Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

44 degrees ...

That was the lowest temperature reading in the lake.  With milder temperatures, it has settled in at 46F (7.8C).  Since the temperature stabilized, I reduced the number of swims to 4 times a week.  Surprisingly, it is mentally easier to do the cold swims if you do them every day.  This morning I did a mile before work.  The "warm up" still takes me about a quarter mile, and after a half mile the cold is only noticeable in the hands.  The other peculiarity of cold water swimming is that the most difficult time is just after you get out.  Since you aren't exercising, the body heat is no longer being generated and the blood circulation starts getting back into the arms and legs, drawing all the cold into the rest of your body.  This is the time when the body really starts feeling cold.

The San Francisco Bay has been running about 51F (10.5C).  Thus, I expect the New Year's swim to feel like a warm bath.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Hypothermia and Church

This morning started with a lake swim at 7:00am, followed by a church meeting at 9:00am.  That didn't leave too much time between getting out of the lake and the next commitment, but I was on time.  We had a cold wind blowing last night so this made for a few waves along with a temperature drop.  One of our swimming party brought a thermometer and let us know that the water temperature was 50F (10C).  This is the limit where swimmers officially consider the water to be "cold", although some in our group felt that a modifier that I won't repeat was needed to express the particular category of "cold".  Likely it was related to the heavy frost and frozen beach.  My car thermometer reported 30F (-1C) for the air temperature, which was warmer than it has been.  The cold blast that is affecting America is also cooling the left coast, so we have been continuously much below normal and it will stay that way for the next several days.  This is going to test my determination, since I abandoned swimming last year the first Saturday of the new year when the water temperature dropped to 48F (9C).

I always need something to meditate on while I am swimming.  Today's puzzle for me is why people can't get to church on time.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Fatherhood.gov

I was treated to the government sponsored commercial below while warming up at a restaurant after my cold lake swim this morning.  Yes, the US government is giving lessons on what it means to be a father.

Back in the time, we didn't have these videos.  A father would grab himself a woman, and take care of her and their offspring for life.  When they were hungry, he would go out and kill a wooly mammoth or wrestle a crocodile.  He would also need to offer protection from the neighboring troglodytes.  The children would initially be mostly in the care of their loving mother, and only later come to admire the determination of their father and his example of tireless caring in spite of the hardship.

We have a different model today.  The dad's role is to do constructive baby sitting for someone else's kid while her mom is off to the grocery store with a load of food stamps.  Protection is provided by lawyers who get judges to issue cease and desist orders against roving corporate preditors.  My how times have changed.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013


Getting Cold Feet

I don't know why the expression "Cold Feet" means losing confidence.  The Thanksgiving lake temperature is likely around 54F (12C), which means that it takes about 1 hour to get the feeling back into the feet after doing a 3,000 yard loop.  If I didn't have confidence, I would have stayed in bed and the feet would have been nice and comfy.

Today we did the swim again, and will try one more time tomorrow.  The lake will lose another 3-3.5C as we get to mid-winter, so it is important to acclimate now.  The picture below is of me in the middle of the lake, but I am trailing my two swimming partners.  Today I was timed at 58 minutes for the 3,000 yard loop.  The New Year's Alcatraz swim is more like 2,000 yards, so it looks like I am on track for the usual 40-45 minutes to complete this.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving: It was all for the children

Remembering the Pilgrims, I would like to highlight the primary reason for the endeavor, so that we may properly give Thanks to God today:

"For many of their children, that were of best dispositions and gracious inclinations, haveing lernde to bear the yoake in their youth, and willing to bear parte of their parents burden, were, often times, so oppressed with their hevie labours, that though their minds were free and willing, yet their bodies bowed under the weight of the same, and became decreped in their early youth; the vigor of nature  being consumed in the very budd as it were.  But that which was more lamentable, and of all sorowes most heavie to be borne, was that many of their children, by these occasions, and the great licentiousness of youth in that countrie, and the manifold temptations of the place, were drawne away by evill examples to extravagante and dangerous courses, getting the raines off their neks, and departing from their parents.  Some became souldiers, others tooke upon them farr viages by sea, and other some worse courses, tending to dissolutnes and the danger of their soules, to the great greefe of their parents and dishonour of God.  So that they saw their posteritie would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted."  - Of Plymouth Plantation, by Governor William Bradford, 1620.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Lausiac History (419-420AD)

A brief interlude from studying gave me the leisure to listen to this delightful work on monks who chose to live in the Egyptian desert and practice extreme austerity throughout their lives.  It would seem to be some inspiration for my self-inflicted pain with the cold open water swims, except that the monks endured hardship in order to renounce the world, whereas I am driven only by vainglory.  The monks also lived continuously in the manner of self denial, whereas I daily retreat back to my comforts.

It is, however, truly exceptional to think that these men and women would go to the most wild extremes in order to avoid temptations.  Often a beautiful young women would lock herself into a tomb in order to not be a source of ill thoughts for the men.  In spite of all this, it seems that most of them spent extraordinary amounts of time wrestling with evil spirits, even as they tried to devote their mind entirely to meditating on God and living in utmost simplicity.

Still, the second command in the Bible is "love your neighbor as your self"and this is a bit tricky to do if you chose to spend 10 years without once seeing or interacting with another person.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coldology

Since I have signed up for the winter Alcatraz swim in the "skin" category, the science of cold is back as the focus of my transcendental meditations.  For example, when you first jump into the cold water, there is a reflex reaction due to nerves in the face cooling down that causes the heart rate to drop and the breathing rate to significantly increase.  Uncontrolled breathing isn't exactly good when you are trying to swim for your life, so how do you control this?  Especially considering that this event starts with jumping out of a boat into deep water with no immediate way out.  Knowing about the body's physiological responses to cold is a good first step since it will help to alleviate panic.

The last week I had three swims in the cold for 30 to 45 minutes each.  There is still about 7 degrees of adjustment for me to make as the water temperature dips down to 48F (9C).  Last year I gave up swimming for two months after I did a one mile, 9C swim.  The shock was a bit much.  This year I have discovered LoneSwimmer.com, which is giving me a lot of info and inspiration that should help me keep going through the entire winter.  LoneSwimmer has advertised himself as a "coldologist" with a lot of articles that try to understand what happens to the body in cold environments.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quantifying Religious Experience Part 2

This is a continuation of comments on "The Spiritual Brian: Science and Religious Experience".  The second lecture started out with an effort to define "spiritual" or "religious".  I don't recall the exact wording, but it starts and ends with, "Subjective feelings and thoughts ...  with regard to the sacred".  The caveats around this are stated fairly well:  In forcing a definition, we are to some degree forcing a set of possible conclusions that may or may not preclude an understanding of the phenomenon.  So far so good.

The lecture then moves off into the subjective feelings and thoughts of those who have set apart themselves as "scientists" of the evolutionary variety.  Keeping in mind that "sacred" means "set apart", we must note that this really boils down to one religious viewpoint speaking out regarding all the other religions, while refusing to acknowledge its conflict of interest status.

What Andrew dares to do that is rare is to point out that - according to the subjective Darwinist metanarrative - there must have been a strong advantage to religion in order for our brains to develop with a need for religion.  My creationist viewpoint has no such requirement.  Andrew cites one of Richard Dawkins rants against religion, but fails to note the problem:  If Dawkins were true to his convictions, he would need to admit that there is some significant advantage to religion, and conversely an evolutionary disadvantage to atheism.

What I ponder in all this is where the Darwinist metarrative leads.  One possibility is an reaffirming of the atheist line that all religions are alike, or some specious effort to claim that modern atheists have superseded religion.  A different route is possible, however, given that Andrew showed a picture of a fertility type statue and claimed that it was one of the earlier evidence of religion.  Here I can see the atheists finally coming around to admitting that their belief system requires religion to be taken seriously, only to have a fertility type religion with its emphasis on sexual promiscuity, human sacrifice (abortion, etc.), debauchery and superstition being being promoted by the intellectual elites as the evolutionary ideal.  OK, that is what we are doing.  The Judaeo-Christian viewpoint is that the religious celebration of depravity is just a corruption of true worship of God.  As the Bible says:

"Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants."  - Leviticus 18:24-25

Thus, we are led in two mutually exclusive directions.  One claiming an evolutionary advantage to becoming a primitive theocracy based on the worship of Total Depravity.  The other saying that this practice will lead us to being "vomited out" by the land.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quantifying Religious Experience

The lunch time video series has shifted to a new video lecture series:  "The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience", by Andrew Newberg.  His first lecture starts out with a radical observation:  The earliest evidence of man seems to indicate that religion predates cities.  This is based on neanderthal burial practices, as well as a presumption that early cave paintings also may well have had some religious meaning.  If this is true, the current scientific evolutionary fog explanation of religion needs to be wafted away, so that a new scientific evolutionary fog with a different odor can take its place.   Of course the Bible tells us quite clearly that religion predates civilization, but we won't talk about that.

An admission that drives seems to drive this series of lectures is that humans are wired for religion.  In spite of the power and money that have accrued to atheism during the last century (actually two centuries), there has hardly been a dent made in the prevalence of religion.  This goes directly with the previous observation to indicate that the wiring for religion is something that is in the biological makeup of humans and can't simply be brushed aside.  Again, there is nothing surprising to me in this as a Christian, since this is a basic Christian viewpoint.

The lecture then goes on to discuss brain scans of Franciscan Nuns who were doing "Centered Prayer".  The scans of the inactive brain were different from the active one (duh!), although we only got to see one example.  What this is relevant to isn't explained yet, but we still have more lectures to go.  I would characterize this kind of study as a bit like trying to find out what a computer is doing by monitoring the heat output of different subsystems.  Then there is the question of what "Centered Prayer" has to do with religion.  From my Christian perspective, we have this:

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27

Maybe there is a connection between "Centered Prayer" and keeping oneself "unstained from the world".  It is fun to see what it is that intellectuals imagine that religion is.

There is part of this lecture that has already been giving me some awkward vibes (can we measure these?):  It is the rhetoric of "science" and "scientist" that reflects a 4th century BC Epicurean concept of science.  These studies are no doubt going to turn up some interesting things to ponder.  And yes, we do have new tools to play with to study the brain, however, these modern devices are currently extremely crude compared to the degree of precision that an ancient astrologer could observe the motions of the heavens.  Perhaps some caution is in order along with a bit less waving of the "science" flag?  Let's just calmly look at the data and see what we have.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Defense of ObamaCare

Awhile back I had paid in full for services at a doctor because my insurance didn't cover the particular service.  A few months later, my insurance plan changed and did cover the service.  Someone at the doctor's office then got the bright idea to post date the service and then bill the insurance company.  They then made the mistake of billing me the co-pay, thus broadcasting the fraud to me.  Perhaps I should have reported them or engaged in a bit of extortion, but we managed to come to terms.  We sometimes forget that populist demagogues have been colluding with big insurance and trial lawyers for the last half century to create the monster that cares for our health while maximizing waste and fraud.  The important thing to note, however, is that the monster is viable.  That is, it actually squirms and kicks and periodically even delivers some health care.  I can't imagine anyone defending the current system unless they have their fingers in the cookie jar.

Let's now consider the possibility that our president is far more clever than we imagined in coming up with ObamaCare.  Keep in mind that no populist would ever be caught dead advocating dismantling the current socialist-fascist health system unless they were to offer up another socialist-fascist scheme.  Next, consider that ObamaCare is the perfect populist ploy:  A scheme which provides universal first class health care to everyone and does it with decreased costs and no new doctors or nurses.  It also provides unlimited government funded abortion services and abortion inducing drugs without using a penny of taxpayer money and without compelling anyone to violate their religious beliefs.  Clearly no person in their right mind would ever imagine a scheme like ObamaCare to be workable in practice, so we must assume that ObamaCare was really just a tactic intended to achieve some other goal.

So what is that "other goal"?  With 5 million people having lost health insurance, it is all starting to make sense:  These 5 million will be forced, yes FORCED, to actually pay for their medical treatment.  They will approach the doctor as a customer, and pay for a service.  The doctor, on the other hand, will need to explain to the customer how much the service costs and why.  Buyer and seller will actually need to discuss the product and come to terms.  So my theory is that Obama is really a closet capitalist, and ObamaCare is a populist ploy - a bait and switch - to get us back to the only system that we know will really work - Capitalism - by switching a viable socialist-fascist system to a non-viable socialist-fascist scheme that will then die a natural death.  A true genius.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Getting ready for the cold swim.

It is that time of year again.  The water temperature drops, but we keep swimming and gradually adjust.  Soon the lake will be colder than the San Francisco Bay.  I may join in on the New Year Alcatraz swim.  Without a wetsuit.  So I am poking around for advice:

Saturday, November 02, 2013

False Christs vs. False Buddhas vs False Mahdi

An acquaintance of mine got drawn into a cult some years ago.  The leader styled herself as a reincarnation of something or other, which caused me to ponder different views.  Jesus told us this in Mark -

"And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!', or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand." - Mark 13:21-23

Thus, Christians tend to bristle when any reference is made to an appearance of Jesus from the ascension until the final return at the end of the age in which Jesus is visible to the whole world simultaneously.  Even charismatic leaders will generate a lot of skepticism.  On the contrary, we do expect lots of anti-Christs:

"Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come." - 1 John 2:18

Where I dissent with many is that I don't believe that Obama is the antichrist.  The problem is that Obamacare isn't anything close to a wonder.  But it is a wonder that Americans should not have not seen through the empty rhetoric.  This isn't scriptural, but I expect the anti-Christ to have an IQ above 100, which rules out just about all current American politicians.  We are living, however, in the Forrest Gump Ages where dumb is admired more than clever, so it would seem that we are still a ways off from the final apocalypse.

For religions that believe in reincarnation, I suppose their founder can appear and reappear many times.  Can he reappear in two different people at the same time?  The only thing perplexing is that the end goal of these religions is annihilation.  If Buddha reached the supreme state, then wasn't he annihilated?  So how is it that he could be reincarnated into a different prophet?  Obviously I am missing something.

Then there is the Islamic concept of a Mahdi, who is some sort of religious leader to lead the final Jihad against the Infidels.  There seems to have been many of them already.

Getting back to the Christian teachings, the Bible lists a few appearances of Jesus after the ascension.  The first is in Acts when Stephen is stoned, and he declares that he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  This is clearly a vision of heaven.  A second is when Saul sees Jesus on the Damascus Road, and the third is the vision of John in the book of Revelation.  In all three cases, however, the vision is of heaven, which is seen from Earth.

As for claims of being a Christ, the only person I am aware of who did this was the founder of the Shakers, Ann Lee.  According to the articles I have read, She claimed that Jesus was the male christ and she was the female christ, which sounds somewhat dualistic.  They seem to have taught a religion of salvation by simplicity, which would make some sense based on Ann's history of having lost everything dear to her.  The Shakers started in 1747, but the sect has completely died off.  Or did it?  I was surprised when the following song was presented in our church service about ten years ago.  I sent a note off to the worship leaders letting them know that it was a Shaker hymn and the Shakers weren't Christians, which set off some wonderful fireworks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tracking God's Name

In the beginning ...

The original generic Semitic word for God is just "El", or more accurately just the letter "L", since the vowels weren't written.  Hebrew made El plural, "gods", by adding a masculine plural ending, "im"giving Elohim.  Other important words:

ADoN = Lord, ADoNay = My Lord.

Baal (two syllables, Ba-al) = Husband.  (Name given to Canaanite gods.)

YHWH = God's proper name in Hebrew.  Actually this should be YHVH, but thanks to the Germans pronouncing W as a V, we are stuck with the transcription of YHWH.

The Canaanites had a God ("L"), whose proper name was also El, which caused a lot of confusion.  The Bible prefers Elohim, which is usually translated as a singular "Lord".  Most likely this apparent plural is just a device to maintain a distinction, but there is plenty of room for confusion.  Scooting over to Arabic, the definite article ("the") is "al", so "the god" became "al La", or Allah.  

YHWH is linguistically related to the Hebrew verb for "to be".  Thus, in Exodus 3:14 God explains His name to Moses:  "God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM". And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you."  God's unique, self-existent status is the focus of this name.

Thus, the Hebrew Bible was using YHWH ("I am"?), Elohim ("God") and Adonay ("Lord") for God at different points, interleaved throughout the Old Testament.  When the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible was made, these three names were usually reduced to the Greek word for Lord, "Kurios", or God, "Theos".  (Note:  I have not fully traced all the translations!)

Moving to Latin, the preferred translation seems to have been the Latin word for God, "Deus".  

This overly simplistic and unsophisticated situation was clearly not acceptable as we advanced to the modern era, so a German scholar decided to help deduce a name for God derived from the Hebrew, YHWH.  Keep in mind that Germans pronounce "J" as an English "Y", so YHWH was changed into JHWH.  We also need some vowels, so the vowels from ADoNay (Lord) were chosen and merged with YHWH ("I am") which gave something like JaHoWaH.  This was then transmorgified back into English resulting in the linguistic gem, Jehovah.  The German scholar who did this was probably named Frankenstein, but admittedly I haven't gotten around to verifying his real name.

I do hope that God does not take offense at the way even the well meaning folk manage to abuse His name.

My understanding is that we usually take YHWH to be God the father, although from Deuteronomy 6:4, the orthodox might argue that this is the Trinity, since YHWH is used in that verse:

"Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one."

Lord = YHWH, God = Elohim, thus, the plural is "one".

UPDATE:

I should mention the latest attempts to pronounce YHWH (i.e. Jehovah) correctly.  The most common pronunciation in the academic circles is Yahweh, with an accent on the first syllable.  As noted above, this reflects an anglicized pronunciation of a German spelling.  Using the Masoretic vowel markings, the pronunciation for Deuteronomy 6:4 would be more like Yeh-vah, with an accent on the second syllable.  The "e" in the first syllable is short, so that the first syllable is pronounced quickly while the second is held longer.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nighttime Swims

I lost two months of swimming over the summer.  This was due to travel and sickness.  Over the last week, I have been able to get going again.  This time of year, however, it is dark at 6am when we start the swim.  The water temperature has dropped into the mid-60's and we finish up a bit chilled.  Sadly, there is only next week to navigate by the stars while swimming across the lake.  The time change occurs on November 1, and the park opening changes to one hour later.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Manilius: "the vault of the heavens"

Some things just keep getting stranger and stranger.  Manilius (1st century AD) was a Latin writer who lived during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.  That is, he lived in the period of time covered by the Earthly life of Jesus.  He wrote a book on Astronomy and Astrology, which he decided to present to his readers as poetry.  Yikes!  In the interest of completeness, I decided to spend a little time to go through the writings of the classical astrologers and mathematicians to see what I could learn.  As always, there is much that startles and reminds me that we truly live in an age of ignorance.

Let me highlight an example:

"The sky, according to some, extended overhead like an immense iron ceiling, and according to others, like a huge shallow vault.  As it could not remain suspended in space without some support, they imagined it to be held in place by four immense props or pillars.  The floor of the temple naturally represented the earth.  The columns, and if needful the four corners of the chambers, stood for the pillars." - Maspero, Manual of Egyptian Archaeology, 1895.

And so we were taught - with US taxpayer funds - that the symbolism of the heavens as a temple proved that earlier people believed that the Earth was flat.  With Manilius, I have finally encountered a writer from this era who actually used the poetic language regarding the heavens.  Actually, he wrote five books of pure poetic language on the subject of the heavens.  So let's look at the words of Manilius:

"If the Earth were flat, you [the moon] would rise for the whole world only once and the failure of your light would be lamented by every land at the same time.  But since the shape of the Earth follows a smooth curve, the Moon appears to these lands first, and then to those, ..." - Astronomica, I.225

The above passage is much longer and more detailed.  It is specifically intended to refute any flat earth beliefs.  Simultaneously, this book is intended as a rebuke to the Epicureans via Lucretius, along with their atheistic beliefs in a universe that happened by chance.  Most of the following examples are also repeated several times in various forms.

"This fabric which forms the body of the boundless universe, ... " - Astronomica, I.247

This is similar language to Psalm 104:2, which Washington Irving cited.

"Next has heaven a temple of its own, where, its rites now paid, the Altar gleams, ..." - Astronimica, I.410

"These then are the constellations which decorate the sky with even spread, their fires panelling the ceiling of heaven with various designs." - Astronomica, I.532

"How great is the space occupied by the vault of the heavens, ..." - Astronomica, I.539

"But since the Earth is suspended in the middle of space ..." - Astronomica, I.550

"...where heaven's lowest edges and Earth's uppermost rim meet" - Astronomica, I.646

This last one is a poetic description of the horizon.

At this point it appears that most of the figurative language regarding the heavens comes from the astrologers, who not only believed the Earth to be spherical and suspended in space, but could cite evidence to support their opinions quite easily.  I am not so sure regarding modernist professors.

A final note for the confused:  For an astrologer to predict the fate of a person, he needed to know the exact positions of the constellations when a person was born, and there was no such thing as GMT and atomic clocks.  Time was generally measured based on when the sun rose or set, which in turn depended on the latitude and longitude where the birth took place.  Everything was founded on a spherical earth notion.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Future Directions 3

The Tea Party's attempt to stand in the way of history was an embarrassing and inevitable failure.  The classical Greeks, however, told us in many writings that this would happen.  Here is one example:

"But as soon as a new generation has succeeded and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchildren of its founders, they have become by this time so accustomed to equality and freedom of speech that they cease to value them and seek to raise themselves above their fellow-citizens, and it is noticeable that the people most liable to this temptation are the rich. So when they begin to hanker after office, and find that they cannot achieve it through their own efforts or on their merits, they begin to seduce and corrupt the people in every possible way, and thus ruin their estates. The result is that through their senseless craving for prominence they stimulate among the masses both an appetite for bribes and the habit of receiving them, and then the rule of democracy is transformed into government by violence and strongarm methods. By this time the people have become accustomed to feed at the expense of others, and their prospects of winning a livelihood depend upon the property of their neighbours; then as soon as they find a leader who is sufficiently ambitious and daring, but is excluded from the honours of office because of his poverty, they will introduce a regime based on violence. After this they unite their forces, and proceed to massacre, banish and despoil their opponents, and finally degenerate into a state of bestiality, after which they once more find a master and a despot." - Polybius, Rise of the Roman Republic

This says that populism gets tied in with the filthy rich, which is exactly what the US is experiencing.   Economic and moral suicide would be so set in people minds as something "good" that people would be offended by anything sane. The difference now is that unlimited debt can be foisted onto others.  Then there is our greatly expanded ability to wreck havoc when we seek revenge against others who were not responsible for the pains we intentionally inflicted on ourselves.

For me, the only question mark is what happens after the collapse.  The Greeks say it is a cycle that will simply repeat itself.  The Christians say that this is a necessary precursor to the Apocalypse, which precedes the return of Christ.  In either case, there is little reason to lament the inevitable.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

*sigh*

Gotta go back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Future Directions part 2

If the shutdown continues a few more days, my category will switch to "non-essential", and I will be able to keep up with the blogging!  Yeah!  

I could use about two or three weeks of furlough to catch up on my classes.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Future Directions

The pig is an animal that eats anything and swallows with minimum chewing.  Elsewhere in the Bible, we see that this is a type of person who has no judgment, accepts ideas indiscriminately and his thinking becomes unclean.  The cow, however, is picky about what it eats and takes his time to chew, which symbolizes the pondering of a decent person on good lessons.  With that in mind, it should be clear why I think that the following passage is a good description of where the US is likely headed:

"And when he [Jesus] came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes,two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters." - Matthew 8:28-30

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Busy Update

The classes are perhaps 1/3 complete.  There is still a lot to do, and all this has to be arranged around work, family and church.

In one of the seminary classes, the professor was lecturing on the benefits of knowing Greek and Hebrew in order to correctly process the language of the Bible.  I am inclined to agree, as were the other students who had studied Greek or Hebrew.  The professor continued noting that most students stop using Greek and Hebrew as soon as they finish their classes and it is mostly forgotten within a year.  Life pressures then kick in, and the reality is that most seminary graduates lose all use of the language shortly after graduating.

I have been attempting a different track.  Since ending the last semester of Hebrew, I have been listening to Hebrew on my commute.  Separately, I just completed lesson 30 of the spoken Modern Greek lessons from Pimsleur. Since I work through the 30 minute lessons at least twice, this has resulted in more than 40 hours of work on Greek concentrating on pronunciation and conversation over the last two months.  The goal is to continue the dual language study up until May 2014.  At this point, the other classes will finish and I can formally start the Biblical Greek classes.  Rather than starting Greek from scratch, however, I should be able to have a simple conversation by then  What would really make me happy, however, is a temporary company shutdown to get some more time.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Slow Blogging

Things are getting busy again for a new semester of classes, so I will need to cut back on blogging.  My apologies to the few who might be disappointed.  And to those who are relieved, I will quote my former governor: "I'll be back".  Insha'Allah.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Are you a Fundamentalist?

Time for a HUGE rethink after going back to the original rebuke of the fundamentalists.  I used to think that to be a fundamentalist, you had to believe certain fundamentals of the belief system.  This is quite wrong.  In actuality, fundamentalism is a step removed.  Thus, we have the original objection to the fundamentalist belief system as given in a famous sermon in 1922 by the pastor/theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick:

"It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy denouement. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church." - “Shall the Fundamentalist Win?”  May 21, 1922

Fosdick's fury was that certain churches wouldn't allow it to be taught that Christianity did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead!  He was offended that certain organizations would not permit it to be taught that Christianity declared that Jesus had not done miracles.  Thus, the offense is related to what is taught about what Christians believe, and not directly about what any particular person believes.

This is all a great relief to me.  It means that because I believe that Islam teaches that pork must not be eaten, and I would be offended if the contrary were taught about Islam in my church, I am a Fundamentalist Muslim at the same time as I am a Fundamentalist Christian!  With a bit of work, I could probably be a Fundamentalist Rastafarian too!  But taking this further, because I believe that Frodo Baggins was a Hobbit in the fictitious Lord of the Rings, and would be annoyed if someone wasted time teaching that he was a Klingon per the Star Trek fiction stories, therefore, I am a Tolkien Fundamentalist also.   What is neat about all this is that one can be a Rabid Atheist and a Christian Fundamentalist at the same time, if you merely believe that Christianity teaches that Jesus did miracles, died for our sins and rose from the dead.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Some More Photos from the San Francisco Asian Art Museum

What stands out to me is that the large majority of the art is of a religious nature.  An exception below is the bronze teapot from China done in the shape of a duck.  I have some trouble connecting the notion of a duck to tea, but the Chinese are known for trying just about anything.  Duck feet tea, anyone?





Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Cyrus Cylinder

It was nice of the British Museum to lend this to me.  Although technically they loaned it to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and the Asian Art Museum let me have a peek and snap the following picture.


What really surprised me was how small the Cyrus Cylinder is.  It is less than a foot long, but contains the famous inscription of Cyrus giving his edict that all the exiles of Babylon could return to their home countries.  Thus, the cylinder dates to about 530 BC.  The same edict is abbreviated and given in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.  Below is the opposite side.


I really wish I could read the Babylonian cuneiform language inscriptions.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bible Quiz.

The fun part of taking classes is getting exposed to new Bible translations.  Is the following familiar?

"Some a da guys Ashpenaz wen pick come from da Judah ohana: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, an Azariah. Ashpenaz give da Judah guys new kine name. He give dem Babylon kine name. To Daniel, he give da name Belteshazzar. He give Hananiah da name Shadrak. He give Mishael da name Meshak. An he give Azariah da name Abednego.
But Daniel, he make up his mind dat he no goin eat da kine food an wine da king like him eat, cuz dass da kine stuff Yahweh make kapu. So Daniel tell da guy in charge fo no make him eat dat kine food. God awready wen make Ashpenaz, da guy in charge, come tight wit Daniel, an he show him pity. But da guy tell Daniel, “I scared a my boss da king, cuz he wen tell me wat kine food you guys gotta eat, an wat fo drink. Bumbye he goin see you look mo worsa den all da odda guys yoa age. Den da king goin chop off my head cuz a dat.
Den Daniel talk to da luna guy dat Ashpenaz wen put in charge a him, Hananiah, Mishael, an Azariah. He tell, “Try fo test me an my friends fo ony ten days. You da boss! Give us guys ony whole wheat an barley kine food fo eat an watta fo drink. Den, afta da ten day, you come see how us guys look, an how da odda young guys look, da guys dat stay eat da king kine food. Den you can make to us guys how you like, from da way you see us.” So da luna guy do how dey tell him, an give um da test fo ten days.:"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

US State Department Office of Religious Engagement?

This is a curious bit of news. I should introduce a definition first:

Ethicist: A high-brow intellectual who is paid to praise insanity, condemn good, and spew forth great quantities of shlock rhetoric.  All this must be done with a maximum amount of grand standing.  They are usually employed as professors who spend the majority of their classroom time trying to eliminate any sense of ethical or moral reasoning from their students.

It is right for the state department to try and engage in dialog with various religious groups.  No doubt the CIA is doing this too along with a few other three letter agencies.  The choice for this position is an Ethicist from Wesley Theological Seminary, Shaun Casey, thus, it is safe to say that the State Department has no intention of "Engagement" with Christians.  Perhaps Muslims?  Or maybe they have some other religion in mind?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Overhead Comment: "This is the tastiest pork I have ever eaten"

Disclaimer:  My camera takes the pictures.  I am just the porter.  Also, the camera does not tolerate staged photos and I endeavor to report things as accurately as I can, without any prejudice.

The above comment was something that I had overhead from a patron at a restaurant.  The rating was affirmed by another.  It would have gone completely unnoticed, except for the unusual circumstances.  First, this was the last day of Ramadan.  Second, we were in Indonesia, which is the country on this planet with the largest Muslim population.  And third, it was a bit before the sun went down.  The mitigating feature was that this happened on Bali.  But then again, there were some Muslims in the restaurant.  The camera took the picture below, and I have faithfully reported what was observed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jakarta: Missing the Train

This was taken on Idul Fitri. A young lady that our family knows was required to work late the night before, and didn't get up in time to catch the train to head to her hometown.  For us, this is a bit like missing the plane the day before Christmas. Our destination was in a similar direction, so we added her into our vehicle and headed off to where there was a major transportation hub.  After about an hour, we reached this point and found a sparsely loaded commercial transport that was headed towards her home.  It was just departing, so off she went for the next stage of her journey.  She did let us know that she arrived home about two hours later.  The wonders of cell phones!  No word on what happened to those who were hanging on the side of the vehicle as it departed.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bali: A visit to the country

What very much surprised me was the relatively cool air in Bali compared to Singapore and Jakarta.  There were plenty of mosquitoes, but a bit of repellent seemed to keep them away.  There really wasn't nearly enough time here.  I wish I could come back during the rainy season and kick back and study for a month or two.






Sunday, August 11, 2013

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Dotting the t's and crossing the i's.

A lot of reading can be done on a cross pacific airplane flight.  Having completed the book, I am pleased to have learned a few new useful things about dissecting psalms and prophetic poetry.  I am also fairly pleased that what they have instructed as good hermeneutics (proper interpretation) is fairly close to what I have been doing.

The conclusion finally acknowledged what I had been thinking:  That the Bible has some guidance for males on how to be men that could use some emphasis, but this sentence has about as many words on the subject as they have included.  Both sides were considered?  I won't let them off the hook:  The authors over and over again made digs at conservatives regarding egalitarianism. With much of America's family structure breaking down due to the contempt for the role of husband and father, we really don't need intellectuals throwing stones at those who don't follow the modernists.  What isn't checked off is any acknowledgment that some conservatives prefer to do their charity so that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing, and that grand standing isn't actually Biblical.

Now I have two more shorter books and a third online book, plus several hours of video lectures to go through.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bali: Temples by the Sea



Singapore

We are back in Singapore getting reading to head home.  Here are some pictures from the previous pass through.  The location is near a large Casino + hotel + garden complex.





Friday, August 09, 2013

Chasing the Words

This Indonesian sign has been hanging all over in different variants.  "Idul Fitri" is the holiday that occurs at the end of Ramadan.  "Hari Raya" means celebration day.  The most interesting word to me is the common introduction "Selamat" which is usually translated as "blessed" or "peaceful".  This word is believed to have arrived in Indonesian via Arabic and is thus the basic Semitic term SLM, which we know as Shalom in Hebrew: Peace.


There is a family of languages scattered through the south east Asian Islands and some of the mainland with similar linguistic structures.  The settled ones include Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese.  There was a separate dialect that was scattered around through a nomadic sea people that is essentially Malay.  They brought their language to ports throughout the region.  Some decades ago, the Indonesian government chose the Malay dialect with some updates to impose on the general population as the Indonesian national language.  Being sea faring people with interactions with India, Arabic speaking peoples, Dutch, English and Chinese, the words just seem to come from here and there to make a very curious language.  For those traveling around Indonesia, the Indonesian language serves as a convenient vehicle to communicate with the various subgroups, yet there always is a dialect in the background that the natives. use among themselves

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sunda Kelapa

There are many pictures and blogging to do about Bali, but I am in Jakarta now.  This picture is taken at the old port of Jakarta called Sunda Kelapa. This port was first established by the Dutch in 1596 after failing to take another nearby port.  The port eventually grew into the city of Batavia, which was renamed Jakarta.

We talked to the two men closest.  They are both of the Bugi group, which historically were seafaring people known for being tough and piracy.  Our English word, the "Boogy Man", is derived from their exploits.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bali Visit: Introducing The Tour Guide

Our guide for this tour is a Chinese lady raised in Indonesia.  I had originally thought that she was from Taiwan, given the way she spoke, but my non-native Chinese only permits me to correctly identify a few accents.  Her family had immigrated to Indonesia a long time ago and she is the fourth generation.  The Indonesian government for many years had tried to ban the Chinese language and required everyone to learn Indonesian in school.  For a time, it was illegal to bring Chinese printed material into Indonesia, and this foreigner was employed as a smuggler to move Chinese newspapers in.  The immigration officers would never have imagined that I would have been idiot enough to do such a thing.

Anyway, our tour guide was raised without any Chinese training, but she liked to watch Taiwanese soap operas that were dubbed into Indonesian, and it was from them that she told us that she learned Mandarin and Taiwanese.  She doesn't seem to know any English.  

In 1998, there were some riots elsewhere in Indonesia.  In her area there had been some instances of Chinese girls being raped in front of their parents, so she and her mother fled to Bali where the Hindu population was peaceful.  After a time, she decided to seek out an income, and came across an opportunity to be a tour guide for Chinese.  The first group came and she completely lost her ability to speak Chinese in fright.  She explained to those she was giving the tour to that it was her first time.  The one couple spoke kindly and said it was OK, and that we all had to have a first time.  With this, she took heart and continued so that it became her profession.  She said that if the couple had been stern with her, she probably would have given up.  

It has been good to hear her explanations of Bali, with its 3.5 million people and 4,000 temples.  She told us that after the bombings in 2002 and 2005, controls were put on those who come to Bali from elsewhere in Indonesia. Needless to say, the political situation is very complicated in a Muslim majority country with a province that has a very distinct culture.  

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard: Prooftexting

After the introductory portions, this book moves into a discussion of text sources, language and semantics, which is what has been drilled into my head from the Hebrew class.  There are many steps to this process.  One immediate problem is that the authors state that Hebrew was originally written without word separators.  This seems problematic to me since my Ugaritic Text gives examples of word breaks, and this predates any known Hebrew text.

The Big Split in Biblical Scholarship is completely ignored.  For example, the stone made as a witness between Laban and Jacob in Genesis 31: 48 is given in Aramaic, which is basically an assertion that Aramaic and Hebrew existed side-by-side from 1,800BC.  The modernists would contemptuously disagree.  This kind of difference can be quite important as we try to determine the best way to decipher the language.  Where do the authors stand?

Another cute item was a reference to the Biblical authors as "he or she".  Um.  I guess we can deduce that "he or she" is now a semantic unit.  Perhaps we should just contract this to "heorshe" and delete the offensive "he" and "she" from our language.  But then we will face the issues of transgender, exogender, metagender and polygender.  It is a good thing that we have scholars to help us keep all of this straight.

There is a stern warning about anachronistic readings, followed by:  "The First Epistle of John begins with an explicit assertion of the reality of Christ's physical body."  So far so good.  "Attempting to counteract a docetic Gnostic teaching that claimed Jesus only appeared to have a physical body, the author affirms that his message about Jesus is based upon that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes" (1:1, emphasis added)."  This statement screams, "anachronism"!  We generally  assign the Gnostics to the second century, while John likely died in the first century.  Even worse, the whole theme of the First Epistle of John is in a completely different direction.  It is targeted at those who don't think sin matters and encourages us to prepare and look forward to our meeting Christ.  John warns of Antichrists, which would eventually become a large number of false sects and include teachers who deny the deity and work of Christ in one form or another.  There is simply no way to pin one specific group onto John's writing.  Again, the theme of the book is about sin and repentance, which is also something that Antichrists take exception to.  An attempt to make this specific to one sect that has no modern counterpart deserves a stern rebuke.


Monday, August 05, 2013

In Search of the Authentic South East Asia: Off to Bali

The problem with Singapore isn't that there are too many McDonalds.  It is that there are more Prada stores than McDonalds.  Thus, we have headed off to the island of Bali looking for the Real South East Asia.  This is what greeted me as soon as I walked out of the Bali airport:


Now this looks a bit more authentic.  It is a price list for using the toilet.  Maybe someone who knows Indonesian can translate?



A road side shrine.





Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sea Food


Foot long shrimp


Fresh.  Not Frozen.



Coconut Crab



Chili Crab