Saturday, September 30, 2006

Malpractice Insurance for Nurses?

I frequently work from coffee shops which gives me the opportunity to overhear all kinds of conversations. The hospital nurses were debating their malpractice insurance situation. One said the hospital's coverage was sufficient and that any lawsuit would be capped at the hospital limit. Another had bought supplemental coverage just in case. Then someone said that the award would stop at the hospital limit if the nurse didn't have supplemental coverage, but otherwise would increase to absorb the supplemental coverage also.

Lawyers, live richly!
Only 25 miles back to the car.

Unfortunately, it is into a headwind. This road connects from Hawthorne, Nevada to Lee Vining, California. My car is parked at the bottom of the mountains in the distance. I wish I could get a photo of the salt that was covering my face due to evaporated sweat. When I get this picture, I will blog about the true meaning of "you are the salt of the earth".
Another Urban Legand Refuses To Die.

from Michael the Leveller:

"There had been 2 recessions during Reagan's 8 years and then a LARGE one during Bush I's latter term."

from the Economist:

"Mr Bush’s own father may have been a victim of statistical blight. He lost the 1992 election partly because voters thought America was still in recession. (Remember the catch-phrase “it’s the economy, stupid”?) But revised figures now show that American GDP was growing at a brisk 4% over the year up to the election."

Having been a long time reader of The Economist, it is well known that the recession was quite small during Bush I's term. Anyway, economist aren't quite convincing as they invoke the dismal science, and clearly we should expect less of presidents, regardless of party.
Bush Senior and Bush Junior.

I didn't much care for Bush Senior either as president, but it is hard to accuse him of being a warmonger. He kicked the Iraqis out of Kuwait and stopped.

What I remember was the last two years of his term was non-stop hysteria from the left about how terrible he was. Bush Senior's strong point was foreign policy, but there was continuous attacking of his competency on foreign policy.

So lets get something straight: I don't believe anyone who criticizes Bush Junior for being a warmonger. They are just as angry about non-warmongering Republicans. Left-wing lust for power is the issue pure and simple. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Extreme Dieting

Just in case someone wonders what I am doing up here: I'm dieting. Being Looney, of course, means that I must find a unique way of accomplishing this. To lose weight, we simply burn more calories than we consume. One pound of fat has 3,600 cal according to the experts (cal being kilo-calorie). If I sit around the house and do nothing, they say I will use 2,000 to 2,500 cal. When I use my heart rate monitor, however, I find that I can burn 1,000 cal per hour with intense exercise.

Thus, I simply cut my food intake to less than 1,000 cal per day and exercise for 3 to 4 hours. 1 or more pounds of fat is consumed per day! At higher elevations, the body is under more stress and this process is faster.
Unfortunately, the nice couple who suggested the lovely cross country route didn't tell me how much longer it was and said it was just some easy class I hiking. I think it is a good candidate for the Mordor Mountain Marathon. It was beautiful, but I wasn't planning on hiking and running for 5 hours 30 minutes on an empty stomach. The picture is at the top of the ridge between Duck Lake and Deer Lake.
Conan: We may be barbarians, but we aren't that bad!

The press release says that Schwarzenggar vetoed ab606 and ab1056, which mandate advocacy of Sodomist behavior in the California schools. For the right, this is more evidence that the left views the schools as nothing but a tool for indoctrination, but couldn't care less if children learn reading, writing and arithmetic. For the left, I guess Conan is trying to establish a theocracy.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Looney discovers a long lost relative at Mammoth, California.
The nice thing about being in an immigrant church is ...

Not much baggage. We look at the Bible and worship God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Immigrants lean left, but conservative Christians lean right. We mix it all up. Certainly the leadership is conservative and there are innerancy types. On the other hand, there are non-innerancy types who work side-by-side. We bite our tongues on the politics and try to find common ground so that the gospel message can get out.

As I read about the battles for control in the SBC, the warfare is pathetic. Reconciliation will only begin when all sides, Liberal, Conservative and Crazies, confess and repent of their crimes. We are all sinners.
A Very Scenic Ride.

Lee Vining to Tioga Pass is a little more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. The bike computer registered 52.4mph as the max downhill speed. My favorite mountain pass remains le Col de la Bonnette. It has about 6,000 feet of climbing, much less traffic, old villages and hundreds of sheep.
Save Mono Lake?

This is a view of Mono Lake from the top of mount Dana. I have wanted to have a high Sierra trip like this for 25 years, but never found time. It was 1981 when I left the "Save the Snail Darter" bumper stickers of Tennessee behind to move to California with its "Save Mono Lake" bumper stickers. The water for Mono Lake is diverted 350 miles to LA. What is ironic is that both of these campaigns were the result of government agencies doing things that don't make financial sense. BTW: Are you saved?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Struggling up Mount Dana.

This is just short of the 13,057' summit. Another hiker was descending, so we took pictures of each other. It was a beautiful day. As you can see, I am struggling with my stomach. This is the second highest mountain in Yosemite and the highest that can be reached by non-technical means, although some boldering practice is helpful.

A detailed report from another climbing party on Mount Dana can be found here.
She Won The Lottery!

No, not the California lottery. That is for losers. She won the Kona lottery for a highly coveted spot in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships which is on October 21. Now the middle aged mother of two young children needs to figure out how to do an even more difficult balancing act. Fortunately, her husband is supportive and helps with the children. Last Saturday, she was riding down to Santa Cruz from Fremont. She was doing the swim leg of the Sentinel Triathlon for her relay team the next day. The usual triatheletes who might join on the ride were winding down their seasons, cutting miles and getting reacquainted with their families.

Call me a chauvinist if you like, but I don't think a mother should be riding alone to Santa Cruz. I accompanied her to Saratoga Gap and sent the Ironlady on her way. She about got run over by two racing Porsches. May God take care of Sandi and her family as she continues to prepare for the Hawaii Ironman.
Remembering Socks

Attention spans and revisionism being what they are, I decided to go back and remember Socks, the first cat. While Hillary was engaged in Machiavellian intrigues over the Whitehouse Travel Office and Bill was obsessing over blue dresses, Socks was cool and calm. He was in control.

The dot-com mania was in full swing and I was right in the middle. eStupidity.com was busy hiring up all of the top talent in Silicon Valley at incredible salaries while Intel and IBM couldn't afford to hire entry level engineers. As I moved back into Silicon Valley searching for a rental property, you could see dozens of cars driving by each property like vultures. The couple that rented us a house told us that they had more than 100 rental requests on their answering machine.

Socks had all the answers. The Alternate Minimum Tax was implemented which forced those who bet on the dot-com boom to pay real taxes on virtual income. When things settled down, the federal budget was balanced, the California budget was in the black, and a lot of people found that they had paid out more in taxes than their lifetime income. Republicans lament this latter fact, but they fail to recognize that if the dot-com mania had been allowed to continue, the economic problems caused by the dot-com bust would have been an order-of-magnitude worse. Although Millie and Barney Bush inherited the mess, they still need to credit Socks.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"I know you", said the man next to the ranger booth. I immediately recognized Pastor Ed Moore from the Newark Evangelical Free Church. What made this odd was that a) I attended his church more than 20 years ago and b) we were both at the Yosemite entrance area 200 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area during the off season at the same moment. He had just handled a funeral service for one of the Newark officers whose relatives lived in the Sierras and I was on my way through looking for some quiet runs in the high country before the winter snows arrive. We spent a few minutes remembering back and catching up on things. Only God could have arranged such a chance encounter.
Purpose Driven Annoyances (Part 3)

This post is inspired by the arrival of a bunch of ladies from the Red Hat Society in my coffee shop. No, they aren't Linux users. Because I have been doing my programming work in the same coffee shop for almost a year, I have had plenty of opportunity to observe their patterns. It is an organization of older ladies which comes together and cackles for two hours and revels in their complete lack of Purpose. There are few such organizations out there, although the Republicans and Democrats are fairly close. Perhaps Howard Dean and George Bush should go together to a Purpose Driven seminar.
Purpose Driven Annoyances (Part 2)

Having pondered purpose driven paraphernalia for about 3 or 4 hours now, it is time to start authoritatively presenting opinions!

First, Purpose Driven is a methodology, not a theology. It is just as applicable to Christianity as to Unitarianism, Wiccans, or Dolly Parton fan clubs. Thus, complaints about the theology of Rick Warren's church miss the mark.

Second, the Purpose Driven methodology is in the "duh" category. "Your organization should have a purpose." Duh. "Your leaders should be trying to implement the purpose." Yawn. "Your church programs should be related to the purpose." Snore.

Third, by obsessing ourselves with the Purpose Driven model we are worshipping at the Idol of Duh.

This reminds a bit about teaching credential programs. One quarter is spent discussing the existence of a child. The next is spent observing that children learn! In the end, intelligent people are driven to do something else.
At The Cargill Salt Pond.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stupid Voters

It looks like Republican hopes of not getting trounced in the mid-term elections are rising as fast as the price of gasoline at the pump drops. My impression is that the average American voter is totally oblivious to all of the issues that bloggers blog about, whether left, right or whatever. The only thing that matters is the price of gas. If the price goes up, we throw the bums out. If the price goes down, we reward them. Who needs a brain?
Levi the tax collector and Simon the Zealot.

"Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits."

This isn't scriptural, but Looney's theory is that Jesus sent our Levi and Simon together. Levi was the vocal apologist for the Roman system. Simon, on the other hand, considered the Roman system to be evil and Satanic. Where would they find common ground?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Purpose Driven Annoyances

Help! I don't mind anyone picking up a Purpose Driven book and implementing a few ideas. The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry was handed to me and I found little to argue with and a lot of basics. Our church elders, however, just announced that we are moving to a Purpose Driven Church model. This annoys me. Maybe it is just that I don't know enough about Rick Warren, but it does seem to me to be idolizing a model. Besides, the problems facing my church have mostly been leadership quarrels over trivia which aren't going to be cured by moving them into a Purpose Driven form.

Does anyone know of any good critiques of the Purpose Drive Mania that have some substance and aren't just some Purpose Driven scoffing?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Another sensitive person who disapproves of torture. Thanks Rev Sam.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Looney has good eyes.

My wife and I were shopping for a new kitchen rug at the rug shop. There were many beautiful rugs in the store, but only one that really caught my attention. After talking with the Persian shop owners, I found out why this one stood out. She claimed it was hand crafted many years ago for the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of Persepolis! Since I have been interested in all things Persian due to my Esther studies, this immediately tweaked my interest. I also happen to have a bare floor area in my computer room that could nicely handle the 10' X 14' size. The lady just e-mailed me some pictures.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to put that little poll thingy onto my site yet. Otherwise, the questions would be:

Yes, go ahead and spend $3,500 on a rug! Trickle down theory says that it will eventually work its way down to provide one year of income for a family of rug makers!!

No, are you nuts? You don't have $3,500 to burn. Even if you did, you should just give it away to the poor!
Eliminate Drug Re-importation Rules.

Yes, this will mean some chaos, but it is needed for a few years to bring some sanity to things and some clarity to thought. Currently, the world's socialist health care systems are freeloading off of the American taxpayer. We pay 100% of the R&D bill, but price controls in places like Canada prohibit the drug companies from making more than a token profit overseas. By eliminating the re-importation rules, this little game will come to a quick halt.

The socialists will argue that they are merely not paying the marketing costs. Why not throw the dice and see who is right? The only thing to lose is the drugs that aren't invented yet. We might also lose a few hundred thousand drug industry jobs, but it will be for a worthy cause.
You have a constitutional right to commit voting fraud!

Thanks to salon.com for finding this article. Unfortunately, they completely failed to comprehend the meaning of the judge's ruling, which is no surprise.
WWRLD? (What Would Robin of Loxley Do?)

These signs adorn the property of the University of California on Mount Hamilton. They are spaced 1 per hundred yards or so for the last few miles before the summit. As an aging bicyclist, I get to see them go by in very slow motion.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Menno Simons: Fundamentalist?

In today's metanarrative, this is nonsense: Menno Simons was a pacifist, but the common denominator of fundamentalism is violence. This, however, is mentally lazy because only a street thug considers violence as his fundamental. If you start asking fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, the answer is probably going to be in how they handle their scriptures. After all, the "inerrancy" principal of the Christian Fundamentalists is what really infuriates. The fundamentalist Muslim starts in the Madrassah learning how to read the Koran in beautifully pronounced Arabic. It is a bit different from AWANA, but scripture is always at the center for both.

Admittedly, I am a Menno Simons dilettante, but the little I have seen is along this line: His conscience was bothered by various things (e.g. transubstantiation, infant baptism) and he proceeded to search scriptures for answers. What could be more fundamentalist than that? Some of his followers, however, looked to him as having all of the answers and no longer searched scripture. Although they might have the same list of positions on paper, they can no longer be counted as fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is a process, not a position!
What is your religion?

According to the belief net test, I am Seventh Day Adventist! Thanks Chris Heard.

1. Seventh Day Adventist (100%)
2. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (97%)
3. Orthodox Quaker (90%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (89%)
5. Roman Catholic (89%)
6. Orthodox Judaism (76%)
7. Islam (73%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (69%)
9. Hinduism (67%)
10. Bah�'� Faith (57%)
11. Jainism (53%)
12. Liberal Quakers (51%)
13. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (45%)
14. Jehovah's Witness (45%)
15. Sikhism (44%)
16. Theravada Buddhism (44%)
17. Mahayana Buddhism (43%)
18. Reform Judaism (43%)
19. Unitarian Universalism (40%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (34%)
21. New Thought (29%)
22. Nontheist (28%)
23. Scientology (28%)
24. Neo-Pagan (22%)
25. New Age (22%)
26. Taoism (22%)
27. Secular Humanism (18%)
3 Christian Terrorists.

These 3 are accused of starting a riot in Sulawesi in 2002 and were just executed by firing squad. Are they truly guilty? What were the circumstances? God certainly knows, but I don't. It is easy to imagine that they are part of a deal that put 3 Islamic radicals involved in the Bali bombings onto death row. The organizer of this bombing was already let go by the Indonesian government.

It does bring back memories to me. Memories of a Christian girl raised in Indonesia whose parents would bribe the police every day so that their little daughter would come back from school - alive. We here in the West are so naive about terrorism, racism and religious animosity. In the context of our culture wars, the hurling of charges of 'terrorist' are done so lightly it is incredible. What is the holocaust? Nothing but cheap, disposable rhetoric.
Silicon Valley from Mission Peak without the fog. This view includes San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Saratoga and about a dozen other cities.
In Sodomy We Trust.

The California state legislature is pushing bills AB606 and AB1056 according to the emergency e-mail network. The e-mail says, AB606 would yank funds to any school district that doesn't appropriately teach transexual, bisexual and gaysexual values to children as young as kindergarten. AB1056 allocates funding for creating "tolerance" schools.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just some more notes on global warming ...

For y'all young folk who don't remember, in the early 1980's, at the height of the cold war Carl Sagan came up with the Nuclear Winter theory. Reagan was ramping up the arms race with the Soviet Union that eventually bankrupted them and resulted in the end of he Soviet Empire. The thesis of the Physicists, however, was that Reagan was irresponsible and nuts and that we should give up the madness and unilaterally disarm. The Union of Concerned Scientists was constantly in the news and is loathe to admit that Reagan was right, implying that he might also have been smarter.

With the end of the cold war, the nuclear winter theory was shelved and immediately Global Warming (roughly the opposite of Nuclear Winter) popped up in its place. Being a pathological cynic, I would point out that forcing America to unilaterally disarm in the face of the Soviet threat was no longer relevant, so we move to the next most relevant issues: Bashing Big American Corporations. Thus, the shift was as predictable as the rising of the sun.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the Physicists, however, we leave the simple test: Will they discover any solutions that fall outside of the bash American Corporations mold? After all, they are the world's greatest geniuses and presumably something innovative would pop up! For example, we can obviously negate the effects of global warming with a limited nuclear winter! We could use the carbon tax as The Economist has proposed. We could even call Iran's bluff by destroying their oil wells so that they lose the bulk of their income and we automatically force the world to cut back on consumption of fossil fuels!

As my previous post shows, however, the real agenda is corporation bashing. The physics and science discovered are dictacted by the needs of MoveOn style reactionaries. Toyota, Honda and Nissan are also included in the lawsuit which would seem to imply something other than pure American Corporate bashing, but not much. Aramco certainly isn't a target.
Global Warming: Lawyers to the Rescue.

As a scientific simulation specialist, I should say that I think the global warming science is garbage. On the other hand, I do support using fossil fuels in a wiser manner. Given that most of the money goes to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, and a host of other erratic regimes, restricting oil use should still be something that the left and right can both agree on as a no brainer.

Suing the car manufacturers, however, strikes me as having no value whatsoever other than to enrich lawyers. Given that the trial lawyers are in bed with the Democrats, it doesn't take much to write a conspiracy theory.

If we do ever decide it is time to get serious and stop playing politics, Singapore is a good place to go to learn something.
A ride in the redwoods on Tunitas Creek road.

Another Agreement: SBC needs fiscal accountability.

I was trying to offer giving to the SBC fund as an alternative charity to my non-SBC church, but it was correctly rejected because there is no way of evaluating the stewardship of the SBC. Accountability for all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Search of the Elusive Fundamentalist Christian Terrorists.

Religious Right Watch claims to have found one. According to other news, he is a drifter who drove his car into a women's health clinic and started a fire at 4:30am when no one was there. Sadly, this is arson but not terrorism. No word yet on any religious affiliation. We will be keeping our eyes peeled. The neutrino search is apparently doing better than this.
Looney's Guide to Fundamentalism and Sports.

1. Sports is something that allows us to meet people and have opportunities for good deeds.

Luke 10:33 - But a Samaritan, as he was running along the road, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

2. The Bible encourages participation in competitive sports.

1 Corinthians 9:24 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

3. Christianity is not about being a spectator, it is about doing.

James 2:24 - You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

3.1. If you have energy to watch the television, you got energy to go out and do something.

Proverbs 6:9 - How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?

4. Running is a popular sport in the Bible.

John 20:4 - Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

Note that the "other" disciple lived longer.

4.1 Walking is acceptable if you have a hard time running, but keep the mileage up.

Luke 24:13 -
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.

5. Trail Running is also popular.

Isaiah 52:7 - How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Therefore, dirty feet are beautiful.

6. Hunting and primitive weapons are acceptable, don't be afraid of the critters, but be prepared.

1 Samuel 17:36 -Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

7. Wrestling is cool. Judo is good too, but Aikido has too many non-Christian religious elements.

Genesis 32:24 - So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

8. Even God took a rest after 6 days. Take a rest.

Genesis 2:2 - By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

8.1 If you did an ironman on Saturday, an excellent place to rest is in the pew of your church or a local church near the race if you don't have strength to get back home.

9. Go to church. We still need to gather together and everyone is doing different sports, so be sure to be there Sunday morning - on time.

Hebrews 10:24 - Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

9.1 If you are going to exercise on Sunday, finish by 8:30am so you can get to church on time.

9.2 If your sport only has events on Sunday morning, then change sports. There are plenty of sports.

9.3 If your kids have sports on Sunday morning, make them switch sports.

Proverbs 22:6 - Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

9.4 If you are planning a 100 mile trail race starting Saturday either finish within 24 hours so you can get to church or, um, do you really need to do a 100 mile trail run???

10. Pray before you go.

Acts 20:36-38 - When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. ... Then they accompanied him to the ship.

11. No whining, even if it is cold and raining or too hot.

Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

12. Give thanks to the Lord.

Colossians 3:17 - And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

NOTE: I reserve the right to add, subtract, modify, preserve and/or disown any or all of this without notice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

At the dinner table ...

I was listening to my kids complain about school. One is taking chemistry + ap biology and the other did this last year, so they were comparing the different science classes. The ap biology was all memorization which they hated, whereas the others involved principals and mathematics. I didn't say anything, but it was a reminder of the vast differences between the explanatory sciences (physics and chemistry) and the observational ones (biology). Sorry Darwinists, but biology doesn't explain, unless you are prepared to answer the questions that God gave to Job. We can observe, admire and try to understand God's handiwork, but to explain is incredibly presumptuous.
A view of Mission Peak from the bike trail in front of Sun Computers.

Looney agrees with Gore. Tennessee is finally united.

Exchanging payroll taxes for pollution taxes would potentially please the conservatives and the liberals.
Thou Shalt Not Learn.

Another review of America's public education system. As always, the fact that most of the high-end brain jobs are going to those who didn't grow up in America's public education system is completely lost in the debate.
Are there any terrorists who claim to be Fundamentalists Christians (or Baptists, or Mennonites, or Mormons, or Presbyterians, or ...)?

This is actually a sincere question. Given the number of Christian Fundamentalists out there, it would seem to me surprising if some really violent things haven't been done by someone.

The two most common examples cited, however, clearly aren't Fundamentalist Christians.

Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic/Agnostic hybrid as this CNN report shows.
Eric Rudolph seems to have also been associated with Catholocism growing up, but later exposed to the Christian Identity movement per another CNN article. (Admittedly, I had wondered if Eric Rudolph would have been some sort of Baptist until the evidence pointed elsewhere.)

Both seem to me to be closer to Guy Fawkes than anything fundamentalist, although I wouldn't label them Catholic terrorists either.

Other terrorist candidates are even further removed from fundamentalism, such as Ted Kaczynski or John Allen Muhammed. Moving back earlier in American history, we have mainly left-wing groups. There is, however, the extremely ugly KKK. The KKK seems to be a rather eclectic bunch that I would have a hard time associating with any other group. They were, however, anti-Semetic which would seem to preclude any Fundamentalist association if I am to believe all the reports about Christian Zionism.
The Poor are Getting Poorer.

Fundamentalists are supposed to be parochial and xenophobic, while liberals are supposed to be the opposite. When it comes to this issue, however, the roles are clearly reversed. As The Economist reports, while the poor may be getting poorer in a few areas, on a worldwide basis, hundreds of millions of poor are being lifted rapidly towards the middle class. One lost job in the rich world can perhaps produce 10 new jobs in Africa. Which is better? As Christians, is the one rich-world employee worth more than 10 Africans?

From my engineering consulting vantage point, the problems that the rich countries face are well known, but rarely broadcast. Disability fraud combined with runaway medical insurance costs are primary factors driving employers to outsource overseas. Frivolous racial discrimination lawsuits have devastated the black community. Militant unions have rendered the entire US auto industry bankrupt as commitments to retired workers exceed the value of the companies. In Europe, much of the youth are unemployed due to union mandated benefits.

I have yet to hear a sensible proposal from any politician on where we should go from here.
Time to say it like it is ...

1) The IRS rules regarding campaigning in churches are a blatant violation of the 1st amendment: It is a law coming down from congress and it effects the established religions. Period.

2) Churches should stay out of campaigning for individual politicians and parties, thus, the rules are still a very good idea.

3) We should see a dozen or more churches on both the right and left prosecuted after every national election!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today's speaker at church was Mark Scandrette from ReIMAGINE!

They have quite an interesting mission field.
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." - Luke 9:62

Yesterday was the Alcatraz Sharkfest. I thought that I would blog about the first time I did this swim. The Envirosports group rented two ferries and we had about 800 swimmers. In one sense, I was prepared. The distance to the San Francisco aquatic park is about 2,000 yards and I had been swimming 4,000 yards regularly. Although the water is cold, I was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit. There was a blast of the horns and 800 of us began jumping off the boat into the water. The start line was just around a point of the island in the water behind a line of kayakers. Making my way to the kayakers, I wasn't feeling too well already.

The horn blasted again and the swimmers were all oozing through the water like too many eels in a bucket. We were bumping into each other. Suddenly, I was swimming on someone else's feet. Then I noticed that my heart was racing, but I had just started. The wetsuit was uncomfortable around my neck and I like my breathing. As we cleared the point, something else happened. We had been sheltered from the strong winds that come through the Golden Gate, but now we were hit by them. The waves picked up and the salt spray started blowing in my face. I had been training in the calm pool water with straight lines clearly visible under water. I had also trained with all of my breathing done when my head was turned to the right, but that meant facing the spray from the Golden Gate.

Then I began looking back at Alcatraz. A minute or so later, I looked again. It wasn't getting any smaller. San Francisco wasn't getting any closer. It seemed that everyone was passing me. I began to panic. Our safety ring of kayakers was about 100 yards away, but even that looked too far suddenly. How to calm down?

Then I changed my patterns. I took 10 strokes and stopped to look for the buildings on the San Francisco horizon that were my point of reference. Take 10 strokes, look. Take 10 strokes, look. I stopped looking back at Alcatraz which was much of my source of anxiety. Take 10 strokes, look. Gradually it switched to 20 strokes, look. The rhythm was going. Eventually I crossed the channel and approached the sea wall next to the aquatic park. Here the waves are much bigger due to the reflections. Getting into the aquatic park, the waves calmed down and I could feel another rush of adrenaline to help me cover the last 200 yards to the finish.

Envirosports knows how to throw a party. If you ever visit San Francisco, check their event schedule first. My ending time was about 50 minutes. The best times were for olympic class swimmers who took about 30 minutes, but others took as long as one hour, 30 minutes. I can never look at Alcatraz the same.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Yeee Haaaa! I was saddled up and ready to go ....
... but after 52 miles in the saddle I wasn't feeling very fresh and I still had one more mountain range to cross. Besides, they probably have rules against roping bulls while riding a bicycle. Cowboys can be awfully legalistic.

I took these pictures today on highway 84 half way between La Honda and San Gregorio. This is just over the mountains from Silicon Valley and about 40 miles from San Francisco. Guess I need a telephoto lens. According to the web, this should be Driscoll Ranch. The country music could be heard clearly. The announcer blared out, "this event is sponsored by (didn't catch the name), the only gay member of the San Francisco board of supervisors and ...". After Brokeback Mountain, the gays are probably thinking this is a good forum for recruitment. I was also surprised to learn that there was only one gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Make Love, Not War.

This was the motto of the pacifists of the 1960's and early 1970's. It is fitting: By 'love', they are speaking entirely of the 'eros' variety and nothing of the 'agape' variety. "What should we do about the communist tyranny on the march in Vietnam?" "Leave me alone, I am too busy gratifying my lusts." The pacifism of Jesus isn't for the purpose of indulging lusts.

The 1930's pacifism was based on wishful thinking. Jesus knew people's hearts. Pacifism isn't about wishful thinking and denying man's evil nature.

Herodotus identifies another kind of pacifism. When the Persians approached a city, there was always a ruling faction that would resist and an out-of-power faction that would be happy to sabotage the city defenses in exchange for power or for the purpose of selling others into tyranny. The pacifism of Jesus isn't about gaining earthly power or wealth either.

So, pacifists, what would you like people 100 years later to write about you? He was pacifist because _______________________________ .

Friday, September 15, 2006

Aum Shinrikyo again ...

For reference, Aum Shinrikyo attacked some subway stations in the Tokyo area in 1995 with sarin gas causing a number of deaths and massive panick in these incredibly packed stations. It looks like Japan is picking up bad habits from the US. The Japanese court system is still haggling over legalities. I think a society should make a conscious decision on whether it will or will not have a death penalty. What I find completely incomprehensible is the slow motion justice where appeals drag on for decades. The relatives of the victims probably just want to forget and put it behind, but the income of the lawyers must take precedence.
Divest from Darfur!!!

Does anyone know where this picture comes from and what it has to do with Darfur?

UPDATE: The picture is from the (3rd?) movie Four Feathers. It is about a failed attempt to relieve the army in Kartoum that was about to be wiped out by the army of the Mahdi. The events are from the later half of the 19th century.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. - Mark 1:35

Regarding New Directions in the War on Terror.

I am all for new directions, provided someone can provide a plausible explanation for why that direction makes more sense. Jimmy Carter's deft handling of the Iranian militants comes to mind ... The current song is that if the far left takes over foreign policy in the US and changes things, we will stop generating terrorists and the world will move towards peace and harmony. All I deduce from that is that we are losing the war on drugs.

An approach which contrasts drastically with the US is that of France. Al Qaeda has taken offense at them too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parents Night at Mission San Jose High School .

This is always fun. MSJ High School is one of the highest ranked public high schools in California with a student population that is 75% Asian, 20% Caucasian and 5% other. I am Caucasian and my wife is Chinese, so my children switch between the 3 categories as needed to maximize their benefits. Racial discussions are always a popular topic in my family. Although I am a native American, I have spent most of my life with people referring to me as the 外 國 人 (foreigner), even in my own home!

My son has 6 classes: 2 AP, yearbook and 3 regular. Among the parents who showed for the AP classes and yearbook (which is selective), I was the only Caucasian and the rest were Asian. In the regular classes, the ratios were reversed with primarily Caucasian parents.

There is a bit of racial tension here. My wife tried to complement my daughter once by telling her how "American" she looked once. The answer was shocking: "Mom, do I look that dumb?". There is a big culture gap. A big challenge is how to discuss racial differences that are real without dropping down into bigotry and ignorance.
The Theory of Political Action according to the Book of Esther.

"If I perish, I perish."

Perhaps we should revise lobbying rules in the US so that those who undertake the profession would find Esther's words appropriate.
My Nerd Score = 94.

I lost some points because I was using one of the few machines in the house that I didn't build. Thanks Jim.
From the better late than never category.
Some Info on the Montreal Killer.

It seems that there is much of the usual: He is a Goth with a profile on VampireFreaks.com. He claims to be an Indian (North American?) and has a Mohawk haircut. He likes trenchcoats and guns. What I find particularly disturbing is that he doesn't like country music.
Late birds climbing up out of the fog ...
(That reminds me, I need to recharge my head lamp.)

Getting Repetitive: Why Islamo-Fascism is a harmful concept.

This is in response to an article supporting the use of the term Islamo-Facism. My objection, however, is from the right rather than the left. To summarize, the Islamo-Fascism concept presumes that there is no such thing as religion - only spin.

Hitler at one point writes in Mein Kempf that the conflict between Protestants and Catholics was entirely due to the Jews! He is the ultimate spinmeister. There is nothing of value that he sees in either Protestant or Catholic theology from this viewpoint. What Hitler saw was a blank sheet on which to write his new ideology in a culture which had lost the notion that Christianity was a serious religion, but clung to the traditions.

The more agressive elements of Islam, however, come from the madrasahs. These are the religious schools that are everywhere in Islamic countries and teach young people to read the Koran with properly pronounced Arabic, even if they are native Malays or Chinese. For them, Islam is an extremely serious undertaking.

Where Islamo-Fascism is really a harmful concept is that it implies that all we need to do is write something else in the blank pages of the Koran, or perhaps pay someone else to do this, and the violence will stop. At this point, I am happy to join with the left and throw some rotten fruit at the right.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Samaritan's Purse.

Admittedly, I am too much of a grouch. Two weeks ago, we saw a video about the hurricane Katrina efforts of Samaritan's Purse. I like what they are doing, but it just seemed to be too much glorification of Franklin and Billy.
A Curious Theocracy.

What is curious about this theocracy is the diversity. For example, President Bush is the head, and was raised an Episcopalian before becoming a Methodist. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Pentacostal, was fingered by the ACLU as a major figure. If we start looking further, we see Catholics and Mormons joining with various Evangelicals. Then there is Jack Abramoff, a Jew, who forms another part of the Axis of Theocracy. To top it off, there are internet rumors circulating that President Bush is inviting Muslims in to pray.

Maybe someone smarter than me can explain how this is going to work. We all face Mecca, straighten our tefillin, speak in tongues, sing a tedious praise song, recite a verse from the KJV, cross oneself, ... and finish up with "Just as I am" and an altar call. How do we accomodate the Rastafarians?
Mission Peak viewed from Mount Allison

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My resources and continuing on with the purpose of Esther.

Before going on, I should say how much was my own and how much came from other sources. I mentioned that the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica article was the starting point for my studies, which is quite hostile, although lenghthy compared to modern encyclopedia articles and including a lot of tidbits. Most of my initial work was based on going through Herodotus and noting points of relevance to Esther or the other Persian period books in the Bible, taking note of the objections. This is just basic fact checking.

A book on Esther by Swindoll was quickly dismissed as not useful. "History of the Persian Empire" by Olmstead, University of Chicago Press was helpful and provided a nice contrast of modern opinions compared to the more hostile earlier ones. "The Greco-Persian Wars" by Peter Green, University of California Press provides a readable re-telling of the story in Herodotus with a bit of modern analysis.

Most useful to me, however, was "Esther" by Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. In this, she hints at what seems to me to be the conclusive point on the purpose: Mordecai is descended from Shimei and Kish, which would hint of a connection to king Saul. Haman is the Agagite, which implies he is descended from king Agag. At this, she shrugs her shoulders and moves on. Perhaps this is all just coicidence?

Instead of dropping this, however, I will claim that Esther is really a re-run of the Israel-Amalekite battles that occur throughout the old testament with special emphasis on the command given to Saul to destroy all the Amalekites and don't touch the plunder. The reasons:

1) 3 references to the Jews not taking plunder. These seem only plausible if the Jews of the time had understood as a people that this was a replay of the Saul/Agag events.
2) Mordecai from Shimei and Kish, effectively the nearest descendent to Saul.
3) Haman the Agagite.
4) Mordecai's refusal to bow to Haman.
5) Haman's extreme reaction in wanting to kill all the Jews and offering 10,000 talents of silver for the purpose.
6) Mordecai's comment to Esther that if she doesn't do this, then Esther and her family will die but God will still save the Jews . This follows along the line of Saul's family having been destroyed for taking the plunder and the battle with the Amalekites continuing under David.
7) The final recognition by Haman's wife and advisers that Mordecai will cause his downfall, because he is "of Jewish origin".
8) This point in time is a few centuries removed from the events of Saul-Agag, so a few escapees could have built up into a considerable population again. Note that Saul was killed by an Amalekite, so clearly there were some who escaped.
9) The only competing explanation, that it was a random pogrom, isn't compelling.

Finally, if the story is re-read from the viewpoint that this is the final Israel-Amalekite battle, then it seems to me to be vastly more plausible.

Any objections?
US public education has some problems, according to the OECD.
The Alcatraz Sharkfest is Closed.

Sigh. It is this Saturday. I better not procrastinate next year.
Another Mission Peak Photo

The Meaning of the Book of Esther.

Hint 1: "But they did not lay their hands on the plunder" - Esther 9:10
Hint 2: "but they did not lay their hands on the plunder" - Esther 9:14
Hint 3: "but did not lay their hands on the plunder" - Esther 9:16

Observation 1: "Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?" - 1 Samuel 15:19
Quote of the Day

"Happy Birthday"

Said to Looney, by his wife.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Abraham recommends Alienware:

"And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." - Hebrews 11:13

Therefore, this is my new laptop.

Cyrus: Horse Lover

"Mene Mene Tekel Parsin" - Daniel 5:25


One of Cyrus' sacred horses jumped into a river and drowned. He cursed the river and dug channels into the desert to disperse it, but it took most of the summer and delayed his attack on Babylon. When he finally did arrive in Babylon, the city was well prepared. Inspired by his canal digging exercises, he dug one more that led from the Euphrates to a swamp. In the night, the diversion was accomplished and his soldiers went into Babylon via the greatly reduced river and took the city which had been consumed with a celebration. Thus, the peculiar transition of power mentioned in the book of Daniel.

"When Haman entered, the king asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?"
Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!' " - Esther 6:6-10

The Persians were proud of their horses.
Themistocles the Persian???

Themistocles was the leader of Athens who foresaw the invasion of Xerxes and pushed for the construction of the trireme fleet that resulted in the defeat of the Persians at Salamis. Certainly, he is the ultimate Athenian hero. Due to the political battles in Athens, however, Themistocles was ostracized - he was ordered to leave the city.

He went and offered his services to Xerxes. Although Xerxes' temper was famously bad, he also valued the skills of talented administrators. Thus, Themistocles finished his career as a Persian administrator over a few cities. Herodotus tells us that the Persians mainly pursued military employment and left the administration to foreigners who were better educated and knowing the local conditions. Xerxes was much more intelligent than would seem based on his temper alone.

The reason for this anecdote is that my 1910 scholarly article protested that the Persians would never have used Mordecai and Haman as senior administrators. This should also provide some better context on the militantly anti-scholar mood of the fundamentalists. Today's scholars I find much more responsible, but it is hard to recover from the damage.

Additional complaints against the book of Esther:

Complaint: A gallows 75 feet high is impossible.
Answer: Too stupid to respond.

Complaint: Xerxes would never allow 75,000 people to be killed.
Answer: Yes, this number is large, but if you have read Herodotus, killing a mere 75,000 people for rebellion would not necessarily merit recording.

Complaint: Haman didn't have 10,000 talents of silver.
Herodotus Note: Babylon's contribution to the royal treasury was 1,000 talents of silver per year.
Answer: This is the complaint that is the strongest. Because Haman didn't actually put 10,000 talents into the treasury, he might have been bluffing. On the other hand, Arabia (where Haman was likely from), was not one of the Persian administrative areas. Amicable relations are to be assumed and a very rich point-of-contact is quite plausible. The story line is still intact even if we revise the amount that Haman offered down by a large amount.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wild Turkeys before they are bottled.

Good Morning Silicon Valley!


This picture was taken this morning on Mission Peak. I like to climb it before going to church. It is a good way to get the blood going and I can pray for the church service and meditate over whatever teaching I am required to do. It is also good to ponder profound spiritual questions like why young people can't get to church on time. This morning's run/hike was 10 miles and included Mount Allison. It is 8:18am and church starts at 9:30.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Looking towards the Island of Salamis.


"During the whole time of the battle Xerxes sate at the base of the hill called Aegaleos, over against Salamis; and whenever he saw any of his own captains perform any worthy exploit he inquired concerning him; and the man's name was taken down by the scribes, together with the names of his father and his city." - Herodotus

Thanks to google maps, it seems that this picture can be confirmed as being of the island of Salamis looking out from Athens. Xerxes sat somewhere on the hills looking at the battle and recording the events. Now consider this passage:

But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king. - Esther 2:22-23

Again, we have a parallel pattern between Herodotus and Esther of Xerxes making special note of the deeds of those who serve him.
The city of Menlo Park is offering free advice to the harried tech workers of Silicon Valley who are seeking direction in their lives.

Note that Menlo Park has also taken a position on the never ending controversy over whether Fuller Seminary is "to the left" or "to the right".

Friday, September 08, 2006

Today's Featured People of Conscience.

We have on the one hand the religious police of Saudi Arabia who are upholding the ban on unclean pets, especially dogs and cats. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Brad Pitt who says he won't marry until all restrictions on marriage are lifted, which presumably means that a person should be able to marry his/her dog or cat. It always makes me feel good to know that Christian Fundamentalism is mid-way between the extremes. We are moderates! Really!
In Jesus Name

"I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." - Mark 9:21

About a year ago, my church sent a few hundred dollars to Samaritan's Purse for Hurricane Katrina relief. Congress had just voted $50 billion which is about $167 for each person in America. Given the demographics of our city, I would expect that our real contribution is probably between $1,000 - $2,000 per church member on average.

The net result is that the vast majority of the charitable giving of our members is channeled through the government and given in the name of secularism. The Spirit of Secularism, however, is horribly offended if any of that money is given in the name of Jesus. On another note, we see the contributions of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia invariably given in the name of Islam. Should we really condemn Christians who don't see it as their mandate to advocate giving in the name of the Spirit of Secularism?
Esther vs. Ishtar

Eventually, I need to talk about why the book of Esther is relevant. My main notion of what the scholars said about this book is based on a 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica article that is oozing with hostility. Per my usual contrarian attitude, if they didn't like it, then it must be important!

First, most of the scholarly energy was spent on comparing Ishtar to Esther and then claiming that the book of Esther was just a re-work of earlier myths. Most of this is based on similarly sounding names, primarily Esther/Ishtar. I don't have the specific myth, but recently came across the "Epic of Gilgamesh" at a Borders and fetched a copy. If we look at character instead of similar sounds, what we see is a beautiful, seductive Ishtar whose lovers suffer very nasty fates. She is easily offended, whines to the other gods, and demands violent action.

Looking at character, the bizarre Amestris (Vashti) is the only plausibly similar character, not the meek Esther. In fact, I would speculate further and suggest that God may have allowed this violent woman to be queen so that the Ishtar theory would be discredited and as a testimony against the scholars. With the recent scholarly objections that the Exodus Decoded involves a forcing of facts to meet pre-conceived ideas (it seems to me that the scholars are probably right in this instance), it should be remembered that earlier generations of scholars had forced Esther into their pre-conceived myth notions.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Scholarly objections to Esther center around this passage in Herodotus:

"...and the kng was to be bound to marry into no family excepting those of the conspirators..." (3.88)

To this 1858 translation, Prof. Rawlinson adds the following footnote:

"So far as can be traced, this rule was always observed."

This was an agreement of seven conspirators, including Darius, regarding the assasination of Smerdis and how they would handle the kingdom if they should succeed. Thus, the scholars insist that it is impossible that Xerxes would have made Esther, an outsider, queen. Case closed?

Well, turn back a page and look at Rawlinson's note on this entire section (beginning 3.80):

"The incredulity of the Greeks is again alluded to. No doubt Herodotus had Persian authority for his tale; but it is so utterly at variance to Oriental notions as to be utterly incredible."

Thank you Prof. Rawlinson. Now the next question is, how far is so far as can be traced? Answer: Herodotus and Esther, with a tiny bit of Ctesias. In other words, the only plausible explanation for Prof. Rawlinson's note is that he wants to throw his professional credibility into dissing the Bible. Then, we move to Herodotus 3.88:

"and now Darius contracted marriages of the first rank, according to the notions of the Persians: to wit, with two daughters of Cyrus, Atossa and Artystone;..."

To this, Rawlinson also adds a note:

"Darius had married a daughter of Gobryas before his accession (vii 2). He also took to wife his niece, Phratagune, the daughter of his bother Artanes (vii. 224)."

Cyrus was dead and not part of the seven conspirators. Atossa is the mother of Xerxes and was the queen. This passage of Herodotus contradicts the passage of 3.84 and also contradicts the Rawlinson footnote. So far as can be traced means less than 2 pages.

For this, I think Rawlinson should have been flogged. The reason that scholars aren't flogged, however, is that the most corrupt scholars will be the most enthusiastic about flogging everyone else.
Vashti vs. Amestris

The Bible lists Vashti as the first wife of Xerxes, but the Greeks give the name Amestris. This first wife is the mother of Artaxerxes who was the next emperor. The scholars have disputed the Bible's account saying that it is unbelievable when compared to the Greek account. First, for the raw data on this comparison:

Bible:

Queen Vashti also gave a banquet ...

... King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded ... to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.

"Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest."

Herodotus:

"While these things were passing between Xerxes and his brother Masistes, Amestris sent for the spearmen of the royal body-guard, and caused the wife of Masistes to be mutilated in a horrible fashion."

"I have heard that Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, in her old age buried alive seven pairs of Persian youths, sons of ilustrious men, as a thank-offering to the god who is supposed to dwell underneath the earth."

Ctesias:

"Amestris was enraged because Megabyzus had not punished the murderers of her son. Initially, Artaxerxes did not allow her revenge, but after five years (in 449?), he permitted her to crucify the Egyptian leader, Inarus, and kill several captives."

Looney:

Let's just say that Xerxes had plenty of reason to keep a distance from Amestris and the Vashti incident was probably just one of many. The temper of Xerxes is also well documented and his response to Vashti is completely within character.

Also, in Esther 2:11, we see the following: "Every day he (Mordecai) walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her". Combining the Greek anecdotes with the Bible's account, we can guess that Mordecai suspected that replacing Vashti (Amestris) with Esther was going to have some nasty consequences - which would perhaps explain this behavior. On the other hand, this might just be normal.

The primary scholarly objection to Esther is a different passage that I will post on shortly.
Schwarzenegger vetoes SB 1437???

This is according to savecalifornia.com. Another friend of mine heard this on the radio last night, but there is nothing that I see in the main stream media.

For those of you who don't know, this is a gay/transsexual/lesbian lifestyle advocacy mandate for the California public schools - k through 12. If you ever wanted to sodomize a school child, this is your bill that Schwarzenegger vetoed.

I believe that there are a lot of sincere, Christian Democrats, but your leadership is determined to out-do Sodom and Gomorrah for depravity.
Let's not be santimonious.

I like Bono and believe that the One Campaign is driven by good motives. There is quite a gap, however, between this and:

"As one on the backside of 50, who carried the hunger-education portfolio for the old Christian Life Commission in the mid-to-late 1980s, I can definitively attest that moderate Southern Baptists put energy to the denomination's World Hunger Day in October and fundamentalists did not. In fact, the SBC fundamentalist leaders have profoundly downgraded hunger education and observation."

Of course, the implication is that fundamentalist are callous compared to the caring non-fundamentalists. They are swimming in a sea of ignorance. Charity done badly does more harm than good. The Good Samaritan gave his own money. He didn't ask the government to rob some rich folk so that he could pay the needs of the victim and then take the credit.

How to handle caring wisely is something we should discuss vigorously.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bush is a Meanie.

According to Howard Dean. Don't get me wrong, I really do believe the Republicans deserve to be badly thrashed in November and it would be good if a number of them lost their seats to teach them a lesson. Thus, I am 50% in agreement with the left. The part where I deviate is when the left goes on to say that the Republicans deserve to lose because they are mean to Al Qaeda. What happened to they deserve to lose because they won't stop the anarchy on the border? Or they deserve to lose because of runnaway government growth in spending and regulation? Sadly, the Republicans will probably not have much loss in November because all the Democrats see is a president who is mean to terrorists.
Why I am a Pharisee.

The Pharisee is an insult that we always hurl at someone else. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, so we call someone else a Pharisee carelessly as if to say that Jesus condemns you.

Few of us, however, confess to having some of the characteristics of the Pharisees. Here is my list:

The Pharisees were educated and pursued knowledge. We see this with the Apostle Paul. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up - 1 Cor. 8:1. I too love knowledge and did so from when I was very young. A portion was just curiousity, but there was always this part of me that wanted to be smarter and know more than those around me.

The Pharisees loved to be called Rabbi. Yes, I teach and I enjoy it. In fact, I must hold back my emotions sometimes when I am offended that a young person went outside the church to ask something about the Bible and refused to even ask my opinion. What could be more a sign of a Pharisee?

The Pharisees were good at spin - which we formerly called rationalization. Me too.

Probably there is much more that I am blinded to. My favorite Pharisee, however, is Nicodemus. He went sneaking around in the night to talk to Jesus and received a lesson on being born again.
The Persians by Aeschylus

"and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet ..." Esther 1:3

"She (Esther) was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign." Esther 2:18

The gap between these two dates represents one of the most amazing times in history as a world war that has little to compare with until the modern era took place. Christians usually take note that Esther has no mention of God, but the lack of mention of these events is also notable. A huge army and fleet moved to attack Athens and Sparta while a separate horde from Carthage attacked Syracuse. The end result was a disaster for the Persians and the Carthaginians. Given that the entire Persian empire and surrounding regions were involved, these events were the motivation for Herodotus to write his Histories and thereby make history a subject of torment to school children to this day. More importantly, many of the concepts of our modern world including tyranny and freedom, appeasement and resistance, democracy, capitalism, taxation ... are being argued over. What could be more important than this?

Aeschylus writes a fictitious account of what happens when a messenger returns to Persia to bring the news of the terrible defeat at Salamis. I finally picked up a copy recently as I was at Borders with my son fetching cheat sheets for Shakespeare. There is little of factual interest to take note of in The Persians, but the attitudes are useful to contrast with that of Esther. The Greeks explain all of the events in terms of the actions of the gods. The failure of the Persian attack is attributed to either the whims of the gods or the presence of oracles.

Being a pathological contrarian, I always like how God tends to do things in a manner that is the opposite of what is happening in the societies around the Israelites. In the case of Esther, the invoking of God to explain the actions would not have been productive at all, as it would have followed the existing patterns. The scrupulous avoidance of the usage of God compels us to look harder at the details of the story to understand what is going on. The scrupulous avoidance of all of the worldly issues of the day also is a message for us today.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Some speculation regarding the development of the book of Esther:

"From Babylon and from the rest of Assyria there came in to him a thousand talents of silver and five hundred boys for eunuchs: this is the ninth division." - Herodotus

The palace(s) of the Persians were staffed with eunuchs from the vicinity of Babylon. The book of Esther includes many references to eunuchs. The perspective of the author seems to be that of the eunuchs, thus, I suspect that he was either close to the eunuchs or possibly even one of the eunuchs.

The Assyrians formed their empire by conquering people and selling them into slavery. Cyrus was a hero by reversing this trend and liberating many nations. Darius was governor of Babylon before killing Smerdis to become the first Median ruler of the empire. Given this, we can assume that Darius would have brought his Babylonian kitchen crew (including liberated Jews?) to Susa. The grandson of Darius is Artaxerxes and we find that Nehemiah was his cupbearer. Perhaps Nehemiah was a young man in Susa working in the kitchen during the events described in the book of Esther. Was he one of the eunuchs?

The plain style of the book, "this is what happened",seems to reflect a style not too different from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Compared to Herodotus, there is no reference or interpretations of the supernatural. We also find much less reason to complain of exaggerated story lines in Esther than in Herodotus. Thus, I view it as a simple statement of what the eunuchs saw and heard as they went about their business in the palace. From our modern perspective, I actually appreciate this approach a lot: The facts, and nothing but the facts.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Patrick Henry College is trying to recover after the disputes of the last year. I don't claim to know anything about what is going on, except that the code words "academic freedom" were invoked. As always, I am rather jaded when I hear this phrase because it is usually invoked by the left who are historically the most intolerant of academic freedom. Regardless, I am glad that all who left the school managed to find new employment.
We Are Last!!!

Silicon Valley is last according to the survey which lists property costs as a primary factor. This is no surprise to those of us who live here. Just consider neighboring Santa Cruz county which achieved the distinction of being the least affordable county in America a few years back, before things really started to get unaffordable!

It is ironic that we are also one of the most left-wing regions in America. Always looking out for the little guy, eh?
Steve Irwin dies from Sting Ray.

Having heard a eulogy yesterday regarding some friends who died on interstate 5, Steve Irwin's death might not be so significant to me. Traffic is the main concern here. Steve lived much closer to the limits and I am amazed that God let him live this long. May the Lord comfort and guide his family.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scholars & Dilettantes: A Partnership?

Yes there is a partnership where we need each other, but it is also one of hostility. The scholar offers a more disciplined approach to sifting through knowledge. There is also some continuity and the hope of avoiding problems through peer review. The deficiency, however, is that scholars are humans who are conceited end rarely rise above Enron levels of integrity. Peer review is just as often responsible for reinforcing falsehood as in promoting truth.

The dilettante inflames by questioning the things that the scholar has pronounced off limits. Much of the time, the dilettante is wrong and the scholar scoffs. When the dilettante is even 1% or 2% right, however, the scholar will howl with fury. These dilettantes I would be happy to write off as idiots, but a scholar howled, so I am compelled to take a second look and ask what is the 1% truth that offended? Perhaps it is the belief of the dilettantes that Biblical prophecy does tell us something useful and important about the future or the here and now, just not what it is that they have boldly proclaimed to be the truth. Scholars, the ball is in your court now.
I also lay aside all ideas of any new works or engines of war, the invention of which long-ago reached its limit, and in which I see no hope for further improvement...

Sextus Frontinus, governer of Britannia, AD 84

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why hate crime legislation is a hate crime.

Or to put it another way, it politicizes justice and makes a mockery of the legal system.
If at first you don't succeed ...


Last week's Monterey conference didn't help my bike conditioning, but I made another attempt on Mount Hamilton today. The picture is a view from the 4200 foot top out towards the Monterey peninsula. Monterey is about 50 miles in the distance with the ocean fog. The valleys between probably have a bit of south San Jose and Morgan Hill.

Mount Hamilton is a popular place for bicyclists and noisy motorcycles. My ego was puffed a bit by passing some 20ish youngsters before getting passed by some old folk near the top. I keep score by trying to pass more than pass me, and it was about 8 and 8 when all was done. There was a group of old guys that I joined up with to chat away the last 3 miles. The older one (67 years old) made fun of us by riding ahead, turning around and descending a bit, then catching us again repeatedly. This didn't help my ego much, until finding out that they are Death Ride veterans. The older one did it 6 times. Today's total ride distance was 70.6 miles. Not bad for a second ride in almost a year.

Anyway, I will give thanks to God for the health that I have. Everything is from Him and He will take it away eventually. He is good.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Joe Wilson and the Yellow Cake

The greatest scandal of the Bush administration is winding down now and has turned into a fiasco. The leaker of Valarie Plame's name seems to be Dick Armitage, who was both a gossip and someone who opposed the Iraq war. Thus, the entire scandal framework has imploded. Most importantly, it seems that all of the major players knew this, but needed to play along for one reason or another.

There is, however, one loose end that I am in the unique position of being able to reveal. Joe Wilson was sent to Niger to determine if Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy yellow cake (uranium ore). How is it that Ambassador Wilson was able to so definitively state that Iraq had not tried to buy yellow cake? If Iraq did try to buy yellow cake in Niger, why would the official who was contacted inform Ambassador Wilson? Then there is the possibility that Iraq could have used a third party to disguise who they were.

Let us all put on our Sherlock Holmes hats now. After Ambassador Wilson arrived in Niger, he went from one restaurant to another with his French drinking buddies. Each time, he checked the dessert menu carefully: Chocolate cake, cheese cake, carrot cake, California fruit cake, Taiwanese taro cake, .... , but NO YELLOW CAKE. Therefore, it was impossible that Saddam Hussein or any other Iraq representative could have bought yellow cake in Niger.