Saturday, June 30, 2012

California's Foie Gras ban;  Yes, we really are more ethical than the French!

This ban on the production and selling of Foie Gras in the state of California takes effect on July 1st.  It certainly feels good to out-snob the French, even though I never eat Foie Gras.

What puzzles me is how to digest the rapid multiplication of rules that manage the personal moral choices of the populace.  On the one hand there is the condemnation of any moral code that existed prior to 1960 as mindless tradition produced and enforced by deranged and sadistic inquisitors.  At the same time, we are set to enact more new morals legislation in a decade or two than was done in the entire middle ages.  If people can't follow the Torah or the Koran, how can they possibly follow the much more detailed California codes?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Josephus:  Regarding the Sandusky affair.

"... When this letter was brought to Herod, he did not think it safe for him to send one so handsome as was Aristobulus, in the prime of his life, for he was sixteen years of age, and of so noble a family, and particularly not to Antony, the principal man among the Romans, and one that would abuse him in his amours, and besides, one that openly indulged himself in such pleasures as his power allowed him without control." - Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, chapter 2

The back story is that the high priest of the Jews was taken to be a political office, so that the person who received it was to be a political appointee.  Different factions were proposing different people, and a young Herod the Great suggested the handsome young man Aristobulus.  The Anthony is the Roman general who fell in love with Cleopatra, but apparently Cleopatra was not sufficient to quench his desires, thus, ...  The above is just an excerpt from the lewd affair.  I will leave it to the reader to speculate with regard to this abuse of authority and how it relates to our current situation, as well as the complicity of various third parties in keeping the mess going over long periods of time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Aristotle:  Analyzing the Flat Earth.

"Anaximenes and Anaxagoras and Democritus give the flatness of the earth as the cause of its staying still.  Thus, they say, it does not cut, but covers like a lid, the air beneath it.  This seems to be the way of flat-shaped bodies: for even the wind can scarcely move them because of their power of resistance.  The same immobility, they say, is produced by the flatness of the surface which the earth presents to the air which underlies it."  On The Heavens, Book II.

It feels like the end of a long journey.   The first phase was tracing who the idiot was that claimed that the Christian church taught the flat earth theory and how this got into the textbooks so that billions of dollars of government funds all around the world were invested into teaching this error.  That done, there were still tantalizing glimpses that some flat earth theory really did exist, but I couldn't document it.  Finally I did locate the source, and it turns out to be old earth, evolution believing atheists.  Wow!
A visit to UCLA campus bookstore.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Number three graduates ...

OK, he has one more class to complete so technically won't complete his degree until September, but they let them go through the ceremony with everyone else.

This was quite painful.  The 3 hour 30 minute ceremony was cool at first, but the sun came out and it was crazy uncomfortable.  Half the graduate students left after getting their diploma.  The stands were also getting fairly sparse whereas they were full at the beginning.

I made it back to San Francisco today, but it was hot and tiring.  I-5 had road construction going on with big delays going down, so I rerouted up the right side of the central valley.  Usually I like to stop and take a nap now and then, but the 110 degree weather precluded this.  It is good to be back home.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible, by Paul Wegner.

This is a book review!

This book is assigned reading for the next semester of Hebrew.  I decided to buy it and read it before the semester started to make it easier to focus on the language studies.  This book is a summary of all the different sources for the Bible, both old and new testaments, and the methods for comparing various texts and searching for best readings.  The end result is that a single verse can be compared to thousands of texts including Hebrew and Greek, but also Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and others.  Each language has its own peculiarities, and there are also multiple text traditions, so that the comparison process along with the weighting of significance becomes amazingly complex.  Yet at the same time, professor Wegner is quick to assert that there is not a single point of Christian doctrine that hinges on any of the variant readings.  Instead, there are large quantities of simple spelling differences, additions or removal of articles, and a vast quantity of other meaningless changes.  Where there is something of substance, it is on the order of a name changed like Asa to Asaph. At the beginning of the book of Ephesians, there is the phrase, "To the saints in Ephesus", which was likely originally written merely as "To the saints".  The end result is a clear vindication of the accuracy of the transmission of the text that has come to us over the thousands of years.

The book is well written and covers much territory.  As always, I can find some things to fuss over.  For example, there is on page 63 there is a quote from Daniel 9:2: '"in the first year of his [Darius II] reign, I, Daniel, understood from the books ... "'.  The [Darius II] note is added in by a scholar.  The problem is that the book of Daniel begins with "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it." - Daniel 9:1.  Nebuchadnezzar captures the city and carries Daniel and his friends off to Babylon, but this happened in 598BC.  Darius I reigned from 522 to 486BC, so an elderly Daniel could certainly have served him,  but Darius II doesn't become king until 423BC.  Thus, the clarification note is problematic.  The final problem is that there is almost no information regarding Darius II available to historians, so to make such a link between Darius II and Daniel can only be done via a seance and spiritually consulting the dead.  But this is a minor quibble with what is really an excellent book.

Another curious note is with regard to the Arabic translation of the Bible in Islam controlled lands: "Since translation of the Bible into Arabic was outlawed, Jews and Christians had to translate it undercover, and therefore a number of independent versions arose."  I would love to see the original sources for that statement, but it would require me to buy the references and read through them.  This is a general gripe of mine that scholarly works generally give precedence to scholarly sources when an original source is really what we are interested in.  This just wastes time.  The only missing item that I can think of is a note from Eusebius regarding the Byzantine version of the New Testament in Greek. There is a point where a misunderstanding on my part was corrected:  The story of the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek - the Septuagint - first begins with a "Letter of Aristeas".  I would have said Josephus.  It is always good to be corrected.  

Overall rating:  Thumbs up.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pension reform passes in San Jose?

I didn't even know this was on the ballot, but haven't been paying much attention.  This topic can be sensitive, especially when younger workers who are struggling to make house payments suddenly see 10% more disappear from their paycheck to prop up the retirement fund for those who never experienced such.  The non-union private sector, on the other hand, has seen a lot of slashing of pensions - often pensions have been eliminated - so there isn't a large supply of good will.  Anyway, the measure in San Jose passed   What shocks is not that it passed, but that it passed with a margin of about 70% to 30%.

San Diego had a similar measure that passed with a similar margin:  68% to 32%. With those successes, these kinds of measures will likely multiply across the state and possibly go to the state-wide ballot.  The lawyers are licking their chops over the litigation potential.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A turkey invites herself over for dinner.  There are a lot of strange things you can see here in California.

What you can't see is that she is bringing her babies along with her.  I only had my iPhone with me.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Kalifornia Kleptocracy Report:  Dreaming of Greece.

Fremont just can't stay out of the news.  Romney was here reminding America of the half billion dollar fraud called Solyndra.  The Democrats quickly pointed out that Solyndra's favor started under Bush, although the final funds were allocated under Obama.  That both parties are in favor of out-of-control monster government clearly proves that this is the best form of governance.  Pete Stark, our local US House of Representatives member was getting the liberal media bothered with comments about Solyndra's electric car.  (Solyndra made solar panels, but Fremont's Tesla makes electric cars.)

Our local California assembly representative, Bob Wieckowski, is the latest to get into the news.  The linked article says that he is a bankruptcy lawyer.  As California's public sector unions madly drive the state towards bankruptcy, the only thing on their minds is how to bleed every last drop of money before the final collapse - recovery be damned.  Just like Greece.  Thus, a series of bills were introduced by Wieckowski and pushed through providing increasing requirements for mediation, adding on various layers of bureaucracy and legal haggling while dragging out the bankruptcy process.  Just like Greece.  None of this is in the least bit surprising, this being California.  What did surprise me was this San Jose Mercury editorial highlighting Wieckowski.  The only thing I expect from this regular column is hard left rhetoric, yet even they seem to think Wieckowski has gone off the rails.  The important thing is that life is exciting here in California.