Monday, March 30, 2009

Open House at Los Osos. For $1.1 million, you can have this view. No, I am not planning to move. Being a cheapskate, visiting houses for sale in places I would never move to and can't afford is a much cheaper form of tourism than hiring a fishing yacht.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 12 - The War of the Lamb.

This chapter is vague and scattered in theme to the point that it is difficult to comment. Instead, I will just use this as a point to express my overall view of the book.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

If Yoder is right, then this verse is badly in error. The Politics Of Jesus is based on the premise that the apostles got the message of Jesus and the cross wrong, but thanks to modern scholarship, a new era of a restored gospel is upon us, while 19 centuries were lost in ignorance. Of course there are competing notions from the Bible:

"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." - Acts 20:29

I rank Yoder right up there among the chief distorters and wolves. The Bible is valid when read by the simple or heard by the illiterate. The notion of a new ivory tower priesthood who must serve as intermediaries between the Bible and man is just one more stupid heresy. May God grant me the grace and wisdom to avoid distorting the Bible myself.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 11 - Justification by Grace through Faith.

Here Yoder dares to touch the core concept of Christianity. It is only through Christ's death on the cross that we can be justified, but this is given by the grace of God to those God chooses and they must embrace justification by faith. Or so the traditionalists were led to believe.

Yoder points out that this is about breaking down barriers. For the superstitious, the barrier represented is between man and God, but Jesus' primary interest is the relationship of one to another. Since the greatest barrier is race, Justification by Grace through Faith is realized through multiculturalism! This is the second edition of Yoder's work, so he has had time to receive and respond to criticism. In this instance, he received some complaints that this new meaning of justification, grace and faith dispense with the core of Christianity. Yoder merely notes that he has not excluded the traditional meaning, while neither affirming nor denying the traditional meaning.

There are one two errors that I would like to note:

"What then was Paul's understanding of sin? When he does speak of himself as a serious sinner at all, this is not because of his existential anguish under the righteousness of God in general, but very specifically because, not having recognized that Messiah had come in Jesus, he had persecuted the church and fought the opening of God's covenant to the Gentiles." - Yoder

The "opening of God's covenant to the Gentiles" happened after Paul's conversion and he was a leader in the church, so this is obviously one error. Regarding the "existential anguish" consider Romans 7:7-8

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire." - Paul

Somehow I trust Paul's words regarding Paul's moral state more than Yoder's words regarding Paul's moral state.

Just to finish this, given my multi-cultural, Christian reality, I think Yoder's entire thesis here is total rubbish. Justification by grace through faith introduces us to a far greater spiritual reality in removing the barriers between God and Man, so that the barriers of race and class seem trivial by comparison and aren't a meaningful impediment as we go about serving God.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 10 - Let Every Soul Be Subject: Romans 13 and the Authority of the State.

This chapter seems rather unremarkable to me. Christianity encourages believers to be good citizens. In fact, better citizens. There are, however, limits that we see in the old testament - Mordecai and Daniel - as well as in the new testament: "We must obey God rather than man". Christians will disagree forever as to what the limits are.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 9 - Revolutionary Subordination.

This chapter begins on a constructive note. The NT has comments on relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, which had a vague similarity with lists from the Stoics. Earlier atheist Bible scholars declared that these lists didn't come from Jesus, but were pilfered from the Stoics. More recently atheist scholarship has compared these lists a bit more carefully and observed that there are many differences too. As classical culture is something that fascinates me, I found Yoder's comparing and contrasting of the Stoic and Christian models to be useful and something I might pick up on later.

The problem here is that Yoder remains an atheist, but trying to take the spiritually derived imperatives and map them onto the visible world.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all on in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28

A Christian sees this as being spiritually true now, while equality will be physically true after the resurrection. For Yoder, this equality is an ideal earthly condition, never mind that biological distinctions of male and female can only be overcome by supernatural power. Yoder's interpretation of these commands is that we should be content and cheerful in our earthly role, but knowing that this isn't the way it is supposed to be and that our sense of oppression and aspirations of liberation are really legitimate. Social problems can set off war and chaos even in societies that have never known Christianity. Here we have a mandate to foment social war behind the scenes while being cheerfully subordinate otherwise.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 8 - Christ and Power.

This chapter should be of great interest to any conservative who wants to understand what is going on in the US today. Let us begin the summary with this modernist starting point:

"Since the onset of critical New Testament studies it has practically been taken for granted that when the apostle speaks about angels or demons or powers this is a dispensable remainder of an antique worldview, needing not even to be interpreted or translated, but simply to be dropped without discussion" - Yoder

This is no surprise to anyone familiar with atheist scholarship. The departure is that Yoder believes that powers does refer to something real, but not in the heavenly realms. Instead, he believes that powers can only refer to earthly political structures. Now consider Ephesians 6:12

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"

Per Yoder's interpretation, we essentially have a mandate to struggle against the political authorities, which directly contradicts a large number of other verses, but no doubt these can be reinterpreted too. At this point we have something of an anarchist manifesto, but this isn't where it stops:

"By this we mean the assumption that the forces which really determine the march of history are in the hands of the leaders of the armies and the markets, in such measure that if Christians are to contribute to the renewal of society they will need to seek, like everyone else - in fact in competition with everyone else - to become in their turn the lords of the state and of the economy, so as to use that power toward the ends they consider desirable." - Yoder

Instead of being called to anarchy, the Christian is really being called to establish a theocracy based on atheist Bible scholarship!

Setting that aside, there is something that must be commented on regarding Yoder's interpretation of the crucifixion:

"But morally he broke their rules by refusing to support them in their self-glorification; and that is why they killed him." - Yoder

Yoder has now given us three separate reasons for why Jesus was crucified 1) Jesus was a threat 2) Jesus was socially non-conforming 3) Jesus broke the rules. How does this third view of Yoder match with the Bible?

"The chief priests and the whole Sanhendrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward." - Matthew 26:59-60

and

"'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!'" - Matthew 27:22

Apparently some scholar succeeded in finding the rule that Jesus broke which got him crucified, although neither Pilate, the chief priests nor the whole Sanhedrin were able to. Time for another toke ...
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 7 - The Disciple of Christ and the Way of Jesus.

Yoder says it best:

"Jesus, the reformulated argument may now run, may after all have conceived his ministry as a socially relevant messianity; and the Gospels are accurate enough not fully to have hidden this fact."

and,

"The second phase of our study turns therefore to several strands of the apostolic ethical tradition. The thesis we have just posited shall find its response not in detailed debate on its own terms (it is no longer being argued thus simply by New Testament scholars) but by independent induction from the text."

Or to put it in simple terms, the scholars have decided that the authors of the new testament did not faithfully transmit the teachings of Jesus, but there is enough of a memory in their corrupted writings that clever scholars, by systematically analyzing and contrasting the passages, can deduce the original intent of Jesus. The result of this madness is a neo-gnostic religion where only select scholars are competent to interpret the Bible and make ethical judgments, while the mass of Bible readers are doomed to never properly understand the Word of God. Worse, this elite group is in a position to be making judgments of everyone else, while they themselves remain immune to judgment because no one is competent to judge them.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 6 - Trial Balance.

"The believers cross is, like that of Jesus, the price of social nonconformity." - Yoder

vs.

"He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" - Mark 3:5-6

Ok, there is probably some alternate universe where miraculously healing someone with a shriveled hand in public qualifies as "social nonconformity". Yoder starts this chapter with the idea that Jesus was a social non-conformer, and then spends the bulk of the writing rebutting arguments as to why we might dismiss this as something which we should reflect on as we make our own decisions. Certainly a follower of Jesus must change his behavior. That really isn't a dispute.

I should, however, address the notion of "social non-conformity". For a westerner living in Japan, for example, social conformity wasn't an option, which I experienced first hand for several years. Ditto for my time in Indonesia. In the 1960's and 1970's, there was another kind of social non-conformity that was sweeping the west: A sub-branch of our narcistic culture degenerated in varying degrees towards sloth, licentiousness and a generalized lack of modesty and hygiene, resulting in men with unkempt long hair and sloppy appearance - such as the picture of Jesus on the front cover of Yoder's book. Yes, this is a form of social non-conformity also, but is this the kind of social non-conformity that Jesus represents? Would the Pharisees invite Jesus to their houses if he wasn't complying more or less to the norms of what was socially acceptable?

Jesus stands out for many reasons, one of which is that he spent time with those who were social non-conformers for reasons of vice, but not that he himself was socially non-compliant:

"When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and "sinners"?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick'" - Matthew 9:10-11

Here we see Jesus referring to this kind of social non-conformer as 'sick', but at the same time we see Jesus genuinely desiring to be with these people and help them, while the 'sick' were likewise glad to be with Jesus. Social non-conformity comes in a vast array of shapes and sizes which can represent everything from virtue to vice. I don't see why Yoder wants to treat this as a monolithic concept.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 5 - The Possibility Of Non-Resistance.

Four pages hardly qualifies as a chapter. This chapter outlines a few events recorded by Josephus where the Jews used non-violent protests to reverse efforts by the Romans which would desecrate the temple. Sometimes public protests are things God leads us to do, so I don't have a problem with this.

What is puzzling here is that the chapter content is disjoint from both the title of the chapter and title of the book. Non-violent protest is not the same as non-resistance. Also, it isn't Jesus who is engaged in the non-violent protests that Yoder cites, nor is it even a gospel writer describing the events. Jesus did something different. Call it a non-violent, non-protest:

"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." - Isaiah 53:7

It is through this that the salvation of mankind was made available, and this would be the example of Non-Resistance that would correspond to the chapter title. Still, there is a difference here in that man's non-resistance may be moral, but we don't know what the outcome will be. The non-resistance of Jesus, on the other hand, was part of an eternal plan with a known outcome.
The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 4 - God Will Fight For Us.

This chapter starts out with a brief look at God's commands to Israel not to trust in military strength, but that God will fight Israel's enemies for her. Sometimes this meant Israel didn't need to do anything. Other times, as with Gideon, what was needed was very little. As far as this goes, I can fully agree with Yoder.

Unfortunately, things are left hanging. Is Yoder implying that the modern USA is some sort of theocratic follow-on to ancient Israel? What about the terms and conditions that were part of God's covenant with Abraham and later with the Mosaic law? I finished this chapter with more questions than when I started, but they weren't questions that would challenge me. Instead, I was left wondering what Yoder was really thinking.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Politics Of Jesus: Chapter 3 - The Implication Of The Jubilee

The Jubilee was an event every 50 years where the Jewish nation was required to forgive debts, let the land rest, release the slaves, and generally re-balance the wealth. The new testament uses this imagery also, and we see it in the Lord's prayer:

" ... Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors ..." - Matthew 6:12

Yoder explains that all of this is a literal debt forgiveness of which the mortgage holders of the US would be very glad to have right now. He also asserts that the notion that "debts" refers to sins is in error and cites Matthew 6:14-15 in support:

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Ooops. Indeed the entire notion of physical slavery being symbolic of us being slaves to sin seems to be lost. This isn't to say that there is no need for us to work for debt forgiveness for others and to lend without expecting a return - as the Lord leads us.

There is another tidbit which grabbed my attention:

"Luke, in the parallel to the text quoted, places in the mouth of Jesus, in the form of the question, a very interesting through: 'Why do ye not yourself judge what is right?'" - Yoder quoting Luke 12:59

I have noted a similar expression elsewhere as used by Voltaire, who certainly wasn't a Christian but was at times a moralizer and Bible commentator. It seems to me that there is a little attitude that there is a historical Jesus that must be discovered beneath the corruptions of the writers of the New Testament.
The Politics Of Jesus: The Kingdom Coming.

The second chapter goes into the theme that Christianity causes real problems with authorities in the world. This concept may be a novelty with mainline churches, while the language and examples used seem to point to aspiring young mainline theologians as the target audience. Yes, Christianity will cause changes to behavior which effect how others respond to us and will potentially get us in trouble with the authorities. Duh. There are a few peculiarities in this that caught my attention, such as this referring to the reaction to Jesus by the authorities:

"Both Jewish and Roman authorities were defending themselves against a real threat" - Yoder

vs.

"knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him" - Mark 15:10

Now I suppose in academia "envy" and "a real threat" are considered synonyms, but most ordinary people should be able to easily make a distinction. Unfortunately Yoder tries to develop further off of this basic confusion.

The other item which isn't too clear is the heavenly/spiritual vs. earthly distinctions that are discussed in the Bible. Rich and poor are just as often symbols of those who are spiritually rich or poor rather than physically rich or poor, especially since those who are physically rich are frequently spiritually impoverished and vice versa. A final thing that strikes me about this chapter is that Christianity certainly does have an impact on our interactions with others, but this is a consequence of the fact that we are pursuing spiritual goals and this pursuit has consequence in the real world. Perhaps Yoder just hasn't gotten around to explaining why Christians should have an impact yet, but knowing why is a good step towards knowing what kind of impact it should be and how we should go about doing it.
John Howard Yoder: The Politics Of Jesus.

This book is popular among "progressive" (i.e. left-wing) Christian groups. Yoder and his disciple, Stanley Hauerwas, were/are both academics primarily known for there work in the field of "ethics" while promoting "pacifism" and "non-violence". I have used the quotes to indicate that these are simply labels to me at the moment, and I will need to read further to find out what these labels have been associated with by Yoder, as opposed to his followers.

Having read the first chapter, I will note that the label, "ethics", has been used, but not defined. This has been one of my gripes that modern ethicists don't have a working definition for the term "ethics", which results in a lot of moralizing gibberish being published. I will read a bit further first and - if I remember - give what I consider to be a definition of ethics later.

The first chapter lists some complaints against the notion that Jesus is even relevant to modern ethics. Mostly these complaints seem to come from modernist circles who either dispute the existence of Jesus or his relevancy to today. My main observation is that it is secularism that primarily causes the separation of ethics from religion that we observe today. Secularism contains the notion that the religious sphere is purely an internal one for individuals, whereas the interactions of an individual with others should be governed by the sensibilities of secularism. Since ethics - whatever its definition turns out to be - should encompass our relationships with others and isn't simply internal, it has been moved to the secular domain and removed from the religious. Needless to say, it is a bit of a trick that modern leftists have pulled to insist that secular ethics is legitimate because of Jesus, but religious ethics is a theoretically impossibility without embracing theocracy. I should leave the speculation at the moment and simply let Yoder speak for himself as I continue reading ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Global Warming Horror Show continued ...

For those of you who are keeping score, the global ice cover is back to normal for this date. Southern hemisphere cover is much above normal, canceling out the northern hemisphere shortage. All the data is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Suggestion regarding Marf's Motivational Monday:

If a shark kicks in the door, lay on the floor and don't move. They usually don't look down. As you can see, I have experience at this and know what I am talking about.

Note: Picture taken at the Monterey Aquarium.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Picture taken near San Simeon

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mission San Antonio de Padua.
Edward Gibbons on Roman religion

"The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, II.1

This above wild generalization of pre-Christian religious harmony is tempered a bit in the footnote, and again in a note several pages away talking about the Roman suppression of the Druids. Gibbons notes the historical references to the outlawing of the Druid religion, but suggests that it was merely a slap on the wrist. Against this, I would note the words of Tacitus, which claim that the Druid religion was encountered as a novelty as the Romans invaded an island off the coast of Britain, whereas formerly Druidism had extended all the way across Britain and France. To this, Gibbons seems to make out philosophers and magistrates into closet atheists, which is entirely inconsistent with the writings of Cicero, Seneca, and especially Pliny. Of couse the Romans frequently banished fortune tellers and astrologers, but this didn't make the footnote list.

This does remind me that Herodotus was nicknamed both the father of history and the father of lies. Gibbons has been nicknamed the father of modern scientific history, but it seems to me that he is also the father of modern revisionism.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evan Sayet and the Unified Field Theory of Left-wing Thought.

This is a bit long, but Evan's thesis is that the core issue for the left is a generalized rejection of discrimination: Cultural discrimination must go, but this goes further into a rejection of discrimination between right and wrong, true and false, moral and immoral. He also implies that this is at heart a spiritual issue, referring to the Garden of Eden and man's original act of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Oh, to regurgitate the apple! I agree with the spiritual connection, but would look more to the symbolism surrounding Esau in the Bible. The end result of this philosophy is invariably chaos, but leftism sees the chaos it creates and reacts in ways that guarantee even more chaos.

The non-discrimination theme struck me as plausible. I noted earlier that the root of our current banking crisis was the Community Reinvestment Act and similar legislation which effectively banned discrimination in loans, and thereby undermined the entire concept of banking. The same people who caused the problem have now been granted even greater authority to pursue insanity as a solution to America's woes. A bigger question is whether this is reversible, or is civilization collapse inevitable? Evan's answer to this is not very hopeful. My answer wouldn't be hopeful either, except that this really is a spiritual problem at its core, and spiritual crises aren't resolved in the ways we expect.
Pliny regarding the decline in oratory.

"In a speech as delivered chance is the dominant factor either way, for much can be gained or lost by the speaker's memory, voice and gestures, the occasion and the good or bad impression made by the defendant; whereas the written speech is quite free from influence one way or the other, and owes nothing to chance, whether lucky or not. I was opposed by one of the Bithynians, Fonteius Magnus, whose words were many and arguments few, for, like most Greeks, he mistakes volubility for fulness of expression; they all pour out a torrent of long monotonous periods without taking breath. Hence Julius Candidus's frequent witticism that eloquence and loquacity are two different things. Scarcely anyone has the gift of eloquence - or no one if we are to believe Marcus Antonius - but what Candidus calls loquacity is common to many people and the special gift of every impudent rascal." - The Letters Of The Younger Pliny, V.20.

Over the last few decades, the US has been transitioning from the age of Post-Reason to the age of the Sound Bite. No one has the patience for an argument, so that the skills of the sophist are no longer needed or tolerated, much less those of someone capable of sound reason. Thus, the difference between eloquence and loquacity is no longer relevant to the modern era.

A corralary to this is that the content of a bill, argument or concept is no longer relevant. Only labels count.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's burial instructions.

"And if I have ever imitated any good
for the sake of my God whom I so dearly love,
I beg that he would grant me
that I may pour out my blood
in the company off these exiles and captives for his own name.
Yes, and even if my body were to remain unburied,
or my corpse be torn pitifully limb from limb by dogs or wild beasts,
or that birds of the air eat it up.
For I know with utter certainty,
if this should be my lot,
that I shall have gained my soul as well as my body,
because without shadow of doubt on that last day we shall all rise again in the sun's own brilliant blaze;
that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer,
as 'children of the living God and fellow heirs with Christ,'
still 'destined to be shaped in his own image';
since 'from him and through him and in him' we are going to reign."
- Confessions of St. Patrick, 59.
Gotta do this for St. Patrick's Day. Not sure what this has to do with the dude named Patrick that preached in Ireland awhile back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pliny the Younger regarding legal fees.

"To Triarius

As you are so anxious for me to appear in a case in which you are interested (a good cause, you say, which will add to my reputation), I will do so, but not for nothing. 'Impossible,' you will say, ' for you to want a fee!' But it is possible, and my fee does no more credit than offering my services for nothing. I have a request, or rather a stipulation to make: that Cremutius Ruso shall act with me." - The Letters Of The Younger Pliny, VI.23

One theme that Pliny mentions on several occasions is the need for lawyers to perform their services without a fee being charged to the client. This is a matter of honor to Pliny, something that he finds most corrupt in some others, and a practice that was legally banned from some of the indirect comments I have seen in his letters. It is hard to imagine America's legal profession acting without a fee, but it would certainly change the amount of litigation in the world's most litigious civilization.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pliny the Younger regarding the inadequacy of email.

"I have refrained from writing officially to the Council for two reasons: I remembered that our close friendship obliges you to act for me as you would for yourself, just as your wise judgement enables you to do so, and I was afraid that a letter might seem lacking in the restraint which you will have no difficulty in keeping in a speech. There the tone is set by the expression, gestures and voice of the speaker, whereas a letter lacks such recommendations and is liable to wilful misinterpretation." - The Letters Or Pliny The Younger, V.7
HIV in Washington, D.C. A victory for secularism?
Berry Falls at dawn.
Looks like I am getting some control over the camera's time control and carrying the tripod proved useful. I guess an old loon can learn new tricks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The California Teacher Firing Ritual.

My understanding of this process is that it relates to the fact that new teachers are relatively inexpensive and disposable, while older unionized ones are expensive and untouchable. If a young teacher is employed for more than two or three years straight, then they become a union untouchable. One way to keep the situation under control is to fire perfectly capable new teachers every year, and then hire them back for the next year, thus, delaying the transition to untouchable status, but leaving the teacher in an emotionally precarious situation. This is a very effective way to hold costs down, but it means a mass firing at the end of every school year, followed by a mass hiring before the next year. This year's situation has gotten much worse as California's budget meltdown continues, although the Obama administration has been moving to bail out are Unionocracy. Unionocracy, for those of you who don't know, means government by the unions, which is distinct from other forms like Democracy or Aristocracy. Eventually I suspect Unionocracy will prove to be mortal too, like all of the other systems, but we will see.
As you can see, the sun really is set. Today we have a church get together at the Fasting and Prayer Mountain of the World near Scotts Valley starting at 10:00am. That means I need to get my exercise in first, which was done at Big Basin Redwoods. This picture was taken at about 6:00am after covering more than 3 miles in the dark and almost spraining my ankle. The only thing my camera can get a focus on in the dark are these trail markers. Was it worth it?

I thought I was the only clown that would be out and about, given that my car was the only one in the parking lot. About 15 minutes later, I came across two hikers heading out by headlamp, who would be the only ones I saw for the 10.5 mile loop. Too much traffic?

Friday, March 13, 2009

An early morning look north. The snaking lights coming down from the middle of the picture are from highway 680. There are three lanes going each way with a river of cars headed into Silicon Valley each weekday morning and returning to as far as Stockton in the afternoon. Rush traffic starts about 5:00am and continues until 9:00am. As much as I love these hills, the reason for all of this fossil fuel burning is that it is incredibly difficult to build in Silicon Valley due to all of the red tape, so people must commute 100+ miles per day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Origin Of Boredom

Because boredom is a subject of far greater interest than species, I have been accumulating notes for some years and expect my future book, The Origin Of Boredom, to achieve lasting fame. The Roman politician, lawyer, administrator and writer Pliny uses this in a letter written to a Vibius Severus around about the year 100AD:

"A speech of thanks, which even in the Senate we used not to be able to endure without being bored after the first minute, can now find a reader and an audience willing to listen for three days on end, not through any improvement in our standard of eloquence, but because greater freedom of speech makes writing more of a pleasure." - The Letters of the Younger Pliny, III.18

Certainly Pliny has made a great discovery, and this letter should be examined with great care as we research the Theory of Boredom.
Stem Cells: Trying to clear things up ...

Obama's recent order is here. The order simply revokes Bush's Executive Order 13435 which was related to an earlier speech from August 1, 2001. Do read the texts of all three if you are interested in the subject, because they are reasonably short and will clear up a lot of misunderstandings.

I did this after reading another article that indicates that all is not what it seems on this subject.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Economist: Are We Angry Yet?

"Anger is cruel, and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" - Proverbs 27:4

The Economist had a wonderful article about anger in America. I reserve the right to be cynical about human nature, although I am not an angry person. Christianity is about God's working good out of evil, and this is always something that allows us to keep a positive outlook, even if our investments are shrinking faster than the polar ice caps. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but because of this the brothers were eventually saved from starvation. There is no need to get angry.

What is missing from the article, however, is jealousy. Much of what is driving America now is an irrational jealousy and determination to put the rich in their place, and this force is much more powerful than anger. Good will come of this too. Eventually.
Good Morning Silicon Valley!

I bought a tripod to experiment with time lapse photography at night. One thing I hope to do is to take some photos that give a sense of the shadows on a moon lit night, but my experiments this morning aren't presentable. It is difficult to get a good focus in the dark and exposure levels are a challenge too.

Another issue is that my weight I am carrying just went up another 5 pounds and this is making the trip up the mountain a bit more work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A wise squirrel prays with his eyes open to avoid predators. what do you think he is praying about?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wild flowers are starting to sprout all over the hills as spring comes to the San Francisco Bay area.
Atheism on the rise? The American religious Identification Survey, 2008.

First, I heard a television commentator claiming that the people who conducted this survey needed to be taken with more than a grain of salt. I won't say one way or another, except to pass this on.

The survey shows a sharp increase among Muslims and atheists in America, but from very low starting levels. The most significant change was for the mainline religious groups dropped from 18.7% (1990) to 17.2% (2001) and 12.9% (2008). At this rate, they could be extinct by 2020, which would bring to an end the modernist takeover of the mainline denominations that began more than two centuries ago. I suspect most of the atheist migration is from these groups, because many churches weren't too far removed from atheism already - at least as far as theology goes.

The other group increasing rapidly are the generic evangelicals - from 200,000 in 1990 to 8 million today. It seems good to me that the denominational baggage is being set aside as people realize that the Kingdom of God is a heavenly one, and the earthly human institutions are simply temporary facades which facilitate the joint working of churches. It would be nice to not worry about modernists and focus more on getting leaders of good Christian character who really care about people and love the Lord. That is what Christianity needs to grow.

At the opposite extreme, there is also the cynical definition of an evangelical: An evangelical is a conservative who says to a liberal, "I will call you a Christian if you will call me a scholar". Mainlineism is dying for the simple reason that theology is important - if you don't take Jesus and the Bible seriously, there is no reason to go to church. There is still, however, no shortage of modernist theologians who will be happy to rebrand as evangelicals, and plenty of conservatives looking for worldly affirmation.
Regarding the failure to check references.

Yep, it is time to clean up our act. This article mentions some dubious quotes about the natural end to Democracy. I could probably dig up some legitimate ones from the classical Greeks - Polybius to be specific - but am too lazy to do it at the moment. How many of us toss in a quote to show some wisdom, but then don't check to see if the credited source really made the statement?

A related article is this one regarding the current economic melt down. The MSM story is that the regulation of banks recently went lax resulting in the banks going mad and the free market eating itself. The rebuttal asserts that this was all a bunch of hooey manufactured for partisan political purposes. Unfortunately, the rebuttal has almost no references, but I would be that the original accusation didn't either. If the diagnosis is completely wrong, we could be doing brain surgery on a heart attack victim, but who cares? The important thing is that we are operating!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Augustine and the end of a journey.

"The foremost of the philosophers agree with us about the spiritual felicity enjoyed by the blessed in the life to come; it is only the resurrection of the flesh they call in question, and with all their might deny. But the mass of men, learned and unlearned, the world's wise men and its fools, have believed, and have left in meagre isolation the unbelievers, and have turned to Christ, who in His own resurrection demonstrated the reality of that which seems to our adversaries absurd." - City of God, XXII.25

After three months, I have finally completed reading the City of God. This may well be the longest work I have ever read cover-to-cover. As I mentioned at the beginning, the book was written for a well educated older person from the end of the classical era, which makes it quite difficult to appreciate fully from our modern framework. There are still many quotes that I should include later as certain stereotypes of our modern era need adjusting.

One thing that has stood out to me from this last chapter is the emphasis on the bodily resurrection of the dead - all the dead, including infants and the aborted. Having grown up with this, I guess it has been a notion that I took for granted and didn't view particularly novel. The amount of parchment and ink that Augustine used in his explanations, however, gives an idea of how radical this was to the mind of the non-Christian classical world with their belief in disembodied souls as our final destiny. Seemingly nothing is left untouched by Augustine's discourse, so I will finish this with one more quote regarding our heavenly appearances:

"And consequently overgrown and emaciated persons need not fear that they shall be in heaven of such a figure as they would not be even in this world if they could help it. For all bodily beauty consists in the proportion of the parts, together with a certain agreeableness of colour. Where there is no proportion, the eye if offended, either because there is something wanting, or too small, or too large. And thus there shall be no deformity resulting from want of proportion in that state in which all that is wrong is corrected, and all that is defective supplied from resources the Creator wots of, and all that is excessive removed without destroying the integrity of the substance." - City of God, XXII.19

Take that, Hollywood.
A view of San Francisco and Oakland from the entrance to Redwood Regional Park.
The San Francisco Chronicle writes regarding the Mormon charity network.

It is rare that I find something commendable to point out in this world, but this certainly qualifies.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Augustine regarding which political party to choose.

"But if the fire of which our Lord speaks is the same as that of which the apostle says, 'Yet so as by fire,' then both - that is to say, both those on The Right as well as those on The Left - are to be cast into it. For that fire is to try both, since it is said, 'For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is'" - City of God, XXI.26 (Augustine refers to 1 Corinthians 3:13 and Matthew 25.)

For those who would complain of my interpretation of Augustine regarding this passage, I will certainly agree, but note that there have been far worse abuses. Still, there will be a final judgment for all - regardless of party affiliation - with some to be sent to eternal torment because they rejected God.
Redwood Regional Park
Would you rather work with someone you agree with, but who doesn't take you seriously and couldn't care less what happens to you? Or someone you disagree with, but does take you seriously and cares about you?

This article discusses the European's need to ponder this as they compare Bush and Obama.
A peach tree blossom.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Augustine regarding education.

"For ignorance is itself no slight punishment, or want of culture, which it is with justice thought so necessary to escape, that boys are compelled, under pain of severe punishment, to learn trades or letters; and the learning to which they are driven by punishment is itself so much of a punishment to them, that they sometimes prefer the pain that drives them to the pain to which they are driven by it. And who would not shrink from the alternative, and elect to die, if it were proposed to him either to suffer death or to be again an infant?" - City of God, XXI.14

I guess this makes me a masochist since I am busy studying his book without being driven to it by some external torment.
Ahwahnee Hotel earthquake retrofit.

This is a gorgeous bit of architecture in Yosemite Valley built in 1927. The National Park Service built several of these hotels at different parks, but this is the most impressive one that I have been in. The next best one is the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood which featured in the movie, The Shining. Are there other good ones I missed?

What jumped out at me from the article was that the original construction of the Ahwahnee hotel took only 11 months, but the earthquake retrofit will take two years. The cost of the retrofit will be more than 100 times the original construction cost. I really should drive up there and get a few pictures.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Prop 8 and the angry mob.

This is a good article from Christianity Today regarding the angry mob syndrome that is rolling across the state of California towards the California Supreme Court. They are currently hearing arguments as to whether or not Prop 8 - and the laws of biology - should be ruled unconstitutional. Given that a ruling against Prop 8 would effectively make Christianity, Islam and Judaism a hate crime and void the first amendment of the US Constitution, I fully expect the justices to side with the gay gangbangers. Things will probably get much uglier and angrier as we learn the true meaning of "gay", but eventually people will regret flushing civilization down the toilet and turn back.

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle has an article on this here. According to the article, the justices are leaning towards upholding the voters nth vote on this issue, but noting that the nth+1 vote might undo the previous votes. A more curious feature is that they want to preserve the 18,000 GLBT "marriages", while upholding the statement, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California". Perhaps a marriage that was conducted in California, but not recognized in California, could be valid for litigation purposes in Alabama?
Suicide of California ...

It isn't the greatest of articles, particularly in that it focuses on the economic suicide, whereas the actual suicide that California is embracing is comprehensive.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Augustine regarding strange things.

"We know that the loadstone has a wonderful power of attracting iron. When I first saw it I was thunderstruck, for I saw an iron ring attached and suspended by the stone; and then, as if it had communicated its own property to the iron it attracted, and had made it a substance like itself, this ring was put near another, and lifted it up; and as the first ring clung to the magnet, so did the second ring to the first ...
Who would not be amazed at this virtue of the stone, subsisting as it does not only in itself, but transmitted through so many suspended rings, and binding them together by invisible links? ...
These stones come from India. But if we cease to admire them because they are now familiar, how much less must they admire them who procure them very easily and send them to us? Perhaps they are held as cheap as we hold lime, which, because it is common, we think nothing of, though it has the strange property of burning when water, which is wont to quench fire, is poured on it, and of remaining cool when mixed with oil, which ordinarily feeds fire." - Augustine, City of God, XXI.4

This version of "familiarity breeds contempt" gives us a sense of the timelessness of the concept. I have seen this in high tech too, where a developer of a new technique was greatly admired, until the simplicity of the technique became known. The attitude of admiration then morphed into a more mundane one - or perhaps even to contempt.

Darwinism seems to me to be basically a formalizing of this methodology. Biology is the most wonderously complex bit of technology in the universe, yet if we immerse ourselves in it, it becomes familiar and mundane, and then we can proceed to say, "there was nothing to it - it just happened". As I have noted many times, the notion of a "scientist" is a pure fiction, because the only being who could attain this level of rational reason and purity of behavior is God. There are, however, human beings who are subject to the timeless properties of humanity. But some will say, "Ah, but this is different! We have scientifically proven that evolution is possible!". Unfortunately this peer reviewed scientific mantra has been repeated since the 1860's, long before the science of biology existed. Remember the boy who cried wolf?

I would legitimately be accused of being a hypocrite, however, if I did not also note that God has blessed me beyond reason, yet countless times I took it for granted.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009