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2024 April 29 -- Times, They Is A-Changing

I went to the University in Berkeley and got a broad education in the medieval tradition -- mathematics, physics, philosophy, (some) literary and musical skills -- which I intentionally expanded by choosing electives all over the spectrum. Except Theology, because as a State school, they couldn't do that, or even if they could, it would be sabotaged by the atheist faculty. I did take Philosophy of Religion, and it was an atheist teaching it, and it was interesting but essentially worthless for understanding what I wanted to believe.

So I went to Seminary, one with a reputation comparable to Berkeley. I was there to learn, not get a Pastoral license -- well, I had that possibility in mind, but quickly realized I'm not preacher material -- so again I chose courses all over the spectrum. The Apologetics course was awesome, the prof essentially made the case that the Classic Christian faith is intellectually credible.

One of the classes I signed up for was New Testament Survey (or something like that), taught by a guy who had married one of the "Auca" widows, which raised his street creds in my mind a lot. The first midterm, one of his questions was "What commentaries did you read in preparation for this exam?" I answered, "None, I prefer to read the Bible instead of books about the Bible." He flunked me the whole midterm on that one answer, but I remain unrepentant to this day.

All that to say, that I generally stay away from "Bible studies" that focus on some commentary or devotional book, and not the Bible itself, and from reading such books, however they might come into my presence. That kept me away from signing up for small groups promoted in this church, at least until they offered one that both met on Sunday (while I was still on the premises) and also did not have a required book to buy. We went chapter by chapter through Psalms and Ecclesiastes, then the associate pastor leading the group decided to retire, and merged our dwindling group with the somewhat larger group next door.

They were just beginning a study on Romans, or rather a devotional book by Max Lucado on Romans. I had turned away from Max Lucado one or more times in the past, but it didn't seem convenient or politic to do so this time. The class consisted of going around the room taking turns, each reading a couple of sentences first from the relevant chapter in Bible (but I got the impression they only do that when they start a chapter in Lucado's book, which at the rate they were going seemed likely to last several weeks) then taking turns reading their answers to one of his questions. I had hoped to evade taking the book home, but they handed me one (and didn't ask for money) and it seemed to me rude not to have answers to the question(s) of the day, so I took it home. It reminded me of when I was a kid, the Sunday School quarterly where we were supposed to fill out the lesson each week, and it was generally unnecessary to read the Bible in order to answer the questions (just look a couple paragraphs ahead, and the previous expected answers were spelled out). Lucado's questions are not quite that trivial, but close. The one question they discussed yesterday did not have a clear answer in the chapter at all, yet everybody (who had gotten the book previously) invented something to say.

After I got home, I sat down to look at the questions, to see if I can answer something passable without actually reading his book. I can. The first in our assignment for next week: "How does Paul describe your condition before you accepted Christ as your Savior?" Mostly I do not refer to my faith journey using that term, it's more about whether Jesus is LORD (read "boss") of my life, but that's a nit I don't need to pick at. The straight answer is that Paul does not decribe my "condition" at all, I was too young to even think about doing any of the things Paul names in Rom.1. Next: "How would you describe righteousness to a new believer?" I probably wouldn't try unless they ask, then I would try to understand what they are really asking, because a new believer is probably not thinking about righteousness, so as to need it described. Obedience is a much more important concept, and much more easily answered (but not from this chapter). Paul does not discuss new believers in Romans, AFAIK, neither to describe them, nor to teach us how to train them. And so on. Answering the six remaining questions in Lucado's first chapter didn't take very long at all, I can do it.

There was no sermon at all, just a rehash of what the church has been doing and planning to do. The big surprise was that they had bought a larger piece of property out on the edge of town across the river. The Pastor mentioned 2025 as when they might finish renovating it and move the weekly services over there. I generally try to choose a church within walking distance (I don't always succeed), and this new location did not seem to be one of them. I'm not overly eager to go through the whole process of church-shopping again, the last time was not overly productive (see "Choosing a Church" seven years ago). I asked where this new place is, and they could only give a vague reference to "the fairgrounds" and the YMCA. Both of those are marked on my city map, and Google gave a street address for the property (but was unable to show a map or any of the posted videos). It turns out, there's a park at the river edge straight down the hill from where I live -- which I walked to a couple times when the power was out (couldn't use the computer) -- and (not shown on the map) a foot bridge across the river from that park to the fairgrounds, so the walking distance is likely to be about the same as it is now, only south instead of east.

My nephew and his wife moved to Oregon in 2016, which -- not having kids of my own, and coming up on the age when I need somebody to come visit me in the nursing home (I subsidized my sister's housing for the last ten years of her life, and she told her kids "Look after Uncle Tom") if and when it happens to me, so that's why I'm in Ore-gone. It's not a good place to grow old, but God is bigger than the hazards... Anyway, they live a few miles outside town, and occasionally I get invited to their home for a meal and visitation. One of the topics of conversation was the recent Supreme Court hearing where the City of Grants Pass is defendant. If you followed the links from my previous posts you probably know that I side with the Bible against able-bodied people who prefer "free" over working for their basic needs (see "Das Kapital (Updated)" last year); the media (including Google) tend toward the failed notion of socialism = anybody should be able to have any goods or services they want and pay only what they want to (which is obviously $0).

Most -- perhaps all (but I wouldn't know) of the homeless people I have seen or know about could hold a paying job and earn their keep if they wanted to, but they don't want to work that hard. They don't want to behave in socially acceptable ways, so to be welcome in housing that is available to them. Part of the problem is the rampant spread of disabling drugs, of which Ore-gone is a major perpetrator. The homeless problem is getting worse, and the state has basically invited it. If SCOTUS decides the way the left-wing commentators obviously hope, the local  government here will go bankrupt, and the plague will spread to all the other states, and eventually somebody will cry "Enough!" But probably not in my lifetime. Whatever.

Bottom line: the changes are probably not as catastrophic as they first seemed, and God is always bigger than the problems.

2024 April 26 -- Library Woes (Again)

My uncle gave me a one-volume collection of Sherlock Holmes stories for Christmas when I was 14. For a long time I thought it was the complete set -- until I started hearing about Moriarty (there was no Moriarty in any of the stories of my memory). Much later (see "Murder Mystery As Divine Justice" 15 years ago and "Sherlock Exonerated" 4 years later) I began to see the original Conan Doyle stories as a Thinker work, and the more recent clones as Feeler fodder.

At my age I'm entitled to forget all that, and I did. All I knew when I picked up "A Sherlock Holmes Novel" in the library last week was that the author was not Conan Doyle, and that later authors attempting to fill the shoes of literary giants now dead (or retired) must necessarily fail. The logical reason is that to attain up to the skill level of the original author, they must be their own literary giant, and so they would be busy working their own franchise. Only very much lesser authors are available (and willing) to split the royalties with the franchise owner (usually greedy heirs with no literary skills of their own). I have never seen any exceptions to this rule.

Knowing this full well, I brought the book home anyway. I was right, and completely anew came to the same Thinker/Feeler conclusion that I now today re-read in my earlier posts. Horowitz's Sherlock has none of the analytical brilliance of Doyle's original (Feeler authors simply cannot think that way), and the heavy dose of inner turmoil is getting to be annoying. I didn't finish it. sigh

Its successor seemed so vile, I gave up after a dozen pages. After that, well, historical novels don't wallow in gutter language, but their authors seem to be romantics, imagining a mystical past something like that Sci-fi author who said "one of the wonderful things about sci-fi 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?" We live in an Athenian culture, caring only about the latest and greatest, with little or no understanding of the past, so historical fiction authors think "there are no guidelines, or like structures that you get stuck into, ... it's make-believe, you can do whatever you want." Their books are full of anachronisms, the author's personal hang-ups projected into a past time where they don't fit. This guy is a modern north-American atheist, so he invented a whole town of atheists in rural England 100 years ago. Atheists are a minority today, let alone a whole town of them a century ago. But it's not just a passing remark, he builds his whole story on this absurdity. It's not like Feminazi stories, where I can imagine the heroine is really just a guy with a female name and pronouns (which is true in those stories), atheism makes people behave irrationally while believing otherwise (I know, I watched one up close). The suspension of disbelief is gone. sigh

Three books came home, the third with some heavy inner turmoil, but it was confined to a couple pages near the front and again near the end. Maybe the library has others in his series -- I didn't see any, but I also didn't ask, or maybe I did and they said no (I don't remember but when they have it, I always wait for the first in the series).

2024 April 13 -- They Will Be Like Them

I first met Steven Levy at the West Coast Computer Faire, I think in 1978. He was researching his upcoming book Hackers, and he heard my talk on the idolatry of computerism -- I no longer remember the title, I probably have the text of my talk on paper tape somewhere, which I no longer have any way to read, and I probably have the printed proceedings in a box somewhere. Anyway, he was intrigued, and he devoted a half chapter of his book to me. I think I loaned out my copy more times than I got it back.

The Hackers book established Levy's creds as an authoritative writer on computer technology, and once every year or two, slightly more often recently, WIRED prints another of his articles, generally much higher quality than their usual fare. Maybe he's getting old (GKA: age 73) and having a harder time finding better venues to pay for his work. Anyway, the current issue features an article profiling "The Fateful Eight" people -- the article shows eight faces, two of them women, at least one (perhaps both) of the women described as coming in later, that is not one of the original eight -- who authored the original paper on "Transformers," which is the technology that makes GPT perform so much better than prior efforts at English language so-called "Artificial Intelligence." The word "Transformers" is the "T" in "GPT".

Most of my adult life, I can read technical papers without knowing all the jargon words, and figure out what they are saying based on the meaning of their jargon words. It helped a lot that I know a modest amount of Greek, and I can figure out Latin words from the Spanish and French that I also know. Educated scientists chose words that (more or less) meant what they were doing to describe what they were doing. They used Latin and Greek root words to show off their superior education. It's Pride, the first of the "Seven Deadly Sins" in Catholic theology (I'm not Roman Catholic, but Pride is still a sin). Most everybody does it. I try to write so that people can understand it.

I first ran into Neural Nets (NNs, the technology behind all modern Artificial Ignorance) in 2017, when I was invited to mentor some high school students in a summer programming workshop. I invited them to do a simple project, recognizing pedestrians in real time from a dashboard camera in a car. I knew they could do it, I had my own version running a few months earlier. Some of them were learning NNs in school and wanted to do it that way. I said I couldn't help, and I expected they would not succeed, perhaps they should consider the much simpler task of driving a car to stay on a winding road (I had my non-NN program running in a couple days, a few more to create a video). As I expected, the students who stayed with my proposal finished early; the NN group never did finish. Anyway, I did not want to be caught flat-footed again, so I studied NNs. It's all smoke and mirrors, much more than I even guessed.

For smoke and mirrors, ChatGPT is pretty impressive. The "Generative" ("G") part I think I understand. They train a NN to recognize good English text, then use that engine to train a second NN that puts random letters together, so that it learns to put together only valid English sentences. It's been a while since I last looked, but I think the "P" is for predicting which letter comes next. The "T" part I never saw explained until today. Levy didn't really explain it, but he said enough so I can figure out what they did. I have a PhD, I can do that. Well, it's not Politically Correct to say so, but God also helps 

The first thing to understand is that NNs is the first technology I ever encountered where the jargon words are intentionally misleading. Or maybe just nonsensical. "Neural" and "Nets" mean what the words mean, they imagine what they are doing resembles (to an admittedly small degree, acording to Levy) how human neurons work, and they are connected together somehow (network). OK, maybe "Generative" might be meaningful. Early papers on NNs described adding extra layers to the original two (the extra layers later qualified it as "Deep", although not mathematically different from the two layer version) but originally they called it "convoluted" not because it was complicated ("30 lines of C code" is not complicated) or somehow structurally resembled the folded appearance of the humn brain (the internal structure of "deep NNs" is in fact quite linear, no folds at all), but because they wanted you to think it would eventually behave like the convoluted brain in humans. It does not.

Some of these people may be educated, but mostly not "The Fateful Eight." They are hackers, people using little more than their high school education to randomly try things in the hope that something will work. Levy even quotes them as saying so. So the word "Transformers" they chose to describe their technology says nothing at all about how anything works -- it's still a couple linear NNs -- but because they happen to like the "Transformers" toys. The insight that made their technology work better is that instead of looking at only the most recent letter in their generated text to predict the next, they consider everything in their generated buffer up to (I think I read somewhere 1200 or more symbols). Basically they have a Finite State Machine (FSM, see my essay "A Turing Test to Defeat ChatGPT") with a humongous number of states. It still has absolutely no understanding of what the words it puts together mean, it just was trained to put words together that match something in the "billion lines of Reddit" text it was trained on. The bigger buffer means that it gets to match a larger piece of the training text, and if what it "generates" looks creative, it's because some human created it, and who (besides a computer with a Trillion "parameters") can remember enough of a Billion lines of text to say whether it was copied or created?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how GPT works, just like Google that searches the internet for a document with the words in your search string without any understanding of what you are asking for, GPT looks for whole (or partial) sentences to reproduce as if it were making it up instead of just copying. That's especially true of "generated" code, because a FSM cannot just put random words to make a workable program, it must have much more advanced technology. This is what I got my PhD in, I know how it must work. "Tom, it's a theorem," my professor told me, meaning it cannot work as claimed. The program GPT "generates" must be copied (not created), and one programmer saw it reproduce her own published code and recognized it (see the Limor Fried interview in "Epiphany" three months ago).

These people are True Believers. Like the pagans ridiculed in the Bible, they have made a stone image of the human brain -- yes, the silicon they make computer chips from is taken from sand and rocks -- and their image is no more accurate (and only slightly more functional) than the Easter Island statues (we have all seen those pictures) and the idols from 3000 years ago (which mostly are not around for us to laugh at). The Psalmist put it:

But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;
they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. -- Psalm 115:4-8 (oNIV)
These modern idolaters have already become "like them." GPT has no understanding of the words it fits together, it only knows that those words occurred together somewhere in their training materials, and like their programs, (according to Levy) the programmers are also randomly trying stuff and randomly naming things without any formal understanding of what they are doing. I understand what they are doing, because (as the joke says) "I are one." I must work hard every day to recognize and remember that God is the giver, not computer programs, which are only the work of my hands. This Psalm ends with the proper recognition of Who did it, the opposite of the idiots making (and praising) gods that cannot even think and act like a human, let alone like a true God:
...we extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord. -- Psalm 115:18

2024 April 12 -- Cultural Ethics, Part 3

A large part of ethics is Religion (believing what you have no evidence for), and an important part of the American Established Religion is the absolute cognitive equality of the sexes. It is physiological nonsense: women have more brain cells than men  (larger corpus callosum), how can they not think differently? Men have more upper-body strength than women, and a different attachment of leg muscles to a differently shaped pelvis, resulting in the fact that men (on the average) can beat up women and not the other way around. So what does body strength have to do with thinking?

Consider this: the brain is not an isolated organ, what we learn includes in large part what our bodies tell us about the Real World out there. As far back as I can remember, I have always been non-violent. I have never hit anybody in my life that I know of. I don't have much childhood memory, so I asked my sister (who did), and she said "Oh no, you never hit anybody." Just in the last year or so, I got to thinking about how that might come about. My father walked miles through dense Amazon jungles, he was no wimp, but he had no interest in sports as such -- where other fathers played catch with their kids, mine taught me chess. Where other kids tussled with their brothers and peers in the playground, my only brother died in infancy and other than a couple years in a formal school setting, I had no contact with children my own age before "Junior High". I never learned how to hit people and win, so I did not do that. On the average, American girls are actually more physically violent than I was/am.

I learned mental skills to compensate. I think differently than most guys. I suspect that girls everywhere in the world -- who lack the physical ability to beat up on guys (and win) -- have the same influence on their thinking. This is the Real World, it cannot be legislated away. You won't find any research supporting this obvious fact of life, no guy would consider destroying his career by publishing something so heretical (to the Established Religion) as the Truth -- everybody knows what happened to Robert Gentry and James Damore -- and no woman scientist (Feminazis all of them) would even consider doing any science that came to such a patently heretical nonsensical conclusion. This is Religion, the "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is already made up" kind of thinking.

Case in point, consider bullying. Everybody bullies other people when they think they can get away with it (I don't because I cannot pull it off, but I experienced receiving a lot of it), because we all want to control our environment, it's part of Original Sin ("You will be like gods") and the opposite of being told what to do. God has the right to tell us what to do, but He gives us a lot of freedom to do it, which (I suppose, or at least it works for me) is sufficient to satisfy our urges for control. Sinners among us -- and especially the MBTI "J" personality type -- want more control over other people. Inappropriately exercised, this is called "bullying." It's a Christian perspective, and we (under the Christian ethic that the USA has a 500-year tradition of doing because we read the Bible) have bought into it and learn it at a very young age, too early to later question it. That's how atheists in America -- and other places with a Christian heritage -- can behave ethically without any logical basis for it. Atheists in other places (and also here, when nobody is looking, or else the gain exceeds their scruples) resort to bullying.

Now we have a curious situation in the USA, where the cultural ethics is under assault and change. They took the signs promoting good ethics off the schoolroom walls, but the change started much earlier, because the colleges went secular and began teaching atheist ethics. That filtered into the educated people (like school teachers) who propagated it to the children. The perceived gain in this case (not being killed in VietNam) exceed most young men's scruples, and they began to exercise their atheist ethical logic and bullied the universities (riots) and other venues.

One of the outcomes was the "-nazi" part of Rush Limbaugh's derisive term for what its proponents call "feminism." Make no mistake, it is a form of bullying, forcing a Religious (contrary to fact) opinion on unwilling victims. The fact is, all people are sinners, and many (probably most) of them bully others when they can. The fact is, men are stronger than women, so men can bully the women, and therefore they do -- especially sexually. The prior (Christian & Jewish, both from the Bible) ethic taught that it is the duty of men to protect the weaker members of society (women, children, sick, elderly) from the bullies. The new (actually, old non-Christian) ethic gave everybody permission to be bullies. Just don't get caught. Mostly Feminism denied that there is any such thing as "weaker" so bullying makes no sense. In other words, it doesn't exist. Which is patently nonsense.

Even in the Christian cultural ethic, sinners (evil people) exist, which is the whole point of protection. You don't protect weak people by pushing them out into danger with no armor, you build walls around your cities and put bars on your windows. Mostly you keep the women and children inside. You won't hear it preached in any church I ever knew or heard of, but Biblical ethics does in fact support this mode of protection: Jesus taught that "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come." That "woe" is pronounced on the person who puts sexual temptation in front of a guy who lacks the moral fortitude to restrain his libido, so the tempter is also at fault. In American law we had two implementations of this: "attractive nuisance" and "contributory negligence." Some of this has been replaced by "absolute liability," so I don't know how much remains, but we still have "entrapment" as a defense against prosecution for a crime that the police invited.

So here comes this hand-wringing article in WIRED about sexual predation in Antarctica. The elephant in the room, the one thing so obvious throughout the whole article, but never hinted at in print, is that men and women are different. The men have the physical strength to bully the women (and not the other way around), and these are "scientists" (of the atheist Religion), there are no churches in Antarctica. If you want Christian MEN protecting these weaker WOMEN, go to some backward hicksville like Alabama, back in continental USA. Life is tough out on the frontier, only the strong survive. It was that way in the Wild West of a 150 years ago, and it's that way in the "modern" Antarctic. These weak, snivelling women come down, they can't stand it when people throw rocks at them, they can't even stand up to pee. Of course it's Wrong to bully the weak, but that's a different Religion, it's Christian, not atheist Darwinism, the only acceptable religion of the atheist "scientists." Maybe there are closet Christians down there, probably not. Christians hear (and listen to) the Call of God, but to even be invited to the "scientific" labs in Antarctica you must boldly confess the Darwinist "survival of the fittest" creed (and implicitly its flip side, the destruction of the weak). There's no place for a "weaker sex" in that environment. So there they go, and they get hit by Reality: the women are that "weaker sex" and they are defenseless without a zillion pseudo-Christian-ethic social workers sucking up scarce resources protecting them. And that's happening, ever so slowly.

Meanwhile, women continue to enter a male-dominate workplace with inadequate protection from what guys do to each other, then complain when they suffer the consequences of their entrapment. How does that line go? "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Since I lacked the training and disposition to fight off school-yard bullies, I coped with their sin by staying away. I still do that. I don't try to pretend that I can beat them up and then whine when I don't succeed at it. Without the cultural ethics to prevent sin, the best you can do is protect yourself from being the perpetrator of entrapment. Both are part of Biblical ethics.

Cultural ethics matter, and if you want to see what the USA will be like 100 or 200 years from now when the Christian ethic is completely eradicated, go look at what's happening to women today in Antarctica. Go look at post-Christian Greece or Turkey.

2024 April 11 -- Cultural Ethics, Part 2

It happens in books too, for the same reason: if the author disregards the dominant cultural ethics of their intended audience, books don't sell and there is no royalty income. Big-name authors (Stephen King, Michael Crichton, etc.) made a lot of money on their books. Obviously they need good plots ad characterization, but if the ethics feel wrong to the readers, plot and character cannot make up the difference.

One of the books I brought home from the library this week, it's a mystery set in a native American reservation, and the author very carefully explains their thinking and traditional values. This the second time this happened, last month I was reading insults "He's an apple (red on the outside, white inside)." Today they describe a misfit as neither People (that's probably "Navaho" in Navaho) nor white man, but somewhere in between. Half the book so far is describing how they understand what's really going on. This is intellectually interesting, and I suppose that's why this author's books are popular (a dozen or more listed in this same theme inside the front page), but one is enough for me. I won't be going back any more of last month's instance, and I may not even finish this one (different author, which is why it didn't stay on the shelf). Now I know what to look for.

A large part of ethics is Religion (believing what you have no evidence for), and like most American authors (including his clone last month) both this author and his Native American cop-hero have bought into the American Established Religion, which among other things, denies the existence of the Navaho (or any other) spirit world -- but he does credibly explain it (or at least what he can figure out without buying into it). However, the author's picture in the bio is Anglo, not some other color. When a novelist tries to explain my faith, he gets it all wrong, which means he does not understand Christian ethics, nevermind that the cultural values have seeped into most of the people born and raised here, even if they cannot explain it. That's a big part of why American novels are a better read than Aussie or India or even Japanese fiction. Or at least they were before the turn of the millennium. Umm, before the nihilism of the Cold War, anyway. Darwinian Religion is just plain Wrong: Absent an anti-entropic influence like Christian ethics (removed from schoolroom walls around the time of the Cold War), things get worse, not better.

2024 April 9 -- Cultural Ethics

Sometime maybe 20 years ago (links started showing up in my blog in 2005) I read a notice in WIRED about downloadable movies on Mostly I got movies from the local library for leisure viewing, but every library sets limits on the number you can check out in one visit, and each trip out of the house costs me some 2-4 hours in usable work time, so (while time-consuming) is a workable and unlimited alternative source. The Archive management understands copyright law and vigorously enforce it, so the flicks available there generally have expired copyrights, or else are so bad that the copyright was not worth renewing or sometimes not even sought.

Every once in a while, some interest group digitizes a whole bunch of flicks not previously in their listings. A few years ago a whole bunch of modern Iranian flicks showed up, all in Farsi with no hint in the descriptor. After a while I started looking for Middle-Eastern names. Then about four years ago somebody uploaded a bunch of Japanese flicks, apparently with the permission of the director (or his estate), but at least they had English subtitles. Somebody else uploaded a bunch of modern (mostly American) movies with Spanish or Portugese subtitles added (see "Movies, Good and Not-So-Good" last year). More recently I saw several dozen, maybe a hundred or more Australian flicks from the 70s and 80s, almost everything every flick in several pages of the directory. Today I went back for more, and all the Aussie flicks had been deleted -- they were still listed in the directory, but the download page announced their deletion. I knew from the form of the upload title they were Australian, and I'm sure the copyright has not expired, but they didn't give a specific reason. Maybe the Portugese-subtitled flicks are gone too, I didn't look.

Obviously not considering the Farsi flicks with no subtitles, but movies more than any other medium, they express the value system of the culture they are aimed at: get that wrong, and nobody will pay to come see the movie. And the American (and British) culture has -- or rather had (past tense), but I'm looking at mostly older movies -- a different value system that the movies and novels had to match, than those made in another country. I first noticed this eight years ago (see "Liars Lie") in a flick made in India. I saw it again more recently in the Japanese and Chinese movies. Most recently I realized that I intensely disliked most of the Aussie flicks I was seeing, for the same reason.

It's not the language, nor the national origin of the people: Australia started as a British colony like the USA, and currently has race problem they are learning to cope with, not all that different from ours. What is different is that while the USA started with deeply religious (mostly Protestant) people seeking a place to practice their values, Australia started as a dumping ground for incorrigible criminals trying to violate those same values. It has stained their value system. The removal of the Ten Commandments from (the few remaining) American school walls 60 years ago implicitly gave American school children permission to behave like Australian criminals (lie, cheat, steal, rape and murder, just don't get caught), and those people are today running the American businesses and government and making our movies. My one-time friend the atheist grew up in a culture that valued honesty, and he himself (mostly) still does; his grandchildren (not yet born) will not have that advantage. I wonder if he will make the connection? Probably not, but at least he saw the difference when we parted.

2024 April 8 -- Alpha Fooey

I'd heard of Alpha a few times -- mostly it seemed to be a prettied-up version of the standard evangelism pitch, with a few promises that I should have recognized as unbelievable -- and I was mildly curious how they could make good on their promises with what looked vaguely like it might be the standard church Sunday School "circles are better than rows" nonsense, you know, people sharing their collective ignorance.

Anyway, this church, no shortage of stepladders handy for jumping on whatever bandwagon happens by, decided to promote Alpha as the topic for their "Life Group" small-group program this spring. Yesterday was the first week in the group I've been going to.

All other things being equal, I think if I'd been invited to Alpha out of nowhere, the first session would also be the last I went to. All other things are not equal, so I guess I'll sit it out and bite my tongue. I had to constantly remind myself not to say anything yesterday.

If you've read any of my book reviews, you probably noticed that most of the "Christian" books, I start out saying "This book was not written to me." Alpha ditto. Like everything else conceived of and given birth to inside the American church (Alpha is apparently created in England, but it demonstrates the same value system) it is written by Relationshipists, and for the exclusive benefit of Relationshipists, basically MBTI "Feelers," whose supreme value is unconditional affirmation.

I still want to know, when is anybody in the church going to start thinking about presenting a credible gospel message to the other half of the human race? I am in that other half, and except for an accident of parentage (and the grace of God), I would be an atheist like all of my fellow techies, because you are not preaching to me and to the people like me. The Bible does, but the church in America does not. There are a few exceptions, but the leadership there have Clue Deficit Disorder. I know, I got thrown out of two of those churches, the only two I know about, compared to dozens where significantly more women come than men. From the first session, Alpha seems not to be an exception.

PostScript, one week later: The second session dealt more with facts and I didn't hear the "R" word, but they still invited the collective ignorance of random people in the street, as if that had anything to do with what is True.

2024 April 5 -- Arguing Against Atheists

I had a few minutes waiting for a compile (like right now, it happens often) and I had some broken links in my website to fix, one of them being a reference to my review of Vox Day's Irrational Atheist, which I wrote some 14 years ago, before I moved it to a new Reviews directory (whence the broken link). Anyway, I looked at the review and saw there a quote I'd more recently been trying to find on Google (but couldn't remember the exact words), and it turns out Google still doesn't know the quote, except in my own review and an atheist blog trying to refute Vox Day's book. The quote isn't very flattering of atheists, perhaps Google -- which is now known to occasionally censor their results for political (and possibly religious) reasons -- did that on purpose, or perhaps Vox Day misquoted it, who knows? Whatever.

When I read the original 14 years ago, I was (like today) not very active in debating atheists, but I was corresponding with a guy who did, and sort of helping him keep his logic straight. That's no longer on my radar, so I have not kept up my skills. Two things have changed my perspective.

First, I spent some six years working with a confessed atheist, so I got to see how they think up close. The Biblical description is accurate, but rather than expose their folly to public scrutiny, the atheist (after giving a half-hearted presentation of stale "preach to the [atheist] choir" arguments), backs off and refuses to engage further. It's "Religion" (for the atheist, believing what he knows ain't so).

Then, during that time, I came to a definitive understanding of the nature of Religion, which applies equally to theists (who believe in a supernatural Deity, or perhaps a plurality of them) and also to atheists (whose only deity is themselves); they still believe in a supreme being, but although (in their mind) this deity is supreme over all other human opinions, it is nonetheless not supernatural, except in the sense that Darwinism does not describe natural science, which fact the atheists deny and dutifully cover up the evidence (see my essay "Biological Evolution: Did It Happen?").

So I decided to see what this anonymous person had to say. The blog is unsigned and Google was unable (or perhaps unwilling) to identify any single person as "The Arizona Atheist." Like the Muslim Jihadists, this person is too cowardly and ashamed to face up to their own beliefs. That already does not speak well of what they have to say, Jihadist and AA alike.

So AA divides up their "refutation" by Vox Day's chapters, the first of which "has Vox discussing the meaning of atheism," and the refutation consists mainly in citing different studies that contradict Vox Day's. The important thing to understand here is the proverbial progression from "Fibs to Lies to D**n Lies, and finally to Statistics," or as another popular proverb has it, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." The underlying truth here is that you can skew the results of your survey significantly by how you word the questions. One study that sticks in my mind, back before Roe v. Wade was tossed out, it found that a majority of Americans believe that "women should have the right to choose what happens to their own body," and then elsewhere, in the same sample, another majority believes that nobody should have the right to abort their child for sex selection or no reason at all. The significant contradictory overlap was obviously the same people answering the same question differently based on how it was worded. So I'm not much interested in what studies prove what. They prove nothing. Far more significant, if you look at the countries ruled by atheists (the former Soviet Union, Cambodia under Pol Pot, North Korea, China, more fecently Cuba and Venezuela), people die there in vast numbers, and more people want out than in. The most prosperous country in the whole world and in all time, more people want in than out, and we have a 500-year cultural heritage dominated by Biblical ethics. Those are irrefutable facts.

My reply to AA's "Chapter 2: Defining Science" and "Chapter 3: The Case Against Science" is that He who writes the dictionary wins the debate. Nevermind how the atheists like to define their version of the Latin-derived word "science" (what can be known), the irrefutable fact remains that modern science was invented by Christians and took root in a culture dominated by Christian ethics, and nowhere else ever. Other religions can emulate the methodology, but they have no logical basis for sustaining it. Even here, as our cultural ethic abandons Christian moral absolutes (necessary for the pursuit of science), the public interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is declining -- one study of 19 industrial nations found American students first in self-esteem and dead last in STEM.

In "Chapter 4: The Religion of Reason" AA makes it a case for moral absolutes. I did not go back to see what Vox Day actually says about it, AA's extended quotes seem to argue for moral absolutes, and any atheist obviously wants to agrue against the idea. In a culture saturated by Biblical ethics like the USA and much of northern Europe, it's really hard for an atheist to live the moral lie they preach. I mean, they can, but they quickly go to jail. So they (necessarily) adopt a practical stance attributed to "Somerset Maugham ... which states 'do what thou wilt, with due regard for the policeman around the corner.'" That's the quote Google couldn't (or wouldn't) find. In large parts of the USA you don't even need the "policeman around the corner," the citizens themselves keep "Neighborhood Watch" programs to restrict antisocial behavior. Other parts of the country, lacking such cultural ethics, they put bars on their windows like you see everywhere in the third-world countries. True atheist ethics make those bars necessary, nevermind what the atheists themselves say when they are a minority in an otherwise Christian heritage culture.

I stopped reading AA when I got to "Chapter 5: Sam Tzu and the Art of War," it seemed too far from the moral issues that are the bread and butter of where I live. I do not remember enough of what I read in Vox Day 14 years ago to know if it had any influence on my present understanding of Religion.

If an atheist chooses to engage with me today, I will speak to what he has to say (most atheists are men because of the inherent gender differences in physiology, see my "Evangelical Feminism"), until he clams up (or stops responding to what I say, same diff). Otherwise I have better things to do than to argue on spec against nebulous mistaken ideas.

2024 April 1 -- Biblical Gender Roles, Part 2

OK, I read the ChristianityToday cover story and the related stuff, and my opinion has not changed. This is Religion, it's held to be non-negotiably true despite any evidence or pressure to the contrary, as the saying goes:
The person persuaded against their will, Is of the same opinion still.
Those of us persuaded by God's unchanging Word against both the social tide and the Established Religion of the country, well, that basis for persuasion has not changed in nearly 2000 years, it won't change this year or next. Those who have chosen to nullify God's Word in one or more points where it is at odds with public opinion = human tradition, by defining God's teaching to be "a Cultural Issue not relevant today," why should they change? They have already chosen the world's view.

The first of the triad of opinion articles constituting the cover feature is from a pastor and seminary professor, and his approach is to define it as "not a Core Issue" -- he didn't use those words, but his point is that we can get along just fine by agreeing to disagree. All his examples of "complementarians" were people willing to cede all the ground to the egalitarians with the possible exception of who stands behind the pulpit. In other words, a personal preference, like whether to use God-centered hymns that have endured the test of time, or repetitive self-centered "comtemporary" songs in church (see "Collected CCM Posts in My Blog" for some of my opinions on that topic), or whether women should wear skirts or cover their shoulders (or not) in church, very much like the way the pastor of the church where I park my fanny on Sunday mornings (this year) explains it.

The editorial policy of CT itself on this topic tends to be overwhelmingly egalitarian but nominally fence-straddling, like this first author, meaning they might publish one or two articles by an admitted Complementarian in a year, but never anything hard-core. This is obvious: their current editor is a woman, and of the six feature articles this month (excluding regular columns, which usually divide more or less evenly), only two have male authors. The feature triad consisted of a nominal middle of the roader who ceded almost everything to the egalitarians, followed by a nominal complementarian who draws her salary from a very egalitarian denomination and assumes that the complementarians are fighting a losing battle, followed by the egalitarian author who likewise assumes that everybody is heading in that direction. CT's attempt at balance is still entirely egalitarian in perspective, sort of like (back when I was reading it) TIME magazine's nominal "conservative" columnist was an open homosexual (which I likened to calling a Hummer "a fuel-efficient economy car," which it is, compared to a Greyhound bus or 18-wheel truck). Magazine writing is a form of teaching, and the plurality of female-written articles in CT is prima facie evidence that the -- not just feminist, but -- Feminazi Lie of the supposed cognitive equality of men and women is in fact, and by nature, a lie.

Men and women are different, and not only in their gonads, although that profoundly affects they way they think about things. So when Scripture asserts that the teaching about female leadership is expressing a fact of nature, that is not merely "a Cultural Issue not relevant today." Some of us are instructed first by Scripture, and secondarily by nature. Others prefer to side with the changing winds of social pressure in this doctrine, and also in church music and -- as the pastor himself mentioned -- in our understanding of origins of all life. Make no mistake, whenever public opinion disagrees with Scripture, the facts of science (if you dig deep enough to get past the gate-keepers) science also supports what God said, because of course God invented both.

Nine months ago I fully understood why the Biblical Complementarian position is consistent with the Real World, and the egalitarian position simply cannot be reconciled with the Real World (see "Evangelical Feminism"). "It's a free country," as they say, and the egalitarians are entitled to their opinion, but they are Wrong, same as the druggies who claim that the world is a better place when halucinatory "substances" of all kinds flow freely, and same as when the liars (both inside the church and out in the world) deceive both themselves and the rest of us with the false notion that there are no moral absolutes, and also the bullies of the world are Wrong when they claim for themselves the right to force other people to do things against their will...

And because I am not a bully, I will not force my complementarian opinion on the egalitarians, other than to stand on the top of the Moral High Ground and say, "You are Wrong, and both God and nature say so."

Those other two articles in the cover triad? Both written by women. Women care about it, it's the nature of the Fall. Only women write columns and feature articles about women in the Bible -- even in Bible-hating magazines like Biblical Archaeology Review. Why is that? If there were absolute equality in cognitive abilities between men and women, then female authors would write about men in the Bible in the same proportion as the men do, which is closer to the proportion of men in the Bible to write about. If there were absolute equality between the way men and women think, then there would be no such thing as "chick lit" and "chick flick" for men to avoid -- nor would they want to. If there were absolute equality between men and women in their ability to do any particular job well, then there would be no "glass ceiling" for the women to complain about, or else there would be an equivalent "glass ceiling" for the men to complain about. Oh wait, there is such a glass ceiling, but nobody complains, because there is no comparison. There are differences.

Ah, but, the feminists might say, The differences are cultural and historical, not ontological. Then we could respond, where did they come from, and how did they go away? If there never were any ontological differences, then it is unreasonable to imagine that the social distinction started up by magic, without an ontological difference to build on. For a theist, "magic" is spelled "G-O-D" and if God did it, then it is by definition ontological; the atheist does not believe in magic, it evolved that way, it existed from the beginning of whatever version of humanity we now exist in, therefore it was (again) ontological by definition. In either case we only need to ask how it went away. Again, the Darwinist must argue natural selection, that the (formerly ontological) cognitive differences ceased to offer a "fitness" benefit, and the (now alleged present fact of) cognitive equality offers a new survival benefit not previously available. How then does the social distinction still persist, if it offers no survival benefit? The argument falls on its face from inconsistency. The theist looks to God's Revelation for evidence of an end to that ontological distinction, and it's not there, not in our Bibles, and certainly not in any other religious documents. There always have been, and there will always be ontological differences in the way men and women think, any way you look at it. The feminists all know it and act on the fact of those differences.

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2024 March 29 -- Biblical Gender Roles

The latest ChristianityToday arrived in this week's mail, and the cover story proposing a common ground the two sides of the gender wars might agree on -- I have not yet read the article, but this is Religion -- you know, what is held to be non-negotiably true despite any evidence to the contrary (see my blog post seven years ago) -- so I doubt the author will succeed.

Anyway, I was reminded that I'm still stewing over the pastor's sermon a couple weeks ago. He's working his way through Paul's first letter to Corinth (as what appears to be part of doing the whole Bible, but alternating New & Old Testament books), and this was the first part of chapter 11 on gender roles in the church, and... well, he (we all) live in a culture that is rabidly Feminazi (see my blog post 8 years ago on my accurate use of the term) and some, perhaps many of his members are of that persuasion, so he needs to tread carefully.

He told us clearly that he is a Complementarian (so am I, because that's what the Bible teaches), but he started out by distinguishing "Cultural Issues [in the Bible]  not  relevant today" from "Core Issues that  are  relevant today." He did not say at any time that I heard, how we are expected to tell these two categories apart. I don't think he knows, other than personal preference -- I certainly can't make that distinction here -- and unless Scripture itself tells us how to make that distinction (see for example the difference between Jewish ceremonial law that was "nailed to the cross" and Christ's Law which is still binding on all Christians in my essay "The Law of Love" four years ago), we must not add to Scripture what God left out.

That's an important point, Jesus came down very hard on the Pharisees for just that: "you nullify the word of God by your tradition" [Mark 7:13]. Any time we set ourselves over Scripture to cherry-pick verses, to say "This is a Cultural Issue not relevant today, but that one is a Core Issue that is relevant today," we nullify the Holy Word of God -- unless God Himself made that distinction. God did make that distinction in some cases, for example, calculating the last percentage point in how much to drop in the offering plate is far less important than the moral absolutes "Justice, Truth, and Mercy," but not to entirely ignore the tithe! Like the woman who dropped two pennies into the offering box, (one significant digit "2") which was far more valuable in God's eyes than the big complicated (five or eight significant digits) sums the preachers were dropping in.

Think of it this way: In another place, I wrote "I Am a Zero" (first in "I'm a Nobody" in 2012 and then also "Zero" five years ago, and maybe a half-dozen others). Today, before I climbed out of bed, it occurred to me that the zeroes on a bank check are more important than the single significant digit like a "1" or "5". Which check is worth more, the one with five zeroes on it, or the one with only two? The zero has no value in itself, it makes the other digit(s) have value. That's an aside.

The main point today is that the great Apostle, when explaining gender roles to the recently new church in the wicked city of Corinth, he did not say "This is my opinion" as he did in another place in the same Epistle, but he said

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?" [1Cor.11:14,15, my emphasis].
This is a part of the created order, and our present Feminazi violation of it was described as part of the Curse in response to Eve's participation in the Fall of Adam [Gen.3:16b]. Let's see how this might be a nature question (which Paul says it is), rather than a "Cultural Issue." The length of your hair is not even gender-related in natural law, it's practical. Just look at women in the workplace: most of them have short hair. People with long hair (guys and women alike) are not doing physical work, they are doing desk work, but more often they are artists or even homeless (no job at all). Why is that? Because long hair looks nice, but only if you spend a lot of time in upkeep! People in the workplace, their employer wants those hours spent on the job, not on personal appearance (more than the bare minimum, a clean face and modest apparel, so it doesn't distract from getting the job done around other people). On a farm or in a factory, long hair can get caught in the machinery and Bad Things Happen. Think "Absalom" and don't do that. This is a law of nature, not a "Cultural Issue."

Whether women should be working or not, that's something else. Women have an important domestic role that guys simply -- again by nature -- cannot do. When parents abdicate that natural order (pass it off to hired caregivers), you get gender dysphoria, rebellion, and crime in the streets. I once heard Chuck Colson say that the single demographic statistic most correlated to crime is fatherlessness in the home (which forces the women to work and often into penury). Dr.Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, linked homosexuality to absentee fathers. Paul didn't say all that, he didn't have access to the statistics that we do, so God told him what to say, and he said it. God is not wrong nor mistaken.

In another letter, a personal note to Paul's own disciple Timothy, he emphasized,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2Tim.3:16,17, Paul's emphasis]
In his previous letter to the same disciple, Paul again argued from the created order (and again the Fall) on gender roles in the church. The Pastor got that right, but I never heard him explain it. I wasn't there when he did Genesis. Maybe it's online and I should look it up. His stated policy is "Unity on the essentials," freedom on the other stuff. This probably does not count as an essential, nobody will be damned to Hell for getting the gender stuff bass-ackwards. All the same, if God told us to do it, why would we want to do otherwise? God does not measure our love by how often we say it, but by what we do. God Himself said that, and we do well not to nullify that part of Scripture by our human traditions.

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2024 March 14 -- Golden Rule Ethics

The novel I just finished, it had some inner turmoil but not enough to ruin the story. The real show-stopper was the author's evident hostility to (and ignorance about) religion in general and Christians in particular. Most authors ignore religion, but this guy is Jewish -- you can tell, because his major characters are Jewish, and only Jews have the chutzpah to write about Jews, same as only women (and a few guys bowing at the Feminazi altar) write about women. Anyway, with a few tiny exceptions, most Jews have abandonned all connection with the God of Abraham, this guy no exception. Near the end of the book, he has the token (hypocritical) Christian woman who "smells like soap" ask the first-person Jewish hero,
"You don't believe in God, do you, Mr. Shapiro?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't think about it all that much..."
"The Golden Rule covers a lot of ground, and I don't waste my time asking questions that can't be answered."

Even atheist Jews -- up until about this time last year, I thought one of them was my friend -- know about the Golden Rule and its central place in God's expectation for human behavior (as taught by Jesus and Paul, both quoting Moses, see my essay "The Counterfeit Religion of Relationships"). My erstwhile friend did such a good imitation that I temporarily forgot why he could not actually live it, and when it came down to doing it (and he could not) his only alternative was to clam up and kill the friendship.

This author has the same problem lurking in the shadows. Closer to the front, his hero says,

"Everyone's motivations are selfish. Even altruistic do-gooders.They wouldn't do good if it made them feel bad."
Obviously he never met (and got to know) a true Christian. Jews mostly avoid us. My erstwhile friend had exactly the same thinking when he defined ethics as "doing what feels good." That was several years ago. Last year he put me into a situation where doing The Right Thing (aka the Golden Rule or good ethics) didn't feel good, but I did it anyway; he could not (or at least did not). I was proof that his atheist religion had broken down, and he couldn't handle it.

I don't think the library has any more of this guy's books, but even if they did, I probably wouldn't be bring them home.

2024 March 11 -- Daylight Losing Time

The best alarm clock I ever had was a phone. My sister got it for me on her account -- she spent an hour or more each week telling me all her troubles, and having it on the same account made those minutes free (cell phones no longer charge minutes of talking, it's all data now) -- and at the time I thought it was the Least Good phone I'd ever used: it was Korean and had a few problems the previous (American) model did not, but nothing like the Chinese Junk -- that phrase should be pronounced with the same sneer that most people these days reserve for 4-letter words discussing their sex or fecal habits and for uttering short prayers to a god they hope is not listening -- that disgraces everything electronic today.

Anyway, so my sister left this vale of tears some five years ago and I got my own (Chinese Junk) cell phone because the Korean model was "3G" which was already on its way out, and the new phone was sooo hard to use, I just keep it turned off in my leave-the-house jacket pocket, and turn it on only for emergencies, and kept the Korean model as an alarm clock. They sent me a few texts reminding me to pay (which I ignored) and it kept good time for five years. Eventually Verizon shut down their 3G towers and it went on "roming" (used up the battery faster but still kept good time), until finally the last 3G tower went offline in January this year, and the phone ran on its own for 30 days longer (it gained about a minute a week, but had no way to manually set the time) then bricked. The Chinese Junk cell phone is still waaay too hard to use as an alarm clock, but the (also Chinese Junk) alarm clocks available on the internet aren't much better. I found something at an offered low price, but it was a hoax. My niece found one with multiple alarms (sort of like the defunct phone, but not as easy to use, and too big and vulnerable for my pocket), which I'm now using to wake me up on Sunday morning. The only pocket-sized model she could find had no way to change the battery. Chinese Junk.

Not being on the cell network, this new clock could not be expected to know about Daylight Saving Time, so I looked at the calendar on the wall, and it said nothing at all. Sure enough, that was yesterday, and I arrived at church and found the parking lot full. The youth pastor was already preaching when I walked in, so I didn't miss much. It used to be the churches always reminded people the previous week about the time change, but I guess everybody is on cell time now, so it's (except for me) unnecessary. Oh well. At my age I'm finding myself increasingly irrelevant.

I heard a sermon maybe ten or fifteen years ago, a missionary, formerly to the Middle East, was feeling the same way and preached on John the Baptist, who got retired at an early age -- he did his job, but now it was over, and he didn't get out of the way quickly enough so God had him put in jail. John is sitting there in jail and wondering the same thing, did he misunderstand what he was supposed to be doing? So he sent some friends to Jesus to ask. The answer was clear: No, you did the right thing, but now it's over and you are where God wants you. I don't have that kind of irrelevance, and I thank God often. Maybe God has more for me to do, and maybe I'm just out to pasture. sigh

2024 February 28 -- Knowing the Heart of God

It was maybe a week ago or so, somebody in church said something about "knowing the heart of God" as if that's a good thing to try to do. Today I got around to trying to find that line in the Bible. Like if it's A Good Thing for Christians, then God should have said so somewhere. He did not. The King James Bible has the phrase "heart of God" exactly twice, both in Ezekiel 28 (vv.2 and 6), where the King of Tyre is criticized for trying to have (or assuming he already had) a heart like the heart of God. The oNIV on my computer renders both lines as "as wise as a god" (which is probably more accurate than the KJV) and it has the phrase "heart of God" nowhere. Trying to have a heart like the heart of God must be A Bad Thing, or at least Not Good. God is God, and we are not God. Pretending otherwise was the Sin of Adam. Leave it be. A couple years ago I tried to find the idea "Let my heart be broken by what breaks the heart of God" in the Bible and failed. I didn't even look for "heart of God" all by itself.

Today, I come to the same basic conclusion as then: trying to pontificate on The Heart of God is inappropriate activity for Christians. If God wanted us doing that, He would have said so. He did not. It is enough for us to obey God. Many times He said we should do that.

2024 February 19 -- Fantasy Masking as Mystery

This library's collection is mostly chosen for female readers (and perhaps also viewers) which are probably their majority patrons, but I'm getting pretty skilled at detecting chick-lit while still standing in front of the shelf (so I can leave it there). The book I just finished convincingly started out as the exception, and I almost dumped it but for the tantalizing hints that it was really about aliens from outer space -- the library has a separate, much smaller section for sci-fi and (mostly) fantasy. The hints were true, except the author's idea of sci-fi more closely resembles that of the female screenwriter (see "Gender Fiction" eleven years ago) who describes
the wonderful things about sci-fi 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?
I said then that Fiction is not allowed to escape the bounds of plausibility, and I still believe it. It was tough wading through the first quarter of the book's inner turmoil before he turned the corner into a guy's story -- you know: Go fast, make loud noises and break things. He was a little weak on the "go fast" part, but there was plenty of the loud noises and breakage to make up for it. The physics of shape-shifting is a little far out, probably less real than FTL (faster than light) space travel, but he wrote well what he knows -- police work and crime scene investigation, which he credibly used to explain how hard it is for UFO sightings to get any traction -- but between his shape-shifting aliens and inner turmoil, I don't think I would bring home another of his novels, which is probably not a tough decision because I don't recall seeing any. The women readers probably wouldn't like it either.

2024 February 12 -- Why I Didn't Go

I was prepared to tell him, "Show me the handout(s) and I'll tell you why I didn't go. Of course y'all know why I didn't go, but I figured I could allow for the miniscule probability I was wrong. I wasn't. On the information desk counter was a stack of books I had not seen there before, The Intentional Father by Jon Tyson. Never heard of him, but it looked like what they might hand out at a "men's ministry" session, so I asked and she corrected me "It's $10," but yes. I asked to borrow one, and looked at it for a while. It appeared to be anecdotal rather than Scriptural, but there was a chapter on "Values" so I looked there.

Nothing about the values that make Thinkers different from Feelers, nothing about MBTI at all, just two different rankings of a set of random values, one for sons, the other for daughters. "Honesty" was first for sons and second for daughters. Now it seems to me that if he understood the fundamantal difference between most men and most women, this ranking would be silly. I mean, it is silly: Truth, Justice and Duty are built-in values for Thinkers (two thirds of all men).

But the chapter opened with an anecdote where his son expressed the understanding that his father is a church planter, a pastor, and we already know that all senior pastors are FJ (Feeler-Judgers). I once knew an associate who was a closet Thinker, probably also Perceiver (the opposite of Judger), and when his senior pastor retired, he refused the promotion and was invited to leave. The whole book is written from an FJ perspective, and written to guys assumed to be Feelers. Maybe he has some good principles, but basically it misses the mark. That the church here would even offer this book as a basis for "men's ministry" shows that the leadership is as clueless as Jon Tyson on how most men think.

That's why I didn't go. Besides I'm not a father, and too old to seriously consider becoming one. It's not something I would benefit from.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about how to say all this to the guy who told me I should go, finally concluding that's how I got thrown out of two churches in the last decade, and I didn't want to add a third.

At least he knows about MBTI -- he told me unprompted that he decided he's FJ -- and some day I want to ask him,

Doesn't it bother you that your church has no gospel message at all appropriate to half of the American people?

"God loves you" is a message that Feelers want to hear; Thinkers want to hear about a God who's into Truth, Justice and Duty, which is what the Bible says; nowhere in the whole Bible does it ever say that God loves sinners, and at least two places it clearly says otherwise. If "God loves you" is such an important part of the gospel message to unbelievers, why is there no record of Jesus telling his Disciples to preach it? And if he did tell them to do it (but it was not written down), why did not one of them do as instructed? I once counted the number of incidents in the book of Acts where we are told (some of) the content of what was spoken to unbelievers in an evangelistic context, and all 20 of them, nobody ever said anything about God's love. In fact, the word "love" is never used in the whole book of Acts. Why is that? Paul often tells the Christians he wrote his epistles to that God loves them, but they are all believers.

I suspect I should wait until he tells me something to which this would be an appropriate response. Probably ain't gonna happen, people feel intimidated by me. I still want to know, but FJs tend to get unspeakably angry at me when I ask questions like that.

2024 February 7 -- "You Should Go"

My long-standing policy is Never fight with the pastor in his own church. If he's just plain Wrong, find another church. Some (perhaps most) pastors take my efforts to be helpful as hostility. That happened in the previous church. It's a Feeler thing. I have never known nor heard of a Senior pastor who wasn't Feeler-Judger. Maybe they exist, but not many: only Feelers are welcome to the job, and only Judgers want it.

This guy preaches the Word, and (mostly) he doesn't skip over the parts that disagree with his Relationshipism (that's the Religion of every Feeler, every pastor, for them it's the non-negotiable definition of what is True and obligatory). Another pastor I knew (three states and five churches ago) he apologized a lot when he came to those parts, but he preached the Word. Anyway, so I'm trying to stay under his radar.

This last Sunday he announced a new program, apparently some kind of "men's ministry" that men in the church were supposed to come to breakfast Saturday to hear about. I asked one of the associate pastors what this is all about. His reply: "All
I know about it [is he] is unfolding a men's ministry plan. You should attend."

I've been around the barn a few more times than these guys, I've been through numerous "men's ministry" plans. Every one of them, without exception, is designed by and for Feelers, and if you aren't a Feeler, you should become one. That's their thinking. Most of them have never met a Thinker to know how they think and what is important to them. The few Thinkers who come to their church, they sit in the back row and escape as soon as it's over. I knew one Thinker who pretended to be insane, others, I call them "Feeler wannabes," like a schizophrenic, one personality in church, then their real self everywhere else. At my age, I'm not about to abandon Truth, Justice, and Duty to become a Relationshipist, and I'm not much into pretense.

Should I go? Here the reasons to go:

1. The control-freak paster thinks I should go.
Here are the reasons why I should stay home and get some work done:
1. The control-freak paster thinks I should go. Both of them are Feeler-Judgers, and one important characteristic about Judgers is that they like to tell people what to do (and have them do it), no reason other than I said so.

Me, I recently came through a couple incidents of that kind of control attempt, and I'm still recovering. Tell me why and I might be persuaded. Right now, I'm disinclined to do something on somebody's say-so without good reason.

2. A spoken presentation is about the worst way for me to learn something. I think children go through a particular time of their life when their brain learns to track real-time speach, but when I was that age, there was little or no real-time speach for me to track, so I didn't learn that skill. Later in high school and college, I read the textbook ahead of time, so I already knew what the teacher was saying, no tracking needed. Upper division math classes, where there was no textbook, well, I nearly flunked out.

If this Saturday meeting is a New Idea, I won't hear a thing he says. If it's more of the Same Old Same-Old, I've already heard that, read their syllabus, "been there, done that, bought the video," and it has nothing for me. Why should I waste my time on another one?

3. The first meal of my day makes me sleepy. That's why I never eat before working or going to a meeting where I need to pay attention. Some churches in years gone by, they had an Easter brunch before the service, but I've heard more Easter sermons than I can count, it doesn't matter much if I miss one or two.

After a meal is not the time to present anything I need to pay attention to, even if it's not new (so I can hear it all). Suppose I went and didn't eat? I tell people, "I'm on a see-food diet, I see food, I'm hungry, when it's gone I'm full." Probably another one of those critical childhood time things, "Come on Tom, finish it up, we don't want leftovers" (no refrigerator in the Amazon jungle where we lived). If I sit at the table, I will eat. They didn't say how to arrive after the meal, food is supposed to be an attractor for guys.

Worse, going to their meeting doesn't just knock a couple hours out of my workday, it kills most of it. I basically lose a whole day of work. Some things are worth that, but I have no reason to believe this is one of them. A church potluck in the evening or on Sunday does not kill a whole workday (I don't work on Sundays). Anyway, I haven't done any church potlucks since Covid (see "I Didn't Kill a Baby Today" three years ago), it's a "social distance" thing. This church doesn't do that anymore, so I sit in the balcony where the population is less dense.

And then there's always
4. Every "men's ministry" plan, without exception, is designed by and for Feelers, and if you aren't a Feeler, you should become one. Like church itself, Thinkers are not invited unless they check their brains at the door. This isn't for me, and they really don't want my help making it better.

The only reason I go to church at all is that God said to. They don't say much of value to me personally. I didn't see anything in the Bible about going to Saturday breakfast meetings of unspecified agenda and even more unlikely any personal value to me or anybody else.

Maybe next Sunday (after it's over) I'll go to the information desk and ask if they had a handout, or if it was for attendees only. That sometimes works, because they don't want to seem exclusive. Exception: last month they announced a new Bible reading plan that turned out to be only for people with a smart phone (not me). Pretty much everything else, they have an inclusivist alternative, like they emailed out a web link for your donation receipt, and when  I complained that I could not access their (encrypted) website, in the mail the next week came the usual (for most churches) paper receipt.

2024 February 5 -- Eye of the Needle

It wasn't the worst novel that came home from the library -- the previous two books had far too much inner turmoil (I have enough of my own, I don't need to read about other people's fictional turmoil) and I didn't get past chapter 5 in either of them -- this one had a little turmoil in a couple chapters, but mostly it was a pretty good historical thriller. Obviously we knew the Bad Guy didn't succeed (because we won World War II, not the Germans) and there were a couple anachronisms inserted for political correctness -- later male fiction authors made their female heroes into sociopaths, which I guess the Feminazi editors didn't notice -- oh, and also the geography of his island off the coast of Scotland was inconsistent. Small stuff in fiction. I didn't regret reading it.

The reason I mention this novel is that the island where much of the action happened reminded me of a similar island in Neal Stephenson's 1999 Cryptonomicon, and the discussion on feeding the Germans fake news (he didn't use that term) was very similar to Stephenson's comments on the same topic. I almost wonder if Stephenson got some of his ideas from reading Follett's 1978 novel. Anyway it was mostly a fun read.

I almost didn't bring it home because the library copy had no dust jacket. That's where I look at the author picture (inside back flap) to be sure it's not a woman (which was unnecessary because "Ken" is a male name), and the plot teaser on the inside front flap, where I get to learn if the main character is female. I passed over it a couple times, then took it to the reference desk, and they found a plot summary on Wikipedia; the first paragraph was sufficient to answer my question without spoiling the story. Why does it matter? Women think differently from guys, and I read these books when I'm too tired to work, I don't want to struggle with getting my head inside a female lead character, especially not one written by a guy. I have trudged through enough of them to know the difference, along with reasonably reliable indicators in the cover blurb to know in less than a minute while standing there at the library shelf. Bad geography or bad science are harder to predict. Even worse is bad religion (most authors are Nones, meaning they pass over it lightly or ignore it entirely with occasional nods to Darwin).

2024 January 29 -- Ride the High Iron

It was another of those pre-Perry Mason flicks with Raymond Burr playing a thug. Slightly, like he was trying to grow out of the type-cast. That was the moral of the flick: You can't. Both Burr's character Zig and his costar character Hugo resented their place in life. They both tried to escape it, but failed -- in complementary ways, but failed.

My late sister resented being "different." She and I were both very different from our American peers. Our little sister was too young to feel it, but the other sister, she tried very hard to have her children grow up "normal," and she mostly succeeded -- except that they saw that she herself was not, and they tried to emulate her. Maybe at the end she came to accept who God made her to be, I don't know.

Me, I capitalized on my differences and made them work for me. Mostly it worked, except when trying to do people-related things, I failed miserably. Mostly I just walked away (or got pushed away, same dif) and got on with life. But looking back, I have no regrets, no "bucket list." I made mistakes, but mostly it was Clue Deficit Disorder: I couldn't have done it any better with what I then knew. Robert Fulghum's famous book title (no need to read the book, the title says it all) everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten, but I didn't go to kindergarten, so I didn't learn those things. It is what it is. Years ago I learned in a seminar, not to pick up other people's guilt. It's great. I have enough guilt of my own, but God forgives that, and I can learn my lesson and move on (with God's help to not repeat the same mistakes over and over). And I do that.

So I didn't relate to the two guys in this flick. My parents were poor, and my mother resented it. I now see that people raised in rich families behave very differently from those (like me and the two guys in the flick) raised in poor families. Rich people are more abusive, and usually don't even notice what they are doing. Poor people know what it feels like, so they are less likely to abuse. Or if they acquire power over others, they abuse them but in their hearts they know it's Wrong. At the time I didn't notice, I was too busy trying to make the best of my opportunities. No feeling like a victim, no regrets, no bucket list.

It's more wrenching when I have a job to do -- like right now, and also the first part of last year, and several times before that -- where I can't just walk away, but every time, God is in full control of the situation. It's awesome.

The "High Iron" in the flick was the express train that the rich people rode, which only rattled the poor man's house in passing. Perhaps not intended by the filmmaker, but I see the High Iron as not so much a place of priviledge, but making the best of what you have, whatever it is. Hugo turned a corner and accepted who he is at the end with a smile. Zig only wept his loss. Both had that choice.

Postscript, a couple weeks later: One of the books in my next library load was a Perry Mason mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner. It's hard to read without hearing Raymond Burr's stentorian voice booming out of the mouth of Perry and visualizing a tall blond Paul Drake (the book did not much describe him, that's a female author thing). But the Perry Mason of this book was much more intentionally devious than ever I saw in the TV series. I guess I'm glad they only have a couple of the books on the library shelf.

2024 January 27 -- Privacy As Control

Being sensitized, as I have been over the last couple months, by issues of people wanting to be controllers, I thought it interesting to see one of the many articles showing up in IEEE ComputingEdge from time to time on privacy vs computers, here's a bunch of German researchers seeing it as a "threat model" (their italics) where "the goal of the (computer) system is to manipulate and control the thought and actions of the user" (my emphasis). Considering that Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler (the original thinking of two of the worst tyrannies in modern time, the Soviets and the Nazis) were both born and raised in the German-speaking region of Europe, it seemed curious to me that these German-speaking scienbtists would still be thinking in terms of control. Later in the same article, they offer this observation:
If, for example, in a health context, confidential information about the patient's state of health falls into the wrong hands, this is not only a violation of individual privacy but a contextual collapse that fundamentally damages trust in the doctor-patient relationship.
I don't know what kind of intrusive measures the various European governments have laid on their citizens where health is concerned, but whenever I am presented with all these release forms in a doctor's office with respect to everybody in the whole world except the one party that matters the most...

I read somewhere that before WWII there were two European countries about the same size (slightly under a half million), with about the same Jewish population (same order of magnitude, 2% and 5%), and in Czechoslovakia the government had detailed documentation on all their citizens, and Hungary did not. After the war, Hungary now has ten times the percentage of Jews as the resulting Czech and Slovak republics combined. If they are recorded in a national database, you can find them and kill them.

In 1996 Congress voted HIPPA into law, then in 2010 the second "P" = Privacy was removed and replaced with "A" = Accountability (required reporting to the US government) to accommodate the intrusive nature of ObamaCare. Now every politician in the country -- and every thief in the world, arguably the same set of people -- has access to your private medical records, all in a single database. Christians are the new world Jews, and persecution of Christians world-wide is on the rise. I personally am a member of a demographic that has seen intimidation, harrassment, and persecution from all sectors of American society and all levels of the Government -- including the IRS during Obama's reign, I don't know about administrations since then, mostly because I don't see the news any more.

There is no such thing as "trust in the doctor-patient relationship" as far as I'm concerned. Especially here in Ore-gone, where the people voted into law the "right" and duty of medical practitioners to kill their patients against their will and without Due Process = conviction in a Court of Law for a capital crime. Make no mistake, Oregon is such a place: Ask local Pastor Doug Higuerra, who personally knows a man who survived (and recovered from) such an assault on his life in an Oregon hospital. Ever since that became the law in Oregon decades ago, I have said that "Oregon is not a place to grow old in." And yet here I am. Other states have similar laws, but at least the people didn't vote for it.

The forms they make you sign in the doctor's office are a hoax. There is no such thing as privacy. The government likes the feeling of control far too much: "Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool!"

2024 January 20 -- Been There, Done That

I keep a list of all the movies I have checked out of the library over the years -- mostly so I can skip over the ones I've already seen -- and another list of the movies I downloaded from (same reason), and together they add up to hundreds of flicks. Over the course of the some two decades I maintained these lists I see a lot of thugs making unreasonable (selfish, evil) demands on their victims, which are naturally reluctant to comply. Then the thug starts to hit them or assault somebody else, and the poor bloke caves. The thugs know that, that's why they do it. Whenever I see that, I always ask myself, "I wonder if I would have the fortitude to say No?" Novelist John Ringo offered the liberating insight that one best protects their friends in such situations by showing complete disinterest in their welfare (see my blog post "Leisure Reading" some 14 years ago), "They're dead already. So what?"

The point is, I have given a lot of thought to what to do when confronted by such thugs. I also have spent considerable time analyzing different personality types, mostly because I am so different from everybody else I see in church. Churches are run by the same kind of people as portrayed in the movies as thugs. Of course they don't actually beat up on people, and their unreasonable demands don't look quite so bad -- at least within plausible deniability -- but I actually experienced that kind of anti-social behavior in at least one church (after reading Ringo's novel, see "Watermark Revisited" some 8+ years ago, and other posts on the same page, like "Cowardly Face-to-Face"). There may have been others in other churches, but my policy is to never fight the pastor in his own church, so usually I just leave. Recall, that effectively was the advice of the pastor here that I blogged a month ago (see "How to Do This?"). Up until last week all I got from these people was The Silent Treatment, which, as everybody who uses the term knows, is an expression of anger coupled with the firm resolution to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Or maybe it's the honest recognition that they lack the personal charisma to stand up to that kind of assault, but I don't think that's the problem here. Mostly they are what I call "unspeakably angry," where the "unspeakable" part is literal: they are unable (or unwilling) to express their anger in any way they personally can live with. That diagnosis was confirmed this last week.

So here I am, long-distance Guardian & Conservator for a guy in another state. Due to my own Clue Deficit Disorder -- nobody bothered to tell me about the requirements -- he fell off the government gravy train. Me, my politics tends to run the other direction (as you probably already know, see for example my essay "Das Kapital (Updated)" four months ago), so I didn't volunteer for this and I didn't want it, but other family members who could probably do the job better refused for their own reasons, so here I am. Like the preachers who preach the text even when it violates their personal Religion, I try to do this job so that the people who care about such things would say I gave it my best shot. In other words, I'm giving it my best shot according to the generally accepted standards that such people are evaluated by. When I was doing the same thing for my mother, my two stated and explicit critera were: "What would I be willing for somebody to do to me when I get that old?" (aka Golden Rule, the Second Great Commandment, according to Jesus) and "What am I willing to explain to the little old ladies in church?" (or to God on Judgment Day, more or less the First Great Commandment). It's not a bad standard.

By that standard, I need to look out first and foremost for the guy's personal welfare. He's on the gravy train, keep him on the gravy train, but if we can get him off in such a way that he feels good about it, that's even better. Maybe I didn't look that far ahead until he fell off, but now that goal is explicitly in my sights. First I need to get him back on, so I can move him off in a controlled and stepwise fashion.

His residential supplier gets a HUGE handout from the government for services never actually explained to me that I know of. The size of the handout is perfectly clear: I'm paying it while the guy is off the train. That will get him in short order down to the level of poverty where he can get back on, but the gatekeeper (apparently in a fit of rage inspired by the movie thugs) promised that it would take "months" to get his residence there re-approved for the government handout, and refused to agree to grandfather him back in immediately. My Ward's excess funds cannot last that long, and I said so. I need either a commitment from them, or a place to move him to. I said that too. These people are control freaks, they are not in the habit of taking advice from their vulnerable residents -- I guess they don't see me as having any authority -- so I got The Silent Treatment. So I did what I said I have to do.

The vituperative response I got this last week confirmed my analysis -- although it is never my intention to make people angry, when they are is often the only clear and honest statement of what they are thinking. I have a lot of experience with that. I gave a calm and reasoned explanation of how we can resolve things amicably, but I will be very surprised if they don't just double down. One less cash cow in their barn seems to be less important to them than being the final shot-caller. Which they don't get to be anyway. It's irrational.

More important, until three days ago I did not have a very good defense (other than cost) for taking my Ward out of there. Now I do: If that person's anger management is so lacking that they cannot be civil and respectful to the guy's Guardian when they have a clear financial incentive to do so, why should anybody believe they will be any less abusive to the vulnerable residents in their facility when nobody is looking? Now it's a clear issue of my Ward's safety. I must remove him. Unless of course they apologize (which as a good Christian I must accept), but they won't do that. Control freaks never apologize, "it's a sign of weakness." I've been through this a few times, I know how it works. I've even seen some of their exact phrases. These people are so predictable, no wonder the AI idiots think their computers can become as smart as real people.

2024 January 6 -- Epiphany

Churches that follow the traditional church calendar celebrate today as "Epiphany" -- that's Greek for "appearance" -- when Christ was presented to the Gentiles. That would be most of us in the church. Yesterday was The Twelfth Day of Christmas, but nobody counts the days any more, except maybe some Catholics and some Lutherans. Hmmm, I thought I had something more to say about Epiphany, but I seem to have forgotten it.

So my insight for today concerns ChatGPT, two magazines (ChristianityToday and IEEE Spectrum) both short featurelets near the front. Spectrum interviewed Limor Fried, whose company Adafruit makes add-on hardware for Raspberry Pi (cheap Linux) computers (pun obviously intended). She tried using GPT to develop drivers for her company's hardware, and there's a lot of system-facing code that all drivers need to do, and GPT found hers on GitHub. Her response: "OMG, that chunk of code is a me-ism. There's these little things that I do that I copy and paste between every example." Isn't that what I said was happening? She saw it and still wants to think GPT is being smart, when all it's doing is copying and pasting. She later admitted that real people need to write the original code that GPT copies and pastes.

Kaitlyn Schiess, writing a "guest opinion column" for ChristianityToday, wants to see ChatGPT as another (deprecated) tool for "American Evangelicals" to use instead of "relationship" (her word) in understanding the Bible. It's true, Christians in the USA -- including myself -- tend to favor the "rugged individual" (not her words) model for Bible study, it's in our national culture. Of course all the pastors and teachers (obviously including Schiess herself) prefer that everybody be lemmings blindly following their tribal leader. And most people do -- just not enough to satisfy Schiess. Me, I'm inclined to believe that the rugged individualism she deprecates contributed greatly to God's Blessing on the US of A more than any other country in the last century, because the preachers all preach the Relationshipism (my word, not hers) that she favors, whereas the Bible itself teaches a more Do The Right Thing (with God's help) model of righteousness. If the tribal teaching is Wrong, do it different. GPT is only incidental to her basic message, but both GPT promoters and Schiess are teaching Wrong stuff. Sure, listen to the teachers, but they're not the final authority, God is.

Later in the same issue, Jeff Haanen (whose own ministry has "Faith & Work" in its title) reviews a book which he claims is about the same topic, trying to make sense of Christians working at a secular job. I grew up in a denomination that had us believing that if you were in "ministry" you were somehow more holy than if not. My father had a (perhaps audible, he didn't say) Call from God: "I want you in Peru!" So I went to the InterVarsity Urbana Missionary Conference asking God to do the same for me, but I only got the clear message "Shut up and wait." I went to seminary, partly so God could call me to be a preacher, but it was obvious to me (no message from God needed) that I'm not that personality type. After I began to see the importance of what I call "1+2C" in the Biblical mesage, the whole work/faith distinction became silly. Instead you do the Second Great Commandment (2C) anywhere that God puts it in front of you, and if you get paid for doing it, that's evidence you succeeded -- but not proof: you still need to verify that people are being helped. God gave Adam 2C-compliant work to do before there was any such thing as sin or the need for ministers.

Another somewhat regular columnist in the same issue mentions the "Great Commandment" at the end of her page, and refers to it at the front, but completely ignores it in giving parenting advice such as "prioritize shared identity" which is pure tribalism without any basis in Scripture, not that I can see, and none that she pointed to. Whatever.

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