Sunday, January 31, 2010

A bit of morning mist at the start of yesterdays Rose Peak hike.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A young lady from Berkeley was doing some running on Rose Peak today as I went up. Seeing her reminded me of the Trail Runner magazine photos of runners out in scenic spots, so I got the telephoto lens out to see how she would progress. Sometimes you wonder if there is a car parked just off screen. Then there is having something to show to your friends to prove what you did. This should also give some idea of the 20+ mile trek with almost 5,000 feet of climbing.

Goat Rock in the distance.

Climbing up to Valpe Ridge.

3,500+ feet of climbing done.

Just one more short climb to the top of Rose Peak!
Supreme Court decision on Free Speech and political campaigns.

This has stirred up a hornets nest of protest. My understanding is that it bans congressional bans on free speech when Americans join together to form corporations, while retaining a ban on corporations donating to individual candidates. What I am curious about - but don't have any answers - is whether or not this changes rules for churches. At the moment, a church can lose it's non-profit status if it openly endorses one candidate or another. On the one hand, the last thing I want is a church supporting candidates, as this would detract from our focus on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all. On the other hand, it seems to me that the government's attempt to regulate what can be said in a church is mindless and unconstitutional. Anyone know if the new Supreme Court decision effects any of this?
Exodus Decoded: Lake Nyos

We were looking at this video at church. I am extremely skeptical regarding the movie and its "scientific" explanations. The "science", as with evolution and science fiction, is a stringing together of bizarre suppositions into an implausible whole, yet there are a few things that look believable so I must be careful. One of the key elements of the video is the notion that many of the 10 plagues - including turning water to blood and the death of the first born - are the result of behaviors observed in Lake Nyos in Cameroon. According to the video, gases were released into and from the waters of the Nile delta due to the Santorini Earthquake which caused the water to turn to blood, the frogs to flee into houses and eventually a release of carbon dioxide that suffocated the first born males, who apparently slept downstairs (Reference?). Lake Nyos in Cameroon is suggested as an example of this behavior.

There are these things called "salt gradient solar ponds" where different densities of water cause a situation that stops vertical currents and allows for strange behaviors. As it turns out, Lake Nyos is a lake that exhibits density gradients due to thermal causes - according to the wiki article. The lake formed in the crater of a volcano, so it is also quite deep at 682 feet, which also helps in storing a lot of gases, while being on top of an inactive volcano provides a nice source for gases. The wiki article claims that Lake Nyos is one of three lakes in the world saturated with carbon dioxide, with the other two in Cameroon and Rwanda. There doesn't seem to be anything in Egypt similar.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Foggy Mountain.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama's State of the Union Speech: The beatings will continue until the economy improves.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Augustine's Confessions: God and evil.

Some arguments never die. They morph into various forms, and then go back to their original. Augustine had been involved with a sect called the Manichees who were arguing against God on the basis of evil. Here is an excerpt:

"With all my mind I fled from them (the Manichees), because in my inquiry into the origin of evil I saw them to be full of malice, in that they thought it more acceptable to say your substance suffers evil than that their own substance actively does evil." - Confessions, VII.iii.4

The first half of this would take on different forms today, but the second half - the perpetual denial of evil warranting punishment by God - is a key premise of those who argue against God today. Augustine had been listening to sermons by Ambrose and makes this observation:

"I directed my mind to understand what I was being told, namely that the free choice of the will is the reason why we do wrong and suffer your just judgment, but I could not get a clear grasp of it."

There is more to this as the philosopher in Augustine tries to grasp what is so much easier grasped by the non-philosopher. This has me wondering if philosophers ever really obtain understanding and wisdom - or merely delude themselves. But if one is deluded about wisdom, one can hardly be called a lover of wisdom.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reflecting on Scott Brown, Massachusetts, Obama, hope, change, and all that stuff.

For those who just returned to Earth, a few days ago the Republican, Scott Brown, took the senate seat in Massachusetts, thereby breaking the Democrats "filibuster proof" majority in the senate. Listening to his acceptance speech, it was clear that the leftists of this far left new England state hadn't elected just another RINO (Republican In Name Only), since he was giving Obama a tongue lashing about health care and the policy of citizenizing foreign terrorists so that lawyers can collect bigger fees at tax payer expense prosecuting them in civil court. A little over a year ago, the talk was all hope and change. Now it is how to bring a halt to a horror show.

I remember the Reagan revolution which brought an end to communism, and even Clinton a bit later declared the end of big government. Now countless people think the current economic failure was the result of capitalism, while government is the savior. How did we get from there to here?

Remembering back to the Reagan era, he was popular with the people, but the intellectual classes and RINO Republicans hated him. Bush senior famously called Reagan's capitalism "voodoo economics". The intellectuals kept on sniping at capitalism using all their taxpayer funded positions to get the message through: Capitalism is a cold, cruel, ruthless economic Darwinism that simply leads to social injustice and oppression. Then there was global warming and the threat that the sky would fall unless capitalism was brought under the yoke of the wisdom of intellectuals. Does this generation know anything about what happened in the communist countries? Do they know that fascism was all about a wise, guiding hand being provided to capitalism by a benevolent state?

What if the issue is something else altogether:

"To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." " - Genesis 3:17-19

What if "capitalism" is simply a code word for "work" with leftists? The only common denominator to leftist teaching that I can figure out is that they don't believe people should work or provide for a family, but they want people to receive a good life anyway. Illegals in the US are forbidden to work, but encouraged to munch on benefits. Did Obama's order allowing Haitians to stay in the US permit them to work? How are they supposed to feed themselves? Unions believe in work, but it is a work that involves half as much effort with double the pay, and no consequences for shoddy performance. Most of the poor benefits are available if you don't work - or you could get a divorce to qualify. Kick the bum out, marry the government. Then there is the health care reform plan, which isn't about reforming governments burdensome regulation of health care or stopping medical malpractice lotto fever. Instead, the plan reforms how things are paid for so that costs can continue to skyrocket, but someone else will pay for it so we don't have to work! A subgroup of leftists are the new atheists, whose primary attack on God is based on the notion that God allows evil, one of the evils being work. The other being death.

I will leave this off here. The Scott Brown supporters were chanting "yes we can!", to poke at Obama. Of course they can't, just as Obama can't override the curse that mankind took on in the Garden of Eden. But don't say I am without hope, because I am certain that God will bring us back to His way of thinking, since the laws of nature can't be repealed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Remembering JAL.

With JAL's bankruptcy bailout in the news, it is good to reminisce a bit. Once upon a time I was a frequent flyer on Japan Airlines. I was living in Japan, but had frequent trips going here and there, so it seemed good to do this. The other Japanese colleagues in the office seemed surprised at this. They asked: "Why don't you take ANA (All Nippon Airways)? Their girls are younger and prettier?" I responded, "JAL's ladies are older and more experienced, so there is less likelihood of a communication problem. Besides, I don't need to choose an airline so that I can look at the flight attendants." And so we left things there, with both of us thinking the other party didn't have their priorities straight. Regarding age and priorities, Ramana also had a post on this subject.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good morning San Francisco Bay Area!

Things were damp this morning, but there wasn't any rain. I forgot my headlamp, but didn't stumble any. There was just one point where I stepped into a deep, muddy puddle in a cow footprint. Some cramps also started up as I was trying to run near the end. Too little exercise. Time to get ready for church.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Feels like spring here.

Forecast: Rain.

This is a very rare forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area. Today I should be out exercising, but all the business travel has left me a bit tired and struggling with exercise motivation. Then there are the blogs to catch up with and all the reading. Maybe tomorrow morning before church I will be able to get up Mission Peak.
Epictetus (55-135AD): Intelligent Design.

"Who is it, then, that has fitted each of these to the other? Who is it that has fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? Is it no one? From the very structure of such completed products, we generally infer that they must be the work of some artificer, and that they were not produced by mere chance. Does every such work, then, demonstrate its artificer, whilst visible objects and vision and light do not? And male and female, and the desire of each for intercourse with the other, and their power to make use of the organs that have been provided for this purpose, do these things not demonstrate their artificer? Most certainly they do." Discourses Book I Chapter 6.

Here I find one more argument against spontaneous generation evolution given by a non-Christian philosopher whose intellect was celebrated. (Noting that the Epicureans maintained something similar to "evolution"). These arguments were held to be conclusive so that even Voltaire was similarly inclined. But then suddenly things changed in the 19th century. The arguments that the similar designs were simply negated, and it was asserted that the existence of design was "proof" of evolution. James just posted one here noting similar wing structure between bats and birds. For thousands of years, this would simply have been taken as evidence of a common creator. Then suddenly things went Poof! and what had formerly been a proof of a common creator was now proof of a common non-creator: "evolution".

Having noted this, I can already hear people arguing, "but we looked at the evidence and were compelled to make this conclusion". Was there really any different evidence? Do we really suppose that Epictetus didn't know about bats and birds? Darwin's ocean cruise did provide some new information about the extent of the various species, but the diversity of species was observed with no less care since ancient times. There was no substantial new data in the 19th century when "evolution" was deemed proven, so we should be honest to say that whatever caused the assertion that "evolution" was proven had nothing to do with data. The next argument is that "evolution allows us to explain things in a way that invoking God cannot, hence, scientists have determined that this is the only acceptable explanation". This is full of misleading errors at several levels, beginning with the fact that "evolution" is a synonym for "change" and has never had a definition that would make it a scientific theory. Being undefined, it is simply invoked randomly for everything, so that "it evolved" and "God created it" are identical from a scientific perspective. In both cases the "scientist" is affirming that she has no idea what really happened. In the end, all that has been done is to negate the above statement of Epictetus, and the claim of negation being proven is given in innumerable misleading ways.
Epictetus (55-135AD): The Discourses - Suffering, Perseverance and Character.

Epictetus was a famous Stoic teacher, and also a slave. The Discourses is a commentary on life from the Stoic perspective that survived due to the preservation by Christians, yet the Stoics seem quite careful to distance themselves from Christianity with hardly an acknowledgment. I have read several other Stoic writers, like Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. One pattern throughout is the notion that we must be patient and persevere going through trials and suffering, and this will build mature character. The Stoics were the moral teachers of Rome. Last Sunday, the preacher at church went over a passage from Romans 5 -

"... but we also rejoice in out sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." - Romans 5:3-5.

So how is it that Paul could lecture the Romans on this same sequence of suffering, perseverance and character? The main thing I want to point out is that the Stoic formula misses something: Hope. It is the Hope that Christians have which (should) set them apart from mere philosophers. As Eusebius tells in his early church history, there were times when Christians failed miserably at character, but then there were times when ordinary Christians far exceeded the Stoics at their own values. I was also lecturing some of the youth last night on this subject as we went over Self Control in Galatians 5:22-23. It is a strange bit of history that the ideals of the Stoic persecutors of the church would die due to a lack of interest, yet their ideals are preserved and taught by those that they persecuted. But what does it mean to be someone of Good Character?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking about Haiti ...

a: "It is such a terrible catastrophe ..."
b: "Why? Aren't we all going to die? Is there a meaningful difference between a large group of people destroyed in a moment, or the same number passing away one by one? "
a: "But they were living in such poverty and misery ..."
b: "True they were poor, but when a person grows up in that environment, that is all they know and they are frequently both content and happy with very little. Looking at the images, I see poor people, but their clothes are clean and in good condition. They appear well fed. Frequently the poor are happier than the wealthy. In fact the wealthy can be more miserable, because they have the luxury of observing and comparing relative wealth of others with the result that they are filled with envy. Is there a greater cause of misery than envy?"

Certainly only those with the hardest of hearts can see the news of Haiti and not feel some sadness. May God help them to recover - and may He grant the aid agencies some wisdom in use of their resources.

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains." - Mark 13:8

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It is good to have a friend in New York City.

I don't know the city at all, but we wanted to catch up with a friend and she gave us a nice little evening tour during the 2 or 3 hours we had to visit with her. There were a lot of nice buildings, but this is really my candidate for the best place to visit in New York City. Lots of good old books. I would have preferred a little better selection of classical writings, while the early Christian writings were not much better than a lot of ordinary bookstores. There were still a lot of good books. Having browsed a bit, I will definitely need to read the memoirs of General Sherman. Eventually.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On the road again.

Light blogging ...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wow! Global Warming has turned England to ash!

The link came from Polycarp, but seems to come from the BBC. The original article is here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Augustine regarding the existence of evil (354-430AD):

"I did not know that evil has no existence except as a privation of good, down to that level which is altogether without being." - Confessions, chapter 3.

Since I read Anselm earlier, this does seem to be an echo of his notion that evil is nothing. An echo, except that Augustine predates Anselm by some 700 years. What is clear is that Anselm is following a tradition in developing his thoughts. As Augustine states this, it is clear that the idea of evil being nothing does not derive from classical philosophy. The only Bible passage I can think of at the moment relating to this is:

"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one." - 1 Corinthians 8:4

Thus, an idol is a collection of atoms like all other things. It doesn't have any inherent evil, but when people decline to worship God as a result of the idol - that is they stop doing good - only then does evil come about.

I am not fully convinced of this line of thinking, but would like to leave some notes behind in case I come across further writings on this subject.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Augustine (354-430AD): A bad Atheist becomes a good Christian...

Yes, that is the theme of Confessions. A theme that showed up in City of God also was Augustine's rather bad attitude towards intellectuals. He has much to say about the teaching he received, and here are some excerpts.

First, regarding the moral value of what he was taught:

"There is no force, no force at all, in the argument that these words are more easily learnt through this obscene text. The words actually encourage the more confident committing of a disgraceful action. I bring no charge against the words which are like exquisite and precious vessels, but the wine of error is poured into them for us by drunken teachers." - Confessions (26)

So just as today, the educational community considers it their moral duty to stuff pornographic learning into childrens' heads, and this they claim is a moral obligation. Now some would argue that the Bible also has such things. This is somewhat true but misses the key point: The Biblical usage isn't one of condoning and glorifying such acts, along with asserting that the gods approve of them. Evil acts are described in the context of punishment or forgiveness, but not to glorify evil as was done in the classical education and as is done in the universities today.

Now regarding the maturity of the teachers:

"But the idling of our elders is called business; the idling of boys, though quite like it, is punished by those same elders, and no one pities either the boys or the men. For will any common sense observer agree that I was rightly punished as a boy for playing ball--just because this hindered me from learning more quickly those lessons by means of which, as a man, I could play at more shameful games? And did he by whom I was beaten do anything different? When he was worsted in some small controversy with a fellow teacher, he was more tormented by anger and envy than I was when beaten by a playmate in the ball game." - Confessions (27)

This is the first time I read this, but it sounds so familiar.

Since Augustine was thinking back on all the crap he learned in high school, this song from Simon and Garfunkel immediately came to mind:

Yes, don't take my Canon away!
My son sent this to me. He is wondering how to answer questions 1 and 2. Anyone got some suggestions?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Joinville (1225-1317AD): Crusading for Charity

"Once when I was going to Paris after my return from overseas, John the Armenian was in my company. While we were having a meal inside a tent a great crowd of poor people were begging from us for the love of God, and were making a great row. One of our number gave an order to a servant, saying, 'Get up and chase these paupers away!' 'Oh!' said John the Armenian, 'that was a very bad thing to say. For if the king of France now sent messengers bringing each of us 100 marks of silver, we would not drive them away. And yet you chase off these envoys who are offering to give you the greatest gift you could be given. They are asking you to give them something for God's sake, which means that if you give them something of yours, they will give you God. God said with his own mouth that the poor have the power to give God to us, and the saints say they can reconcile us to him. In the same way that water extinguishes fire, charity extinguishes sin. May you never,' said John, 'drive the poor away. Rather give to them, and God will give to you.'" - The Life of Saint Louis, chapter 9.

For stories of good Christian character under extreme circumstances, this book is one of the best.
AT&T Support:


"Due to heavy volume, we request you hang up and use our online support system."


"Due to heavy volume, we request you use our telephone hotline.

Ooops! I got the company name wrong. But it was a large company.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A view of the Sierras.

This is from the top of Rose Peak. For a month the onslaught of relatives and influenza has kept me from doing a hard workout, but yesterday I was finally able to get a decent workout in. Today I am a little sore.
"You are a sexist and a racist, and you are so dumb that I am not going to talk to you anymore!!!"

The blogging world is a wonderful place to learn about yourself! James asked me to go tweak a blogger named John Loftus who has a popular blog called Debunking Christianity. He was engaged a bit of debating (I just abused the word "debate") with Joel Watts at The Church of Jesus Christ. John's credentials are a bit like mine: master's degree and some ph.d. work, but his ph.d. work was in Philosophy of Religion and mine in Engineering Mechanics. Thankfully there are a lot of wonderful atheists out there who help me keep up a positive image!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

"Yes, I know that Delirious lives on the other side of Mount Diablo, which you can see in the distance. I don't have any internet access, so please wish her a Happy New Year for me."

Joinville (1225-1317AD): The Good, The Bad, and well, we will work with these two categories for now.

A Crusader's ship was captured by the Saracens, and here is a bit of the conversation:

"The admiral had all my sailors brought before me, and he told me that they had renounced their faith. I said that he should not have any confidence in them, for just as swiftly as they had abandoned us so would they abandon the Saracens, if they saw a time or place to do so. And the admiral replied that he agreed with me, for Saladin said that one never saw a bad Christian become a good Saracen, nor a bad Saracen become a good Christian." - The Life Saint Louis, chapter 8.

This does leave me wondering if a bad Atheist ever becomes a good Christian, or a bad Christian become a good Atheist. I have heard of some atheists who had engaged in bad behavior become Christians, but this "bad" is per my standards as a Christian, and I presume that "bad" needs to be judged per the standards of Atheism, which is a bit difficult for me to do. Livingsword seems to be an example along this line. On the flip side, I have heard many claim they were "good" Christians who became Atheists, but this isn't what is considered in this post. As for "bad" Christians becoming devout Atheists, I have seen this, but does that make them "good" Atheists per the standards of Atheism?
Death of a Blog.

This is with regard to a Baptist theologian by the name of Dr. Jim West. He claims he only uses the "Dr." to distinguish him from a former frontier cowboy who used to be white, but later became black. There is also a porn star with the same name. I guess it helps to have such name coincidences when you are trying to bring in traffic. He has been the keeper of a lot of online Bible resource links and had one of the busiest Bible blogs on the net. Suddenly, however, his blog is gone. No notice. Nothing. I should also note that Jim has a number of grievances against fundamentalists, bloggers who don't list their names, idiots who talk about theology, Christianity or anything remotely related and don't have a directly related Ph.d, and cats. I am in three of these "bad" categories. Nevertheless, I still enjoy checking his blog periodically and feel quite sad that this blog is gone. A number of others have expressed opinions on this matter, and here is one. Jim, please come back!
Yesterday's New Year Hike.

I have been organizing these for a few years for family and friends. We started on Mission Peak, but changed to some easier routes so that our elderly and less active friends can participate. This year's was at Sunol Park. I advertised this with a few pictures, including some turkeys, to entice people to join. A light drizzle didn't help our turnout, but for those who came, it was a turkey treat as several herds went scurrying this way and that, seemingly with hundreds of these critters. Happy New Year to everyone out there who checks into this blog periodically. May God grant you a productive year!

Friday, January 01, 2010

San Francisco visit continued ...

Check out the 3rd and 4th line from the bottom of the menu. San Francisco determined that universal health care was a moral imperative for the city. Since the city's restaurants are mostly filled with people who live outside of the city, they also determined that it was a moral imperative that someone else paid the bill!

Merry Christmas!


Rain drops keep falling on my head.

Coit Tower.

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.

Today we had a nice visit to San Francisco. My daughter's classmate from when we lived in Japan long ago came to visit. She wanted to go to a New Year celebration at Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Buddhist organization, so we took her there first. After Lombard Street, we went to Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

The highlight of this visit is the hundreds of sea lions barking, biting each other, and trying to nap at Pier 39. Unfortunately, they are gone and the scientists, experts and spiritual leaders don't have a clue what happened. As for me, well, this certainly has an eerie resemblance to the Douglas Adams book that is the title for this post. The dolphins left Earth shortly before it was destroyed to put in a hyperspatial express route. Could it be that the sea lions know something about the future of San Francisco that the rest of us have missed?