Jul 3rd, 2013

Compile SAGA for Mac OS X

By Nick Robison


The good folks over at OsGeo have worked their magic and turned all the installation steps into magic. So, to get a nice shiny SAGA install, all one needs to do is this:

brew install saga-gis --with-app --with python

I’ll leave the rest of the post up for posterity (or if you really like doing things the hard way), but it should’ve be necessary.

For people who like doing things the hard way:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a bunch of work with different geospatial packages, including SAGA which is tremendously powerful, albeit incredibly difficult to compile from source. Which isn’t really a big deal as most Linux repos have fairly up-to-date versions, but as my primary machine is Macbook Air, I’d like to be able to run natively and as of right now, there are no prebuilt packages.

There’s a pretty good set of compile instructions already available on Sourceforge, but they’re based around installing prebuilt OS packages and/or compiling stuff on your own, which can be tricky and is hard to keep updated. By now you’re thinking, why not just use Homebrew? What a great idea, if you’re not already a Homebrewer, you should be. It’ll make all the ladies love you, and all your kids will be 6 feet tall and look like David Hasselhoff. Unfortunately, the version that ships with Homebrew is good ol’ 1.6, which is only slightly more modern then the version Moses used to teach the Israelites. So, to the source we go, and with a few modifications we may just have some success.

Note: These instructions assume that you have a working version of Homebrew, as well as the various packages  (automake, libtool, subversion, etc) and know-how necessary to compile generic software.



1. Install XQuartz

The first packge you’ll need is XQuartz, which you’ll need to download and install yourself just like a normal OS X package. No magic here.

2. Install Basic SAGA Dependencies

The first few deps can be installed in one fell swoop:

3. Build GDAL

The default GDAL recipe installs an up-to-date and fairly complete version of GDAL, but it’s missing KML support, which is a big deal for what I do, but  unfortunately GDAL requires libkml 1.3 and Homebrew only uses 1.2, so we need to build from SVN.

As of now, you’ll need to touchup some of the configure files before compiling:

  • Edit configure.ac and remove the reference to ‘-Werror’
  • Also in configure.ac, replace ‘AM_CONFIG_HEADER’ with ‘AC_CONFIG_HEADER’

Now, build it:

CXXFLAGS="-O3 -pipe -march=core2 -msse4.2 -msse4.1 -mno-avx" ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/Cellar/libkml/1.3


make install

brew link libkml

NOTE: Depending on how old your Mac is, you may have to remove the SSE optimizations from CXXFLAGS, the reason we’re not using ‘-march=native’ is that it throws an error in GCC 4.2, and no, libkml does not compile correctly using clang. I tried.

3. Install wxWidgets

****If you’ve perused the previously mentioned compile notes, you’re probably wondering why we didn’t just install wxWidgets along with everything else. The reason is, the provided recipe doesn’t have the correct compile flags and misses some of the x86_64 features. Which throws errors during the SAGA comple. The simple fix is to edit the recipe:

And paste the following lines into the ‘args’ vector right before “–disable-debug”:




Boom, now just

and you’re off.

If you want to put the recipe back the way it belongs, just check it back out from git:

get checkout wxmac.rb



3. Build SAGA

Now you’re finally ready to build SAGA itself. First, you’ll need to grab it from subversion

By default, the Makefiles reference some libraries that either don’t exist, or are named differently on OS X, so you’ll need to touchup the Makefiles.

  • Edit src/saga_core/saga_odbc/Makefile.am and change “-lodbc” to “-liodbc” (without the quotes).
  • Edit src/saga_core/saga_gui/Makefile.am and delete “aui,base,” and “propgrid,” from the first AM_LDFLAGS line.

Now, build the config files.

With all the various config flags and options, it’s easiest to build a script to put it all together.

and add the following lines:


CXXFLAGS="-O3 -march=native"






LINK_MISC="-arch x86_64 -mmacosx-version-min=10.7 -isysroot /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/MacOSX.platform/Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.7.sdk -lstdc++"


This will link to the appropriate libraries, use the correct SDK, and install the files in the correct location, super fancy right? The last step before building is to add a missing header from the _proj _library, while it’s not included in the homebrew build, we can extract it from the downloaded tarball:

mv /proj-4.8.0/src/projects.h {SAGA_DIR}/src/modules_projection/pj_proj4/pj_proj4/projects.h

rm -rf proj-4.8.0/

Now, make like the wind:



make install

brew link saga

Once that finishes you should have a working install, but since this is a fancy Apple computer, you’re probably wanting a nice Application bundle. Lucky for you, there’s a script for that.

wget http://web.fastermac.net/~MacPgmr/SAGA/saga_gui.icns

chmod +x create_saga_app.sh

./create_saga_app.sh /usr/local/bin/saga_gui SAGA

ln -s {SAGA_DIR}/SAGA.app /Applications/SAGA.app

And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we do that. You now have a slick, up to date , and working copy of SAGA on your lovely OS X installation. There’s one minor caveat, if you’re like me and had grand visions of using RSAGA to run spatial statistics, you’ll find that it only supports SAGA versions up to 2.0.8; which don’t compile on the latest version of Xcode as they no longer support the Carbon SDK. If you really need R integration, you’re stuck with a Linux or Windows (gasp) VM.

FINAL NOTE: These directions worked for me and should work across platforms, and yes, there are probably better and more efficient ways to do this, but my motto is ‘when in doubt, add another compile flag’.

Go forth and be spatial!

Apr 21st, 2013

Three Minute Thesis

By Nick Robison

This quarter I’m taking a Teaching Methods class, which requires me to give a series of different presentations as well as teach an undergraduate level class (just one though, no need to torture the kids more then is absolutely necessary). This past week we had to present our dissertation research (or proposed research) to the rest of our classmates in under three minutes, or in my case, under 3:32. That’s not really an easy task, especially when at this point my research is pretty much all encompassing. As in, encompassing all of science, but I gave it my best shot.

In case you were wondering what it is I do all day, this should answer some questions.

Note: That breathing sound is not me sucking in a huge amount of oxygen, it’s the compressor on the audio channel. Just thought I should clear that up.

Apr 10th, 2013

Book Review: Where the Conflict Really Lies

By Nick Robison

I don’t normally write book reviews, for a time I gave it a shot, but it turned out to be incredibly tedious for both the writer and the reader; however, over the past 4 months I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a faculty/graduate student luncheon here at UW discussing Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s new book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism and I thought it deserved a bit of discussion here.


Starting out, I had really high hopes for this book. I had heard from many sources that it was one of, if not the best, apologetics books of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. To begin with, it’s important to point out what this book is not; it’s not a book about the rationality or compatibility of Christianity with science. At its core, it’s a juxtaposition of theism with naturalism and pointing out key points of conflict and harmony. The central tenant is:

there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.

– pg. 3 (emphasis added)

A reader picking up this book and looking for a rigorous defense of Christianity will be sorely disappointed as the religion purported by the author is one quite different then modern day Christianity. What Plantinga describes is a religion that may in fact be merely the product of evolutionary development and have only enough value to provide comfort in times of distress, or give us social norms to cling to. The god of this book is one with only limited interaction with the world and who, once setting the world in motion, seems to have been content with letting things transpire as they will, baring some rare exceptions. While it’s true that many of the trappings of modern religion have developed out of tradition and without a firm link to scripture, there are many elements (such as God’s divine action, or universal moral law) that are not merely peripheral fillers but key to what many (including myself) would call Christianity, to simply wave them away seems at best disingenuous, and at worst deceptive.

Of course, I don’t want to imply that Dr. Plantinga has sold out his faith, or abandoned its central tenants, what he’s attempting to do is argue that the central concept of theism is a better fit with science then raw unguided naturalism, so while it may in fact be that religion is simply an evolutionary spandrel, that has little to do with his underlying premise. To the average reader though, this is a cold comfort. Most people don’t live in a world of rigid naturalism, or have the ability to take the base arguments for theism and extrapolate them to encompass ‘working’ religion. Instead, most people find themselves in the position of justifying the personal faith that they hold. A faith where God is not only present but continually acting in the world, a faith that is more then simply an archaic shield against uncertainty and fear but a hope for redemption and a moral law that all men are held accountable to. The end result is that by stripping religion down to its bare theistic elements Dr. Plantinga has been able to claim ‘superficial conflict’ but unfortunately in doing so has abandoned most readers to fend for themselves.

However; it’s not all bad news. The logical consistency displayed throughout the book is truly exceptional, Dr. Plantinga has an incredibly deep understanding of a myriad of religious, philosophical, and scientific topics. Not only that, but the book is incredibly well referenced with both books and scientific papers, a reader looking to delve deeper into any of the mentioned topics will have plenty of directions to choose from. Dr. Plantinga has taken exceptional care to ensure that each argument, premise, and counterpoint is well thought out and carefully explained, the result is a comprehensive book accessible to a wide variety of readers.

In conclusion, if you’re a potential looking for resources in explaining theism and the pitfalls of unguided naturalism, look no further then this book. If, on the other hand, you find yourself in the position of defending Christian faith and explaining reasons for why you believe what you do this is probably not the best book to consult.

Unfortunately, at this point, I don’t have a ton of great resources to recommend to readers.  A number of years ago I often referenced J.P Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City  as a go-to resource for philosophical points. John Polkinghorne has some great books such as Quantum Physics and Theology _and Belief in God in an Age of Science which are similar to Plantinga’s book, but a little different. A lot of people that I know rave about Tim Keller’s The Reason for Godthough I haven’t read it and can’t speak to its content. Finally, Alister McGrath’s Glimpsing the Face of God_ is absolutely phenomenal, though quite different from the preceding resources.

If there are any books that you’ve found to be especially insightful for helpful, please leave a link in the comments.

Mar 31st, 2013

He is Risen

By Nick Robison

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!

15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;

he has cleared away your enemies.

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil.

16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

“Fear not, O Zion;

let not your hands grow weak.

17 The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,

so that you will no longer suffer reproach.c]

19 Behold, at that time I will deal

with all your oppressors.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

20 At that time I will bring you in,

at the time when I gather you together;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes,” says the Lord.

– Zephaniah 3:14-20 (ESV)

Mar 20th, 2013


By Nick Robison

Dear all,

I have not forgotten you, it’s simply the fact that it’s the end of the quarter and I’m pretty well swamped under with papers and such. Fear not, next week is my spring break and I have a few things I’ve been thinking about and I may spend some time elucidating them here. I’ve also been working on a few projects, some of which are pretty cool, so look forward to that.

In the mean time, here are a few things to keep you satiated.

  1. This awesome video:
  1. This cool paper [cite source=’pubmed’]23354052[/cite]
  1. This innovative idea
  1. The new share buttons at the bottom of the posts, you can even send directly to your Kindle for later reading. What will they think of next?
  1. This great song
  1. This picture of a cat

Until next time.


Mar 7th, 2013

Let heaven come

By Nick Robison

Last night at my Discipleship Community (or DC if you’re in the know) we sang a song during worship with the bridge:

Let heaven come

Throughout the night I kept coming back to that line, let heaven come. What a terrifying, terrifying thought. Do we really want heaven to come down? Are we actually ready for that?

We like to think about God coming back. Riding down amongst the clouds, proving wrong all those annoying atheists once and for all. I told you! I told you he was real! Then we get to the sinners, oh boy, now they’re in for it. God’s gonna come in and show them a thing or two, John Cash was right all along! Maybe while he’s here we’ll get one of those super ‘Jesus highs’ you get from going to Christian conferences, only this one will last longer then 3 days. Boy, that’ll be awesome.

But that phrase means so much more then what we think it does.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

– Matthew 6:10 (ESV)

Your will be done. Right there, everything changes direction. His will? Really? Is that how that works? I thought heaven coming down only meant something for those people outside the Christian club! Nope. Heaven is God’s territory, what he says goes, no negotiations, no pleadings. If we really want heaven on earth, then we have to realize that the end result will be us being in total submission to the will and desire of God, that’s what heaven’s like, are we alright with that?

For most of us, we really like to have our own way. We like religion, just not too much. We like obeying God, but only until we start to look like ‘those people’. We desire holiness, but our sin is pretty fun too, and as long as God hangs out up there in heaven we can get away with just enough sin and disobedience to have a little extra fun while we’re here in earth. I mean, come on, he couldn’t have meant all my sin, some if it’s not really that big of a deal, everyone does it, and some people do way worse. So I’m sure God would be fine, it’s like par for the course. Again, nope.

Really, it’s not even about sin, it’s about all those things you know God asked you to do, but you didn’t. It’s about all those times you feel those pangs in your heart to give something extra in the offering plate, sign up for the 3am prayer slot at Church, or invite that weird guy from accounting to lunch (they’re always from accounting). All those things you know you should be doing but find some sort of excuse not to. Now, imagine God is really here, heaven has actually come to earth, somehow those excuses don’t seem to cut it anymore.

Let heaven come, but maybe not just yet. 

The second thing about heaven coming around is that God will be here, for real. Really here, and historically, that’s been a big deal.

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,


<sup>11 </sup>“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,<br /> to receive glory and honor and power,<br /> for you created all things,<br /> and by your will they existed and were created.”
&#8211; Revelation 4:9-11 (ESV)
&#8230;“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. <sup>20 </sup>But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
&#8211; Exodus 33:19-20 (ESV)

<div> The presence of the Lord is unlike anything we can imagine, it is great and glorious, beautiful and mighty. When heaven does come to earth, the physical presence of the Lord will come with it, and it will be incredible. Don’t think for a second that you can enter the presence of the Lord and not be changed. Don’t pretend that all your righteousness, pretenses, and excuses won’t be stripped bare in front of Yahweh of Armies. The presence of the Lord is both glorious and terrifying. Glorious, that’s why people immediatly fall to worship. Terrifying, that’s why the arrival of angels, mere wisps compared to the living God, announce their arrival with fear not, because the fear is real. We don’t know how to handle such awesomeness, we’re only human.

Let heaven come

We should absolutely desire the coming of heaven, and desire for it to come soon, but my question is; are we really ready for it? Are we ready to surrender ourselves to the perfect will of God? Are we truly ready to stand in the presence of the King of Kings? Is that really what we want? If not, we have no business praying for it. This is not a joke, our worship means something, our prayers matter. If we don’t mean it, we shouldn’t sing it.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6 (ESV)

In my own life there are days when that is my prayer, days when I wait with anxious longing for the Lord to come in glory, to put things right, to restore the broken, to bind up the wounded. He has promised, let him not delay! I know that I have fallen short of the glory of God but still I know that his lovingkindness will be sufficient and I long to made right and to submit to his perfect will.

For, though I knew His love Who followéd, Yet was I sore adread Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside. – The Hound of Heaven | Francis Thompson

Then there are the rest of my days (most of my days if I’m being honest) when I’m pretty content with the way things are. I know that I’m in friction with God’s will, I know that I cling to my sin, but I’m ok with that. To me, it’s not really a big deal. I may stand in worship and sing let heaven come, but I don’t mean it, in fact, I may even be praying against it. I’m not ready to move on, I’m not ready to grow, I’m not ready to lay down my will. Those are the days when my worship is a lie.

We bandy religious word and platitudes like they’re simply phrases with no inherent meaning or worth, but they’re not. There’s a deeper meaning both beautiful and terrible. When we enter into worship we need to ask ourselves, do I mean it? Is what I confess with my mouth really what I believe in my heart? If not, then we need to do some serious work to get ourselves right before we come before the presence of the Lord. But the good news is, the Lord is faithful, he has great mercy and compassion, he longs to be gracious to us and meets us in our weakness, he stoops down from on high to work in our hearts and minds, to be continually bringing us into perfection. In a way, it’s a little taste of something greater to come.

On earth as it is in heaven Let heaven come to earth As it is in heaven Let heaven come – Our Father (Let Heaven Come) | Marcus Meier Let heaven come….

Feb 14th, 2013


By Nick Robison

Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a time of surrender and self-reflection. A time to purposefully create space to allow for the Lord to speak to us and to deepen our relationship with him.

Over the past few years I’ve taken the approach of instead of giving something up directly (like coffee, or TV, or sinning), I’ve added something to my schedule, usually in the form of spending more time in the word and reading religious writings. It’s truly been an incredible process and I look forward to it every year. It’s amazing what God can do when we work every day to spend time reflecting on him and on his truths.

In the past some of the books I’ve read have included such masterpieces as:

All of those come highly recommended and have been absolutely foundational in my faith and life. This year, I’ll be focusing on a single book, and I probably still won’t finish it:


You’ve probably noticed this pop up from time to time in the ‘Currently Reading’ tab as I’ve been working through it (extremely slowly) for the past few years (Thanks Bob Harvey for burdening me with this!). It’s a monumental book and the summation of 40 years of Dr. Kass’ class on Genesis. Each chapter is mind blowing and challenging, continually refining my perspective of purpose, knowledge, sin, etc. Though Dr. Kass himself isn’t a Christian, more of a theist, there’s still a ton to be gathered from not only his reflections, but those of his sources, and the insights of his many students.

My current process is reading for 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of journaling and praying; journaling is a really new thing for me, and something I’m quite terrible at, but hopefully getting better. A number of years ago while I was in undergrad, my Pastor’s mother-in-law (Grandma Hickman) talked about leaving a legacy for her children and grandchildren in the form of 60 some years worth of journal entries and crafted prayers; that really struck me, leaving a written account of dialogues with God, maybe that’s something worth doing.

I know I probably won’t do a great job with keeping my Lenten commitment but that’s what grace is for! I’m praying that the Lord will assist me in keeping my routine and being faithful to what he’s teaching me, I’m praying for answers, and new questions. For guidance, and peace.

My the Lord bless you also in this coming holy season with new insights, new revelations, new mercies, and new joy.

Jan 26th, 2013

Happy Birthday!

By Nick Robison

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of this humble website! Yes folks, one year later and we’re still hanging around for better or worse (probably worse). We’ve come a long way from the horrifically winding, overly wordy, poorly grammarized inaugural post, and hopefully this time next year will be an improvement over the current situation.

As I do, I thought it might be interesting to give a few statistics, complements of _Google Analytics. _Over the past few 12 months this site has seen:

  • 28 posts
  • 52 comments (2.85 comments per post)
  • 1,896 visits (5.19 visits/day)
  • 714 unique visitors
  • 4,560 page loads
  • 2.41 page loads/visit
  • The average visit duration was 2 minutes and 19 seconds
  • Visitors from 36 countries
  • 9 different browsers on 10 operating systems (It appears there’s only 1 blackberry left in the world)

Some cool images:

Where are they coming from?

As you can see, the overwhelming number of visitors are coming from the US.

'merica likes this.
‘merica likes this.

And, within the US most of the visitors were from Indiana. What a surprise.

Over the next year I’m hoping to keep up with regular posting. One of the professors I worked with challenged me to write everyday, primarily academic writing, but I’m taking that to mean here as well. I’m planning on expanding on some technical projects I’m working on, which will appeal to a much more limited audience but could be kind of cool.

Thanks to everyone for reading, it means a lot to know that you’re out there and hopefully enjoying it. Here’s to another year!

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!

Jan 12th, 2013

2012: Year in Review – Movies

By Nick Robison

Another 2012 post? How could we be so lucky? Why thanks for the question Internet readers! Yes, even though we’re several days into 2013 (so far, so good) there’s one last wrap up post from the previous year, and the exciting part is, it’s not mine. While I could regal you with stories of the amazing movies I saw last year, the list would be incredibly short and embarassing for us all, as my cinematic critiques may actually be an affront to culture. With that being said I’d like to introduce this blog’s first guest post. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you, Daniel Robison.

For those of you who don’t know, Daniel is a Senior in Sociology and Theatre at Azusa Pacific University and has this odd belief that film as an art form should be more then just 90 minutes of Vin Diesel taking off his sunglasses, a la The Chronicles of Riddick. So I asked him to compile a list of his favorite movies of the past season and explain to use Philistines (ok mostly just this one philistine) why they were so great. And as per usual, he delivered with aplomb.


Though I really did NOT get the chance to see much of what I was looking forward to this year, I am going to attempt to talk about some of my favorite films of the year. I was busy with a full time job over summer, papers both semesters (including my senior thesis), a shit ton of books, and preparing for my undergrad role in the Seagull which really did hold some major weight in both the play and my schedule. Thus, television and movies took the biggest toll as they always do, and I no doubt missed out on some sure fire Oscar nominees (and probably winners) so my top five list is anything but educated or complete. However, despite my swamped schedule, I did manage to see a number of films and these five made my favorite’s list of 2012.

  1. Hope Springs (Mandate Pictures)

What an incredibly underrated film. I barely even heard anything about it, until one day on facebook someone mentioned how much they enjoyed it. I was like “what is Hope Springs?” I saw it over Christmas break and was really blown away. It was one of those “slice-of-life” movies, examining in raw, close detail what it means to have and to hold intimacy with a partner. Excellently acted, with legends Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones leading the way. If you haven’t seen it, I obviously recommend it and will probably see it again sometime soon.

  1. Brave (Disney/Pixar)

This movie was much much more than the trailers cracked it up to be. I heard mixed reviews and kind of just went in with a mostly judgement-free mind. Contrary to what other reviews may have said, this story really was unique. Aside from the obvious, a redheaded AND female heroine, Brave was the first Pixar movie that challenged the minds of both parents AND children. Merida’s only way out of the trouble she got in was to somehow “mend the bond torn by pride” aka her mother’s. The universal theme of love, forgiveness, and redemption were painted colorfully on a complex canvas so marvelously, that it’s really a wonder how Pixar will find a way to raise their own bar any higher. Hopefully they’ll shoot for more stories like Brave, extremely cute but also extremely meaningful.

  1. Pitch Perfect (Universal Pictures)

Just for fun. Okay? Who would I be if I hadn’t seen Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick (and John Micheal Higgins!!!) make a tenderhearted mockery out of that shit-show Glee? It’s a scream, really. One of those “I laughed so hard that my face got red and I couldn’t breathe, and then some” type movies. Go see it. It’s more than great. It’s damn near perfect. I’m sure everyone has seen it though, so moving on…

  1. Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit Entertainment)

This was my favorite book when I was fifteen. Naturally, I was terrified of it being ruined by Emma Watson, but thank goodness it wasn’t (although she did a damn good job of trying!). The acting was C A R R I E D by Logan Lerman. Seriously. I can’t stress that enough. Ezra Miller did great too. He was the perfect Patrick. Author Stephan Chbosky directed it, which is really everybody’s dream, really. That Tolkein would’ve directed Lord of the Rings. That Rowling would’ve directed Harry Potter. Obviously, the Perks fans got lucky. The story was so beautiful and still holds all the teenage love, angst, and heartbreak that I remembered back when I first read it. Go see it if you haven’t. (although everyone on tumblr probably already has.)

  1. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company)

First off, duh because of Tarantino. Second, this movie is paralleling with James H. Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Which is the crossover of spirituality and racism, as told by the Black experience. The book is amazing in itself, but the movie (though a work of fiction) does such an incredible job of envisioning a glimpse into the reality of blacks during slavery and far far beyond. In Django Unchained we witness (as best as we possibly can) the slaughter of blacks, and watch for close to three hours the horrific events that occurred by the hands of white people. Aside from the Mandingo scene, all was mentioned in Cone’s book and that put a whole new perspective and spin on the movie, for me. However, Tarantino reminds us that this movie is a work of art. A story of fiction meant to make us think, enrage us, and give some sort of justice for our past transgressions as a “white” nation. I think the quote he gave to Huffington Post sums the movie up best when he said:

“We all intellectually ‘know’ the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, but after you do the research it’s no longer intellectual any more, no longer just historical record – you feel it in your bones. It makes you angry, and want to do something … I’m here to tell you, that however bad things get in the movie, a lot worse shit actually happened … When slave narratives are done on film, they tend to be historical with a capital H, with an arms-length quality to them. I wanted to break that history-under-glass aspect, I wanted to throw a rock through that glass and shatter it for all times, and take you into it.”

That pretty much sums up Django Unchained for me.

I recommend each of these movies strongly and cannot wait to catch up on the classics I have missed this year, and all the classics to come in the next!


Jan 4th, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

By Nick Robison

Welcome to the brand new, super awesome, incredibly modern, ‘cloud based’, fundamentally reinvented NICKROBISON.COM.

But you’re thinking, ‘it sure looks the same to me’. That’s because dear reader, it is the same, only vastly different. For the past year this site has been hosted with Webhostingpad, a budget provider who, while cheap ($75 for 3 years), has been the definition of slow and _sometimes_ steady, also their management tools are pretty awful (though getting better). Most of you are intimately familiar with the ridiculously long waits associated with viewing some of the more visual articles and for those of you who stuck it out, I thank you and I’ve finally done something about it. I’ve been using _Cloudflare _for a couple of months now as my CDN of choice, and while they’ve been great it still hasn’t been enough to overcome the anemic performance of whatever pizza box server from the 90s I’ve been stuck with. So, last night I switched the entire site over to an Amazon AWS system consisting of a single Micro Instance with 2 EBS volumes (one for the database and one for the site files). Right now, it’s running within the ‘free’ tier, but when that expires in August the monthly cost will still only be $3.66, which is great for the features I get. I’ve also taken the time to go through and re-optimize the site itself, stripping out old plugins and cleaning up some of the various errors cropping up in the logs. The result is something that doesn’t make a T3 line feel like 56k dialup (this is not hyperbole), and also has a ton of expandability for future growth (I’m an optimist). I think you’ll all appreciate it, not only are things better and cleaner, they’re also more bloated and feature-full, let’s take a short tour hrough the new additions:

  • Social Networks

 In the top right corner of the home page you should see a collection of familiar icons with the phrase ‘The ‘other’ Networks’ emblazoned above them. I know you have all been dying to join the active community of users we have over here, and now you can through your favorite social networks! (Except Pinterest, because it sucks). You can login/register through the icon on the side, or through the comments box at the end of each post. So now, you can be a part of something without ever leaving the safe confines of something you like better, except Pinterest.

  •  Favicon

There’s a new icon by the url, sometimes, so now we’re in the same class as the big boys like Amazon and etsy. Be impressed.

  • Sharing

After reading through an especially brilliant article you’re probably wanting to share it with the rest of the world. And now you can! At the bottom of each article, right before (or after) you leave a particularly insightful comment, you can share it amongst your social circles (yes, even Pinterest). The world just got a whole lot bigger.

  • For the Lawyers

As part of the social integration I had to create an official privacy policy, which you can  view under the ‘Legal Stuff’ page, next to ‘About Me’. Basically, I use Google Analytics to track hits, so it collects IP addresses and correlates them to location. When you sign in with another social network the site stores your name and email address. With this information I will slowly begin to take over the world. Not really, but sort of. Anyways, you can read it all in excruciating detail, or not.

  • Header Images

The header images are all brand new and no longer the weird stock photos that come with the default settings. These photos are all mine (except the cats on the ‘legal stuff’ page) and fit the theme of the site much better. At least, that’s my opinion. I would highly recommend reloading the home page repeatedly to see all the pretty pictures.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for joining us and don’t forget to pick up your gift bags on the way out. Things are still in a bit of a flux as I sort out various issues that continue to crop up. I think things are pretty stable, but they may not be. Good luck to us all.

UPDATE: The first rule of grad school is: If something is working perfectly fine, that’s probably a good enough reason to muck around and try something ‘new’. To that end, the site has moved once again, this time from Apache to Nginx [Engine-X]. I had some issues with Apache using all the RAM on the micro instance (you only get 768MB, I have a Pentium II box with twice that) and since I wasn’t using all of its fancy extensions and rewrite tools it made more sense to change to something a little more resource frugal. I also moved all the backend database connections from ports to sockets and implemented memcached to store session information, so that’s cool. Also, the site backend is now completely encrypted thanks to the free SSL certs from StartSSL, that means your highly sensitive data is now protected from thieving eyes. If you’re having a difficult time keeping up with all the improvements around here that’s ok, just be impressed.

The times they are a changin’

– Bob Dylan