Monday, December 31, 2012

Castle Peak

And a rare photo of Looney.

Happy New Year!

It has been a wonderful year and I certainly owe a word of thanks to all the bloggers and/or commenters who have made it an amusing one.

I will give thanks to God that in all the chaos, there is a good plan that He is working.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ugaritic and Shalom

Curiosity got the best of me.  During my Hebrew classes there were numerous references to similar words in Ugaritic and Akkadian.  I fetched a book on both with an Amazon gift card.  The Ugaritic book arrived first and I quickly set about making myself some flash cards to memorize the cuneiform syllabary of 30 letters. 

The picture shows some of these cards I prepared while the top three spell out sh-l-m which is the Ugaritic equivalent to Shalom (peace) in Hebrew.  Ugaritic doesn't mark vowels, so you have to fill them in.  The book I chose was A Primer on Ugaritic

The Ugaritic language is from the area of Lebanon and was in use from roughly the time of Jacob until the time of Joshua.  About 2/3 of the vocabulary and most of the grammar seem to be very close to Hebrew, thus, getting past the Ugaritic syllabary allows things to make sense rather quickly after studying Hebrew for two semesters.  The reason for studying Ugaritic is that there are many rare words in the Bible which get some additional usage in Ugaritic that have helped clarify meanings.  For those who want to get into the details of Baal worship, there is plenty of literature in this language to read.  I am a novice at all this, so won't try to pretend to any authority.  It is mainly something to amuse myself for the moment.  I hope to take a semester off from the formal classes to read my Hebrew Bible, study Akkadian and Ugaritic a bit, and then jump back in to complete the last semester in the summer.

So what other modern words do we get that were in Ugaritic?  One is the word QBR, which means to bury and goes through Hebrew as qabar, into Arabic, and then made it into English as macabre.  Many other more familiar Hebrew words are the same in Ugaritic, such as "ben" for son, or "yom" as in Yom Kippur for day.  Then there is the familiar "yada yada yada", which I suppose comes from the Hebrew and Ugaritic verb "to know" - yada.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve swim

This is a new experience for me since I have never swum in water this cold.  The last temperature report was from a few days ago that the lake was from 50 to 52F (10C-11C).  The cold is definitely getting my attention now.  As we enter in the lake the sensation of walking into ice water doesn't leave much confidence that things will get comfortable.  During the first 10 minutes of swimming, I am not warmed up and need to do considerably more breathing.  This becomes a bit unnerving as I try to mentally wrestle between whether or not my swimming difficulties are due to the warm up or due to the cold.  My hands and feet quickly become numb.  What was new this time was a sensation of pain on my cheeks like I would expect from being outside when it was snowing.  After the first 800 yard crossing, the group of us exchanged greetings to make sure we were all OK.  Then it was pretty much routine moving to the various points, although checking up on each other was a bit more sincere than usual.

We finished the 3,000 yards in about 50 minutes.  When the water temperature was in the upper 50's, I generally didn't feel any need to get out.  Now I am looking forward to the end, getting dry, and finding some way to get warm again.  I missed several days of swimming since my weekday  swim partners were on vacation or suffering from various ailments.  As long as I don't get sick also, the upcoming polar bear swim seems to be doable.  Only eight more days to go!

Some Christmas verses

"Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'" - Luke 2:34-35

That was the priest Simeon prophesying about Jesus.  Later Jesus says:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword." - Matthew 10:34

The world is certainly in an uproar over what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, down to the level of divided families.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hebrew Studies: Nearing end of Semester 2

This has certainly been a productive semester since I now have an ability to understand a considerable amount of Old Testament writing.  On the other hand, two semesters really represents just the completion of the beginner stage.  

The last assignment I am working on is a word study.  In this case, a Hebrew word for blessed or happy ('ashrei' - אשרי) has been chosen for us to pursue. (Note that 'barak' is also a Hebrew word for blessed.)  Our assignment was to located and translate every verse in the Bible which used 'ashrei' and then write an essay on the usage.  This came to 33 separate verses which were mostly in the Psalms.  The translation is done, with only the essay remaining.  Besides this, there is a quick test and one remaining phone call for pronunciation testing.  

The question for me now is what to do next.  I could just continue signing up for the third semester fall class, but am tempted to give a semester break.  Studying would continue, since I really want to improve my understanding of Hebrew.  One possibility is to get some modern Hebrew materials to work with, while continuing with the study.  Still deciding ...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More Fog and Jonah

We have been swimming along the shore and then diagonally back recently.  This is due partially to the sunrise direction and partially due to the arrangement of who turns back for shorter swims.  The problem this morning was that the wind blew in a thick fog after we reached the far point, so a diagonal swim back across the center of the lake presented some complication.  I really should start swimming with my watch, since it has a compass.  The solution was to swim along the shore for the return also, which increased the swim length to about 2 miles.

I got an excited email afterwards from our official temperature recorder.  The water temperature had dropped to nearly 54F (12C).

To make the time go quicker, it is always good to have something to meditate on while swimming.  During this swim, my Hebrew studies had me reflecting on the book of Jonah:

"Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly.  And he said:  
'I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me.  
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And you heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,  Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
Then I said, "I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple."
The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; 
Weeds were wrapped around my head.'" - Jonah 2:1-5

Friday, December 14, 2012

Swimming in the Fog

Yesterday morning the water temperature was 55F (13C) and the air temperature was 36F (2C).  We are having a cold week, so the temperature of the water is finally dropping towards winter conditions.

What was new to me is the heavy fog that was over the lake.  The warm water and cold air were ideal conditions for this.  The other swimmer is very experienced and was quite fearful of the fog.  With no wind or waves, all directional ques are lost once you get into the fog.  Even though our swimming seems fairly straight, this is only because we have visuals to help us correct course every few dozen yards.  The solution was to swim along the shore, which we did without any mishaps.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Anatomy of a Smile

Our Wednesday lectures series featured one on the Anatomy of a Bad Mood.  It gave almost as much attention to the Smile.  The point of Prof. Sapolsky's lecture seems to be that our mental state effects are physical state, and our physical state effects are mental state.  Thus, the process of putting people deliberately into a smile can set off electro-chemical effects that actually promote a happy mood, whereas the reverse is also true.  Perhaps this gives us some more insight into the Joker in Batman.  I personally would like to get a rebuttal lecture from a Vulcan, but that will need to wait for a different series.

But please smile.  It will change your mood.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Pew Survey: The rise of the religiously non-affiliated

The survey is here.  The basic thesis is that as formal Christianity is abandoned, some become agnostics or atheists, but others remain religious but non-affiliated.  Most deny any New Age style religiosity and instead prefer some sort of personal whatever.  I will note a few things of interest.

Definitions:  The Pew survey refers to the non-affiliated as "nones".  What questions they asked to get into this group are unclear.  The distinction between evangelical and mainline is over the term "born again".  An unsurprising statistic is that the growth in the non-affiliated is almost entirely a white phenomenon.  It also seems to be mostly a process of weeding out the marginally committed Christians into a category more clearly distinct from Christianity.

Literal Interpretation of the Bible.  Those who say yes to this have dropped from 38% of the population in 1972 to 31% today.  I am somewhat surprised that this number is still so high, given the countless billions of dollars that have been invested to teach youth otherwise in the government schools and universities, together with immigration from non-Christian societies.

Cognitive Dissonance: The unaffiliated believe that religion is too much about money and power (70%), focus too much on rules (67%) and are too involved in politics (67%).  To be fair, it is politically incorrect to say otherwise these day.  The cognitive dissonance sets in when we see that 63% of the unaffiliated are Democrats.  (75% voted Democrat in 2008.)  The Democrats believe in Salvation by Big Government, so our non-affiliateds support money and power, rules-gone-wile, and over-the-top politics on steroids. Apparently these behaviors are only vices if done by those you disagree with.

Causes:  The article lists several hypotheses for why the non-affiliated have risen and our so leftist in their thinking.  I would note that the hostility between leftists and Christianity is probably two centuries old, thus, the rise of the non-affiliated should be no surprise as the West turns hard left.  The first hypothesis tries to place the blame for non-affiliates being leftists on Christians voting Republican.  This fails to note that the Democrats have been pushing hard to return us to ancient Canaanite worship practices of child sacrifice (abortion) and sex with whatever sponsored by the government.  A more mundane hypothesis is just that the younger generation can't reconcile organized religion with their internet reality, thus, they become unaffiliated.

A last possible theory is that a rise in wealth and worldly security necessarily causes a decline in religious observance, whereas poverty causes people to seek God.  This one I find a bit ironic, as I see president Obama as being one of the unaffiliated who has won reelection on a crass populist message of worldly security obtained by spending money that doesn't exist.  Thus, the unaffiliated are voting to destroy the economy longer term.  Presumably they are also voting to destroy the safety net for their pseudo-religion.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Plato's Gorgias: Truth, Justice and the Greek Way.

It is hard to boil this down to a few sensible quotes.  The discussion is over the "art" of rhetoric.  Socrates is discussing with Gorgias and his followers regarding this topic, with Gorgias being a famous professor of rhetoric.  Gorgias' followers begin by asserting that rhetoric is an art that concerns truth and justice.  After a long dialog, Socrates makes the opposite claim that rhetoric isn't an art, but rather a practice of flattery.  At the same time, Socrates asserts that rhetoric is guaranteed to be popular, since it is the practice of pleasing the ears of the masses, and the masses only look to their self interest, thus, putting rhetoric in a position of hostility towards truth and justice.

This reminds me of Harvard University's emblem with "veritas" - the Latin word for truth.  We are relentlessly taught that scientists pursue truth at the exclusion of all else.  Perhaps this is true, and the professors have, um, evolved after 2,400 years.  On the other hand professors might just be doing exactly what the professors of rhetoric have always done.

It should be noted that Augustine had been a professor of rhetoric before becoming a Christian.  There is one other Latin work by Quintilian that I hope to read (in English translation) to get a better picture of rhetoric in the classical world.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Plato: Gorgias

"At the same time he acknowledges the natural result, which he hardly seeks to avert, that he who speaks the truth to a multitude, regardless of consequences, will probably share the fate of Socrates." - Plato's Gorgias, Introduction, by Benjamin Jowett

In case the reader doesn't know, Socrates was condemned to die by the assembly of Athens and forced to drink poison.  I don't know why professor Jowett feels he needs to be so tedious in his long introduction to this work, but, well, I guess he just has a lot to say.  The introduction has involved 2 hours of listening so far and much of the plot has been given away..  Gorgias talks about pain, evil, and sophistry.  There is also some talk of our condition after death.

Occasionally professor Jowett says something significant, and I suppose the above qualifies as we consider the current political situation in the developed world.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Plato: Meno and Virtue

This dialog is between Meno and Socrates with the topic being virtue.  The question is whether or not virtue can be defined and whether or not virtue can be taught.  Meno thinks he knows what virtue is and gives a list, but after being quizzed by Socrates it is apparent that he cannot come up with any sensible general definition of virtue that applies to all the individual cases.  Several candidate teachers are then proposed, with the Sophists being the only ones who meet all the criteria.  (Sophists believe that there is no such thing as truth, only persuasion.)  This is clearly unacceptable, with the end conclusion that virtue cannot be taught either.  To this Socrates adds that even the most virtuous and wealthy Athenians produce children who show no signs of virtue, and their parents would surely have educated them otherwise if it were possible.

My understanding of their conclusion is that virtue is innate and something provided by the gods, leaving virtue corresponding to what we might call "good character".  There is almost a sense of predestination to the whole thing.  A hole I see in this is that we are not given any idea whether virtue might be improved, or bad character lessened through training.  Another bothersome idea is that Meno and Socrates believe that even those who are evil believe that they will experience some good for their actions. This I am not so sure of.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

December 1st swim.

This morning's swim was 3,000 yards (2.7km) in the lake with a water temperature of 58 F (14.4C).  This is a breakthrough for me, because I can't even tolerate a cold shower.  The others tell me that I have been deprived, however, since the same time last year saw a temperature of 53F (11.7C).  Global warming is clearly taking its toll.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Augustine:  Regarding the value of a college education.

The Economist has a follow up article on this topic.

"But, besides the punishments of childhood, without which there would be no learning of what the parents wish - and the parents rarely wish anything useful to be taught - who can describe, who can conceive the number and severity of the punishments which afflict the human race - pains which are not only the accompaniment of the wickedness off godless men, but are a part of the human condition and the common misery - what fear and what grief are caused by bereavement and mourning, by losses and condemnations, by fraud and falsehood, by false suspicions, and all the crimes and wicked deeds of other men?" - City of God, Book 22.

Yes, the pain and torment of reading City of God is nearing an end, although it hadn't quite crossed my mind that the miseries of life begin with the educational torments inflicted by parents onto their innocent offspring.  There is certainly something in here regarding the Tiger Moms.

In our modern enlightened era, we try to cause children to learn without punishments, which is a big reason for the failure of American education.  But do the children learn anything useful?  And if we had sensible discipline, would they graduate with any sensible learning, even if they actually did learn?  Undoubtedly there is no point to discipline, since there is little point in what is taught.  Finally, is it more of a sadistic punishment to spank the non-learners, or to put $1 trillion of student loans onto them whether they learn or not?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Augustine (354-430AD): Enlightenment and Relics.

"Thus one of the most learned men, and certainly the most eloquent, M. Tullius Cicero, says that it is surprising that the divinity of Romulus was believed in, because the times were already so enlightened that they would not accept a fabulous fiction." - City of God, Book 22.

Cicero lived from 106BC to 43BC, while Romulus is supposed to have lived around 750BC.  It is always a fun topic to consider whether or not our ancestors were idiots.

"Eucharius, a Spanish priest, residing at Calama, was for a long time a sufferer from stone.  By the relics of the same martyr, which the bishop Possidius brought him, he was cured.  Afterwards the same priest, sinking under another disease, was lying dead, and already they were binding his hands.  By the succor of the same martyr he was raised to life, the priest's cloak having been brought from the oratory and laid upon the corpse." - City of God, Book 22.

As much as I enjoy Augustine's writings, there are still some things that are awkward.  Modern protestants are taught to have no regard for relics, especially since Martin Luther was a key factor in bringing to an end the abuses of their use during the Renaissance.  So what should we make of all the miracles attributed to God through relics that form a large portion of the writings of Augustine?  He uses these as a key part of his apologetics to argue against with the pagans.  Are we to dismiss all of them, including those he claims to have witnessed personally?  We must also keep in mind that Augustine does not dismiss the miracles claimed by the pagans either, although they are inferior in accomplishment and he suspects that there might be some trickery.  I wish I had some charismatic followers to add some thoughts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Augustine: On Hell.

"But enough has been said in reply to those who acknowledge the authority of the same sacred Scriptures as ourselves, but who, by a mistaken interpretation of them, conceive of the future rather as they themselves wish, then as the Scriptures teach." - City of God, Book 21, chapter 27.

I am nearing the end of Augustine's City of God for the second time.  Book 21 is all about Hell.  It is about the eternity of punishment in a literal fire for those who refuse to accept Christ and turn from their sins.  What astounds me about this is the amount of words to be expended on the topic.  This shouldn't have been necessary, but it turns out that a very large number of arguments had been generated against the notion that men could be punished for their sins.  Much of the arguing seems to have resulted from an attempt to reconcile the Bible with neo-Platonism.  One thing that stands out to me is the inferiority of the modernists in their re-formulation of the same old arguments.  They are usually incredibly simplistic compared to the arguments of 16 centuries earlier.  On the other hand, modern Bible believers have little patience for such discussions either.  Yet at the same time, both the modern Bible believer and the intellectual modernist/post-modernist believe that we are living in an enlightened era where studying these earlier writings is quite unnecessary.  I am gradually learning to accept the conclusion - that it is pointless to study the past - but for the opposite reason.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lake Tahoe from Emerald Bay

The swim club told me that a group swam across Lake Tahoe last summer.  The distance is 11.5 miles, which is about 7 times longer than a normal workout.  Maybe a goal to set for next summer?

There is a plan to expand the Desolation Wilderness to include all of California.  Some adjustments will be needed to the permit process.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is good that this is still one of America's most important holidays.  Thanksgiving was instituted by a group of Fundamentalist Christians who gave thanks to their Creator for the blessings He had given to them.  It wasn't much in terms of worldly things, since they had less than most of America's homeless of today.  A year or so earlier, half of their group died due to what was most likely the "investors" having purchased expired provisions to supply the colony as it started up.  Instead, their thanks was for a spiritual blessing to be able to worship without being persecuted for what they believed.  For this, they gave thanks and invited their Indian neighbors to give thanks with them.  They were still threatened, however, by pirates, French, Indians and rapacious business men, but these didn't threaten them for who they worshiped. Thanks to God for his amazing gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Puzzling over the mortgage backed securities market ...

There is undoubtedly a lot I don't understand, but the news just noted that the US Federal Reserve is spending $85 billion per month on buying up securities, mostly of the mortgage backed type.  That is an asset shell game worth $1 trillion per year.  Is that in addition to the $1 trillion per year deficit?  Something to ponder over.

Mortgage backed securities are pieces of paper that state who owns the house loan that we pay ... in other words, when we mail a payment in, who finally gets the money?  Since the homeowner has to make his payment regardless of who owns the loan, this isn't directly relevant to him.  What it effects is who gets left holding the bag when 1.41% of homeowners default on their loan each month.  If the Fed is holding the bag, then, well, I guess they are the one holding the bag when the defaults happen.  It appears to be a great way to sweep the losses under the rug, without any possible negative side effects.  I am wondering why we haven't just been doing this for the last century?  Or to put it another way, why doesn't the Fed just loan everyone whatever money they need to buy whatever house they want at zero interest?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Presidential Debate Transcript from the year 2054.

UPDATE to this posting:  There is an article discussing recent research babbling on this topic here.

I won't say how this document came into my possession, but the circumstances were related to my work and certain physics experiments.  These experiments would be too technical for this forum.  The year 2025 saw a great economic breakdown followed by a protracted civil war before things eventually settled down.  A group of technocrats was then appointed to come up with a new world-wide government.  Looking back at the trends, it was discovered that the human intellect had been atrophying as a result of technological progress.  If an aborigine makes an illogical choice, he could very well be dead and not pass his genes on.  For a modern, however, illogical choices were frequently rewarded more than logical ones, while more recently sperm banks actively sought out genetic material from the most illogical specimens. The result was that illogical had a significant evolutionary advantage over logical.  The technocrats went back through the literature of illogic and were able to scientifically prove this connection.  Early advocates of illogic such as Marx, Engels and Hitler wrote large works that supplied detailed and exhaustive illogical explanations which were necessary to convince the reluctant masses.  By the year 2000, however, all this had been reduced to little more than tomes that were collections of anecdotes.  An argument could neither be developed from premises to a conclusion, nor could the masses actually process one had it been presented to them.  What was really striking, however, was that as the politicians logical faculties diminished, they were increasingly lauded for their communication ability, while people were more and more connected and enamored by the existential message.

The technocrats analysis resulted in a dual governance system.  The real government was turned over to computer programs that efficiently managed things, but then there was a virtual government that permitted humans to engage in the usual pandering and power politics, but with little harm done.  A "wealth placebo" had been invented which confused the distinction between the rich and poor, yet the class warfare raged on based on the "perceptible wealth gap".   A presidency was re-instituted which primarily had the function of continuing class warfare rhetoric, since this proved to be necessary component of human existence.  

And now, an excerpt from the debate, with some changes made so that we should not be easily able to change the future when we see this happening.  The following portion was deemed to be the highlight of the debate by various pundits and specialist observers, and where the clear knockout blow had been delivered:

Moderator:  "What are your proposals with regard to the proposed temporary increase in the 'placebo tax', and the impact of this measure on the perceptions of inequality?  Candidate B, it is your turn to go first."
Candidate B: "Um, well, duhhh."
Moderator:  "Candidate A?"
Candidate A: "Yes, certainly, like duh-uh"

Afterwards, a focus group was interviewed to see how they thought the candidates performed.  

Interviewer:  "What did you think of this daring move by Candidate B?"
Member 1: "He came across as elitist.  Candidate A was the clear winner.  He empathized with my needs and truly expressed that he cared more for the things that matter to me."
Member 2: "Yes, Candidate A clearly won this round.  He simply explained his plan better than Candidate B."
Member 3: "Well, I certainly like and respect Candidate B.  But I am worried about the future, thus, I will vote for Candidate A."
Member 4: "Candidate A.  He is clear minded and eloquent, whereas Candidate B is simply out of touch with reality."

And so it was.  Or will be.  Or whatever.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Water World Swim:  Winter Alcatraz Event.

On January 5th.  Too bad it isn't New Year's Day.  As long as I don't get sick this should be easy to do.  The January Alcatraz swim might be a good way to start the year off on the right foot, um, fin?  This group is limited to 50 which is much to be preferred over starting in a pack of 800 swimmers for the large summer events.

The other swim event that looks tempting is the Golden Gate crossing, which is 3km ... a bit longer than the 2km Alcatraz swim.

Invitations ...

"Dear Professor Looney,

By this letter I would like to invite you to participate in two scientific events, which will be held in 2013.  First of it is Mini-Symposium 'Creep and Plasticity at Cyclic Loading' (CPCL), which will organized in the frameworks of Fourth Nonlinear Dynamics Conference.  It will be held in the tourist center 'Sevastopol' near Sevastopol, the town and port in the Ukrainian Black Sea shore.  Not only the problems of cyclic loading description, but wide range of the Creep, Damage and Plasticity directions will be presented in the CPCL sessions, like the previous one, which was in Kharkov in 2010 ...

I do appreciate such invitations, especially since the subject matter is dear to my heart.  Sadly, my sponsor  has cut back on all travel to conferences, so I will need to pass on this.  Maybe next time.
A Taste for Change.

There was a Chinese restaurant that my wife and I frequented for a few years.  It changed owners several times, but remained Chinese and always seemed to have a good business.  Then a few years ago it switched to "Miss Saigon".  Obviously no longer Chinese, but the business was always good for this Vietnamese restaurant and we went there often.  A few weeks ago, this one closed and re-opened as an Indian restaurant.  This probably makes it the 30th or 40th Indian restaurant to open in our area over the past two years.  We now have North Indian, South Indian, Indo-Pak, Vegetabletarian Indian, Halal Indian, Krishna Indian, Tandoori Indian and who knows what else Indian food.

For a time, I had been trained to believe that the world had two major categories of food.  Chinese food and Foreign food.  With Chinese having long ago lost the preeminence, I should probably revise this to admit that the two major categories are now just Indian food and Foreign food.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Augustine:  On pundits.

"For Babylon means confusion, as we remember we have already explained.  Nor does it matter to the devil, its king, how they wrangle among themselves in contradictory errors, since all alike deservedly belong to him on account of their great and varied impiety." - City of God, Book XVIII, chapter 41.

I have been listening to Augustine while commuting for a few months.  The statement above is with regard to worldly philosophical sects which produced directly contradictory opinions, even though they all purport to be the experts on wisdom.  The contradictions began with the Greeks, and spread to the Romans.  Augustine is still a timely read, since it reminds us of how great nations rot due to vice, and then are brought down by the external problems when they can no longer withstand things.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hebrew studies:  Over the hump?

I have gotten back into things and am roughly half way through the second semester.  The grammar push is now winding down.  I have memorized the vocabulary for the first two semesters, which works out to about 600 or 700 words.  The total vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible is around 8,000 words, but I have learned the higher frequency ones.  The words for Ostrich, Ibex and Myrtle tree will just have to wait.  My Hebrew Bible has the lower frequency words in the margin, so I can now read along provided I can figure out the grammar.  There are also multiple meanings to the more frequent words which is creating a certain amount of confusion.

The studies now are getting more directly into the Biblical text, which is a big relief.  Earlier, the parsing of a sentence would be an exercise in total futility as nothing made sense unless the teacher provided things broken out word-for-word.  Now the reading proceeds along fairly quickly and it is more a matter of understanding the nuances.  This feels good, but I am afraid that the instructor is going to quickly take things to a whole different level.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Apocalypse Preparedness Training at REI.

Glad to see that I am not the only Californian wondering about such things, although this isn't quite what I had in mind as the threat.  But you never know!

More post-Election pondering:  The Gender Gap.

A female would let this topic go, but being a male the news keeps coming and I have to keep pondering ... and I really should have the good sense to leave this topic alone.

"President Obama won women by 12 percentage points, while Mitt Romney won men by 8".

I generally view that men and women vote similarly in intact, healthy families, so that the differences are more reflective of America's post-family, baboon troop style culture.

Of course the big monster financial issue for the next N years is the trillion dollar deficit that we have taken on a decade earlier than was scheduled for the Social Security / Medicare meltdown.  This leads me to wonder whether there is any correlation between debt handling and bill payment and gender.  A quick search  and here it is:

"An April 2012 study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation shows that women with low levels of financial literacy are more likely to engage in costly credit card behaviors than men with low financial literacy."

For much of the lower classes, welfare moms dominate the culture so that the government effectively performs the role of husband to them.  Then there are food stamps, housing subsidies, medical benefits, etc.  When you are on the edge, the notion that the government must do whatever it takes to supply your needs today will drown out all other considerations.  Let the future be damned.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Baffled:  Why did Petraeus resign?

From the article, General Petraeus says, "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

I genuinely agree with that statement, but let us play Devil's advocate.  Literally.

General Petraeus had apparently been faithful to his with for 38 years before this happened.  Doesn't that mean that he was engaging in the mentally damaging practice of suppressing his animal instincts?  How is it that he was permitted to be head over the CIA with this ongoing denial so apparent to everyone?  Isn't the fact of having an affair a liberating experience that helped him to get in touch with his real inner being - making him more qualified to be head of the CIA as well as an honest and genuine husband?  Didn't we just go through the ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so that America's military men would not need to suffer due to a repression of the DNA programming that they were born with?  Now that we are discovering that humans are born with all kinds of peculiar biologically determined orientations towards both known and unknown species, why do we continue with such old-fashioned thinking?  Even Clinton owed his re-election to an affair.  So what I would like to know is why the affair of Petraeus is wrong per the standards of our post-modern value system.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

California Super Majority?

The dream of the California Left of becoming a one-party state seems to have been finally realized.  Not that the Republicans were much of a check on the left over the last decade.  Californians also voted twice to increase the taxes paid ... apparently buying into the notion that it is possible to save California's schools.  May the revolution continue to its glorious conclusion!

Tomorrow morning I will go back to swimming and forget what is happening on the land.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Final Vote:  God appoints Obama.

No doubt God has a good plan for America.  I tend to think the good plan is that we should become a third world nation and suffer both economically and at the hands of the morally depraved so that we might be enticed to humble ourselves and repent of our sins.  Our current situation also reminds me of a prophecy from the book of Jeremiah:

"In those days people will no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.'  Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes - his own teeth will be set on edge." - Jeremiah 31:29-30

The meaning of the proverb was that the parents would sin, and the children suffer the consequences.  I can't think of a better way to characterize America's deficit spending madness.  I am looking forward to the Apocalypse!

Monday, November 05, 2012

We have counted the ballots, and the winner of the election for new captain is ...

Hopefully he can save us.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

More election pondering.

"Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh." - 1 Peter 2:16-18

This is difficult, especially for me.  But so it is commanded by God.  The king during this period was likely Nero who doesn't have a particularly virtuous reputation.  Many Christians were slaves during this era, including some in the household of Caesar.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Request for advice:

I got an email from a struggling missionary requesting prayer.  The end of the letter had a quote, as many who write emails are prone to do:

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not, remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for. - Epicurus"

The problems with this are numerous, starting with the fact that Epicurus was the founder of New Atheism, never mind that he lived in 300BC.  He argued that atheists were morally superior to theists, which is the core of New Atheist theology.  He also claimed that there were gods, but that the gods were too feeble to actually do anything for mankind, nor did they even care, thus, making him the patron saint of Mainline Christianity.  The last major point that Epicurus argued was that all his opinions were science, thus, anyone who disagreed was a slave to superstition and not fit to debate with him.  This, of course is the core method of evolutionary science, global warming theory, and much else of the intellectual disaster of modern education.  Finally, I would note that the really good things that God gave me were mostly not even imagined, thus, they could not have been hoped for, so I don't even think the quote makes sense.

So how do I respond to a missionary who requests prayer, but then finishes the letter by quoting someone who taught that prayer was utterly worthless and misguided?  Should I correct this poor soul?  Or should I just trust that God in his mercy and grace will make use of this uneducated, but well meaning and passionate child of His?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fremont Eid al-Adha festival.

My wife was wondering about the commotion at our nearby park.  She had an event at the park the same time as the festival, thus, unexpectedly putting her in the center of a lot of congestion.  I was checking out the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, and came across a note that jogged my mind and pointed me to the event.  Xinhua has quite a collection of photos.  Dr. Wiki gives a description of Eid al-Adha here.  For Christians, this is a significant event also as it is a reminder of the Biblical story of Abraham when God tests him by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to prove Abraham's trust in God.  God stopped Abraham when it becomes apparent that he would be fully faithful.  Mohammed changed Abraham's son Isaac to Ishmael on retelling the story.

There is plenty of symbolism surrounding Isaac and Ishmael, so there is quite a difference in implied theology.  As Christians, we also view that a son had to be sacrificed to reconcile God with Man, and that this sacrifice that Abraham was willing to do was simply not sufficient.  Thus, God stops Abraham because God's only son, Jesus, would become the sacrifice on the cross to provide the hope of salvation to all people.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

6 AM at the lake.

It is a half mile to the shore on the other side, but we usually start by swimming about 3/4 mile on a course that leads into a far cove to the right.  The lights are amplified by the time exposure on the camera, but it is still possible to use them for navigation ... except when the fog gets really thick.  The water temperature was checked at 67 degrees yesterday and this morning's air temperature was 56 degrees.  We did a long 3,000 yard loop, then finished up with an out and back for a total of 4,600 yards (4.2 km, 2.5 miles).

Delirious asked why I don't wear a wet suit.  None of the four of us wear one, so I will give a list of the top ten reasons that we don't wear a wet suit to keep warm during the swim.

10. Wet suits get me all chaffed up and sore.
9. Wet suits aren't fashionable.
8. Wet suits add some buoyancy and disrupt the swimming stroke.
7. We are getting ready for the annual polar bear swim, and we need to acclimate so that we will be ready for the 48 degree water that is typical for the New Year's day swim.
6. The women who swim with us don't use wet suits, and it would be humiliating if people thought the ladies were tougher than me.
5. I am too cheap to buy a wet suit.
4. The lake monster likes to eat seals, and a wet suit would make me look more like a seal.
3. Only the new open water swimmers use wet suits.
2. There is no good place to hang my wet suit at work after the swim and I don't want to leave it all wet in the car.
1. Swimming in cold water without a wet suit consumes 50% or more calories than would be used otherwise, making this great for fitness.
0. The Earth will end by fire, so we must enjoy the cold while we can.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One more early morning lake swim.

I should take my camera to get a view of the lake when it is still dark.  There is only one more such swim before the winter time/schedule changes force the swims to start later when it is light.  There was a lot of storminess and rain over the last two days, which left the air temperature down in the 40's and the water a tad cooler - probably around 65-67 degrees.  I had to get to a meeting at work, so cut the swim short with only 2,400 yards (2.1 km).  My nose pinch couldn't be located in the dark, so I swam without it and am now suffering from a case of "lake nose", which is an allergic reaction to the water.  The nose pinch showed up when I got out and it was light.  It actually had fallen out last Thursday, but the park is rarely visited now so it was still where it fell.

The cold shower outside is doing a great job at keeping the swimmers itch away.  It still seems odd to me that the cold shower seems warm, but the shower water was warmer than both the air and the lake.  This time I ended up shivering for the rest of the day.  Hopefully I can acclimate a little better.  Maybe I need to keep a winter parka at work.  One of the other swimmers has a similar problem where he can't get warm for many hours after the swims.  The other group members were telling me of last November when the air temperature was below freezing.  There is still much to look forward to!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shadow Cliffs Swim Report.

The Big Dipper is just above the horizon to the port side.  Orion is to the starboard.  That means I am swimming roughly east, which is the intended direction.  The morning swim started in the dark at about 6:05 am with three of us.  The air temperature was about 50 degrees, but the water was a balmy 69 degrees.  This is the first time I have tried to do this since last year, but I managed to complete the 3,000 yard (2.7 km) loop.  It felt good to be back in the water.  About half way through my arms started feeling quite heavy. Last year it would have been easy and I would have been pushing hard, but this time I am mainly just going through the motions.  The group agreed to a 6:30 am start for the next few times.  Starting in November, the park won't open until 7:00 am which will be light, given the time change.

The swimmers itch didn't really bother me this time.  The general advice is to get a shower and scrub down after the swim because this gets rid of most of the problem.  The swim area has an outdoor shower for this.  Most people would probably not think to get a cold outdoor shower in the cool air, but as usual this felt warm after the swim.  The only part of me that felt cold was my bare feet when walking on the cold sand and concrete.  This cools faster than the water.  Part of me said I need to get some flip flops.  The other part says that I should just tough it out and get used to it because things are going to get colder.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to the early morning lake swim ...

It has been a year since Whooping Cough put an end to my serious swimming.  I have done some pool swimming recently, but that has maxed out at about a mile of swimming each time.  It is too tedious and we have to share lanes. This morning a water polo team from a nearby high school took over a third of the lanes since their regular pool had equipment problems, making the regular swim lanes especially crowded.  With the pre-dawn lake swims, I only need to figure out how to share a 1 square kilometer patch of water with three other swimmers.

Tomorrow morning I will give a try at Shadow Cliffs again.  The regulars are still there going strong at 6:00 AM.  I checked to see if I could join them and the response was favorable, so I will try again.  It is generally dark at 6:00 AM and we swim 1200 yards (2/3 mile, 1.1 km) to the far side.  There is a streetlight to help guide us, although they told me the lake was fogged in a few days ago which would have made it especially eerie on the early crossing.  Coming back is when things start to get light, at least if the sky is clear.  This should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Great Courses:  Being Human.

This is the latest lecture series for the Wednesday lunch time group.  The 1st lecture was an introduction.  The 2nd lecture compared humans to baboons and came to the startling conclusion that humans would be physically healthier if we all behaved like a bunch of wild baboons unencumbered by the technologies of society.  The Noble Savage myth still has legs and a tail and lives in an ivory tower.

Prof. Sapolsky compared the health of baboons who discovered a garbage dump in Africa to Americans in North America.  The baboons who discovered the garbage dump stopped foraging and enjoyed the bounty, growing quicker and bigger, yet being less healthy.  For comparison, an Indian tribe was considered since the tribal branches exist both in Mexico and in the US.  The fact that the group in America was wildly obese was taken to be a sign of the evils of modern farming, which apparently equates to the baboons garbage dump.  But what does the Mexican branch of the tribe eat?  He didn't tell us.  Of course the problem north of the border is something called "welfare", which allows America's poor to eat unlimited amounts of food without ever getting out to forage for themselves.  Thus, the baboon's garbage dump might be better equated to the modern welfare state, rather than mechanized farming.

Backing up a bit, Prof. Sapolsky first criticizes modern technology for leaving society sick and diminutive, based on sizes of people during the middle ages.  His final criticism, however, is that we are over sized as a result of technology.  So which is it?  In fact technology changes things in many ways, which the lecture acknowledges.  What is bugging me is that I should like to see what the overall patterns look like, but Prof. Sapolsky is giving a few random anecdotes that come from a sea of data.  Are the anecdotes representative of anything?  Stay tuned for the next episode ...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Obesity?  What obesity?

Today I went shopping in an attempt to replace some of my frayed pants.  The Robinson Crusoe look is cool, but there are limits to this at work.  In the end, I could hardly find any pants that fit.  My waist is about 38 inches, which makes a 39 inch (99 cm) size pant fairly comfortable.  The problem was that most of the stores maxed out at 34 to 36 inches.  Some had 38 inches which fits, but is just too tight.  Probably I just need to fast a few days.  What I am wondering is where all those fat Americans are and where it is that they shop.  But maybe I am the fat American and I don't need to wonder.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The unemployment rate drop (8.1% to 7.8%).

There is an article about this here which considers some of the nuts and bolts of this.  Basically it looks like the informal Household Survey component of the rate showed a 1 million job increase from August to September.  I suspect some explanation will eventually be given that shows there was a methodology change, but that it won't be announced until after the elections.

The number to watch is the Labor Participation Rate, which is the percentage of those of working age who are working relative to the total population.  This moved up from 63.5 to 63.6 in September, which is just one notch off its low.  Of course this doesn't give information on those who have part time jobs or are taking low paying jobs because their skills are no longer in demand.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hebrew study update.

This has been a challenge.  The past several weeks have seen me doing overtime both during the weekdays and on Saturdays.  There is a good chance this will continue for another month.  The laptop crash didn't help and my Bibleworks CDs are bad so I can't get things re-installed.  With all that, I have not been making the schedule and my brain hasn't been fresh enough to study well when I do have time.

On a positive side, I have done fairly well memorizing the vocabulary.  The full verb conjugation table is something we are supposed to have memorized, down to the vowel markings and accents.  I haven't done this fully, but did have some time to re-memorize much of it.  Still the level of familiarity needed just isn't there yet.  I almost wish I could just start everything over so all the things that were barely stored in my brain the first time around could be put in more securely the second time.  I will be checking with my adviser for options ...

Friday, October 05, 2012

Obama vs. Romney debate pondering.

Yes, I listened to the entire 90 minutes.  Note that this debate was limited to economic issues.

Imagine a debate competition where you are up against a random opponent, the coin is tossed, and you are required to defend the  proposition,  "Arnold Schwarzenegger is a model husband."  If you survive to the end of the debate without being KO'd, have you not done well?

Thus, we must consider the nature of the proposition that is being defended and its defensibility before declaring whether or not we think a debater did a good or bad job.  In this instance, the economy is at high unemployment, we are running trillion dollar deficits, students are loaded with a trillion dollars in unpayable loans, but can't find jobs.  Healthcare threatens even the upper middle class with bankruptcy, while most of the employed are nervous about layoffs.  There is little hope of improvement and demographic changes are making things worse in the long term.  How would YOU do arguing for the policies of this carnage?

Given all this, I really don't think Obama did badly as a debater, nor do I think Romney did especially well.  What would it have been like if they had been compelled to switch roles and argue the opposite positions?  Of course there are many other things at work in this kind of a debate.  One is the belief in the doctrine of the total intellectual and moral superiority of Leftism, which didn't quite shine through like it should have.  The other is the notion that Obama was especially great as an orator.

Other than this, I am pleased that Romney gave some defense of free markets, education vouchers and states rights.  The Dodd-Frank beastie got some well needed criticism.  Many things went unsaid, like giving loans to people who study degrees with no economic utility, or the disaster of public sector unions in education., but not everything needs to be said in a debate.  The real question is whether or not a president Romney can de-fang the ultra-leftwing monster state.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Last driver installed on my laptop recovery.

This was for the audio.  Now to test it.  Since I am a tiny bit old fashioned, I picked this song.  It is called "Dies Irae", or "Day of Wrath".  Some songs never lose their timeliness.

Laptop Recovery:

The old disk drive was put into a disk case and plugged in to see if anything was recoverable.  A chkdsk took nearly 24 hours to run with all the problems, and the drive was so hot I could hardly hold it.  The overheating probably had something to do with why it failed.  This was a 7,200 rpm drive (200Gb Seagate Momentus) which was a fast spin rate for laptops, so it is probably wearing out.  The file system was pretty badly trashed, but there were still a lot of recoverable files on it.

The SSD always runs cool, so this should cause a lot less heating for the laptop overall and the battery will run longer.  So far I really like how responsive the computer is with the SSD replacement.  Everything that required cached data before now comes up almost instantly.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Laptop: New Disk Drive.

Hopefully this will stay up for another year.  The drive is a Samsung 256 Gb solid state disk for $219.  My kids will probably remind me that I could have donated 4 or 5 goats to poor people in the third world for this amount.  My response is that it is quite cheap compared to the first 400 megabyte drive that I bought ... for $30,000.  Four of those disk drives consumed the same amount of space as a kitchen refrigerator.  The new drive is much faster than the old, thus, allowing me to get all the windows drivers installed quickly through all the reboots.  There is still a lot of setup to do.
Laptop disk failure ...

It is a few years old.  Now I need to figure out whether I want to borrow computer time from my family members, repair the old thing, or buy a new one.  But maybe I will just spend less time on the computer, which is good for all kinds of reasons.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

November Election Issues:  The Economist sizes up the problem.

This one explains why the current economic crisis is going to be with us for the next 50 years, unless the economy collapses first.  Basically the game was for those of us in the older generations to vote all kinds of goodies for ourselves, and hand the bill to the unborn.  No doubt they will be thrilled when they figure out what happened.  Most of this is due to exorbitant public sector pensions and inflated health care bills.  The left likes to scream that not enough taxes were paid, which perhaps has some truth.  On the other hand, they may have simply taken the additional tax revenue to increase the pensions more while investing further in medical litigation.  Not quite sure.

Friday, September 28, 2012

November Election Issues:  Religious associations of the presidential candidates.

This is tricky.  Let's start with the obvious: There are very few presidents or vice presidents who have written down their systematic theologies.  Probably even fewer who have actually thought about the concept.  Rather than trying to deduce a presidents beliefs indirectly from statements made during a populist campaign or their actions in the heat of some hopeless political situation, we can look to their affiliations.  That can be problematic too, since some denominations are all over the map regarding theology and frequently their members have no idea what the preacher is talking about.  But I will take a stab at this anyways.

Christianity is my interest, so we must go through some basic principals here.  Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  There is a correct theology that heaven knows about, yet at the same time correct theology doesn't save you.  Otherwise, Satan would be more "saved" than any human theologian.  Humans don't know precisely what is correct, but I generally choose orthodox theology as being the best starting point.  Regardless, there are those who are saved by Christ and know almost nothing of Christian theology, while there are countless others who know Christian theology quite well, yet have rejected Christ as Lord and Savior.  

Keeping in mind that theological affiliations are poor guides, we can now proceed to rank Christian groups relative to their differences with orthodox theology.   We can use a list of presidents with their religious affiliations to help us with this.  

The list includes four Unitarians, who are a completely different religion from Christians.  Jefferson is listed as a Deist which is essentially a Unitarian.  The Republicans have offered up two Quakers for president, Hoover and Nixon.  The Quakers strive for moral perfection and see this as the end of their earthly activities, yet don't talk of Jesus as Lord and Savior.  They should be viewed as some sort of charismatic Unitarians with Christian trappings.  Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, which is a sect that is a long way from orthodox with their Popery, Mariolatry, indulgences, priests, redefining of sainthood, praying to saints, purgatory, grace as a commodity, ....  Of course you will see the story of Christ's death and resurrection in the art work of their churches, so the key items are still there, except that they are inefficiently taught due to all the baggage.

On the current US presidential tickets, we have Obama who was formerly associated with the United Church of Christ and Romney who is associated with the Mormons.  The vice presidential candidates are Biden and Ryan who are both Roman Catholics, although I seem to remember that Biden was rejected by his clergy.  An abortion promoting Catholic is a bit like a pork eating Orthodox Jew, so Biden's claim to being a Roman Catholic is somewhat awkward.  The interesting thing to ponder is which of those three groups (United Church of Christ, Mormon, Roman Catholic) is closest to orthodox Christianity. Considering the United Church of Christ, we find that they are a leading group in promoting Depravity as America's new national deity.  They may well be further from orthodox Christianity than atheism.  I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out whether Mormons or Roman Catholics are closer to orthodox Christianity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC): Regarding the US elections.

I have been listening to Cicero's work, On The Laws, which is a philosophical discussion of the basis of law. His starting point is the society itself, so rather than "human rights", which have a starting point of "me", there are "social rights", which are the rights conferred by the society for its own preservation and enjoyment:

"And lastly, that these natural brethren are bound together by the reciprocal obligations of friendship and affection, as well as social rights." - On The Laws, Book I.

To this is added much about virtue and vice, along with the fact that it isn't sensible to legislate everything, yet there still remains natural laws regarding good and evil.  For the hyper-legalist, Pharisses and the like, there is this:

"How I am ashamed at those philosophers, who assert that there are no vices to be avoided but those which the laws have branded with infamy."

And something that every Christian theologian should recognize:

"Shall corporal defects, if they are remarkable, shock our sensibilities, and shall those of the soul make no impression on us?—Of the soul, I say, whose turpitude is so evidently proved by its vices."

There are a number of other remarks that will raise the eyebrow of a new testament Bible student.  Then there is a split which I find quite fascinating:

"According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimation between good and evil."

This distinction is one that seems to have been passed down to our modern era, as the leftists legislate laws for the distribution of good, while the conservatives are more focused on good vs. evil.  Cicero anticipates the 19th century Utilitarian arguments and offers up a rebuttal:

"But if justice consists in submission to written laws and national customs, and if, as the Epicureans persist in affirming, every thing must be measured by utility alone, he who wishes to find an occasion of breaking such laws and customs, will be sure to discover it. So that real justice remains powerless if not supported by nature, and this pretended justice is overturned by that very utility which they call its foundation."

Epicureans should be treated as a synonym for Darwinistas, who have been pushing their religion into the legal sphere for quite a while.  What really stands out, however, is a discussion of what happens if the natural conscience is overruled, for which we have an excerpt:

"But if the opinions and suffrages of foolish men had sufficient weight to outbalance the nature of things, might they not determine among them, that what is essentially bad and pernicious should henceforth pass for good and beneficial? Or why should not a law able to enforce injustice, take the place of equity? Would not this same law be able to change evil into good, and good into evil?"

It is this area that stands out as it has been formally embraced by the Democrats - that the definition of evil and good can be interchanged on a whim - and a big chunk of the Republican party thinks that there is no philosophical basis for challenging such a notion.  This moral disease isn't limited to the US, however, as can be seen in the recent move by France to ban the legal notion of Mother and Father.  Voting for Obama and the Democrats is out of the question, since they have formally embraced a policy of legislating good as evil and evil as good.  Romney certainly has the advantage here, although I think that a more vocal role is needed to confront the activist anthropology professors who want to entice humans to embrace the social norms of a troop of baboons or apes.

It should be noted that Cicero's comments about legislating good as evil and evil as good would come to fruition a century later with Caligula, Claudius and Nero.  Christians were no stranger to living as loyal citizens in this society, hence, we see this verse from Philippians that was likely written under the reign of the dissolute Nero:

"All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household." - Philippians 4:22

This should be a reminder that the march to depravity as a national identity isn't a one way street, although perhaps a barbarian invasion is needed to sweep this away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

November Election Issues:  Polls.

Things have certainly launched off into silly land.  The worse the economy does, the worse it is for Romney and the better it is for Obama.  The doodoo hits the fan in the Middle East, and again, Obama's poll numbers go up and Romney's go down.  By this logic, Obama would need to increase (official) unemployment to 12%, add another $ trillion to the deficit and fund some terrorist groups to help his party win total control.

The fact is that polling organizations always take samples of different groups, and then do a weighted average of the answers based on historical correlations.  The trick is in the "weighted average", which amounts to a voodoo step in the middle of an otherwise scientific process.  With this, a malicious pollster can easily rig numbers to influence public opinion.  Since most of the polling outlets are hard left, well, expect the numbers to be of a sort that the leftist journalists imagine would help their candidate.  Things should change in the last few days before the election since, ahem, the historical correlations will be based on election days of past years, rather than non-election day histories.

Finally, for fun I will include a quote from somewhere else with a typical example of how leftist polling has worked for the last few decades:

"In 1980, Ronald Reagan beat Carter by nearly 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.  In a Gallup Poll released days before the election on Oct. 27, it was Carter who led Reagan 45 percent to 42 percent."

I should probably do my own homework on this, but will leave it at that for now unless someone cares to challenge it.
November Election Issues:  Foreign Policy.

Every action causes a reaction.  Thus, any one policy action sets off an endless chain of actions and reactions that is so chaotic that no one can predict the outcome.  I would not find any inconsistency with an atheist who declares that only God knows whether a foreign policy action is for better or worse in anything beyond the immediate term.

With that consideration, we usually promote policies that we believe in as a nation.  In this case, the US has been mostly spreading the gospel of Democracy to the world.  Is that good?  I am skeptical.  The last time this was done was during the Peloponnesian Wars (431-401BC) when Athens tried spreading Democracy.  It didn't have a happy ending.  Then there is the minor detail that the US is supposed to be a Republic with democratic elements, rather than a pure Democracy.

I should be happier if the US decided to help spread the rule of law and free markets, but this would be quite hopeless.  The leftists on the surface believe rule of law, but they also believe that any statement can be given an infinite number of meanings, including the negation of the statement, thus, rule of law is quite meaningless in their world view.  Free markets are all about the government creating a level playing field under the rule of law, thus, the second depends on the first.  Again, the leftist believe that free markets are nothing more than legalized theft, so as soon as they gain control over a free market economy they begin directing the "theft" to benefit their constituents.  This is what is taught in American academia, rather than the correct notions.  With this kind of utter chaos in American teaching, I am not sure how we as a nation could sensibly spread Rule of Law and Free Markets to the world.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

November Election Issues:  The Economy in General.

First things first:  The US is NOT a free market economy.  The largest banks (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are US Government institutions, while many of the utilities are effectively government enterprises.  GM now means Government Motors and what can we say of the airlines that are still in the air due to government intervention?  Then there are massive transfer payments going on which is the primary reason for the trillion dollar deficits.  The last element is systematic co-optation of the private sector for social engineering purposes.  This ranges from forcing companies to pay exorbitant insurance bills to mandating that a third of America's corn crop be turned into ethanol to Solyndra and on and on and on.  These three elements constitutes the leftist Economic Trinity:  Government Ownership, Transfer Payments and Co-opting the Private Sector.  Their common names are Communism, Socialism and Fascism.

Yes, we have some semi-free market enclaves which are keeping the economy humming, but things don't look so good overall.  At some point the Laffer curve implies that the size and interference of government reaches an unstable point and we start shrinking.  News outlets usually focus on the unemployment rate - which is nearly stable - but the thing to look at is the Labor Participation Rate.  This is the lowest since 1981 and still heading down at a fast clip.  Much of the decrease in labor participation is undoubtedly due to retirements, but  a huge amount is with the young.  Anyway, for three decades populist politicians were making wild statements and promises regarding pensions.  When Reagan was president, tax cuts certainly were an effective way to get the economy going again.  The taxes were cut, but the government spending kept growing.  Now cutting taxes can no longer help, while so much of society is conditioned to depend on the government for survival that cutting is unimaginable.  I don't think either Obama or Romney can do anything about this ... beyond making things worse.  Regardless, neither politician has made any suggestions about how to stop the government from strangling the economy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Novermber Elections Issues: ObamaCare

Yes, the elections are coming up.  I have been inundated with news, but have not seen one article yet on what the election is about and whether or not it matters.  I should probably do a series on how I see it, so here is the first one.

The original health care problem in the US was a government imposed cap on the training of doctors and nurses, litigation gone wild, and billions of pages of federal regulations on health care.  Throw in an aging population with an increasing need for health care, and we were already experiencing the early symptoms of a house on fire.  Per the last century plus of leftists policies, every problem is an opportunity to stir people up and make things worse.  Admittedly, this formula wasn't restricted to leftists.  Didn't "Hope and Change" work for Lenin, Mao, Attila, Hitler, and countless others?  How many people voluntarily came to America not looking for "Hope and Change"?  Why not offer it up again?

ObamaCare simply mandated more free treatment and added reams of new regulations, but did exactly nothing about the long list of existing problems, thus, effectively throwing a large bomb into a burning house.  Obama is now content to watch what happens, while Romney wants to go in and take the bomb out before it goes off.  Romney won't succeed, however, because when he goes in the Democrats in congress and the judiciary will trip him up, kick him, and then the news media will laugh and howl and beat him up some more.  The bomb will finally go off and then Romney will go down in history as the one who deliberately planted the bomb and blew up the house.  Of course if Obama is reelected, the bomb still goes off and the Republicans in congress will be formally identified as the terrorists who planted it.  

Meanwhile, none of the parties seem inclined to do anything about the burning house.  But to be fair, the news media and intellectual elites will immediately condemn anyone who proposes a true fix to health care.  Someone will lose - at least temporarily - and this will form a pretext for screaming that the politician is ruthless and evil and doesn't have a heart for homeless kittens.  

My voting inclinations are to pull up a chair, get a drink, and watch the fireworks.  The problem is that I won't be able to find a safe distance.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sophocles (496-406BC):  Looney chases a ghost.

What got me going was a quote from a classical Greek play, Antigones:

"A stubborn daughter of a stubborn sire, this ill-starred maiden kicks against the pricks" - Antigones, line 471-472

In this case the maiden is Antigones who just got through talking back to the king of Thebes, Croesus.  As a Bible student, I immediate recognized the expression "kicks against the pricks" as coming from the Bible and is where Jesus speaks to Paul through a vision:

"And he said, Who art thou, Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." - Acts 9:5 (KJV)

It would seem obvious that the "kick against the pricks" expression is a reference to the story of Antigone, which was written 500 years before.  But just as I was getting over confident and started to document this, I happened to pick up a different English translation of Antigones.  The same passage reads thus:

"The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and knows not how to bend before troubles." - Antigones

The "kicks against the pricks" isn't in this translation.  What to do?  Obviously the solution is to go back to the Greek and sort things out.  On going to my Greek Bible, however, I found that the Greek version of Acts 9:5 was truncated.  Going to my New Testament Text & Translation Commentary, I found that there is some scholarly dispute since not all Greek manuscripts contain the complete version, so the NIV simply has "'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked.  'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, ' he replied".  No pricks or kicks here.

Anyway, there seems to be no dispute regarding the second occurrence of "kicks against the pricks" in Acts 26:14.  Now admittedly I am a pre-novice at Greek, but with this I was able to do a comparison with the online Greek text of Antigones that is here.  I can't be sure what the proper rendering is of Antigones, but I am quite certain that the words are different from the Biblical Greek expressions.  Thus, the conclusion is that "kicks against the pricks" wasn't part of the original Antigones, but something that a modern translator invented while doing some creative translation.

The moral of the story is that we need to know our classical languages.  The other moral to the story is that if we don't stick our nose into all kinds of things we don't understand, then we won't make so many mistakes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Great Courses: Science and Religion, by Prof. Lawrence Principe.

This is a 12 lecture series that I am listening to with a noon-time group at work.  We just finished the series, which, in spite of a good start has had a rough ending.  Here is what I learned at the last video:

1. No Christian theologian had the slightest notion that Genesis chapter 1 referred to literal days before the 19th century.

2. Inerrancy was a concept invented by old earth Darwinists and borderline universalists which was later hijacked by fundamentalists.

3. Fundamentalists Christians (i.e. those who take Genesis 1 literally) are rarities who are uneducated, know almost nothing and Christianity, and speak only for themselves.  They are simply polar opposites of the Fundamentalist Atheists like Dawkins and a number of other fanatics.

4. The only proper reaction is to embrace modernist theology, which is educated, intelligent and wise.  Modernist theology is the only legitimate heir to the orthodox and scholastic traditions of philosophy and theology.

5. Mohammed was a flying pig farmer.

OK, the last one wasn't in the lecture series, but it could have been given the other four items on the list.  And so the mantra continues ... worship Darwin, worship Darwin, worship Darwin ...  but we also need to simultaneously insist that we are passionate about Biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is infallible, and that there will be no judgment of sin because God is too loving to do this.  

But ignoring the fact that the conclusion wasn't supported by the content, I really did enjoy many of the lectures.