without really thinking about it. auto_ptr makes it easy to return a pointer, and then throw it away without worry because the memory will be easily deallocated. So, I find myself reading a lot of code like this:

class Rectangle;
std::auto_ptr factoryMethod();

There are several annoyances to a good C++ programmer here, but there's also something very hidden and illusive that most people would never think about - allocating and deallocating memory isn't that cheap. Now, it's not a very expensive operation either, but handling a memory allocation off the heap can easily take up to 500% the amount of time as allocating off the stack - and that can easily increase if your code is doing a lot of it.

Using named returns provides an excellent alternative. In a few example blocks of code I tested with some speed critical operations, I tested a 6 fold increase in speed when using named returns versus passing around pointers. The use of a named return allows you to return and use temporary objects, without worrying about copy constructor calls.

So, in summary, the next time you are about to throw in a 'new' keep in mind that allocating memory using new (especially in a tight loop), is a LOT slower than just creating a new variable off the stack.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

No more studying for you!

So, this little gem has recently surfaced regarding the current policies in regards to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Probably a bit too late, as doing exactly this is what really "pulled" me out. Contrary to the beliefs of several others, it wasn't the internet. I read something in my personal research, and it slowly ate at the JW reasoning and logic until a 'straw' fell and broke the camel's back. The book I was reading?

Archeology and the Bible

In one of my fits of spiritual activity, I decided it would be cool to pick random topics from one of the Watchtower publications, and look up the references in the University bookstore. I looked up the references, started reading, and discovered that the publication had glossed over several points made quiet clear in the book. In fact, they had taken some points whole sale, and disregarded others. To make matters worse, the point they picked up and presented, completely conflicted with the logic provided for the other point. Hence I discovered, the great controversy of 607 BCE.

I would never have discovered the small fact that 607 was never presented in ANY secular environment, if I had not looked up the reference they provided. Surely, I thought, the reference was in error. It was, after all, a very old work, and maybe that theory had been changed. I went to the university bookstore, looked up several more books, and discovered that ALL of them stated a couple things, such as the secondary date 537BCE being somewhat uncertain (only stated in some earlier works I looked at).

It's worth noting that I didn't leave the JWs at that point, or when I discovered while out preaching about the membership of the WTB&TS with the UN, or when I saw the Dateline special on child abuse... No, even after all of that, I still believed. The reason I stopped believing? I had a cold slap in the face from life, and had to rethink things. Had I not been exposed to these things, I might have gone differently.

In the end though, that cold slap came directly from the Congregation/Church I was visiting. I might have left anyway, but the knowledge of those things made the decision easier.