Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year / Later this year

2018 August 29 -- "Digital Sages"

With all the mainstream media far off the political left edge (including WIRED, as you recall from earlier posts this month, frex "Spreading Lies Over Truth") it's hard to find anybody telling things how they are. ChristianityToday usually avoids politics, but -- except for science, see "Christianity [Yesterday]" -- they aim for balance. WORLD magazine is unashamed conservative, and they used to do more news, but now mostly they fill their pages with feel-good stuff hardly worth reading. Last week was an exception: there really are some public voices other than the BigBrother pablum of the lefties.

The article featured three "public intellectuals" influencing their listeners in a wholesome direction, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and Dennis Prager. Two of these guys are observant Jews, the other unspecified but apparently a "none." Why are there no Christians? Have we so totally lost our grip on reality? If you listen to what gets said in most churches, you'd think so.

The article mentions an ordinary person angry at her brother for suggesting that the gender wage gap isn't sexist, but then she heard

Peterson explain the many variables such as personality, interests and skills that lead to wage gap... [and] outline the biological and psychological differences between men and women using history, psychoanalysis, neuropsychology, and storytelling. [p.51, Aug.18]
It doesn't really require a Canadian college professor to see the data clearly, does it? Oh wait, if you say those kinds of things in the USA, you get fired. Just ask James Damore. This seems about as good a way for the USA to lose our superpower status as any, and considering that we aren't mentioned in the end-times roundup (read the last book of the Bible: no USA, no western nations at all), that must be what happens.

Shapiro, we are told, "presents other people's arguments against his own views, then explains why he disagrees with them." Only people who know they are on the winning side (and why) can afford to do that, everybody else knows they cannot defend their own opinions. Recall that was the main reason WIRED magazine convinced me earlier this month that so-called "Net Neutrality" isn't.

Prager wants to convince people that "the Torah [is] the greatest repository of goodness and wisdom in human history." Jesus didn't use exactly those words, but he certainly held that opinion; I think more Christians would do well to follow Jesus onto the same bandwagon. We still need Jesus in our lives to make it happen, but we should listen to what he said if we want to claim honestly that "Jesus is LORD."

This article concludes that "all three share a common message: Traditional values exist for a reason. We cannot invent our own values, and we [attempt to] do so at our own peril." I don't normally offer links to encrypted websites, but if you (or your browser) know the secret password, you should read it.

2018 August 27 -- BAR Commits Suicide

Y'all know I read Biblical Archeology Review (BAR, no link: like all the other foolish lemmings on the internet, their website is now encrypted and no longer open to the public, see "Is This Website Unsafe?"). Well, perhaps I will not be reading BAR much longer... The founding editor Hershel Shanks retired at 87 a few months ago, and his chosen replacement, Robert Cargill,  announced in the current issue "The Importance of Archeological Provenance." Provenance is important, partly because all the really interesting stuff is unprovenanced (not from authentic academic digs, so scholars must work harder to establish its importance). Hershel Shanks gave faint obeisance to the academic political correctness, then published the good stuff. It was great. Cargill wants to turn all that off. They probably won't print my letter, but I hope you might read my thoughts:
I don't remember when I started reading BAR, but it had to have been 35 years ago or more, because I clearly remember one of the highlights of my 1984 visit to Israel was the search for "the high place of Dan," which I'd previously read about in the pages of BAR. I never actually identified the high place, but I knew I was at the right place when I found the monumental [city] gate, which was part of the same dig. I no longer remember much about the Tell-Dan dig article, but little is so vivid in my memory as the BAR cover image of the James ossuary. Maybe the ivory pomegranate comes close.

Through the years I often admired the nimble fingers Hershel Shanks kept on the pulse of his readers -- and said so several times in letters BAR chose not to print -- but your reader Mathisen said it better than I can:

Hershel Shanks and BAR have focused on seeking and sharing archaeological truth and letting the chips fall where they may. -- p.10 in Sept/Oct 2018

So often a shining light in publication -- novelist Tom Clancy and cartoonist Mort Walker come readily to mind -- leaves his life work to somebody else who is unable to fill his predecessor's shoes, and when Hershel announced his retirement, I wondered how long it would be before the new BAR editor abandons the Shanks legacy. I see I didn't have long to wait.

Make no mistake: Most, probably all of BAR's stunning publication scoops over the years were of unprovenanced artifacts. Cargill has now told us his readers that he prefers to kow-tow to special interests and political correctness against informing the readers, and there will never again be another James ossuary or ivory pomegranate or Dead Sea scrolls in the pages that made BAR great. It's a crying shame. It's what distinguished BAR from the competing ("less widely read") archaeology magazines.

I won't cancel my subscription, but I will carefully scrutinize the previous year each time I need to decide whether to renew. Perhaps Cargill will find some other way to rescue BAR from this unmitigated disaster, or (better) he will reassert the primacy of BAR readers and retract his ill-considered announcement; I will be watching for whichever it is.

I do not condone lying and stealing (including looting), but your readers are more important* than the academic special interests. You need to print not only what the scholars deign to release from the opaque clouds of Mt. Olympus, but also what we paying subscribers want to read about. Hershel Shanks knew what that was, and Robert Cargill needs to learn at the feet of the master, and "let the chips fall where they may."

Tom Pittman PhD

* The most important job in any person's job is to still have the job at the end of the day. When your readers go away, BAR goes the way of Bible Review. Besides archaeology, Shanks was interested in silly (recent) academic opinions about the Bible, but we (readers) were and still are interested in Biblical archaeology. Guess which periodical survived and grew?

2018 August 21 -- Asimov's Religion

It's a sci-fi anthology edited by Isaac Asimov (and a couple names I can't remember seeing before), but the librarian for some reason catalogued it as author "Great" (the first word in the title). The stories were mostly written in the 40s, and the science (mostly atomic) is stale. Perhaps Asimov picked forgettable stories so as not to outshine his own contribution, which probably belonged in his Foundation trilogy.

I read the Foundation series at least once, and that recently enough to remember disliking it, but I cannot remember why. Mostly I like Asimov stories, they tend to be upbeat, science-can-do-no-ill themes, probably closer to the "science/alien as redeemer" theme that I read about in ChristianityToday some nine years ago (see "Sci-Fi Redemption"), and I see I mentioned disliking Foundation for that reason. Anyway, I got into this novella, and remembered (or re-ignited) another piece of my disgust over Foundation, because Asimov's personal atheism uncharacteristically shines through rather cearly. The Bad Guys in this story are the charlatan religious leaders, and the Good Guys -- this is theologically significant in ways Asimov himself would have denied -- the Good Guys are commerce (traders).

Why is this important? Because that is the number 666, a harbinger of the End of Time. The Apostle John's psychedelic dream gives that number to the AntiChrist, but most or all of the symbology in his Apocalypse are direct referents to other parts of Scripture, where the reader is expected to find out what this symbol means, and the number 666 is no exception: it refers back to the wealthiest nation of all time (modern USA possibly excepted), and 666 is the number of talents of gold that came into Solomon's kingdom in one year. It represents the profits of commerce at a time when wealth was so vast they had run-away inflation. Similarly, archaeology shows that commerce is what replaced God in the minds of the so-called "lost Ten Tribes" of the northern kingdom of Israel before God dispersed them across the face of the earth, never to be seen again. And commerce is what is replacing God in America today: just try to buy or sell anything without the bank's approval!

I recently read of the problems the pot growers are having with their profits, because the Feds do not permit the banks to handle their money, so the growers and vendors must carry cash to the Federal buildings in their respective state capitals to pay their income taxes. One grower reportedly carried in a huge sack of dimes in retaliation. The article I read that in predicts the Federal law to change within a year.

Anyway, Asimov's story is set in the distant future, and he makes no mention of Biblical themes like 666, nor even redemption and grace. Sort of what you'd expect from an atheist Jew, but it shows he cannot escape the stereotype. His Robot novels are much more universal, because they mostly ignore religion.

I never met a non-Christian -- especially atheists -- who didn't have far more faith in their own religion -- defined as believing what they "know" to be true, despite contrary evidence, see "The Nature of Religion" last month -- than I have in mine. OK, there are some things I take on faith, like "God is Good," for which the evidence is a little ambiguous, but mostly I am held here by the facts and good sound logic (see my essay "What's Really Important"). The atheists and the materialists don't dare look at the facts. I think a lot of "Christians" don't either. They will be surprised on Judgment Day (Jesus said so).

I finished the book, and most of the stories suffered from the nihilism of the Cold War, I guess I didn't previously realize that the atomic bombs over Japan probably started people thinking in that direction, but here in one volume were a half-dozen stories that combined reference to "atomic" science with a terminal case of nihilism. The last story was the capstone, where the robots took over the earth by enforcing their Prime Directive: neither to harm humans, nor by inaction to fail to prevent harm (not all that different from Asimov's "First Law of Robotics"). I was waiting for the author through his hero to blurt out "You have destroyed my life and the lives of the humans I love by removing everything that makes life worth living. You kill your subjects and replace them with zombies -- dead people that still move about with meaningless silly smiles -- and thus you have failed at your Prime Directive. You can kill me too and replace who I am with another zombie, but you will know that you have failed at your Prime Directive. Frontal lobotomy may silence the dissent, but it cannot silence the truth. YOU will always know that you have failed at your Prime Directive." But the story was written during a nihilist era when (it was supposed by all authors) there were no true heroes to act heroically, only zombies silently marching off to the grave. sigh

2018 August 16 -- CO2 Cooling

It was a nice day, the sun was shining but largely obscured by a thick layer of genuine 100% pure organic Oregon smog, so not too hot. As everybody (except the left-wing politicians and their bought-and-paid-for pseudo-scientist political lapdogs) knows, carbon in the air cools the temperature, not warming. I walked to the Post Office to get my mail, about a mile each way. I was a little warm when I got home, but nothing a cool shower and standing in front of the fan a few minutes couldn't fix. The house isn't even hot enough to justify turning the air conditioning on, way cooler than the 80 degrees the university heated the dorms up to (see "Preferring Lies Over Truth" last week). Oregon has a lot of trees to burn, it keeps things cool here on the far side of the state from Portland. If it's too hot where you live, try burning some carbon ;-)

2018 August 11 -- Was It Fun?

It's over, and I'm back working on my own computer, the fast 20-year-old model that is not castrated (eunuchs). Yesterday the kids made a reasonably good presentation (link TBA). The car (finally) ran around the track and stopped at the in-scale stop sign -- and sometimes also for a red chair or T-shirt in the distance.

The director keeps asking me, "Tom, are you having fun?" For me, "fun" is making the world a better place (which is not my line, but it captures some of what I call the Second Great Commandment ("2C") as taught by Jesus and Moses and the Apostle Paul and the Prophets of Olde), particularly when I can do that in some way unique to my own God-given gifts. Yesterday separately before and after the presentation, two parents came up to me and gushed over what I was doing for their respective sons. They weren't there when it was happening, they saw the effects in the kid. That counts as making the world a better place, and yes, I had more fun this year than last year. Last year I provided a modest amount of direction, and in the final presentation the kids knocked it out of the park. This year I was more active when they were working (because they wanted it), and the effect (to me) was more visceral and satisfying. You can see some of that in the promo video, including a lot of footage of my simulator at work. Programming is more fun (for me) when it gets used, which means people found it useful and I succeeded at 2C. It's been a while since I last had this kind of success.

2018 August 8 -- Preferring Lies Over Truth

Portland isn't the wickedest city in the USA -- it's hard to beat San Francisco for that -- but it's got to be in the top five or ten. It's still here because there are more than ten righteous people here (50+ showed up in one church last Sunday, and there are other churches), but Portland is the only city in the whole USA with a fatal anti-Trump riot. You didn't even hear about the anti-Obama riots, partly because all the big media are left-wing bigots who wanted Obama to win, so they would never hint that the half of the country who thought otherwise would be worth reporting on, but mostly because that half of the country is more civilized and democratic -- small 'd', meaning they are willing for everybody to have their say and vote, even if they disagree, whereas the other half believe in jack-boot coercion when the people disagree, which is why their riots kill people, the way it happens in third-world nations in Africa and south Asia, and now also in post-Christian countries like France.

Does that sound cynical? Yeah, probably it is. If the people in Portland had their way, Oregon would be a third-world country too. Portland State University is a government owned and run institution. They represent the will of the (blue-state) people. You can tell by all the red slogan posters like they have in China and used to have in the (now former) Soviet Union. Except the posters here aren't solid red, they are electronic displays, so it's harder to tell it's Big Brother's work. But the slogans are definitely leftist.

The management decided to save money by turning the dorm thermostats up to 80 during the heat wave. They can do that, because socialist (nations and) institutions have no accountability, it's like there are no rules, they can do anything they want, because who's to say it can't work? Being post-Christian, they also get to lie about it, because likewise. For them it's a no-brainer. So they switch off their brains. When the nights cool to 65 degrees, the heaters kick in, heating the dorms up to the 80 degrees the thermostats are set to. 80 is just barely tolerable, nobody dies of heat prostration, so nobody gets fired or goes to jail. Also, it puts the lie to political crock about global warming. They don't care about carbon any more than the right-wingers do, it's just a political excuse to tax and spend. Turning the heat up actually helps their deception.

But they cannot say that out loud because Portland is a leftist state, where if you don't get your way, you throw a tantrum like an bratty 3-year-old. So when I asked about the cooling, the student in charge of the service desk went and asked her supervisor, who told her to lie to me, "There's no A/C, they just pump in air from the outside." Unlike the students, I have a thermometer, and the hall temperature never varied more than a single degree away from 80, up or down, 24/7 for the whole three weeks. The first week it was set to a chilly 65 or 70, so it was only too obvious when they turned the thermostat up. There's no way that the inside temperature can stay that close to 80 degrees day and night without mechanical control, when the outside temp at night is 65 and the day temps are in the 90s. A defender tried to convince me that they could be capturing the cool night air and using it to cool the halls during the day -- and presumably also capturing the heat from the day air to heat the halls at night -- but to do that and maintain an unwavering inside temperature would require more technology (a heat pump, which is effectively an A/C) and cost more energy than the simple HVAC everybody uses. Sometimes believing it was a lie takes less faith than believing they are merely incompetent.

As Virginia Heffernan told us, "humans decisively prefer to spread lies over truth."

Postscript, After I wrote this item and got back to the room, I learned that they'd turned the thermostat down again (to 75) for my last night there. Perhaps Somebody Important is arriving this weekend. I'm a nobody.

I also picked up on my way out of the classroom and office building where we hold our sessions, a copy of the (apparently freebie) Willamette Week tabloid. The front page proudly announced "War Zone" over a full-page picture of cops in riot gear spraying some pink gas in front of them. Inside I learned that I'm not the only one to hold such a high opinion of Portland, the tabloid blamed an out-state political group "Patriot Prayer" for being the right-wing half of the fracas. They also had negative things to say about Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son and heir) who (so they said) is making disparaging (but IMHO probably true) remarks about Oregon. The tabloid is definitely leftist, catering to the locals who are likewise.

2018 August 7 -- Raging Against God

It's almost comical, in a sad sort of way, to watch the government-funded religious establishment (see "The Nature of Religion") trying to rectify the alleged inequities perpetrated by those evil Christians. Of course their perspective is based on historical ignorance: the gender differential in employment long predated the invention of Christianity, and it was in fact the Christians (and nobody else, ever) who introduced into the world culture the notion of gender and racial equality.

So here I am sitting in the room where the kids (all guys, all self-selected) are working away at making their car-driving code faster so the car does not run off the road when they try to speed it up. As I came in through the front door, there were these paper signs taped to the walls directing the "ChickTech" participants to a room some distance past ours. I guess yesterday was the first day of the program, and several clusters of girls noisily came down the hall, basically all of them talking at once. You could hear them all the way up and down the hall. The guys who came into the APW program (both here and the first-year kids across the hall) are much more subdued, hardly any talking.

So I ask myself, What makes the clergy of the establishment religion so sure that recruitment is all it takes to get more girls into technology? Recent stats show that girls going into technology is down from a high several years ago. Didn't it ever occur to the leaders that the girls are self-selecting themselves out because (unlike the guys) it's not "fun"? The guys are here in the APW program because it is fun. There's a lot of talk in this room right this minute as I write this but they are talking about the technology. They do not all talk at once, because it's important to listen in order to accomplish their goals; when girls talk all at once, the content is irrelevant, they are just affirming each other. This is not a cultural thing, it's inherent in their DNA.

Coercive atheist regimes, when they have been in power for several generations, generally achieve a maximum penetration of 30% women in technology. This is consistent with the inherent distribution of Feelers and Thinkers across genders. James Damore got fired for noticing such objective data, but Google can't fire me. The worst they can do (now that Net Neutrality is gone) is deprecate/restrict my data -- which I think they already do.

2018 August 6 -- "Net Neutrality" Isn't

Now that the leftist political rag which formerly aimed itself at digital wannabes has openly admitted their editorial policy is to "decisively prefer to spread lies over truth," it takes a little effort (not a lot) to demythologize their political rants against Trump and his government. Take f'rinstance their no-prisoners napalm attack on the new FCC chairman in the May issue this year. By the end of the article I think they began to realize that their tactics were backfiring.

If they want to give their opinions credibility to thinking people like me, they need to show that they have considered all sides of the issue, and this is why theirs is better. Instead they offered no better reason that that the party falsely called "Democrat" favors it as justification for the Republicans to oppose it. Did you get that? They think the Reps oppose neutrality solely because the Dems favor it. If they think it's only a political issue, then I will accept their self-analysis (confession) as the best reason for favoring the President's action. In particular, any idea whose proponents can muster no better reason than ad hominem insults and bigoted racial death threats does not deserve a place in America -- nor yet in the world. I'm guessing that the reason they didn't mention the Republican arguments against net neutrality is that they are better than the leftist arguments for it. That's good enough for me.

When Muslim jihadists cover their faces in shame at their own unholy behavior (and the children raised in that religion dance in the streets at the slaughter of innocent women and children in New York), that is prima facie evidence that they have no better nor more logical arguments to offer. Six months ago I thought "net neutrality" sounded like a good idea, but WIRED magazine convinced me otherwise. Thank you.

For about five minutes after reading this smear piece I considered cancelling my subscription, but then I realized this is a wonderful no-think way to identify political issues I can oppose, just like when TIME panned a movie, I knew it had to be worth watching (see "WebTV").

2018 August 4 -- Consequences of Taking the Bible Out of Schools

With a woman like Virginia Heffernan at the editorial helm of the leftist political rag that formerly aimed itself at digital wannabes, it's easy to see how a sizable part of their politicking is feminazi (and it is)...

It seems to me that the feminists have run afoul of Genesis 3:16. It's hard to know what things were like before the Fall -- basically, it wasn't a problem that needed talking about -- but as part of the Curse, men would "dominate" women. That's still true today, just ask any genetic female trying to compete in women's athletics against "self-identified" (genetic males). The disadvantage is every bit as unfair as if they were doped up on testosterone (which they are, but naturally). All through history everybody has known this, until a few decades ago when people started throwing off accepting the nature that God gave them.

It wouldn't be a problem, except that for some 2000 years the Christians have been teaching men to respect and protect "the weaker sex" and especially in the early USA and northern Europe where Christian values were taught in the schools, people accepted the teaching and women became safe to walk alone after dark. But starting in the 1950s, the Established Religion of this country now forbids teaching generic moral values (such as found in any religion), so the kids (now adults) no longer believe that women need the protection of men, so guess what? It's no longer safe for women to walk alone in the dark. The safety of women comes in the same package that tells people the do's and don'ts of morality; you can't have one without the other.

I personally do not condone violence against women -- my religion specifically forbids it -- but if you do not want me legislating my morality on other people of differing religions, then you will bear the consequences of your choices, I cannot protect you from the people you chose not to "train up [as] a child in the way he should go, [so that] when he is old he will not depart from it." Yes, that's in the Bible.

The same destruction of Christian values affects not only women, but everybody. I'm here in Portland for a 4-week summer program. Portland, you will recall, is the only city in the USA where the post-election anti-Trump riots were fatal. It appears that the riots have not stopped. My sister texted me today and said she saw the news and was I OK? I Googled news, and the only Portland item sent me off to a Twitter feed, in which various unprovenanced postings complained about "fake news at CNN" and "Antifa are terrorists," mostly stuff like that. There were some pictures of people in an open park-like area, about as exciting as a baseball game (people mostly standing around doing nothing). No park near here. I guess my sister was watching CNN. I don't and wouldn't. I did for a while 16 years ago when I was teaching, but the leftist bigotry was too much for me.

I asked my host about it, and he said "Oh yeah, it happens every year, right-wing people express their free speech by carrying around AK47s and the police tell them if they shoot anything they will be arrested. And then the left-wing people come out and express their free speech by carrying chains and the police tell them if they hit anything they will be arrested. And mostly the police try to keep the two groups apart." A century ago, before they took the Bible out of American schools, stuff like this only happened in third-world countries like Africa and France (but the rioters there only had rocks and Molotov cocktails to throw, not guns to shoot). The Portland church I will go to tomorrow seats maybe 500+, but only 50 show up on a Sunday. You get what you pay for, and Portland is much farther into the anti-Christian third-world mentality than the Bible Belt where I spent the previous 15 years. It's all going that way, a necessary consequence of the government-enforced anti-Christian Established religion.

2018 August 3 -- Spreading Lies Over Truth

Virginia Heffernan seems to be the public voice -- they used to call such people "editor" -- of the magazine formerly aimed at digital tech wannabes, but now seems to be little more than a political screed against the half of the country who disliked Obama as much as she dislikes Trump, but who had more important things to do with their lives than whine about politics. When I was in school, my father told me (probably on more than one occasion) "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," and I tend to understand writing of all kinds to be a form of teaching. And yes, I write more now than I used to -- probably because (with one exception) the people paying for services of the sort I can deliver do not seem to think very highly of my abilities. There's an objective test for that: they won't pay for what they don't believe.

As I was saying, she seems to occupy the place of prominence (first text = editorial) in many or most issues. Her contribution to the issue painting the other political side as "hate speech" was the capstone final summary position. Anyway, her May political editorial concluded with a rather telling remark (attributed to some MIT study) "that bots have equanimity when it comes to contested stories, while humans decisively prefer to spread lies over truth." In the light of her prior rants, I thought it a remarkable confession. Which does not lead smart people to put much confidence in her comments a couple months earlier, where...

Her editorial in March offers an opinion on technology as a religion. Of course she has no idea what to do with it, because (like pretty much everybody else in this country) she believes that "Religion is believing what you know ain't so" (not her words, see "The Nature of Religion") -- meaning that religion is defined to be about God, and everybody knows there is no such thing as God, so only idiots do that. When you use the more inclusive definition that "Religion defines what is True (regardless of contrary evidence)," then tech as religion makes perfect sense (to its adherents), even without all the religious mumbo jumbo.

The March cover story tells of all the hand-wringing over the Trump election by the left-wing bigots running technology companies. They claim -- with about as much credibility as Heffernan invited us to give her rag -- that Russian fake news items on FaceBook decided the election, so FaceBook is now trying to prevent it. The article admitted (once, as an aside) that the management were all appalled at the election; if Clinton had won (whether through clever use of LinkedIn or FaceBook, or simply because more people improbably liked her better than Trump), they all would have happily said "Good!" The mainstream media has been very one-sided in promoting the Democrats for decades, and nobody ever cries "Foul!" Black churches have been doing the same, but the IRS only gets on the case of white churches politicking for the other side.

What the left-wing bigots do not understand is that the political conservatives are not so "open-minded" as their opponents, because open-mindedness allows all your brains to fall out. It was a left-winger several decades ago who expressed out loud what they all (probably still) believe that "they are poor, uneducated, and easily led." It is certainly true that many of the poor, uneducated, and easily led people vote against their conscience and against their wallets to put the Democrats in office, but the conservatives tend to have immutable convictions, so if they voted for Trump it was not because of any alleged "manipulation" on FaceBook.

I think the $100,000 the Russians paid for ads had no effect at all, and the American people, who have been deeply divided politically since Bill Clinton's stay in the White House, just wanted to tip the country back their way for a while. But one thing we now do know (besides the deep political bias in WIRED) is that Facebook can no longer be trusted to refrain from meddling with politics. Zuckerberg said so (just not in those words). You won't find me on FaceBook. Never did, never will. "Humans -- now including FaceBook and WIRED -- decisively prefer to spread lies over truth."

Looking ahead, I see WIRED is still at it: The cover of the May issue features some guy hired to investigate election tampering. What's he going to find out? That the Ruskies bought ads? So did everybody else -- including the media (think: WIRED) who gave their promos away for free. That people voted for Trump because they saw fake news? Who's going to admit that? What about the people who voted for Clinton because they saw fake news? Oh wait, the mudslingers wanted Clinton to win, they're not complaining about tampering in that direction. What a crock. The party falsely called "democratic" are mostly just a bunch of whiners who can't tolerate losing fair and square, they have to challenge the Florida vote in court, and make a noise about ads the Russians bought. What will they complain about next time they lose?

Full disclosure: I (like many Americans) voted "None of the Above" in the last election. Many more held their nose and voted the lesser of the two evils. That turned out to be Trump, by a tiny margin.

2018 August 2 -- Financial Adventure

I drink my morning "coffee cold and bubbly" (a habit my nephew got me onto several decades ago), so I brought several cases of the cheap stuff with me, to portion out at not more than two cans per day. The trouble is, the room is not cooled, and I can mitigate the adverse temperatures here by waking up at "oh dark thirty" to put a fan in the doorway, sucking in (what I thought was) the slightly cooler night air. Then I'm awake, so I try to use the time productively, resulting is very long work days, which start to drag -- like today.

I bring one can wrapped up in a foam can cozy in a bag to keep it slightly cool, but I already drank it today, and I'm still dragging. Up the stairs (we are in the basement) and out the front door, turn left, there's a fast-food restaurant, which sells fountain drinks for $1.79. That's what I usually did for a second shot in the arm, but last week I went there and their vending machine must have been running low, because the drink was watery.

Then I realized this morning that there's a row of vending machines down the hall from the room we are working in. The first two sell electrical parts like hook-up wire and resistors and computers. Yes, computers! Last year RaspberryPi was $35, this morning it's $50, Arduino $27. We use Arduino in the project (it came with the Windows computer) for controlling the servomotors which control the steering and speed. We have a separate group looking at converting our Windows code to run on RaspberryPi. I think the computer they are testing on was purchased from the vending machine.

Next to the two machines selling electrical stuff, is a machine selling Pepsi and other beverages (including Mountain Dew, the beverage of choice for programmers for its higher caffeine content). I looked around for a price but didn't see any. I randomly pushed buttons and still no joy. So I started asking around. The Engineering Prototype Lab (which also sells parts, and is apparently responsible for the two machines that sell parts) did not know about the beverage machine. "Try the phone number," he suggested. The woman who answered the phone said they repair machines, but are not responsible for setting prices and didn't know who is.

I went upstairs to the departmental office, and the (student at) the front desk asked around then suggested to try another machine, on another floor. She didn't remember where, so we walked around for a while "working off the calories from drinking the stuff." We finally found it, a clone of the one downstairs, and she said "here push this button, the price is there" in tiny blue letters that mostly said "Hello" when I previously looked. At $1.75 it's slightly cheaper and much closer than the restaurant with the watery dispenser. I planned to come back later -- the walking around had invigorated me, no point in paying for caffeine I don't need -- but I nodded off instead. At least now I know.

2018 July 31 -- Better Portland Food

I had some money to spend, so as a diversion from my usual fare I Googled "Portland restaurants," and after more than an hour of struggling through the process that has become rather more lame than it was a few years ago, I managed to construct a short list of restaurants I could have created in 15 minutes from a map and the yellow pages. The map was hard to find last year, and I still have it, but no yellow pages.

I have been hotter here on other days, but I decided the menu posted on the window of the first of them I came to was good enough -- it certainly was easier to read than the menu Google turned up (some restaurants offered no menu at all on the net).

The Raven & Rose looks like it's trying to be a classic British pub restaurant, but the menu offered little that looked British (as compared to what I remember from being in the UK several times in the past). Google's price rating system is rather cryptic and unhelpful (all the places their search engine turned up except fast food were rated "$$$"), but the food was tastefully prepared and also tasted reasonably good to my untuned palate. I usually try to order things I wouldn't get at home, and succeeded. I ate more than I needed, but I can go back to TV dinners and sandwiches from the food carts across the street from the classroom building where the kids do their thing to work it off.

I deemed it thoughtful that the server asked each patron (except me, I suppose it was too obvious) if they were planning on going to the theater afterward, so they could schedule the meal accordingly. The blackboard on the post directly in front of where I sat listed the live musicians scheduled each week in the bar upstairs, but the music playing where I sat was ordinary jazz. Or maybe it wasn't ordinary, I wouldn't know. I prefer classical music like they played at the church I went to on Sunday.

All in all it was a pleasant evening, which I would recommend to anybody who likes fine food, which otherwise seems somewhat hard to find in Portland -- at least harder than San Francisco when I lived there long long ago. The extra hour delay through Google probably helped mitigate the heat of the day for the 7-block walk there and back. Think of it as "lemonade" (what you make when life hands you lemons).

2018 July 30 -- The Nature of Religion, Part 2

This guy is one of the support staff for the summer program, and he was doing whatever it is he does near where I was sitting, so we were talking about his technology and the technology of the summer project, and I guess somehow we got to comparing this year's project to last year, and I mentioned how the kids are doing this year (in one week of designed code) what the other group failed at last year in four weeks using neural nets, and I offered my opinion that there is an entropic reason why design is always better (see "The Problem with 21st Century AI" last year), and he took exception to the biological implication of that insight, so I mentioned Lenski's E.Coli, that he's past 50,000 generations, and they stopped evolving (toward better citric acid accommodation). You need to understand that this guy is still in high school, and he is not in a science program (as far as I can tell, at least that's not what he's doing for the program, but here he is insisting that millions of years will accomplish what 50,000 generations (approximately the alleged lineage between "Lucy" and humans) of bacteria in a scientific experiment did not.

If I'd been quicker on the draw, I could have pointed out that the reason Lenski has government grants to do E.Coli is that the scientists think that it's the generations that count, not the years, but I don't think it would have made any difference. You see, religion is about what we know to be true, despite any apparent contrary evidence. His religion -- like most people who come through the government-supported religious Establishment (public schools, see "The Nature of Religion") -- includes as a necessary component the Darwinian fabrication for which there is no scientific evidence at all (see "Biological Evolution: Did It Happen?"). Every once in a while somebody comes up with an experiment to confirm the hypothesis, and every time it fails (and then the data is suppressed). Lenski's is one where I actually saw the data before it was suppressed.

What this guy was doing is answering scientific facts with religious faith (= "believing what you know ain't so," see "The Nature of Religion"). I don't argue religion, partly because I don't have much faith in things that cannot be proved -- OK, a little, but very little compared to the atheists. Some Christians claim to "admire the atheist's faith," but I think it's foolish. So does God. Stupid is not admirable. I do the best I can to make good information available to people who want it, but most people don't. Their problem, not mine.

2018 July 28 -- Free Speech Is "Hate Speech"

I told you I'm working through old WIRED magazines. I recently finished February this year. The cover shows, in corroded letters, "The Golden Age of Free Speech," as if that age has passed and all that remains is an aging, decomposing and rusty memory of it. It's a lie.

I think the poster case is a half-page piece on page 84, where some half-brained "black people" (her term) is travelling through "the middle of Montana," and walks into a Cracker Barrel where nobody probably in the whole town has ever seen a black person except on TV, where without exception they are portrayed as smart, likeable people. So every honky in that restaurant has only the highest opinion of people of color, but she assumes without the slightest bit of evidence that they are all po' white trash "Southern Americana" (her term) from a thousand miles beyond the farthest any of them ever travelled, and twits her unprovoked inner turmoil fear "wondering if they would let my black [anatomical epithet] walk out of there."

This is an incredible insult on the good will and integrity of a bunch of people she has no reason (other than her own racist bigotry grown and polished in a far different and distant part of the country) to believe they hold any malice toward her, an insult far worse in caliber than what my novelist friend did to me (see "Misandry" earlier this week), but she has in this country a "free speech" right to say such venomous nonsense -- just as the rest of the country has a "free speech" right to call it what it is. And they did. The author of the piece and the editor of WIRED both obviously thought their response was a case of loss of free speech, which is the theme of the cover section (on hard-to-read colored pages). What a crock.

With one pallid exception, where James Damore relates in nuanced terms the hostility he received at Google (see my post "Google Knows Nothing" last year) -- to his credit he did not use the self-referential term "hate speech" -- the back half of this magazine, 45 pages uninterrupted by ads of any kind (unless you consider the whole segment to be an ad for stupidity), comprising five full articles, six short articles (sidebars), and a double-page spread of one-sided pseudo-statistics graphs, half of the whole magazine (counting the ads) is a bigoted left-wing rant against people of the other political persuasion. "Hate" is one of those emotionally charged words (like "diversity," see my blog post eight years ago) used only by people to describe their own inner turmoil and bigotry while pretending to refer to people with whom they disagree.

This issue of this magazine is little more than a whine against the fact that it's a free country, and that some people on the right are as bigoted as the ten people they profiled are on the left, and they have the right (except on many tax-funded university campuses) to speak their opinions and in particular, to vote for the President of their choice, which this year happens to be Donald Trump -- the previous two elections the other half of the country won and these people were left out of the political process by a similar tiny fraction of a difference, but the whiners are mostly left-wing bigots. Both sides kill people and commit property damage (but not at all on as large a scale as third-world countries like France and Nigeria). However, only one side has the unfailing ear of the public media.

I say: Stop your whine. If you don't like a democracy and what it does to you, go to a (left-wing, if you so choose) country where there are no democratic processes. They won't, of course, because the wealth in this country, which gives them the freedom to whine instead of working for a living, is mostly produced by the people who create wealth instead of write about it. But those same wealth-creators also (sometimes) vote for a government friendly toward creating wealth. You can't have it both ways.

2018 July 24 -- Misandry

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that she really hates men. I mentioned David Drake a couple months ago, the space-op novelist who is compelled by the publishers to conform to the Feminazi lie (where all the smart people are women, all the guys are drunken lechers), but he sabotaged that agenda in his RCN series by explicitly making his heroine and her (female) bodyguard out to be "sociopaths." This writer is Drake's mirror, where her hero can be seen after a few seconds to have "no personality. At all." The heroine then sets about to subvert the poor guy, to deny who he really is, so to force him to become her model of a flashy dresser. She succeeds. The narrator approves of this abuse.

Later in the story we learn that the writer has done a David Drake, but in reverse: her hero (the supporting character, because necessarily the heroine is lead), the guy is brain-damaged. Any guy (most guys, but me in particular) who identified with him, anybody who has the same personality type -- which she described as "no personality. At all" -- is now effectively told we are brain-damaged. This is incredibly insulting.

Did she intend the assault? I don't know. Although she is unlikely to meet real men (MBTI Thinkers) in her chosen profession (most writers are Feelers), nor in her chosen church, she grew up in a church with a disproportionate number of Thinkers (at least 3%, which is an astounding large number), but she seems to have rejected that church as part of an unhappy childhood. So maybe it's nothing more than a case of Clue Deficit Disorder, readily repaired by a good editor -- do they exist? I wouldn't know. Somebody is pushing the Feminazi agenda on writers like Drake, but he (and writers like him) successfully dodged the bullet, and we guys still have something to read.

The MBTI book that convinced me of their fundamental insights also said that as you grow older, "you tend to develop your weaker side," you build behavior patterns that compensate for your innate (personality) temperament indicators. Maybe she will mellow out when she gets a little older.

The bottom line is, we are guys. Affirmation is not so important to us as it is to women. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Women can't say that, we can. We have work to do, and we will do it -- at least those of us who survived the torrent of Feminazi abuse through the K-12 school system -- and if the chicks don't like it, well, Jesus said of people like them, "They have their reward." College -- at least the "STEM" guy disciplines -- are meritocratic, and we are still making the USA the richest country in the whole world, and in all of history. And if the guy-hating (misandrous) feminists want in, they must earn their place, just like we did.


2018 July 23 -- It's NOT "All About Relationship"

My friend is in a weekly Bible study which came to the end of their topic, so they were casting about for a new topic. One of the candidates was titled "It's All About Relationship" and knowing about my hobby horse, he pointed me at the materials -- no link: not only can I not recommend the guy's theology, but the website is encrypted (not open to the public). I won't even tell you his name (you could find it easily enough in Google), because he's not alone: Just now I Googled the phrase and turned up a half-dozen different purveyors of the same theme.

We have the convergence of several problems here, beginning with the market for Bible study materials. Studying the Bible takes a lot of effort and time, far more than reading somebody's predigested commentary on the Bible, which is more effort than listening to the podcast or watching the video. Listening to somebody tell you what to think prevents you from doing your own thinking, you are forced along at the speed he set, which is faster than you can think about the material -- it's certainly faster than the speaker took to think about what he's telling you, and he's had more experience at it than you ever will (that's why you are listening to him, not the other way around) -- so we all just veg into zombie mode and listen. That's not a good way to learn anything.

If you are reading his commentary, you can read at your own speed, and stop to think about what he's saying, or go back to review something he said earlier, or (more important) look up the text in Scripture yourself and see if in context it really says what he says it says. You can pause the recording and do some of that even while listening, but nobody ever does that. It's more effort than just listening, and we are all lazy. Most of the important Bible teachings you can get with reading and comparing, but even that has its problems.

Recall last week I mentioned the Sunday School class at the church I went to, the teacher waffled on how many Israelites there were in the desert. That's not his fault, he's using prepared materials which apply modern feminist concepts that are foreign to the Bible. We do that, and the only way to avoid the problem is to become so familiar with the text that the dislocations caused by such import obviously don't fit. You won't get that in 40 minutes on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, it's a life-long commitment to 2Tim.3:16 reading the whole Bible as if it all matters, it's all important. Fortunately, correct theology of the minutiae is not a requirement for entry into Heaven, the Lordship of Jesus Christ is what it's all about [Rom.10:9].

The second problem is how this guy got into the topic. He tells us he was a new believer, and he started a Bible study that was already drawing 150 students every week, and he alone was responsible for teaching them. That's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem. He's all alone, he's a cowboy. He should have spiritual oversight, and there's nobody to protect him from sliding off into error like Jim Jones. The Biblical model is episcopal, overseers watching over the newbies coming up, but we Americans do not believe in hierarchy, "everybody is created equal" is written into the American founding document, and while it's sort of Biblical, in practice it isn't. Yes, the overseers can become corrupted too -- that's what Luther was trying to fix -- but more people involved helps prevent mistakes that need fixing.

The third problem is how this guy got into the topic. He starts reading John 15 over and over. Reading the Bible in depth is not a bad thing to do, but you need to step back far enough to see what the context is. In the recording I listened to, he tells us that this is "the last thing Jesus said to his disciples." It's not, the Great Commission is the last thing before he went up into Heaven. This is a longer sermon than the snippets on the Cross and after the Resurrection, but it doesn't start in chapter 15, but rather in 13:31, with the keystone point right there at the beginning in 13:34: "I'm giving you a new commandment... 14:21 The one who obeys me... will be loved by God." It's about obedience to God's commandments, not "relationship" at all. Elsewhere Jesus makes clear that the way to Heaven is to keep God's commandments. Here, in the previous chapter, the chapter this guy is not reading, God's love is conditional on keeping those commandments. The Relationshipists don't like that verse, it's hard to do. Not impossible (with God's help) but very hard. We screw up, but God forgives us (if we want it, if we agree not to do it again, which is called repentance) and it becomes easier. But ya gotta have the wanta.

There are four "remain"s ("abide" in the King James) in chapter 15, which represent the dictionary definition of "relationship," but no honest Bible translator translates those words as "relationship." Why is that? The translators, every one of them Relationshipists themselves, know that in the church "relationship" means "affirmation," and that's not what this chapter is about (in context, see chapter 14). The dictionary definition (connectivity) isn't even the main point here, the main point announced at the beginning is obedience, and being connected to Jesus Christ is the way to get the power (the sap through the veins of the branches from the trunk of the vine) to be what God wants you to be, to "bear fruit." The connectivity is the means to the end, but the end is not relationship, the end is Jesus Christ and our obedience to him.

Jesus Christ as LORD is what it's all about, not "relationship," and it's all over the Bible, not just in John 13-15. Jesus as LORD means Jesus has the right to tell us what to do, and when we do that, when we accept him as LORD and obey his commands, then the Father will love us. And it's not hard, if you want to. But ya gotta have the wanta.

God seems to be content with letting a bunch of goofball Relationshipists run His Church in the USA, because (as Paul tells us [Rom.11:4, quoting 1K.19:18]) God always has "His 7000 men of Israel who have not bowed the knee to Ba'al and whose lips have not kissed him." There are people in American churches who get it, who live a life of obedience. There were people in the pre-Reformation Catholic church who got it. I think we need a new Reformation to put a stop to the American indulgences ("God's unconditional love"), but I don't seem to be the Luther to pull it off.

There are three Commandments, everything else is explanation:

1. (This is in the Law of Moses, and quoted by Jesus, and explained everywhere) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. God has the right to tell you what to do and you have the duty to do it. Look at the Muslims, they understand this one -- partly, they missed that Jesus is God's final representative.

2. (Also in the Law of Moses, quoted by Jesus and Paul, and explained everywhere) You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It's the Golden Rule and even the atheists understand it, but the Muslims (at least the Jihadists) don't. Most of us are far too selfish to pull it off 100% but we can learn, we can work at it. If you don't want to do it now, what makes you think you'd like being in Heaven, when everybody must do it (otherwise it wouldn't be Heaven for the other people)?

3. (The "New Commandment" given by Jesus) Love other Christians more than the Golden Rule. The GR is equality, give to them what you want for yourself, the New Commandment calls us to give them over and above, to our own detriment, like giving your life for your friends. That's hard, especially if you haven't got the Golden Rule down. But you can do it, if you want to. God wants to help you do it. But ya gotta have the wanta.


2018 July 21 -- Back Reading

The local library lets me check out books for four weeks, but I had to leave for Portland this month on Saturday before the library opened, and I get back on Friday four weeks later after the library closes, so I'm one day over. Knowing this, I saved up my WIRED magazines to read at bedtime instead of sci-fi novels -- pretty much the same thing -- and I just finished the issue dated last December. Their science is no better than the novelists (perhaps worse, because they haven't a clue how bad it is) and they focus on people stories -- recall this mag was bought out by CondeNast (publisher of VanityFair) a couple decades ago -- so there's not much news either. It doesn't really matter if I read it six months or a year behind.

The cover story detailed one woman's ordeal of cyber-harassment. A few paragraphs in it became obvious from the focus on inner turmoil (which in female-authored novels turns me off) that the author was female, so I skipped forward to the back half, where her focus returned to "just the facts, ma'am." The immediate take-away was what I've known all along: anything you send over the internet is public information: don't do that. The author took the more modern perspective of women today who wear skimpy clothing then complain that guys look (and more). When I was in college that was called "Rape-Oh" (the woman acts in an seductive manner, then screams "Rape!" when the guy responds to her come-on), now it's just part of the Feminazi Lie. I think the Muslims have a better idea of what's going on here than the Americans do. I knew a young lady whose father (I assume it was him) insisted that she wear modest clothing, and it never occurred to me to look past her attire until she got married and her new husband obviously made no such demands. Women have no clue what they are doing -- well, actually they do have a clue: they like the attention (affirmation), and they know how to get it! -- but they do not understand the price they are paying for it. The victim in the story paid dearly. The guy who did it to her was wicked and Wrong, but she did not help him to resist the temptation. Jesus said Don't go there.

Another article in this issue tells about pseudo-scientists trying to wire the human brain to computers, which flounders on the Darwinist Lie that everything complex (including the human brain) is simply an accumulation of simple incremental changes, so the same methodology will get us to arbitrarily complex computers, and thence to cyborgs. Bet against it in your lifetime.

But my focus today is on a fiction piece -- WIRED has published fiction in the distant past, but this is the first in several years -- where the promo breathlessly claims it's created by analysis of the best sci-fi down to rules, then a new story constructed by those same rules. If you think that will make a good story, you probably also like Pollock paintings and Cage music. Two professional critics were asked their opinion on the story (without being told its source), and both panned it.

In fact, the story was written by an accomplished author, but the robot was permitted to critique his work by its rules, and he submitted. The running commentary is a better read than the story itself. The robot was trained on the author's own favorites from classic sci-fi novels by the best authors over the years, but the robot can only do word counts, not any structural analysis or characterization or plotlines. So the guy is decimating his story to get the word counts within specified parameters.

I think the funniest part of his commentary has to do with his attempt to bow at the Feminazi altar. This is a new requirement on American fiction, none of the classics knew any such nonsense -- which is of course why they were classics, and better than the drivel coming off modern keyboards. Sci-fi is guy fiction -- recall the short lifespan of the TV sci-fi series that took on female authors, one of whom made the unforgetable comment, "one of the wonderful things about sci-fi is that there are no guidelines, or like structures that you get stuck into, it's sci-fi, it's make-believe, you can do whatever you want, because who's to say it can't work?" So this guy dutifully has a female lead, but he's stuck with the requirement that "only 16.1 percent of the dialog could be from a woman's point of view." Classic sci-fi has guy leads, so of course the dialog is mostly guys talking. This author is not being true to his premises, as he belatedly realized. But religion is exceedingly hard to change, so his final comment on the topic is, "I need to start reading better science fiction." No, he was already reading better sci-fi, but it wasn't Feminazi fiction (which isn't better, only more politically correct).

2018 July 20 -- APW, My Second Year

Here I am at the end of the first week of this summer's workshop (the computer camp I mentored last year, and again this year). Earlier this year I wrote a simulator that pretends to be the car they are writing code to drive, but the simulator runs in each kid's own computer. That way they can develop their portion of the code, while the simulator supplies substitute behavior for the parts other teams are working on. They used it, and they now have steering from one group, speed control from another, and image integration from a third group. Installed on the car, it runs today and you can see the servo(s) slewing back and forth as the software navigates the simulated track. They are not yet detecting lines taped on the floor -- my simulator was not smart enough to offer light grey lines instead of white, so they were looking for absolute white. White paint on the street (or tape on the floor) may be dark or light, depending on lighting conditions; the only thing you can depend on is that it is lighter than the paved (or dirt or carpet) track. Basically this is not bad for the first week (out of four). Last year I was surprised that they got this far in the first week, but this year I expected it :-)

So now the steering team is working on the math-intensive method that other track-following products -- probably including the commercial self-driving cars -- use, and the speed control team is working on recognizing stop signs and traffic lights.

2018 July 17 -- The Nature of Religion

I have a few minutes to spare before I head off to today's session with the kids. Actual count seems to be about 14 -- there is some unavoidable flux -- which pretty much fills every chair at the table in the tiny room assigned to us, so I spent the whole day yesterday walking around. Probably again today.

Anyway, the church I went to on Sunday would not have been on my short list, all things being equal. Last year I asked the pastor of the church I go to in GP for a list of churches of the same denomination in Portland area, so I could find something low-risk to go to (last year). He passed the job off to one of the young people in his church, and I guess she Googled the generic denomination name. Last year the closest on the list to where I was, was the same denom. This year the camp director put me up two blocks from the campus building where we're meeting, so I picked from the same list another church within walking distance -- about the same distance I walk to church in GP. The music was more familiar than the church in GP, the offertory solo was moving, but the sermon was... odd. I gather he's a recent hire (interim pastor), and this might have been his first sermon, which he titled "Living on the Brink" (his name is Sam Brink). His text was Mark 3:20,21, where the family of Jesus came to get him because he was acting "crazy." The pastor's point seemed to be that we should be "crazy" for God. Not a bad goal, but a little thin on content.

They had Sunday School classes, but they were unannounced anywhere that I saw. This was the first Sunday they tried eliminating the bulletin, so I couldn't look there either. After the service I mentioned to the senior pastor how useful bulletins are to newcomers like me, and he handed me a mini-bulletin that they'd only made a few of. It didn't mention SS either, but one of the older folks mentioned a SS class "up the stairs." There were only older folks in the room, so I'm guessing the tradition is dying out, and when the last of the geezers is gone, there will be no SS classes any more. You see that in churches where the tradition (as well as the traditional theology, you know, where God is God and He makes the rules, and if you don't like it, tough) is dying out. I only have four (maybe three, if my friend in Spokane extends another invite) weeks and then I'm outa here.

There were maybe four or five couples in the SS class, and the teacher announced his topic as "The Exodus," which he discussed only generally, no specific Bible references to look up -- some of the incidents I knew where to look, so I looked them up anyway, others I hunted around but didn't find, or more often found long after he had moved on to some other incident. One of them concerned the numbering of the Israelites at about 600,000. That figure is actually in Numbers, two books later. Anyway this fellow allowed as the Hebrew word did not necessarily mean "men" but could have meant "persons" (unspecified gender) and I was really curious what Hebrew word that might be. I had my Hebrew Bible, so I looked. The word used in reporting the actual numbers is derived from the verb "PQD" ('pakad') usually translated "visit" but also with a wide range of meaning, like to say David's place at Saul's table was empty, and sometimes in military contexts where it is translated as "muster" or "arrange" (in battle array). This context is clearly military, because the sentence goes on to say "all those able to be part of an army" for each of the tribes as numbered. Sending women to war is a modern idea among atheist countries (including now both the USA and Israel, which is probably the same thing), certainly not in cultures where combat was hand-to-hand and women on the average were no match for men. Ancient cultures like in the Bible had better science than the feminazis of today, so the Biblical head count is necessarily adult males only, not women and children, and the total number of people in the desert was probably closer to 2 million. Archeologists have not found evidence of 2 million (or even a half million) people trekking across the desert some 3400 years ago for 40 years and leaving their dead bodies there -- every one who came out of Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb, died in the desert. Me, I think the dates are wrong, and the location is wrong: Somewhere I saw images of Egyptian chariot wheels littering the bottom of the gulf of Aqaba, not the marshy Sea of Reeds west of there.

One of the other guys piped up and said it just isn't possible for that much water to come out of a rock in the desert. I suspect he didn't really want to be there in the class, but came because his wife insisted, and he wanted us all to know it. I said "God can do anything He wants to." A woman across the circle from him and me said "You are looking at it from the human perspective, [not God's]." The teacher said nothing to his remark, and moved on to his next point. When I got home and read through the denominational flyer, which grants to their members "freedom of conscience" or something like that, I can see why he couldn't say anything. That's also why I could never be a member there. People can believe any silly thing they want to, but Christian church membership should be limited to those who "confess Jesus as LORD" -- meaning He (Jesus, not we) gets to decide what God can or cannot do.

So I got to thinking about this guy and the nature of religion. The joke had it that "Religion is believing what you know ain't so." From the outsider's perspective, there's a lot of truth in that. Turn it on its head, it becomes a very good definition of religion, which is to define what is really true irrespective of contrary evidence (see my blog post "InfoQuake" last month). Obviously, a person with a different religion will have a different idea about what is true, but Truth is not a personal opinion, it's what really is. Most of us are wrong about some things, and some of us are willing to correct our mistakes (when we know about them), the rest of us "have religion."

This guy's religion does not include any gods. That's not happenstance or accident, nor does it rescue him from having a religion: the existence of a Creator God confers on that God the right to tell His creation what to do, and many -- perhaps most -- of us don't like to be told what to do, so we choose a religion (which defines for us what is really true) that excludes gods with that right. When it's a conscious choice, it's self-deception. I like to believe that most atheists did not so much choose to ignore the facts of the universe, as they were deceived by the gatekeepers. It's much harder to change your religion late in life, but people do it. Earlier is better.

"Establishment" is a word we no longer use with the meaning it has in the US Constitution, which is the government setting the standards of what is True. All governments do it, and the Founders did not want the new US Government telling the State and local governments how to set that standard. Now, almost 230 years later, the new King (Scotus) insists that's exactly what the US Government should be doing. So Congress is now required to Establish a particular religion (as a national standard of what is True), which includes among other things, the nonsensical and contradictory notions (a) that intelligent design and behavior is the result of time, chance, and natural causes (see my essay "Biological Evolution"), (b) that "gender" is a state of mind, unrelated to a person's DNA, and (c) that anybody who believes otherwise is an idiot, unworthy of participating in the process of running the country. It's even harder for governments to change their religion than individuals, because so many people in the government, their jobs depend on preserving the status quo.


2018 July 9 -- Romeo and the Environmentalists

The film makers obviously saw it as a classic Romeo and Juliet story, two people from warring families in love with each other, but tragedies don't sell, so (not a spoiler: it cannot end any other way) the lovers abandon their alleged principles and walk hand-in-hand off into the sunset. Maybe "abandon" is too strong, she never had any, and he lost only his business.

She was a singer with an environmentalist agenda, he an architect posing as a housing tract developer. Politically, the screenplay sided with the environmentalists and against corporate interests. Besides the fact that Hollywood always plays the corporations as evil and the artists as good, you could tell they didn't like him because he always gave his motivation as "money." At least that makes sense in today's anti-Christian culture; her motivation was laid on her from outside and she couldn't even answer simple questions in her own defense. She was a singer, not a politician. But all that is boring.

I didn't like either agenda -- obviously not the corporate greed of the guy, but the screenwriter and director did that to us intentionally -- nor the hypocrisy and greed of the environmentalists, which nobody bothers to mention. Ever. Everybody is greedy: selfishness is the nature of sin, and we are all by nature sinners. Some forms of greed (properly restrained) are constructive and made this country the richest in the whole world and in all time -- Solomon's reign possibly excepted -- other forms of greed are destructive. The developer in this flick did argue the constructive vs destructive qualities of the two agendas, but without mentioning greed.

I have never seen nor heard of any environmentalist who is not a hypocrite. They claim to want to stop the depredation of the land, but they seem unwilling to forego all the benefits from that development that they enjoy as citizens of the richest country in the whole world. Take for example, the singer in this flick (and leaving aside the fact that she was too young to have actually thought about the agenda she sang to promote), who wore dangly earrings. When you poke holes in human flesh, that flesh tries to heal itself from that depredation, so if you want those holes to linger, you must put something aseptic through the holes to keep them holes, something clean like metal or plastic. Both products come out of the ground by unnatural means, plastic more so, because you must convert the oil in big stinking refineries. All the surface minerals are gone, so to get more gold or silver or copper (for making presumed eco-friendly jewelry) you must make ugly holes in the ground and process the stuff that comes out in ugly smelly factories.

But like I said, the singer was ignorant. Her environmentalist father had been around long enough to have had time to think about what he was promoting. He had gold earrings too. He lived in a very nice house in Marin County, which when I lived there had the highest median income of any county in the USA. Perhaps no longer now or when the film was made, the left-wing-bigot idiots in Sacramento have been very successful at driving the state economy in the same direction that their political colleagues did in what used to be the richest country in Africa, and now (only one generation later) ties with Haiti as poorest in the world. But the houses this developer wanted to build there in Marin County were huge, and the houses the so-called environmentalists lived in were not much smaller. They did not live in city slums of the kind that arise in places like Oregon where the government implements policies like what the environmentalists in this flick only hoped to achieve. I know, because I live there now. I am not in the worst neighborhood in this county, but the houses in this flick were all much nicer than I could afford.

All of the environmentalists in this flick had vehicular transportation which burned gasoline (see above comments on petrochemicals). Perhaps they wore clothing made only from natural fibers -- it's hard to tell -- but the fabrics were woven on mechanical looms that ran on energy drawn from the ground, which we know because hand-woven fabric is much coarser than anything any of them wore. They didn't show it in this flick, but they ate food that was not grown locally -- all that pristine land they didn't want houses made on? There were no farms on it either!

In another place I argued for factory farms as part of why we live in the richest country in the whole world, where there is so much wealth that it spills over onto people with more dollars than sense, and the leisure time they do not use up growing and preparing food to eat, they can therefore spend promoting political causes that if implemented, would reduce this country to third-world status where nobody has that kind of leisure any more. There are no environmentalists anywhere living as if the country had implemented everything they argue for, they cannot afford to live that way, nor in those kinds of countries. They are all hypocrites, every last one of them.

The most we could hope for is responsible, sustainable development, but nobody listens to the voice of reason, not the greenies, and certainly not the developers. So we get political balance, neither the unrestrained pollution common in Marxist countries where there is no oversight because the government owns the polluting businesses, nor the absence of development you find in undeveloped third-world countries where nobody (except predatory Chinese and/or American investors) has money to pay for development. Local entrepeneurs need to get rich, so that everybody else -- including the unthinking environmentalists opposing them ;-) -- can also get rich. It happened here. It happened in reverse in former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. You don't want to go there.

2018 July 2 -- Turnabout Is Fair Play

Whenever I find myself in an uncomfortable or disagreeable situation, I need to ask myself, "Am I doing this same thing to other people?" Last month an author acquaintance I knew from several years ago sent me a greeting, and in the course of the conversation she said she was doing an AI (Artificial Intelligence) sci-fi story, so I volunteered to read and comment on it. She sent me a partial manuscript, and I read it and wrote up the kinds of comments I (having done some fiction writing myself, see "Balance" six years ago) would want to (and did) receive.

Unlike fifty or a hundred years ago, when novelists merely told a story, modern novelists consider it their God-given duty to jerk the reader around. I don't much care for it, and I've said so several times. This young lady considers her efforts in that direction to be different from other authors, but if her story is different, it is only in being less subtle at it. Suddenly, half-way through, everything I had written about her story became irrelevant when she jerked. I said so, but she wanted to see my comments anyway.

I always accept criticism on what I've written, and negative criticism is extremely important, because it tells me what I need to improve. If it's negative and untrue (or ad hominem, which is almost always untrue), I try to say something innocuous like "Thank you," and then quietly ignore it. But the constructive negatives, it's most helpful if they are not buried in a mush of affirmations.

Anyway, I knew this young lady is a Feeler -- indeed I have observed that almost all writers are Feelers: "Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach (or write) about it" -- but I got caught up in trying to be helpful, and completely forgot how hostile she gets when I do that. The proper way to "relate to" (because you cannot really work with) Feelers is to constantly affirm them. "Never criticize," one pastor said in my hearing. Her response was clearly in attack mode, but she has matured somewhat, so she was able to do it using qualified barbs that carried what is sometimes called "plausible deniability" and thus leaves no defense to her victims (not even an appeal to the truth).

One of her characters was a tech geek, and although her one-dimensional characterization made him out as "he didn't seem to possess any personality. At all." -- she was the same person who thought baroque music was "before they learned to convey emotion" (see "Music & Emotions" four years ago) -- she actually gave the guy a lot of Thinker personality. It would appear that she totally misunderstands the personality differences that Myers & Briggs categorized in their MBTI code. If you are not a Feeler, you don't "possess any personality. At all." If you are not a romantic, you have no emotions. If you are not a female, you probably aren't even human.

Belay that, she's married now, but he's a Feeler (another writer, who also works in theater). I also know he's a Feeler because of her big cheesy smile in the recent pictures (with him). She described it as "learn[ing] incredible things about the nature of God through the times of ... circumstantial happiness." That sounds like affirmation, which is a Feeler thing. Thinkers may (slowly) learn to do it, but not so early in life. The only way she could be getting that kind of affirmation from her husband a year after they tied the knot is if he's a Feeler. Her previous (more reserved) smiles she attributed to "hardship." Certainly not like the hardship experienced by Christians in other parts of the world where they are actively persecuted, but perhaps she was implicitly contrasting the affirmations she currently gets from her new husband with the perception of less than affirmation she might have had from her father, whom I knew to be a Thinker. He knew the church language, and (like me) his father was a missionary, so I understood him very well. His wife is a Feeler, and they had the usual misunderstandings that go with the typical American Thinker-Feeler marriage, but to call it "hardship" for the children is a bit myopic.

I allowed as she probably would not be in a position to understand Thinker types, because her husband and her new church (which she claimed is giving her the same kind of affirmation) were not going to give her that experience, and she reacted the same as I do when somebody claims to know something about me that I didn't tell them: "You don't have any idea..." It is true I wasn't given the alleged missing information, and she didn't fill it in, partly -- at least in her case -- because knowledge is power. That's a Judger thing (she is, I'm not), but you don't want to give to your enemy the weapons they can use to defeat you. I neither wished nor tried for that status, but it's probably irreversible now (Judgers are not into forgiveness). That's also why I know she doesn't have any Thinker friends. If she'd had one, and she did to him what she did to me, he wouldn't want to be her friend, and she wouldn't want him. Feelers prefer to associate with people who like trading affirmations; Thinkers prefer to associate with people who want to get something worthwhile done, and are willing to put up with the discomfort necessary to do it. There's no overlap. There would be no opportunity for dialog at all between these two personality types, except that half of the men and half of the women cannot marry their own type, so if they want to be married at all, it's going to be with the other type. Her mother understood that, but the daughter is in no position to. That much I can infer with good probability from what she did give me.

The last time somebody took issue with my interpretation of MBTI, he wanted to accuse me of being a "hermit" -- meaning he was making assumptions about parts of my life (98%, not counting the parts I told him about) he had no access to -- and I felt like a parent being accused of child molestation: there's no way to defend against it, you lose, and evidence doesn't count. Maybe that's true in a lot of "debates" but I like to think otherwise. I do live and work alone, but I go to church every Sunday, rain or shine, and I go to the grocery store and the library. At the time it was a small library, and I was quite good friends with two of the librarians with whom I would socialize up to a half-hour or more -- the third librarian, I was told she didn't like me because I took up too much of her time, so I tried not to do that. I also knew a couple of the checkers at the grocery, and we made conversation. Basically, disproof of the "hermit" charge. Whatever.

Lessons learned:

1. I bungled the critique of her novel. I should have said "That's nice. Be warmed and filled." That line is from the Bible, where it is a criticism of people who say it to the hungry and homeless without actually helping them; I use it to reflect that I cannot do anything to help because the person I'm saying it to doesn't want my help.

2. I am reminded -- I don't think I really forgot, but the reminder is useful -- when somebody is offering useful criticism, do not attack them if I don't like it. If it's false, but there are true things among what they said, concentrate on the true and ignore the false. If it's all false, maybe provide evidence to inform them (if they are willing to accept it), or else just shake the proverbial dust off my shoes and get on with life. Fighting people with an unteachable spirit is a waste of time. My mother told me at an early age, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." It's still true. Feelers get bruises from words, but not me. I may not be a guy's guy, but I'm still a guy.

3. I am reminded that the people who tell you most vigorously that they are doing something as "A Christian writer, using the Cross as a compass..." are most likely to fall into all sorts of unChristian behavior, myself not excepted. If I need to tell people that I'm a Christian, it's probably because they can't see it in my life, and I need to fix that first, before I start beating them over the head for their (supposed) peccadillos.

4. She is a published fiction author, I am not. She complained in her blog that she has a very tiny readership -- perhaps because every romantic woman who imagines herself an author writes the same fluff as this one -- there are many more romantic women to read it than there are authors, but not as much as the difference between macho guy authors and their readers.

I already knew authors need to write what they know -- the novelists I like the best are the ones who came out of a career in whatever discipline they write in -- she, well, every young woman is a romantic, and (I suppose, but I don't like the genre, so my opinion isn't worth much) she writes tolerably good romance, but she's never worked in a large corporate cube farm, and she's rather weak in her science. It shows. If I ever get back to trying to write, I must remember to avoid writing about what I have not lived -- or else spend a lot more time researching than she did. Research is never as good as working there, and even best-seller Michael Crichton got it wrong a few times (see my reviews of his Next and Prey).

5. If they don't want to make nice, walk away from it. Life is too short to pick unnecessary fights.

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