Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year / Later this year
 

2018 June 25 -- InfoQuake

The cover blurb claims it "takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future." You need to understand that "speculative fiction" is a dressed-up name for fantasy, but the rest of the blurb sounded more credible. Maybe it is, maybe not (I'm only a third of the way through), but the author is rather hostile towards religion, which tends to diminish credibility. Completely ignoring the fact that the youngest of the world's main religions has survived (and grown) for more than a thousand years, he imagines that all of them have self-destructed about the time that AI machines staged a revolt against humanity (and were beaten, at some unspecified time in the not too distant future), and goofy new religions more or less like the new religions that got invented in the USA between 50 and 200 years ago took their place, probably to make it easier for him to ridicule them. Without actually mentioning "religion" he spent a chapter or so trying to nail down the function of religion in the real world, which is to define for a person what is True, regardless of any contrary facts. For example, if you are a good Catholic, then the Church defines what is True today. If you are Mormon, their Pope is called an Apostle. If you are an Atheist, (it's still religion, even though they reject the label) and it's whatever the consensus of atheist scientists say. Conservative Protestants claim it the Bible, but in fact it's whatever their denominational leadership tells you the Bible says -- which is usually slightly different. Muslims claim it's the Qu'ran, but they also have denominational authorities to interpret it, and to issue fatwas against other denominational authorities. Many people are their own god, picking and choosing what scraps of True they like from various sources. This author didn't say any of that (he's basically clueless, one of those unexamined self-gods), but what he did say is consistent with it.

The Big Questions that Religion answers are:

1. Where did we come from?

2. Where are we going? and most important,

3. Why should I do that?

Notice that even atheists have pat answers to those questions: (1) From the primordial slime by time, chance, and natural causes; (2) Nowhere; and (3) No reason (which is the same as Personal preference). Most atheists usually offer some societal norms for #3, but when you probe closer, they always reserve the right to make arbitrary exceptions for themselves, which reduces it to personal preference. Many nominal theists also make the same exception, which only proves that their deities or denominational leadership do not in fact define their religion, but rather (like the atheists) they are their own gods.

Anyway, because this novelist is his own god, he must work that into his story, and it makes for a rather convoluted plot, as he struggles with the obvious moral questions driving his hero and heroine. I suspect the moral issues are what he sees in American business, now a half-century after we took the Ten Commandments off the schoolroom walls. Even while they were up, nobody wanted to follow them, but they formed a social fabric that was hard to break out of. Now anybody -- and pretty much everybody -- has no moral compass, resulting in crime in the streets and moral disarray in both government and corporate leaders.

From his laudatory remarks, it appears that the author is somewhat of a "governmentalist" (his word), but he prefers the lower taxes of the libertarians. He has never lived under either regime taken to its logical conclusion, so he's not in a position to expose their fallacies. In his fictional dystopia, people choose what kind of government to live under the way Americans today choose what car to drive. It doesn't work that way, but never let it be said that fantasy writers were constrained by Reality. As one TV writer put it, "the wonderful thing about [speculative fiction] is that there are no guidelines, or like structures that you get stuck into, it's sci-fi, it's make-believe, you can do whatever you want, because who's to say it can't work?"

This is billed as Part One of a trilogy, but I doubt I'll go back for the sequels. In fact, I didn't see the sequels on the library shelf. I guess the librarian(s) or library patrons are there "to say it can't work." I may return this book without reading to the end, it's just not worth it.
 

2018 June 20 -- Drake's RCN

Last month I mentioned reading David Drake's "RCN" space opera novel series, and how he thumbs his nose at the feminazi agenda to which the political realities of the modern marketplace requires his obeisance. A couple years down the road, the hero is still a guy, and he spends less time boozing and bedding bimbos (Drake said so), but his "sociopathic" heroine is taking a more active leadership role.

I got to thinking about this agenda, and it seems to me that the whole feminazi thing is self-destructive in the same way that Darwinist ideology self-destructs when they deny the existence of logical, purposeful behavior. If the feminist claim that there is no difference between men and women other than reproductive organs were actually true, then there is no ontological reason for distinct male and female pronouns and names. The RCN series is set some 3000 years in our future, and some planets and governments are still chauvinistic (men have more political power than women) in Drake's universe, while others -- notably the hero's home world -- are more enlightened. Why? We've had a whole thousand-year dark ages ("hiatus" in Drake's space-op culture, when space travel ceased) to iron things out to their ontological reality -- and I claim it did! Drake still must genuflect to the idiocy of 21st century religion to get published, but the forms nonetheless still require him to use gender-based pronouns because there is a difference, and his 21st-century readers all know it.

Completely unrelated, "RCN" stands for Republic of Cinnabar Navy, and Drake has made this a combat and political environment, because that's what he knows. It works well. So what do drunken sailors do? Then as now, they sing bawdy sailor songs. Each volume in this series spends a few lines on the lyrics of one or more songs they sing in that distant future. Before The Road of Danger I sort of figured Drake made up the songs, but this time I recognized the lyrics as that of a parody of an American hymn, which I learned from my uncle who sang folk songs in night clubs while working his way through college. The hymn I already knew:
 

1.We praise Thee, O God!
   For the Son of Thy love,
   For Jesus Who died,
   And is now gone above.
Refrain:
         Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
         Hallelujah! Amen.
         Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
         Revive us again.
As I recall it, the parody more or less preserved the first and last lines:
1...
   For the springtime has come,
   We can lay down our shovels,
   And go on the bum.
Refrain:
         Hallelujah! I'm a bum.
         Hallelujah! Bum again.
         Hallelujah! Give us a handout
         To revive us again.
Drake quoted the three "Hallelujah" lines from the refrain. From his references to religion in these novels, it appears that Drake is not particularly hostile to it, but also (like almost all successful novelists) not himself observant, so I can see why he'd leave out the first and last lines.

Come to think of it, I don't recall hearing this hymn in church since I went to college more than six decades ago. I suppose that the music directors in churches are also familiar with the parody and (fearing that the parishoners were too) thought bringing it to mind unlikely to be conducive to a good worshipful attitude. Can't say I blame them, although many modern (CCM) songs aren't much better (see "God of Yin & Yang").
 

2018 June 14 -- "Open Source Isn't Secure"

Computer security is an important issue for everyone (not just the computer geeks) because the whole world economy runs on computers. ComputingEdge is a professional magazine that comes free with my membership in the IEEE, and mostly seems to be worth what I paid for it, but this month it looked more interesting. For instance, page 10 describes "The New Killer App for Security: Software Inventory," which starts out being as informative and useful as watching a printer spit out paper -- until the second page, with the section head that I pulled out for my title today. Why is this interesting? The next page tells about Equifax, whose data break-in "exposing the financial data of as many as 143 million US consumers." You don't want to do business with Equifax, and most important, you don't want them grabbing up your private financial data and giving it to people who can use it maliciously against you, but there they are, doing just that. What protection do you have? According to this article, pretty much none.

As I pointed out elsewhere, all this big push to encrypt websites and lock out ordinary people from public information -- such as taxpayer-paid-for weather and Post Office information and state and Federal laws -- is a waste of time and money, because it doesn't work. Equifax lost their data from their servers, so encrypting their website was completely worthless.

It gets worse. Most web servers and browsers are "open source" which means that the user or webmaster didn't want to pay big bucks to make sure it is well-written and properly validated. Of course it isn't: pretty much everything is written in C or C++ (which I tell people is the grade teachers used to give to students whose work is not good enough for an A or B, see "C++ Considered Harmful"). According to this expert, open source software is not secure. That means that encryption applied to the data is worthless even for data on the website.

Windows and OSX are not themselves open source, but much of the software people run on their personal computers is open source (because it's "free"), so their computers are vulnerable when they do that.

The next article in the same magazine proudly announces the "Journal of Open Source Software," thereby encouraging people to write more of the garbage. Do these editors read their own stuff?

That doesn't mean that paid-for software is much better. This guy argues for comprehensive tracking of known vulnerabilities in all the software you care about -- in a business, this means the software you use to run your business; as a customer, it means the businesses using software to provide goods and services you care about. Are you in a position to do that? I didn't think so. YOU CAN BE HACKED.

Not me. Sometimes I tell people "I'm a Luddite." ;-) Not really, just that I avoid computer technology poorly done -- which is most of it. The (classic) MacOS was the last really well-done system. But you knew that, I whine about its brittle and lame successors often enough. It probably has more to do with the times we live in than the technology [Gen.6:5, Matt.24:37].
 

2018 June 4 -- World's Most Ethical?

The back of the envelope proudly announced that this bank has been "one of the world's most ethical companies ... for the fourth year in a row." Like people who tell you to "trust me" (which means you shouldn't), I wonder how ethical a company can be if the only way you can know it is if they must tell you. I once had a Muslim Imam tell me to my face that "Allah is gracious [like the Christian God], it says so in the very first verse of the Qu'ran." I checked: it does indeed say that, but it's not at all like the way the Christian God is gracious. Yes, it's also in the Bible that God is gracious, but you have to know where to find it, because God does not need to brag, we can see it in how God acts. Nevermind what the preachers tell you, the God of the Bible is far more interested in good behavior than He is in words about that behavior; Jesus said so, and God Himself lives up to the standards He asks of us. You cannot see that in the actions of Allah. You cannot see it in the actions of Allah's servants, who behave so cruelly that they must cover their faces in shame. So I have to wonder why these companies need to tell you how ethical they are.

The list of 135 companies so honored is open to the public, but the criteria by which they have been chosen is not: not only is their website encrypted and only accessible if you (or your browser) know the secret password, but they still don't tell you. Are they (like the Muslims) ashamed? That hardly speaks well of their choices. I found a few vague generalizations and some telling clues:

The Ethics Quotient Survey is based on Ethisphere's proprietary methodology...
Basically, they are telling you openly that their process is not open to public review. Yup. Why am I not surprised?
Download the 2017 redacted scorecard for a glimpse at the types of data we collect
"Redacted" means they removed anything likely to tell you the truth. It's a word used by the atheists to (falsely) criticize the Bible, but in the case of the Bible, they have no evidence of redaction, and substantial evidence to the contrary (see my "Insights from Reading Greek & Hebrew"). Here the redactors are confessing to the crime. Furthermore, you get "a glimpse at the types of data" but no clue how they interpret it.
Diversity and inclusion, investment and long-term commitment, and constructive use of a company's voice are now the hallmarks of what stakeholders are expecting and investors are rewarding.
There's your clue: "Diversity" is a code word used by people who are religiously bigotted and intolerant of anybody too diverse for their narrow-minded hostility to ethical values that have survived the test of time. Usually you can see it in how they treat their employees -- for example Google's mistreatment of James Damore.
We have a deep expertise in measuring and defining core ethics standards using data-driven insights that help companies enhance corporate character and believe integrity and transparency impact the public trust and the bottom line of any organization.
There's some truth there -- notably that last line, where "integrity and transparency impact the public trust and the bottom line of any organization" -- but this "deep experience" could mean anything (or nothing at all). I wrote a tennis video game 35 years ago (see my "Reminiscences of an Early Game Programmer") and somebody who played the game exhaustively for weeks and months might arguably claim to have "a deep experience in" playing tennis, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be shut out by Billy Jean King on a real tennis court. One of the claims that got Trump elected President is that he could fix what was broken in Washington, but when he got there, it didn't work that way. All of Trump's "deep experience" in running large corporations -- which experience his predecessor obviously had none of, and therefore made his own mistakes trying to run a super-power country in a hostile world -- didn't do Trump any good at all. Politics works differently from running a large organization, and both Presidents lacked half of the required expertise. Why should I believe the secretive self-congratulation of this company?

Anyway, I looked at the list of companies lauded by this nobody-company. There were several banks. If part of their "ethical" analysis involves how they treat people they interact with, then you'd expect banks to do well, because that's pretty much all they do. Some banks formerly did unethical things with money -- that led to the S&L scandal a few decades ago, and probably to the housing collapse more recently -- but the government responded by tying the banks' hands, so it is now really hard not to be "ethical" as a bank. For pretty much the same reasons, there were some non-profit hospitals and several health insurance companies. Expect these to drop off the list in the next four or five years as ObamaCare continues to take its inexorable toll on the American health care system. Unless somebody changes the rules. Since deciding who is "ethical" is not an open and public process, they can change the rules at any time and who's to know?

There were several tech companies on the list -- notably Dell and Microsoft -- but not Apple, and especially not Google. Now I wonder why not? Who can know, it's a secret decision process. But we knew about Google. Apple has had the same problem for a lot longer, which is why I decided several years ago it makes no sense for me to write iPhone apps. We are not told why they didn't make it onto this list, but (as Jesus said in another context) "a bad tree does not bear good fruit." What you are inside will be seen in what you do.
 

2018 June 2 -- Taking Out the Bad Guys

I'm reading in Judges these days, and there's this story about a guy and his common-law wife (the way most Americans do marriage today), they got into a tiff and she went home to Papa, and he went after her and everybody made nice. It doesn't say so, but most likely her Dad told her in no uncertain terms to "Do the Right Thing." Fathers need (and are needed) to do that, and back then they mostly did. So this guy wants to take her home, but his father-in-law wants him to stay and party. After a few days of back and forth, the guy and his wife and servant and donkey finally get out of the house in Bethlehem late in the day. They came to Jerusalem (I think a couple hours walk) near sundown, but the Jebusites there weren't taking Jewish travelers as guests, so they continued on to Gibeah, where the Jews there weren't any more welcoming than the foreigners in Jerusalem. There's no way they could continue in the dark to the next town, and his home is in the next province beyond that, so they set up camp in the town square, and some old farmer on his way home from the field stumbles over them and takes them in.

The men -- at one point they are called "the lords" -- of Gibeah are a bunch of jerks (my translation), and [X-rated material omitted] they kill the wife and leave her on the doorstep, where the guy finds her the next morning. What's he going to do? This is the local government and "you can't fight city hall." So he cuts her body into ten pieces and sends the parts to the other ten tribes of Israel -- not counting Benjamin, in which Gibeah is a city, probably the capital, and not counting Levi because they had no territory of their own. Anyway, the rest of the country is horrified, and "as one man" they rose up to do something about this atrocity, just as Americans did when Bin Laden's team took out the World Trade Center. It's what civilized people do when uncivilized jerks make mayhem in their midst.

I mention this because one of the movies I watched last week is still riding heavily on my mind. It was an American remake of a Danish flick about a couple of soldiers taken captive in Afghanistan. The Danes are a lot farther down the slippery slope away from Christian values (Truth, Justice, and Duty) than Americans, but the director of the remake seemed to think the scenario credible for us too (he as much as said so in his "Making of" documentary) -- maybe I'm too optimistic, but I don't think so. Decide for yourself. So we have this private and a lieutenant, and the Afghans pick on the private first, and make him say on camera "I do not belong here" (we Americans are intruding). Then they bring out the officer and offer him a no-win deal (still on camera), "Beat the private to death, or I kill you both." Finally the American Army came in and rescued him (the camera got smashed) and the rest of the flick is about him trying to cope with his guilt.

One of the things about movies is that the author and the director and the actors get to take their time thinking about what message they are saying, but the viewer must take it at the speed the flick delivers it. This is a Bad Thing, because you don't have time to evaluate and think things out for yourself. So I'm still thinking about it a week later, and I keep coming back to the Biblical value system. Not in real time (I think too slowly for reel time), but I'm not a soldier, I don't kill people for a living. I don't want to kill people. By God's Providence, I escaped VietNam by working in a government lab. But somebody has to do it, because there are Bad People in the world, and sometimes violence is the only way to make them stop harming innocent women and children. It's Biblical.

So my pontificating is probably worth less than the pixels you are seeing it in. *I* think that we should not let the Bad People set the agenda. The Afghans in this flick were making a propaganda movie, and their agenda was to show the world that the Americans are the Bad Guys. We don't have to do that. First of all, the officer should have dropped the pipe and put his hands up. This is a well-known defenseless posture. If they shoot him in that position, it ruins their propaganda. Then -- I learned this from sci-fi novelist John Ringo, and have not yet found any Biblical objection to it -- you take the private off the negotiating table. "Look, you already told me that the private is dead either way, and it looks like I'm dead either way too, either from your bullet or by self-destruction, so you have not offered me any reason to comply. No dice. No movie."

The private could have done better too: "You're right, I don't belong here, but you invited me. There was a very Bad Guy, a killer of innocent women and children, people who did nothing to harm him or you, but he killed our people. We need to stop him, and we asked you politely to turn him over, we want him not you, but you said 'We're with him, come and get him.' So we're doing that. You invited us. You want us out? Turn him over. Or quit complaining." This happened several times in the Bible -- generally without comment, but the moral is clear: The Good Guys need to take out the Really Bad Guys, and if you get in the way, if you try to protect them, then you are one of the Bad Guys, and you get what you deserve.
 

2018 May 29 -- Poverty and the Golden Rule

As Jesus pointed out, God is into details: He cares about the individual sparrows and the number of hairs on your head. Some people are detail-oriented, but I try to focus on the Big Picture, to keep The Important Thing as The Important Thing, without (as Jesus said on another occasion) neglecting the details. Marvin Olasky, editor of WORLD magazine, is, as I pointed out some five years ago and again earlier this year, a Big Picture guy who doesn't want to be bothered with the details. If the details are wrong, the big picture probably also is corrupt (because every Big Picture is composed of little details) or the unexamined details might actually be OK. This month -- a couple weeks ago, but when the rag has so little "urgent" news, and is so cavalier about the facts, I don't feel much pressure to read it the day it arrives -- Olasky got one right.

The article, like everything in paper journalism these days, is more opinion than fact, but he compares two approaches to how we might relate to the poor and homeless, and sees in the difference a fundamental difference in Christian faith, one Protestant, the other Catholic. He quotes Martin Luther calling for "the abolition of all begging throughout Christendom," and compares that attitude with Matteo da Bascio founding an order of monks who became poor to live alongside others who ramained poor.

Olasky did not say so, but both approaches are based on Christian theology. Becoming poor is what Jesus Christ did for us, but it did not stop there. The long-term goal of Christ's poverty is that we might become rich. Luther started out as a monk, but he read his Bible more carefully than his colleagues. Neither Luther nor his successors today understand the message of Jesus as The Two Great Commandments -- Love God first above all else, then Love your neighbor as yourself -- but the Golden Rule is inextricably bound up in what Christians teach, even if they don't want to make it theologically significant. Da Bascio loved his neighbor as himself by taking himself down to the level of his neighbor, and staying there. The rest of us obey the spirit of the commandment by lifting (or at least trying to lift) the neighbor up to a higher level, because that's what we want for ourselves. The result is that poverty tends to go away by the Protestant method, but only gets worse by the Catholic way. You can see its long-term effects in countries dominated by Protestant theology (northern Europe and the USA) as compared to countries dominated by Catholic theology (southern Europe and Latin America). You can also see the effects in Africa, a hundred years after Protestant and Catholic missionaries staked out their respective areas of dominance: literacy and democracy and general wealth is much higher in post-Protestant countries than in post-Catholic countries (see "God Is Good for You" four years ago).

Atheism has no Golden Rule at all (except as leftovers from Christian parents and grandparents), so as the Christian heritage of the USA gets replaced by atheism, the wealth our work ethic brought on the whole nation is also getting replaced by poverty and crime. Islam never had a Golden Rule as a significant part of their dogma, so poverty is much worse in Muslim-dominated countries. Both Catholics and Muslims confer a blessing on giving to the poor, so in order to be blessed, the rich must keep the poor poor. Atheists have no blessings other than what you can get for yourself, which is usually (but not logically) understood as the strong taking from the weak, which has the same effect, only worse. That's why atheism tends to destroy the economy of the countries where it holds rule.

The Golden Rule is a rising tide that lifts all boats. Making other people wealthy enables them to return the favor. That's subtle, and most people -- especially most politicians -- don't get it. And we are impoverished by their ignorance.

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2018 May 25 -- Blame the Church

The cover story on the current issue of WORLD magazine is about "Spousal Abuse." The title is part of the problem, but not all. There are several issues, most of them consequences of Christian teaching, but mostly not directly taught in the Bible. I think it portentous that the headlines and drop-cap section break initials use a font missing the bottom of each letter, like they are a visual cue that we have lost the footing of our message. But I doubt the graphic designer had that in mind.

Democracy is one of those Biblical-but-not issues, because in God's eyes "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female: for all are one in Christ Jesus." Of course Paul was writing to the Church; the pagans and unbelievers are not equal with the Christians in God's perspective. Paul also did not add "neither Apostle nor layman" to the list, because I don't think he believed it. Jesus set up hierarchies among his Disciples, where Peter, James and John -- always those three in that order -- were invited to go with Jesus to places the others were not. The Apostles made the decisions in the early church, and the rest of the people merely gave assent. Being "one in Christ Jesus" did not seem to extend to ministerial duties and priviledges -- the church ministered to widows, not widowers, and Paul did not allow women to have teaching (=voting) authority. Democracy first appeared (for a short while) in ancient Greece and lasted only a couple hundred years in Athens (shorter periods in other Greek city-states), but it was not the deep democracy we in western countries enjoy today: only the landed gentry -- or at least free men, who didn't need to work (as slaves) for a living -- could vote. British Parliament was also originally only of the male nobility. Government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" is an American invention, where it came out of the Protestant notion of the priesthood of all believers. It is a consequence of Biblical teaching, but not Biblical. And as some of the Greek philosophers observed, it is unstable and likely to disolve into tyranny -- as indeed it has in many places and many times. The USA is itself tottering on the ragged edge of tyranny: some people think Trump is the beginning of it, others thought the same of his predecessor, both with credible justification.

The primary cause of wife abuse is the physical fact that men and women are not the same. Men are stronger, and able to beat up on women, and power corrupts. It would not happen very much at all if they were equal in every way and not merely in the minds of the feminazis. Actually the feminists don't really believe it either, as I pointed out numerous times elsewhere. Three states and a half-dozen churches ago in my life, one of the guys in our little home study group was a retired army chaplain, originally from Missouri or Kansas or somewhere near there, and he told of a time when he was much younger, and one of the guys at the local watering hole disappeared for a week or so; when he re-appeared, he was all bruised. It seems he was married to the sister of one of the other guys who found out she was being beaten by her husband, and the brother assembled some of the other guys and met him out in the alley one night. He didn't beat his wife any more. That remedy is the way things were done in Biblical times and is consistent with what the Bible teaches about the responsibility of godly Christian men in protecting the helpless, but it's not exactly legal in the USA today. Guess why we have more wife abuse now than we did 60 years ago.

But it's not the only reason. This article mentioned two different couples, in both cases husband and wife were both members in good standing of their local church, but the husbands lived different lives at home than they did in church, so the church leadership had no clue. A large part of the problem is that these guys are not getting Biblical guy teaching in church, they are getting Feeler froth -- plus not a little "servant leader" nonsense, with which at least one of the church elders admitted the conflict. But they get plenty of the world's guy teaching: "Be strong!" They see it in mens' sports, they see it in the "guy flick" movies and TV, they even see it in the ads aimed at men. If we in the church gave men important and manly Biblical work to do (Duty, Truth, and Justice) instead of wimpy Feeler "love" stuff, then they'd have less reason to listen to the world for advice on how to be who they are. And I suspect the women (hearing the same) would also be less likely to accuse the men of "emotional abuse" when there's no physical violence.

The church leaders this article interviewed appeared to be of complementarian persuasion (men and women are different), but a lot of churches are implicitly or explicitly egalitarian (no difference). This teaching is not only unBiblical ("male and female created He them") but contrary to all our experience. When we recognize and teach that men are stronger and have a DUTY to protect the weaker sex, then a guy who tries to abuse his wife will find he cannot justify his behavior logically nor in the presence of other guys. The guys will pick up on the cues and take him aside. Maybe not to beat him up, but at least to make it clear that HE IS WRONG. People need to be told that. That's why integrity is gone from American businesses today: we took the Ten Commandments off the school walls 60 years ago, and people now reasonably believe that lying and stealing and adultery and even murder are OK, just don't get caught. "Chinese junk" used to refer to an oriental sailing vessel, but now it refers to the products you buy at WalMart because the Chinese never did believe in integrity -- shame yes, but that's the same as "Don't get caught." We as Christians need to do better than that.

Mostly, however, I think we Christians need to stop preaching "easy believism" and "cheap grace," and return to teaching the gospel according to the Bible: If you want to go to Heaven, do the Two Great Commandments (1+2C: Love God above all else, and the Golden Rule -- which includes don't beat up on weaker people). If you don't want to do those things now, what makes you think you will like it any better in Heaven? God cannot allow you in His Heaven unless you always only do 1+2C there; otherwise it wouldn't Heaven for the rest of us. If you start now, then even your unbelieving neighbors will think they're in Heaven. And wife abouse will stop. Slipped up? That's what forgiveness is for, but don't make a habit of it. Forgiveness should not be easier than permission. Repentance is not shedding a false tear in church on Sunday while living an unchanged life the other 6.8 days, repentance is (as Jesus said) "Stop sinning." You can do that -- or at least get a lot closer than you are today. If you want to.

But you won't see this advice in WORLD magazine. You won't see it in ChristianityYesterday. There will be a lot of people outside the gates of Heaven on Judgment Day wondering why they're not inside, because you also won't hear it from church pulpits where they sat each Sunday. Repent!

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2018 May 23 -- Christianity [Yesterday]

I think I first encountered ChristianityToday (CT) when I was in seminary in the mid sixties, and I have been a subscriber for most of the five decades since then, although reading it tends to slide when I get busy. I always appreciated that they tried really hard to take no sides on contentious issues like politics and Spiritual Gifts (giving equal space to both parties in each case). Perhaps they thought they were doing the same to the science of origins, but most often they gave much more space to people who preferred the teachings of the atheists over the inerrant teachings of Scripture. I emphasize the word "inerrant" here because CT was at the front of the big (and entirely valid) push for "Biblical Inerrancy" 40 years ago this October.

Case in point: last January they ran an uncritical interview with a climate scientist who bemoaned the lack of (conservative) Christian support for his chosen profession, and was quoted saying "I am constantly struck by the fact that the reception I get from my tribe [the Christians] is worse than the reception I get from other tribes." He then went on to speak of "The vast consensus of the scientific community..." My regular readers know what I (and science novelist Michael Crichton) think of so-called "scientific consensus" (see "Consensus in Science" ten years ago). I wrote to complain (see The Letter I Sent) -- not about Thomas Ackerman, he can believe any silly and unscientific thing he wants, and if somebody is willing to pay him for it, that's not much different than prostitutes and bar tenders and pot vendors, whose wares are also legal (in some states) but not particularly helpful to the people -- but rather because CT is so one-sided in their reporting on science as it relates to Christianity. They ignored me. Like Thomas Ackerman, they can do that, but I will be less eager to praise the magazine Billy Graham helped to start than I was in the past.

So when they ran an opinion piece this month titled "Stop Apologizing for Apologetics" by Joshua Chatraw. I read it, but didn't bother to critique his goofy and/or muddy logic in another letter to the editor which they probably would decide is too honest (negative) for their pages. Maybe I'm too negative for my (few) blog readers too, you decide. More...

Bottom line: I'm beginning to think the "Today" in the magazine name might be as outdated as Chatraw's attitude toward epistemology, hence the subject line of today's posting.
 

2018 May 22 -- Pagan Theology in Church?

I've been puzzling over this song for several days now. The chorus is Biblical: God is Good. That was intentional: the songwriter cites Psalm 136:1 and Psalm 100:5 as the Scriptural basis for his lyrics. Unfortunately, his song says a lot more than merely that God is good. When I came home from church with the words bouncing around in my head, I thought he was urging his singers to make promises they can't -- nay, don't even much want to -- keep, which is totally contrary to much of what my Bible tells me, but when I Googled the lyrics, they were different from what I remembered. Not great, but different. I don't know if our praise team changed the words, or if I remembered wrong (probably the latter).

But I didn't know what to make of the verses. "Let the King of my heart be The mountain when I run, The fountain I drink from;... The wind inside my sails,... The fire inside my veins." Maybe it's just poetic nonsense, the sort of feel-good "God loves me" that most American church members consider to be the essence of their faith but is rather harder to find in the Bible.

Or maybe the singer wants "the King of [his] heart" (that is, his god) to be parts of the creation instead of the Creator. Notice that he has cited exactly the four elements of pagan Reality: Earth (mountain), Water (fountain, waves), Air (wind), and Fire. McMillan and his followers can worship whomever they please -- Jesus is never mentioned in this song, and God only once, in the last line. But like Joshua, "Me and my house, we will serve the LORD," I want to praise and worship the Creator, not the creation [Rom.1:25].

But I don't know if that's what he meant or not, it's too obscure. What ever happened to "singing psalms and hymns and Spiritual songs"?
 

2018 May 16 -- Bible-Thumping Liars & Thieves

Spammers and telemarketers are mostly liars and thieves -- thieves because time is money, and they are stealing your attention (time), where even so small an increment as it takes to delete their unwanted and unlawful message adds up by orders of magnitude into dollars per day, and liars because they know they wouldn't get past the spam filters or the CallerID if they honestly told you their purpose, so the telemarketers put up a (different each time) phony phone number in the same area code, which is a lie because the number they put up isn't even connected, and the spammers put up phony subjects designed to sneak past the spam filters and to dishonestly attract your attention.

Around the turn of the year some four months ago, the service provider ("ISP") for my website decised to get out of the business and sold out to some other company with different business values than I signed up for. The last time this happened, I found and moved to another ISP, deleted all my files from their server, then asked for a refund on the service they were now unwilling and unable to provide, and not only did they refuse, they sent me up for collection on subsequent (unpaid, unused) months of service. This particular ISP was some fly-by-night company with corporate headquarters on some Caribbean island and servers (judging from the error messages and time zone) somewhere in eastern Europe, perhaps an impoverished former Communist country already raped and pillaged by the Marxists. I told the collection company that I was perfectly willing to pay the ISP for service, and I tried to pay them from my credit card as I previously did when the account was set up but they refused, and if they'd give me a USA address to mail my check to, I would pay it. I never heard from them again. I did not expect much better from this ISP, and was pleasantly surprised to see a $151 credit on my credit card statement a couple months later.

The (now former) ISP did other things right, too. I had to deal with one or two spam emails a day (some days none), so that I often wondered why other websites were so timid about exposing an email address for contact. Now I know: my spam rate jumped up to something like 60-70 per day. The new host told me his spam filters were not particularly good, and the rate he's charging me is very good, so it's not like I'm being cheated (not by him). The usual obscenities are much more devious -- because most ISP spam filters already know the words we all saw a decade ago, so they now use other words to lie their way past the robot filters, words that people can figure out, but robots (neural nets) cannot (see my essay "The Problem with 21st Century AI") -- but I'm also seeing daily promotions for manicure products and "injection moulding" and stuff that real people might buy, but that *I* would never buy from a liar or thief.

And two or three times a week, I get some spam for an ordinary product like a dietary suplement with "Bible" or "Jesus" in the subject line. There are enough atheists and Muslims and Jews on the internet so that undirected spam like this sent to everybody would result in more damage than profit to their business, and I have to believe that they have a robot scraping the internet looking for those words -- which you will see here in my blog from time to time -- and targeting unsuspecting Christians with their lies and theft. Which is rather funny in a morbid sort of way, because their spam proves they are liars and thieves and not Christians -- why would I want to buy products of any kind from so disreputable a vendor, let alone one intentionally preying on my choice of religion? -- but I guess it was another liar and thief in another time who said "There's a sucker born every day." Christians -- good believers, not merely label-carriers -- wouldn't do those kinds of things, and they find it hard to believe that there are other people more wicked than themselves, so they tend to be more gullible than the average sinner. Jesus said (of people less likely to do you harm than these spammers) "They have their reward." Indeed they do.
 

2018 May 15 -- Like Naaman the Leper

I'm reading this space opera series by David Drake -- I'd read the whole series (all five or six of them) up to the current year in Misery, and then went on to other stuff. That was a long time ago, and when I got to the "D"s in the sci-fi section of the Josephine County Library I no longer remembered his name -- until I read the cover blurb. I also did not remember where I left off, so I chose the earliest I could not remember seeing. There were some familiar scenes, but not enough to spoil a second reading (if that's what it was). I'm now nearing the end of #7.

David Drake is a 21st century author, and he genuflects at the altar of feminazism the way a mafioso genuflects in church: because that's what you do, but not because you believe it enough to change your behavior to conform. So the smartest and most competent people in this series are women, and the lead guy is a drunken lecher -- but only off-duty; most of the time he's the best military commander in the whole universe. Drake has seen war (in VietNam), so he understands how combat works. He also reads history and admits to using historical battles as his plotlines. You can't get any better than True Life. Oh, and those super-competent over-smart women? He thumbs his nose at the feminists by making them heartless sociopaths. Actually, like many top-grade authors forced to bow to the altar of a false goddess they do not believe in, his computer geek is not a woman at all, except in name and pronouns.

The people who care about women's social roles are like my father's often remark: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." If the Feminazis were as smart as the people who actually succeed at the cognitive tasks they only whine about, they would notice that Drake's feminism is superficial only. How do I know they don't? Right there on the cover is a promo-quote from somebody with a female name gushing over Drake's writing. This is guy fiction, not chick-lit, so (I suppose, not being one of them) the people who are likely to be persuaded by a promo on the front cover would more likely respond to another guy. Her place there is solely because she and her ilk have not figured out what a misogynist Drake really is. And that's OK, this is guy fiction, not chick-lit.

The guys whose brains are wired up in such a way that makes them able to do geeky computer stuff, they do it; and the women who only wish they had that kind of status and respect mostly only talk about it. And yes, there is a physiological difference that makes it either possible or improbable, and yes, there is a statistical gender difference. You can read about it in research published by women, because men are not stupid, they know that publishing scientific facts contrary to the religious dogma supported by the Establishment (read: government and left-wing bigots like Google) is a good way to get crucified. For every James Damore or Robert Gentry who gets fired for telling the truth, there are a thousand more who see him and cower silently.

So David Drake is sort of like that commander in the Syrian army more than 2700 years ago, whose job required him to enter into the pagan temple on the arm of his employer and bow at the altar, but who was at pains to explain to the Prophet of the True God that it was nothing more than his job. Bravo Drake! So far, anyway. I have ten more years of RCN novels to read and (perhaps) become disgusted at. I certainly hope not, but Stuff Happens.
 

2018 May 10 -- No Lions Are Dandy

The locals seem to like this part of the country -- the word "oregon" is Greek for "longing" -- but I have not found much reason to prefer it over other places I have lived. Did I mention it rains here? I had enough rain as a child to last my whole lifetime, but God seems to be of the opinion that rain is a blessing which He bestows on all people whether they deserve it or not [Mt.5:45], and far be it from me to say otherwise. Rain and sunshine make the crops grow, so that I get to eat. That's a blessing. Nevermind that here in Oregon they waste the cropland on other products of no use to anyone in their right mind.

Anyway, I live in what I was told is the poorest county in the state, and (mostly because of that wasted cropland) in a house costing twice what a much bigger and nicer house in the State of Misery sells for, with a front yard smaller than the house, but the rains make it grow. Just not grass. My program seems to be running -- I only await a piece of hardware to run the final test, and the hardware guy has other alligators around his waist -- so I decided to level off the foliage in the front yard before poisoning some of God's green earth so that I could encourage other green stuff to grow in its place, but I couldn't start the mower.

There's a time when a pick and shovel is better than a Bobcat (see my essay "Computer Power" from a couple months ago) and this seemed to be one of them, so I spent the next couple hours making sure no lions in my front yard are dandy. Maybe some of them are still spiffy, the weed poison should take care of that when my tuits start coming up round again. Basically I dug out all the yellow flowers, and all the tall plants likely to sprout yellow flowers... Apparently dandelions come in three flavors, tall spiney blue-gray and flat yellow-green, which can be either spiney or smooth, but all of them have a characteristic lobed leaf with one wider lobe at the end, and several smaller lobes up the sides.

The back yard, which is smaller, is filled with volunteer poppies, mostly the California variety -- about half of them orange all over and the other half yellow with orange centers. Later last year I got taller pink and blue poppies, the kind that make little pepper-shaker seed pods. It was a riot of color.

Anyway, today was an effort for a sedentary guy like me, and I lost a couple pounds in as many hours. Tomorrow I may become a Norse god -- you've heard the story? He was out riding around on his white stallion, throwing thunderbolts and such, and after a successful day sat up straight and pounded his chest and yelled "I'm Thor!" The horse looks up at him and says, "Tho am I." Me too. Not yet, maybe tomorrow.
 

2018 May 7 -- Women Are Different from Men

Nevermind what the clerics of the Established American National religion and their acolytes try to tell you, everybody knows -- and almost everybody (openly or covertly) admits that men and women are fundamentally different, and not just in their reproductive organs. It was a pretty good flick, good suspense, no sex that I can recall, not much gutter talk, and sometimes in otherwise good movies you just need to ignore the fact that the lead character is a woman, because mostly she's playing a guy, not a woman. The director understood that and said so. I think he said the story was originally written for a guy, but they thought it would be "different" if a woman played the part. His lead cop, telling another person (and us) why this particular incident was not a suicide, said "Women don't shoot themselves in the head." What he didn't say is that the feminazis who were his superiors (and in court) deny any differences. That wasn't important to the story, but it follows from what he did say. The director is not feminazi, but he also doesn't want to annoy some of his potential audience -- possibly including his lead actress -- who might be.

The actress Jodie Foster offered her opinions on the character she played, "What she did was Wrong." Well, maybe in a Christian world (that is, as governed by God's Law, not necessarily the kind of world populated by people who call themselves "Christian") where self-defense is deprecated, yes, but most people (myself and the Mennonites possibly excepted) believe that self-defense is a right, and that right is enshrined in the law of this land. The director called it "a revenge movie," but you couldn't know it before the last 20 minutes. She bought and used her gun for self-defense only, when her life was clearly being threatened by Bad Guys trying to assault and/or kill her. (If the victim dies, and certainly in God's Law) revenge is murder, I do not condone it, and I don't really like revenge flicks. I said so at least once here. But like I said, there was hardly a hint of it until the last 20 minutes or so. I am much more annoyed by flicks that spend most of their screen time in bodies grunting in bed (also contrary to God's Law) or foul language (ditto) or the feminazi agenda (probably also, but more arguably).

Besides, when the people God has put into place to punish the wicked and protect the widows and orphans fail to do their job, God will raise up somebody who does. They made that point several times in this flick -- not the God part, but everything else. Jodie's character wasn't a widow -- she missed that by a couple days, I think he was stalling (guys do that, not women) -- but there was an orphan who needed protecting, and the government wasn't doing it. She did. I don't think God condones vigilantism, but He's not above using it for His purposes (think of what He said about "Nebuchadnezzar my servant").

This flick was not feminazi: the cops were all guys, and the one we saw most was reasonably competent. Jodie's character's job was a radio talk show (and her immediate boss was a woman), but those are things women are known to be good at. The director wasn't saying "We need to show all the smart people are women," -- Jodie's character wasn't the sharpest tack in the box -- he was just doing what all modern artists believe to be their God-given duty, which is to jerk the audience around. I don't much care for it, but there are worse things in the world -- like getting your boyfriend beaten to death before your eyes.
 

2018 May 5 -- Writing What They Don't Know

Imagine, if you can, a universe where there is no (first) cause, everything just sort of happens by accident and random "quantum" fluctuations -- and yet in this mythical universe there actually are inviolate laws of nature, things that must or cannot just happen. There really are people who believe this nonsense, so just suppose you might be one of them. Furthermore, stretch your imagination to suppose that in this mythical universe, there are some foolish people who (against all reason -- is there such a thing?) believe that there really is a First Cause Who controls the universe. You are not one of them, but there are a lot of them.

Now if you are a novelist, and you make your living selling plausible (but fiction) stories about those inviolate laws of nature in a universe which just happened out of nothing for no reason, and in which your readers and even yourself "evolved" by random chance by no laws of nature that can be observed nor measured, but there you all are, and they buy your books so you can eat and pay your mortgage. So writing a story about the kind of world the majority of foolish people believe in, a story about a God Who can do anything He wants to with nature and its laws, because He created it, it sort of makes sense to explore what kind of world that would be. It's fiction, no sensible person believes that kind of thing could really happen, but there are a lot of foolish people who really do believe it, so let's see what kind of world that might be.

The people I just described are called "sci-fi novelists" and they really do imagine, against all sound logic, that they live in the universe you just imagined, a universe which the more honest of them readily admit makes no sense at all but there it is, and they did put out a book about whatthey imagined a world would be like if there really were a God Who could -- and did -- violate the laws of physics for one day, as a "Sign" in The Day the Sun Stood Still, three novellas by three different authors, all essentially the same, bound up in one volume. Because they cannot bring themselves to imagine there really existing a God Who can do those kinds of things, all three stories are somewhat incoherent, filled with crazy religious bigots going crazy and destroying civilization. The first story was plausible, but I gave up reading the other two, they were too incoherent. The authors were trying to write about something they neither know nor care about.

In a universe that does have inviolate laws of nature, of course such a universe cannot just happen, some kind of First Cause needs to overcome those laws to cause the universe to exist -- unless it had no beginning, but the scientific law of Entropy put an end to that silly idea -- Somebody needs to wind up the cosmic clock that is currently running down. And if God can do that, of course He can do anything else He wants to outside the laws of nature, including miracles (violations of those laws within the universe) if He wants to. Maybe He listens to us puny humans, and maybe not -- you must look at the evidence to determine that, just as you must look at the evidence (entropy) to determine that there must be a Creator God -- but if He does, and if one person requests a serious violation of nature like stopping the sun in the sky "for a whole day," and if God chose to do it... Well, He did, but it was not for a "Sign," but only so the battle could finish in one day. In other words, this God is quite reasonable. Duh.

God did give us a Sign, but you must want to believe it. If you don't want God telling you what to do, then He won't force Himself on you -- I mean He could, if He wanted to, you have to look at the evidence again -- but God doesn't seem to be much interested in robots with no free will, yet in Heaven (no evidence, some things you must choose to believe because God said so and the evidence shows that He does not lie) Heaven wouldn't be Heaven if people were being cruel to each other, so God necessarily must exclude the people who don't want to behave. That excludes a lot of people who think they are Christians, but who don't want to be Good. It also excludes a lot of other religions that do not teach people to be Good. God gets to decide, not you or me. The most we can do is look at the evidence.

The Sign is the Resurrection. If you want to be good enough for Heaven -- God decides who is, not you or I -- that's the way you let God know you want it. God said so: "If you confess Jesus as LORD (Creator of the universe with the right to say what happens in it) and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." [Rom.10:9] That's the only Sign you get. The evidence is there, but if you want to argue about it, you probably don't want God or Jesus telling you what to do anyway. You have that right, just not in Heaven. It's more complicated than that, but not a lot.

PermaLink
 

2018 April 30 -- Journalistic Innumeracy

The cover story breathlessly reports the financial disaster that is Puerto Rico. It's not the hurricane's fault, they were in trouble before Maria hit -- and it's not the fault of a stingy Federal government, but rather like everywhere else in the world -- Protestant (not Catholic) Christians only slightly excepted -- people are greedy liars and thieves. Heavily Protestant countries in Europe are in much better shape financially than the Catholic countries. "Blue states" in the USA, where the left-wing bigot state governments were the first to force the Christian religion out of the public view, are in worse shape than those states where there is still a lingering Protestant work ethic. Puerto Rico, like most of Catholic-dominated Latin America, never had it. And the idiot Congress, largely elected from states where residual Christian charity overwhelms common sense, kept feeding the Puerto Rican greed to the point that they now expect it to continue and expand. Guess what? The real world doesn't work that way. Not in Greece, not in Venezuela, and not in Puerto Rico.

No news there. Like post-Christian Americans everywhere, the guilt-driven productive family members will continue to prop up the drunken black sheep of the family until somebody says "Enough!" and cuts the sucker loose. No news there.

What caught my attention is the reporting in this magazine that presents itself as a "Biblical" perspective on the news. Nobody does much news anymore, they all assume you got it from the TV or the internet or something. The print media offer opinions instead. I don't need more opinions, I have plenty of my own. But there are little bits and snatches of news.

Before Maria, PREPA -- the Puerto Rican government's electric power authority -- was already more than $9 billion in debt, even though it had so underinvested that its power plants had a median age of 44 years, compared with an average age [in the continental US] of 18 years.
I think what the editor wanted readers to take away from this is that the $9B in debt was due to government corruption, not capital investment, and perhaps it is so, but the numbers he offered do not tell us that, because he's comparing apples to oranges. If a large number of Puerto Rico's older power plants are all the same age, then the median age will come out much higher than the average.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine that Puerto Rico has exactly two power plants, one 44 years old, and the other an unfinished nuke that is still looking forward to eight more years of government regulatory delays, so its "age" for this calculation is -8. Half of the power plants are 44 years old -- that's the median -- but the average is calculated by adding up all the ages and dividing by the number of ages, in this case (44-8)/2 = 18, the same average as the continental USA. However, nobody actually counts negative ages when figuring averages and medians, so the average is necessarily at least half the median (22 years); perhaps the actual average power plant age there is less than 25% more than the rest of the country, but we'd never know, because the report is a lie! Or at least innumerate.

I brought this to the editor's attention, and he responded, but his attitude seems to be that details don't matter, it's the big things that count -- he said that explicitly five years ago (see "A Case Study in Moral Ambiguity"), not this time; perhaps he is merely too busy to be bothered, but it amounts to the same thing -- anyway, it seems to me that the big deceptions are made up of little deceptions. An important component of my "BS Detector" is that anybody willing to lie to you once is willing to lie to you again (unless they repent). As a result, I can never trust anything this guy says in his magazine. He has not repented. You expect that from the pagan publishers who have no moral compass, but I keep getting disappointed in what the Christians do to me.
 

2018 April 28 -- Artificial Immortality

I brought three books home from the library last week, but one of them was a page-turner I read in a single night -- I like such stories, but they are counter-productive: the book is supposed to make me sleepy, not deprive me -- another was a forgetable story that I obviously forgot... The result was that I ran out of books before a late trip back to the library. The next trip to the library gets four books. Or five. So here I am, catching up on back issues of WIRED magazine: just exactly the kind of sci-fi I was hoping for bedtime reading, pseudo-accurate science and otherwise forgetable.

Except this cover boldly announces "A son's quest to give his father eternal life." When you read the story, it's nothing of the sort -- well, maybe to an atheist pseudo-scientist, it might be the only "eternal life" available to him, a memory lasting longer than the funeral. It's not a theme new to WIRED, a few years ago they reported on efforts to make a robot to capture and preserve a person's consciousness. I couldn't find a specific reference to that article, but "Kurzweil Is (Partly) Right" in 2005 and "Brain Dead" eight years later both carry most of the same idea. The earlier stories were hopeful wish puff pieces, this one is a somewhat more realistic description of what somebody actually did.

Eternal life it isn't. It's not even a robot that carries on the deceased's consciousness. It's just a souped-up version of Weizenbaum's Eliza program, which putatively passed the Turing Test back in the early years of personal computing by duping unsuspecting people into thinking they were conversing with a human, not a computer. The author in this case holds no such illusions, all he's trying to do is have the memory of his dying father survive a little longer than would be possible by people reading 200 pages of transcript from some three months of audio recording of his father's remeniscing. He even admits that much of the program's apparent personality is likely to be his own as programmer, though he conscientiously tries to avoid it. You type into the computer a question or comment, and if the programmer thought to have his software recognize some key word in your remark, then a piece of his father's recorded and transcribed thoughts will be typed back at you. Otherwise it says something random and not overly stupid. That's what Eliza did. This is a commercial version of the program, which gives non-programmers like the author the ability to customize the scripts. That's all it is, just preprogrammed scripts, not even very intelligent, and certainly not enough "alive" as to qualify for "immortality" as a substitute for the old man dying.

The lengths people go to fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts.
 

2018 April 20 -- People Who Look Like Me

"It's important that the stories of people of African descent be told by people who look like me" -- Jeremy Houston
I have no idea who Jeremy Houston is, and for two months this quote, which has been sitting open on my desk area, made no sense to me. It still makes no sense (to me) why a guy with dreadlocks should tell a different story than a bald guy, but it's a racist comment, and people who should most wish racism to go away believe it.

This week I'm reading the next sci-fi novel I pulled off the library shelf last week, and while it isn't the best story I ever read, it certainly isn't the worst. But somewhere around page 200 it took a significant down-turn when I realized this is another feminazi propaganda piece. Feminazis, like the racists who decry racism, want to believe that all the smart people are women and that men are only oversexed idiots and drunkards, so that's how they write their stories. They want to believe that telling The Big Lie often enough will make it so -- and it does! The women don't get any smarter (probably less so) but American men are becoming oversexed idiots and drunkards with the result that the whole economy goes to Hades in the proverbial handbasket. This particular story has less sex than the average, but he makes up for it in drunken stupidity. Stupid is not entertaining. So when my eye alighted on this pull-quote in a magazine article I couldn't bring myself to finish reading two months ago, I finally think I understood.

I read fiction in general, and sci-fi in particular, as a way to relax and take my mind off the hard thinking that is my day job, but fantasy (wildly in violation of what the Real World is like) doesn't do that. Feminazi drivel is fantasy, so utterly unlike the world I live in or ever could live in, that it's no more fun to read than Mein Kampf (whence the derogatory label, which although I didn't invent it, it really is accurate).

Apart from the anti-hero, this novel has a great story line and (other than two or three minor mistakes) not bad science, but it should have been done better: the author imagines that if aliens came from outer space, they would be so far ahead of us technologically as to turn our technology into the relative equivalent of bone trinkets and voodoo dolls made by aborigines when first encountered by civilization. That's not exactly a spoiler, he announces the theme very early in the story, but you don't want to waste your time on this drivel anyway. If the first-person hero CEO had stayed as smart as he made himself out to be at the beginning, it would have been a great read. C'mon guys, sci-fi is a guy genre, so (like Jeremy Houston) write for us. If you want to make your women into Amazons, call it fantasy or chick-lit or religion. Oh wait, the author blurb on the back flap portrays him as a "fantasy" writer. sigh I should have read the back flap in the library.

In the last few pages, his hero got smarter and richer and basically saved the entire earth economy, so it wasn't a complete bust. But I doubt I will ever take another of his books home from the library, let alone contribute to the author's wealth by buying any. I want to read about people who think -- not just look -- like me. Maybe that's what Jeremy Houston really meant. I don't care about looks, and he shouldn't either. It's what you do with what God gave you that counts.
 

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