Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year

2018 May 22 -- Pagan Theology in Church?

I've been puzzling over this song for several days now. The chorus is Biblical: God is Good. That was intentional: the songwriter cites Psalm 136:1 and Psalm 100:5 as the Scriptural basis for his lyrics. Unfortunately, his song says a lot more than merely that God is good. When I came home from church with the words bouncing around in my head, I thought he was urging his singers to make promises they can't -- nay, don't even much want to -- keep, which is totally contrary to much of what my Bible tells me, but when I Googled the lyrics, they were different from what I remembered. Not great, but different. I don't know if our praise team changed the words, or if I remembered wrong (probably the latter).

But I didn't know what to make of the verses. "Let the King of my heart be The mountain when I run, The fountain I drink from;... The wind inside my sails,... The fire inside my veins." Maybe it's just poetic nonsense, the sort of feel-good "God loves me" that most American church members consider to be the essence of their faith but is rather harder to find in the Bible.

Or maybe the singer wants "the King of [his] heart" (that is, his god) to be parts of the creation instead of the Creator. Notice that he has cited exactly the four elements of pagan Reality: Earth (mountain), Water (fountain, waves), Air (wind), and Fire. McMillan and his followers can worship whomever they please -- Jesus is never mentioned in this song, and God only once, in the last line. But like Joshua, "Me and my house, we will serve the LORD," I want to praise and worship the Creator, not the creation [Rom.1:25].

But I don't know if that's what he meant or not, it's too obscure. What ever happened to "singing psalms and hymns and Spiritual songs"?

2018 May 16 -- Bible-Thumping Liars & Thieves

Spammers and telemarketers are mostly liars and thieves -- thieves because time is money, and they are stealing your attention (time), where even so small an increment as it takes to delete their unwanted and unlawful message adds up by orders of magnitude into dollars per day, and liars because they know they wouldn't get past the spam filters or the CallerID if they honestly told you their purpose, so the telemarketers put up a (different each time) phony phone number in the same area code, which is a lie because the number they put up isn't even connected, and the spammers put up phony subjects designed to sneak past the spam filters and to dishonestly attract your attention.

Around the turn of the year some four months ago, the service provider ("ISP") for my website decised to get out of the business and sold out to some other company with different business values than I signed up for. The last time this happened, I found and moved to another ISP, deleted all my files from their server, then asked for a refund on the service they were now unwilling and unable to provide, and not only did they refuse, they sent me up for collection on subsequent (unpaid, unused) months of service. This particular ISP was some fly-by-night company with corporate headquarters on some Caribbean island and servers (judging from the error messages and time zone) somewhere in eastern Europe, perhaps an impoverished former Communist country already raped and pillaged by the Marxists. I told the collection company that I was perfectly willing to pay the ISP for service, and I tried to pay them from my credit card as I previously did when the account was set up but they refused, and if they'd give me a USA address to mail my check to, I would pay it. I never heard from them again. I did not expect much better from this ISP, and was pleasantly surprised to see a $151 credit on my credit card statement a couple months later.

The (now former) ISP did other things right, too. I had to deal with one or two spam emails a day (some days none), so that I often wondered why other websites were so timid about exposing an email address for contact. Now I know: my spam rate jumped up to something like 60-70 per day. The new host told me his spam filters were not particularly good, and the rate he's charging me is very good, so it's not like I'm being cheated (not by him). The usual obscenities are much more devious -- because most ISP spam filters already know the words we all saw a decade ago, so they now use other words to lie their way past the robot filters, words that people can figure out, but robots (neural nets) cannot (see my essay "The Problem with 21st Century AI") -- but I'm also seeing daily promotions for manicure products and "injection moulding" and stuff that real people might buy, but that *I* would never buy from a liar or thief.

And two or three times a week, I get some spam for an ordinary product like a dietary suplement with "Bible" or "Jesus" in the subject line. There are enough atheists and Muslims and Jews on the internet so that undirected spam like this sent to everybody would result in more damage than profit to their business, and I have to believe that they have a robot scraping the internet looking for those words -- which you will see here in my blog from time to time -- and targeting unsuspecting Christians with their lies and theft. Which is rather funny in a morbid sort of way, because their spam proves they are liars and thieves and not Christians -- why would I want to buy products of any kind from so disreputable a vendor, let alone one intentionally preying on my choice of religion? -- but I guess it was another liar and thief in another time who said "There's a sucker born every day." Christians -- good believers, not merely label-carriers -- wouldn't do those kinds of things, and they find it hard to believe that there are other people more wicked than themselves, so they tend to be more gullible than the average sinner. Jesus said (of people less likely to do you harm than these spammers) "They have their reward." Indeed they do.

2018 May 15 -- Like Naaman the Leper

I'm reading this space opera series by David Drake -- I'd read the whole series (all five or six of them) up to the current year in Misery, and then went on to other stuff. That was a long time ago, and when I got to the "D"s in the sci-fi section of the Josephine County Library I no longer remembered his name -- until I read the cover blurb. I also did not remember where I left off, so I chose the earliest I could not remember seeing. There were some familiar scenes, but not enough to spoil a second reading (if that's what it was). I'm now nearing the end of #7.

David Drake is a 21st century author, and he genuflects at the altar of feminazism the way a mafioso genuflects in church: because that's what you do, but not because you believe it enough to change your behavior to conform. So the smartest and most competent people in this series are women, and the lead guy is a drunken lecher -- but only off-duty; most of the time he's the best military commander in the whole universe. Drake has seen war (in VietNam), so he understands how it works. He also reads history and admits to using historical battles as his plotlines. You can't get any better than True Life. Oh, and those super-competent over-smart women? He thumbs his nose at the feminists by making them heartless sociopaths. Actually, like many top-grade authors forced to bow to the altar they do not believe in, his computer geek is not a woman at all, except in name and pronouns.

The people who care about women's social roles are like my father's often remark: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." If the Feminazis were as smart as the people who actually succeed at the cognitive tasks they only whine about, they would notice that Drake's feminism is superficial only. How do I know they don't? Right there on the cover is a promo-quote from somebody with a female name gushing over Drake's writing. This is guy fiction, not chick-lit, so (I suppose, not being one of them) the people who are likely to be persuaded by a promo on the front cover would more likely respond to another guy. Her place there is solely because she and her ilk have not figured out what a misogynist Drake really is. And that's OK, this is guy fiction, not chick-lit.

The guys whose brains are wired up in such a way that makes them able to do geeky computer stuff, they do it; and the women who only wish they had that kind of status and respect mostly only talk about it. And yes, there is a physiological difference that makes it either possible or improbable, and yes, there is a statistical gender difference. You can read about it in research published by women, because men are not stupid, they know that publishing scientific facts contrary to the religious dogma supported by the Establishment (read: government and left-wing bigots like Google) is a good way to get crucified. For every James Damore or Robert Gentry who gets fired for telling the truth, there are a thousand more who see him and cower silently.

So David Drake is sort of like that commander in the Syrian army more than 2700 years ago, whose job required him to enter into the pagan temple on the arm of his employer and bow at the altar, but who was at pains to explain to the Prophet of the True God that it was nothing more than his job. Bravo Drake! So far, anyway. I have ten more years of RCN novels to read and (perhaps) become disgusted at. I certainly hope not, but Stuff Happens.

2018 May 10 -- No Lions Are Dandy

The locals seem to like this part of the country -- the word "oregon" is Greek for "longing" -- but I have not found much reason to prefer it over other places I have lived. Did I mention it rains here? I had enough rain as a child to last my whole lifetime, but God seems to be of the opinion that rain is a blessing which He bestows on all people whether they deserve it or not [Mt.5:45], and far be it from me to say otherwise. Rain and sunshine make the crops grow, so that I get to eat. That's a blessing. Nevermind that here in Oregon they waste the cropland on other products of no use to anyone in their right mind.

Anyway, I live in what I was told is the poorest county in the state, and (mostly because of that wasted cropland) in a house costing twice what a much bigger and nicer house in the State of Misery sells for, with a front yard smaller than the house, but the rains make it grow. Just not grass. My program seems to be running -- I only await a piece of hardware to run the final test, and the hardware guy has other alligators around his waist -- so I decided to level off the foliage in the front yard before poisoning some of God's green earth so that I could encourage other green stuff to grow in its place, but I couldn't start the mower.

There's a time when a pick and shovel is better than a Bobcat (see my essay "Computer Power" from a couple months ago) and this seemed to be one of them, so I spent the next couple hours making sure no lions in my front yard are dandy. Maybe some of them are still spiffy, the weed poison should take care of that when my tuits start coming up round again. Basically I dug out all the yellow flowers, and all the tall plants likely to sprout yellow flowers... Apparently dandelions come in three flavors, tall spiney blue-gray and flat yellow-green, which can be either spiney or smooth, but all of them have a characteristic lobed leaf with one wider lobe at the end, and several smaller lobes up the sides.

The back yard, which is smaller, is filled with volunteer poppies, mostly the California variety -- about half of them orange all over and the other half yellow with orange centers. Later last year I got taller pink and blue poppies, the kind that make little pepper-shaker seed pods. It was a riot of color.

Anyway, today was an effort for a sedentary guy like me, and I lost a couple pounds in as many hours. Tomorrow I may become a Norse god -- you've heard the story? He was out riding around on his white stallion, throwing thunderbolts and such, and after a successful day say up straight and pounded his chest and yelled "I'm Thor!" The horse looks up at him and says, "Tho am I." Me too. Not yet, maybe tomorrow.

2018 May 7 -- Women Are Different from Men

Nevermind what the clerics of the Established American National religion and their acolytes try to tell you, everybody knows -- and almost everybody (openly or covertly) admits that men and women are fundamentally different, and not just in their reproductive organs. It was a pretty good flick, good suspense, no sex that I can recall, not much gutter talk, and sometimes in otherwise good movies you just need to ignore the fact that the lead character is a woman, because mostly she's playing a guy, not a woman. The director understood that and said so. I think he said the story was originally written for a guy, but they thought it would be "different" if a woman played the part. His lead cop, telling another person (and us) why this particular incident was not a suicide, said "Women don't shoot themselves in the head." What he didn't say is that the feminazis who were his superiors (and in court) deny any differences. That wasn't important to the story, but it follows from what he did say. The director is not feminazi, but he also doesn't want to annoy some of his potential audience -- possibly including his lead actress -- who might be.

The actress Jodie Foster offered her opinions on the character she played, "What she did was Wrong." Well, maybe in a Christian world (that is, as governed by God's Law, not necessarily the kind of world populated by people who call themselves "Christian") where self-defense is deprecated, yes, but most people (myself and the Mennonites possibly excepted) believe that self-defense is a right, and that right is enshrined in the law of this land. The director called is "a revenge movie," but you couldn't know it before the last 20 minutes. She bought and used her gun for self-defense only, when her life was clearly being threatened by Bad Guys trying to assault and/or kill her. (If the victim dies, and certainly in God's Law) revenge is murder, I do not condone it, and I don't really like revenge flicks. I said so at least once here. But like I said, there was hardly a hint of it until the last 20 minutes or so. I am much more annoyed by flicks that spend most of their screen time in bodies grunting in bed (also contrary to God's Law) or foul language (ditto) or the feminazi agenda (probably also, but more arguably).

Besides, when the people God has put into place to punish the wicked and protect the widows and orphans fail to do their job, God will raise up somebody who does. They made that point several times in this flick -- not the God part, but everything else. Jodie's character wasn't a widow -- she missed that by a couple days, I think he was stalling (guys do that, not women) -- but there was an orphan who needed protecting, and the government wasn't doing it. She did. I don't think God condones vigilantism, but He's not above using it for His purposes (think of what He said about "Nebuchadnezzar my servant").

This flick was not feminazi: the cops were all guys, and the one we saw most was reasonably competent. Jodie's character's job was a radio talk show (and her immediate boss was a woman), but those are things women are known to be good at. The director wasn't saying "We need to show all the smart people are women," -- Jodie's character wasn't the sharpest tack in the box -- he was just doing what all modern artists believe to be their God-given duty, which is to jerk the audience around. I don't much care for it, but there are worse things in the world -- like getting your boyfriend beaten to death before your eyes.

2018 May 5 -- Writing What They Don't Know

Imagine, if you can, a universe where there is no (first) cause, everything just sort of happens by accident and random "quantum" fluctuations -- and yet in this mythical universe there actually are inviolate laws of nature, things that must or cannot just happen. There really are people who believe this nonsense, so just suppose you might be one of them. Furthermore, stretch your imagination to suppose that in this mythical universe, there are some foolish people who (against all reason -- is there such a thing?) believe that there really is a First Cause Who controls the universe. You are not one of them, but there are a lot of them.

Now if you are a novelist, and you make your living selling plausible (but fiction) stories about those inviolate laws of nature in a universe which just happened out of nothing for no reason, and in which your readers and even yourself "evolved" by random chance by no laws of nature that can be observed nor measured, but there you all are, and they buy your books so you can eat and pay your mortgage. So writing a story about the kind of world the majority of foolish people believe in, a story about a God Who can do anything He wants to with nature and its laws, because He created it, it sort of makes sense to explore what kind of world that would be. It's fiction, no sensible person believes that kind of thing could really happen, but there are a lot of foolish people who really do believe it, so let's see what kind of world that might be.

The people I just described are called "sci-fi novelists" and they really do imagine, against all sound logic, that they live in the universe you just imagined, a universe which the more honest of them readily admit makes no sense at all but there it is, and they did put out a book about what they imagined a world would be like if there really were a God Who could -- and did -- violate the laws of physics for one day, as a "Sign" in The Day the Sun Stood Still, three novellas by three different authors, all essentially the same, bound up in one volume. Because they cannot bring themselves to imagine there really existing a God Who can do those kinds of things, all three stories are somewhat incoherent, filled with crazy religious bigots going crazy and destroying civilization. The first story was plausible, but I gave up reading the other two, they were too incoherent. The authors were trying to write about something they neither know nor care about.

In a universe that does have inviolate laws of nature, of course such a universe cannot just happen, some kind of First Cause needs to overcome those laws to cause the universe to exist -- unless it had no beginning, but the scientific law of Entropy put an end to that silly idea -- Somebody needs to wind up the cosmic clock that is currently running down. And if God can do that, of course He can do anything else He wants to outside the laws of nature, including miracles (violations of those laws within the universe) if He wants to. Maybe He listens to us puny humans, and maybe not -- you must look at the evidence to determine that, just as you must look at the evidence (entropy) to determine that there must be a Creator God -- but if He does, and if one person requests a serious violation of nature like stopping the sun in the sky "for a whole day," and if God chose to do it... Well, He did, but it was not for a "Sign," but only so the battle could finish in one day. In other words, this God is quite reasonable. Duh.

God did give us a Sign, but you must want to believe it. If you don't want God telling you what to do, then He won't force Himself on you -- I mean He could, if He wanted to, you have to look at the evidence again -- but God doesn't seem to be much interested in robots with no free will, yet in Heaven (no evidence, some things you must choose to believe because God said so and the evidence shows that He does not lie) Heaven wouldn't be Heaven if people were being cruel to each other, so God necessarily must exclude the people who don't want to behave. That excludes a lot of people who think they are Christians, but who don't want to be Good. It also excludes a lot of other religions that do not teach people to be Good. God gets to decide, not you or me. The most we can do is look at the evidence.

The Sign is the Resurrection. If you want to be good enough for Heaven -- God decides who is, not you or I -- that's the way you let God know you want it. God said so: "If you confess Jesus as LORD (Creator of the universe with the right to say what happens in it) and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." [Rom.10:9] That's the only Sign you get. The evidence is there, but if you want to argue about it, you probably don't want God or Jesus telling you what to do anyway. You have that right, just not in Heaven. It's more complicated than that, but not a lot.


2018 April 30 -- Journalistic Innumeracy

The cover story breathlessly reports the financial disaster that is Puerto Rico. It's not the hurricane's fault, they were in trouble before Maria hit -- and it's not the fault of a stingy Federal government, but rather like everywhere else in the world -- Protestant (not Catholic) Christians only slightly excepted -- people are greedy liars and thieves. Heavily Protestant countries in Europe are in much better shape financially than the Catholic countries. "Blue states" in the USA, where the left-wing bigot state governments were the first to force the Christian religion out of the public view, are in worse shape than those states where there is still a lingering Protestant work ethic. Puerto Rico, like most of Catholic-dominated Latin America, never had it. And the idiot Congress, largely elected from states where residual Christian charity overwhelms common sense, kept feeding the Puerto Rican greed to the point that they now expect it to continue and expand. Guess what? The real world doesn't work that way. Not in Greece, not in Venezuela, and not in Puerto Rico.

No news there. Like post-Christian Americans everywhere, the guilt-driven productive family members will continue to prop up the drunken black sheep of the family until somebody says "Enough!" and cuts the sucker loose. No news there.

What caught my attention is the reporting in this magazine that presents itself as a "Biblical" perspective on the news. Nobody does much news anymore, they all assume you got it from the TV or the internet or something. The print media offer opinions instead. I don't need more opinions, I have plenty of my own. But there are little bits and snatches of news.

Before Maria, PREPA -- the Puerto Rican government's electric power authority -- was already more than $9 billion in debt, even though it had so underinvested that its power plants had a median age of 44 years, compared with an average age [in the continental US] of 18 years.
I think what the editor wanted readers to take away from this is that the $9B in debt was due to government corruption, not capital investment, and perhaps it is so, but the numbers he offered do not tell us that, because he's comparing apples to oranges. If a large number of Puerto Rico's older power plants are all the same age, then the median age will come out much higher than the average.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine that Puerto Rico has exactly two power plants, one 44 years old, and the other an unfinished nuke that is still looking forward to eight more years of government regulatory delays, so its "age" for this calculation is -8. Half of the power plants are 44 years old -- that's the median -- but the average is calculated by adding up all the ages and dividing by the number of ages, in this case (44-8)/2 = 18, the same average as the continental USA. However, nobody actually counts negative ages when figuring averages and medians, so the average is necessarily at least half the median (22 years); perhaps the actual average power plant age there is less than 25% more than the rest of the country, but we'd never know, because the report is a lie! Or at least innumerate.

I brought this to the editor's attention, and he responded, but his attitude seems to be that details don't matter, it's the big things that count -- he said that explicitly five years ago (see "A Case Study in Moral Ambiguity"), not this time; perhaps he is merely too busy to be bothered, but it amounts to the same thing -- anyway, it seems to me that the big deceptions are made up of little deceptions. An important component of my "BS Detector" is that anybody willing to lie to you once is willing to lie to you again (unless they repent). As a result, I can never trust anything this guy says in his magazine. He has not repented. You expect that from the pagan publishers who have no moral compass, but I keep getting disappointed in what the Christians do to me.

2018 April 28 -- Artificial Immortality

I brought three books home from the library last week, but one of them was a page-turner I read in a single night -- I like such stories, but they are counter-productive: the book is supposed to make me sleepy, not deprive me -- another was a forgetable story that I obviously forgot... The result was that I ran out of books before a late trip back to the library. The next trip to the library gets four books. Or five. So here I am, catching up on back issues of WIRED magazine: just exactly the kind of sci-fi I was hoping for bedtime reading, pseudo-accurate science and otherwise forgetable.

Except this cover boldly announces "A son's quest to give his father eternal life." When you read the story, it's nothing of the sort -- well, maybe to an atheist pseudo-scientist, it might be the only "eternal life" available to him, a memory lasting longer than the funeral. It's not a theme new to WIRED, a few years ago they reported on efforts to make a robot to capture and preserve a person's consciousness. I couldn't find a specific reference to that article, but "Kurzweil Is (Partly) Right" in 2005 and "Brain Dead" eight years later both carry most of the same idea. The earlier stories were hopeful wish puff pieces, this one is a somewhat more realistic description of what somebody actually did.

Eternal life it isn't. It's not even a robot that carries on the deceased's consciousness. It's just a souped-up version of Weizenbaum's Eliza program, which putatively passed the Turing Test back in the early years of personal computing by duping unsuspecting people into thinking they were conversing with a human, not a computer. The author in this case holds no such illusions, all he's trying to do is have the memory of his dying father survive a little longer than would be possible by people reading 200 pages of transcript from some three months of audio recording of his father's remeniscing. He even admits that much of the program's apparent personality is likely to be his own as programmer, though he conscientiously tries to avoid it. You type into the computer a question or comment, and if the programmer thought to have his software recognize some key word in your remark, then a piece of his father's recorded and transcribed thoughts will be typed back at you. Otherwise it says something random and not overly stupid. That's what Eliza did. This is a commercial version of the program, which gives non-programmers like the author the ability to customize the scripts. That's all it is, just preprogrammed scripts, not even very intelligent, and certainly not enough "alive" as to qualify for "immortality" as a substitute for the old man dying.

The lengths people go to fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts.

2018 April 20 -- People Who Look Like Me

"It's important that the stories of people of African descent be told by people who look like me" -- Jeremy Houston
I have no idea who Jeremy Houston is, and for two months this quote, which has been sitting open on my desk area, made no sense to me. It still makes no sense (to me) why a guy with dreadlocks should tell a different story than a bald guy, but it's a racist comment, and people who should most wish racism to go away believe it.

This week I'm reading the next sci-fi novel I pulled off the library shelf last week, and while it isn't the best story I ever read, it certainly isn't the worst. But somewhere around page 200 it took a significant down-turn when I realized this is another feminazi propaganda piece. Feminazis, like the racists who decry racism, want to believe that all the smart people are women and that men are only oversexed idiots and drunkards, so that's how they write their stories. They want to believe that telling The Big Lie often enough will make it so -- and it does! The women don't get any smarter (probably less so) but American men are becoming oversexed idiots and drunkards with the result that the whole economy goes to Hades in the proverbial handbasket. This particular story has less sex than the average, but he makes up for it in drunken stupidity. Stupid is not entertaining. So when my eye alighted on this pull-quote in a magazine article I couldn't bring myself to finish reading two months ago, I finally think I understood.

I read fiction in general, and sci-fi in particular, as a way to relax and take my mind off the hard thinking that is my day job, but fantasy (wildly in violation of what the Real World is like) doesn't do that. Feminazi drivel is fantasy, so utterly unlike the world I live in or ever could live in, that it's no more fun to read than Mein Kampf (whence the derogatory label, which although I didn't invent it, it really is accurate).

Apart from the anti-hero, this novel has a great story line and (other than two or three minor mistakes) not bad science, but it should have been done better: the author imagines that if aliens came from outer space, they would be so far ahead of us technologically as to turn our technology into the relative equivalent of bone trinkets and voodoo dolls made by aborigines when first encountered by civilization. That's not exactly a spoiler, he announces the theme very early in the story, but you don't want to waste your time on this drivel anyway. If the first-person hero CEO had stayed as smart as he made himself out to be at the beginning, it would have been a great read. C'mon guys, sci-fi is a guy genre, so (like Jeremy Houston) write for us. If you want to make your women into Amazons, call it fantasy or chick-lit or religion. Oh wait, the author blurb on the back flap portrays him as a "fantasy" writer. sigh I should have read the back flap in the library.

In the last few pages, his hero got smarter and richer and basically saved the entire earth economy, so it wasn't a complete bust. But I doubt I will ever take another of his books home from the library, let alone contribute to the author's wealth by buying any. I want to read about people who think -- not just look -- like me. Maybe that's what Jeremy Houston really meant. I don't care about looks, and he shouldn't either. It's what you do with what God gave you that counts.

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