Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Platitudes Bug Me

I have been thinking a lot about why it bothers me so much when intelligent people - people whom I otherwise respect - start repeating every nice-sounding platitude they see or hear. The problem with platitudes is that - like the bible, astrology, or Nostradamus' predictions - there is such a huge volume of mutually-contradicting, yet truthy-sounding material that one can cherry-pick just what one wants in order to prove or justify almost any belief, desire, or attitude. However, platitudes are even worse because of their brevity, vagueness, and tendency to appear entirely out of context, thus allowing any one platitude to serve diametrically opposed views.

For example: "Never forget" could mean

  • "Always remember to honor the dead and the contributions they have made."


  • "Don't forget what we did to make so many people hate us and try to treat people better in the future."


  • "Never forget that those people are evil and we must always hate them and try to eliminate or abuse them at every opportunity."

Or it could just mean to stop misplacing your car keys.

So, Person A could spout off with some platitude or repeat some quote out of context believing it means Thing One. But when Person B reads it they feel it justifies Thought Two. And because the platitude was repeated by someone they like or respect, Person B feels even more justified in in their belief, regardless of how irrational that belief may actually be. Because people rarely delve into what they actually mean by this quote or that platitude, they can hold diametrically, even fatally divergent opinions as to its meaning and never even know it.

Perhaps this lack of actual communication is why platitudes have seen such a resurgence as of late. People are afraid of conflict these days. It is rude to disagree with your friend. It is rude to disagree with almost anyone to their face. So we stage protests and hold signs covered with platitudes that mean nothing because they could mean anything. Yet almost no one actually goes to their neighbor and explains what they think said platitude means and what we should do about it in a manner that creates more understanding rather than less. Everyone appears to "just get along" while, seething just beneath the surface, is a level of distrust for "all those people who disagree with us - whoever they are" that likely hasn't existed since the Sixties - yet another era filled with slogans and signs.

This trend disturbs me even more when participated in by my friends who are atheists. We atheists claim to be rational beings, skilled at critical thinking. But all of that seems to go out the window when a truthy or pithy platitude is waved before some people's eyes. I firmly believe this is a dangerous habit to get into. Those who eschew formal religion but turn to platitudes are merely exchanging one amorphous, irrational, believe anything you want, religious-esque system for another and exchanging an imaginary friend for the ever-ethereal "truthyness."

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Show me a government statistic and I will show you disingenuocity.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Knowledge is all in your head.

RE: When Knowledge Isn’t Written, Does It Still Count? by: Noam Cohen

Knowledge exists only in one's head. Everything else is merely a means or attempt to communicate that knowledge. No, knowledge is not "stored" on websites or in books or databases or videos. These merely attempt to communicate knowledge to other people in the future. I know, this is quite a paradox. How can something be transferred if that something is not contained within the transfer medium. Think of it like a blueprint. The drawing is not the thing. It is a means of communicating how to make the thing. And remember, knowledge is not information or data. These can be recorded but the knowledge gained from looking at that information or data will only exist within one's head. In the case of actual artifacts, one could say the artifact is a means by which one can gain knowledge even though it is not being "communicated" from someone else.

This claim that Wikipedia is now "redefining knowledge" is farcical at best. Knowledge has always been what it has always and will forever be. The means of communicating knowledge have been changing and expanding ever since the first hollow log was thumped with a stick. Multimedia had become widely available and popular long before Jimmy Wales decided to take advantage of someone else's software to direct links to his private web sites. Unfortunately, the software Wales decided to use was incredibly limited. The popularity of Wikipedia and the arrogance of Jimmy Wales has somehow allowed him to "define" "knowledge" as only what would fit within the limited confines of the wiki software. Now, when he is finally ready to remove some of those limitations and allow additional mediums of communication to be stored on his site, people mistakenly credit Wales with "redefining knowledge" when all he is really doing is finally accepting what the rest of the world has known for thousands of years.

Once we break free of this myth that actual knowledge can be stored (and I don't think I am merely being pedantic here) we can then look at our various means of communicating that knowledge in the proper perspective.

A) We are forced to take a different approach to our writing. Does it merely record data or does it communicate knowledge. I submit that many textbooks barely perform the former task despite their marketing claims to achieve the latter.
B) We realize that all mediums for communicating knowledge have their strengths and their weaknesses. The written word with footnotes and citations has dominated through thousands of years merely because it was the only inexpensive and reliable means to communicate to as many people as possible.  The only other option was verbal communication which is inefficient, unreliable, and only available for a relatively short term (the life of the speaker).
C) We understand that the best way to communicate knowledge is most likely through a combination of many different mediums. People are different and different people may attain knowledge best via different mediums. Therefore as many different mediums as possible should be available, even the thumping of hollow logs, if that is what it takes.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mis-Labeling Terrorists

I have something to say and I'm not quite sure how to say it, so bear with me. I - and I'm sure many others - have noticed that the way "terrorists" are labeled by the media suffers from a pretty strong bias. These days the choices for the labels seem to come from a very limited list. A terrorist is either a "Muslim terrorist" or just a plain "terrorist" Very rarely does one see the terms "Christian terrorist" or "right-wing terrorist" or "anti-abortion terrorist." When people from these groups commit acts of terrorism it seems the "liberal media" shies away from calling them terrorist or associating them with any particular group at all. Often, these people are simply labeled as "extremists" in an attempt to distance them from any group that may have fostered their extremism.

In reality, there appear to be four main categories of terrorists:

  • Religious Terrorists - Muslim extremists, Christian extremists, Jewish extremists (though most of these seem to have moved to Israel) some of the members of the old IRA, anti-abortion extremists, and, yes, even Hindu and Buddhist extremists.
  • Racist/Bigoted/Chauvinistic Terrorists - the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Anyone who has ever lynched anyone, James Earl Ray (even though he only shot one man, it was an act intended to scare others into conformance with his wishes, thus terrorism), gay bashers (Every punch, every tripping, especially every dragging incident is an act of terrorism attempting to scare other gays into hiding.), Tea Party members who bring weapons to rallies (Who are they kidding? They wish they could shoot that uppity black man.), rapists (In a way, I suspect rape is a subconscious attempt to punish all women for taking something, some level of status, from the rapist.). {I know, lots of parentheses. Sorry.}
  • Misguided freedom fighters - Not all terrorist act out of hate. Some act out of desperation. I believe many Palestinian terrorists feel they have been pushed so deeply into a corner that they have no other option but to lash out. However, they do have another option and it has been proven to be far more effective. As I have said to my friends many times, "The Palestinians need to go Gandhi on Israel's ass!" They need to reject all violence. They need to lay down in front of the bulldozers used to demolish their homes for what are euphemistically called "settlements." (How can it be called a settlement when it is only meant to stir up trouble?) The Palestinians need to show, by contrast, just how disgusting Israel's treatment of them has been all these decades. Resorting to terrorism only serves to provide excuses for the Israeli government to continue and even escalate their mistreatment of the Palestinians
  • Profit-Motivated Bullies - Some terrorists act out of neither hate or desperation. Some just want to push people around in order to increase profits or their power base. Union busters, Bill O'Reilly when he sends his "producers" to go harass people at their homes or work-places simply because they have challenged him on yet another stream of bullshit that has poured from his mouth. (OK, low level, but he is still trying to scare people into not challenging him.), drug cartels (When they kill judges or bomb police stations, it is terrorism.), Slobodan Milošević. And finally, the Republican politicians, who are trying to scare all of America into a willingness to work for third-world wages, breath poisoned air, drink poisoned water, and hand over all our money, possessions, and rights to the über-wealthy so they can get back to the level of power and luxury that they had in feudal Europe. (If you think intentionally making millions of people afraid they may starve to death in the gutter is not terrorism then you have no humanity in you.)

Naturally, there is a lot of overlap. I just wish that the media would start labeling terrorism for what it is and labeling terrorists for what they are, rather than pushing the current bias which assumes that all religions nut-jobs who claim to be Muslims are "Muslim terrorists" while whitewashing all other terrorists with more euphemistic terms. Quite frankly, this is all getting pretty nauseating to me. While the terrorism itself is, well, terrible, I think it is the whitewashing that is getting to me the most. It is the bias inherent in the whitewashing which will continue to foster the conditions that create more terrorists. Sadly, sometimes it seems that has been the intent all along.

The contents of this post are Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


My grandmother was a stereotypical grandmother for the early sixties. She had raised her ten children in the big house on the hill and now she was raising one grand-daughter who's mother had died during childbirth. She raised all her own vegetables as well as some chickens and a turkey or two. (Ask my mother to tell you the story about the turkey that chased her up the woodpile.) Of course, she cooked everything from scratch. When we came to visit, she would wake us up every morning to eat the huge breakfast of biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, juice and toast she had made while we were all still asleep. I always marveled at how much she got done before the day even began.

When I finally did watch her make biscuits, I saw that she did it as quickly and easily as we open a can today. She didn't measure anything. Just took some handfuls of flour, some 'other stuff' and mixed it all up right on the counter. Grabbed off some wads and put them on the baking sheet. When she was done there was just a light dusting of flour left on the counter which she would scrape off onto one hand and put back away.

Not all food was this easy, though. Some even took a team effort. Many an hour have I spent snapping beans and shelling peas. Especially black-eyed peas (which are really beans, but who cares). I helped my aunt Toni (the grand-daughter they adopted by the kind of common law that was common back then) pick bushels of apples, peaches, raspberries, and blackberries from their trees and thickets. From which, Grandma would make the tallest pies you have ever seen. How she could make the crust the same way she made biscuits and not have it come out tasting like biscuits was something I couldn't understand.

But all of these picking skills didn't come naturally. I had to serve an apprenticeship first:

I couldn't have been but three or four years old. I remember there being some conversation over how I had never tasted a strawberry before. Why my mother had been negligent in this duty I'll never know. But I don't hold it against her. Well, my Grandma was resolved that I should not be denied this, one of life's finer pleasures, a moment longer. As is common among many of us of German decent, she was also resolved that, if I was going to do something, I was going to learn to do it right. So I guess it was a few moments longer.

My grandmother took me out to the strawberry patch. The rows seemed to stretch for a mile. It was probably closer to twenty yards. She showed me how to find the berries that were at the peak of ripeness. Large and firm. "The ones with the green 'n' white on 'em ain't ready yet." She reminded me to check for the soft spots that meant they were starting to turn rotten. "But don't mash too hard or you'll bruise 'em." Once we had a basket full we went in to the kitchen and she showed me how to rinse the dirt off them. She didn't even think to use pesticides back then. She cut off the leaves with one of those paring knives that Grandpa kept razor sharp. Plucked out those spongy white cores that are only attached at the top. And then, while they were still wet, she sprinkled just a little bit of sugar on them.

Finally, she picked the biggest, reddest one in the whole basket and held it out for me to take a bite out of. The thing was bigger than my little fist. I could only get a bite of the pointy end but that was all it took. How could something be so lightly sweet, a tiny bit tart, and taste cool without coming out of the refrigerator? I remember looking at my grandmother, my eyes getting wider and wider as the taste took over and awakened more and more of my mouth. I looked at my mom and back to Grandma. She had this look on her face that comes from the pleasure of giving pleasure to others and said, "Good! Ain't it?"

"Yeah" was all I could muster as I took the rest from her hand and began to take even larger bites. Well. needless to say, we finished the whole basket right there. From then on I had to have some strawberries every time we went to visit. I guess I thought Grandma's was the only place I could get them. Imagine my surprise when I learned you could buy them in a store. Not as good as the 'original' but a suitable imitation nonetheless.

As I said earlier, I don't resent that my mother had never given me a strawberry before then. In fact, I'm glad it slipped her mind all those years. If I had had them all along, perhaps I would not have appreciated that one nearly as much. Just imagine if I had never tasted one until today. As a fan once said to Samuel Clemens of his book Huckleberry Finn, "I wish I had never read it . . . So that I might have the pleasure of reading it for the first time all over again."

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Deception Pass

Everlasting beauty in a fleeting gesture. A fall of the hair. A conviction. There's a grasshopper sitting on a brass fire hydrant. I can see its reflection. Can it see mine? The mist clears just enough to see the Olympic Mountains minutes before the sun sets. That burning feeling in your lungs after a hard day's ride on Pacific Coast Highway that lets you know you have really maxed it out. The nurses letting you hold your new baby minutes after he is born and letting him suck on your finger for the first few hours of his life while his new mother sleeps. Singing great old blues tunes at the top of your lungs with the car windows down and having a beautiful woman tell you it's great. A shy smile. Take a long walk barefoot and just feel where you are. Four, five, six, or even a million dimensions is still limited thinking. Some truths are self-evident but you still have to write them down down to make them real. I will never figure people out and they will never figure me out. But who cares? Flaming red hair and cute little red Ked's. Long philosophical discussions where no one is right and no one is wrong.

On Whidbey Island I know of only one beach with regular sand. I didn't go there much. There is a "beach" with nothing but small boulders and washed up deadwood. When you run on it you have to watch where you place every step. With each of those steps your legs get stronger even as they grow more weary. Heightened awareness till your feet almost place themselves. You now know where every stone and branch is without looking - almost. But each step could still break your leg.

Deception Pass is right around the corner. You should see it in the evening. The sun casts a shadow of the bridge against the cliffs. If you jumped off that bridge it might take a full minute before you hit the surging tide. Not that I've timed it, but it is a long drop. The cliffs go up a couple, three-hundred feet and then the redwoods go up another fifty or so. When you round that corner with exhausted body and hyper-aware mind, those cliffs, the shadow, the ocean, the redwoods, the mountains, and that delicious air consume your whole being. Some would call it a spiritual experience. I just call it wonderful and know that I miss it. What's curious is that I am only just now learning to leap through life the way I leapt across that beach.

Written Jan. 7, 1996.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.


WARNING: The last paragraph of this piece is definitely Not Safe For Work. If you are prudish at all, then simply do not read the last paragraph. While the last paragraph may seem completely disjointed from the rest, the two are a cohesive whole and make a singular point. I thought about simply leaving that paragraph out of this posting so no one would be offended. However, that wouldn't be true to the "Art," the piece, or myself. You have been warned.

Written Jan 13, 1996.


It came to me in a dream. A revelation if you will . . .

What is it with cardboard shelves? Those folded, corrugated, racks you see at the ends of the aisles and in front of the counters at liquor stores and such. What magical, mythical qualities do they have to impart upon their contents, their wares? Is it the intricate folding patterns, derived by topological wizards? The smooth, shiny surface catching the fluorescent light as you walk by? The bright colors? Or perhaps that white circle, conveniently provided by the graphics and marketing minions, for the shopkeeper to fill in the price? But they never do. Left blank, in haste or neglect, they stare back at you like a giant, unblinking, pupil-less, cyclops eye.

But there is no magical vision. No mythical siren call. They are, after all, mere cardboard. Pressed brown fibers the same as the unassuming cartons those wine bottles were delivered in.

365 bottles of wine on the shelves.
    365 bottles of wine.
Take some down and . . .

. . . put them on cardboard racks and they achieve instant notoriety. People want to buy them. Take them home, savour that mythical taste. Yet, the only thing that really sets these bottles apart is that the are, well, set apart. Separated from the rest, on their flimsy cardboard stands, they are, therefore, unique. Separation, simply not being where the rest are, is the only thing able to impart those mystical qualities.

"Ah-hah!", thinks the shopkeeper. "I will put all of my wine on cardboard racks. Then they will all be special. People will want to buy them all. Take all of them home. Enjoy lots and lots of mythical flavor. And I will be very wealthy indeed!"

"A mistake.", I say. "A foolish and naive mistake." With all of the wine displayed in cardboard grandeur there are none, now, set apart. No unique quality. No myth, no mysticism, no magic. (Not to mention making a bull in a china shop seem a mere nuisance.) I believe it is good to leave 360 bottles on the shelves, thus to have five with magic. And, when you chance upon the magic, standing alone and apart at the end of the aisle, do not hesitate to taste of it. Revel in it with passion. Savour the heady drunkenness, knowing the next bottle will not even compare. If you let this one slip over your tongue without appreciation, then it will be gone. Not even a memory, fading or otherwise.

Her sinewy, cream, legs clamped around my hips. Her pert breasts bounce as I walk from room to room. Nipples brushing against mine. Occasional walls, the refrigerator, and doorframes giving additional power to our thrusts. A doorframe, Doorframe, DOORframe! My hands entangle her infinite blond hair against her back while her nails bite into mine. Orgasms, but minor distractions from the giving and receiving of raw, unmitigated, pleasure.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.


This piece was also written some time in 1996. It is about an actual personal experience I had while sitting in Otto's Malt Shop on 39th Street in Kansas, City, MO, sometime around 3:00 in the morning.

"You just look in their eyes."

And I knew what she meant but I didn't seem to want to admit it. Not even to myself. Now noticing that she has the faintest little crow's feet (I always did like crow's feet, even when I was young, and I'm not sure why) and tiny crinkles under her eyes, I mention something vague about how some women get lines around their eyes at a very young age.

"No. In. In their eyes!" she says, penetrating my skull with her gaze. Emphasizing each "In" by poking her finger almost "In" her own eye. As if she were trying to pull me in there with her. Just for my own good. So I could learn from the experience.

Little does she know, I have looked "In" enough eyes for a lifetime. I have looked "In" the eyes of sixteen year-old women wizened by abuse. I have looked "In" the eyes of forty-one year old girls who have been abused so badly and for so long that they have retreated back to innocence (or is it ignorance) and child-like vulnerability. I have looked "In" eyes filled with dollar signs. Eyes that scan men up and down as if they were scanning the mag-stripe on a credit card. I have looked "In" eyes full of love and caring and watched as they filled (almost like in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon) with seething hate as those eyes projected the crimes of fathers onto me. I have looked "In" eyes full of love and caring but, looking deeper, found only a desperate need for love and caring. I have looked "In" eyes and seen the wisdom of the ages. Unfortunately, sometimes those eyes don't see their own wisdom and so the minds and bodies do foolish and self-destructive things. I have looked "In" the eyes of a gay friend and known they were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen on a man. Seen that his "orientation" was exactly right for him. I have looked "In" eyes that revealed knowledge and maturity and worldliness but, nevertheless, were much too young to be looked into by eyes as old as mine.

Of course there have been many eyes with no interest in being looked "In" at all. Some kept out my eyes specifically. Others just kept out all prying eyes period. Most often, far too often, I have looked "In" eyes and found . . .

. . . nothing at all.

Eyes can reveal a lot about a person. The least of which is the number of years since their birth. Or what old TV shows they will have seen - not in re-runs. But, just now, at this point in my life, at this time of the morning, I am overwhelmed in, exhausted by, or perhaps just plain sick to death of what I have seen in so many eyes that I focus, instead, on the tip of her fingernail. So close to, but not quite "In" the eye she now wants to reveal to me.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Thought Shadows

Yet something else I wrote back in '95 or '96. I had seen the first line written out in those poetry magnets on somebody's refrigerator and finished out the rest myself.

Delicately fingering moon shadows,
    we leave the sun behind.

Recalling a thousand tiny thoughts,
    we trace the shadows in our minds.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

The Sidewalk

I wrote this piece some time around 1995 or '96. It had been several years since I had seen my son, Benjamin, because his mother had a tendency to move around a lot. This made it pretty impossible for someone with little means, such as myself, to "track them down" as was so often suggested by people who have watched too many soap operas. I was sitting and thinking about all this one day when this came out:

Benjamin used to love to walk on the sidewalk. I would come home from work and give him his first taste of independence. At first I would only let him go a foot or two by himself. But I did let him go. Other parents didn't seem to let their kids go anywhere, ever. I let him go. But only so far. "Hey Beee Jaaay!" I would sing-song after him. He would stop and turn around. Another sing-song of "Come baaack!" would bring him waddling back to me for a big hug.

I often wondered why he never just took off like those other kids I always saw parents chasing after. I guess, because we started giving him some freedom early, he didn't feel the need to "break free" any time he got the chance. One year olds are just like teenagers and the down-trodden masses. If you restrict them too much they are bound to rebel. We decided early-on not to be the kind of parents who said, "No!" to everything.

After a few days I would let him get a step or two further before I called him back. Then a step or two more. After a while he would stop on his own and look back. Sometimes I would call him back. Sometimes I would let him go another few steps. Before long I could trust him to go all the way to the end of the block and still come back when called. I'm sure it was because I let him go at all. He was about a year and a half then. I like to tell myself that today I would trust him with my life.

I sit here and think, "Perhaps I've discovered the secret. And it's so simple." But then I realize (or remember) it's been five years since I've seen him and he could be completely changed. He's fourteen now. I know lots of kids just a little older than he is. They have seen a hell of a lot of life already. Not all of it good. I'd like to think he has seen it too but risen just a little above it all. I want him to be a good person, but not because he isolated himself like I did.

What is he doing? What is he like? Does he think I've abandoned him and hate me for it? Does he understand? He seemed to when he was nine, but that was a long time ago. I can't get the years back. I can't do it again. A scalpel and some sutures have seen to that. Besides, I could never make another one like him. I think that's one of the reasons I totally discount the notion of a vasectomy reversal. I feel as if I made one casting and broke the mold. He may not be perfect but in my mind he's as close as it gets. When I finally see him again will he fall off the pedestal? Probably. Will I be proud of him? I'm sure. Should I try to contact him now? I don't know. Will he eventually contact me? I guess so. Will it be worse or better if I act or wait? I have absolutely no idea. I used to kiss him on the top of his head. I wonder if I will ever be able to do that again.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"you" May Not Have Free Will but "YOU" Do

This post is in response to Sam Harris' article on Huffington Post: You Do Not Choose What You Choose.

With apologies to Strother Martin: What we have here is a failure to equivocate.

In other words, this entire argument is based upon a fallacy of equivocation, defining a word in different ways within the same argument. Sam Harris narrowly defines the word "you" to mean "one's conscious self" at some points of this argument, but uses it to mean "all of one's body and brain" in other parts of his argument. In fact, he does so within the headline itself.

By stating that one's conscious self is not aware of or able to directly control the mechanisms by which one's unconscious self makes decisions, Mr. Harris seems to believe he has made the point that we have no free will. Instead, he has merely made the point that a small subset of what we commonly call "me" does not have free will. I will accept, as much research has shown, that my conscious self is usually - if not always - not directly aware of what is going on on the back burners of my brain. My conscious mind is not able to direct which synapses form where or how strong or redundant the connections will be.

However, I do not accept that my conscious mind is all there is to "me." Perhaps the distinction is between "me" (with a little 'm') and "Me" (with a capital 'M'). Both are nevertheless part of the collective "ME." I assert that - even though my conscious self may not be aware of what is going on - it is still "ME" who is ultimately making the decisions. My conscious self may not choose to choose "rabbit" instead of "elephant" but my unconscious self did. My conscious self may not know why my unconscious self chose one over the other but my unconscious self may. Or it may not. It is still "ME" that is making the decision. Even if that decision is entirely random and based on the quantum state of a couple of molecules of neurotransmitter. Those molecules are still part of "ME" and I claim them as my own.

In the end this "free will" debate is moot. Like creationism, free-will arguments will always be "gap-based" arguments. Anything that can't currently be explained will be treated as proof for one side of the argument or the other. We are unlikely to ever be able to definitively settle the dispute. What ultimately counts is our perceptions (as well as the reactions within our unconscious minds which those perceptions trigger). As long as our collective perception is that we can actually do something to make ourselves and our world better then I will be satisfied.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

False Patriotism

A country consists of its land and its people. Whomever fails to care for both cannot consider themselves a patriot.

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False Patriotism by Grant Sheridan Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

How to remove Renderable Text from .PDF files to allow OCR

For all those people out there - students, academics, archivists, and eBooks readers - who have been stymied by Adobe® Acrobat's® stubborn refusal to perform optical character recognition (OCR) on a document, claiming: "Acrobat could not perform recognition (OCR) on this page because: This page contains renderable text." - I believe I have found a workable solution. Notice, I am not saying it is "The" solution. That would be for Adobe® to fix their software. I just think this is a workable solution which is much better than the "save to TIFF and rebuild from there" solution offered by Adobe®. Using this technique, it is possible to obtain a searchable and text-select-able document while preserving the original image of the scanned document, if desired.


  1. Print the "malfunctioning" .PDF file to the "Microsoft XPS Document Writer" printer driver (which you will need to install).
  2. Convert the resulting .XPS file to an Acrobat® .PDF file.
  3. Perform OCR in Acrobat® using one of the three available output styles depending on the type of document you have and the results you want.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Atheist Activist Vows To Fight Illinois Moment Of Silence Law

Today, Huffington Post had an article about an atheist activist trying to force his views on others. As an atheist myself, I take exception to his tactics so I posted the following comment:

I am an atheist and I also believe that religion has likely caused or facilitated more horror than any other social ill. However, I have long advocated FOR allowing students to take a moment of silence precisely because it is more in line with the constitution. Note that the words "Separation of church and state" are not in the constitution. It simply says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." To disallow students from taking a moment of silence - to pray if they want to - is definitely "prohibiting the free exercise" of their religion.
I don't know if REQUIRING that moment of silence is the proper solution. But if you don't give students at least some time to pray before events for which their religion would normally dictate that they pray, then you are "prohibiting the free exercise" of their religion. As long as the students don't abuse the right to the point that it is truly disruptive, and there is no discrimination against those who do something other than pray during this time, then I see no problem with it. Students who tease others who don't pray should be sued for violation of their civil rights.
Atheists going to the Supreme Court to stop children from exercising their religion is just as bad as the Christian right trying to pass laws based only upon their own beliefs.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.