Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year / Next year
 

2016 December 31 -- PC Trumps Science

I should have read the jacket blurb more carefully, or else looked at the publication date. Most recent novels (this one was published this year -- or probably last year, with this year's date) try to be Politically Correct, which means shoddy science, where all the smart people are women and all the guys are idiots who do all their thinking in their loins. Obviously the author (I don't even bother with books by female authors any more) doesn't believe that for an instant -- or at least he cannot live it. Otherwise he would be a ditch digger or a drunk like the pseudo-hero of his story, not a sci-fi novelist and an editor at Scientific American. Except for a few scientific blunders, it was a credible story, but the suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy a novel was shattered by his blatant efforts to rewrite science and history to make women and minorities more prominent.

His political persuasion was more subtle, just enough to make the military and the cops (men, every last one of them) the villains, which is part of the left-wing package, not the right. The only positive take-away, which you can't actually trust in the words of a True Believer, was that when being interrogated by the cops or anti-terrorist military thugs, you cannot trust anything they have to tell you, including promises of what they will do if you cooperate. I sort of knew that already, I once heard a cop in Sunday School confess that he "had to lie" as part of his job. I don't believe for a moment that it is unavoidable, but it does put me on notice that they cannot be believed.

Maybe (if the library has it) I will try his first novel and see if it's any better. If not, then I can know not to bother with any others. I need to be more careful when reading the cover blurb.

I'm reading a little more now, because it's not convenient to watch movies while eating (no table to put everything on). Besides, I eat less when I'm not looking for an excuse to finish the flick. I need to eat less. It's working. The software I'm working on these days is not as exciting as BibleTrans was back when it looked like it would change the world, so I still get too tired to program before I get sleepy enough to go to sleep; reading still fills those gaps as it did in Texas, and this library has a lot more books than the dinky little library in Texas that threw out everything older than 8 years.
 

2016 December 29 -- "Prince of Peace" = Czar?

It was a good Christmas sermon from Isaiah, but the pastor obviously reads commentaries, not the original Hebrew. He claimed that the "Prince of Peace" (Sar Shalom) title given to the Messiah, the word "Sar" in Hebrew is related to the word Czar. I didn't think so ("Czar" is the Slavic spelling of Caesar), but I've been too busy to look it up until now. St.Cyril knew Greek and Hebrew when he adapted their letters into the alphabet that now bears his name, and Slavic languages have a single letter pronounced "ts" which Cyril roughly adapted from the Hebrew tsade (same sound), and that letter is used in Russian "tsar" which is a corruption of the Latin word "caesar". There is no correlation with the Hebrew "Sar" which is spelled with a shin, not a tsade. That much I could see in my Hebrew Bible while the guy was preaching.

Anyway, "Caesar" was originally a family name -- scholars cannot agree on which of four or five similarly spelled words it might have come from, none of them having anything to do with ruling, because the family name began with or before the grandfather of Julius, and was still a family name for five generations of emperors, although the next guy (not in the same family) obviously took the name as a title.
 

2016 December 28 -- Being the Expert

The joke has it that "expert" is the combination of the prefix "ex-" (meaning former, no longer) and "spurt" (meaning a drip under pressure). I think the "ex-" part applies to me, because I have been completely spoiled rotten by 32 years using the (classic, not OSX) Macintosh. If you want to do something on the Mac, it just works. Win95 and XP tried hard to do the same thing, but they didn't have Steve Jobs. Now Apple doesn't either, and it shows. Originally OSX was just a "beta release" (not fully debugged) operating system, but Jobs found other things to occupy his attention and it went downhill rapidly, so the current release is much harder to use than the early (buggy) versions. The Windows development has put a lot of effort into making Win10 harder to use than OSX. That's not an easy task, but somehow they succeeded. On a scale of 1 to 10, DOS was a 1, the Mac was 10, WinXP maybe 6, the early OSX 5, current OSX "El Capitan" 4, and Win10 is a lowly 3. It's still better than DOS or unix, but not by much.

Anyway, I got myself signed up to be the resident guru this summer at a computer summer camp. I need to know this stuff. I pitched the project they work on as in Java, and that's all well and good, but then it morphed into taking live images from a camera, which has a C/C++ API and works on Windoze or Linux, but not OSX. I need to build a Java wrapper around that camera interface, and Oh My, what a chore. The freebie (non-commercial, which a summer camp counts as) Microsoft VisualStudio compiler doesn't do C/C++ and cannot download the templates (some missing enabler). Eclipse (the name means "failed" in Greek ;-) has a Java/C++ programming environment that is the industry standard for Java (unless you like 19th-century command lines), but it won't do C unless it can find the GCC compiler, which it cannot -- I'm not the only one with this problem, the programmer's help forum StackOverflow.com has a zillion different answers to the same problem, each with a proud user responding "Nothing else worked but this one!" I'm not yet dead in the water: tomorrow I will remove and re-install GCC and Eclipse (in that order), and if that doesn't work, try building my camera DLL on my 2004 WinXP computer which came with an earlier version of VS; it took me a week or two to figure out how to make it work 12 years ago, but WinXP is way nicer than Win10, so I might get lucky. Or after I build there, I can bundle up the project and re-open it in VS on Win10. Or hit up moneybags for a paid-up copy of VS that includes the C compiler (and templates). It's going to be a long cold winter.
 

2016 December 19 -- A (Rare) Sunny Sunday

It was sunny, a rare enough event here in rainy Ore-gone, but it also happened to be on the day that is named for the pagan solar deity, the very proof that the atheists are lying through their teeth when they claim that replacing "AD" (from the Latin "Anno Domini", the year of the Lord) in our calendar dates with "CE" (which they claim means "Common Era" but I prefer to expand it into the more accurate "Christian Epoch"), they disingenuously claim it is not an attack on Christianity, but that is clearly disproved by the fact that they make no attempt to replace the names of pagan (sun and moon), Roman (Saturn, Janus, Julius), and Norse (Woden, Thor) deities. Or maybe it's the "Lord" part that offends them, but nobody knows Latin any more, let alone what "AD" means, it's just petulant anti-Christian bigotry.

Except for emergencies ("the ox falling into a pit"), I try not to "work" on Sundays, so I put the car top down, bundled up warm, and went for a drive. Unlike Misery and Taxes, both of which are "as flat as the state of Kansas," this part of Ore-gone is nestled between fairly high coastal range hills, which you can see looming high above the town in every direction. My map showed a gravel road through part of the national forest or park or whatever that green splotch represents, so I decided to try that. It was paved at the turnoff and for several miles in, until I got to a fork with no signs to indicate which side went where (no such fork on either the state or county map). I tried the right fork which went up (the map shows the road going past a summit), but it got very narrow like a driveway, so I turned around at the next opportunity (maybe another half mile up, but it still took three or four back-and-forth jockeys to avoid falling off the shoulder), and went back to the downward left fork. It eventually headed up also, but obviously had more traffic than the other fork -- from the lack of dried leaves and stuff on the pavement, also it was wider, but the only other vehicle I met the whole time I was on the federal road was when I was coming back down, there was one jeep-like SUV going up.

Anyway I went on up, probably climbed a thousand feet or more until I started to see snow on the road. The first time it happened I could see past the snow to clear road, and there was only 10 yards or so where it thinly (obviously had been plowed) covered the whole road, so I kept going. The second time I could not see past it, there was nothing but snow as far as I could see on the winding road ahead, and I chickened out. With nobody around (and no cell service) I didn't really want to slide off the road into the deep precipice on the one side (nor even into the ditch on the uphill side: I had passed landslide rocks on the pavement several times, and one 3-inch rock banged against the car bottom, which was less than I thought my clearance was, so I carefully avoided all others after that). On the way back down I passed again the sapling "growing" in the middle of the road, and because it was now on the driver side, I saw that it wasn't really growing there at all, it was just leaning out of a foot-deep pothole, which surely would have stopped (and stuck) anything but a four-wheeler (and possibly damaged the undercarriage of even that).

The trip down was as much fun and challenging as the trip up. Many times I down-shifted to put the compression braking on the rear wheels, which I supposed would tend to straighten out (rather than spin) any loss of traction, but I no longer am so sure of that because a couple of times I felt the rear start to lose it. Thereafter I revved the engine at the same time (it's a little slower to get the effect) and approached the tight hairpin curves a little more gently. The one-lane road reminded me of the transcontinental highway from Peru to Brazil, which was still under construction when I was there as a child, except this was wider and flatter (and much colder ;-)

Except for a 5-mile stretch on the Interstate coming back, it was great fun, about a hundred miles in some three hours, maybe half that time inside the green splotch. One of the things I was sort of looking for is an off-Interstate path north to Portland, where I need to go several times next year (my only source of income next year). There isn't any. Even if the steep winding road through the green splotch were a credible route, the map shows it only cuts off another ten miles from I-5, and there's still 20 miles on the Interstate with no alternate routes at all -- except the coast route, which can be reached only by a 100+mile detour through California, and a winding route through the center of the state, which might be less miles, but not by much. A couple weeks ago I did the trip to Portland, but endured the unavoidable Interstate segment in the dead of night both ways, so the few untrained stupid sociopaths still there had plenty of space to pass.

I'm still church-shopping. Grants Pass is not that big a community, but (being in a blue state) it has fewer churches per capita than Misery or Taxes, both in the country's Bible Belt. Left-wing bigots tend to believe the government should do God's work for them ("render unto Washington that which is God's"), so they avoid churches; right-wing bigots expect to do it for themselves, but wrongly think God commands it ("God helps those who help themselves" is also not in the Bible), so they are more likely to be in church on Sundays. The result is that blue-state churches are fewer and smaller, but populated by more serious Christians than you see in red states.

God has a heart for the poor, but the poor in America have been so corrupted by the socialism of the left-wing bigots whose destructive policies have made their plight worse over the last half-century, that they no longer seek God's help to rise above their government-imposed poverty. The result is that while I live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the poorest county in the state, there aren't many close churches, they are all on the other (more up-scale) side of town. Yesterday I drove to a Southern Baptist church. Three kids and one adult went off to junior church, leaving 19 of us in the sanctuary, I think five of us visitors. The small church I went to in Texas averaged 25. I wasn't the youngest person there yesterday (as I was in some of the churches I visited 12 years ago in Misery), but I also wasn't the oldest. The pastor here is a gung-ho believer and works hard at pastoring, but he's stuck with a dying church and doesn't have a clue how to grow it. I guess the SBC doesn't -- perhaps cannot -- teach their students how to do that. The most vibrant churches I've been in here so far are pentecostal, and that's just not my schtick. I don't think they are Wrong any more than I think the Calvinists and Arminians are Wrong, but God has His "7000 men of Israel who have not bowed the knee to Ba'al" (which with the Apostle I interpret to mean True Believers) in every place. So I'm still looking. sigh
 

2016 December 14 -- I Hate Gmail

You may recall from last year my problems getting net services up in Texas. My friend was (and still is) very helpful, but he had the misfortune to be doing it on OSX, which is unstable and apparently vulnerable to outside hacks. Maybe it would have been no better on Linux or Windoze -- they all use the same broken security model -- but in any case his servers crash often now, including right this minute as I type this. The cable modem I got here in Oregon is no more robust than the one I had in Texas, so I went immediately back to VPN to my friend's servers, which works when the servers are not crashed. You already know what I think of OSX.

Before moving I set up a Gmail account to use while out of touch with my normal IttyBittyComputers.com email, and it worked fine on my sandboxed OSX computer until a month ago (perhaps in retribution over the election results) when it stopped working on the Apple browser. They still worked on Google's own Chrome browser until last week, then they killed that too. Fortunately I got a newer OSX laptop in connection with the work I plan to be doing this coming summer, but it's not sandboxed so whenever OSX crashes, I lose everything back to the last backup. One can back up and restore the boot drive (which was not possible on early versions of OSX) but it's not as simple as it was/is on the MacOS, and it's totally undocumented. Unix.

Problem #1: Gmail is unstable. It's a moving target that continually stops working, requiring users to change their workflow.

Anyway, my VPN server connection is down today (OSX problems), so I was composing an email on the Gmail account, and Gmail keeps respelling my words. Normally when I misspell a word, I can feel in my fingers that something didn't work right, then look at it and fix it. This cheap Chinese junk keyboard is aging and starting to drop letters (which I don't feel), so I need to go back and check for them. Now Gmail is inserting stuff. I have not figured out how to turn off the miserable spell-checker or whatever it is doing that. I also have not figured out how to turn off the Google pop-up menu that keeps discarding what I just typed and replacing it with something I have no interest in. I don't have these problems on the MacOS.

Problem #2: No computer -- and especially not Google/Gmail -- is smarter than I am. I wish it would just get out of my way and let me do what I use a computer for.
 

2016 December 12 -- New Town Woes

Somebody told me this is the poorest county in the state, and I mostly believe it. The houses in my neighborhood are tiny crackerboxes on half-size lots -- but over-priced because of the pot boom. I think this one used to be a rental, it was in terrible shape, and stank like a meth lab.

So I went to the local library. It seems that the county is so poor, they cancelled their budget for the library nine years ago. Eventually the locals got together a committee to raise donations and volunteer staff to re-open it, but they still operate solely on donations with one paid staff member (and 200 volunteers). One consequence is that they are open only 24 hours a week on a really odd schedule. Another is that their on-line catalog search is brain-dead. As in Texas, where the search for "thriller" turned up five pages of hits, here in a town three times the size (plus it's the county seat), the same search turned up only one -- even though the shelves are visibly larger. At least they don't throw out the old stuff: my first look for DVDs turned up a complete section of "classics" (some of them B&Ws from the 40s and older).

I checked out a couple books, one the final Griffin novel in the Presidential Agent series, which I had to return to the Texas library after reading only one chapter because I was leaving town, and the other a Gresham novel I'd never heard of. Griffin himself retired several years ago, and the ghost-writer who took over his trademark novels -- well, let's say that if he were as good as Griffin, his name on the cover wouldn't be a quarter the size as Griffin's. The series is essentially a spy-thriller, but this last book turned out to be a farce -- which Butterworth admitted in his Afterword; I guess something about the story line embarrassed him. It was worth a chuckle or two, but a great disappointment when I thought I was going to read a thriller.

The Gresham novel I probably wouldn't have taken home if I'd thought more carefully about what the cover blurb said, because it turned out to be more political than I care to read in a novel (see "Politics in Fiction"); the story essentially argued against capital punishment. Unfortunately, the author put middle-class left-wing political rhetoric in the mouth of his low-life villain, which unfortunately failed my suspension of disbelief. One of the main (good-guy) characters was a Lutheran minister who is converted from indifference to full left-wing anti-capital-punishment. His thoughts are described for us, which made him (like the villain) less than credible. Not really, I'm sure there are thousands of Lutheran (and other denom) pastors who are so poorly grounded in Scripture that they have no answer when confronted with patent injustice like an innocent kid executed wrongfully, and the rather wooden Lutheran minister of the church I visited yesterday (in my search for a church home here in Oregon) could be one of them. But when I look for a church home, I want the pastor to be at least as comparable in his command of Scripture as I am. Gresham admitted to being somewhat lazy in his research. I also want the novelist I read to have done his homework. sigh

Oregon has fewer churches per capita than Texas or Misery, but those I've been to seem more committed. Maybe it's just a vague impression, but blue-state politics tends to be hostile to religion, so the people who rise up out of that hostility on Sunday morning seem more solid than the fleeting holograms of church-goers where the social thing is to go to church. Whatever.
 

2016 December 1 -- DIY Recovery

Ah the joys of moving into an older DIY flipper house. The seller mostly didn't know what he was doing: there are 3-hole plugs everywhere, but none of them grounded. It has a new gas furnace (and presumably A/C, but the inspector said it would damage the equipment to test it below 50o outdoors) yet all the heating vents are in the ceiling, where without an external fan they heat only the top 25% of each room. The registers have no flow control, but I found a contractor who handles that brand of vent -- except the ones in the same size with closable vanes have a different base for mounting. My nephew (the reason for my being here) was a former contractor and code enforcement officer, so he's now installing "GFCI"s that presumably protect me from the missing ground.

The garage door had an electric opener, so I called the local Genie dealer, and they sold me a universal remote with instructions for setting it up and a 800-phone number for help, but it didn't work and the Genie people said it was too old and they had no information on that model. So I took it apart and reverse-engineered the circuit board. I figured it had to have a transformer to isolate the low-voltage button from the line voltage, and there was no transformer on the circuit board -- duh, don't want the line going there -- but there was one on the main chassis, so I followed its output wires (orange & gray) onto the circuit board, where they immediately went to a 4-diode bridge rectifier, which told me which traces were power and ground. The capacitor markings let me know that it was standard negative-ground (I can no longer remember which end of the diodes is positive, it's been a very long time), so I knew which wires to connect the (separate) receiver unit to. After programming the switches to matching codes and following the instructions to activate the remote, it worked, which was better than getting my nephew to put a grounded plug in so I could pay several hundred $$ to have a new unit installed. Probably need to do the grounded plug thing eventually anyway.

Y'all know about my water problems. It turns out the sink faucet is probably only clogged (like the drain) from improper installation, but plumbing is one of my nephew's specialties. He sure griped a lot yesterday -- and probably several days more. Me, I thank God it's him doing it instead of me. I could probably muddle through, but mostly I pay specialists to do that kind of stuff. I specialize in computers.
 

2016 November 28 -- "Low-Flow" Taps Waste Water

The kitchen sink in this house I moved into has one of those flow restrictors that wastes water (and time).

Today I tried to use the garbage disposer, but the tap did not produce enough water for the appliance to work properly. So the only way I can reduce my garbage to fit the tiny containers they give people in this state is to fill up a bucket with water ahead of time, so I can pour it down the sink while running the disposer. Obviously I need to fill the bucket full enough for the worst case usage, so the excess water is wasted. It also takes so long to fill that I will generally go do something else while waiting, which means it will almost always over-fill for additional waste. My time is more valuable than a couple gallons of water in a state where it rains every day. The term is "unintended consequences," your tax dollars at work.

I just now Googled, and could find no evidence that low-flow taps are required by law, but research shows that 50% of all searches end in failure to find what is demonstrably there, so the fact I didn't find it doesn't prove anything. I also couldn't find in Google anything relating to getting a driver's license after moving to Oregon, but directly searching the law shows that it's there. Oregon has a "basic speed law" similar to California (where the DMV promotes it) and every other state I looked at (which do not promote it), but again you wouldn't know that in Oregon, where a search on that term turns up the (default) statutory speed limits and not the basic speed law itself, which says you are unlawfully speeding if you are going faster than is safe (including following too close), regardless of the posted or statutory limits. Yup, that's the law here (811.100) and also Texas (545.351), but nobody in either place knows it. California DMV makes a requirement of getting a driver's license, knowing that the proper response to tailgating is to slow down -- which is a logical consequence of the basic speed law -- but not Texas nor (apparently) Oregon. Maybe that's why California is bankrupt and not Texas or Oregon -- yet.

Postscript: I got the Oregon Driver Manual (for getting a license), and the basic speed law is clearly described there. That must be why so many Oregon drivers (not quite half of them) actually do the right thing.
 

2016 November 26 -- Stupid Left-Wing Gummit Regulators

My car has no horn. I mean, the noisemaker is there and often sounded off in the middle of the night when I was negotiating the circuitous driveway from the street to my condo for several years after I bought the car, until I learned not to grip the steering wheel tightly so as to not let it slip and run the car into the curb at one side or the other. It still sounds off once every year or two inappropriately. And there's a horn button there somewhere -- obviously, because that's how it happens when I don't want it -- but nowhere that I can find it in an emergency. Once or twice I banged uselessly on the spot where the button should be, and it made a mild thump that could not be heard over my frustration at not finding a horn button there. Exactly once in the 27 years I've had this car, and only once, I saw the emergency in the making far enough in advance that I had time to hunt around and actually found the button -- and used it -- but it took several seconds of concentrated planning ahead, time I probably should have been spending paying attention to the unfolding traffic hazard.

I blame the federal regulators who unthinkingly -- and probably ignorantly: Clinton was Prez, and like Obama (but less so) he hired more political cronies than industry experts to his upper-level management positions -- mandated a driver-side air bag in every new car. There's no place to put it except in the middle of the steering wheel. Unlike the horn button they displaced, I never had reason to use the air-bag -- indeed, a working horn (and a steering wheel I can safely grip tightly, or else comfortably on long trips, like my previous car) probably would prevent some of those occasions. If I ever were in a situation where the air-bag should deploy, it would be counter-productive (for me). I read somewhere that air-bags turn traffic fatalities into major injuries resulting in lifetime disabilities, and have no other effect: they "save lives" but substantially increase the major injuries that would otherwise be fatalities. In lesser accidents they cause injury from burn and bruising that might have been merely a bruise (or no injury at all) if there were no air-bag. In my case, fatality takes me straight to Heaven, which is the best of all possible worlds (for me); I don't even want to think about living the other way. I guess the atheists, who dominate the American established religion and the political structure of the Left, have no Heaven to go to, but they are also the ones urging the early termination for reasons of "quality of life" (including major injury). It started here in Ore-gone.

In those early years of this car I once attended a committee meeting in Canada that I drove to, so I went around to the local Canadian Mazda dealer to ask if they could replace the air-bag steering wheel with something more reasonable -- Canada had not yet forced the stupid regulation on carmakers, and the Miata steering wheel there more closely resembled the Sprite steering wheel I previously knew and loved -- but they wanted $700 and a week to do it. I was OK with the price, but I couldn't afford the time. I sometimes wish I had.

So now I live with a lower-quality car -- quality being defined as conformance to specifications, and two of the primary specifications of a sports car like Miata is that it's safe and fun to drive -- foisted off on the American public by the political appointments of the left-wing government at the time.

Oregon is a Blue State, so blue that it's the only state in the union where the left-wing-bigot children throwing tantrums after they lost the election earlier this month actually killed somebody, so I can expect the oppressive thumb of the government to bear down on me.

Yup, I was looking for a light bulb for the fridge a couple days ago and happened to notice that the store only sold low-efficiency CFLs and high-priced LEDs -- but they did have incandescent appliance lights, because the bulky high-pollution extra hardware on CFLs and LEDs doesn't fit in the smaller space. I didn't see any 100-watt equivalent bulbs, do the regulators actually think that doubling up two 60s uses less energy than one (27-watt) 100? Or that the extra energy that goes into making batteries for hand-held reading lights is less than the few watts of hydro-electric power to run a brighter room light? These guys are idiots! Good thing I brought extra bulbs with me from (red-state) Texas.

Several years ago (but still in Obama's watch) I learned that you no longer can buy an electric blanket in the USA that does what you buy an electric blanket for, which is to keep you warm all night (see "Government Bungling"). Most of them also shut off if the power is interrupted, which happens a lot in winter in the midwest, but one brand kept the mechanical switch so power outage cancelled the timer backwards (reset to zero, in favor of the customer) instead of forward in the style of the government idiots. I could put it on a 24-hour timer that briefly interrupted the power every few hours, and it would actually work again. I went back to the store and bought the last one they had. The problem with this most recent move is that I cannot remember which box the timer is in (I wasn't smart enough to put it in the same box with the blanket), so in this new house the blanket shut off in the middle of the night and I woke up freezing. The next day I borrowed a timer, but the damage is done. I got a nasty cold from it -- thank you government regulators!

Every house I move into as far back as I can remember (which isn't very far, but at least twice) has goofy low-pressure "gentle rain" shower heads wobbling on the end of a flexible snake, so one of the first things I do is replace it with a simple shower head that actually gets me wet and washes off the soap. It cost me $10 in Wal-Mart in Texas. Wal-Mart here had five empty hooks -- don't you just love Just-In-Time stocking policies that wait until they run out before ordering more? It must cost Wal-Mart thousands in lost sales. I went to HomeDepot and bought something that looked like what I'd bought in Texas, but it wasn't. It had a flow constrictor and compensated by turning what little water they let through into a fine mist that was icy by the time it got to my body. Apparently Ore-gone law requires low-flow shower heads. Why? This isn't California, it rains in Oregon. It rained every day since I moved into this house! There's plenty of water. The kitchen faucet seems to be low-flow also. Do the idiot regulators really think I will use less water to fill up my pot or measuring cup or dishpan if it runs slower? All they do is waste time (and probably also water, because I'm more likely to turn the tap on full then walk away to do something else in the ten minutes waiting for it to fill, and energy too, because the water heater needs to run longer) which impoverishes the economy. That's probably why Oregon never contributed much toward making this the richest country in the whole world and in all time. The same state that could grow crops to feed people now drives up property values by outsiders rushing in to buy up land to grow pot, so that people can become so stoned that they cannot make the world a better place.

Speaking of which, the first day I moved in, I noticed an acrid reek pervading the air around me. It was a smell I did not recognize, but then I never lived before in a place where it was legal to pollute the air with pot smoke. Hey guys, don't non-smoking contributors to the public good have any rights? If second-hand (tobacco)  smoke is so harmful that smoking in public places like restaurants (or even 25 feet from their entrance) is forbidden, how much more second-hand pot smoke. Follow the money: they grow pot everywhere here, but tobacco they grow somewhere else. So if you start seeing illogical blog posts here, you know what happened. A local here told me "you can't get a 'contact high' from second-hand pot smoke," but if I'm stoned from it, I won't be able to think clearly enough to know if that's what happened or not. Whatever.

Left-wing politicians gum up everything they touch.
 

2016 November 19 -- Eunuchs

Tech tips to help stay safe in Trump's America
That's the title on a link I saw in a posting describing one of the more serious flaws in the unixy internet protocols shared by both unix and Windoze systems (no link, the page is encrypted and not available to the public ["The $5 PoisonTap quickly, completely hijacks even a locked computer's internet"]). What they don't tell you is that those safety measures are/were equally necessary in Obama's and Hillary's America. If you want to do Bad Things, or if you only want to hoard more than your share of the world's wealth and power (which Bad People, not excluding politicians and their lackeys, will want to take away from you), then ordinary unixy computers (not excluding that unix wannabe, Windoze) are not safe, you must pile on ever more arcane security measures in an already broken internet protocol environment.

The best protection against that onslaught is to Be Good, and be public. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing anybody wants, and most of them (sociopaths excluded) will leave you alone. If you are God's kind of Good, then God Himself is your defense, and it (ahem) trumps all human measures, including attacks by sociopaths.
 

2016 November 18 -- After the Flood

Several years ago, after I wrote my ill-fated novel about Tubal-Cain and before I realized why people don't like it, I contemplated doing a sequel about Japheth, so I began researching what is known or believed about his progeny. One of the links was Bill Cooper's book After the Flood which was rather longer than I was prepared to read through at the time. Here and now, while awaiting the availability of a place to live and access to my tools of trade -- and particularly because of the worthlessness of OSX (the laptop I brought with me in the car) -- I had opportunity to read it.

This guy has spent 30 years researching ancient documents in British history, and has found several independent ancient geneologies tracing various royal families back to Noah. He claims with considerable credibility that these historical documents have been suppressed by the modern anti-Christian atheists dominating academic circles on the pretext that they are pious fiction created by Christian monks, which nonsense Cooper handily disproves. I do not have the resources to validate his sources, but he documents them so anybody can.

One of his fascinating claims is that some -- perhaps all -- of the early Roman and other pagan gods are actually named ancestors in the geneologies, and preserved there with only minor (linguistically credible) transformations of the spelling. For example, the Biblical Japheth (Hebrew YPT) transforms easily into Jo-Pater (Jupiter), who (like Shem, but Cooper did not say so) probably outlived his progeny by several hundred years and thus seemed god-like (the same effect that also gave rise to the Gilgamesh epic).

Certainly many of the Biblical names are similarly preserved in modern place-names. The Scots and particularly the Irish trace their ancestry back through the Scythians (SCT) to Magog, the second son of Japheth. Britain is named for the British, so named from Brutus, who escaped Troy around the time it was attacked by the Greeks in the famous battle, and took his band of followers west and north to the island now bearing his name.

Chapter 9 contains the astonishing calculation of the date of Creation (4713 BC, not 4004 per Bishop Ussher) by two completely independent early chronologists, one of them the early Mayan calendar. The particularly surprising insight Cooper offers is that the Mayan calendar begins after the Flood (he infers from their fixation on water), which calculates to 3113 BC, almost exactly the Biblical time from Creation to the Flood in Genesis, all this completely independent of any reference to or knowledge of the Bible.

Cooper does not appear to be an accomplished linguist, but offers his own translations of several Old English (Saxon) texts quoted also in the original. In a couple of these he was forced to explain away what he thought to be a mistake in the original text:

Se Sceaf waes Noes sunu and he waes innan theare earce geboren. i.e. 'This Sceaf was Noah's son, and he was born in the Ark.' (13 )(My translation)
This was an unnecessary accommodation, because "bear" is one of the some 4000 words in the King James Bible that have changed meaning in the last 400 years. Back then (in the KJV) it meant "carry" (as in "bear arms") and by extension meant "give birth to" only because the mother carries the child (in her womb). The Olde Englishe (and KJV) word for giving birth to is "beget" (referring to the father, or in passive "begotten" referring the child; the mother "brings forth" the child). The early author correctly reported that Japheth (linguistically altered to "Sceaf") was carried (as a passenger, not given birth to) in the Ark.

The consistent detailed correlation of these ancient documents is neither explainable nor even possible within the vague Darwinist fairy tales told by the atheists, so we Christians have no need to retreat from their attacks. They, not we, are wrong.
 

2016 November 17 -- Why None-of-the-Above

The simple reason is that there's nobody to vote for. There were people to vote against, but voting against everybody is the same as not voting.

My sister tells her son that everybody has a responsibility to vote. I disagree. Not everybody can vote, and those who do, have a responsibility to vote for Good people and to not vote for Bad people. Voting for Bad people is worse than not voting at all. Knowing who is good or bad is pretty hard, the best you can usually do is look at their record and judge their character from it.

Being President is somewhat like being governor, but none of the candidates this year have that experience. Neither did the current sitting President, and it showed. Being President is somewhat like running a large corporation, and Trump seems to have that experience (but not for the benefit of the other parties involved), while nobody in the other party comes close, not for a long time. Both candidates this year have had ample opportunity to demonstrate their character, and both failed miserably. Neither is worthy of the office.

Campaign speeches and promises are not a good basis for choosing whom to vote for, they are generally not worth the air they are spoken into, as clearly demonstrated by the previous two elections. They are also not worth much for discrediting a candidate. The people currently telling us what a Bad Prez Trump will be are the same ones who hoped Clinton would win, so they have a conflict of interest in the question and cannot be trusted, but mostly (as LBJ demonstrated) they are expressions of that the nay-sayers themselves would do, unrelated to what the target of their criticism might do. We know nothing at all about what Trump will do; at least we knew that Clinton would be a Bad President, and the American people seem to have agreed.

There's a simpler reason for me personally to vote None-of-the-Above, and that's because I'm not eligible to vote. The State of Oregon has residency requirements I cannot yet meet, because I have no physical address to call my own. They won't let me get a driver's license without an address, and they won't let me register to vote with no DL (or ID card, same requirements). I could have registered in Texas, but I was not a resident of Texas on election day, and it would be unethical for me to vote in a state where not only am I not resident, but I also have no desire nor plan to be so.
 

2016 November 15 -- Gooey Apple

The master of this house is getting on in years. With his iPhone in hand, he came into the dining area where I was sitting reading, apparently seeking help to place a call. I got past the "swipe to unlock" password and found a phone icon, but was totally flummoxed as to how to place a call to a number in his directory. I am not surprised. In 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh computer that was "so easy to use, you already know how." The (stupid) phone I carry took lessons from the Mac: while there are some things that are obscure, mostly I can look at it and figure out how to make it do what I want.

Then Apple sold out. They replaced their "aging" 17-year-old system with a "modern" 34-year-old system with a thick layer of pancake makeup to hide its warts, and that system never worked as well as the Mac, not even today. I know, because I am composing this text on OSX, but I need to carry it to the MacOS (hopefully next week) to post it on my blog for you to read. Apple invented the iPhone with the same (non-)ease of use.

Netflix and the TV it runs on seem to have taken lessons from OSX, not the Mac. The menus are inscrutible, and it ignores half of the buttons I press. I guess the most obnoxious thing about Netflix is that (like smartphones and Google and OSX) it thinks it's smarter than I am. There's no way I'm going to pay for Netflix unless they show me how to TURN OFF the absurd "recommendations" it makes on the basis of what it thinks I already watched.

Google works well on my Mac (with viruses turned off), but the popup menus and auto-suggestions are more of an annoyance than a help, especially when they replace what I just typed because I moved the mouse out of the way (or even bumped it). I'd just turn the viruses off on OSX too, but Gmail doesn't work that way. I will be sooo happy to get back to my Mac (which works properly, except for the bugs added by unixies at Apple who even at that time wished they were doing unix instead of the better system). Whatever.
 

2016 November 11 -- Netflix Not

This house is not really suitable for old folks like my host. There is a central hallway level with the kitchen and a couple bedrooms at the other end, but the "dining area" is raised one step above, and the den is lowered one step below (the living room is two steps down), and the master bedroom is on the second floor, so the master of the house, who cannot do all these steps without help, can't really go there, he's stuck in one of the lesser bedrooms. Apparently all three bedrooms have their own flat TV, and everybody watches whatever they want to see in their own bedroom. So the 5-foot screen in the den goes unused. I wanted to watch the election results, but the TV in the den says "No Signal." Maybe everybody only watches Netflix. So I did the election results on the internet, same as the last couple times. Before that I could bring in the TV sound on a multi-band radio, but that stopped working when the TV went to low-quality digital (1-inch square frozen pixels, and the aspect ratio was broken, with everybody fatter than they are tall).

Since I don't have much to do while waiting for the house to close and my container to arrive, I thought I might try some Netflix flicks. My host recommended the TV series Murdock, which (apart from some blatant anachronisms) was tolerable, but every now and then the delivery would fall behind the display and it would go into the classic streaming-video-stutter, a half-second of video interspersed with three minutes of download, which is essentially unwatchable. The controls for skipping over the commercials at the front, and for backing up to replay some dialog I missed because of ambient noise, are either flakey or completely nonfunctional. Like the car I rented a couple months ago, it has been instructive: I wouldn't pay my money for this fecal product. Fortunately, it's not necessary; I don't yet know about the local library, but I can download older (better) movies to watch on my computer. The Murdock series is not good enough to regret not being here long enough to see more than (some of) the first season.
 

2016 November 10 -- None-of-the-Above Voters

I expected a substantial None-of-the-Above (NoA) vote this year, and I see I was right. From a high of over 132 million people voting in 2008 (2 mill voting NoA, compare totals), 2012 NoA rose to 5 mill, and this year peaked at more than 10 million people voting NoA (including stay-homes). Earlier elections had substantially lower turnout, but also far lower estimated eligibles, so the numbers cannot be compared. Obviously when Obama first ran, "eligible" voters came out of the woodwork -- and voted -- then some (not all) of them disappeared (stayed home) this year. There's a lot of guesswork in these numbers.
 

2016 November 9 -- Childish Left-Wing Tantrums

When I was in France in 1970, every time the left-wing bigots in the universities didn't like what the government was doing, they'd throw a tantrum and try to shut down the country. I think that's now starting up here, now that Trump won. Yesterday Gmail worked for me, today it doesn't. I never liked Gmail anyway, but my preferred computer is in a container halfway across the country, not due to arrive for another ten days, so I'm stuck with this half-baked browser-based mess. That's the problem with SaaS ("Software as a Service" aka "Cloud Computing"), you are at the mercy of somebody else's whim, and they can change the rules on you any time they want for any reason. And they do so with great regularity. sigh

Expect to see a lot of childish tantrum-throwing for a while. Grow up, guys, you lost. You won last time, now it's the other half of the country's turn, it's the nature of democracy. Live with it or go somewhere else.
 

2016 November 8 -- Oregon Blue

Here I am in Oregon. I can't post this today because OSX is brain-dead in many ways that the MacOS is not, so you get to read this some later date. Sic transit.

There's no Aldi here, so the cost of groceries is substantially higher than the midwest. Grants Pass is near the California border, so people escaping the idiots in Sacramento (and seeking comparable mild climate, not desert like Arid-zone-a or New-Vader) come here, driving the real estate prices out of sight: a dumpy 1200-sq-ft house the same size as the nice cottage I left in the State of Taxes (but half the lot size) costs about 75% more than I paid there. Not that it matters much to me: if it's clean (no bugs waking me up at night, or crawling into my lunch) and I can pay for food and electricity...

Anyway, here I am a guest in the home of a family member. One of them is openly left-wing in her politics, the rest profess no interest -- except one of them expressed dismay when I looked up the current election results and announced that Trump is leading. I guess he considers the guy "trigger-happy." That can't be much worse than 8 years of international political ignorance and being pushed around by the Muslims (think 9/11, which happened after 8 years of his political comrade predecessor). Another family member told me after the previous election that she thought a black should have a chance at it. I guess a lot of people voted race instead of competence 8 years ago. Maybe now it's time for an incompetent right-winger to have a chance at it. What a crock.

When Johnson was running against Goldwater in 1964, the Dems told the American public that if Goldwater were elected, "the war in VietNam will be escalated and we will bomb Hanoi and we will send our boys over there to be killed..." So the voters elected Johnson, and the war in VietNam was escalated and we bombed Hanoi and we sent our boys over there to be killed. From that I inferred that the ship of state is so big and has so much inertia that no one man can make any great changes. I said that when Obama was elected (see "Change? What Change?"), and that's basically what happened: the economy was a mess when he went in, and it's not any better now; the Middle East was a mess when he went in, and it's not any better now -- maybe a little worse if you count ISIS and nukes in Iran. Will a "trigger-happy" President change that? Probably not, but I suspect the Muslims and North Korea respect power, not soft words. So we just get another inexperienced guy in the seat of power, making different (but not significantly more or less) mistakes than his predecessor. Assuming his lead holds.

90% of Obama's top appointments were political rather than for competence in the area of the appointment; we don't yet know what Trump will do, but it can't be much worse. So maybe I'm more afraid of what a known incompetent like Hillary might do to us than what a presumed incompetent like Trump might do. Perhaps others "prefer the devil you know to the devil you don't."

Or maybe it doesn't matter. I read the last chapter of the Book, and the USA doesn't figure. If either NorthKorea or Iran or Pakistan sent four or six container ships to our four or six busiest ports and launched a nuke on a short-range missile from each, the American economy would be toast and it wouldn't matter who's Prez. I'm still in the middle of nowhere, it's y'all in the big cities like NewYork and LaLa-land and Houston who are in trouble. I'd still be in trouble, because no part of the USA (except maybe central-coast California, where I lived before I went to the State of Misery) grows enough food to feed the locals. Whatever.

I looked again: Hillary is gaining, but Trump is still ahead. "Past experience is no predictor of future performance," but if it were, she might pass him and win. Or not. Whatever.

To all those folks whining about a "trigger-happy President," my advice is: Stop watching the left-wing bigot news media. It's a free country, you are free to leave. He won't. After 8 years of incompetent management, the USA is still way ahead of whoever is in second place; another four or eight years of incompetence pushing the other direction can't make it worse. Obama surrounded himself with 90% political yes-men, but Trump has no political allies to reward and maybe (like Reagan) he will surround himself with people who know what they are doing. We don't know yet. We do know that Hillary has international experience, and under her watch we got Americans killed in Libya and hundreds of young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram farther south. She also made a mess of her shot at health care. It remains to be seen what Trump will do on his first time at bat.

I tried another website -- good reason: one of the top Google hits had an anti-Trump hate-speech slogan at the top of their election results page. I couldn't find any obviously pro-Trump sites, so there's no telling how badly the news was distorted in any of them (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel). The USAToday site I mostly watched had several headlines expressing sadness at Clinton's poor showing, thus exposing their own anti-Trump hostility. Then the computer crashed (no surprise in eunuchs like OSX), for which I suppose the openly hate-Trump website is probably responsible, or if not, they deserve the blame anyway. Hmmm, the guy who sold me this computer bragged about how robust it was compared to Netscape in the MacOS (my preferred net access), but Safari now seems on the average to crash about as often as Netscape. Go figure.
 

2016 October 26 -- Going Off-Line Again

I am about to pack up my computer and put it into the container with the rest of my stuff, then drive off into the sunset, the second time in as many years. And like last year, I don't have an internet service provider ready to plug into when I arrive, so you won't see much here for a while. No email either. The house went into escrow yesterday, so maybe in six weeks I'll be back on-line. Assuming the utilities aren't as screwed up in Ore-gone as they are in Taxes.

See you then -- or whenever.
 

2016 October 25 -- Helping People

There are three staff librarians at the library where I go twice a week to get books to read when I'm too tired to work but not sleepy enough to just go to sleep, and movies likewise. One of the librarians "Nancy" (not her real name) is very religious in her Christian faith, but (so she told me in a low voice) she is not allowed to discuss her faith with library patrons. The prohibition is unConstitutional and I told her so, but we live in a fallen world and she does not want to be fired. The library is open more than 40 hours per week, so at various times of the day there is only one of the librarians on duty. Nancy loves to talk, so perhaps she needs to be instructed from time to time that the library business comes first, and I accept that. Whenever I engage any of the three, I always remind them that I do not want to keep them from their work, but if they continue talking with me, I reasonably assume they want to do that. I don't have much to bring to the table, but the head librarian is concerned about the management of her staff and volunteers, and having had my own employees, I can discuss management issues with her. She seems to appreciate that I understand the cares of her life and work. I try to do that for people, so that at the end of the day they feel like I gave as well as took.

Anyway I got to the library rather late last night, so I was ready to check out ten minutes before closing. I was tired and in some discomfort from loading stuff into the container all day, but Nancy wanted to talk, so we talked. I don't recall how the subject of Mormons came up but she and her daughter had a shocking recent encounter -- "he got inside my head," she told me -- so I decided to tell her about my own Mormon experience, but not to cause her to fail at her librarian duties.

Long long ago in a far-away place it seems I was on the draft committee for the international standard for computer arithmetic now used in every computer made, including your smart phone (which is far more powerful than the big mainframe I first programmed for the government). Anyway, there were four of us: William ("Velvel") Kahan, a professor of mathematics at Berkeley who provided the theoretical basis for our standard, was an atheist Jew; Jerome Coonen, his student, refused to talk about religion (I'm guessing that with a name like "Jerome" -- Jerome was a 4th century Catholic scholar, but who names their kid "Jerome" unless they are very devout Catholics? -- and he had his fill with religion); John Palmer, whose work at Intel led to the need for the standard, was a Mormon; and I as a more or less vocal Evanglical Christian, I was the draft editor (on my computer, see "Half a Computer"). Anyway, hashing out precise wording for a legal document is hard work, and we took numerous breaks during which time we talked about other things, not excluding religion. Kahan was very vocal about religious matters (and surprisingly pro-life: "the child is a guest in your house!"), and one of those times Palmer claimed that "Mormons are more Jewish than the Jews, and more Christian than the Christians." I had read some early Mormon documents, and I thought that odd, so I asked him, "How many gods are there?" He hemmed and hawed some, so I rephrased, "How many beings are there properly called 'God'?" Palmer replied without hesitation, "Three." Also without hesitation, I came back, "There you part company with the Jews, because the cardinal Jewish doctrine, 'Shema Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ekhad' (which is Hebrew for) 'Hear Oh Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.'" Kahan didn't say anything. I went on, "And you also part company with the Christians, whose foremost theologian, the Apostle Paul, wrote 'We all believe in one God...'" Palmer said "It's complicated, how about I send some missionaries to explain it?" I don't normally think fast, but I thought fast: If I say "No," that will be the end of it, so I said "OK."

The missionaries came and I was prepared, and I asked them about the steel sword mentioned in the first chapters... Steel as we know it was invented in the Middle Ages by Arab blacksmiths because their furnaces were not as hot as European furnaces, so the hot furnaces produced pure iron, while the Arab furnaces by accident of ommission produced steel. Steel makes better weapons than soft iron, so the Arabs had the military advantage against the Europeans during the Arab conquest of Europe (which ended with the Crusades when the Europeans finally got the courage and tools to fight back). Before the time of King David, the Philistines had iron technology, while the Israelis had only bronze (they had to go to the Philistines for their farm tools), so the Philistines had the military advantage. David spent some time in Philistine cities hiding from Saul, and we are not told what he and his men learned there, but after he became king Israel had iron technology and won their battles over everybody else (including the Philistines). The first book in the Book of Mormon is set (so we are told, "600 years from now the Messiah comes," or words to that effect) in 600BC, more than a thousand years before the Arabs invented steel. If the Israelis had steel technology, they would have had the military advantage over the Babylonians. The word "steel" occurs in the King James Bible, but the Hebrew word behind it really means "bronze." Was that the case in the Book of Mormon? No, later in the same account the departing heroes took with them technology for gold and silver and iron and copper (bronze) and steel (thus distinguished in that text from both iron and bronze). We don't have the putative untranslated originals to re-check Joseph Smith's "translation." The missionaries had no answer. The Mormons have an answer to that question now, so I guess I'm not the only one to see the problem.

Walter Martin, a radio talk person who came out of Mormonism (I think he was the great-great-something grandson of Bringham Young or something like that) and had a lot of advice for dealing with them, I later heard him say that you can't confront Mormons on the facts, "you'll flatten them into a frisbee." I certainly flattened these guys into frisbees. They were so angry, they said I was "reprobate, not worth saving." They blacklisted my house, and I never saw another Mormon missionary at all -- until I moved. The phone company was installing my second phone line at the new location -- this was before the internet and broadband, so I've always had a second line for the computer while I talked on the first (until last year) -- and these missionaries came by. I told them "You don't want to talk to me, I'm 'reprobate, not worth saving.'" They responded (more or less as expected ;-) "Who said that? We don't believe it." So I said "I'm interested in truth, but I can't talk now, the phone company is here. So if you have truth, make an appointment and you can tell me about your truth." They made an appointment.

When they came, I said, "Before you start, let me tell you where I'm coming from. I write computer software, but I make a lot of mistakes. If it is not perfect, I don't get paid, so I'm very aware of my mistakes. Now we have some very good historical documents that describe a remarkable person who said some remarkable things and did some remarkable things. One of the things he said was that he would be executed, killed by the local authorities and in three days be up and walking around again, and by God he did! That's rather remarkable, so I need to pay attention to the other things he said, and one of them was that the Jewish Scriptures of his time -- and we have copies dating to his time (the Dead Sea scrolls), so we know what he was referring to -- were absolutely reliable, the standard against which to measure all truth. OK, tell me about your truth." They spent the next hour and a half -- you need to realize the Mormon attention span is 45 minutes -- they spent an hour and a half trying to disabuse me of the notion that Scripture (specifically the Old Testament) is a reliable standard for measuring Truth. They never got to their flip-charts (this was before they had video). They came back a second time with their bishop, and I repeated my basis, and again that was their point of attack. What I learned from that encounter is that the cardinal Mormon doctrine is that All "truth" is replaceable, and we need an "Apostle" in Salt Lake City to tell us what is true today. Nancy thought that was very interesting.

It was already after closing, so I made my apologies, and Nancy responded that she really appreciated what I had to tell her, that she told her mother "You have to meet Tom, he's the only person who ever could explain to me what the 'begot's [in the Bible] are for!" I don't remember what I told her, probably that in some cultures you are not a person unless you can recite your geneology -- like Melchizedek, who is given no geneology and therefore counts as a different kind of priest than Aaron -- so those geneologies are there to help us know that these are real historical people, not some made-up fables. Nancy was horrified when her own kids, who went through catechism in church, could not tell her who their relatives Joseph and Daniel were named after. The point is, I connected with Nancy. I'm leaving the state, so I may never see her again in my life, but she believes her life is better because of the few times we talked.

I once had a friend who, when he was angry at me (perhaps for knowing more Bible than he knew) and especially now as part of ending the friendship, likes to accuse me of "isolation." I'm not an extrovert in the sense of wanting to spend a lot of time schmoozing with people when God has given me work to do that is best done alone, but Dennis only saw maybe 2% of my time; if I didn't tell him about the other 98% -- and how could I, when he was always dominating the conversation (maybe that's why he didn't like email, because I got a fair chance at reciprocation) -- there's no way he could have known about what I was doing for Nancy. If I am isolated from him and his friends, it's his (and their) doing, not mine. None of them ever expressed appreciation for my contribution, how could I contribute? Somebody else was always dominating. I don't force myself on people, nor into discussions where I'm not wanted. But I'm not "isolated," there are always people who do want what I have to offer. Thank you Nancy for being one of them. My stay in Texas was not a total loss.
 

2016 October 24 -- Transmission Is Not Creation

People who love money so much that it is the central focus of all they do are easily deceived into thinking that moving money around creates wealth. It does not, it only moves it around. The prime example of this is the stock market, which as I pointed out elsewhere, is a zero-sum game, that is, it does not create wealth, it only transfers it from some investors to others. If you made money in the stock market, somebody else lost money. There is no other money in the market. People get rich from the market because other people -- possibly still in the future -- lose money.

It is that fallacy -- the supposition that people getting wealthy from losses not yet seen amounts to creating wealth -- which underlies an opinion piece in the current (October 15) issue of WORLD magazine. The subtitle "Research finds that organized religion has a big economic benefit," suggests that religion actually contributes something to the economy, that it creates wealth, but the details give the lie to that. I happen to believe that religion (at least Christianity) does create wealth, but nothing is said to support that hypothesis in this article. Its entire argument is built on the fact that religious organizations spend money.

When a corporation spends money, it might be investors' money, but that is not wealth creation. It might be the corporation is spending profits from the manufacture or mining of valuable products, and that is the creation of wealth: although that money came from the purchasers of those products, the products did not previously exist, they were created, and the wealth resulting from that operation is created wealth.

Religious organizations do not create anything that did not previously exist, all the money they have to spend was donated by people who could have spent that money in other ways if they did not donate it to the religion. The money the religious organizations spent in the economy would have been spent anyway, there is absolutely no economic benefit to the fact that the religion spent it instead of their donors spending it. The religious organizations are a zero-sum game like the stock market. Donors put money in; employees and programs take money out, but not more than the donors put in. No wealth is created, there is no net benefit to the economy.

What the Christian religion does that does create wealth is teach their members to work hard and produce value that benefits other people (also known as The Golden Rule, or Second Great Commandment). If you spend you life eating and drinking and partying, you are destroying wealth, not creating it; if you work hard making things or taking them out of the ground, and making those things available to other people, you are creating wealth. The Bible teaches the latter, not the former. In that sense Christianity (and Judaism, but it's not Politically Correct to say so) creates wealth; some Muslims create wealth, but the ones you read about kill and destroy, so their religious organizations -- however much they may spend doing so -- destroy rather than create wealth.

You need to understand the difference, so that you are not beguiled by the vast sums of money flowing by in front of you, which wealth is not created by being moved. Wealth is created when stuff is added to the economy that wasn't there before, and we Americans do so much of that that it's easy to confuse the creation with the moving and/or destruction. Bombing cities and killing Christians and flying planes into skyscrapers moves money around to do those wicked things, but wealth is destroyed, not created. Farms and factories and mines create wealth. There is wealth to be created in other countries, but the people there are not encouraged to do it by their religions. This opinion piece did not say that, but it should have.
 

2016 October 11 -- Recycling

I just finished loading up into the garbage can another 115 or so pounds of old papers and magazines that I've been carrying around, some of them for more than 30 years. Earlier in the day I finished boxing up all the empty soda pop cans I have boxes for... The intent is to recycle the cans, but with no government-mandated can deposit in red states like Taxes and Misery, there's no easy way to do that. In California you called a charity, any charity, and they'd come get them. When I taught at the university in Misery, the campus cleaning ladies collected them and took them to the local recycler. Here, the nearest recycler is 15 miles away, and he only offers $0.50/pound. I weighed a can at a half ounce, so that means my thousand cans will bring in less than $15, which hardly pays the gas to take them to be recycled.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the economics. A week or two ago I mentioned to my friend of left-wing political persuasion that I was carting a hundred pounds of old magazines out to the garbage each week, and he seemed appalled that I wasn't recycling the paper. Actually I am: I am returning it to the ground from which it came. Maybe not the same place, because they usually choose treeless eyesores for land-fill, but the paper all came from trees, and trees grow in the ground. More importantly, I think, is that "IF global warming is happening, and IF it is caused by carbon dioxide, and IF human activity is the cause of increased CO2" [my friend's words, my emphasis added, see "Politics vs Science" last month], then burying the old paper is exactly the right thing to do, because it removes all that carbon from circulation. Anything that the recycled paper fiber might have gone into must now be filled by new-cut trees, and as everybody knows, the wood in those trees used to be CO2, so the net effect is to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and bury it in the gound. On the other hand, if you don't believe all that global warming crock (and I don't), then dumping all the old paper into a land-fill is still the best use of my limited resources. Maybe I will also return all the aluminum to the ground from which it came, the ultimate recycle -- although I suspect the waste management people know how to pull aluminum out of the garbage. You can be sure they get more than 50 cents a pound for it. Whatever.
 

2016 September 28 -- Twisted

It was a twisted plot, devised by a writer and implemented by a director both with twisted moral compasses. Basically it showed (with incredible honesty) the catastrophes that befall people who defy God's Law. The people who made this flick have no remorse, this is the empty morality of the world they live in, and they embrace it without apology, but they see clearly the harm it does to the participants and to the people around them. Except they probably wouldn't say so quite so starkly -- but the movie shows it.

I was going to say all that in my blog today before I watched the "Making Of" feature. The lead actress and the director trade off sound bites describing their thinking, and she said "The movie is challenging our preconceived ideas about gender allowances, you know, the conduct that's typically ascribed to men and women is merged." Her exact words. Maybe that's how she saw her role in this flick, but so far from "challenging my preconceived ideas about gender," it confirmed it.

Men do Bad Things to women, so the Good Guys should be protecting women, not pushing them out into the cruel world to be abused. And the women who are deceived -- make no mistake, Eve was deceived, and (even in this flick) all her daughters are far more gullible to the wiles of the Enemy and his vassals than men generally are -- the women who are deceived into agreeing to this risky behavior, they get hurt. The heroine in this movie did things that God said "Don't," and she got hurt. Other people died from it. If the film cast and crew cannot see those consequences, they still showed them clearly enough for the rest of us to see it. It is the nature of sin that innocent people get hurt. The people who died in this fiction story weren't exactly innocent, but "God is not willing that any should perish," and police departments everywhere make it their duty to enforce that part of God's Law. God is not mocked.
 

2016 September 23 -- Media Woes

I've been going through old boxes of stuff I once deemed worth saving, so to discard the stuff no longer in that category, and I ran across a half-dozen unread WIRED magazines. In the Goode Olde Dayes WIRED was a techno-geek magazine and I read it cover to cover as soon as it arrived; now it's filled with personalities and movies and trivia more relevant to Vogue (which bought it from the geeks who started it), so it lost that urgency, and sometimes I don't get around to reading it (what little tech is left in it) for months or years.

Currently open in my Reading Room is an issue from six years ago, with more than the usual portion of tech. One article discussed Spotify, and cites anecdotal statistics showing that giving music away free (in Europe, where it is legal) increases sales of paid-for songs. It's a widely understood marketing phenomenon, which I read about in a (for-money) course on marketing many years ago, and also observed where all the bootleg copies of Altair (soon to become Microsoft) Basic resulted in the unassailable market domination of Bill Gates' product(s) despite his bitter whine about the piracy.

Anyway, Sony is one of the villains. Back when CDs first became writable on personal computers, people started copying music CDs, and the music industry (Sony among them) was incensed. Sony in particular started planting viruses on their music discs, which the geeks quickly discovered. Amid the uproar, Sony stopped the vile practice, but refused to promise not to do it again, which in my mind is the same as promising to do it again as soon as they think they won't get caught.

The movie I tried to watch last night became more and more unstable on the Win XP computer -- the drive makes an audible "a-hoogah" sound when trying to read past a flaw in the media, sometimes continuously instead of just skipping over the flaw: if it were an open format, then clever programmers would figure that out, but the greedy Hollywood barons don't understand how their greed and protectiveness costs them business. Rebooting the computer usually helps recover from movie-playing problems (I get about 100 hours of runtime before WinXP needs rebooting), but this one only got worse. Then I noticed it was a Sony disc: Aha! The viruses are back. I carried it over to the OSX computer, which is fully sandboxed against all malware, and it played fine. It's a horrible operating system, and the DVD player is much less usable than the older player on Windoze, but it plays modern DVDs that were manufactured with the intent to reduce playability -- for example, when DVD+BlueRaze come together in the same box, the DVD won't play. I stopped bring them home from the library. This Sony flick didn't mention BR on the cover blurb, but several of the interminable commercials at the front did. The story was pretty good and Johnny Depp is an outstanding actor, but I won't recommend anything Sony.
 

2016 September 14 -- I Hate OSX Even More

Every revision, OSX becomes less like a Mac and more unusable. Now, with OSX-11 the Finder no longer remembers anything about the folder windows, where they are, what was showing how, all the things that made the Mac a compelling transition from its hostile command-line predecessors. Nothing, everything is gone when I start. Close a window, and the Finder completely forgets everything about it. At least Windoze remembers that much (maybe Win10 forgets too, I dunno; WinXP at least tries to be like a Mac). WinXP crashes (needs reboot) every 100 hours or so, but otherwise powers up and down very quickly using "hibernate," but OSX never was that smart, it still needs reboot all the time, or else it runs the battery down. I already had to buy a new battery. My older WinXP's battery is only good for a few seconds, but it runs fine on wall power; OSX wouldn't even boot.

Reboot is very slow in all three systems, but the (classic) Mac comes back with all the Finder windows where I left them. WinXP says it's saving my preferences, but that's a lie; at least I only need to go through the hassle of restoring everything once every few weeks, and at least it remembers where windows belong on the screen. OSX is becoming more and more like the eunuchs I so despise, with none of the above. I saw a control panel preference to re-open each app with all the same windows and turned it off: I want closing the app to clear its memory, but the Finder is not an app, it's my desktop exerience I want to revert to; I don't know which I like less. The dictators in Cupertino think they are smarter than me, and thus prove they are not. The Mac was the other way around, as I said in public some 30 years ago. sigh

The Mac has a Finder menu that shuts down or restarts (whatever I want to do) and it just does it. The older MacOS I could do it with a single key combo, but MacOS-9 was already on the way down (all the programmers at Apple were unixies, so they were trying to sabotage the Mac). It crashes rarely, usually only when I touch a poison webpage, so I only need to turn it off at the end of the day. In WinXP there's a similar but obscure menu in the lower left corner, which sometimes hangs (because I only need to reboot when it crashes); the power button I can (and did) program to hibernate. OSX is not so smart, no hibernate at all, and the power button is a pain in the nether region, but there is a key combo that shuts it down (usually, except when it crashed, which seems to be about as often as WinXP), but it's not a menu and I cannot remember the key combo for rebooting, so I just shut it down then press the power button to turn it back on -- after an interminable delay. Computer activity should be monolithic, a single event in the mind effected by a single gesture of the hand(s); the Mac and Windoze have that for initating reboot, but OSX does not; only the Mac carries the process all the way to my chosen persistent desktop. Maybe OSX has a Startup folder too, but I have not yet found it. The eunuchs folder structure is like the name implies: missing a vital organ so it cannot perform. WinXP is far more agile, but nothing holds a candle to the (classic) Mac's brilliance. None of the (classic) Macs ever had a hold-power-button-5-secs mode to force it off, but I never needed it; both WinXP and OSX require that feature regularly -- not yet on OSX-11, but I have not used it very long. We shall see.

The first major catastrophe I found in the OSX-11 Finder is that it no longer opens a new window when you 2-click its icon. That can be fixed, but Apple doesn't tell you how, you have to Google it, and then only by disabling the toolbar and the side panel. No big deal, I have no use for them anyway. The new Finder also eliminated the snap-to-grid option I always use in every computer -- probably because I'm Observant, Careful, and Determined -- so now I must do it manually every time I move a file or re-arrange my window icons. That doubles the time it takes me to operate on files, a major hit on productivity. Oh wait, what Apple took away, Google restored: the option is there but really hard to find, and a lot of people needed help, and there are help forums providing it. It still took me a while to find it with all that help, but now it's fixed. With the Mac, "You already know how to use it." That is sooo untrue with OSX.

Windoze is known to be unsafe on the internet, so I run it behind an air-gap firewall (and I also disabled the net access stuff, as a second line of defense). The Mac and older OSX net browsers let me see in a little status bar what I'm looking at, but the latest Safari threw that away, so I have no way of knowing. Fortunately, I still have the older OSX system, and (unlike this new one) it's properly sandboxed so detritus from poison websites and other automagic nasties coming over the net disappear next reboot. I don't yet have a working backup/restore facility on the new OSX, so I need to restrain my net activity. And not enough physical desk space for everything to be open at once. sigh

The OSX mouse response is sooo flakey: click somewhere, and it sometimes pops in and out, so you need to click again before it activates; other times it forgets that you are dragging and starts up a new mouse activity; neither the Mac nor Windoze do those things. That's been true of every version of OSX in different degrees, and never of the Mac nor WinXP. You'd think they'd fix the bugs, but I guess it's just eunuchs breaking through. Good thing the mouse still works, because the trackpad is sooo bad. Maybe (don't tell anybody) OSX-11 will kill the mouse too. sigh

I tell people "I'm a professional, I can do this," but it doesn't mean I have to like it. It kills productivity, Apple's little contribution to reducing unemployment and removing the USA from the top of the world like they did with the MacOS 14 years ago. Too bad Bill Gates is out of the picture at Microsoft, they could have passed up Apple. They probably will anyway, now that Steve Jobs is gone, but it takes a while for the idiots to overcome the inertia of the founder.
 

2016 September 13 -- Politics vs Science

My host likes to talk. He even admitted it as a failing ("addiction"). Like most people of left-wing persuasion, he imagines himself objective and balanced -- equally hostile to the left and the right -- but (at least in my presence) his most vigorous hostility he reserved for the right-wing reaction to Global Warming and ObamaCare. I don't know how we got on the topics (probably something I said, because I favor the opposition in both of them) but he said (twice, as if for emphasis) "IF global warming is happening, and IF it is caused by carbon dioxide, and IF human activity is the cause of increased CO2 [emphasis added], then the [right-wing] people who oppose doing something about it are idiots." I here emphasized those three "IF"s because my first reaction was that he is calling me an idiot, but he's not. I do not believe that long-term global warming is happening, and since it is not happening, CO2 is not the cause of it, and the evidence I have seen suggests that the current cyclic warming phase is the cause of increased CO2, not the other way around, and especially that it's not from human activity. So I don't meet any of his premises, let alone all three. But I don't think fast enough to make a coherent presentation of my position in real time. Maybe he doesn't either, but he's rehearsed this argument enough times, he has it down pat with no place for refutation (see my "Smarter Fridge?" and "No Global Warming" and other posts). I'm no expert in meteorology, but neither is he. I have not taken the time to review all the scientific facts on both sides, but I suspect neither has he. People of left-wing political persuasion seldom seek out opposing viewpoints and data, and neither do their opponents. His sister-in-law in the same room mentioned a couple conservative arguments that he did not speak to. That suggests to me that he had never thought about them, and that's too bad.

ObamaCare (OC) is more personal for me (see "Appealing to Caesar" and "TANSTAAFL"), and none of his arguments for it apply to me. His most severe criticism is that the opponents of OC have only their own financial interest at heart. I think that's also true of the proponents, but I had no opportunity to credibly say so. My friend did have the good sense to agree with me that third-party payers (aka insurance companies) are the Problem, Not the Solution. He offered a solution better than any I have yet come up with: Everybody is required to prove that they are financially responsible for their health care -- he said OC does that, but I think he's just ignorant, because OC taxes some people, not for failing to prove they are financially responsible, but for failing to fatten the coffers of the rich insurance execs who helped vote Obama into office, and does nothing at all to help people who used to be able to afford health care but now cannot -- and one acceptable way to prove that is to institute credible Medical Savings Accounts with a $5000-deductable major medical insurance policy on top. He seemed to think the MSAs would work if you lied to the people about getting to keep the money they don't spend on health care, but I suspect lies won't cut it here any more than everywhere else. His compelling argument is that it is immoral to allow people to refuse to pay for services they don't need, and then demand that somebody else pay when they get sick, and I agree. OC doesn't fix that, nor can it, but he wasn't buying. Politics is not science.

I need to work with this guy, so it's probably best if we don't get wound up over political questions where our different but (probably equally) limited access to the data leads us to opposite conclusions more correlated with our other political persuasions than with some objective truth.
 

2016 September 9 -- In Oregon


Yesterday excepted, I'm still on Texas time, so I've been waking up 4-ish, before anybody else in the house is up. I can use the time to write my blog (like today and last week) or walk around the 5-acre property -- I was warned that there are mountain lions about, and it was still dark out today, so I cut it short -- but mostly I just read. I'd brought some magazines and a couple novels to read on the plane, but mostly I'm reading them in the early mornings. I finished everything except Moby Dick, which I started several months ago (see "Politics in Fiction"). It's heavy reading and slow going, so I probably won't finish it before I get back.

It's fascinating to see mariner life 160 years ago from a contemporary perspective; most modern historical novelists import so much modern values into their writing that the actual gestalt is largely or completely obliterated (see "Historical Fiction"). Melville also uses a lot of archaic words that have vanished from the language. They tell me that some 4000 words have changed meaning in the last 400 years (since the King James Bible was published) so that much of that version is unintelligible, even to people who have been reading it and hearing it preached all their lives (see "KJV vs Greek"). I should have, but did not, expect to see it in a classic American novel. Do you know what "spangled" means? The word is so obsolete that we only use it in the national anthem, and there completely without comprehension. Melville has one of his characters referring to the light splashing on the back of the whale in such a way that suggests stripes. I never knew that, because we now refer to the national flag as "stars and stripes" not "spangles." Oops, after I got home and looked it up in my dictionary (surprisingly, it's there) I found it means "glitter."

There is a lot of geographical variability in the price of houses -- probably everywhere, but I have not noticed -- at least here. When we were doing a search for houses here in Grants Pass, some of the lower prices were in nearby Cave Junction, so I started looking specifically there and found a nice one in my budget. My hostess (niece) allowed as it was an hour's drive from her place, and part of the highway tended to ice over in the winter, and that Medford was slightly closer (without the ice problem) and also had lower priced houses, and sure enough, several there were acceptable, so today we will try to go look at some of them. It's still a bit of a drive from here, but it's affordable and gets me out of Texas. Then if something closer becomes available, I'm in a position to negotiate from nearby. The whole point of moving here is to be near family, so if (when) something happens to me, there's somebody who cares near enough to pick up the pieces. I'm getting to the age where that's a real possibility. It turns out the cheap houses are really bad. For the same quality of house and neighborhood, prices in Oregon are 50%-100% higher than Texas.

Another disadvantage to flying: I fly out of Portland early Tuesday, so if one of the Medford houses is suitable, I don't have time to get a P.O.Box and bank account set up before I must be gone. Driving is much more flexible. Next time I come, I drive. Hopefully that will be when I close on a house.
 

2016 September 2 -- Travel

So here I am in Oregon. I flew out of Dallas DFW airport, which is some 50-60 miles from my house. There is no regular airport shuttle that stops anywhere near my place, but there are taxis willing to make the trip for something close to $100. Maybe my benefactor will pick up the tab (I'm a little unclear), but with the added car rental at the other end, it already has cost me more out of pocket than driving. Whatever. Recall my opinion of Texas drivers (see "Texas Style"), this guy is no different, tailgating ten feet behind some other car while pecking away on his iPhone to place or answer a call setting up his next fare. I had to just close my eyes and pray. I think he noticed, but Texas drivers are untrained, they have no clue what constitutes safe driving. "Never got in a wreck," he said. "Yet," I quietly added, to myself.

The flight was late boarding, and then late leaving. The pilot came on the comm and told us that the incoming flight was delayed (I'd already guessed that) "due to weather." It was a hot blue sky, not a cloud to be seen anywhere, something like that song line, "It rained so hard the day I left, the weather it was dry; it sunned so hard I froze to death, Susanna don't you cry." Also the honey wagon -- he used a different term, environmental something -- had a flat tire and they had to wait for the fixit people to replace the tire. I looked out the window, and there it was, ten yards from the plane, the guy leisurely tightening the nuts on the left front wheel with his air nut-driver. They could have pushed it, flat tire and all, the last ten yards, so to service the plane while (or before) replacing the tire. Nobody cares about serving the public, just do the minimal amount of effort to get your paycheck.

I flew into Portland. It rains in Portland. I guess there might be worse weather conditions than rain -- like hot humidity without rain, or sub-zero cold -- but rain is pretty close to the bottom of my list. I got my fill as a child. That's one of the nice things I liked about California: not much rain.

I did what I went to Portland for, then got a rental car and drove south. That's another reason I prefer driving to flying: Have you ever watched a person who drives only automatic transmission cars try to drive a stick shift? They jerk around a lot. It works the same the other way around: when I put one foot on the brake and the other foot on the clutch (which doesn't exist except as an extra-wide brake pedal), the car stops really hard. Only half or less of the Oregon drivers are untrained stupid sociopaths like all the Texas drivers are, but that's enough to be really scary in a small car that stops suddenly when you put your foot on the clutch that isn't there.

In my own car I have an MP3 player (see "Eclipse = Failure") that plugs into the sound system, so I can listen to lectures or e-books or great music of my choice to occupy my mind on long drives. This car had a radio, on which I found a university station playing reasonable music. It got quite scratchy over the miles, but there was another college station not far away on the dial, broadcasting from a town near my destination.

Figuring out how to turn the radio on took more of my attention away from driving than I would have preferred. I'm sure there were other appliances on the car that might have improved the quality of the ride, but I couldn't figure out their controls at all. There was one button unfortunately positioned on the steering wheel that I bumped once or twice, but I have no idea what it did (the label was a completely opaque "OK"). When I bought my present car almost 30 years ago, I wanted cruise control but was unwilling to pay $2000 for a bunch of garbage I didn't want but was inseparable from it. Now I'm not so disappointed: The cruise on this car was really hard to use, always doing surprising things I didn't want. If I ever buy another car, it won't be that model of Ford.

There was a little red button on the key which was almost impossible not to press while turning the ignition off. It set the horn off, honk, honk, honk... I didn't know how to stop it so I had to revert to the "video game method" (randomly press buttons until something works). I don't expect to buy another car, but if I need to, and if it comes with an oversized key like that (which does not fit in my key holder, and you cannot get a locksmith to make a better-sized copy key), and if it has a red button like that, I will insist that they give me a key that works (or else disable the red button) before I accept delivery of the car. There was a tiny slot under the red button only, so I suspect I'm not the only one to make that demand, and it is probably solved by sliding a shim into the slot to jam the button.

Southern Oregon weather is more like California. I could live there. I probably will live there. The cost of living (read: price of housing) is substantially higher than the States of Misery or Taxes, but less than urban California. sigh Oh well, I shouldn't get too attached to living anywhere: "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through..."
 

2016 August 27 -- Cognitive Burden

For most of the last 12 or 20 years I had more hours to spend than dollars, so when I needed to go across country, I drove. When I did the calculation, the cost was about the same as flying, but it was all out of pocket by air, whereas most of the driving cost (wear and tear on the car) I get to postpone until the car dies. I come out ahead if the car lasts longer than I do, and this is a sturdy little car.

I'm thinking about visiting relatives in Oregon, so (having already thought it through so long ago), I planned to drive. I studied the map (and asked Google ;-) and came up with a reasonably direct route, about 2000 miles, which is about the same as driving to California from the State of Misery. Out of the blue -- otherwise spelled "in the Providence of God" -- this guy who I did some work for more than 30 years ago calls up and in the course of the discussion he tells me about his computer summer camp, and I think that's cool, and he happens to be doing it in Oregon. He still seems to think he's a member of my fan club (see Prov.22:29), so when I mention going to Oregon, he says come by, and then offers to buy my plane ticket.

You remember my discussion (see "How to Win" last year) about the difference between Judgers and Perceivers? New data means Perceivers must run the calcs all over again, and this time it seemed to shift toward flying. I have a bad memory, it turns out there were a lot of factors influencing the decision, cash flow being only one of them.

Take for instance, there are constantly changing rules on what can be carried onto an airplane. The rules are set by the government (TSA), but their website is encrypted and not open to the public. I'm a computer professional, I can get past restrictions like that, but only on a computer system I despise. Driving does not require me to jump through that particular hoop. Now that I think about it, the last (and only) time I flew after 9/11, they pulled me out of the boarding line -- after I had sat quietly in the gate lounge 20 feet away for two hours -- and made me open my carry-on case so they could paw through it. They had to hold the flight for me to repack it. If that happens again, and if I miss the flight, I'm driving.

Thinking is hard work, and most people go to great lengths to avoid it. Me too, except in matters of work and theology. I think hard all day long -- sometimes 14+ hours -- and I get tired. My friend's summer camp, he expected the kids to work late at night on their projects (like hackers at their festivals), but they didn't. One of them told him afterward, she was so tired she just went to bed. She now has a much greater appreciation for her parents (both in technology), when they come home from work exhausted. That's me. She's not my kid, but I also get very tired. It turns out that a lot of cognitive effort goes into setting up a trip where you don't just get in a car and drive there. I drive a ragtop which I don't want to park outside in an airport parking lot, and there are no scheduled airport shuttle busses to this little rinky-dink town outside the nominal Dallas metro area, so finding a ride to and from turned out to be tricky. Getting from Portland to and from where I wanted to be was another bag of questions. These things took cognitive effort, which I can do, but I'm already tired. Driving across country I can do on autopilot, a few tiny decisions once every five hours or so, finding the right exit to buy gas or turn onto the next highway, lightly distributed in a vast sea of blessed boredom. I'd forgotten how good that felt. It was like vacation.

Judgers are different, they like to make decisions. They probably don't even think about it, just go with whatever feels good. So they cannot even understand why I'd druther drive 30 hours (each way) instead of flying four. This trip, the hard thinking has already been done and there's no refund, so I'll go ahead and fly, but next time I'll choose to drive.

It's one thing when what I'm doing at the other end is in the same city as the airport and I have a ready ride from home to the local terminal and I'm being paid for my time, and quite something else when I have no income and I need to worry about getting around at the other end and/or I don't want to spend $100 each way getting to the airport. The actual time in the air is only a small fraction of the total cost of flying.
 

2016 August 22 -- On Alcoholic Beverages

The preacher is doing a series on "the abundant life," and decided that eating healthy is a part of that. For some reason -- probably because his denomination has a "Not Invented Here" (NIH) attitude toward Bible study aids, or more likely because one of his denom's creedal dogmas is that the entire Law of Moses was "nailed to the cross" -- he chose not to examine all the healthy implications of the Jewish dietary laws in the Law of Moses (see None of These Diseases). However, the denom also teaches total alcoholic abstinence, and they are eager to find that dogma in Scripture, despite that it is not there.

Nazirites were required to take a vow of total abstinence from anything grape (not just alcohol), but Jesus "came eating and drinking" to the extent that his detractors could credibly call him a drunkard. That was in distinction to John the Baptist, who drank no alcohol at all. There's a Greek word for that, used in 1Tim.5:23 'hydropotei' (water-drinking), probably because nobody at that time could imagine unfermented grape juice.

I did a search, and one of the wine-making sites I found reports that "In roughly 15 minutes to an hour you should notice foam forming on top..." Once you break the skin of the grapes, the naturally-occurring yeast (the gray sheen on the skin) starts to grow in the juice and produce alcohol immediately. If you boil the juice within the first couple hours, you will boil off that initial alcohol and some of the water, preserving a sugary grape syrup. When they do it today, they add that syrup to "100% fruit juice" beverages as a sweetener instead of (nutritionally equivalent) sugar from other sources. They could have made grape syrup in Jesus' time, but I was unable to find any contemporary documentation to support it. I cannot imagine anybody wanting to drink it -- try it yourself: pour some fruit-flavored pancake syrup into a glass (water it down or not), and try to drink it. It's too sweet. Also too expensive, requiring too many grapes (too much vineyard acreage) for so little beverage. Whether pious first-century Christians and Jews actually did something so costly (or not) is not for me to say, but the fact that offerings were taken up in churches as far away as Greece suggests that it was not in their budget.

If you do not boil (or pasteurize) it immediately to kill the yeast, there is no way to preserve unfermented grape juice without refrigeration. Israel has a temperate climate (otherwise grapes would not grow at all), which in the fall when the grapes ripen is just exactly the right temperature for them to ferment. One pious pedant tried to suggest that they preserved the unfermented juice in pottery jars under water. He obviously has never been to Israel: the vineyards are on hillsides, and the creeks between them are so small as to be knee-deep in spring (when I was there), and probably non-existant in the dry fall when the grapes are picked.

I do know that you can dry unbroken (still on the vine), unfermented grapes and preserve them for several years: we call them raisins (which is the French word for "grapes"). To consume raisins at a later time, you eat them. It makes no sense to try to dissolve them in water to make reconstituted juice. Try it sometime.

I don't have the resources to research how grapes were processed into a beverage in first-century Israel -- and I suspect nobody else in this debate does either -- so I'm not going to argue that. Instead we can look at the data we have (the Bible) and see if it has anything to say, or if the teetotalers have gone beyond Scripture.

One of the first miracles Jesus ever did was to turn water into wine at a wedding in Cana. The teetotalers generally argue that he made grape juice, not fermented wine, but that seems to me specious. The head steward -- from the context I infer he was hired for this wedding, and not a household regular -- complains to the bridegoom (obviously the decisionmaker) that he held the best wine back instead of putting it out first like everybody else. Grape juice is not by any ordinary secular person's estimation "the best wine." At Pentecost the outsiders are ridiculing the Christians as being "drunk on new wine" (where "new wine" is the translation of 'gleukos' = sugary); recall that fermentation changes the grape sugar into alcohol, so if Jesus had made grape juice, the Evangelist would more likely have called it 'gleukos' and not "wine" ('oinos'), and it certainly would not have qualified as "the best". Educated people obviously know that only ignorant Galileans drink (and get drunk on, because you must drink more to get high on the lower alcohol content) the sugary new wine, so this must have been properly aged "best wine." Jesus can do that.

"But giving somebody wine to drink is sin, and Jesus never sinned," the preacher said. So I asked where in the Bible does it say it's sin? He didn't know, but others in the congregation were well taught in the dogma, and one of them mentioned Hab.2:15. That's an important enough connection, we should look at it carefully (here from the KJV):

Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him,
and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
This is Hebrew poetry, a doublet where the two parts have the same message in different words. The woe is pronounced on those who keep on urging somebody to drink, for the purpose of having sex with them. You cannot separate the two parts! Even by English grammar rules, the "and" connecting the two parts means that the woe is on those people who both give others to drink and make them drunk. With the possible (but not necessarily) exceptions of the Nazirites and the priests who must "not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die" [Lev.10:9], all of the negative things God has to say about alcohol are in the context of drunkenness, not moderate drinking. In making (alcoholic) wine at Cana, Jesus was not making anybody drunk, therefore not sinning. If giving people strong drink is sin, then God Himself is promising to sin in the very next verse. What nonsense! This is simply a case of people "adding to Scripture" -- which really is forbidden by God, three times. Don't go there.

There is a place in Proverbs that actually commands to give alcohol to people:

Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. -- Prov.31:6,7 (oNIV)
We Christians are more like the "kings" in verse 4 (who should not be drinking) than the hopeless people for whom God made mind-bending drugs to smother their misery. The unbelievers, if they don't want God, that's all they have.

The preacher was unconvinced, but this is the same guy who insists on accepting the Roman Catholic (Latin) translation ("begotten") from the Nicene Creed over against the more more accurate earlier translations of 'monogenes' ("unique") in the verses where it refers to Jesus (see "Only Begotten"). Maybe the last thing they teach the impressionable young preacher trainees at the denominational school is "lock your mind and throw the key away, you are not allowed to learning anything new about the Bible that we didn't teach you." At least like the Pharisees, who set up a 616-command hedge of human traditions around the Law of Moses to protect people from accidentally stepping on one, he has chosen to err on the safe side. He could do worse.

Full disclosure: Me, I don't drink alcohol anyway, I read someplace that even one drink destroys brain cells, and I need all the brain I can get, especially as I get older. I used to tell people "I don't do mind-bending drugs," but that was before I learned that caffeine improves mental acuity. For a while.

Postscript: Apparently I offended some people there. The following week two different people hurried over to me to give me instruction materials opposing "social drinking." I never argued for drinking, I only argued for an accurate reading of Scripture. Alcohol is dangerous and a good thing to avoid, but so also are cars and guns and misinterpreting Scripture. God gave us two "great commandments," neither of which say anything at all about alcohol or cars or even Scripture. You are not saved by abstinence, and you are not damned for driving to church instead of walking, or going to a party to evangelize the lost and politely drinking one beer there (as Jesus obviously did). I personally consider mishandling Scripture to be a far worse infraction than one sip of fermented beverage, but I do not recommend either one. However, the Second Great Commandment is about making the world a better place (for others), and while moderately drinking alcohol may harm your own body, bad preaching potentially harms other people and is therefore a direct violation of the Commandment. Don't go there.
 

2016 August 6 -- Relationship & Trust

I have several boxes of old magazines, where I noticed and marked something noteworthy. But looking forward toward my next move, I need to cut the unnecessary weight. So I'm going through these old boxes, ripping out and saving the noteworthy pages, and discarding the rest. I think the garbage can weighed eighty or a hundred pounds yesterday. I asked if there's a weight limit, and the lady at the city desk (where I pay for the service) said no. In Bolivar there was a 40-pound limit, but the guys had to believe it was less than 40. A can half-full of old magazines weighed only 35 pounds, but it feels much heavier than a full can weighing 41 pounds. So I filled it with 38 pounds of paper, then topped it up with sacks full of inflated zip bags (which weigh almost nothing). That way it didn't seem so heavy. But here they have a machine that lifts the cans into the truck, so weight is not important. Forty pounds is the most you can ask a woman to lift -- guys can lift and carry 70 or 80 all the time, that's the measure of the Biblical "talent": what a man can carry -- and in today's government-sponsored religion, men and women are "equal" so loads are restricted to what everybody knows (but is forbidden to say) is the limit of the "weaker" sex.

One of the items I came across today made the observation that "relationship requires trust," so his organization was teaching trust so people could acquire relationship. What a crock of baloney! Trust is an affirmation, so Relationshipists (people who use the word "relationship" to mean nothing more nor less than mutual affirmation, and who suppose that is the whole of what God is to us) are strong on trust. Anyway, the movie today was about a woman whose husband proved to be unworthy of her trust, and how she turned the tables on him by returning the favor. There were parts where you couldn't tell whether you were watching "actual events" or a dream sequence, which made her revenge particularly confusing. I guess modern "artists" like to jerk their audience around. Me, I don't care for it. So I won't recommend it.

The Bible says to trust God, not people, because trust must be based on character, not wishful thinking, and certainly not "relationship." God is Good, people are something else. Like that guy last year trying to sell me on "community" (I think he used the word as a substitute synonym for "relationship" because I had totally demolished the whole R-word idea) but he turned out to be untrustworthy. Fortunately, God gave me a verse particularly relevant to the situation, Luke 16:10. God is awesome.
 

2016 August 1 -- The Husband

My first exposure to Dean Koontz was the delight to see somebody in public (and not an obvious Bible-thumper) taking pot-shots at Darwinism (see "Against Darwin and Government" five years ago). Any author who elicits that kind of positive reaction from me generally gets at least one or two more views. Koontz leans too much on magic (fantasy) for my taste, so I eventually gave up on him (see "Reality" a couple years later).

The local library here has a bizarre "recent stuff only" policy that makes it hard to find decent (both senses) reading material, so when I saw on the shelf a Koontz title that I did not recognize, I took it home. It turned out to be a book I'd already read, and I started remembering what I didn't like about it, so I returned it half-unread. Somehow that came out in the conversation with the librarian, and she recommended The Husband, which (so she said) didn't have all the weirdness of his other books.

I'm not far enough into it yet to tell one way or the other, but I definitely do not like the scenario Koontz weaves, and especially not how his hero reacts to it. Of course I am also not in that guy's position, with a wife I love more than God. The situation -- this is exposed on the cover, so it's no spoiler -- is a kidnapper telling a low-income gardner that they have his wife and he must raise $2 million in cash in two days if he wants to see her again. As I pointed out after reading my first exposure to Koontz (Breathless), the Christian perspective is rather different from what Koontz expects all his readers to perceive as inevitable. I probably don't think fast enough to pull it off seamlessly, but certainly by the time of the Second Call, the proper reaction is to refuse any further contact with the villains. They may kill the wife in some horrible fashion, but they are Bad Guys, they're going to do that anyway, you cannot trust them to do otherwise. Like the hero of Ringo's Live Free Or Die, by refusing to negotiate her safety, you effectively remove her from harm's way. Never negotiate with terrorists, it only makes things worse for everybody. The very instant the Bad Guy says he wants a ransom, you hang up on him. I have CallerID, so I can know when he calls back, and I can do what I do to the phone terrorists who annoy all of us: pick it up and hang up immediately. All they hear is a click. They cannot communicate their threats if they can't get you to listen.

It helps that I can do this from a Christian perspective: if they promise to kill or maim her unless I do something, it is they who are doing the killing, not me. It's not on my conscience. I refuse to let Bad Guys -- neither Satan nor his minions -- define for me what I feel guilt over. Jesus Christ has removed all my guilt and nailed it to the Cross. If they kill her, she goes directly to Heaven, which is better. If they torture her first, then her reward in Heaven is greater, not less. And their reward in Hell is far worse. Their problem, not mine. I might try to evangelize them, but they are not listening, so it would be as futile as trying to evangelize a pastor who is doing Bad Stuff to his parishoners (and I know about that, it happened to me recently).

These particular Bad Guys have gone to considerable effort to plant the wife's blood and the hero's clothing in suspicious places around the house, so if they choose to kill her, it can look like he did it. I don't know if Koontz thought of it, but his Bad Guys made a fatal mistake: the blood on the alleged murder weapon and smeared around the house are substantially older than the actual death of the wife (who needs to remain alive for subsequent phone calls). I would call the cops in immediately and explain the situation. If they kill her, her corpse is not as old as the blood in the frame-up, thereby proving it's a frame-up. I've watched enough TV forensics to know they can tell the time of death (one TV show says it: it could be fiction; if all of them say it, it's science).

There are some early hints that the Bad Guys expect to coerce some kind of unlawful behavior out of the hero in lieu of raising the cash, but God does not put us into a choice between evils. The end never justifies the means, so if I were in that situation, too bad, so sad, no can do. I'm not guilty for what they do to her. Basically Koontz has lost me as a reader, I cannot imagine myself in that scenario with that pressure and responding that way. Whatever.

Postscript, It's not often I won't give an author the opportunity to redeem himself, so I went ahead and finished the book. Somewhere about a quarter of the way through, the story took a hard right turn and morphed into your standard "smart hero triumphs over not-so-smart villains" and became a fun read. There's a tiny bit of Deus-ex-machina luck (aka magic), but not enough to spoil the story. The back-story on the principle characters turns out to be quite bizarre, but I guess Koontz needs to justify his reputation somehow, and from my perspective, it's better than fantasy or magic. Koontz is good at what he does, an example being the implicit play on the title between the hero as husband of the victim, and also a husbandman (gardener).
 

2016 July 30 -- Anarchy As Freedom

One of the feature articles in the most recent WIRED magazine ("Locked & Loaded," probably not yet available online) takes a shallow look at the life of a guy who goes by the moniker Moxie Marlinspike. His claim to fame in the digital world is as the developer of an easy-to-use encryption package based on the (so far unbroken) RSA algorithm. I was in grad school when Rivest and Shamir first published their invention, and I did a presentation at the university which (I suppose, but my memory is weak) contributed to my MS degree. So when the article started out hinting that Moxie had done something new and different, I was curious. The only "new and different" thing about his code is that he is less of a geek than most of his unixie peers, so his code is actually usable and is currently being encorporated into a variety of commercial systems, where it terrifies the law enforcement people whose job it is to prevent another 9/11.

You see, Moxie is an unashamed anarchist. Well, not really. Like the jihadists now using his tool, he hides who he really is. There's an important reason for that: it is the nature of sin that innocent people get hurt, and it is the nature of law that it provides deterrent penalties for the kinds of sin where people get hurt really bad. The Evangelist said it very well: "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil" [John 3:19]. People who do shameful things need to hide, lest they be apprehended and punished for the harm they have done. Moxie has a bad case of myopia, he cannot see the social consequences of his advocacy in the big picture. "I actually think law enforcement should be difficult," he was quoted at a recent conference, "and I think it should actually be possible to break the law."

Calvinists among us to the contrary, it is always possible to break the law; otherwise we'd be robots, not people. What he means is that he thinks that it should be possible to break the law and get away with it, but he's not thinking clearly. Suppose that were strictly true: then the law would mean nothing at all. If there still are cops and law in such a dystopian alternate reality, the cops also are free to break the law! There is nothing to prevent them from shooting anybody they imagine to be a Bad Guy -- including Moxie himself. I suspect he would be first in line -- after the racial minorities and the sex perverts and their mothers-in-law. The reason we have laws and cops in this country -- and probably everywhere else, but I don't know their history so well -- is that we actually tried anarchy (it was called "the wild west") and it didn't work.

Anarchists and atheists alike can only function as a minority subculture in a society dominated by the people they love to hate. It is the Christian value of "love your enemy" that is codified into American law that forbids killing people you don't like. Muslims do not have that value, and if you are an "enemy" of their religion, the have the right and duty to hunt you down and kill you. Atheists cannot survive there. Atheists themselves do not have that value, and they do the same to everybody they disagree with, because there is no god to punish them. Just look at Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot. As Dostoyevsky said in Brothers Karamazov, "if there's no immortality of the soul, then there's no virtue, and everything is lawful" (see "Incomplete Christianity" three years ago). Anarchists are essentially the same as atheists, but without the illogical denial of Deity. If there is no law, then "everything is lawful," and you have the same result.

Think about it the next time you wish some piddly law didn't apply to your personally. The law is there for your protection.
 

2016 July 27 -- Politics In Fiction

I'm still reading the same Brad Thor novel because I got a bad cold which reading in bed aggravated. Somewhere around halfway through, Thor devotes a whole chapter to debunking the nominal socialism of his Bad Guy. Politics in fiction is like religion in fiction: it degrades an otherwise good story. I seem to recall having said both of those (separately) each at least a couple times. The problem is that writers are best when they write what they know, and none of them know very much about either religion or politics.

Case in point: Thor's Bad Guy is modelled more or less after Soros, very rich but favoring socialist politics. Recall I mentioned a couple years ago why the very rich support the socialists in government: the rich people know how to work (read: plunder) the system and the falsely so called Democratic party are too ignorant to realize they are being played like puppets (see "True Obamanomics" four years ago).

This year should prove interesting, if only because the Clinton Foundation became exceedingly wealthy from corrupt Nigerian oil barons who were funding the kidnapping and enslavement of young girls by Boko Haram mostly during her tenure as Secretary of state, versus the selfish greed (is there any other kind?) of Trump who worked the system from the capitalist side by building and destroying fake corporations, which oppresses workers caught in the middle. Both got rich at the expense of the poor. Can you spell "None of the Above"? My sister is promoting a campaign to write-in Ted Cruz. You could do worse.

Anyway this chapter where the super-rich Bad Guy is arguing global socialism against the woman journalist doing a poor job of holding her own, reminded me of nothing more than that line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act II Scene I, where Brutus says:

                  But 'tis a common proof,
 That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
 Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
 But when he once attains the upmost round.
 He then unto the ladder turns his back,
 Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
 By which he did ascend.
I probably didn't actually read the play, but only was taught that last line as something worth remembering. The guy in Thor's story got to be rich by predatory capitalism, and now he pretends that capitalism creates poverty. Like I said, Thor's journalist was out of her league (and Thor himself probably was too). Capitalism and socialism both build on human greed (see "Socialist Greed"), but rewarding capitalist greed improves the economy as a whole, and the rising tide lifts all boats -- including the freeloaders -- whereas rewarding socialist greed degrades the economy, and everybody suffers (except the very rich, who already know how to control things to their own benefit). That's what the woman should have said, but Thor is a novelist, not an economist. It shows.
 

2016 July 23 -- Feminazi Blunders

Recall from earlier this month (see "Politics in Fiction") how Brad Thor's political conservatism is unmatched in his religious preference -- having abandonned Christian Truth, he bought into the feminazi* lie, at least on the surface. But he's too good a writer to let bogus religious propaganda spoil the truth about human nature in his fiction. I skipped over his amazon women warrior series, because the existence of such a concept only makes sense if feminism is a total crock: if the sex of the participants is significant -- which a group of women-only warriors necessarily is -- then it's inherently sexist. My suspension of disbelief (necessary for the enjoyment of fiction) is not forgiving for that.

Thor tries bravely in his next Horvath novel to maintain the reasonableness of bringing in female special ops team members, but he can't quite bring himself to pull it off. He's a good author, it's not lack of writing skill holding him back, but it's not real. These novels are guy fiction; there is such a thing as chick-lit, and this isn't it (otherwise I wouldn't be reading it ;-) Perhaps not his new over-sentimentalized women warriors, but his guys must be credible, or guys won't read it. So here from page 88, where Harvath is thinking back to his team selection and the choice of one particular woman:

He'd felt the chemistry the moment he met her. He thought she might have felt it, too, but he couldn't be sure... All he knew is that he thought about her entirely too much.
That's all true. Men think about women sexually, and hope the reverse is true -- but it generally isn't, because men and women are fundamentally different (just read any chick-lit story, women's perspectives written for women readers). Even Thor's Bad Guy is a guy first, as here on page 76 where he contemplates the woman reporter there to interview him:
He also liked how she chewed on the eraser. He was beginning to wonder more and more if she was entertaining the thought of going to bed with him.
The previous novel in my reading sequence was another new author. He has decades of experience as a military airman, and he wrote what he knew. Sort of. He spent entirely too many pages imagining what it would be like to be freezing and lost in the Afghan mountains of the Hindu Kush, but admitted in the author's note at the end he never actually experienced it. It detracted from an otherwise good story. Anyway, he has a token female Army Sergeant undergoing some of the same rigors with his (male) airman hero, and the author goes to considerable lengths to prove how egalitarian his thinking is -- and then contradicts the theology when the guy goes out of his way to rescue and protect the woman. On the last page one of the rescue helicopters had been shot down, so some people had to stay and fight and wait for another chopper, and she offered to give up her seat for the hero, and he turned her down. It's what Good Guys do, protect women and children. Even God says that, in the Bible.

The movie I mentioned yesterday was the same thing, the larger story was about rescuing and protecting women and children. It's what Good Guys do, because Bad Guys make it necessary. It was a guy flick -- go fast, make loud noises, and break things -- no women cops at all. Bad Guys did Bad Stuff to women and children, and Good Guys had to go in and rescue them.

What does that say about women in military (as in the two novels)? Bad Guys put those women in harm's way -- oh wait, those are our military leaders! They are still Bad Guys if they put women in harm's way -- and we (will) need the Good Guys to expend extra effort to rescue and protect them. The Bad Guys over there have no problem stealing and enslaving women and children, they've been doing it in Africa since long before we had the present idiotic women-in-military policy, but now (thanks to the bungling of a certain President who knows nothing about war and diplomacy) also in what used to be Iraq. Novelist Brad Thor is right in his politics if not his feminism.

The "Nazi" suffix in Rush Limbaugh's term implies government coercion, and that is indeed what is happening in "gender politics" in America. There is no science supporting the supposition of equality, it's a religious dogma first introduced by Christians as relating only to our relationship with God, and then corrupted, first by Christians, then by the power structure of those cultures running on the fumes of Christian values in the empty gas tank. Women's bodies are built differently, so that men are generally stronger and thus physically able to bully and oppress the women. That's why men need to protect them. Women think differently, which is why we have separate categories for guy and chick fiction. There are "date" flicks which attempt to meld the two, but it's a conscientious and well-understood effort. Women can (and are encouraged to) invade male social roles, but it's never transparent: they bring with them a sexism far more insidious and destructive than anything that was there before they came.
 

2016 July 22 -- Follow the Rules

There are some awesome parallels with Christian faith in  couple scenes of what might yet turn out to be just another run-of-the-mill cops-and-robbers flick. The screenwriter is not obviously Christian, it's just that the Truth is so big, it's hard to miss all of it.

The most poignant parallel -- not particularly obvious until you think about it -- is that you don't get to be top of the food chain unless you follow the rules. It's true of the crime boss featured in these two scenes, and it's true even of God. That's counter-intuitive to modern shot-caller wannabes, but they never did much hard, quality thinking anyway (see "How to Win" last year).

Rule #1 for a crime boss is simple: Survive. A dead crime boss is not a crime boss at all.

A lot of people who think of themselves as Christians also consider this the same for their faith, but in a kind of round-about way, where survival extends past the grave. They do the minimal effort necessary to pay up their "fire insurance," and the preachers are happy to accept their money and their token indulgences for the promise of eternal life in the hereafter. Without deprecating the goal, Jesus explained it differently, as a paradox: you get eternal life by giving up your life. Yes, he said that.

Anyway, the Serbian crime boss is introduced to the viewers in an intimate wine social, him and maybe a half-dozen or fewer of his colleagues and/or underlings seated around the table. He tells them that immortality is achieved by means of DNA, and then goes on to tell them about his five sons. I forget the details of #1 Son, but #2 and #3 are students and/or playboys at famous universities in Europe and the USA. #4 handles his father's (east?) European operations, and (I don't recall whether he said so) #5 is getting ready for his coming of age.

So we get to the coming-out, and the father is coaching his son on how to handle it. I'm not good at capturing real-time dialog, but it's unimportant. Here is a low-level functionary who didn't do his job, and the proper response in the crime world to such failure is termination. The father cocks his (gilded? maybe it was just the light) pistol and hands it to the son to do the deed. The kid gets a funny look on his face, and hands it back. The father never says a word, just accepts the pistol and without even turning his head to aim, shoots the guy behind him as he guides the son out the door with the other arm. Obviously, this son needs some more training before he is ready for the father's business. Everybody does. Jesus spent 30 years getting ready for his Father's business. The kid saw it as a failure -- and he saw what happens to failures in his father's business -- and he was not going to repeat it. The problem is, the Rules come first.

The next time we see these two guys, they are getting out of a limo on the dock where his vile shipment has arrived. Meanwhile the cops found out about the shipment and are waiting for the Bad Guys with full automatics and body armor. The shooting starts and the kid and his father are holed up between a couple containers, and the old guy's pistol is empty. He turns to the kid and says "Get out of here, survive!" or something like that. Rule #1. Immortality through DNA. The kid is still stuck on his previous failure, and is determined not to fail again, so he grabs the AK-47, runs out into the walkway blazing the rifle at no particular target and shouting "I am my father's son!" The cowboy cop shoots him dead.

It's about rules. Jesus gave us exactly two: #1, God is God, you are not god, you do what God says, not the other way around, and #2, Everybody else is equal, there are no favorites. We call #2 the Golden Rule. Crime is the complete and total contradiction of Rule #2, and the screenwriter went to a lot of effort -- and multiple scenes -- to make this crime lord's work so vile as to completely destroy any sympathy we might have for him as a father. But the crime world has a rule very much like God's #1, except the capo is god, you do not contradict or disobey the boss. No exceptions. The son's first failure was disobedience, not cowardice, and in the later scene, it was exactly the same failure. The kid was given an order and he disobeyed. And died for it, just like the unfortunate underling he was too weak to kill himself.

We, every person in the whole world, have been given a direct command, and the Golden Rule is not hard to understand. It is hard to do if we are selfish (and we all are, but Jesus has a cure for that, if you want it), but Jesus said that at the Last Judgment, your compliance with the Rules is all that matters. A lot of Christian pastors don't preach that. They are in deeper doo-doo than the people they led astray, but that's their problem, not mine.

There's more to this flick, unrelated to the theological analogy they never intended. Maybe I'll see new insights there, maybe not, but this much was worth saying.
 

2016 July 13 -- Visions in the Night

Friday the 13th comes on Wednesday this month, but the weirdness is unabated. Maybe it's just too much caffeine, but sleep comes harder than it used to. In the Goode Olde Dayes I could work until I fell over, then eat something and go to bed, and I was out. Now if I eat too late, I wake up with heartburn. If I try to keep working, my mind goes to mush (the next morning I can think again). I was never a morning person, but that was then, this is now. So I read.

After reading until 2am and not getting sleepy, I turned off the light and lay there with my eyes closed. In my field of view (eyes still closed) was a whole page of text -- or maybe just random letters in lines, not exactly forming words. The text was sharp black on a field of brown, so it couldn't have been an after-image of the book I had been reading (after-images are inverted color, so the text would have been white on a dark field), and besides, the letters were unrecognizable, sort of italic, slightly curly, but more complex than normal Roman letters, perhaps like Greek, but not Greek (which I would recognize). I took off my glasses in the dark, and the image got blurry and faded away, like it happens in real life, except my eyes were still shut. I turned on the light and made a note to myself, then went back to dark, but the phenomenon did not repeat. Maybe my eyes were inventing things for me to see in the dark, because it's Wednesday the 13th. Weird.
 

2016 July 11 -- 1st-Century Women

If you read very much of my blog, you know I'm more of a complementarian than egalitarian. "Male and female created He them," it says, which suggests that the differences are more profound than the shape of your reproductive organs. Otherwise there would be no need for feminism, because everybody would know that there's no difference. Case in point: most bank managers are women. Why? Because they do it better than men do. The businesses that survive, it's because they do their job better than the competition, and the business owners who don't know that, don't stay in business. The businesses that succeed in a competetive market, it's because they hire the best people for the job. There are a lot of banks, and the competition is tight. Therefore women must make better managers. Science and technology, it's the other way around. Mostly. It's not prejudice, it's who does the job better.

On the other hand, if you want to do something bad enough, you will put the effort into becoming good at it. Some people are naturally good at any particular job -- I'm naturally good at programming, and not at preaching or managing a bank or driving a truck -- but hard work and persistence will overcome minor disabilities. A short guy who works hard at it can play professional basketball, but a tall guy who works just as hard at it will beat him every time. The superstars in any field are the people who both work at it and have natural ability.

The American Established Religion -- you know, the thing the First Amendment said don't do, but who reads the Constitution any more? Just redefine a few words and suddenly it means nothing -- is egalitarian. That's why they abolished marriage, because that is inherently complementarian. If you want to get married and reproduce your DNA, the best partner for that job is necessarily the opposite sex. A guy who thinks it doesn't matter whether he marries a woman or another guy will fail to produce children from that union unless he happens to marry a woman. It's incredibly sexist. But the nature of religion is "believing what you know ain't so."

There are other things women do better -- like bank managers -- and there are other things men do better -- like computer programming. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, just statistically (just count the number of people in each job at successful businesses). One of the things men tend to do better is control (CEO) diverse organizations like businesses and farms (not secondary groups within the organization like branch banks, but the top dawg). Just count the people in those jobs. Sure there are women executives, but they have to work really hard to get there -- they all say so -- and they have the national religion supporting their bid for the top.

The first century was no different. One of the disproofs of feminism is that only a female is allowed to report on facts that go against the national religion: if it were true, then the sex of the researcher or reporter would be irrelevant, but it's not.

So here I am reading Biblical Archeology Review (BAR), and they have a regular column "Biblical Views" (recall I mentioned it last month), which offers opinions ("views") but is almost never Biblical except maybe in the same way the Holocaust was Jewish, so I usually glance at the title and maybe read a paragraph or two, then turn the page. This month the title referred to "Early Christian Women Leaders," so it obviously had to be some angry feminazi woman complaining about the Biblical model -- and sure enough, the author's name was Teresa. Necessarily. But, my detractors to the contrary, and unlike perhaps most other people, I'm willing to be persuaded by the facts even if I start out believing otherwise, so I started reading. After the obligatory misogyny bashing that begin all such articles, she actually pointed to the existence of a women business owner in Pompeii. Even more remarkable, it was the same kind of business that had women owners in the Bible (she cited two different cases). Obviously, like bank managers today, the fabric business back then was better done by women.

The Apostles (she mentioned specifically Peter, but Paul implicitly in the other case) accepted these women in their leadership positions, and neither criticized nor unnecessarily praised them. It was just a fact of life (like bank managers today), although Teresa Calpino declined to say so clearly. Some women stepped up to the plate and ran the family farm when their husbands died, but apparently that was the exception (and therefore remarkable). Otherwise (just like today) most enterprises were run by men. People have not changed their basic nature in 2000 years, only their religions have changed.

She's obviously a feminist in a man's business, doing what women in those businesses always do (whine about the lack of women in positions of authority) -- thereby proving that her agenda is a hoax -- but in this case the facts she brings to the table are both credible and a primary disproof of her feminism. I think that's a hoot.
 

2016 July 8 -- Cowboy

A significant part of my growing up was in some far-off country, where I had few or no peer playmates. A huge advantage of that experience is that I don't bow to peer pressure, I think for myself -- and it continually surprises me how many people prefer to be told what to think. The downside is that it takes a lot of time to think through all the implications of those ideas: it cannot be done in real time, but I do it anyway -- which makes working in groups rather more difficult. The people who work well in groups just don't do all the thinking they should. Either they go off half-cocked (if they want to be in control), or else they let somebody else make their decisions (or both, like one guy I used to know). I am what is sometimes derisively known as a "cowboy" who rides off alone into the sunset, rescuing fair damsels and defeating the Bad Guys, but not as a team project. The novels I read are about cowboys, modern terrorist settings (not the "wild west" of yore) but the same kind of DIY guy.

When I was in seminary -- I sort of hoped God would call me to be a preacher, but He said No -- one of the questions on the first midterm in one of the classes was "Which commentaries did you read in preparation for this exam?" I answered "None, I prefer to read the Bible over somebody else's opinion about the Bible." He flunked me, F on the whole exam for that one answer alone. I did read commentaries for the rest of the term in that class, but I don't remember a thing they said. I remain unrepentant. I may still have some commentaries from that era packed away in boxes that have not been opened in 30+ years, but obviously I don't read them. I'm still a cowboy. As a result, I can detect when the preacher is off-base, presenting half-baked (or even worldly) ideas as if they were gospel truth. He (every last preacher) is one of those "team players" who wants to be captain, so he must arrive at his conclusions quickly and thoughtlessly, so he can get out in front of people and tell them what to do and think. But that's another topic, which I mostly beat to death last year.

This is back at the top of my mind today because cowboys cannot solve all the problems. They cannot solve big problems, and in today's computerized global economy, that's all that's left, the easy ones have already been solved, and they are now being manufactured in China. There are still places for cowboys, but they are few and hard to find. So computer problem solving is always taught in group settings. Me, I think that the cowboy who find himself in such a group does all the solving, and the other team members are given trivial make-work to do and learn/do nothing at all. If there are no superstars on the team, then the mediocre members share the work load and accomplish the shared learning they are there for, and that probably happens more often than not, but nobody enforces equitable team balance -- the students certainly aren't going to say anything, and the leaders don't know enough about what's going on until after people have performed (and it's too late to cure the imbalance, and maybe not even then). Perhaps if the students self-select their teams, it might be more likely that the superstars can find each other and cluster onto their own teams, I don't know. I think that's how it was described to me, but in less detail. There's so much performance variability among programmers, it's hard to believe it's even possible for the groupings to be equitable.

Y'all know I've been reading through the Bible in Hebrew and Greek. There are numerous places (especially in the poetic books like Psalms and Proverbs) where even knowing what the Hebrew words mean, and knowing the grammatical structure, I still cannot make sense of the verse. I can look at the translation into English and see, yes, that's where that came from, but no way will I ever know Hebrew well enough to be able to read that and translate in real time. I (mostly) can do that in the gospels from Greek, but Greek is a European language like English, and much easier for a western mind like mine to wrap around it. But not some of the epistles, especially Hebrews and James. I knew that, which is partly why I know Paul did not write Hebrews, because I can read Paul's letters reasonably well. Mostly. Today I'm reading in 2Corinthians, and it's a lot harder that the first epistle, almost like it wasn't the same author. Sometimes the guy who took Paul's dictation adds his own greeting at the end, like Tertius in Rom.16:22, but not here. Other epistles list co-authors at the front, like Timothy in 2Corinth but not 1Corinth. I don't know if they contributed to the wording or not. Anyway, I got stuck on 2Cor.5:20 today:

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. -- oNIV

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christís stead, be ye reconciled to God. -- KJV

It's that second clause, the verb is 'parakalew' (usually translated "comfort" or "encourage") but it's a participle inflected in genitive to match "God" (that is, God is doing the comforting), but genitive means God is the source (of what? There's no main verb, and no noun referring to something coming from God). It could also be genitive absolute, effectively an independent clause describing attendant circumstances to the main verb and subject, but there's no main verb. OK, I can see how it probably means what the NIV translators did with it in 1973, which is a little different from what the King James translators did to it in 1611, but (like most of Psalms and Proverbs and Hebrews) I can't get there without help. There's no "you" there in the Greek, and I couldn't figure out who God was comforting. "Seeing we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses" takes on new meaning for me now. I need those guys' help. The cowboy must ride back into town to get his horse shod, and to get the bullet cut out of his shoulder. Other people know how to do those things, I don't.
 

2016 July 7 -- Feeling Old

You know you're getting old when your friends and colleagues are all dead. Most of them, anyway.

Long long ago, in a far-away place, I wrote a video game. I overran my budget, but the game company liked it so much he sent a couple Chinese programmers over from Hong Kong for me to teach. But that's another story. Anyway, the guy who set me up with that job decided I was a Good Guy, and showered me with numerous benefits. We eventually went our separate ways -- until he called me today. We talked for a while, and he mentioned hearing my name on a tech video, so he decided to call.

Afterwards, I Googled the video descriptor and watched it myself. It was about the first computer I ever owned (see "Half a Computer"), which was also the first true microprocessor, and various people talked about what went into its creation. There at the end they opened up for questions, and one of the people got up and reminded them of my resident assembler. He was one of the guys I wrote 4004 software for for money, so I Googled his name and found an email for him, but it bounced. Another of the Google hits spoke of him in the past tense. Apparently he died "1242 days ago." The video is here:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=j00AULJLCNo
and Bob is there for about ten seconds at 1:27:25. He's the guy I called "Dave" in my "I Am the Control Group" essay last year. Another guy I worked with in the security industry while I was in grad school, died maybe ten years ago. He invented computer-based alarm systems for home owners and small businesses, and I wrote all his original software. Some of them were still in use (with my software in them) fifteen years later: I could recognize the distinctive control panel on business walls near the door, including RadioShack and the church where I was a member for a while. He's gone. The company is too. The other founder wanted out and sold it to a conglomerate who understood neither the technology nor the market. It was a classic "buy high, sell low" investment like I seem to be doing more often than I would like to believe. sigh

Anyway, my friend and benefactor, the guy whose uncle (or cousin or whatever) was the game manufacturer, mentioned his two teen-age sons in connection with a project he's starting up. I don't have any kids, but my sister (slightly younger than me) has a teen-age granddaughter. Either my friend got his family started very late in life, or else he was a teen himself when I did that video game. Wow.
 

2016 July 6 -- Politics in Fiction

Most people who work with their minds instead of their muscles tend to be left-wing in their political persuasion, probably because left-wing politics is itself a mind game that interferes with getting things done ("Those who can, do; those who cannot, write"). There are exceptions (me, frex), but it's unusual to find them among screenwriters and best-selling novelists (see "Literary Inference"). The first I found was John Ringo who did a delightful short sci-fi series beginning with Live Free Or Die, which I mentioned six years ago. Some of his other fiction was really ugly, but politically very right of center (see "Really Bad Politics"). More recently Brad Thor came to my attention. The last couple of his novels that I read in the Scot Harvath series (currently Foreign Influence) you can tell he really does not like Obama's incompetent governance. His fictional Prez is not black and there are other irrelevant details obviously intended to provide plausible deniability, but his politics is pure Obama and loudly deprecated throughout the novels. I can't say I agree with all his complaints, but Thor is the only modern author I'm still reading -- besides Daniel Silva, which the local library doesn't have, so I need to send out for them. Thor has gotten a little heavy in favor of the feminazi agenda, but that apparently turned into a spin-off series I can just bypass.

For variety I'm reading Moby Dick, but it's heavy going, a few chapters at a time, then some recent stuff to lighten up.
 

2016 July 4 -- Liars Lie

It was better than your average American movie, and certainly better than your average sequel, but AFAIK the library didn't have the original flick so I don't know if it was any good or not. I got the impression it was a Bollywood flick (India's movie industry, the "B" for "Bombay" now pronounced "Mum-Buy") because the producer-logo commercials at the front were all odd names I'd never seen before, it was filled with bright colors, third-world tunes replaced the heavy-metal rock noise that you mostly hear in American flicks, and the dancing was synchronous (except for the guy in the story who didn't practice his steps). The moral of the story was pro-community (most movies have a moral, even if it's immoral or sociopathic, as is often the case in American flicks). The lead guy was India-Indian (I once heard native Americans refer to them as "purple Indians" to distinguish them from the "red" variety) with a strong accent, but most of the supporting characters were Americans and British, some with recognizable names.

What I found most memorable about this flick was (what I suppose was) the unintended message that in a culture that tolerates and encourages lying, nothing anybody says can ever be trusted. In the USA -- and to a lesser degree England and Europe as those cultures retreat from the Christian value system -- we have strong cultural values that are implicitly taught to children before they are able to do any moral calculus to understand why or why it is personally profitable to side-step the values, one of them being honesty. As a consequence dishonesty is much more disapproved here than in third-world countries like India where they have no such Christian heritage. Any adult can do the moral calculations, but most people find the values they were taught as little children too high a hurdle to step over; even the atheists who have no theological reason to follow Christian values, still cannot bring themselves to abdicate them. Yes, people here still lie, but they feel bad about it. They exhibit what poker players and spies call "tell"s, little twitches that betray the violation of those values. At least that's what all the novelists say; I wouldn't know, my BS Detector picks up different criteria and does not tell me if a particular claim is a lie or not, only if the person as a whole can be deemed trustworthy. When people lie all the time, it poisons not only everything they say, but also the whole culture. There was a lot of lying in this flick, and people got hurt from it.

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