Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cat humor

I found these funny. Hope you do too.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who can we trust?

Socialism: Believing in the government to control evil corporations. Yeah, right. See above.

Capitalism: Believing in coporations to fairly compete and lead us to a better world. Not so likely either given recent news -- see my last post.

Anarchy: Believing we should govern ourselves. They often say "If man is unfit to govern himself then he's unfit to govern others." That's a cute saying, but ever see how it works out in practice? Study a little history and you see that it's a bad idea. I like minimal goverment but let's not forget our need for police, etc.

Truth is we all have problems. There's no one we can really trust. Maybe now's a good time to just believe in God.


From The Beast.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Old Complaints

"I'm very pleased with each advancing year. It stems back to when I was forty. I was a bit upset about reaching that milestone, but an older friend consoled me. 'Don't complain about growing old - many, many people do not have that privilege." -- Earl Warren, Chief Justice

There's lots of calamity these days. Lots to complain about. Those of us born a little farther from the apocalypse like to complain about growing old. After all, the best we can do is prolong our short life a bit before we inevitably die like everyone else.

I went for my annual physical this week. (Sorry "Health Evaluation" as the nurse now called it. "A physical is something ordered by your job.") I'm fine, thanks. Another nurse walked by while I was being measured (blood pressure, pulse, etc.) She had just gotten back from Addis Ababa. She talked about how third world it was and how she would complain a lot less now. I had a similar experience traveling to Nairobi many years ago.

It's not that complaining is so bad. We should get our bad feelings out and off our chest. Perhaps, though, we could also spend a little more time looking at our blessings and remembering to thank God for them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Putting on a Show.

China really put on a show at the Olympics opening ceremony. Obviously it took a lot of practice and hard work. Apparently it took somewhat more than that according to this article on Sports Illustrated's website. I'm not taking about the fake CGI fireworks or the lip-synching 9-year old girl. I'm talking about what the performers were subjected to. The director of the show, Zhang Yimou, had a couple of particularly telling quotes. First he talks about how they work hard.
North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Through hard training and strict discipline.
Then he talks about how difficult it was to work on an opera in the West.
In one week, we could only work four and a half days, we had to have coffee breaks twice a day, couldn't go into overtime and just a little discomfort was not allowed because of human rights ... You could not criticize them either. They all belong to some organizations ... they have all kind of institutions, unions. We do not have that. We can work very hard, can withstand lots of bitterness. We can achieve in one week what they can achieve in two months.
The western opera company could not handle a "little discomfort." By "little discomfort" does he means the heat exhaustion and injuries that were suffered for the Olympic performance? Does he mean they actually wanted food once in a while? What about the "lots of bitterness?" Perhaps it refers to one rehearsal that was 51 hours long with almost no breaks. Perhaps it was the adult diapers that printing press performers had to wear. Perhaps it refers to the practical imprisonment of the performers for three months at a military base. Yep just get rid of those pesky unions and silly human rights and you can put on a real show. Like they do in North Korea. It's so good to know that China aspires to such heights.

Ironic how much human right abuse it took to get us to enjoy the show and overlook China's other human rights abuses. Yep, China really put on a show.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eye Opening

I heard Nonie Darwish speak yesterday at a local Jewish temple. She gave a fascinating talk. She is from Egypt, grew up Muslim and lived on the Gaza strip when her father was sent there to head up fedayeen terror attacks on Israel. Her father was assassinated by Israeli Defense Forces when she was eight because of his position. She personally has seen how Muslim countries oppress the Palestinians and how Muslim jihad ideology is forced upon all members of these countries. She says the idea of conversion by force and lying about such intentions is at the heart of Islam and encourages all of us to stand up against it. You can learn more about her on wikipedia or visit her website. She also has a book Now they Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror.

I like to believe there are moderate Muslims and that the jihadists are in the minority. I do not believe in hating any people. I am sure that Muslims and Arabs, like all people, have a lot of good in them. I have a boss who is also from Egypt and is a practicing Muslim. He is a good guy. I believe some of the measures Ms. Darwish called for at the end of the meeting -- such as changing our constitution to prohibit Sharia Law -- are too extreme and would be unworkable.

However, whenever I receive direct evidence it seems to agree with what Ms. Darwish is saying. If there are Muslim moderates and they are the majority where is their outcry against terror? Is it possible to follow the Qur’an and not believe in violent conversion? Why does the Qur’an have so much to say about killing and violence and so little about love and mercy? Is moderate Islam only a fiction to allow them to infiltrate the West?

I want to believe in peace and moderation and negotiation. I do believe that God is love, that Jesus preached love and that love will eventually win out. But I will not remain willfully ignorant nor sit idly by while a major threat builds against myself, my family, my country and the beliefs I deeply cherish. I will go to war if that's what it takes.

Muslim leaders please show me wrong. Please stand up against terror. Please lead your people away from jihad. Please help the Palestinians and stop blowing up people, especially in Israel.

If not, if what you really want is war, we'll give it to you. You do realize, don't you, that you still exist because of our kindness and restraint? If we really wanted you dead it would only take a small fraction of our nuclear arsenal to send your countries back to the 7th century. Trust me on this: if needed we'll be more than happy to send you to your reward.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speaking of Ignorance ...

For those of us who know anything at all about computers this falls under the "You've got to be kidding me" category. I hadn't heard about it until I saw the comic. I'm speechless.

Ignorance, Sasquatch and Evolution.

"Your ignorance may be bliss for you but to me it's like fingernails on a chalk board." My thought today as I listened to the radio.

I was listening to the radio as I was driving to the doctor this morning. (I'm OK. Thanks for asking.) The morning show hosts were talking about today's report of finding a Sasquatch body. (It's the first I heard of it.) The hosts were complaining that there's supposed to be a news conference but no one was saying when or where it will be. Then their conversation went something like this:

First host: "Why are we even talking about this? It's not news. I mean if Sasquatch were to stop the war in the Middle East or something ... "

Second host: "Oh yes, it's news. If they find Sasquatch, well, uh, it's like the missing link."

First, what a stupid comment about whether or not finding Sasquatch is news. Of course it is. I personally don't believe Sasquatch really exists. The reports are very sketchy and it seems unlikely a creature like that could remain hidden. However, I'm open to new evidence. Finding such a creature would be very interesting.

The second host's comment is far worse. I just finished a leading a small group at church on the subject of science and the Bible. Basically the Bible tells us what God does, not how things are done. Science is more concerned with how things are done. Unfortunately we Christians have some bad history of reacting negatively to science. Currently there is a huge movement against evolution and the idea that the earth is billions of years old. I used to be part of it. However, I've come to realize that it is full of ignorance and does not look at the facts clearly. I've blogged about related issues before and discussed issues like this in the "Science and the Bible" small group.

One of the areas of ignorance about evolution has to do with missing links. Yes, evolution says that there were species similar to but slightly different from those we see today. It says man and chimpanzees are closely related and that they had a common ancestor about 10 million years ago. At first glance it seems reasonable to assume that we should find the missing or transitional forms between that common ancestor and modern chimps and modern humans. However it is also true that since these ancestors lived in the past the only real way to "find" them is to find fossils. Fossils only can be produced under special conditions and they are rare and hard to find.

What does this all mean? First, there was not just one "missing link". There were many different related species, some of which are our direct ancestors, some cousins, some uncles, etc. To assume we need to find that one, special missing link is very misinformed. Christians make this mistake a lot and apparently we are not alone. Second many "links" have been found. Of course not all have been found. It's unrealistic to expect to find every transitional form.

I suppose it's possible that Sasquatch is a closer relative to human than any other creature. That indeed would be an interesting and mind blowing discovery. But finding such a creature would not automatically prove evolution and change the world. The evidence for evolution is already massive. People who chose to ignore it will probably still find an excuse to ignore Sasquatch evidence as well.

What's grating to me is so many people confidently assert facts that they really don't know. It's especially bad when we Christians (who are supposed to be set free by the truth) do it. I don't mind ignorance as such. If you don't care about science and don't want to spend the time to know about it, no problem. If you don't wish to study your Bible in depth, OK. But don't make huge claims about stuff you don't really know.

So why the picture of the dinosaur? Young earth creationists (YEC) like to point out Job 40:15-18 as referring to dinosaurs. The pictured dinosaur has become part of a YEC museum. Here is Job 40:15-17:
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.
They especially point out that what else but a dinosaur could have a tail "like a cedar." However, the word for tail is a euphemism. Stephen Mitchell suggests this translation.
Look now: the Beast I made: he eats grass like a bull. Look: the power in his thighs, the pulsing sinews of his belly. His penis stiffens like a pine; his testicles bulge with vigor.
Not exactly a dinosaur tail! Perhaps not all ignorance is grating. Some is downright amusing.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh Joy

"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens." Epictetus

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3

Last night my son, Dan, came home. Not unusual, but he lives in Yorba Linda and normally works Friday in Long Beach so it's not so usual on a Thursday. Dan was depressed. He lost his job.

I got depressed -- it hit me harder than I thought it would. Dan already had lots of financial hits with his car. He's getting married in two months. He didn't need this. I felt afraid and angry and depressed.

My oldest daughter, Sarah, has been going through a very weird housing situation. She signed a year lease with three roommates on a nice house. The roommates have become very flaky. My daughter had to pay the entire rent in June. She got a restraining order against one of them, who had been a very good friend for over a year, because she threatened her life. Sarah's finally out of the house, but her living situation is very uncertain and she may still be liable for all or part of the lease.

I live with rheumatoid arthritis. My wife has various on-going health issues.

We are good friends with a couple at our church -- we've known them since college. Their children grew up with our children and are best friends. One of their daughters suddenly had seizures a few weeks ago. They found blood in her brain from a congenital tangled vein that began bleeding. They also found an aneurysm. She needs surgery and is bed ridden all summer. At least she's alive and we have modern medicine to fix her up. (She wrote about this on her blog)

Another lady at church had a brain tumor. Fortunately it was benign and got removed OK. She is having a slow recovery. A teenager at church has numbness in her legs -- she can't feel a thing. It now has gone away as mysteriously as it came. Our church can't afford to fix the parsonage air conditioning so our pastor and his wife suffer while temperatures sky rocket. A couple of years ago we had three young people associated with our church died within a short time span. People have left, making our small church even smaller. The simple fact that our church is falling behind in our bills seems trivial compared to the real-life drama.

What is going on? Are we screwing up? Is it time to cash in?

Well, giving up on church won't really solve anything. It won't find a job for my son nor fix anyone's health. Obviously we need to be alert to any changes God is asking of us. However, we've been doing that for quite some time and it hasn't stopped bad things from happening, nor should it.

Epicetus has good advice, but it's often hard for me to follow. It did help me just to read his quote. The help in Philippians 4:6 is even better. I know God is here and praying is good. There's someone out there watching over me, my family and my friends. That's comforting.

The rejoicing mentioned by Paul in Romans and by James is harder. Sometimes I suppress stuff and just pretend to be OK. That not healthy and can't be what they mean. Somehow I need to accept the awfulness of stuff, grieve over it and still rejoice in God. What's cool is knowing how much he loves me and wants me to grow into a better person. It's still pretty hard to rejoice.

God takes care of me, comforts me and loves me. Same for my family and friends. He ultimately has good plans. We're all going to grow from this. Right now, though, it hurts a lot.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Rabbit Hole

"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues." -Abraham Lincoln

Really? Don't we Christians spend our lives trying to get rid of our vices? Maybe Mr. Lincoln is wrong. Or maybe we're missing the point.

So, we have two startling ideas
  1. Robin's premise that worldliness is setting rules and ignoring God's grace. It has nothing to do with so-called morality.
  2. Lincoln's assertion that no vices means very little virtue.
What then? Should we sin that grace may abound? No way, as Paul rightly answers.

We do need to carefully digest what God really wants. We need to realize that God does not care much for rules. That he doesn't care much about our little vices. He does care that we believe in him and live for him and live in a relationship with him. That's so much better, yet so much scarier. It's easier to ignore God and follow rules. When we have a relationship with God we actually have to treat him like a person. We need to let him into our lives. We need to be intimate with God, share with him and allow him to share with us. We need to know him and so know ourselves.

It's like the choice Morpheus offers Neo. Take the red pill. Find out the real truth. Experience how deep the rabbit hole of God's love is. Bend our minds around how different our lives will become. Or take the blue pill. Just follow the rules and fit in. Be religious, anal, bland and safe. Impress friends and neighbors with how good of Christians we are.

Red pill anyone?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Worldliness is not what you think it is

Robin has a great post about worldliness. I've had thoughts like this for a while, but as usual he has a very complete biblical point-of-view and expressed it much more clearly than I could.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tesla in production

These two videos show a sports car accelerating from a stop. They show fantastic acceleration. But there's also something wrong -- do you notice it? Hint: make sure your computer sound is on.

Did you notice? No engine roar! This is the new electric sports car from Tesla Motors. Tesla claims 0-60 in under 4 seconds, and Motor Trend, AutoWeek and Road & Track seem to agree. Since it's electric there's no gasoline roar and full torque at zero rpm. Awesome!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Some awesome technology from JPL.

Also check out this article on space.com.

More Josh Billings

As a result of reading wikipedia about Josh Billings while writing my last post I found another quote I really like. "As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand."

Jesus said we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. The problem is we religiously avoid truth. The Gospel of John makes this clear when it talks about light and darkness.


"If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. " Mark Twain

Mostly I chose to be uniformed. Maybe I just want to stay happy.

Josh Billings, a humorist who was second in popularity to Twain during the back half of the 19th century, has a quote that is one of my all-time favorites and I have in my office. "The trouble with most folks isn't so much their ignorance. It's know'n so many things that ain't so."

Put these two quotes together and you know why I rarely read the newspaper or listen to any other form of so-called news.


For the record: I looked at the wikipedia article on Josh Billings and learned something about him. I also saw many other good quotes. My favorite quote was there, but it was phrased this way: "It's not ignorance does so much damage; it's knowin' so derned much that ain't so." Not sure what's right but they say the same thing -- perhaps he said it both ways.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The age of the earth is not an article of faith.

Historical Christianity has a core. There are central beliefs often called "articles of faith." Don's blogs about Good Friday and Jesus' resurrection describe well much of the core of Christianity.

Carolina and I were at a friend's house for Easter where one of the guests and I got in a discussion about the age of the earth. I believe the earth is billions of years old. He believes it's not because the Bible, specifically Genesis 1, says it's not. He made a comment to the effect that once you let go of one part of what the Bible says you open the door to losing our entire faith.

The problem is that he thought I was saying we should treat the Genesis 1 creation account as just a story or a fabrication. But that's not what I was saying. I believe Genesis 1 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. It adds details about what he created, I believe, to show that God created everything. This is in contrast to the common belief of the time that there were many gods, each of which had a different area of responsibility. The land of Egypt, where the Israelites were coming from not only believed in many gods, they barely even had common gods they agreed on across regions of the country. Likewise Canaan, the land the Israelites were going into, believed in many regional gods. Despite many biblical passages and God's direct intervention in their history, the people of Israel continued to believe in multiple gods until the time of the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C.E.

The author of Genesis boldly counters the many-god idea. Belief in gods of the sun and moon was common. Genesis says the one God, Yahweh, created both. Belief in gods of the sea and land was also common. "No," says Genesis, the same God created them too. He also created the birds, fish and animals. Finally he created humans and he created them in his own image!

I believe there is a clear outline structure in Genesis 1.

God Created Everything (Genesis 1:1 - 2:3)

1. Overview (1:1-2):
  • God created the heavens and the earth (1:1).
  • The earth was formless and empty (1:2).
2. God formed the heavens and earth (1:3-13)
  • Day 1: God formed day and night (1:3-5).
  • Day 2: God formed sky and seas (1:6-8).
  • Day 3: God formed dry land (1:9-13).

3. God filled the heavens and earth (1:14-2:3).
  • Day 4: God filled day and night (1:14-19).
  • Day 5: God filled sky and seas (1:20-23).
  • Day 6: God filled dry land (1:23-1:31).
4. God rested on the seventh day (2:1-3).

There is repetition which is common in the Hebrew Bible. There is special focus on dry land and the creation of people in God's image since the Bible's focus is on people. This focus is expanded even more in the rest of Genesis 2. However, the outline structure is still very clear.

I believe it's not only possible but common in Hebrew for "day" to refer to something other than a 24-hour day. I believe any attempt to make day mean a 24-hour period in Genesis 1 does not make sense. (How do we have a 24-hour day on Days 1-3 when the sun is not even created?) In fact I think any attempt to assign a chronology to Genesis 1 does not make sense. How can we have thousands of years or even 72 hours without a sun and moon? Thus to me it is clearly not a statement of linear time. Combine this with the multi-god issue which was the main problem for the Israelites and to me it's clear that God's intention was not creation methodology or time sequencing but instead was to emphasize that he alone created everything (and that he views humans as very special).

This does not "open the door" to disregarding the Bible or treating it's factual statements as anything besides truth. I believe it does capture how the passage would have been understood by the people it was written for.

In our discussion yesterday I did bring up the need to interpret the Bible in it's historical and cultural context. The person I was talking with thought that wasn't necessary because God wrote the Bible, which means we all can relate to it independent of our culture or language. This to me is a much more dangerous view which opens the Bible up to personal interpretations and whims and does more to ignore God than any belief in modern science.

Finally, I must put our discussion a little more into context:
  • I don't believe my discussion partner would carry his statement about not needing to know historical and cultural context to its logical extreme and just accept any body's whim about the Bible.
  • I'm the one who brought up the age of the earth knowing that it would provoke a discussion.
  • We both backed away from our discussion rather than turn it into an irresolvable fight and tacitly agreed to disagree. We later did the dishes together and were able to talk of other things pleasantly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Getting Bombed

This from News of the Weird (Feb 10, 2008):
It is apparently becoming more difficult to recruit competent suicide bombers in Afghanistan because twice in a two-day period in January, clumsy bombers accidentally blew themselves up before they ever had the chance to take their targets out. One fell down a flight of stairs while on his way to an attack in the town of Khost, and the other's bomb accidentally exploded as he was getting dressed for an assignment in the town of Lashkar Gah (although the latter bomber did take three colleagues with him). [Agence France-Presse, 1-24-08]

Friday, February 01, 2008

Real Programmers

Some comments:
  1. Yes, I know I've used xkcd a lot. I don't care. I like it, it's my blog, and I can't draw like some of my more creative friends and family members.
  2. I also know you probably don't get it. See Comment #1 minus the drawing stuff.
  3. OK, I'll relent a bit. Perhaps this will help you non-programmers. Nano is a text editor, which is like a word processor for writing code. Emacs preceded it and is harder to use. Likewise vim and ed. In theory it's possible to edit with cat, but very hard (I've done it for short files). A magnetized needle used very precisely could edit the bits on a disk. Finally, Emacs has a bazillion commands and you can never learn all of them. (The very clever user can edit and even add to them.) The esoteric commands tend to look like C-x M-c M-whatever.
  4. xkcd taught me a trick for web images. You can use the title attribute to show a message when someone mouses over an image. Try it on the comic above.
  5. If you can't see all the title text, it reads "Real programmers set the universal constants at the start such that the universe evolves to contain the disk with the data they want."
  6. Not only is the title text funny, but it coincides with something I've thought of and never heard anyone else espouse. People say evolution takes God out of creation. I'm a programmer. I always want to write a program to solve a problem instead of figuring it out myself, even if the program takes longer. (It usually does, but then if something needs to be done a thousand times I win.) I figure God took the elegant method and programmed the universe rather than just building it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Explorer and JPL

Saw on the news last night and got an email from JPL about Explorer. Today is it's fiftieth anniversary. Sputnik was first, but it didn't do anything except it's famous "beep." Explorer was actually the first scientific satellite. Data it collected led to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts around the earth.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The last five days I've had the flu. It wasn't horrible, but it's worst I've been sick since taking flu shots the last 5 years. I didn't do much besides sleep and watch TV. Worked at the computer a little but thinking was hard. I'm back at work now but not yet 100%. I was already behind on my email and such, now I'm even more so. I'll try to catch up as I feel up to it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Light and Darkness

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God at the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." John 1:1-5

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:19-21

"The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Romans 13:12.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nerdy Obsession

Here but for the grace of God go I. Oh heck, despite God's grace I go here anyway.