Request for Technical Help

So, I feel a bit embarrassed about this, since I'm a computer guy in my day job and all. But my home machine is experiencing a very annoying problem that's got me stumped, and I was hoping that the Internet, being the source of all human knowledge, can offer me some advice. I know I have some technically inclined readers who might be able to make suggestions.

I have a Dell Studio 540 desktop running Windows 7, and recently, it's started randomly freezing. I don't mean a blue screen of death. The screen freezes exactly as it is, the keyboard and mouse stop responding, and if music or video is playing at that instant, my speaker begins emitting the last half-second or so of sound in an endless loop. The only thing I can do is power-cycle it. The Windows 7 Reliability Monitor doesn't have any log entries for the crashes afterward, so I'm assuming the freeze is so hard that even the operating system doesn't have a chance to realize what's happened.

There's no pattern of any kind that I can discern in what causes this. It's happened when I'm watching videos or surfing the web, but it's also happened while I was asleep and the computer was idle. Sometimes it happens within a few minutes of booting up, sometimes it runs without a problem all day and then freezes.

I got this computer last year and used it for nine or ten months without any problems. This first started happening earlier this year. At the time I suspected a driver conflict, so I went into the Control Panel and found exactly one driver that was reporting a problem (the "Teredo Tunneling Pseudo-Interface", which according to a cursory search is associated with IPv6). I disabled it, and the problem went away for several months, so I thought for sure I had solved it and spent some time feeling smug. Now, within the last few days, it's started happening again, and that driver is still disabled.

The day after it started happening again, I did a system restore to the last restore point, about a week prior. That didn't make a difference. I downloaded a system monitor utility, but I haven't seen any spikes in CPU or hard driver temperature associated with the freezing. I've done a clean boot, disabling all non-Microsoft services, as described in this link, but that didn't put a stop to it either. I've also considered that the computer may be infected with some sort of malware, but I use a firewall, I keep my patches up to date, I don't see any unusual processes in the Task Manager or any other odd behavior besides the freezing, and just the other day, I ran full scans with four different malware detectors, including one designed to detect rootkits, and they all came up clean.

So, I'm pretty much out of ideas at this point. I have only one solid clue to go on, which is that I've never observed the freeze to happen when I'm running in safe mode. This makes me suspect that my first instinct was right and it really is a driver problem, but I don't know how I can test that hypothesis. Anyone have any ideas? I have nothing to offer except my sincere gratitude and the knowledge that my blogging output is likely to improve if I don't have to spend the time debugging this damn thing!

July 19, 2011, 9:27 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink45 comments
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Photo Sunday: Granada

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July 17, 2011, 7:53 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink0 comments
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New Translations on Ebon Musings

I'm happy to announce that new translations have been posted for several of my articles on Ebon Musings, representing not one, not two, but three languages. My devious plan for world conquest is proceeding exactly on schedule!

My sincere gratitude to all these dedicated volunteers for their hard work! As always, additional volunteers are welcome.

July 15, 2011, 9:38 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink2 comments
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From the Mailbag: Shedding the Burden of Suffering

Earlier this week, I got a lengthy letter whose author gave me permission to share it with you:

Dear Ebonmusings:

I gave a glimpse to your musing about the carrot and the stick - I didn't expect it to talk about morality, mainly because I realized that the latest part of my life as a christian was about pursuing a carrot and a stick.*

Allow me to share my story. Sorry if it's a bit depressing, but I can assure you that I'm much better now (and much better than before, since I embraced atheism and got rid of many prejudices and sick attitudes).

I had always been a devout Catholic. My devotion was fed in a positive feedback loop by my own spiritual experiences. I had thought God loved me and considered me so special that he had given me some visions and experiences that I read about in the works of Catholic saints. Today I just realized it was mere delusion.

Anyway. My problem was when, for health reasons, I had to leave a hellhole called seminary. I was going to be a missionary priest. I couldn't even finish the first year because there was no doctor there and I got ill more than once - worse, I lost around 20 pounds of weight from malnutrition. To make things worse, they made us work and live in very unsanitary conditions - once, the pork we were going to eat was left to rot for around three days under the sun, without us even suspecting it. I fell ill and had to take whatever antibiotics we had at hand. Eventually I got better. During the mission, I slept less than five hours a day for more than a month thanks to my brothers, who always stayed late, and I had to be the one who would wake up first to be able to take a quick shower before Mass at 6 AM. Eventually I got the flu and had to leave everything.

When I returned home, I realized my father had already given up my home to my sister who recently had gotten married and was expecting a baby. So I had to live in a little storage room that was below the ground level. This was bad because it flooded occasionally and sometimes the sewer overflowed, and I couldn't get my own apartment because I couldn't find a job.

Still wondering why God had left me in this situation, I realized I was growing older and I needed to find myself a wife - as I couldn't stand my loneliness... much less the depression that I was going through. I was tortured by my loneliness and my escapes in masturbation (which meant that I sinned)... at the same time, I was going through such horrible despair that I wanted to kill myself. But I couldn't because God would send me to hell. I begged him to kill me or give me a hand, a new room, etc.

Eventually I realized I could no longer live isolated in that room (only to come to my parents' one-bedroom apartment for breakfast and dinner), so I decided to live with my parents and sleep on the couch. There was a little problem... my dad always woke up at 4 AM and I couldn't sleep well. At one point I began dreaming about having my own bedroom. In the dream, I was so happy but I remembered it was just a dream, and I woke up crying and wanting to die.

During that year, I kept asking myself: "Why, God? Why?" Why was the question that God never answered. And I realized today that I had always wanted an answer as why God was testing me in such a horrible manner. At one point I felt abandoned, crushed and hated by God - I felt there was no other explanation.

I sought help which didn't come. Even after being able by mere chance (actually, the landlord increased the rent and some neighbors had to leave, so we moved to a two-bedroom apartment) to finally get my own bedroom, my bitterness hadn't gone away. I kept asking for and expecting a compensation for all my undeserved sufferings. They didn't come.

A believer's life on Earth is always carrying a burden of suffering... seeking a carrot named "help" with a stick named "Faith". In my case, if I ever dared to question God's infinite love, or even his existence, I would doom myself to hell. I couldn't even curse his name (in fact, I haven't, even as an atheist - except that claiming that he doesn't exist might be cursing him). So, I was doomed to suffer if I challenged ("tempted") God, and I was doomed to suffer and wait hoping God would be compassionate towards me otherwise. Also, because I was such a sinner, I felt that God was punishing me and I couldn't get any help.

This is what I wanted to share. Faith is evil, it forces many unnecessary sufferings on people who seek divine help that will never come, instead of seeking the help of our fellow humans and realizing that if you don't help yourself, nobody else will.

Finally I would like to thank Reddit for sharing so much insight on life and helping me realize there is no God. It's been a liberating experience.

Please feel free to post this on your site, as long as my testimony remains anonymous.

Thank you for listening.

* In a follow-up e-mail, he explained: "One note about my testimony... it wasn't a carrot and a stick used to hit (as in reward / punishment), but a carrot hanging on a stick. This is why I called the stick 'faith', and the carrot 'happiness'. You try to move, but the stick moves with you. You cannot get the carrot until you finally get rid of the stick (the faith)."

July 15, 2011, 6:24 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink8 comments
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Find Me on Google Plus

Well, a kindly person (thanks, Jayson!) sent me an invite to Google Plus, so I've signed up. I don't really know what this is going to be useful for just yet, but if you're also there and want to send me a friend request (or whatever the heck it's called), go right ahead.

July 14, 2011, 6:46 am • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink5 comments
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Photo Sunday: Seville

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July 10, 2011, 2:24 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink0 comments
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Cast Your Ballots Now!

I wrote last month about the ideological Turing test going on at Unequally Yoked, and the first round of voting is now beginning. Leah has posted 15 sets of answers to a standard set of questions, some of them written by genuine atheists, some written by Christians pretending to be atheists.

Do you think you can tell the real atheists apart from the frauds? If you're up for the challenge, go check the answers out, apply your very best skepticism, and then cast your vote. The polls are only open till Sunday night, so be quick! Once voting is over, there will be a second round, this time of genuine Christians and real atheists trying to impersonate Christians. Do your nonbeliefs proud by proving that we can recognize real atheists when we see them!

July 8, 2011, 11:01 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink10 comments
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Photo Sunday: The Beard Experiment

Regular readers may remember that last month, I let myself get talked into growing a beard as the result of a fundraising contest for Camp Quest. Well, I'm not about to suffer through an entire scorching summer with this extra insulation - but I've let it grow freely for a month now, and I think that's more than enough time to judge the finished product. If you think you can handle the sheer masculine power, follow me below the fold...

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July 3, 2011, 9:59 am • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink22 comments
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I Am An Atom of Atheism

The blog Ungodly News has created a whimsical periodic table of atheism, and I was surprised and pleased to find out that I'm on it:

I'm an actinide, if you can't find me - one of the green rows on the bottom, labeled as "The Wicked of the Web". I'd never have counted myself as one of the basic and indivisible elements of atheism, but given the distinguished company I'm listed among, this is a true honor! You may now commence the jokes about making compounds of atheists...

In other news, here's a quick link roundup:

• I was happy to hear that Geert Wilders has been acquitted by a Dutch court, putting an end to the shameful prosecution of a man for exercising the right of free speech. Whatever one thinks of Wilders' ideas, the correct way to respond to an argument is with another argument, not the threat of punishment. The court's ruling recognized this principle, even if it disappointingly described his opinion as "the edge of what is allowed".

• The self-help guru James Arthur Ray has been convicted of negligent homicide in the deaths of three people in a sweat lodge at an October 2009 retreat he organized. Woo is not harmless, not even the vague and fluffy-headed New Age variety.

• Via Andrew Sullivan, this haunting and gorgeous short film of Saturn and its moons, made by splicing together thousands of still images from the Cassini mission.

• In the wake of (unfortunately small and sporadic) protests by women across Saudi Arabia asking for the right to drive, a Saudi Arabian doctor has appealed for the right to choose her own husband. The fact that women are still denied these incredibly basic human freedoms ought to be a cause for national embarrassment in this ignorant and backwards theocracy.

• Via Slacktivist, an evangelical pastor tries valiantly to silence his own flickers of conscience over the doctrine of eternal damnation:

"It is clear that Bell is not comfortable with the idea that billions of people may suffer in hell. But then, who is comfortable with that? The majority of evangelicals who hold to the orthodox understanding of hell... are troubled by its implications."

Maybe those evangelicals should consider listening to their consciences for once.

June 26, 2011, 4:07 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink10 comments
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Photo Sunday: Córdoba

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June 26, 2011, 12:34 pm • Posted in: The FoyerPermalink2 comments
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