Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To the Moon!

YES!!

NASA says it will set up moon outpost by 2024. A quarter-century behind schedule according to Arthur C. Clarke's timetable, but better late than never! Whoo-hoo! As a child of the space age, I'd been starting to get very down lately, thinking that I wouldn't see a moon base in my lifetime.

VERY nice

Unplugged guitar tips - Bammerwiki.

Excellent step-by-step explanation of a complex psychomotor task.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Looming civil war in Mexico?

The Governator was amused by the fisticuffs in the Mexican Congress.

But keep reading. 3,000 dead in a drug war? Oaxaca in ruins because of riots? teh losing presidential candiate leading protest marches, refusing to concede, declaring himself the legitmate leader of the country? Things could get real ugly.

Illegal immigrants are one thing. Waves of refugees are something entirely different.

How about that border fence, eh?

Oh, Sweet Jesus....

In Congo, children are being forced onto the streets.It's beyond heartbreaking.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dear President Ahmadinejad

I just want you to know that after carefully adjusting my printer to accept special paper worthy of your missive, I took it with me into my reading room to give it the attention it deserved.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just Too Cool

Whatever your music mood, Musicovery has it covered. Wow.

Works and Days: So Close, so Far

The estimable Victor Davis Hanson once again explains the stakes. Excellent commentary in the comments section, particularly William J. Simmons and the Anonymous comment immediately following.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Find the Cost of Freedom

One of the most powerful and haunting songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is "Find the Cost of Freedom." It's sung acapella; the first time in unision, the second time in soaring CSNY harmony. The lyric is simple:

Find the cost of freedom
buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down.


We've seen the stickers and t-shirts that read, "Freedom Isn't Free." But what does it cost? Dr. Phil O'Connor, writing at TCS Daily, tells us that from the first shot at Lexington on 1775 up to that sunny September morning in 2001, the average daily military fatality rate was 14.6. This figure of course includes the horrific tolls from the Revolution, the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.

From the Revolution through the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish-American war, the rate was about 11 per day.

The rate during the Cold War - from the end of WW2 to the collapse of the USSR - was 6.6 military deaths per day. This includes Korea and Vietnam.


Since 9/11, the average military daily fatality rate has been 1.7.

Freedom isn't free. It never has been, and it never will be. But it's been getting steadily less expensive. Are we still willing to pay the price?

ht: Instapundit

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thompson / Huckabee - You heard it here first

Tommy Thompson declares for 2008 race

Midwestern grocer's son, successful governor, welfare reformer who fought AIDS in Africa, plus a young, popular Southern fellow...

Could work.

From the 'This can't be good' dept...

Siberian bears can't get to sleep - it's too warm.

Okay. Let's just accept that global warming is real. Whether or not it's caused by humans is at this point largely irrelevant.

The question now is, what can we do? Not to stop it, but to cope with it?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Happy Veteran's Day, and Thank You!

I'm not a vet. In 1985 (when I tried to join) the USAF had no use for a four-eyed flat-footed asthmatic. Probably still doesn't.

But my dad and all my uncles (along with most men of their generation) are vets. So are some younger folks of my passing acquaintance.

Their sacrifices - and the sacrifices that continue to be made by the young men and women today who voluntarily don the uniform of this nation - are not taken in vain.

If you're a vet, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My children sleep peacefully tonight because you stood - and still stand - watch against their enemies. May God bless the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Here we go again

Another round of tit-for-tat in Gaza. Palestinians fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. These are the same guys who blow up falafel stands and restaurants with nail bombs.

So the Israelis lob some shells at the rocket launch site. Unfortunately, the shells go way off-target and kill a dozen or so Palestinian civilians. Predictably, thousands march in the streets and demand revenge.

Why is it called "asymetric warfare" and "resistance" when Palistinians deliberately kill Israeli civilians, but an "outrage" and a "massacre" when Israelis accidently kill Palestinian civilians?

Do the Palestinians not understand that if they want peace, all they have to do is stop killing Jews? Of course they do.

It's just that they don't want peace nearly as much as they want dead Jews.

READ THIS

Lileks. RTWT. Just. Do. It.

And eighteen months hence come back, read it again, and ask if he was right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Quite the day

As the President just said, individually the races were close, but overall it was a thumpin'. And now Rumsfeld is out, to be replaced by the head of Texas A&M University, my alma mater. Hoo boy, the Aggie jokes are gonna start flying.

There were two things the President said that really impressed me. One was when a reporter quoted some of Nancy Pelosi's very nasty statements and questioned whether he could work with someone who had such distain for him. He replied, "I know when the campaign ends and the governing begins."

The other was in response to a couple of questions about a provate meeting last week with a couple of reporters, in which the President gave no hint that he was considering replacing Rumsfeld. He said, "I don't want our troops to think that I'm making decisions of military policy and leadership based on a political campaign."

Very Presidential.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

He's Baa-aack!

Bill Whittle, my favorite atheist, has another long-form essay up at Eject! Eject! Eject!

As Glenn says: RTWT.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

snnnxxkkk..?

Hey-yo. It's been a week or so. I've just been busy. Work, family, doing a bit of recording, a bit of GOTV volunteering, that sort of thing. (Plus, the new Google toolbar makes it less convenient to blog news stories. Silly Google.)

The Sunday paper said that our embattled two-term senator has moved to within six points of his far-left challenger. Good news; he'd been writen off. Four points is the usual margin of error, and GOTV has often made up the difference. I suspect we'll lose the governor's race, but in the short-to-medium term it's the House and Senate that matter.

I logged on, walked the streets, knocked on doors, talked to my neighbors. Not as many as I'd like, but I plan to make calls tomorrow to the folks I missed today.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sweet jumpin' jehosephat, this is funny!

Radio guy Hugh Hewitt had a guest yesterday, Andrew Sullivan, who turned what could / should have been a civil discussion into... something else entirely.

James Lileks is a regular on Hugh's show. The show's producer called Lileks to ask what he'd thought of the exchange. James suggested that he go on the air with Hugh and they talk about the weather, with James channeling Sullivan.

Here's the audio

About eight minutes. Classic.

The kinder, gentler Dark Side

Oh, I don't know, it just doesn't work for me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Warriors

I sleep easy knowing that men such as these are awake and on watch.

Overstress

How did I get here? Hmm. From Malkin's site to MKH's blog at Townhall to Blackfive to instapinch - and a bunch of clicking around there, to this particular overstress story.

The quote that made me LOL: "I want to make the bad thing stop."

If you're not familiar with Rod Machado's "b-b-b-bad thing!" story, let me know in the comments and I'll post it. It'll take two or three people asking for it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

1984 all over again

Yet more evidence that there are two factions battling for control of the US government.

One group stifles free speech by manipulating the media and Internet and by outright threats of violence against those who publish opinions with which they disagree, srpeads lies and disinformation, and incites racist mobs to violent action.

The other group is the Republican Party.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ich bin ein Dhimmi

The German Opera has cancelled the production of Mozart's opera Idomeno because the new staging might be offensive to certain religious groups. The production features a scene in which the severed heads of Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed are presented by one of the characters.

The director said that the State Criminal Office stated concluded that "if the Deutsche Oper stages this version of Idomeneo in its originally produced form, it will pose an incalculable security risk to the public and employees."

Golly, I wonder which religious group poses an incalculable security risk when they get offended?

Congratulation, arhabi. You win.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

VeggieTales on NBC

So the creators of VeggieTales removed overt religious references in versions of the videos for broadcast on NBC. (BigIdea.com - News: VeggieTales & NBC) Here's how I imagine Bob and Larry might react to the news:

Scene: Bob and Larry on the kitchen sink.

Bob: Larry - we're on network TV! Isn't that great?

Larry: Uh, Bob. We don't have any arms.

Bob (deadpan): We've never had arms, Larry.

Larry: Right! But, uh, they've made us take out the tagline. And Qwerty!

Bob (deadpan): What's your point, Larry.

Larry: But they've taken out those special Bible messages about how you're special and God loves you very much, and Qwerty's Bible verses, and ... and ...

Bob: Larry...

Larry: ...and...

Bob: LArry...

Larry: ...and...

Bob: LARRY!!!

Larry (snapping out of it, brightly): Yes, Bob?

Bob: The videos, Larry. The videos. All those things are in the videos.

Larry: The videos?

Bob: Yes, Larry the videos. Already on store shelves.

Larry (hopefully): Qwerty?

Bob (patiently): That's right, Larry.

Larry: God-made-you-special-and-He-loves-you-very-much?

Bob: Yes, Larry.

Larry: Those special Sunday Morning Values we've known and loved for years are still preserved for years to come in portable electronic media and currently available for purchase at retail outlets nationwide?????

Bob: Larry. StuffMart ordered a train-load of DVDs last week.

Larry: I feel much better. What's for lunch?



cue theme music....

The Looming Tower

If you don't have (or can't take) the time to read Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, then at least read the transcript of Hugh Hewitt's two hour interview with the author.

Read it especially if you think you know somethng about the history of al Quaeda, bin Laden, and Zawahiri.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Propaganda

I'm guessing that reports that Richard Armitagethreatened a Pakistani official were cooked up by the AQ psych-war/media-ops team. It's a terrific tactic to drive a wedge between uneasy allies, especially when they have been very successful at hunting down AQ operatives. Just look at the timing - right on top of a peace treaty between the pakistani government and tribal leaders in the border region, a treaty that has been presented in some quarters as a pact with the Taliban.

Brilliant move, really.

I hope enough people see through it.

Musharraf says he can't comment because of his upcoming book deal. I wonder if AQ has someone inside his publisher's offices, in a position to squash rebuttal of this well-timed wedge attack?

Nah, probably not. That would be giving them too much credit.

Where to buy gas

Jeff Cohen wants you to buy your gas at Citgo because it's owned by Yugo Chevy, the communist dictator of Venezuela.

Sounds like a good reason to fill up at BP or Speedway to me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We can only pray

Abbas: Unity gov't will recognize Israel.

Of course, if Syria and Iran follow suit, you'd best get right with God.

UPDATE: The deal fell through. Unity? What unity? We're dealing with a group of people that still can't figure out ow to get the results that Gahndi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr got.

Assuming they want those results.

Friend of the devil...

A third-rate two-bit tinhorn commie dictator calls the leader of the Free World "el diablo" while the assembled UN "diplomats" laugh at his pathetic attempt at stand-up comedy.

Watching the video, I was reminded of nothing so much as the classic film clip of Benito Mussolini standing on a balcony adressing a crowd. He's jutting his chin out, nodding his head in self-approval and gesturing towards himself as if to say, "Yeah, baby, give me the love, I'm so wonderful, hmm, hmm."

Chavez looks a fair bit like Mussolini, don't you think?

You do know what happened to Il Duce, right?

Women Can't Do Math...Or Can They?

Pew Research Center reports on a fascinating study on a way we might reduce the gender gap in math performance. It's deceptively simple - remind women how smart they are. Read the whole thing - it's an ingeneous experimental design.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Godspeed, Guvn'r.

Ex-Texas Gov. Ann Richards dies As a stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb-in-Aggieland liberal and as a stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb-in-Minnesnowta conservative, I always had a great deal of respect for Gov. Richards.

Probably because she reminded me so much of my Aunt Kitty.

As AK said, there are people who wouldn't say, "sh!t" if they had a mouthful of it. Anne Richards was not one of those people.

She would have made a fine President.

I always liked Dr. K. ... and Queen

Kissinger warns of possible "war of civilizations"

Kissinger gets it. He always has, as far back as I can remember. If you could penetrate that thick-as-the-old-Black-Forest accent, the words and ideas always made sense.

Maybe too much sense for some.

It reminds me, somehow, suddenly, of an old song by Queen from their landmark "Night at the Opera" album. A very obscure track, not even B-side single material. I've never heard it on the radio, not even on a "deep tracks" show.

Side B, track 1: "The Prophet's Song."


Look up the lyrics. Buy the CD and have a listen.

Too lazy?

Here it is, in twelve-part overdubbed harmony: "Ahh, ahh, people can you hear me? ... Listen to the wise - Listen to the wise - Listen to the wise man!!"

And as if in reply the chorus sings, "La la, lala la la lah lahh... Listen to the mad - Listen to the mad - Listen to the mad man!!!"

All that's missing is the laughing and jeering of the head-in-the-sand crowd.

But, a note of hope. The narrator pauses a moment and then sings, "But still I fear and still I dare not laugh at the madman"



As the Wise One said, let him who has ears, let him hear.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It is to LOL

North Korea, Iran, and Syria want terrorism redefined.

I'll bet Al Capone wanted tax evasion redefined, too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Safer but wiser

5 years after 9/11, many angry at U.S. Some people think that US actions since 9/11 have made the world less secure.

Hogwash.

We were not safe and secure on September 10, 2001. We just thought we were. We didn't really understand the nature of the threat.

Now we do.

We are in fact safer now, though we feel less easy.



We are safer because we DO understand the threat. (At least, some of us do. The Denial-Dhimmicrats still live in blissful 9/10/01 ignorance.)

We are safer because we have a President who is committed to fighting Islamist thugs on their turf, with Marines and A-10s, rather than cleaning up after them on our turf with cops and fire trucks.

We are safer because young men and women who understand the threat and who love this country are willing to risk and shed their blood in its defense, despite the shameful calls for surrender from those who once wore the same uniform.

We are safer because the enemy is reduced in number and capability. Under the previous administration, the enemy grew in capability. In 1993, he blew up 1500 lbs of explosives the parking garage under the WTC. In 1996, he killed US servicemen and women at the Khobar towers with 5,000 lbs of explosives. In 2001, he commandeered four jetliners and killed 3000 Americans in the span of an hour.

Then we woke up.

Since then, what as the enemy been able to throw at us? Car bombs. IEDs. Backpack bombs. And doctored photos and planted news stories. We are winning the military war. We may yet lose the propaganda war.

It is up to those of us who recognize the threat to continue to point it out.



When they are in fact out to get you, paranoia has a certain amount of survival value.

9/11 and Goose Aerodynamics

Watched the first part of "United 93" last night with my wife. Then I carried my sleeping daughter to her bed (she'd crawled into ours) and prayed - hard - that if she ever faced murderous thugs shouting "Allahu Akbar" that she'd fight back with every fiber of her being, shouting, "Isa Akbar!"

Today is nearly a sacred day for me. Like July 4th, there's a lot of red, white, and blue out, and I'm glad to see it. But it's not a celebration. It's a solemn acknowledgement that freedom is never free, that there are those who wish to strip it from us, and that they will unless we resist with all we have.

But still, life goes on, and the view out my window prompts me to write this...

Ahh, fall. The trees across the parking lot outside my window are beginning to show their autumn colors. There's a nip in the air. And the young geese are practicing their formation flying skills.

You've probably seen that geese fly in V formations. This is so that each goose except the lead can surf on the vortex generated by the goose ahead, reducing the amount of energy needed to stay aloft. They maintain a precise relative position to take maximum aerodynamic advantage.

But did you ever notice that the V is almost always asymmetrical? One side is usually longer than the other. Turns out there's a precise mathematical reason for that, too.













There's more geese on that side.

Friday, September 08, 2006

James Tubthumping

Lileks with a grand post on honest work and optimism. Great stuff.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Woodworking Methods

Notes & Comments, Woodworking Methods Can't use Furl for some reason, so Blogger is the next best thing.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Everything we know is wrong

Science is a funny thing. Sometimes for every question it ansers it asks three more. And sometimes it turns your whole world on its head.

Universe Might be Bigger and Older than Expected:
A project aiming to create an easier way to measure cosmic distances has instead turned up surprising evidence that our large and ancient universe might be even bigger and older than previously thought. If accurate, the finding would be difficult to mesh with current thinking about how the universe evolved, one scientist said.


Gawrsh.

WAY cool user interface

TED Blog: Jeff Han on TEDTalks
I WANT one of those!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

LOL!!!!

Governors bristle at plan to federalize Guard:

Emphasis added:

"'Federalization just for the sake of federalization makes no sense,' said Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who had rough relations with the Bush administration after the disaster last year. 'You don't need federalization to get federal troops. ... Just making quick decisions can make things happen.'"

Blanco talking about quick decisions?? ROFL!!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Paging Mr. Serling, Mr. Rod Serling...

Yaakov Kirschen at Dry Bones Blog: notes the following:
So if we're going to discuss the supernatural I propose that we examine the following weirdness:

The Bible is not a book It is a collection of books. One of the books of the Bible is the book of Psalms. When I went to school we were taught that the book of Psalms is a book of poetry. Actually it's a book of prayers or incantations.

When the war broke out, religious Jews began reciting Psalm 83.

A rabbi, being interviewed on an Israeli TV news show called on viewers to read Psalm 83.

The Chief Rabbinate's governing council in Jerusalem announced that at 6:00 p.m. (Israel time) every day, Psalm 83 is to be recited simultaneously by Jewish communities all over the world.

Turns out that Psalm 83 calls out for Divine help to fight off an attempt to wipe Israel off the map.

Here's the text of Psalm 83.

So what's weird?

Archaeologists have just announced the amazing discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who was digging in a bog in Ireland two weeks ago. The book, which was buried and lay hidden under centuries of mud, has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries...



Oh, and the book was found 'frozen open' to Psalm 83... With all other pages stuck shut.

REVEILLE

REVEILLE

Watch the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The wash of the penguins

Clean penguins return to sea after spill.

Can't you just see them? Waddling, flapping, honking happily, wearing that fresh-scrubbed shine...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Veto #1

President Bush uses his first veto to kill a bill allowing expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

He's not running for re-election, so the charge of "pandering to the base" doesn't work.

Maybe he really is a man of conviction.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

MSM strikes again!

How much more blatant can you get?

Robert Novak says today that he learned Valerie Plame's identity from a source he refuses to name and from Joe Wilson's entry in Who's Who.

He called a number of people in Washington to confirm it, amonth them Karl Rove and an official at CIA. Both confirmed the information. (Presumably, if the identity was secret, the CIA contact would have said, "no comment.")

But look at the AP headline: Novak: Rove was a source in outing Plame

Not "Novak: I got Plame's name from Who's Who" or "Novak confirms Rove was not Plame leaker" or even "Novak: Rove, CIA confirmed Plame's identity".

How can you trust people who spin so blatantly and transparently?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Handyman's Secret Weapon

Whether in the shop or on orbit, there's no substitute for duct tape.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Here they go again

Once again, the forces of gender-PC are running amok.

This time, they're trying to remove a noted researcher - a female researcher - from two national advisory panels (National Math Panel and Nat'l Science Board) because of three articles she published twenty years ago that - gasp! - found differences between boys and girls.

Have these people never been to a kid's birthday party?

FWIW, a female cousin of mine is a Ph.D. mathemetician. Last I heard, she was working for the NSA.

Friday, June 30, 2006

WSJ on why it published The Story

According to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, they were never asked not to publish the SWIFT story. Senior government officials briefed them with some unclassified details, since they knew that the NYT was goign to go ahead and publish it anyway. This is key: They say that if they had known that the government had asked the Times to spike the story, they would not have run it.

Too bad the Times doesn't have their sense of civic duty.

Monday, June 26, 2006

NT06 - Philemon

Paul's letter to Philemon was written while he was in prison. It's an interesting little letter, teasing all sorts of questiosn about the kind of person Paul was, and the interpersonal interactions he had with people on his journeys.

Amidst the personal please, verse 6 sticks out as a universal teaching: "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."

It's when we give away our faith that we come to fully understand it.

NT06 - Philemon

Paul's letter to Philemon was written while he was in prison. It's an interesting little letter, teasing all sorts of questiosn about the kind of person Paul was, and the interpersonal interactions he had with people on his journeys.

Amidst the personal please, verse 6 sticks out as a universal teaching: "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."

It's when we give away our faith that we come to fully understand it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The high cost of treason

The Left wants the NYT shut down

Michelle Malkin has a roundup of reaction to the NYT's treasonous publication of yet another legal, Congress-briefed, safeguarged, SECRET intel program that (until today) was helping catch terrorists.

I think I've finally figured it out.

The Times is trying to goad the administration into shutting it down.

The American Left has been braying about how Bush is a fascist dictator, but of course they have had nothing with which to back it up. The Bill of Rights is still in effect.

But if they can get a major newspaper to aid and abet the enemy badly enough, often enough, to get the administration to clamp down, then they can dance around and say, "See? WE TOLD you Bushitler was a dictator!"

The neck-slicers and suicide bombers will now be able to better conceal their financial dealings. I'm sure they'll express their gratitude by killing the Times's staff last.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bush forced her to get an abortion?!?!

Blogger Freeman Hunt absolutely shreds an astonishing WaPo op-ed. Not to be missed!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bill Whittle is back

My favorite atheist pilot/philosopher has a new post up at Eject! Eject! Eject!. It's typical Whittle, in desperate need of editing (sorry, Bill, but it's true). But also typically, it is well worth the effort.

RTWT

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Striking a blow for sanity

The President of the University of North Dakota warns the NCAA to back off its capricious and arbitrary P.C. stance on team nicknames.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jesus is a four-letter word

The MPAA gives a PG rating to a Christian-themed film because its evangelistic message might possibly be offensive to some.

Hey, here's a news flash for ya - the Gospel IS offensive. Nobody likes to be told they're going to Hell and need Jesus to be saved.

Nobody likes to be told they have cancer and need surgery, either.

Frankly, I wish they'd given the film an R rating - then maybe more kids would sneak in to see it.

UPDATE: Here's a related post (ht:HH) on "preachy," overtly Christian movies. He's got a point.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Jihad-ehs

James Lileks riffs on how a liberal might react to the roll-up of the Canadian terror cell.

Welcome to Hell, Mr. Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in air raid

Is it wrong to rejoice at the thought of a man spending eternity in Hell?

No. Not when that man hacked the heads off of innocent victims while chanting "God is great."

Not at all.

Burn, baby, burn.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Invitation to a vivisection

Hugh Hewitt interviews Paul Campos.

Campos is a law professor in Colorado and a sometime columnist for the Rocky Mountain News.

Hewitt is a law professor, A-list blogger, and nationally syndicated radio host.

Campos took a swipe at Hewitt in a recent column.

What was that Mark Twain said about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel? Hewitt invited Campos on his show. The Marines have a saying: If you find yourself in a fair fight, you have not adequately prepared.

Hewitt was prepared.

Campos got his posterior anatomy handed to him on a silver platter, and didn't even realize it. He was expertly sliced, diced, julienned and pureed. This interview - if you can call a public vivisection an interview - should be required reading in cross-ex classes.

As professor Glenn says, RTWT.

UPDATE: Welcome, Hewitt readers! If you liked this, you might like some of the rest of the stuff here. Please go to the effort of leaving a comment - it gets lonely out here on the long tail.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

The Euston Manifesto is a declaration by folks on the left end of the political spectrum that demands examination and respect. I heartily endorse its main points - rejection of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, a willingness to hold up to examination the historic failures of Communism, absolute rejection of terrorism as a valid means to political ends, and a summary rejection of terrorism's apologists.

I differ with a few details having to do with the fact that I'm on the center-right rather than the center-left. So personally, I couldn't sign on.

But those who do have my respect, because we agree on the important things. And on the less-important things, we can agree to disagree and work toward mutually acceptable solutions.

Democrats, are you listening?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hold your nose and pull the lever

Dangitall, Hugh. I hate to admit it, but you're probably right. As crummy as DeWine is, Sherrod Brown would be worse. You convinced me that majorities matter with "If It's Not Close". I really wished DeWine had had a real opponent in the primaries. He impresses me not in the least. By in comparison, Brown is downright scary.

Better to hold your nose in the voting booth than cut it off.

The Lawn Ranger!

Atlas Shrugs: Iraq: Loving this American Soldier HT: MKH@HH

Friday, May 19, 2006

Power Corrupts; Powerpoint corrupts absolutely

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

Learning by teaching

One thing I love about teaching is that I always learn something new. Sometimes it's a new piece of music that a student wants to learn, so I have to learn it, too.

Sometimes it's an insight into how I taught myself to play, which enables me to explain something I wasn't able to explain before. That happened this week.

I've been playing for a long time - 30-odd years. I was in band in jr high and high school, so I learned how to read music, and how to count and clap. I've listened to a LOT of different styles of music, with some fairly complex harmonies and rhythm structures. And back in the day, I'd play in public for hours at a time.

So a lot of what I know is so deeply internalized that I have forgotten how I know it.

Case in point, some fingerpicking twiddly bits I do. This week, working with a student, I suddenly realized how to explain it, how to break it down into bite-sized chunks for a beginner.

When I really thought about how I had learned these bits, I realized that I had spent hours playing with very small movements. For example:
-------------------
-------------------
----0--0--0--0---
--0--0--0--0--0--
-------------------
-------------------
with the thumb on the 4th string and the index finger on the 3rd string.

I also spent a lot of time doing this:
-------------------
----0--0--0--0---
-------------------
-------------------
--0--0--0--0--0--
-------------------
with the thumb on the 5th string and the 2nd finger on the 2nd string.

Hours, mind you. Hours spent doing this. Sitting on that legal-pad-yellow corduroy bedspread - the kind that leaves stripes in your cheek when you take a nap on it.

I combined the two motions:
-------------------
---0------0------
-------0-------0-----
-----0------0--------
--0-----0--------0--
-------------------
Looks a lot more complicated, but it's just switching back and forth. You can simplify it, though, by not worryng about the fingers - just play them together:
-------------------
---0---0---0---0---
---0---0---0---0---
-----0-------0-----
--0------0-------0-
-------------------
Get comfortable with that, and then play the fingers one after the other:
------------------------
-----0----0----0----0---
----0----0----0----0----
-------0---------0------
--0---------0---------0-
------------------------
Do the same thing while fingering a C chord:
------------------------
-----1----1----1----1---
----0----0----0----0----
-------2---------2------
--3---------3---------3-
------------------------
Now, remember that thing called a hammer-on? Do that with your middle finger, on the 2nd fret on the 4th string (keep fingering that C chord, though, so you arch the 3rd finger over the 4th string):
--------------------------
-(1)-------------------------
--------------------------
---0h2----0h2----oh2----0h2--
-(3)-------------------------
--------------------------
Now when you put all those simple things together, you get this:
-------------------------
----1------1---1-----1---
----------0---------0----
-----0h2--------0h2------
--3----------3---------3-
-------------------------
That's a very neat country-sounding twiddly bit that sounds a lot more complicated than it really is, once you break it down. (It's also the foundation for "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkle.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Chocolate Covered Broccoli

Museum Technology blogger Richard Urban of Musematic uses the phrase "Chocolate covered broccoli" in a very interesting post on an unrelated subject to describe the typical educational games found in museum displays (and elsewhere, as I can well attest).

I happen to LIKE broccoli (especially with cheese sauce), but the analogy is apt and vivid.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A prayer for commencement

The school where I work jsut had commencement. Predictably, a member of the faculty sent an email to the administration, staff, and faculty complaining about the fact that there was a prayer. So in the spirit of intellectual syncretism, I offer this non-denominational prayer.


Oh, great celestial Father or Mother or otherwise supposedly Eternal and Beneficent Being or Beings, who may or may not exist (and if you don't exist, please disregard this prayer):

On this occasion, a celebration of knowledge and learning, it seems appropriate to many of us (though not all) to acknowledge You ("you" being used as a generic non-gendered second-person-personal pronoun implying neither singular nor plural status) as the source of knowledge and learning.

As it is written in one text that many (though certainly not all) consider sacred, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,"

and in another, "He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good,"

and in another, "One must possess knowledge about action; one must also possess knowledge about prohibited action; and again one must possess knowledge about inaction,"

and in yet another sacred text, "Inna-godda-da-vida, baby."

Although Your existence cannot be scientifically proven, it cannot also be disproven, and so prudence dictates that it might not be such a bad idea after all to to ask Your blessing - should You be disposed to do things such as give blessings, as described in many (though not all) religious tradtions, which this is not one of, being simply a voluntary ceremonial event, albeit one that's being held on the taxpayer's dime, but then just about everyone here is a taxpayer, and demographic studies show that most Americans believe in You in some form - on those persons among those gathered here who are willing to receive such a blessing from your hand or hands (we certainly would not want someone to receive a blessing that they did not want, and so we offer this opt-out clause).

In the name of Bob and the Flying Spaghetti Monster,

Yeah, Whatever.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The more we know, the less we know

Hidden Star Explains Supernova Oddity, well, sort of, maybe.

God of wonders beyond our galaxy, indeed.

The more we know, the less we know

Hidden Star Explains Supernova Oddity, well, sort of, maybe.

God of wonders beyond our galaxy, indeed.

Popetown

Catholics fail to block "Popetown" in Germany

Of course they can't persuade the local stations to not air insulting cartoons.

They aren't making death threats.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

There ain't no doubt, I love this land!

God Bless the U.S.A.!

As Mary Katherine Graham says, "Heck yeah! We pray, we race, and we recognize the benefits of aggressively marketing ourselves to others who like racing and praying, by way of the hood of a speeding Chevy. We are Red America and we are not ashamed."

Preach it, sister!

Nuts about blogging

Southwest Airlines has a blog! ht: Randy at Boeing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Circular reasoning?

Fossil Suggests Snakes Evolved on Land
It's the first time scientists have found a snake with a sacrum, a bony feature supporting the pelvis, he [Hussam Zaher of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil] said. That feature was lost as snakes evolved from lizards, and since this is the only known snake that hasn't lost it, it must be the most primitive known, he said.
Catch that? Since we already know that snakes used to have legs and lost them through the process of evolution (having smaller / shorter / no legs confers a survival advantage, right?), a snake with a sacrum must therefore be more primitive. Nothing like assumptions that define the meaning of the evidence, eh? Of course, one couldn't possibly call this evidence for Gen 3:14 being accurate, could one?

Friday, April 14, 2006

A very good day, indeed

It's Good Friday for us Christians.

A holy day; a solemn day. But a Good day? Yes. Oh, yes.

It is good to reflect on the agony Christ endured on our behalf. Not merely the agony of the Cross (from where we get the term excruiating), though that was severe enough.

But Christ's real agony was knowing that God - Father - Abba (Daddy!!) - had turned His face away from the Son He had loved since before the beginning of the world. "He who knew no sin became sin" on our behalf, and the Holy God turned away in disgust.

That is why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and then, "It is finished." For at that moment, it WAS finished, for all time. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him might not perish, but have eternal life."

A very good day, indeed.

May your Good Friday be blessed.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Well, Gawrsh!

Some Immigration Marchers Pay High Price Some folks are getting fired from their jobs or suspended from school for taking off without permission to protest in favor of flauting immigration law. Of course, as soon as the advocacy groups sponsoring the marches get involved, the employers cave and the skippers get rehired. I wonder if people have ever gotten canned for skipping out to attend, say, a "Legalize Marijuana" rally, and then gotten rehired because NORML came calling? (For the record, I'm not in favor of legalizing pot.) I love this quote by a marcher:
"'We have to change the way the American people think about us,' Ortega said. 'We are here to work and to make our lives better.'"
Well, Senor Ortega, I'd say that members of your groups are doing a mighty fine job of changing the way Americans look at you. Yup. Flying the Mexican flag above an inverted US flag, chanting "La Raza!" and "Reconquista!", carrying Che banners, signs that read "Anglos are the illegal immigrants," beating up counterprotestors that just want to see the law enforced ... yup, you're changing the way people look at you. Not for the better, I'm afraid.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Merde alors!

Cajuns Ponder Life Without Crawfish

Dat's not so good, hunh? Son! Cher, we gots to have dem mudbugs, oui? But de Good Lord, he provide, non? Jes' you wait some. Dey come back, oui, dey will.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

If there were any doubt remaining...

...about the nature of Islam, I think it's pretty well dispelled by this quote:

Afghan Clerics Demand Convert Be Killed:
"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.

Emphasis added. If moderate Muslims are insisting that a man die because he has decided to think for himself, then it's pretty clear that Islam is no "religion of peace."

VERY cute picture

ht: HH
Just go see it.

Huh? Say WHAT?

Iraqi Insurgents' Raid on Jail Thwarted - Yahoo! News

Let's compare a couple of sentences:

Emboldened a day after a successful jailbreak, insurgents laid siege to another prison Wednesday. This time, U.S. troops and a special Iraqi unit thwarted the pre-dawn attack south of Baghdad, overwhelming the gunmen and capturing 50 of them... (emphasis added)


versus
Although the raid failed, the insurgents' ability to put together such large and well-armed bands of fighters underlined concerns about the ability of Iraqi police and military to take over the fight from U.S. troops.
"Underlined" according to whom? The Associated Press?

Solemmegethistraight...
(SLMGTS)
Iraqi police captured a couple dozen bad guys, therefore America's "strategery" has failed?!?!?!

Just for the record - I am getting really, really tired of the MSM's aiding and abetting.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A useful Catch-22?

The case of Abdul Rahman has President Bush"deeply troubled."

Very good news. Looks like the Afghan government will find a way to back out by finding Rahman "mentally unfit to stand trial" - after all, he'd have to be crazy to admit to being a Christian, knowing it could get him executed, right?

Hopefully they've never heard of Jim Elliot, who said, "He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose."

Finally some good news from Europe and NPR

Heard in the radio this morning that the case of the Afghan man facing a death sentence for converting to Christianity is getting some serious traction. Italy called in the Afghan ambassador for a - dare I say it? - "come to Jesus meeting" to tell the Afghan government that Italy might have to rethink its committment to rebuilding Afghanistan. Germany - secular Germany! - did something similar, according to the report.

Very good news indeed. I'd like to hear President Bsh say something publicly about it, though.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Whew! That's a relief!

I used to be really concerned about my kid's incessant whining, but no more. :-)

Monday, March 20, 2006

A CHRISTIAN ON TRIAL

Michelle Malkin points to the story of an Afghan Christian on trial for his life in that country. Under Afghanistan's Islamic constitution, he faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity 16 yeras ago.

This is an outrage. I expect Christians to be persecuted and martyred, but not in countries where Americans have bled and died to give them freedom.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NT06 - Hebrews 7, which clarifies some things but leaves others muddy

Hebrews 7 clarifies a problem I had in chapter 4 abou high priests having to offer sacrifices for their own sins. Chapter 7 makes it clear that Jesus, being holy and blameless, was not so encumbered. Therefore his sacrifice on our behalf was wholly acceptable to God.

But it still leaves unclear the phrase about Jesus "learning obedience" through suffering.

I need to look up this Melchizedek character, too. Verse 3 describes him as "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever."

Strong stuff.

The National Security Strategy of the United States

No kiddin'.

I'm sure he's just crushed.

Jessica Simpson snubs Bush

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Paging Ms. Morissette, Ms. Alanis Morisette...

1,600 More SAT Scoring Problems Found. Oh, the irony.

NT06 - Heb 6, in which a lot seems to hang on a single word

Skeptics like to claim that there are so many differences between copies of the New Testament manuscripts that you can't trust the text. Christians counter that the many variants actually make it easier to ferret out the most likely original wording, and in any event, no major point of docrine hangs on a textual variance.

But then we run into Hebrews 6, which warns that a person who has been saved and then falls away cannot be bought back to repentence because they are re-crucifying Christ and holding Him up to ridicule.

Because. That's really scary stuff - it seems to say that if you once make shipwreck of your faith, you're permanently hosed. That's pretty major.

But wait - the NIV footnote says that some manuscripts say while, not because.

While leaves some wiggle room. It allows for a fallen-away believer to come back if they stop, um, falling away. But that's not just wiggle room - it seems like a very different doctrinal point entirely. Can believers who fall awy be reunited, or not? That seems like a binary question. It's either-or, isn;t it? And if because - the harsher reading - is correct, what does that say about God's grace? (Isn't there a passage somewhere about an unforgivable sin?) And what does it say about our supposedly sure hope?

We are very fortunate that we have more than one English translation. Let's look at some others.

The NASB uses since: they can't repent since they scorn Christ. That also give the sense of, if they'd only stop, they could be brought back. The KJV says, seeing that. That also implies an action that is currently happening.

Not an action in the past that has irrevocably set the course of the future.

NT06 - Heb 5 - this is wierd

Hebrews 5 contains some strange ideas. It begins by noting that high priests are fallible and have to offer sacrifices for their own sins. Then it goes on to say that Jesus "learned obedience" by suffering, and was "made perfect." Only then did he become the source of eternal salvation.

And then the author gets all condescending on us, saying that we need baby food! (Of course, he's talking to a particular audience, but STILL...)

Hm.

NT06 - Hebrews 4, in which we are called to work hard at resting

The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us that God's eternal rest is a reward, planned from before hte beginning of time. It's not that we can earn it by good works - the text does not say that - but we can miss out on it by disobedience.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A new dimension in sidewalk chalk

Julian Beever does simply amazing things with chalk in public places.

A gauntlet is thrown

Hat tip to the MouseFrau. :-)

Stay-at-home mom Jennifer Roback Morse challenges "traditional" feminists to a battle of wits over whether women are more or less fulfilled by working outside the home.

Fair warning - she's not unarmed. This particular stay-at-home mom has a Ph.D. in economics and was tenured at George Mason University. She left "all that" to move across the country when her husband got a new job.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Live like you were dyin'

Kirby Puckett was my age. A few years ago we lost a friend to hemorrhagic stroke. He'd just gotten married a few weeks before, and was out walking with his bride when he dropped. Just like that, he was gone.

I heard a country song on the radio last night, "Live Like You Were Dying." The narrator is talking to a fellow who "got the news" and "spend hours staring at the x-rays." Narrator asks, "Man, what'd you do?" and he lists a bunch of things, such as"finally opened up the Good Book" "became the husband I wasn't often enough." The chorus was, "I went skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbin', I went two-point-seven seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu. I spoke sweeter, loved deeper .... Son, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying'."

Ah - here's a link. (Mind the popups.) Gotta love Google.

A great sentiment, live like you were dying. That assumes of course, that you have advance notice of your demise. But as we saw with our friend Angus and now with Kirby, you don't always get that "two-minute warning."

George Elliot, the martyred missionary depicted in the recent film "End of the Sword", had this to say about living on the edge of death: "It's never too late to become the person you might have been." And, "Live your life so that when the time comes to die, all you have to do is die."

Advice worth taking.

Monday, March 06, 2006

John Seely Brown, guts and throat

How often do you get a chance to talk to the man who invented the mouse? John Seeley Brown was the keynote speaker at the ODCE conference this week. I live-blogged his talk until my laptop's battery ran out.

Brown was talking about how massive online games such as World of Warquest have players from all over the world, and players necessarily learn how to transcend culture. He also pointed out how multimedia literacy is and is going to be a big deal.

I flashed on our guest preacher on Sunday, who talked about how a Bible translator in New Guinea figured out that a particular tribe saw the center-of-the-self in the throat, rather than the heart (as in modern Western thought) or in the gut (as in classical Greek thought.) "Ask Jesus to come live in your throat" made perfect sense to them.

Media literacy requires shared experiences. To persons who were young adults in the 1960's, a half-second image of a Huey helicopter likely causes a visceral reaction - Hueys are a prototype image of the Vietnam war. It immediately brings up a whole host of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. But to a younger person, it may be just a helicopter, with no particular affect (note spelling).

The kennings of medieval Norse verse similarly drew on the expectation of a shared cultural reference. "The sea-steed sailed o'er the swan-road" referred not only to a ship on the sea, but a particular ship with a particular master, and the tragic doom he faced.

After the keynote, I asked JSB about this idea. He referred back to the fact that in massive online games, the players do in fact share experiences; they do in fact share cultural references - within the context of the game. This context does not transfer directly to the real world. It sort-of-transfers through imagining that the real word is like the game worlds in some respects.

But he had also noted that when indigenous peoples are exposed to Western science, they accept the Western definition of, say, a rainbow, side-by-side with the traditional definition, with no apparent difficulty.

I'm not quite sure if I'm satisfied with his answer. (Can you tell I'm thinking out loud?)

We're all in this together

Apparently the Red Green Show is over. 300 episodes, and no more. (When did that happen?!?!) The website lives on, at least, and if you're up Ontario way you can even see some of the original sets. (Of course, you can see a lot of that stuff nearly anywhere north of the 44th parallel.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

NT06 - Heb 3 - a warning against unbelief

Hebrews 3 contains a strong warning about the consequences of a hard, unbelieving heart. "They shall never enter my rest," says the author, quoting Psalm 95:11.

Strong stuff, especially since the people Psalms is talking about are the Israelites of the Exodus. Despite their miraculous salvation by God's own hand, they repeatedly, continually turned away from Him over a period of decades.

How fickle is the human heart! We so easily forget what God has done for us. It is good that God is merciful and compassionate. As Psalm 130 says, if He kept a record of sins, we would be undone. But the blood of Christ has washed away all our sins, removed them as far as the east is from the west.

A little Friday afternoon weirdness for you

Stop alien cow abductions! Cowabduction.com

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Funny, the mind's eye

Actor Jack Wild Dies at 53. Jack played the Artful Dodger in the movie Oliver!, and he was the child start of H.R. Pufnstuf, one of my favorite shows as a child. I used to imagine that he was my best friend. He just seemed to be a really cool kid.

Funny, though, I don't remember him looking like this. I remember the mop of hair, but the face is really unfamiliar to me. Strange.

NT06 - Heb 2 - The best Big Brother ever!

Hebrews 2 contains an amazing promise: Jesus considers us who believe in Him to be his brothers.

Some syncretists (folks who want to mash all religions into one) use this as "proof" of the notion that "we all are (or can become) gods/God."

I think that's a silly interpretation. Brothers (and sisters) are individuals. They are not the same person - not even identical twins. They are different. I've got two boys. While you can easily see the family resemblance, they are each unique.

We also have several friends who are adoptive parents. Especially, children who are adopted into a family may be very different from their siblings.

While they clearly do not share the same nature, they do share equally in the love and support that the family provides, and they will share in the inheritance. And what an inheritance!

Seems I'm not the only one...

...who reads Tom Clancy novels.

An Italian Panel has decided that the plot of Clancey's 2002 semi-thriller Red Rabbit is correct - the USSR ordered the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.

I'm shocked. Shocked.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

NT06 - Hebrews 1

I'll get caught up on the rest of Acts, I promise. But now it makes sense to get on track with Hebrews, the next book in our through-the-New-Testament-in-one-year plan.

Hebrews 1 begins with no preable or pastorly introduction, no "Greetings in the name of Christ." The writer cuts to the chase, immediately addressing the issue of whether the Son of God is an angel, or something more. Quoting from the Psalms, the Histories, and the Torah (but curiously not the Prophets - yet), the writer argues that Jesus has divine authority above that of the angels.

So let me see if I got this straight

26 killed and 58 wounded in Iraq means that the country is spiraling toward civil war, but "only" 400 cars burned in French suburbs on a given night means the situation is stabilizing.

Doubleplusungood, eh, Winston?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NOW can't use RICO to stifle free speech

Supreme Court Backs Abortion Protesters

NOW's use of the RICO act was a blatant, heavy-handed attempt to not only stifle the freedom of speech of abortion opponents, but to intimidate them into silence, since under RICO the plaintiff can seize all the assets of the defendant.

Freedom of speech - it's a Good Thing!

NT06 - Acts 8, in which God uses evil for good yet again

In Acts 8, the stoning of Stephen ignites a general persecution against the church in Jerusalem. The disciples were scattered.

Philip went down to Samaria, where God had a divine appointment for him - an Ethiopian official on his way back to Africa.

I'm sure that when Philip fled Saul's rampage, he had no idea that God would use that persecution to bring the Gospel to a new continent and a new people.

Likewise the Ethiopian, returning from a religious ritual in Jerusalem, had no idea that his eyes would be opened to the truth. The eunuch was a religious man - he'd made a long and dangerous journey in order to worship at the Temple - but he had no understanding of what he was reading.

In like wise, many religious people may be celebrating Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday without a clear understanding of what that really means.

Has God set up divine appointments for us to "tell them the good news about Jesus?"

NT06 - Acts 7, in which Stephen gets stoned

Got to do some fast catching up on the ol' Bible-blogging! I've kept up on the reading, but have been terribly remiss in posting. Tomorrow we start Hebrews, so I've got to fast-forward through the rest of Acts.

Acts 7 records Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin. I've often wondered what it was he said that got them so riled up. Most of his speech is just a recounting of Jewish history. The "killer" comes at the end, though, when Stephen tells them to their face that they've killed the Messiah, and that he sees Y'Shua now seated at God's right hand.

You can imagine that didn't sit too well with the religious leaders.

When they drag Stephen out to stone him, a young man named Saul holds their coats.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dear Elena

A father writes through his pain.

I need to go home and hug my little girls. When they ask me why I'm crying, I'll just tell them, "Because I love you so much."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Who's making the doughnuts?

Varifrank (ht:HH) as an interesting post on the law of unintended consequences as applied to the Dubai port-management mess.

This whole thing has had me concerned since it broke. I trust the President's big-picture strategic thinking - I agree that true democracy will stabilize the ME.

But tactically, this looks like yet another administration cmmunications and coordination blunder. How is it possible that this deal was investigated and approved without at least running it past the office of the President first? He's the Commander in Chief, the Head of State, and the Chief Executive.

SOMEBODY should have had the brains to say, "Hey, this might fail the sniff test with Joe Sixpack at first glance. We better make sure all the t's and i's are crossed and dotted. And we ought to get the story out ourselves."

Bush has proven to be a terrific strategic thinker. But at some point, somebody has to go make the doughnuts. You have to have competent execution.

The pattern that I see is not encouraging.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Waiting to exhale

Re the ports thingy, this news tidbit: Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

There is more to nearly everything than meets the eye, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This. Is. Just. Too. Cool.

Multi-Touch Interaction Research The video takes a while to load, but WOW.

Cancer is so Limited

My friend and colleague Laura (see comment on the previous post) was good enough to send along this:

Cancer is so limited...

It cannot cripple Love,
It cannot shatter Hope,
It cannot corrode Faith,
It cannot eat away Peace,
It cannot destroy Friendship,
It cannot suppress Memories,
It cannot silence Courage,
It cannot invade the Soul,
It cannot steal eternal Life.
It cannot conquer the Spirit.


Author Unknown

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Supremacy of God in Suffering

John Piper, on the eve of surgery for prostate cancer, has powerful words of hope in a sovereign God. (The surgery went well and he is recovering.)

Piper has a very high view of God, and that is often confusing to people. It's terrible in its simplicity - God IS GOD. God is fully sovereign in every way, in every respect. Nothing happens that He does not permit, and did not forsee from before His creation of time. Everything - everything! that happens is due to His plan and design, whether or not we can understand it.

That's the sticking point for a lot of people. "I can't understand how a loving God could let my mother die of cancer," they say. So they either dismiss God as callous and uncaring, or limit His sovereignty by saying that pain isn't part of His plan.

They ignore the third path - the paradox that a loving, merciful God can design pain and suffering into our lives. Sometimes we can see His hand clearly - would the Acua Indians have come to salvation if not for the martydom of Jim Elliot?

Oftimes, though, we can't.

And that's where we have to simply accept the paradox. God IS infinitely loving and merciful. Yet He permits suffering.

We can't understand it.


But we don't have to understand everything.





Disclosure - I consider myself blessed to have sat under John Piper's teachings for a decade. He baptized me and my wife, and officiated at our wedding in the old sanctuary at Bethlehem Baptist Church (now the site of the new education wing at BBC).

Also, I lost my mother to cancer when I was 4. I was at my uncle's side when he died of stomach cancer 20-odd years ago. My stepmother died of ovarian cancer about a decade ago. And as an asthmatic, I've stared death in the face a couple of times myself.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Martyrdom 101

A speaker at a Teheran university boasted that his organization has hundreds of potential suicide bombers ready to strike US and UK bases in Iraq, should there be an attack on Iranian nuke facilities.

The things they teach in schools these days.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

NT06 - Catching up - why was Stephen set up?

I have been keeping up with the reading, mostly. But I am waaaay behind in the blogging. So let's pick up at the end of Acts 6, where Stephen gets arrested.

The setting is in the first few years after Jesus' earthly ministry, "in those days when the number of disciples was increasing." Acts 6:7 contains an interesting tidbit: "a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Priests were becoming believers in ha'Mashioch. Levites were starting to think that this carpenter's son from Hicksville was The One.

This was a challenge to the religious power structure.

Especially, it seemed to challenge the belief system of the Hellenic Jews, as we see in verse 9. Now, I don't claim to be an expert in the religious practices of 1st-century CE Hellenic Jews in Jerusalem. (If you are, or if you have links to the same, please leave a comment.)

But anyone who has spent time around people can attest to the fact that folks don't like boat-rockers. Especially if you've just climbed into the boat. Newton's third law applies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Apology accepted

The Liberal Avenger and I have some sharp differences, but he showed class in this case. Wish I could say the same for some of his blog-mates, but that's their problem.
UPDATE 2/16. Their webadmin sgo (who I had thought was a decent fellow) decided to label me a spammer and block my IP. Life goes on. Speaking of which, I'm waaay behind in my liveblogging of Acts...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Italian Judge gets one right

ROME, Italy (AP) -- An Italian judge has dismissed an atheist's petition that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

I hope the judge assessed a big chunk of court costs against Cascioli.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why Mommy is a Moonbat

Detroit Pete sent me a link to this bit of leftist drek. At first I thought it was a spoof. But it seems not to be. Where to begin?

"Democrats make sure we share all our toys, just like Mommy does" - including the very special toys that we thought were just ours, because Democrats don't believe in owning personal property. Everything belongs to everybody, and that couple in the background (who look a bit like Al Franken and Teresa Kerry) should feel really bad about not sharing their cigar and poodle with the man sitting on the park bench.

"Democrats make sure we are always safe, just like Mommy does." Safe from elephants walking through the park, that is. But crazed madmen who want to kill you? Mommy will dialog with them, because after all, their worldview is just as valid as ours. We mustn't be judgemental like those naughty Republicans. After all, a suicide bomber is the poor man's cruise missile.

"Democrats make sure children can go to school, just like Mommy does." Yes. Mommy packs an apple and a carrot into Junior's bookbag, while in the background Mr. and Mrs. Franken celebrate the graduation of their son from a school with an admission fee of $160,000 while the man in the ball cap and trenchcoat from the park bench looks on wistfully. Of course, since here in FairyStoryLand the Democrats are running things, there's no guarantee that you'll learn anything in school, because the teacher's unions have removed all accountability. And there's little likelihood of you getting a job after graduation, since they've taxed small businesses out of existence.

Cheer up, dear. You can always move to Madison and write fairy tales

Monday, January 30, 2006

NT06 - Acts 6, in which deacons are selected and Stephen is arrested

Acts 6 is a very short chapter. The chapter divisions here chop up the narrative strangely, as Chapter 7 is Stephen's trial, speech, and stoning, and Chapter 8 begins with Saul's approval of the sentence. But in Acts 6 we see the effect of growing pains in the first mega-church. (The Jerusalem community of believers numbered several thousand at this point.) It's interesting that the number of Hellenic believers seems to outnumber the Semitic believers, as the first crop of deacons all have Greek names.

NT06: Acts 4-5, in which persecution begins but cooler heads prevail

In Acts 4 and 5, Peter and James suffer the consequences of healing the crippled beggar. It's interesting that the Sadducees are upset because Peter and James are preaching not just Jesus risen, but resurrection in general. (The Sadducess did not believe in a resurrection of the dead, as did the Pharisees.)

The end of 4 and the beginning of 5, where the early community of believers held goods in common, may describe the first commune. Marx thoroughly perverted "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Never underestimate the devil's ability to to twist good into evil. Likewise, never lose hope that God works all things for the good of those that love Him!

5:1-5 imples that Ananias represented the money he gave was the whole price he got from the sale. Verse 4 implies that since the money was his to do with as he pleased, he would have been perfectly justified in holding some of it back for personal use. The grave sin was in trying to "look good" while really holding out. Verse 5 says that great fear seized all who heard of this. Fear of what? One hopes, fear of lying about one's gifts, not fear of not giving.

I find it very interesting that it's Gamaliel who cautions the Sanhedrin about oppsing God's designs. it's widely thought that Gamaliel was the father of Hillel, who is widely oconsidered to be the father of Rabbinic Judaism. To this day, part of the Seder meal is eating a "Hillel Sandwich," a combination of matzoh, maror, and charoset (minus the Paschal lamb eaten in Hillel's time.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Doesn't look like me at all

According to the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz, I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago!

You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull.

So they say.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Oh, too funny.

Don't click here if you don't "get" Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or if you don't know who Lileks and Hewitt are.

OTOH, if you do, make sure you've swallowed your beverage before clicking the link. For safety's sake, I implore you. James as Patsy... too much.

NT06 - Acts 1-3, In which orders and weapons are issued

Acts is really a continuation of Luke, so it makes sense to take a running start by reviewing the last chapter of Luke before diving into Acts 1. Go ahead, I'll wait.

In verses 1-10 you can see immediately the parallel with Mark 16. There are differences, too. Mark reports that the women were scared and didn't tell anyone, while Luke reconts that they told the disciples. Luke lists Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and some others. Mark lists the two Marys and Salome. Luke says they saw two men. Mark says they saw one man sitting on the right side. There's also Matthew's version and John's version.

Skeptics love to crow about these differences as "contradictions." How can all these different accounts possibly be true? You can decide for yourself. Read carefully and you'll see that John's account is the only one that's really divergent, but they're not mutually exclusive.

I'll save the details for Easter, though. :-) For now, lets continue on into Acts.

In Acts 1, Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until he sends the Holy Spirit. The disciples choose Matthias to replace Judas. He's not elected, but chosen by lot - to the Jews, a sacred method of making decisions.

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descends as tongues of flame, and the apostles preach in the languages of their audience. Were they empowered to speak, or were the listeners empowered to hear? Doesn't matter. The Word gets out, and a community of believers begins to form.

In Acts 3, Peter heals a man unable to walk. The telling thing is that he does so not by his own power, but by the power of faith in the name of Jesus. Surely the lame man had been present a few weeks before when Jesus had cleared the merchants and moneychangers out of the courtyard. He may have heard the cries of "Give us Barabbas!" and "Crucify him!" echoing through the streets. And he may well have heard the strange whispers beginning to circulate that Jesus had been seen alive again.

Memo to Mahmoud

Iran Blames Bombings on U.S., Britain: Bombs went off inside a bank and outside an office building belonging to a state environmental agency. Iran's nutter of a president blames the US and UK.

Memo to Mahmoud - if the US or Britain decides to bomb Iran, the targets will not be a bank and an office building.

Friday, January 20, 2006

NT06 - Mark 16, in which we find something very disturbing

Many translations include a note that the most reliable, earliest manuscripts of Mark do not contain verses 9-20. What's stunning to me is that they DO contain verses 1-8. The earliest Gospel ends with the Empty Tomb. That's a real problem for skeptics.

Some skeptics claim that the resurrection story was borrowed from Mithraism, a secretive Roman "mystery cult" that featured a resurrected god-man. Mark was the first canonical gospel written. It was compiled about 50 years after Jesus' death, most likely from eyewitness recollections (Mk 14:51) and a couple of now-lost written collections of Jesus' words and deeds. Fifty years is a long time. winesses die, memories fade, stories can shift with retellings. But Paul's writings show that belief in the Resurrection as a literal, historical event was prevalent just 20 years after the event. And 20 years is not enough time for "legendary accretion" to override living memory.

Other skeptics argue that the Gospels are simply fiction. But as a work of fiction in that culture, Mark really messed up by making the witnesses women. At that time, women were not allowed to testify in court because they were considered unreliable. Besides, there's no description of the moment of resurrection itself. I mean, come on! That's the climax of the story! If you're making it up, you really should have someone there to describe it, right?

You can set aside the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy and look at the Gospel of Mark simply as an historical document. And even from that secular point of view, you're left staring into an empty tomb. Mark says that Mary, Mary, and Salome were trembling, bewildered, and afraid. Can't say as I blame them.

If I didn't know why the tomb was empty, I'd be pretty upset, too.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

He's baaack (maybe)

So old Osama seems to have released another tape.

He says that the lack of attacks in America is not due to increased security, but because "there are operations that need preparations." Such as, for example, funding from sources we've dried up, or planning by operatives we've captured and killed by the score? The tape also says, "...the operations are happening in Baghdad and you will see them here at home..." Hm. What "operations" are happening in Baghdad? Car bombs, suicide vests, and roadside IEDs, mostly against soft targets such people waiting in line and gatherings of children. Sometimes they even coordinate the timing of the attacks. How hard can it be to implement "operations" like that in the US? There are a LOT of soft targets in the US. The fact that they haven't hit them indicates that they can't. Doesn't mean they won't, of course. We don't want to let down our guard. (And as long as Bush is President, we won't, thank God.)

And ya gotta love the AP caption for bin Laden's picture (a file photo from 1998, showing the now-a-very-haggard-grey fugitive with dark hair). It calls him an "exiled Saudi dissident". Not "terrorist mastermind". Not "mass-murdering madman". "Exiled dissident".

NT06 - Getting caught up

According to the "Read through the New Testament in a year" plan, I'm up to Mark 15. I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the readings, but a poor job of blogging about it.

Mark 14 recounts the betrayal in the garden, and Mark 15 is the Crucifixion. It of course brings to mind Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

To me, verse 34 is the heart of history. When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he wasn't just quoting Psalm 22:1. He who had become sin on our behalf was experiencing the awesome eternal emptiness of separation from God. Jesus, the Son, who was with God from before the beginning of time, who referred to God as "Daddy", looked up to Heaven and saw his Father turn His back in disgust.

That's Hell. Forget your brimstone and pitchforks.

Chinook Diplomacy

A little late in noticing this - hat tip to the Paragraph Farmer.

It's a story of how the US provided massive amounts of aid to the victims of the Pakistan earthquake using the heavy-lift Chinook helicopters based in Afghanistan. I don't recall seeing this story reported in the major media - I wonder why?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NT06 - Mark 8, in which Jesus rebukes just about everyone

In this chapter, Jesus hammers on the Pharisees for demanding a sign. The disciples still don;t get it, and Jesus accuses Peter of being Satan.

Jesus also heals a blind man. Skeptics point to this healing and others in Mark where Jesus uses some physical means as evidence that the Jesus legend grew over time. "The original Jesus," they say, "wasn't a divine miracle worker, just a folk healer with delusions of grandeur." (Mark was the first Gospel to be written.)

That totally begs the question of the healings themselves, of course. Mark also contains stories of Jesus healing without physical contact, for example, the Gentile girl in the previous chapter and the paralytic in chapter 2. Perhaps Jesus knew that for this person to accept Jesus' ability to heal, He needed to provide some physical act.

God does a lot of things to help those of us whose faith is weak.

NT06 - Mark 7, in which Jesus reaches out to Gentiles

Jesus takes the Pharisees to task for focusing on the letter of the law rather than its spirit. (The practice of putting man-made rules on a level of or ahead of God's teaching was a major reason I left the Catholic church.) He points out that it's not what we put into our mouths that makes us clean or unclean, but rather what comes out.

Jesus also heals a Gentile girl based on her mother's faith, and heals a deaf-mute. (I wonder how this story resonates with modern American deaf persons. There's a movement in that community to be viewed not as disabled, but as differently-languaged.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

More ammo for the anti-ammo alliance

Judge Alito's wife discloses that the SCOTUS nominee is a crack shot with a shotgun.
"He's a great marksman – he can do double clays," she says, meaning he can hit two clay pigeon targets thrown simultaneously into the air before either hits the ground.
One presumes that the 2nd Amendment will be safe from radical reinterpretation with him on the Court.

NT06 - MArk 6, in which Jesus gets dissed, John loses his head, and a little goes a long way

A lot going on in this chapter. Jesus comes home to a less-than warm reception. We learn that he came from a fairly large family - I've long wondered how folks who claim that Jesus was an only child reconcile verse 3. It's also interesting that his neighbors admit that he has supernatural wisdom and miraculous healing power, but yet they take offense at him.

We learn the unpleasant fate of John the Baptist. I wonder if he will be one of the "martyrs under the altar" of Revelation 20.

Jesus tries to get his disciples a little break from the crowds, but the crowds follow. It gets late and there's no food. So Jesus has the disciples find a little something - a few loaves and fishes - blesses it, and everyone eats their fill. The novel The Robe suggests the possibility that this could have been a case of those in the crowd who had had the foresight to bring food sharing with those who had not. Maybe. But would that have been remembered and passed down? I don't think so.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

NT06: Mark 5, in which pigs fly and the dead live again

Jesus is clearly not a capitalist. Yes, I know, to the Jews, pigs are unclean. But still - 2,000 head of swine is SOMEBODY's livelihood, even if they are trefe-herding goyim. No wonder the people of the district begged him to go away. Interesting that nobody sued over the lost herd. I suppose they were sufficiently impressed by the healing of the madman that they figured they'd best not mess with this charismatic preacher - if he can send pigs over a cliff, what might he do to his enemies?

And then there's the very touching story of the rabbi's daughter. I've had a little girl sick, though not, thank God, unto death. I can only imagine the father's anguish.

Jesus raises her from the dead, and then tells the family to keep it quiet? I know I couldn't.

NT06 - Mark 4, in which seeds are planted

The parable of the Seeds and the Sower is probably my favorite parable.

It points out an essential truth about evangelism - the evangelist is not responsible for conversion. Just as the seed grows of its own accord, under the influence of the sun and rain provided by God and the miracle of the tiny life within the seed, the new believer is enabled to come to faith by the Holy Spirit.

But here's a question - if the sower is not blind, doesn't he or she have a responsibility to sow seed in good soil? Is it a waste to sow along the path, or among briars? IOW, as evangelists, should we "qualify our prospects" as they say in the sales business? Should we only attempt to share the Gospel with those who are receptive?

I think the Scripture is clear that we are to sow EVERYWHERE. While the seed is precious, it is not scarce (an interesting economic notion!) It's not our responsibility to only sow where we think seed might grow. God is, after all, in the miracle business.

That's a new observation for me, btw - the notion that we are to sow everywhere. Thank God for blogging - if not for this process of thinking aloud I might not have had that insight.

For years I've held dear another insight, though: Seed grows best in good soil. The Great Plains of the US are ancient prairie. For thousands of years grass has grown, died after a season, and returned to earth to add to the soil. The soil is deep and rich - roots go very deep. The first farmers in Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas had to use special "sodbuster" plows to break it up.

Some folks come from families with a tradition of faith going back generations. Great-great-grandpa was a believer who prayed for his progeny and who raised faithful sons and daughters. That's deep soil.

I don't have that to offer my children and grandchildren. My own soil is pretty thin. But I can do what I can do - pull weeds, remove stones, and shoo away birds.


The rest, as Scripture makes clear, is up to God.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Checks and balances work both ways

"The executive branch shall construe these sections in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

The President's Statement on Signing of H.R. 2863, the "Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 2006", makes it clear that this President understands his Constitutional authority, and will not be bullied by Congress.

NT06 - Mark 3: In which the rubber hits the road

The first part of this chapter, where Jesus heals the man with the shriveled hand, is a part of the Lord-of-the-Sabbath narrative of Ch 2. Jesus is declaring himself to be above the Law. To the Pharisees, this is blasphemy.

Then, Jesus' family is apparently called in to do an intervention. He spurns them, in favor of his disciples.

OK, time to stop.

Mark is the earliest Gospel to be written. According to scholars, it was written in the 80's, about 50 years after Jesus' ministry. It appears to be based on still-earlier, but now lost, textual or oral records of Jesus' teachings and deeds.

The earliest part of the earliest record we have of Jesus' acts and words show him to be - let's be charitably skeptical - a charismatic madman. He's traveling about the countryside, healing, casting out demons (for the skeptics: healing mental illnesses?), attracting crowds so dense you can't push your way through them, and claiming to have the authority to forgive sins and decide what the law of the Sabbath means. IOW, he says he's God.

Is this guy nuts? His family certainly seems to think so.

Or is he something more?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

NT06 - Mark 2: In which J-man cops a 'tude, dude!

Shortly after healing a leper and driving out a bunch of demons, Jesus returns home to Capernaum. (When did he move from Nazareth?) Crowds prevent a group of guys from getting their paralyzed bud close to him, so they come in through the roof.

Then Jesus whips out the big whammy - he doesn't just heal the guy, but makes a statement that borders strongly on blasphemy. People seem to be more amazed at the healing, though. Shortly thereafter, Levi takes early retirement from the RRS to join him.

In verses 21-22 (the "old wineskins" passage) Jesus seems to say that his ministry is a radical break from traditional Judaism. And on a Sabbath shortly thereafter, he allows his followers to gather grain in defiance of the legalists. (For the farmer's sake, one hopes it was just Jesus and the five disciples, rather than the hordes of followers.)

I'm curious if the disciples were ignorant of the strict interpretation of the law that forbade harvesting on the Sabbath - even plucking grains to eat out of hand - or if they had asked Jesus whether they could do so.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NT06 - Mark 1: We begin

Isaiah foretold a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" Mark links John the Baptizer to this prophecy, with John's proclamation that one is coming after him whose sandals he is not fit to untie.

Conveniently, Jesus arrives on the scene and gets baptized. Mark records that coming out of the water, Jesus has a vision and hears a voice from Heaven. He then goes out and has a wilderness experience.

Coming back from the desert, He calls Simon, Andrew, James and John, who drop their nets and tag along with nary a goodbye. They go to Capernaum, where Jesus causes a local stir by casting out demons and healing a leper. He tries to keep them quiet about who he is, but rumors begin to circulate.

So far the picture we have of Jesus is of a poor, simple (albeit very charismatic) preacher and folk-healer - a hard act to follow, though that doesn't keep some from trying.

NT06 - Mea maxima culpa

So I signed up to read through the New Testament in '06, right? One chapter a day, following a handly little guide from Discipleship Journal. Just five days a week. Five minutes with the Word. Really QUITE doable, y'know?

I'm already behind. WHERE are my priorities?

Life after Europe?

(ht:HH) Odd how you can really enjoy reading something really depressing.

In this long piece for the WSJ online, the incomparable Mark Steyn explains how "tolerance," multiculturalist orthodoxy, declining European birthrates, increasing birthrates in the Muslim world, and Muslim immigration to the West combine to sound the death-knell for Western civilization in Europe.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fly like a girl

All-female tanker crew flies Afgan mission

Yet another reason to drill in ANWR

A big chunk of the world's oil supply is under the control of Islamic governments who are not exactly pro-American. Another big chunk is under the control of South American socialists who are notably anti-American.

Somebody explain to me again why it's a bad thing to produce more oil and gas domestically?

Yup

Hugh Hewitt's New Year's post reminds me of something that happened back in the early 90's. I was talking with a co-worker, remarking on the explosion of information available online. He said, "There's simply going to be too much information to handle yourself. People will sign up for points of view."