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2015 December 31 -- Lessons I Learned This Year

I'm not much into New Year's resolutions, but this was a rough year. It doesn't have to be this bad. Actually, but for the grace of God, it could be a lot worse -- just think of the Christians over there in the "10/40 Window." But I could have done better.

I had this email friend for some 20 years. I thought maybe he might contribute to some connectivity (through his mega-church connections) to maybe get my Bible translation software off the ground. So I packed up and moved to Texas.

Texas is a lousy place to live. I didn't know that, but there are worse places to live -- like the "10/40 Window" or anywhere outside the USA. Things here may be sliding down the slippery slope to Hades, but we are still way ahead of whoever is in second place. You can tell by counting the number of people who want in, compared to the people who want out.

Some people have "BFF"s (Best Friends Forever?) but for me they seem to be temporary. This one lasted longer than most, but it ended. God alone (and the things He establishes, like His Word) are forever; human friendship does not seem to be in the set.

Speaking of the Bible, I did learn that while it is true and unchanging, I do need to be careful not to give it more significance than is appropriate. I knew that already, but reading it in the original Hebrew and Greek has made it more clear that some "minor details" (which are often lost in translation) may be irrelevant. I guess that's why the translators did not try to preserve them. It takes a lot of study to know which are important and which are not.

Back to this "friend" thing. Why does this matter? For four weeks he was exceedingly hostile and abusive. False accusations are the work of the Devil, who is both the Father of All Lies (the "false" part) [John 8:44] and the Accuser of the Brothers [Rev.12:10]. Good people do not do evil things. If that were all I knew of him, there would be no problem understanding it: some people are evil. But the previous three months we went to church together and ate lunch together afterwards. I think and react far too slowly to be very functional in real time, so maybe his true nature went whizzing by too fast for me to detect it. I consider those twelve Sundays to be a zero for knowing him. Much more significant are the 20 years before that, when our interaction was mostly email. I spent a lot of time on that, perhaps several thousand or tens of thousands of hours. Was that all a lie? I don't think so. It is the nature of lies that they fail to conform to Reality, so they also tend to be inconsistent with themselves. I have a pretty sturdy "BS Detector" and he tripped all over it in October, but mostly not during the previous 20 years. This is an important question because of that dissonance. How can somebody be "good" for 19+ years and then suddenly become wicked?

I guess the Calvinists have more trouble with that question than the Armenians. Maybe he didn't become evil, but only lost his way for a while. He does not seem to have recovered in the subsequent two months, but 8 years ago he flipped negative for ten months, then flipped back, like a switch. Is he schizophrenic, two different people inhabiting the same body? The Bible explains that as demonic, but the Biblical demons do not remain dormant for eight years at a time. Maybe this one does. Or maybe it comes and goes. I don't know. Maybe it's a medical thing. I don't know.

Why does this matter? It's a God thing. God calls me to be perfect and holy, the way He is holy [1Pet.1:16]. We all make mistakes, but God calls us to "repent" [Acts 2:38] (stop sinning [John 8:11]). So when I do something Wrong, and somebody points that out to me (or, perhaps more often, I figure it out on my own), I need to determine what exactly I did wrong, then stop doing it. If somebody gets their feelings hurt, that's often their doing, not mine. But if I actively caused them harm, I need to stop and make it right (if possible). That means I need to give due diligence to every credible accusation. That takes a lot of time, time I could be spending productively doing the work God gave me to do. During those four weeks in October, half or more of my waking time was working over the false accusations. It needs to stop. It did stop -- he pulled the plug before I got around to it.

Part of that wasted time is trying to figure out if I did something Wrong, and failing that, the rest is spent trying to figure out how to prevent the first waste (next time). To prevent it, I need to understand it. Or else shut it down. I still don't understand it, but there are two scenarios I can rule out:

He was not 100% evil for 20 years. He prayed for me, and God answered (some of) those prayers. God does not hear the prayers of the wicked [Psa.66:18, Prov.15:29]. Was it coincidence? I don't think so.

All those accusations were not true. I examined them, and compared them with objective facts, and there was no match. It's not that I am so evil that I cannot discern the truth of his accusations, because during that time I still put some time into programming, and I still got stuck from time to time and prayed for help, and God answered those prayers. God does not hear the prayers of the wicked. Anyway, he did point out one potential mistake, which I agreed and corrected (before actually doing it), so I wasn't a moral zero during that time.

There's another reason asking this question is important: "There but for the grace of God go I," one wise preacher once said. I call it "opium" (OPM, Other People's Mistakes). I do not want to repeat his error. If I can know how it happened, I can stay away from that risk. Was he brainwashed by an ungodly church official? That seems most likely, and I can prevent it by giving due diligence to everything anybody ever tells me to do, no matter what their credentials. That's easier for me than him, because it's my personality to do so (see "Personality & Biblical Values"). Did he invite the demon into his heart? People do that, sometimes unawares by playing with demonic ideas like the occult. That's why God says "Don't do that." I try not to do that. I guess the best protection is to stay in God's Word. He was involved in a church discipleship program, but in my experience programs are a poor substitute for the Bible.

The best defense, IMHO, is to continually analyze everything I do, comparing it to Biblical truths. Again, that's the nature of the Perceiver personality type (me), the opposite of the Judger (him). I need to be careful I don't become like like that Pharisee in the parable, "Thank you God that I'm not like that wicked guy over there." Mistakes happen. Fix them, ASAP.

Most of all I learned that: Life goes on. It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and she doesn't seem to be on stage yet. Maybe God will make my translation software happen, maybe not, but I have something potentially useful to work on, so I'm doing that. When God gives me something else to do -- hopefully not in Texas -- I guess I'll know it when it happens (or not: there's no promise that I will be aware of every good thing I do or can do [Heb.13:2]). The chief lesson of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the question Jesus told the story to answer, is that loving our neighbor is doing the good thing that is in front of us. This is in front of me; that guy no longer is. Perhaps it is his problem, but not mine.

2015 December 30 -- It's Fiction

The next book wasn't much better. I complained to the librarian about the "psycho-sexual" chick-lit novel I didn't finish last week, and she offered a male author, which started out looking like the same depressing thing: a first-person stream of consciousness of the drunken heroine loser continually rehashing the murder of her husband four years previous, and her own disability to get her mind onto real life. But the author is a guy, and his interpretation of her depression is much less debilitating than the female author's, and he weaves in two or three other story lines, guys who are obviously can-do achievers (both the Good Guy and the villain), plus a very competent 11-year-old girl who early on escapes the clutches of the villain by flying over his fence.

Yup, she's some sort of biological experiment, with wings instead of arms. The physics is no good: the largest flying bird I could find on the internet is the albatross at 25 pounds with a wing span of 12 feet. This flying girl is not distinguished by size from normal girls her age, but he gives her a wing span of only 9 feet. To carry three or four times the weight of the biggest bird would need at least double the span (4x area), and there's no way a "little girl" could have muscles strong enough to get lift-off, especially not without a lot of exercise (this was her first attempt) and humongous amounts of high-calorie food. Several fossil flying creatures were substantially larger, but it probably was due to a much more dense pre-Flood atmosphere, which was therefore able to support more weight with less effort. When the heroine first saw the girl, she considered the possibility of a biological mistake, but rightly abandonned it. The author never said so, but for wings to work, a whole lot of separate subsystems need to function well. Mistakes don't do that. You might get duplications (twinning that partly failed), or singleton mistakes like heavy fur all over instead of just in a few places, but not a whole collection of things all at once. Darwinism makes great fiction (or at least a lot of it), but lousy science.

One of the movies I picked up at the same time is a recent remake of Godzilla, with the same kinds of physics failure: a monster lizard 100 feet tall, runs faster than a helicopter can fly (100+mph), and lays 200+ 8-foot eggs, all after eating only a couple tons of fish. Its claw marks did not bend the steel side of a ship, but merely gouged out holes like it was a soft cookie. Holes are easier to program in computer graphics than deformation. This was before 9/11, so they did not know how tall buildings crumble and pulverize and fall when you take out a small part of their support structure, but any physicist could have told them. Before I saw the 9/11 videos (I have no TV), I correctly guessed how their fall would have to be different from the conspiracists' claims. It is only necessary to think through the requirements of ordinary high-school physics. Oh I forgot, the USA high-school students scored dead last in math and physics among industrialized nations world-wide. Maybe they are too busy feeling sorry for themselves, like in the novels.

The Godzilla movie, like most visual fiction, is also completely ignorant of military chain of command. Modern soldiers -- especially American soldiers -- are trained to follow orders. The people who make movies tend to be nominal pacifists who were never in any military service, so they don't know that.

2015 December 28 -- Chick Lit

A couple years ago I was all in a knot over romance and fantasy fiction, but there is a broader category that covers those two and also one of the books I got from the library when I did a search on keywords "thriller" and "science fiction". I know better than to take on anything by a female author, but a "thriller"? A better descriptor would have been "psycho-sexual gutter." The main theme of the story is this stream of consciousness of the drunken heroine loser continually rehashing the abduction of her teen-age daughter four years previous, and her own disability to get her mind onto real life. Christians have an answer to that problem (Heaven) but this is obviously not Christian. I have no doubt that there are people like that, but I don't want to waste 700 pages on it. I finally gave up, halfway through.

The second book from that search is a collection of excerpts of sci-fi. I guess it's supposed to be a sampler to whet young readers' appetites for the genre, but it probably wouldn't have worked on me. Most of the sci-fi I ever read was written from a masculine perspective (in the movies that's go fast, make loud noises, and break things), where Truth, Justice, and Duty are uppermost. Those are Biblical values, but you wouldn't know it from listening to American preachers. The feminine focus in fiction is inner turmoil and unsolvable problems. There's some of that in the Bible too (mostly in the Psalms), but the Bible offers resolution: God will fix everything in the end. Non-Christian chick lit has no God to come riding in on a white horse, so they aim rather for magic and fantasy and romance. There was one female author in this sci-fi collection, and sure enough, it was all about inner turmoil and dragons and a magical ending.

Hmm, I'm not finished yet, but looking ahead I see two more female names. Maybe I'll skip those. I've pretty much had it up to here with that stuff. I have too much inner turmoil of my own to escape. Mine is different, it's real and actual conflict with a guy who is truth-challenged, and my best way out of it is to stop thinking about it. Like the chick in the lit, that's easier said than done, but God's solution is very practical. When Elijah was facing the same demon, God gave him a reality check and work to do [1Kings 19:14-18]. I have that too. Elijah didn't finish the job God gave him, but at least he got out of that depression. It's a good solution.

2015 December 21 -- Disrespect

I try not to "work" on Sunday (my Day of Rest), so besides church I try to do non-work kinds of things, like reading or spending time with people who like me, or (failing all else) watching movies and napping. The local library limits me to three DVDs at a time, which usually isn't quite enough to fill a whole Sunday afternoon and evening. It's worse when one of the flicks is produced by greedy vendors who somehow mistakenly think that they make more money by preventing people from watching it. This library has more of that kind that they did in the State of Misery, so I usually try to test them all for viewability after I get home and before the library closes. I didn't succeed this time. The movie didn't even make it to the "blue screen of death" where most of the duds stall, the player just took one look and gave up. Probably just as well that the vendor tries to discourage people from seeing it, this one was vile.

I still had a couple hours left in my Sunday peeyem after a reasonable nap, so I booted up the OSX computer because its player is somewhat newer than the PC I usually use. I hate OSX with a passion. I use it when I must, but most things I cannot do otherwise just don't happen. Its DVD player is just as unixy as everything else about it, quadriplegic and half deaf. Unlike the PC player, it cannot skip over the commercials at the front of the movies -- it's a quality thing, where "quality" is defined as "conformance to specifications" and the primary specification of a DVD and its player is that you get to watch the movie: apart low-quality DVDs like this one, the OSX player is lower quality than the PC. The PC player lets me back up and "instant-replay" a scene where the actors mumbled their lines or I otherwise missed it; maybe the OSX player can do that also, but I don't know how, it's not as easy as hitting the left-arrow key.

Anyway like I said, it's a vile flick, full of gratuitous gutter language and naked women. The women are stuck in an abusive situation, where not only the villain but also the cops look down on them. In case you missed that in the flick itself, the "making of" extra pointed it out clearly as one of the aims of the movie. I realized that what the cops did to the heroine, *I* was doing the same thing to OSX, having so much disrespect that I was unwilling even to give it the opportunity to show that it can do reasonable player kinds of things like instant replay. Unlike the cops -- the flick was a "true" story, and according to the documentary, they cleaned up their act after the real hero brought down the real villain -- I feel no remorse. I still hate OSX. But I also realized that the guy I used to spend Sunday afternoons with, he was doing the same thing to me, again with no remorse. He doesn't seem honest enough to call it "hate" or even "disrespect" (it's probably not his normal nature, I think he came under the influence of a guy with a serious anger problem [Prov.22:24,25] and doesn't know how to recover), but "it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck." Which is why I'm now watching vile movies like this one, because I don't need to be stuck in an abusive situation like the heroine (and the other women) in the flick.

As far as I can tell, God has not put me into a situation like the hero in the movie, where I can do something about abuse heaped on other people. I thought maybe it's because He gave me computational things to do, but that doesn't seem to be happening either. Maybe it's just that God needs somebody (like the heroine) to be the abused in His bigger story, so that the abuser has an opportunity to respond to God's grace and stop the abuse. Or not (at his eternal peril). God told the prophet Ezekiel:

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, "You will surely die," and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. -- Ezek.3:17-19 (oNIV)

2015 December 19 -- Rollins

This is the second of his novels I've read. I didn't much like the first, but I neglected to make a notice of that fact somewhere, and with my hair color, I don't remember as much as I used to. Besides too much gratuitous sex and gutter language, he's not a careful writer. The story was OK, but there were several incidents that didn't work together, things that the higher-budget movies credit a "contiguity" person to prevent. One that sticks in my mind: our hero gets on a plane in Germany at 0700 (early morning), knocks himself out with booze (and other stuff, because he hates flying), then wakes up at dawn as the plane touches down in Baghdad, a couple thousand miles away and somewhat east of Germany. There's no way a trip of that distance is going to take 24 hours (nor can a 24-hour flight be made in a single hop), nor less than four hours. Another: he gets a round-trip flight from Stuttgart to some Baltic city, but returns a couple chapters later landing in Frankfurt. Stuff like that.

2015 December 16 -- How to Win

MBTI Perceivers ("P"s) don't much care about winning, it's a Judger ("J") thing (see "Personality & Biblical Values"), and the "J"s mostly do it successfully. So why am I (a "P") offering advice to the experts? It's that "mostly" thing. There are two places where "J"s don't win.

One of them is pretty obvious: when two "J"s lock horns, only one of them can win. It's part of the testosterone thing that every guy (only "J"s, "P"s don't care) must try, and that establishes the pecking order, and they all recognize it. If the top dog ever shows any weakness, everybody -- or at least the #2 -- comes after him again. That's one of the reasons "J"s never apologize (for anything significant; being "sorry" that the other person has frail "hurt" feelings is a slap-down, not an apology), because apologizing is a sign of weakness, and they all say so (especially in fiction). I don't know much about this kind of testosterone showmanship -- I see it in the movies, and it never made sense to me -- but it obviously happens a lot, winner take all.

The story is different when "J"s go up against "P"s. There are two kinds (relevant to this discussion), Feelers ("F"s) who value affirmation (they call it "relationship") above all else, and Thinkers ("T"s) who value Truth, Justice, and Duty above affirmation. There are the same two kinds of "J"s, but the urge to win at all costs generally overwhelms all other considerations. Anyway, when an "FP" is attacked by a "J", the desire for affirmation compels them to go belly-up in hopes of gaining that coveted affirmation. It doesn't work, of course, but the "J" wins those battles without a scratch. Eventually the "FP" wife figures out that she's been had, and divorces the jerk. Until then she cries a lot, and the guy usually hasn't got a clue why. Or if he's an "FJ" he ladles on affirmation, which delays the end (but usually does not prevent it). The "J" guys all know about that conflict, even if they don't understand why it's their fault, not the woman's. But they have a lot of experience winning against "FP"s. "FP"s never win. They don't even try.

"TP"s are different. They value Truth, which is a winning argument in verbal debate. They value Justice, which sometimes tends to win in physical combat (but not against movie-style male idiots, who do all their decision-making in their loins). And because the "TP"s care about Justice and especially Truth, they spend a lot of effort finding out what is True and Just. Being also "P"s, they are never satisfied with what they have, but keep revising their understanding -- "J"s get stuck on whatever convinced them first, then they don't want to be confused by contrary facts -- so after a short while the "TP" almost certainly is on the side of the Truth. This makes for really bad karma around "J"s, so "TP"s mostly stay out of their way. The smart ones go work in a scientific lab, where their values are appreciated and it's the lab manager's job to protect them from the "J"s higher up the corporate ladder, and the less smart "TP"s drive trucks or dig ditches or some other poorly-esteemed job where their scratchy personality can be safely ignored. As a consequence, the "J"s mostly never meet the "TP"s head-on in a fight.

If you are a "J", and you need to fight a "TP" for supremacy, this blog post is for you. Give it up, You. Will. Lose.

You can win apart from the facts by insisting on a winner-take-all, one-time face-to-face confrontation (see "Cowardly Face-to-Face"). "TP"s take the time necessary to fully evaluate their facts and data, and this does not happen in real time except by luck. Force him into a real-time conflict, and he will freeze up like a deer in headlights, and you win. Until the next time he sees you, and then he will tell you all the ways you were wrong. Some of them, anyway, until you shout him down. After all, "J"s make up their minds early, please don't confuse them with facts. If the "TP" tries to do it anyway, the "J" will just call him a liar (probably using other words) and use that as an excuse to shut down the communication channel. I have experienced this effect myself, and it also shows up in fiction (frex, Clancy's Sum of All Fears, in my blog post yesterday).

This only works once. After he's been bludgeoned thus by a "J" bully, the "TP" knows to avoid such confrontations at all costs. The lab scientist is protected from such abuse by the lab manager (probably himself a "J" or at least knows their wiles), who handles all confrontations, with his scientists feeding him data privately. You see this in high-level government meetings and sometimes in courtrooms, where the support people whisper facts to the litigator, but never face the dragon directly. The "TP" without that protection can simulate it by preparing all his data ahead of time in a readily accessible form, so when the bully comes on with his intimidation, he has a ready answer. Against a prepared "TP" You. Will. Lose. Don't go there.

You can win on a level playing field, but only by adopting "TP" behavior patterns up-front. Spend a lot of time doing research (or get that support team of "TP"s) -- not to prove why your adopted position is right, but to evaluate whether the other position might be better. Being Right comes not from choosing sides first, but from choosing sides last, after everybody has looked at all the evidence and compared all the arguments. Do this before you enter the debate and you can win, but only if you lucked onto the Right side. The "TP" will spend more time on it than you did or want to, so he will be right in the end. If you "win" against him, it will happen in the first hour or two. After that, if he's not on the same side, You. Will. Lose. Bet on it.

There is another way to win an argument against a "TP", and that is to pick a topic he doesn't care about. "FP"s don't care about truth at all, so any argument against an "FP" wins by default. But all that research the "TP"s do takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day, so "TP"s need to choose their battles, and abandon the rest. Pick one he doesn't want to fight, and you win. Again, it will happen in the first hour. After that, if he's not on the same side, it means he decided it's worth fighting for and You. Will. Lose. Bet on it.

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2015 December 15 -- Sum of All Fears

I finished all 790-odd pages. Tom Clancy was a good writer, and except where he let his own religious persuasion interfere, it was a good story. He could have done it right -- he certainly described accurately the religious Marxism of his Bad Guys, and if he'd only imagined the same fervor for the religious clerics, it would have been much more credible. The trouble is, he's obviously a political leftist (you can tell, because all the Republicans in his story are greedy, mean-spirited jerks, whereas few of the Democrats are) and people in that camp have only government as their god (that shows too). Once you get past the namby-pamby religious nonsense, the rest of the story is a good read.

The climax was particularly scary for me. The guy he portrayed as POTUS (President) is exactly the same kind of knee-jerk Judger no-think (or else thinks only with his loins, like modern movies) control freak as my one-time friend turned out to be. The hero, Jack Ryan, is as close to a "TP" as anybody might get to the type without the author actually understanding MBTI. People like that give guarded responses, and try to do the right thing, but Judgers cannot cope with partial information, so they prefer to assume the guy is lying before entertaining the possibility that their own rush to judgment might need correction. Clancy (correctly) portrayed POTUS as systematically cutting off all sources of valid intelligence and escalating the USA and Russia toward thermonuclear war. A few happenstance weather problems didn't help.

I would hope Obama and other inexperienced politicians in places with their finger on the trigger would read this story for insight, but Judgers don't do that. Not even (former) "friends" do it. sigh

2015 December 12 -- Starting Over

As an exercise to update my programming skills, I'm writing this Android app to display Hebrew text with hints for low-grade readers like myself. I want to use the 1848 Davidson lexicon, which is available as scanned page images, but the accompanying OCR text is so full of errors as to be illegible. So I decided to write my own OCR engine. I've wanted to do that for a long time, but could never justify the time. Anyway, it sort of works, but the Davidson pages are slightly cockeyed, making recognition harder. The OCR tool I use for ordinary English text always straightens the page before running its recognition engine -- they redraw the page, first as straightened, then fill in the text as a gray blob as they recognize it, and the animation (if you watch) lets you know if they got it in order. So I spent a humongous amount of time trying to straighten these pages. After five months of struggling (a huge amount of that time wasted on non-productive other stuff) it's just not working.

Taking my direction (as always) from Scripture, I see that God, sometimes becomes frustrated with (part of) His creation, so He throws it away and starts over. That happened at the Flood, when He started over with Noah. Abraham saw God was about to wipe out Sodom (including his nephew Lot), so he bargained God down to saving the whole city if only ten righteous people could be found there. Alas, there weren't. We know where Sodom was(there is a destruction smudge in the desert there), but there's no city there. God didn't even start over -- well, He did save Lot, and we now have the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to show for it.

God gave Pharaoh a half-dozen chances to Do The Right Thing, but "Pharaoh hardened his heart" over and over again, until finally his freedom to do so was taken away and "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" for the last of the Plagues. That's scary, I don't want to be in Pharaoh's shoes. Then in the wilderness, the Israelites were so frustrating, God told Moses He was going to start over again, but Moses talked Him out of it. Solomon made such a mess of his kingdom that ten of the Twelve Tribes were taken away from him and eventually lost. The Church is not exactly a start-over, because it's built into the covenant with Abraham, but Israel did such a crummy job of "blessing all nations" that they mostly got bypassed.

The point is, throwing the whole thing away and starting over seems to be Biblical. My OCR engine is still OK, as far as I can tell (I can't really test it adequately yet), but today I decided to forget about straightening the page, and instead find the words independently. Dunno yet if that will work any better.

All that time I "wasted on non-productive stuff" needs to be thrown away also. The guy is a Judger (see "Personality & Biblical Values" two months ago), so he is disinclined to modify his abusive behavior, and even if he wanted to, he got himself entangled with a couple of church leaders of the same persuasion. They aren't going to admit any fault, so the guy would need to change churches if he decides to Do The Right Thing. Ain't gonna happen. I feel sorry for the guy. Like all Judgers everywhere, he wants to be in a position of control, and he is vigorously climbing the ladder in his church. Referring to the corresponding folks in his day, Jesus said "they sit in Moses' seat, you must do what they say, but don't do what they do." That applies here. Maybe my one-time friend will figure out how to do what they say and not what they do, but I doubt it. Not my problem, I did my Ezek.3:19 duty and he chose to ignore me. Time to start over.

2015 December 11 -- Messiah Sing

When I was in high school, one of the other guys who went to the same church (he might have been in college, I don't remember) recommended to me Bach's B-minor Mass as good theology. After college I lived in San Francisco for a while, and sang in the San Francisco Bach Choir, which performed the B-minor Mass every year. It's beautiful music, so a couple years ago I found a public-domain mp3 recording and downloaded it. I also have it on vinyl records, but the player was boxed up a couple moves ago and has not yet come back out. You may recall I bought an mp3 player for the car earlier this year, and the B-minor Mass was the first thing I put on it.

Anyway, back when I lived in San Francisco, there were other classical music opportunities, community choruses and the like, and every year one or more of them did a "Messiah Sing-Along" where everybody (not just the professionals) gets to sing. There were regular performances, too, and I even signed up for a "Messiah Marathon" (24 hours around the clock, I think one every two hours). One of the conductors pointed out that Bach wrote great music, but the Messiah was also great words (pure Scripture). Maybe I already liked it before then (I can't remember), but for a while I could sing the Hallelujah Chorus tenor part from memory. I have forgotten some of that, sigh.

That was a long time ago, and nobody did that kind of thing anywhere near where I lived in the State of Misery for 13 years, but among the stuff I inherited from my late mother was a CD recording of the Messiah, which I could play on my PC and simultaneously record, then convert to mp3. There may be tools to do that faster with less effort, but I don't have them (it's a PC, not a Mac, and my Mac is too old to do mp3). So I did that, and now I have two masterpieces to play (and sing) while driving.

This Messiah recording is not very good quality, one of the singers is slightly flat and sometimes comes in early, and he's very close to the microphone when he makes those mistakes. Maybe I was thinking about that last month, and somehow got around to wondering if there was a Messiah Sing-Along in the Dallas area, and it turns out there is, today. I ordered a ticket and dug out my score -- I am so rusty! -- but brushing up on it has been more fun than the proverbial poke the the eye with a sharp stick, which is closer to what the death throes of that former friendship feels like.

I went. It wasn't like they did in California, where the sing-along included also the solos, and where the singers were more serious about the music. I couldn't hear any other tenors at all, except the soloist -- and the director mentioned that their regular tenor soloist was off on another engagement. Apparently the director couldn't hear any either, so he asked "at the risk of offending the box office (something), for the low-priced tenors and altos to come up front together." I was the only one to move, but it did give me a much better view of the musicians. There were several places where I knew I didn't have it, even while working it over this week, but I consciously decided that if I spent any more effort on it, it might stop being fun. Besides, I could lean on the other tenors. As if. One of the other singers mentioned that the tenor part is too hard for most people. Really? I hadn't noticed. Maybe a little, but "no pain, no gain."

It was fun. I think one of the things we do here that we will get to continue to do in Heaven (besides computer programming) is singing the Messiah: it is both fun and praises God. What more could He ask for?

2015 December 5 -- Israelis + Palestinians: No Deal

A couple weeks ago I mentioned escaping the incredibility of atheist novelists by reading Tom Clancy. I was wrong. His atheistic persuasion muddles his writing. I have mentioned on several occasions that authors are encouraged to write about what they know, and Clancy maybe knew (I guess he's gone now) about spies and political intrigue, but he certainly knows nothing about religion. It's a huge novel and I'm less than a quarter of the way into it, but his religious characters come off as no more serious about their faith than an atheist might be about stamp collecting. Maybe that's true of most of the church members in the USA, and certainly most neo-Native-Americans on reservations, and perhaps even of most of the Muslims elsewhere, but it's not the case for jihadists in the Middle East, and it's not true of the Hassidim Jews in Israel, the ones his novel has agreeing to a partition of Israel/Palestine.

As an example of his religious ignorance [page 195] he "identified the basic problem in the region as the artificial incompatibility of the religions..." as if the only significant issue was that all believers are too stupid to realize there is no god. No, the real issue is "Who is Jesus?" The first religion in the area nailed down their facts before Jesus was born, and most of them became Christians when he showed up (and the rest explained him away as a fraud). The third religion to come into the region demotes Jesus to a mere prophet, but exalts their own as the last and best Prophet. There are other differences between Islam and Judaism, notably how adherents are to deal with unbelievers: observant Jews are much more tolerant, and depend on the coming Messiah to solve the problems -- and the Christians agree! -- but Muslims have no Messiah in view, so they must do their own killing of the infidels. That's an irreconcilable difference, and all thoughtful parties know it. Clancy does not.

It's getting tiresome, so I set it aside to read a recent Joel Rosenberg novel I found on the library shelf. It turns out he has the same back-story (Israel and the West-Bank Palestinians agreeing in secret to a partitioning plan brokered by the USA), but in his version the jihadists crash the party and -- apparently: the book ends on a cliff-hanger, so don't start reading it until the sequel comes out -- kill the treaty. Rosenberg is a Christian, so in his version the treaty cannot succeed because of Biblical prophecy, which he spells out rather more verbosely than necessary. Maybe it is necessary, considering how little most Americans know of their Bible.

So now I'm back reading Tom Clancy's version. Maybe the jihadists will kill the treaty in his story too: in both stories they have obtained weapons of mass destruction. I have another 600 pages before I find out how different it will be.

2015 November 27 -- Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Three months ago I mentioned the approved and safe way to deal with stupid untrained sociopaths in Texas pickups hooked onto your rear bumper. Today, coming back from Thanksgiving at my sister's (family), I observed that half of the Iowa drivers are as stupid and untrained as all the Texas drivers are -- no, not quite as stupid: most of them in the blue state are smart enough to figure out that if the car they are threatening with vehicular homicide isn't going as fast as they want to, they should change lanes and go around (redneck drivers here in Texas don't have enough gray cells to make the connection).

So after encouraging some particularly hostile drivers near DesMoines to be on their way, I stopped at a rest area to do what rest areas are for, and this big hunk got out of the next car and proceeded to tell me that he saw what I did and that I was causing accidents. I don't think so, I'm preventing them, but I don't think fast, so he was long gone before I had a good reply for him:

You don't understand. That guy was threating my life. If I do nothing, then the life-threatening situation will persist for five or ten or thirty minutes until he gets to his exit, or until his threat becomes reality and I'm dead, whichever comes first. If I slow down, then he is motivated to actively terminate his unlawful and dangerous behavior in one minute or less, and I have reduced my risk by an order of magnitude. Furthermore, when I slow down, he becomes alarmed and goes on high alert, whereas if he's just abusing me the way all his kind do to everybody, he's going to while away his time talking on his phone or fiddling with his radio or texting his girl or turning to beat the kids in the back seat, which greatly increases my risk.

Moreover, in California, where I learned to drive, the law requires a driver to slow down when the posted speed is too fast for the distance the tailgater behind you to be safe, and every student driver must know that before they can get a license. Texas, where my car is currently registered, has essentially the same law -- it's called "prima facie" and I suspect it's on the books of every State in the Union -- but nobody enforces it nor trains drivers to obey it. When I slow down, I am obeying the law, and the guy whose bad manners forced it on me is breaking the law. If there's a collision, he caused it, not I. The law says so. But if there's a collision at 45mph, I will live through it; at 65 I'm dead. However, I don't get rear-ended! I chase the buggers off before they can do it to me. It works. It worked today, lots of times.

Except once, long long ago in a far-away place, I was stopped for a light, and the guy who hit me was going sideways. I can't go slower than stopped. He had been speeding (in every legal sense) but he was going pretty slow when he hit me. Slow is good. It messed up his car more than it did mine.

2015 November 23 -- Progress (aka Entropy)

Five years ago I could get maps and driving directions on my *fast* Mac, but that stopped when the net-bigots realized their web sites were too useful. Mapquest was the first to go, then Google stopped working too. So I had to go to the really *slow* OSX computer to do that. Six months ago I could ask for driving directions, and it gave me a map with a suggested route, but I could drag the route line off the dangerous highways and it recalculated the directions. However, the net-bigots realized their web sites were still too useful, so that doesn't work any more either. If I try to drag the route off the dangerous highways on a Google map, it now moves the entire map to some distant location unrelated to what I'm looking at. This is with viruses turned on; with them off the screen is just blank. Mapquest has gone completely catatonic -- I used to call it "the blue screen of death" when the movies did it, but now it's a black screen of death -- a black screen with an endless twirling busy circle (instead of the FBI notice the dead movies put up). Don't you just *love* what the viruses do to your computer? "Entropy" is the scientific principle that things get worse, not better. The net-bigots call it "progress" because it's different. I wish they'd just stop fixing what ain't broke, because now it is (completely broken).

So now I'm back to figuring it out on paper. Paper maps are hard to find and cost a lot more than they used to. Sometimes I need to make my own -- Google still lets me do that on OSX, but it will probably break within a year. sigh

2015 November 21 -- On Bullying

Three months ago, when he was still mostly being friendly to me, "Bill" pointed me to a web page on bullying and asked my opinion. I have received a lot of bullying in my life, but it never occurred to me that it might be a repairable condition, so I delayed answering. I guess my perspective has not changed much since then, especially when he began doing those kinds of things to terminate the friendship. If he were listening today, I might answer like this:

Bullying is the default behavior of MBTI Judgers (see "Personality & Biblical Values" and "Bullies Everywhere"). It is inherently anti-Christian, because it is explicitly in violation of the First and Second Great Commandments, the only thing Jesus ever said would get you into Heaven. It is a violation of the Second ("2C" aka Golden Rule) because nobody likes being bullied, including the bully himself. It is a violation of the First because Jesus explicitly told his Disciples not to do it [Luke 22:25,26], and you do not love God if you do not keep His commands [John 14:15,21,24]. Jesus said "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off" [Matt.5:20]. If you are by nature a Judger, your best hope at escaping the sin of bullying is to avoid all positions of leadership. That's not what a Judger wants to hear, but "the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." It may be as hard for a Judger to enter Heaven as it is for a rich man. Having money lets you bully people. There's obviously a connection. "Blessed are the meek," Jesus said, "for they shall inherit the earth [after the Resurrection, what we normally refer to as 'Heaven', Matt.5:5]." Bullies have a different destination. Don't go there.

2015 November 20 -- Friday the 13th + 1 Week

One month ago my best friend in my whole life -- well, longest, anyway -- decided to blame me for ending it. It wasn't a big surprise, he'd spent some of the previous three months becoming intermittently hostile, but I was kind of bummed. There's not much in this life that's eternal, obviously not his friendship, but also not my grief at the ending of it. The current WORLD magazine (in my mailbox today) has one of the regular columnists commenting on friendship. She didn't have much of substance to say, except her definition, "people you like, people who have your back, people you can count on, people who affirm you," came off a little bitter for me. That's how I knew he wasn't a friend any more, he wasn't any of those things and hadn't been for several weeks. Oh well. The Bible instructs me to "trust God, not people." Never truer words.

With no email dialog to use up my residual cognitive energy after I'm too tired to work, I'm doing a lot more reading and movies. Except today the library was closed, I learned when I got there. Two movies this month built their stories around a rebuilding of Hadrian's Wall separating (Roman) England from the (presumed) barbarians in Scotland, and now (in the movies) the virus-infected northerners from the (temporarily) healthy farther south. I guess the Wall offends British sensibilities, probably the way the Berlin Wall offended us in the West, and the Israeli wall still offends the Palestinians. Maybe my erstwhile friend's wall of hostility has the same effect on me. Whatever.

It's a small library, and I'm running out of good books to read. So I asked the librarian for help, a thriller, or maybe science fiction. Some of the thrillers I got this way were a little too strong on feminazi values -- like Disney cartoons, all the smart people are female, and the only lead guys are idiots who mostly do their thinking in their loins. The trend now is to refer to what used to be called sci-fi as "speculative fiction" so the authors can be lazy and invent alternative rules of physics and/or history instead of doing their homework to make things realistic. Y'all know my thinking about fantasy. So I turned down a couple dragon books and chose one on "Terraforming the Earth," that looked like it could be interesting. Like my former friend, the promise was better than the delivery. The author was a hard-core Darwinist, but not very well educated in it. Or maybe he leaned rather hard on "literary license" (fantasy) to make up for its shortfalls. Some of his species evolved way too fast, other things (like the Tycho station on the moon) never degraded in time. Mostly he tried not to give any dates, but it didn't hang together, and I found it tiresome and moribund. Even his evolved species kept dying out. When I finished, I read the author blurb and learned the guy must have been in his 90s ("73 years of writing sci-fi"). No wonder he had a fixation on death.

Robert Heinlein was always a good reliable author when I was in high school reading every sci-fi in the school library (and then in the public library), but I was dubious at the title: "Job: A Comedy of Justice," which hinted at the Biblical character. I try to avoid Bible-themed fiction, because nobody is willing to give God credit for knowing what He's doing. Can't blame them, I wrote a novel or two that respected the Bible, and readers consistently hated them (see Lazir and tell me what you think). But the come-on inside the front jacket clearly showed this was not the Bible character. I'm halfway through now, and it's much worse. Many sci-fi authors embed their hatred for all things religious in their novels (I've mentioned a few in the past, like Arthur C Clarke's Trigger), and Heinlein is no exception. But it's subtle. His first-person protagonist started out as a Christian preacher, and Bible quotes are sprinkled liberally through the story, usually with the protagonist discovering some "fact" about it that any atheist website will eagerly inform you about; there are no cases on the other side where Biblical teaching turns out to be correct and true and virtuous. Certainly the Christians got some things wrong -- more often than the Bible does -- but in my experience, we get more things right than the atheists do. Atheists obviously are disinclined to mention that in public.

My next novel will be Tom Clancy (the real one, not like the featureless clone I read two months ago, which prominently featured his name on the cover but was written by somebody else after he died), not more devolved sci-fi.

Postscript, I finished the Heinlein novel, and it's definitely an anti-Christian polemic. His Yahweh is only one of a pantheon of deities, neither the top authority nor particularly honest. Shortly after the middle, the Rapture is called, and the rest of the story has our protagonist finding Heaven to be undesirable without his pagan common-law wife who didn't make it, and learning from Lucifer that his earthly experiences were a Job-like wager (hence the title) that didn't make any more sense to me than the Biblical version makes to the atheists. The guy appeals to Yahweh's superior and somehow ends up back on earth with his dearly beloved, and having deconverted, consorts also with Lucifer's daughter who is a witch. You sort of expect that kind of nonsense from an atheist author, but the one line that got me explained the Biblical teaching concerning witches [Ex.22:18] that the Hebrew word translated "witch" in the King James Bible really means "poisoner". I work with Hebrew every day, so I have the tools to look that up. It's not exactly a lie, but close. The verb means to practice witchcraft or sorcery, nothing more or less, according to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (which I have, also quoted on the Logos website). The Hebrew wordkashaph is translated in the Septuagint by the Greek word farmakia (literally pharmacy, the use of mind-bending drugs to induce other-worldly states of consciousness). It is properly understood as the use of drugs and/or other devices to persuade pagan gods to do one's unholy bidding. The Wiki item on witchcraft (no link, they are no longer open to the public) uses the word "poison" in reference to the drugs, but it's poison only in the sense that it does poison your mind against productive work.

2015 November 16 -- Shopping

The church wasn't in the yellow pages, so it didn't make it onto my first list, but I saw the sign driving home from the nearest grocery store 15 miles away (two days later Walmart opened locally, but I didn't know it at the time: the rumors had been "2016"). The music was God-centered (see "I Worship Me"), and the sermon was Scriptural -- until he got to the end of his prepared sermon, then he rambled on for another half hour in a sort of invitation. One remarkable thing, he (twice) insisted that how we drive is part of our Christian life. Although I have said it a lot (including here), I never heard a preacher say so before yesterday. Apparently some of his listeners actually heard him: the car that came out of the driveway behind me followed at a respectful and safe distance all the way back to my turnoff. That's really unusual in this state. Or maybe the driver just knew I'd heard the sermon too.

The church wasn't very big, some 30 people sat through the sermon, maybe a dozen more walked out for Children's Church, but they had children, and (more important) there weren't significantly more women than men. That tells me that the sermon I heard was not unusual: men tend to avoid churches where they preach "God loves you" instead of Scripture (see "Love in Fiction" 8 months ago). The church I visited the previous week also had people of all ages (half the churches I visit are all old people, which means the church is dying), but it was larger; they sang from the hymnbook and the sermon was good, but the pastor was out of town so I don't know that it wasn't an anomaly. It was also a lot farther to drive to. I guess there are now two churches on my short list.

2015 November 13 -- Friday the 13th

I bought this house that had been on rental for a decade or two. Each time a tenant moves out, the management firm slaps on a thick layer of opaque paint covering up all the scuffs and whatever, which immediately starts peeling off the grease spots. Unfortunately, they also cover all the fixtures and the acoustic ceilings. The place echoed like a medieval stone church, and the paint also starts peeling from the light switches and wall sockets, so it looks rental. Oh well, it's not like I do any entertaining.

But the echo annoyed me. However, tucked away sealed in a suitcase with mothballs were some fur throws I got as souvenirs when I visited my childhood homesite in South America many many moons ago. I took them out and hung them on the hall wall where flipping the light switch had such a resounding "claaannnk", and Presto! The echo is gone. Mission accomplished. I wish all problems were so easily solved. sigh Friday the 13th must be my lucky day.

2015 November 10 -- 7th Hell Revisited

Five months ago I commented briefly on the chaotic utility situation here in Texas. Every other place I ever lived, you need electricity or telephone or water or whatever, these are government-regulated monopoly services -- it doesn't make sense for 25 different companies to all run their own wires or pipes down every street -- so you went to the one company and signed up, and they billed you for the service and you paid. End of story. Here you still have only one company owning the wires, but they aren't who you pay for that service. Instead there are 25 different fly-by-night rebillers with no physical presence anywhere, and who do nothing of any value at all, but they just skim some of the profit off the services. You pay them, and then they pay the actual providers. It's completely irrational.

For electricity in this part of Texas, there is exactly one rebiller with a physical presence anywhere within a hundred miles. Everybody else is in the identity theft business or something. I don't need that, thank you, I just want to buy electrons with money. I'll even pay in advance. That one real company would let me do that, but only if I showed up at their door and paid in cash, and signed a six-month contract, plus a $200 deposit. I did that. I also reduce the hassle of bill-paying by paying three or four months at a time in advance. It's not like the bank pays interest on my money, thank you Obama.

So here it is at the end of their six-month contract, and they send me this 6-page renewal contract, which if I do nothing at all, they will take it as agreement. The only trouble is, Section 24 clearly says

...customer intentionally waives and releases any and all prior claims against Stream Energy... that customer may have had, whether known or unknown, latent or obvious, arising out of or related to such prior services or prior Terms of Service Agreement.
"Waive" is a legal term, and it means giving up all right to whatever is waived, in this case that $200 deposit, plus some $141 paid in advance for electricity not yet delivered, both of which were under the previous contract now ending. I tried to explain this to the telephone operator, but she couldn't do anything without my "Social" -- which I never gave them, so it wouldn't have helped anyway. So I got back in the car and drove an hour and a half to the corporate office in downtown Dallas, and explained the same thing to the receptionist, who of course was not trained in dealing with such problems, so she called in a customer service agent. This person is not a lawyer, so she tried to tell me that's not what it means. I can read English, but I persuaded her to bring in somebody who had the authority to deal with the problem.

More waiting, and out came a high-priced lawyer and her even higher-priced supervisor, the "General Counsel" for the whole corporation. These are big bucks. It took about five minutes to explain to her that the contract just now ending was that "prior Terms of Service Agreement," and that I did not want to forfeit the $341 that they were holding under that contract, and she got it. She earns her big bucks. That contract may have been her creation, and while she did not have the authority to change the wording, she is not stupid. Another long delay, and she came up with a letter transferring the $341 forward to the new contract, which seems to me a reasonable way around the problem. Basically I lost five hours (plus wear and tear on the car, plus my shortened life span because of the crazy Texas drivers) to do what in other states never even needed to happen.

In the Real World, nobody ever reads the fine print except me (and the lawyers), but a contract is a promise, and God does not look favorably on people who make promises and don't keep them [Ecc.5:4]. In the Real World, clause #24 wouldn't stand up in court, but it would cost a lot more than $341 to sue them over it. It cost more than that just for my time to go deal with it. At $1000/hour (typical corporate lawyer billing rates) it certainly cost Stream a lot more than $341 to deal with their blunder. I wonder if they will ever get around to fixing it.

Maybe huge corporations consuming megawatts of electricity benefit by shaving a half-cent off the price they pay for their electrons, but the rest of us pay dearly for the mess Texas made of it. It's not a good deal for real people.

2015 November 3 -- Empathy

I guess I must have read through the Psalms some 70 or more times, one each day, twice through each year, beginning a looong time ago. Many of them are pretty negative, imploring God for rescue from wicked people. Most of my life I had no enemies to be rescued from, but I used these Psalms as an occasion to remember and to pray for other Christians in other parts of the world, who have very real and present enemies trying to kill them. This fall is different. My enemies are nothing like the people in Nigeria and China and Sudan and all the NAMEstans (North Africa, Middle East, and a bunch of 'stans) are facing, but they feel real enough to me today that the Psalms are now my prayers. Maybe not so much that I want to wish calamity on my persecutors, but there is a connection I didn't have a couple years ago. Jesus said "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" [John 16:33 oNIV]. I always wondered about that, but not any more.

Not entirely unrelated, I was watching a library movie over lunch today. I'm not much into horror flicks, but this was five Stephen King shorts, I figured it might not be so bad in small doses. The fourth episode featured a wimpy college professor Henry -- basically King nailed the Thinker-Perceiver personality type I mentioned yesterday and last month -- the kind of people who never darken the door of any church, so the Feeler-Judger pastors never see them and have no understanding of how such people function. His wife was a "witch" (with a "B") controller type who oppressed him the way pastors sometimes oppress the less forceful people under their care. We call it "hen-pecked" when a woman does it to a guy as in this flick, and "bullying" when a guy does it to another guy as in my experience. The cinematic audience applauded when the guy shot her in the head, but that was only in his mind. He didn't have the personal charisma to pull it off -- but don't let me spoil it for you, you should see the story. It's Creepshow (1982). Skip the first three, they are forgetable. The fourth episode is too, except for the characterization of Henry. I'm not Henry, but he sure had the personality type.

2015 November 2 -- Cowardly Face-to-Face

Last month in mentioned in passing that Judgers insist on face-to-face (F2F) confrontations because that's the only way they have the upper hand against people who take the time to think through their position and get it right. Statistically, I think Judgers outnumber Perceivers. More important, the Feeler-Judgers (FJs) who aspire to be pastors never ever know any Thinker-Perceivers (TPs), because Thinkers are not welcome in their churches and know it. The feeling is mutual: the pastors do not want that kind of honesty in their churches, and the Thinkers mostly (and generally accurately) see the preachers as liars and thieves, and don't want to be associated with them. Besides, they never cross paths outside the churches either, as I mentioned last month.

In my own conflict, now ended by his choice, he had no experience with TPs, so the best he could do is project onto me his own feelings of frustration and fear. He later confessed that his words were "inflammatory" and "a horrible representation of Loving your neighbor as yourself." Which is true, but they were written in anger, which means they were the only thing he said I could trust to be true (see "Revenge").

It seems to me that a coward sees a very real danger and refuses to go there. Bravery is seeing the same danger, but going there anyway because it is The Right Thing. The FJ is rightly afraid of protracted debate, because he has neither the attention span to investigate the whole matter, nor the commitment to accept uncomfortable truth when the evidence leads there. Mostly he has learned that he can overwhelm TPs by personal force in F2F, which he cannot project through text-only communication, and he does not want to lose. Is that a "fear" of losing? I don't know, but it kind of looks like it. So if the FJ is afraid of text-based dialog, and therefore refuses to participate when it would lead to truth and reconciliation, then he is a coward. The TP rightly fears being overwhelmed by the FJ at F2F, and not being able to present his side, leaving as an outcome a false representation of the issues. That's actually worse than the bullying bluster of the FJ, because truth is more important to the TP than winning or losing.

What is the TP who agrees to that dreaded F2F? Brave! That would be terrifying to the cowardly FJ, because now it looks like the TP might actually win, and winning is the FJ's most important value. So he cowards out of the F2F also. It actually happened to me, more than once. Most recently, he refused to meet me one-on-one. Cowards need their back-up. My back-up is the truth, and I can prepare it in advance. He could too, but he doesn't have the stamina for it. He cowarded out of meeting me F2F. They all do. They are just cowardly bullies, unwilling to take on an equal opponent on level ground.

My experience is that people who demand a face-to-face meeting lack the courage or the facts to deal with the issues on a level playing field. Their experience is that they can whup their opponents by means other than truth when they can force ill-considered conclusions by bullying techniques.

2015 October 26 -- Tired Voice

One of the things WIRED magazine has always imagined themselves good at is identifying the next tech revolution. This month it is voice interaction with your computer. "Get ready to talk to your devices the way you talk to your friends." Don't believe it. Here's why:
As elegant and efficient as it is, the GUI still requires humans to learn a computer's language. Now computers are finally learning how to speak ours...

Think about Photoshop or Excel: Both are so massively capable that using them properly requires bush whacking through a dense jungle of keyboard shortcuts, menu trees, and impossible-to-find toolbars. Good luck just sitting down and cropping a photo. "The GUI has topped out," Kaplan says. "It's so overloaded now."

Which is true, except voice interface has the same problem. The reason it took 70 years (rather than the predicted 30 or 40) to get reasonable voice recognition is that human language is not well-defined like computer languages. Say "How to wreck a nice beach" fast in the context of this article, and humans will understand it to be about recognizing speech. That's really subtle. When you talk to your friends, you have years of shared context to depend on for disambiguating sound-alikes and ambiguous sentences. The voice recognition software is expected to work perfectly right out of the box.

It gets worse: Photoshop and Excel are "massively capable" because each program is expected to do every possible image alteration (or spreadsheet calculation, as the case may be). The wealth of possibilities is what creates the impossibly complex interface. If you transfer all that complexity to voice, then again it will become impossibly complex. You might tell your secretary to bring the numbers up to date, and she knows exactly what you mean, because you (and her previous employers) have been saying that to her for ten or twenty years. Say it to the new hire fresh out of high school, and she doesn't have a clue. That's why you don't hire freshouts, isn't it? Where is Siri or GoogleNow going to learn all that specialized knowledge?

It gets still worse: You hire a secretary who knows how to manipulate Excel spreadsheets, and a commercial artist who knows how to manipulate Photoshop. These are not crossover skills. But there is only one Siri. It must know everything about everything. It ain't gonna happen, even if it could. It wouldn't fit in your smartphone's memory. You wouldn't want to pay the minutes and gigabytes of transfer for an online server to do the processing, and they wouldn't be able to pay out of piddly ad revenue for the processing required to do that for every customer making every query.

Keyvan Mohajer, CEO of SoundHound, showed a prototype of his voice recognition program to the author of this article. He could give it long complicated requests, and it answered perfectly. He did not invite the author to ask questions. There's a reason for that: it wouldn't work. His program is fine-tuned to Mohajer's voice and his way of asking questions -- and maybe a few of the technicians working on the project -- but not to just anybody. Many years ago I was in London on a business trip, and I took some time one evening to see a Shakespeare play. I couldn't understand a word anybody said for the first third of the play. Finally I started to make out a few words. By the end of the play I was getting enough to figure what was happening. I had to tune my ears to British English. In order to justify the huge development cost of these voice recognition programs, they must plan to deploy them over millions of different people with different accents and different ways of saying things. How is it going to know what you mean when you say "Squeet"? All your coworkers at 11:45 know that you are saying it's time to go get lunch.

*I* think that what will happen is that a new (voice) "computer language" will develop, and your devices will not understand you unless you use the precise intonations and word orders of that language. There may be more variability tolerated than there was in HyperCard (which had an English-like syntax, but you still had to get things right), but far less than when you talk to your friends. And the voice menu trees will take far longer to traverse than the GUI ones do today. Or else (more likely) people simply won't do those things vocally. You read it here first.

2015 October 21 -- Winners and Losers

Last week I mentioned how MBTI Judgers want to win at all costs, and Perceivers are willing to change their minds whenever necessary. If the Perceivers are also Thinkers, they tend to cling to the truth at all costs, switching sides whenever the evidence calls for it. Today I offer a parable how this might play out. Two guys, one a Judger, the other a Thinker-Perceiver -- let's call them "Dan" (the Biblical name means "judge") and "Ed" (which similarly means "perceive") -- were friends for the better part of two decades. They got on OK, Dan got to make the decisions, and Ed mostly let him. Except Ed cared about what is true, so he was constantly fine-tuning his opinions about what is true and just and holy, and Dan mostly respected that.

The problems came when Dan quickly jumped (as was his inclination) to a position without considering all the factors, and his position subsequently turned out to be wrong. Because he's a Judger, his mind is made up, please don't confuse him with facts. Ed, on the other hand, carefully plodded through the data and came up on the side of truth. Dan is used to bullying everybody onto his side, and most often -- when that position was formed after Ed had considered all the data and Dan actually listened to him before deciding -- Dan was right. But when Ed was right and Dan had already chosen otherwise, there was war: Dan was not about to give up winning the conflict, and Ed was not about to give up the truth. A few times they butted heads before Ed had finished his analysis, and Dan was actually right, but Ed switched sides so fast that Dan never got to feel the thrill of victory. The result is that the only (long drawn-out, because nobody ever remembers the quick blips) battles Dan can remember always ended with him losing badly to Ed. This is anathema to a Judger, so over the years it tends to build up substantial resentment.

Most of the people Dan knows outside of work are Feelers (the opposite of Thinker, see God of Truth for the analysis), both in his family and at church. There are only Feelers and Feeler-wannabes at church, and much of the rest of the population has been brainwashed in the Feeler-dominated edu-factories of this country. The only true Thinkers anywhere are hidden away in scientific or engineering labs (where truth is important and recognized, but out of public view), or else are stuck in low-paying jobs where their abrasive insistence on truth can be safely ignored, and where A-type achievers like Dan never see them. Feeler-Perceivers are particularly vulnerable, they just lie down and let the Judgers run roughshod over them (until they get tired of the abuse and divorce the jerk) so Dan's experience with Ed is particularly unique and galling.

Finally Dan snaps. This time he will win, no matter what the cost. He hammers on Ed with all the abuse that is so effective at subduing Feeler-Perceivers, but lies and insults have no effect. It is said that repeating the same activity and expecting different results is a sign of insanity, but Dan is already over the edge, he just lays it on thicker. Ed gets tired of it, but he's unwilling to abandon the truth, so he tells him to stop or risk losing the friendship. Dan isn't listening, he wants to win. Just like that, 20 years of friendship is gone. Dan won the conflict -- sort of -- but he lost something far greater. What kind of win is that?

The abuse is not Christian, it is not "loving your neighbor as yourself." Winning is also not Christian, for the same reason. For the true follower of Jesus Christ, all the winning happens on Judgment Day. If you "win" before then, you will probably lose in the end. Don't go there.

Moral of the story: Pick your battles carefully, and don't fight Ed when he is right. If a Thinker-Perceiver has had more than a couple days to think about it, he is right, and you will not win against him. This is why Judgers recognize how important it is to insist on an immediate face-to-face confrontation (and they have all learned to demand it), because that way they can stomp their opponent into the ground before he has a chance to examine and present all the facts. Once the Judger has thus declared victory, he can (in good, albeit flawed, conscience) refuse to reconsider the question. And Ed (if he is smart) rightly refuses to get drawn into such one-sided demolitions.

2015 October 16 -- Chocolat

The flick had two strikes against it: it was hostile to the church, and it was hostile to marriage. But its third hostility, the central theme of the story, was the alienation of people who are different, which resonated with where I am today. In the end they reconciled the hostility with outsiders -- otherwise, who would go see it? -- but left religion and marriage on the outs. So I cannot recommend it.

That was not its only deviation from the real world. There are some jerks driving people from the churches -- I know some of them myself personally -- but reconciliation cannot come at the expense of the church. Indeed, if the jerks do not repent of their wickedness (and not of their religious affiliation) there is no reconciliation at all, because true reconciliation is in Christ.

The people driven from the churches mostly remain angry atheists all the rest of their lives. If anything, the self-righteous prigs who drove them out will be called before Christ to answer for their actions. God told the prophet Ezekiel that if he failed to warn the wicked, God would require their blood at the prophet's hand; how much more if the preacher is at fault in the first place?

I'm not an atheist, nor am I likely to become one over this latest rupture -- there are lots of churches to choose from, and I'm smart enough to avoid the truth-confrontations that cause this kind of hostility (at least when I remember that I am Hus, not Luther, which I keep forgetting) -- but I now have a lot more empathy for the others, the ones who lack the determination to get up and find some church closer to God for their Sunday fellowship than the one they left.

The movie was fiction. The sweet lovable atheist confectioner was still an atheist when the closing credits rolled, and the net flux of people through the church doors, and through the bonds of matrimony, was people leaving, not entering (all of which -- except the "sweet lovable" part -- is mostly true), but brokenness in the real world gets worse from that, not better. At least that's what I see.

2015 October 14 -- Watermark Revisited

Three years ago my Dallas area friend invited me to an apologetics conference hosted by the Watermark Community Church. I was totally blown away by the number of men there. This pastor gets it. Now that I'm in the area, I had some more contact with Watermark, and the picture is not so rosy. If senior pastor Todd Wagner knows what makes his church unique, he hides it well. He hires ordinary fresh-out (seminary graduate) Feelers -- Relationshipists all of them -- as his lieutenants, and does not train them in the difference. I suspect he himself got the usual pastoral training, but did not internalize what they taught him, nor is he even aware of it. The satellite campus I visited felt no different from any other large church. They get some of the sermons from the home church by video link, but local leadership sets the tone. If these guys don't get a clue, Watermark is doomed to be a one-generation church, like the seed that fell on rocky soil, springing up quickly, but dying with no fruit (no offspring, no second generation to carry on the vision) when the founding pastor retires.

Postscript: The next sermon I heard from this guy after calling this to his attention was intentionally Relationshipistic. I guess that means he has chosen to abandon what made his preaching different from the rest of the country, to give up the plurality of men in his church, and to retreat from the battleground for the souls of men (Thinkers as distinguished from Feelers). I guess I don't regret getting out while the getting was good, if you know what I mean. sigh

2015 October 12 -- Personality & Biblical Values

When I first started putting together what  I called "The God of Truth" (follow the link to read current draft), I wanted to believe that all 16 personality types had equal weight before God. Maybe they do in the sense that before God "there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female," but equality of worth is not the same as equality of preference. Slaves and free are alike invited to live to the glory of God in whatever situation they find themselves, but if (as a slave) "you have the opportunity to gain your freedom," Paul said, "do it." Women, who tend mostly to be Feelers who crave affirmation, were disallowed from church leadership. So instead we get men who are Feelers and crave affirmation. The result is that our churches are "full of hypocrites" (see "Hopeless" a couple years ago) and the pastors are proud of it. One of them actually told me so (I guess I didn't blog it, I can't find it today). The point is, God favors Truth more than affirmation. We are told that "God cannot lie," but the Bible is full of God and the Prophets and Apostles (and even Jesus himself) disaffirming people. If you want God to love you, you must side with the Truth first. Jesus said so. God created all people "equal" but Thinkers are more equal than Feelers. The Feelers running the American churches don't want to believe it, but they don't read their Bibles very carefully. Truth is not as important to them as self-esteem.

Today I want to focus on a different MBTI attribute, the Judger/Perceiver distinction. Judgers tend to be control freaks. In any competition, they want to win (and make the other guy lose, which is contrary to the Second Great Commandment). They also don't like to apologize: "Don't apologize, it's a sign of weakness," is a line in several movies and novels. Perceivers are always adapting to new information, and apologizing for previous mistakes. One person actually told me I was "the sorriest person I know." I don't think the line was original with this person, I once heard something like it in a movie. It's what Perceivers do. It's not a bad thing -- even if it's a sign of weakness. The Apostle Paul bragged about being "weak." Jesus and John and Peter all told people to "Repent" (do things differently). That's a Perceiver thing, not a Judger quality.

The important thing with Judgers is that they are in control. Top executive positions in organizations everywhere are filled by Judgers, because they want to be shot-callers. Perceivers are willing to let them, so the only competition for these top positions are other Judgers. Some of the Disciples were Judgers, and they were constantly bickering about who would land the top spot. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms -- several times -- that his Kingdom was not to be run that way. The leadership should be by people who served (like slaves, as he demonstrated in one very visual example). Maybe the Twelve understood him and ran things that way, but the Reformation threw all that away. Now anybody with a dominative impulse and a little charisma can get himself the lead pastorate of a large independent church, with hundreds or thousands of people to control. Jesus would be appalled.

There will be Judgers in Heaven, but not as many as they think. There will be Feelers in Heaven, but not as many as they want to believe. Feeler-Judgers have an especially tough go of it. Virtually every senior pastor in the country is a Feeler-Judger, but I wouldn't want to be in their shoes on Judgment Day. There will be liars and thieves and sex perverts and murderers who get into Heaven ahead of them. Jesus said so. Not because the liars are still lying, but because they chose to "stop sinning." The homosexuals in Heaven will be the ones who chose to stop sinning. The control freaks in Heaven will be the ones who chose to stop sinning. It's called "repentance" and it's really hard, so hard you need God's help to pull it off. From what I can see, it won't be many of them. God isn't into forcing people, that's a Judger (or Calvinist) thing. God wants everybody to "come to repentance," but if He must force you, it's not repentance.

See also: Relationshipism (and related links)
PermaLink (with links)

2015 October 5 -- My Blind Spot

I have a blind spot. I know this because I can run an experiment to prove it.

I used to have a friend, but he seems to have a blind spot. I know this because he started claiming *I* have a blind spot -- other than the one I can prove by the optical experiment you can find on a dozen websites. All he wants to do is whine at me because my personality type is different from his. He makes all sorts of false accusations, which I can test (like that optical experiment), and the experimental results do not match his claims, but most of them are so unconnected with reality, so untestable, they are (as the atheists like to say) not even false. After a while it gets tiresome. So maybe he is lying, or maybe he is stupid (neither of which I choose to believe), or maybe he is projecting his own blind spot onto me, which is my usual interpretation of false accusations (see my "It Takes One to Know One" post 11 years ago). Or maybe (perhaps probably) he's just angry, and throwing weaponized words at me because most of the people he knows wilt under the barrage. He might actually be right, but he won't convince me by calling me a liar, he needs to come up with an experiment *I* can run that proves his point. I don't think he can. I think it's all a fantasy in his mind, with no basis in reality.

Maybe he's angry at me for not letting him (unfairly) win a few times. Some people are like that, but I don't choose them for friends. If you want to come up against me and win, you need to choose a game where we have comparable skills. Then it's a fair fight, and sometimes you will win, and sometimes I will. If you choose a game that I do very poorly at, I won't play. If you choose a game you do very poorly at, you won't win, and pretty soon I become bored also.

The Golden Rule -- Jesus called it the "Second Great Commandment" behind loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength -- invites us to pick contests where all the players have a fair chance at winning. It's even better if you can pick a game where there are no losers (except those who want to lose), but I don't know of any commercial games like that. We Americans are too competitive. In real-life business deals, win-win solutions are always preferable, because then everybody is eager to come back again tomorrow to win again. But some personality types (MBTI "J") put a premium on winning (and the other guy losing). I try not to play with those guys, in real life as in games. Do you like to lose? I don't.

Maybe I have a blind spot, and maybe in this blind spot I can't see the other guy winning (and me losing). Me, I prefer knowing what's going on. Then I can choose games and real-life transactions that are fairly matched or even win-win. If this guy doesn't like that -- well, maybe that's why he's no longer my friend. Maybe that's why he's so angry. That might be his blind spot.

See also: "Personality & Biblical Values" (and related links)

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