Last year, Later
1. to hold the attention of so as to bring about pleasure.In my mind I always conflated these, with the idea that one should treat their guests in such a manner as to bring about their pleasure. More than that, and because only God (and not more than a couple of His people) -- and maybe not even God, depending on your theology -- gives unconstrained gifts, when I am a guest in somebody's house, it is important for me to offer quid pro quo, something to give them pleasure to associate with my visit. Generally this is intangible, something in the form of entertainment in the usual sense of the word, conversation that they will remember with pleasure. Otherwise they will not invite me back. OK, most everybody does not invite me back anyway, but I try, and mostly it sounds like they are enjoying it. I have nothing else to offer.
2. to treat as a guest.
So I did that, and they sounded like they enjoyed the evening, and everybody promised to do it again (but it never happened). I hate it when people lie to me, but it's the world I live in. Later, a mutual acquaintance tried to point to that event as an example of my being able to function in real time, which I generally deny. I can prepare for real-time meetings, but if something new comes up, I can't handle it. Mostly I just let it go whizzing by, but if the meeting is important, I typically freeze up or get stuck on whatever it was, and the meeting goes on without me. I think way too slowly for real time. The case in point, I had a week or ten days to pile up interesting ("entertaining") things to say, and if they said something, I can always nod and say something affirming, and everybody is happy. I won't remember anything, but who cares? It's just entertainment.
Talking on the phone is the same thing (real time). My sister calls every week and talks for an hour. She is smart enough to know that at our age, we won't remember anything anyway, so she is not offended if I forget everything she said. I just (verbally) nod and affirm her, and everybody is happy. It's just entertainment. Church is the same. The preacher gets up and talks for a half hour, and when it's all over, it's gone. If he puts up a PowerPoint, I can see what his logic is -- sometimes before he even gets to it -- but a talking head is a total loss. They tell me that different folks take in data best in different modes. I read. I can stop and work out the implications in my mind, then resume where I left off. Sometimes (harder or impossible in PowerPoint) I go back and pick up something I missed. No way that will happen in real time. Even in movies, I hit the pause and replay buttons a lot, so to catch what I normally miss.
So I said as much to this guy, and he tried to make out like I was "rewriting history" (that's an unobvious way to call a guy a liar). Nonsense, it's just entertainment. Nothing important happened, it never does. It's just entertainment. When something important needs to happen in business, all the business gurus insist on "Get it in writing." I do that. I have boxes and boxes filled with contracts and design notes and all kinds of stuff collected in writing over the years. Maybe I remember a few things that I heard (not more than one per event), but mostly not.
Somewhere about 100 years ago, more or less, civilized humanity stopped being an aural (sound-based) culture, and began being a written culture. It was a gradual thing, as printing became automated, and paper and typewriters became cheap and we replaced the destruction of belligerence with wealth creation (including factory farms and processed food). I am a modern person, and everything important is in writing. If this guy -- or you -- think otherwise, y'all are behind the times. I suspect this guy may be functionally illiterate. He learns best by watching videos. That may be the new literacy, watching videos, being forced along at the pace of the director, so you cannot think for yourself. No wonder Obama is Prez, and Trump looks like he might be next: Nobody can think, they just absorb. I watch movies over supper, but nothing sticks. Maybe one point, if I backed up and replayed it a couple times. I do that.
But the things that move and shake the real world are still all in text.
Look at any picture of a Trump rally: you don't see mug shots like in India
and Africa, you see his name in text, repeated over and over on each person's
sign, but it's text. Even this guy's bogus criticism, "rewriting
history" is about writing. Without writing, there's no history to
rewrite, and rewriting it has no meaning. I guess I don't have much to
worry about from him, without writing he cannot become important. His problem,
not mine ;-)
God has more or less protected me from contact with Bad People most of my life, other than the usual bullies in public school (before I learned how to stay out of their way) and occasional hostilities executed by remote on the internet -- and I almost forgot, Texas drivers. What I read in novels, and what I see in the movies, largely matches my experience in school (Bad Guys know no restraint) and on the highways, so it is without remorse that I continue to practice the same defense (stay out of their way). When somebody loses control of their temper, when they start lying about their intentions, anything can happen, and I don't want to be there to be the victim of the inevitable violence.
So this guy said to me "I've never physically threatened you," but the
truth is not in him. That and his anger management problem (I suspect they
teach him that dysfunction at his church) convinced me. I never replied
"Yes you did," but I thought it. And stayed away from harm, under my control
(as opposed to trusting a person already known to be untrustworthy [Luke
16:10]). If God calls me to go to a dangerous place, then God is responsible
for my safety; otherwise doing so is contrary to Scripture [Luke 4:12].
In the same issue, a different author wrote a longer piece describing
his experience in the world's first robot hotel. Some of his insights reflect
the thinking that obviously underlies the proliferation of robot checkout
lines in supermarkets. WalMart in Bolivar had a dozen humane lines and
only five robots; the new WalMart here in the small Texas town I moved
to, the ratio is reversed. WalMart checkers are some of the slowest in
the world, but the robots are no faster, as evidenced by the very long
lines of people avoiding them. My sister tells me that when the store starts
to make it worth her while to do it the hard way, then she might
consider the robot line. I always head for the garden exit at the far end
of the store, which almost never has a line. This author apparently thinks
otherwise. He started his article describing his effort to find the hotel,
and the polite but clueless desk clerk at another hotel nearby repetedly
trying to help by offering useless suggestions, then later commented that
"No touchscreen would have spent 20 minutes guessing about a hotel's location
just to save face." Technically, that is accurate, but in practice it is
false. The robots are not worried about saving face, but they bog down
for simpler reasons, namely that they are not programmed to answer the
question you want to ask, so you still spend the same 20 minutes (or longer)
trying to guess how to ask it in a way that might elicit a meaningful answer.
His technology has numerous errors -- like the Bad Guy opened an ice chest of dry ice in a closed room to kill his victim after he left by "carbon monoxide" (dry ice is carbon dioxide, still lethal, but not the same way), then went to the stove and turned the gas on unlit so the police would blame the stove for the monoxide -- wrong again, natural gas in stoves is methane, not monoxide nor dioxide, still lethal when it displaces the oxygen in the air. The three gases have different chemical effects on humans, so any competent medical examiner could tell you which of the three was the cause of death. And bottles of hydrogen which exploded with enough force to flatten the whole building, nevermind that hydrogen does not explode unless it's mixed with oxygen (so they won't sell it in bottles like that); if the bottles got hot from a hearby fire, the valve might crack or break, causing the gas to burn as it escaped, like a torch, not like a bomb. Stuff like that, which anybody who actually did their homework in junior-high science class would know. And the reason they had hydrogen there instead of the non-flamable helium is because it has so much greater lift -- wrong again, high-school chemistry teaches us that the lift is proportional to the difference in molecular weight between the balloon content and the air outside: hydrogen is 2, helium is 4, and air (mostly nitrogen) is something over 28, so the difference in lift between hydrogen and helium is less than 10% and probably masked by the pressure differential caused by the balloon rubber. There were some electronic errors too, which I don't remember.
Anyway, I decided to give him another try, so I googled his sequence, and discovered that the book I'd read was actually #14 in a series, and not a stand-alone as the front-cover blurb seemed to indicate. Most series blurbs tell you "another of [hero's name] exciting..." or "the next in the [hero's name] saga..." or something like that, or else they list the prequels inside the title page. This one didn't. At least there was not a heavy backstory, as you find in so many other series stories.
Now having finished #1 in the series, I still see this guy as second-tier,
way better than books written by women (see "Chick
Lit") but not like Lee Childs or the earlier Vince Flynn. His hero
is too human, constantly making stupid blunders from not being as careful
as a SEAL should have been trained not to do. This
is particularly annoying to me because I know people are like that (one
in particular I used to call my friend before his brains and/or moral compass
got fried). I don't think fast enough to do the kind of work these guys
do, but at least I know to "watch your six." I don't recall thinking the
same about the first book I read, so maybe this hero gets better after
his first cut, I'll try another and see.
Quality, as you've no doubt already seen here in my blog, is conformance to specifications, and the formost specification of a movie medium is that you get to watch the movie. DVD is lower quality than the (now obsolete) VHS. When a tape is damaged, subsequent viewings may sparkle or gurgle, but it keeps playing. All digital media are intolerant of minor corruption. Digital TV degrades to 1-inch pixelated blocks of color before freezing up entirely, but DVDs just drop out whole seconds of image and sound -- then crash the computer. Usually this happens during critical dialog or action sequences. I wiped the disk and rebooted the computer, and I could not visually see any damage to the surface, but it hiccupped badly during the first ten minutes at the front -- it barely would start amidst constant "ah-hoo-gah" re-seeks on the drive -- and then again during the climactic fight. Some DVDs won't play at all (they freeze on the "blue [or black] screen of death"), so this was better than that.
The story was about honor. Honor is hard to find in America today: I
have not found anybody who cares about it more than their own selfish interests,
certainly not here in Texas. It's not a modern concept, so obviously the
story had to be pre-modern, with horses and swords and stuff. Beyond that,
I couldn't place it in my mind. There were orientals and blacks, but the
emperor was caucasian. The vast scenery could have been China, but I decided
that the imperial capital was too big to be a set, so it had to be digital
compositing (my first thought was "painted matte" until I looked at the
2014 date on the package). The "making of" documentary said it was Samurai,
and they filmed it in Korea (and Prague), but they wanted to choose the
best actors regardless of their ethnicity. That was goofy, but I guess
you can do anything you want in fiction.
I call it "the Cretan Paradox" because it is related to (but not the same as) the old Greek puzzle: As told by Epimenides, "All Cretans are liars. I am a Cretan." So therefore he must be lying about being a liar. The Apostle Paul disambiguated it by affirming that they are liars anyway. Mine is more practical: both liars and honest people will deny that they are lying, so you cannot tell from what a person tells you whether they are lying or not. Of course if you have independent information (like Paul), you can compare that to what the guy is saying. Once you know he's willing to lie, then everything they say is suspect.
Moral of the story: If you want me to believe you are telling the truth,
you need to tell the truth all the time, even when it's inconvenient.
We already know that the left-wing politicians have been lying to us about
global warming, this flick seems to have the same political persuasion,
so they are probably lying also.
In another context I pointed out that high-quality compliance with Jesus' teaching of The Second Great Commandment would be mistaken by Relationshipists as good Relationshipism, even though it's not really. After seeing this movie, I think I might extend that to the Thinker/Feeler difference generally. The novelist Khaled Hosseini is a Thinker, uncorrupted by American Feeler-driven edu-factories. The original ending to his novel was very honest and Thinker-ish, but the people who read that draft liked it about as much as people liked the ending to my first story (that is, not at all, see Lazir), so he replaced it with a feel-good positive (affirming) conclusion, preserved in the movie.
Unless you are a Feeler (as I pointed out previously, most recently
week, the movie-makers are all Feelers), the story is about duty and
doing The Right Thing, even when it's uncomfortable. The servant kid knew
that it was not his place to attack his master, and refused to do it. Even
when falsely accused, he and his father sadly accepted the order of things.
A Feeler exhibiting "unconditional love" would have stayed on and been
what is called "co-dependent" to the abuse. He was not co-dependent, he
was just trying to do The Right Thing. When our hero went back to rescue
his nephew, there was no "unconditional love" because he didn't even know
the kid. It wasn't "love" for the kid's father, because his bad behavior
is what drove them away. It was The Right Thing. That theme is all over
the movie. The hero saw it in his own father. He saw and felt the value
in his own failure to live it. This is duty, not love. It's a Thinker
value, and it's a large part of the Christian message as taught in Scripture
(but not in American churches).
The library only lets me check out three DVDs at a time, and the reason I was watching this download was that one of them turned out to be unplayable on the PC I use to watch movies. Some producers are like the (unpaid, therefore unaccountable) keepers of Wiki and Archive.org, they don't want people watching their products. I usually try to give them their wish, but I still had some time left over in my Sunday afternoon, so I dragged out the "Old Stupid Former" (OSX) computer. It plays them, but the experience is unpleasant, so I usually avoid the hassle. I should have this time too.
The story assumed a dying earth -- not global warming, but increasing
and unbeatable blights on the food crops, which is nonsense: human ingenuity
can overcome that kind of thing with genetic engineering, just as we eliminated
starvation in India and postponed indefinitely the dire predictions of
Thomas Malthus a century or so ago -- but it was sort of scientific, enough
so that WIRED magazine ran an interview with the producer
last year. The WIRED article was like the difference
between movie trailers and the real movie, so far from helpful that I mostly
refuse to watch trailers. The article concentrated on them getting the
astrophysics right, which they did -- sort of -- except the story line
was one catastrophe after another, so that by the middle of the 3-hour
flick there was no hope for mission success. Even assuming that wormholes
are possible, it's really unlikely that we will ever find habitable planets
in other solar systems, the science just isn't there, so at least in that
respect the catastrophes were credible. But a movie in which the Good Guys
(and especially their children, which they spent considerable time at the
beginning getting the audience to relate to) all die off is such a downer
that it won't sell. The producers know that. I knew that, so I figured
(correctly) that they had to pull some kind of time travel out of their
cinematic hat. At that point they basically abandonned science and went
for fantasy. The director knew that, so he did it inside a black hole,
as if that made it OK, the way "millions of years" solves the entropic
problems of Darwinism. After all the scientific problems were solved and
mankind saved by emigrating them to space stations orbiting around Saturn,
they showed farms on these stations growing -- blight free! -- the same
crops that the blight was killing off on earth.
I was reminded of the aphorism my father told me when I was in college: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" -- to which I would add that movies are basically the modern teaching method. Like the original Star Trek TV series, the media are made by Feelers, not Thinkers, and their highest value is not Truth, but "Relationship". Spock was not the commanding officer in Star Trek, but the "logical" foil against which Captain Kirk could play off his emotional values. That was true in this flick also, where "love" was the unscientific quality that transcended time and space. They said so. They must say so, if they are to attract women, and if the women won't come, the men won't either. It was a very unsatisfying film for me, and when it was all over, I was sorry I wasted the effort to drag out and boot up OSX to see it. So I don't feel bad if I spoiled it for you.
One deep insight they explained as the catastrophes kept piling up, is that nobody is altruistic when the competition is their own survival (including their children, which in the Darwinistic religion is the same thing). The hero wanted to go back to earth to be with his children, nevermind that he had spent so much time near the black hole that they were already older than he. One of the other characters was willing to scuttle the mission to "get back to earth." This insight resonates with our experience, every one of us, despite that the Christian message is totally opposite. You can't blame the atheist film makers for never seeing any exceptions, but it's more than a little disappointing to me that I see so few of them in the church. Some, but very very few.
There was another poignant scene, near the end, where the hero is restarting
the boxy robot who was one of the key supporting characters. Near the beginning
he had asked the robot whether it always told the truth. "90%" was the
reply, because, it went on, people can't handle the whole truth. In the
later scene, he's making the settings, and truth is 90% again, although
he contemplates making it 95%. It seems that the Feelers who wrote this
flick could not imagine anybody wanting the whole truth. I do. Worse,
my setting isn't adjustable. I'm too honest for people, and it makes them
unspeakably angry -- including that guy with "truth" in his domain name.
Anyway, the next setting was humor, and he set it to 75%. The robot immediately
announced a ferocious catastrophe just outside, and our hero adjusted humor
down to 60% (or something like that, but I can't go back and check on the
specifics, it's OSX), and the robot announced another
problem, but less severe. Then I realized the catastrophe was just a joke.
*I* would have told the robot it wasn't funny, and maybe set the humor
level to 0%. The guy threatened to set it down to 55%. Humor is a problem.
God pokes fun at the atheists, but never His own people. It wasn't a fun
The movie did not succeed (at jerking me around) -- probably because I'd already read the book -- but I did notice that some of the scenes were not the way I remembered them. Well, duh! A novelist can invent any kind of metropolitan scenery he wants, but the movie producer must pick real live cities to film their movies in (otherwise the set is monstrously expensive, like the Hobbit I watched six hours of the Making-Of the last couple weeks). I also did not remember how bad the Bad Guys were from the novel, not like they were in the flick. Maybe that was selective memory.
I mention this because all my life I have been reading these imprecatory Psalms, where (usually David) is calling down God's wrath on the Bad Guys, or at least seeking the LORD's protection from them. I couldn't relate. It's not my life -- at least not until five months ago (see "Empathy"), but that was the worst it ever got. I'm not volunteering for the kind of persecution that happens in other parts of the world, or in other parts of this country -- I assume: otherwise the novelists and moviemakers couldn't sell their fiction, it would be too scary if it weren't real -- but I got a tiny taste of it. I never believed that such lies and bullying went on in a church context, and then there it was! The guy even had the gall to repeatedly offer "reconciliation" but that was just another shameless lie. He didn't want anything of the kind, as became clear when I tried to take him up on it. I cannot even imagine why he'd even bother with the proposal, unless it was another lie, a fraudulent act staged for some third party he was trying to butter up for his own personal advantage.
People like that are not welcome in Heaven. Jesus said so. But they're in the church. Jesus (and the other Apostles) said that too. I never met them before. I didn't have to pray the Psalms for protection, God did it without my asking. I didn't know how much I needed that protection until these last few months. It was devastating. In my head I know that all that garbage is nothing, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I keep thinking that other people -- like the guy with "Truth" in his domain name -- should care about truth as much as I do, but they don't. It makes no sense. But then, I'm not a "J" either. It makes no sense.
The bottom line is that like factory farms and processed food (see "Thanking God for Factory Farms" from a couple years ago), having no Bad Guys inflicting FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and doubt) on the population is part of what made the USA the richest country in the world, and what enabled me to do amazing things on my computer for most of my life. I would like to achieve resolution, but that's a binary function: they gotta have the wanna too, or it ain't gonna happen. And they have no "rope". That's why we call them "Bad Guys". Not only they don't do Good, they don't wanna.
The Psalmist David got it right: a pox on all of them. Like the Apostle
Paul [Rom.10:1], my heart goes out to them, I wish
they could be saved, but God does not seem to force His grace on the unwilling
(except maybe a few Calvinists, but even those guys want to be saved when
the dust settles ;-) The rest of them, "they have their reward," Jesus
said. That's all they get. Don't go there, it ends up worse than your worst
Today I'm reading in the Acts of the Apostles, and some of the early chapters report on the hostilities between the "chief priests" and the Christians. These religious leaders are obviously "J"s (because nobody else wants that job), and the MBTI insight (as I previously blogged) is that "J"s stubbornly stick to their guns against all evidence, and that's exactly what these guys in the Bible do. Unlike my recent experience, they had with them a respected teacher -- "J"s make poor teachers, because a teacher must understand exactly how the student is confused before he can overcome that roadblock, and "J"s prefer to cling to their preconceptions -- so this guy is like the "TP" advisors I pointed to in telling "J"s How to Win. And you know what this smart advisor told the religious leaders? Exactly what I said: If the conflict lasts very long, "You. Will. Lose." It's a marvelous Greek word the historian used there for what Gamaliel probably told them in Aramaic, "theomakhos". We don't have any such word in English -- probably because our culture is post-Christian atheistic -- so the translators render it "fighting against God." The Greek word really means "god-fighter" and it implies much more than the English translation, which suggests only a (temporary) activity; a god-fighter's very nature is to fight against god(s). If (like the atheists) the God of the universe is your opponent, you are in deep doo-doo. You. Will. Lose. Bet on it.
Anyway, I have read this chapter dozens of times over my life, but never before having experienced what the Apostles experienced there. When they came away "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" [Acts 5:41, oNIV], it didn't make any sense to me. I just figured it was part of the "backwardness" of Christian logic, like gaining your life by losing it, or becoming King of the Universe by getting executed like a common criminal. Today, for the first time, I begin to understand the deep reasoning behind that rejoicing. It's not "backwardness" at all, but rather that I need to experience receiving the hostility before I can understand what's going on. Like I said about teachers above, they cannot do a good job of teaching unless they can get inside the students' heads, and "J"s can't do that, they are too stuck on what they think they already know.
Also in today's reading, the Psalm of the Day is the basis for a song that often reverberates through my mind, celebrating that ultimately God protects me from my enemies and the temporary and miniscule problems they impose on me:
Unto thee oh LORD, do I lift up my soul,
Oh my God, I trust in thee;
Let me not be ashamed,
Let not mine enemies triumph over me.
The essence of dystopia is fantasy, the imagining of what things might be like if the world were other than what God decreed (see "Fantasy vs the Truth"), so I have a very hard time getting into it. This one was particularly annoying, because the hero comes into the dystopic world knowing nothing and asks a lot of questions, which everybody refuses to answer. I'm an information junkie, so this is particularly annoying to me, but in the last five months I personally have experienced that kind of abuse. That doesn't improve my appreciation for it, but I can now see it as part of what Judgers do to bully other people (see "On Bullying"). Maybe they teach that kind of thing in the edu-factories where almost everybody in this country gets their indoctrination.
Another quality of this anti-hero was that he somehow was motivated to do things, but didn't know why. I cannot relate to that (see "Reasons vs Rope"). Perhaps the author was trying to empathize with teens who don't understand their own hormones, or something like that, but this was not hormones. When the heroine came on scene -- like all females in modern fiction, she was stronger than the guys -- and started telepathing (yup, fantasy) to the hero, he ran away from it. I can't relate to that at all.
So for me, "dystopia" means a horrible experience, don't go there. sigh
It is the year 2023, and for the first time, a self-driving car strikes and kills a pedestrian. A lawsuit is sure to follow. But exactly what laws will apply? Nobody knows.The author is identified as a lawyer, but his commitments are not disclosed. However, the internet is wonderful: I found that the law firm where he practices includes as clients
some of the largest multinational corporations engaged in industries such as medical devices, semiconductors, software, electronic systems and pharmaceuticals.In other words, he mostly lawyers for the guys who will be making the robot cars, not the people they kill. Y'all already know I'm not a big fan of lawyers, but I didn't tell you why. It's a very Christian thing, something that not even most people who call themselves "Christian" would think about, but Jesus taught it as "the Second Great Commandment" -- which I usually abbreviate "2C" -- (second behind giving God first place in your life, 1C). In everything you do, you need to give the other person at least as much deference as you want for yourself. That sort of destroys competition, as I pointed out seven years ago. The American legal system is adversarial (the legal term for competition), which basically means that the smartest lawyer, the guy who can convince the judge that the law is on his side, or who makes the most entertaining presentation to the jury (they get to decide for any or no reason at all, it's called "nullification" because the law doesn't matter, only their opinion), he wins and the other guy loses. If you ever start to think the jury has any other method in mind, consider my sister, who votes for the Presidential candidate whose face she likes. People do that. Anyway, every lawyer believes it's his God-given (or "evolved", same thing) duty to scrape off the table into their clients' lap, everything that isn't nailed down. It's absolutely antithetical to 2C. So it's his (and his company's) business to make sure the cookies come off the table into the laps of Google and General Motors and Tesla and the other robot car wannabes, and not the families of somebody lucky enough to have their child killed by a robot car.
He claims (and I believe) that well-made robot cars will be safer than human drivers. Certainly safer than Texas drivers (see "Back up, Texas Style"). Probably. He proposes limiting the liability of robot cars to be no more than a human would do in comparable circumstances. The problem he didn't mention is that when a human driver runs over a pedestrian and kills him, he goes to jail as "involuntary manslaughter". It's not as bad as running over the guy while DUI, but it's still jail time. Every driver knows that. They may not alter their driving much -- at least not in Texas -- but it is a motivating influence. What does that mean when the robot car runs over the pedestrian, that the car goes to jail? Who cares about that? That the carmaker goes to jail? That's what this lawyer is trying to prevent. If a bridge or a skyscraper collapses and people die, the builder or engineer (or both) go to jail unless they prove they used "generally accepted" practices to design and build it. This guy is trying to keep a million lines of computer code out of court. He said so.
You see, the problem is that carmakers need to balance the cost of litigation (and losing) against the cost of more testing and better designs. Remember the Pinto scandal? Ford had decided the cost of litigating would be less than the cost of making a safer design. If this lawyer has his way, the laws will set that cost of litigating artificially low, so the cars will be less safe -- maybe even than human drivers. Does your iPhone never freeze up? Why do you need anti-virus software? Has your computer never crashed? A robot car has ten or a hundred times more code than a simple operating system like Linux or Windows or iPhone, and a thousand times more different ways it can break and kill people. Debugging that code costs a lot of money, and the makers will trade off that cost against litigating a few deaths. Bet on it.
Write your legislator and make sure they understand what the carmakers and their lawyers are trying to do to us. The vehicle codes are state by state, not Federal (yet). You vote. Cars don't. Car manufacturers in some other state or country don't vote here. The legislator needs to know that. But mostly they need to know that the money they get from Google or GM doesn't save lives here (in your state). The carmaker lobbyists are spending that money because legislators are cheaper than lawsuits. Don't be. We want them to work harder at their robot cars than Apple and Microsoft work at making their computers, you know the ones, which crash all the time and whose "EULA" promises nothing. We want them to promise something useful before we hand them a "Get out of jail free" card. We don't want to give them that GOOJF card at all.
In this case the guy has a Decameron kind of plot, with seven people thrown together on a "pilgrimage" to some kind of holy site -- considering the author's aversion to all things religious, this is no spoiler: the author does not have a high view of what will happen there -- and each traveller tells his (or her) own story why they are making this journey. It's a clever idea, but the fact that two of them come from religious backgrounds, which the author cannot do justice to, ruined it for me.
The first guy tells the story of a Catholic priest. Unfortunately for him (and me) his planet Earth sank into a black hole -- he sort of hints that it's related to global warming -- so all of the religious and cultural artifacts of human history had to be moved and/or recreated on other planets in the galaxy. As a consequence, our priest is losing his faith. That's natural to an author who believes it's all a crock anyway, but it makes the story much harder for me to suspend disbelief.
Another guy is Jewish, and he also has serious problems with his faith because the Land of Promise is gone. It gets worse when he starts having visions telling him to go to Hyperion (the planet with these time problems, also the destination of the pilgrimage) and in the words of God calling to Abraham, to sacrifice his only daughter, whom he loves, there. The morality of that story in the Bible is difficult enough for believers; it's the poster for atheist critics, and this guy brings out all the usual issues in the mind of his Jewish pilgrim.
The other stories in this collection are not so depressing, but I almost abandonned it in the priest's story. If the Bible is true, the earth cannot be swallowed up in a black hole, destroying all our historical basis for faith. Well, maybe it might happen at the Second Coming, immediately to be replaced by "the new heaven and new earth" and all the Bad Guys (presumably including all athesits) meet their final doom, but this story didn't go that way. Another atheist author I read a few months ago did that, but it was even more bizarre (see "Friday the 13th + 1 Week").
Anyway, I got to the end and discovered it ends on a cliff-hanger. The
climax, what happens to our pilgrims when they get to Hyperion, is in the
sequel. Each participant's personal story was interesting in its way, but
they all left you wanting to see resolution, and it's not provided. I would
prefer the author more honestly gave us a 900-page book, so we know how
much we need to read to get to a satisfying end. This guy didn't. I was
so annoyed, I may not bother to go back for the sequel.
Stephenson's novel was oversexed, but in the movie it was only a minor theme. Alan Turing was in fact convicted of "indecency" (the British legal term for being homosexual) after the war was over, and that's an important part of modern revisionism, but the movie spent more screen time on Turing's OCD (I prefer to think of those initials as being "Observant, Careful and Determined") and the social interplay between him and the other team members at Bletchley Park where the decryption took place. According to the "making of" piece, the Brits did not release any information about what went on there until 50 years after he died. By now any computer scientist in the world could (with sufficient resources) repeat what they did there, and the American NSA probably does more of it than anybody else. Maybe that was the Brits' way of thumbing their noses at the Americans.
I thought it a "two thumbs up" movie. There's a lot more of me in their portrayal of Turing than in most movie heroes I see. Maybe that's why I liked it. So many movies are about people doing stupid things and just by dumb luck making out OK. I hate those. These guys did smart things. MacGyver was supposed to do smart things, but they mostly weren't good physics; this flick did real stuff. I don't know about their computer, but it looked historically credible.
It seems curious to me that when I read Stephenson's novel I was going
through some of the same interpersonal difficulties that characterized
the most recent five months. Stephenson's
insight concerning email is still valid.
My sister is a wonderful cook. She is trying to get her special-needs son ready and able to live on his own, but he does not have the attention span to be trusted on a stove, so she reworked a bunch of recipes for ordinary meals to be prepared on a microwave only (it shuts off when the cycle is done, and you can't burn yourself on a heating element). I talked her into collecting them into a cookbook, and she talked me into doing the production. They are her recipes, so it's her name on the cover, but I did the pictures and arranged the text. I am not the "author" of No-Stove Cooking, she is.
Every book in the New Testament but one has a specified author, most of them identified in the text, but some (the Gospels and Acts) by historical tradition and contextual inferences. Yet, as we learn from Acts 21:37, The Greek language they were written in was not commonly spoken by ordinary Jews in Israel at the time. It was an international trade language spoken by educated people everywhere, like English is today, but not by most people in any particular provincial area (except Greece and Greek colonies). Some of the specified authors were not likely to know Greek at all, and certainly not well enough to write a whole Gospel. Except Revelation, the Greek text looks like it was written by somebody with poor Greek skills. I'm getting ahead of myself.
Anywhere in most countries today you can walk into a store or restaurant frequented by tourists and order in English. In France they might pretend to not understand you (they are pretty pig-headed about their own language) but they do. In Israel the shop-keepers greeted me in English as I walked up (and I watched them greet Swedes and Germans and Spaniards in their own languages). But everybody knows English. Actually, not everybody. I once found myself lost in the back streets of some town in Holland, so I stopped to ask directions. Everybody in Holland knows English -- except this guy. He didn't know French or Spanish either. If he knew German, he wasn't about to admit it (the Dutch hate the Germans from WWII). I finally pointed on my map to the place where I wanted to go, and he brightened up, pointed down the street and said "Gerade aus," which was probably Dutch for "straight ahead" but sounded enough like the same thing in German, so I knew what he meant. I did some traipsing around the hinterlands of Germany and France and Spain, and there were whole towns where hardly anybody knew English. Fortunately I had learned enough of those languages in school, so with a dictionary I got along.
Israel today is like that. Almost everybody knows English -- except for the person in Haifa I tried to ask where Abigail street was, which I was looking for. If there is somebody nearby who knows English, they always jump in to help (mostly to practice their own language skills), but not that day. I finally showed her the name in my notes, and she brightened up and said "Oh, Ahvee-guy-ill" (the Hebrew pronunciation for Abigail) and then pointed me on my way. She could read English, but not understand what she was hearing me say. I could read Hebrew, but not speak it to be understood.
Some people -- mostly in the touristy places -- know the international trade language, but the common people (think: builders and farmers and fishermen) don't. Paul knew Greek, and maybe also Matthew (because he was a tax collector working for the Romans), but not Peter and probably most of the disciples. When they left Israel to travel around the Roman world with the gospel, the disciples had to learn enough Greek to buy food and lodging and ask directions, but that didn't make them good enough at it to write whole books. You can see this most clearly in the five New Testament books with John's name on them.
But first let me tell you something about the Greek language. Greek has participles, verbs inflected and used as adjectives. So does Hebrew. English does too, but we don't think of them that way. In the sentence "Using participles is hard," the word "using" is a participle. Many of us don't say things that way. Instead we might say "It's hard to use participles," which has exactly the same meaning, but uses an infinitive instead of a participle. Different people habitually make their sentences differently. That's how you can recognize a particular author, by their writing styles. Some people write in short sentences, others use long convoluted sentences. Some use short words, others use long words. You see these differences reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. The differences mostly disappear in translation, because there is only one person (or committee) setting the style for the whole translation. Anyway, the use of participles is one of those stylistic differences. We native English speakers don't even think about it, because participles are not how we think in English.
Jews who grew up speaking Hebrew or Aramaic, they already used participles a lot, so when they learned Greek, they still used them naturally, even while speaking Greek with a Semitic accent. Some of that Semitic accent comes through in the literalistic "translations" where you see "Jesus answered and said,..." Nobody says that kind of thing in natural English today. We just say "He said,... she said,..." It's a Hebrew accent, all through the Hebrew Old Testament, and in some (but not all) of the Greek New Testament books. The "and said" is often a participle in the original. The translators didn't use a participle in their translation, because it would have sounded funny in English. Consider Mark 12:26 where God speaks to Moses in the Burning Bush, which the oNIV renders in natural English "God said to him," but the Greek has a participle, which the KJV woodenly renders word-for-word "God spake unto him, saying," (although the quoted Hebrew text uses the more common waw-consecutive form rather than a participle).
Anyway, there is an esoteric use of the Greek participle called "genitive absolute" because it does not occur as the object of any preposition or verb or possessive that takes that case, but rather stands alone to indicate attendant (usually preceding) circumstances involving somebody other than the subject of the sentence. We have nothing like that in English (we use a dependent clause), nor in Hebrew (they used that waw-consecutive, like a string of "and"s), and it's peculiar enough that it's not taught to beginning Greek students. Mostly it gets used by expert Greek speakers -- a lot in Hebrews and Luke, but surprisingly not in James, where the Greek text is almost as convoluted as Hebrews.
Here is the thing: there are genitive absolutes all over the Gospel of John, but none at all in his other four books (maybe one in Revelation, but it's not in the usual form). Obviously, John had an amanuensis to compose the Greek for his Gospel, but the last book of the Bible (and maybe his letters, but they are too short to know for sure) had no such luxury. Revelation has a number of grammar problems, which led various copyists to try to correct them (leading to more textual variants than usual involving word substitutions or alternative spellings, but fewer changing only the word order); the strangeness doesn't detract from the truth of the message, but it does suggest that John was not a good Greek speaker, and he wrote it without help.
Me, when I'm trying to read 2Peter in Greek, it's a lot harder going
than 1Peter. Did Peter get more skillful at writing Greek, or did he use
a different amanuensis? 1Peter 5:12 suggests that Silvanus was amanuensis
for that book (as also mentioned at the beginning of both of Paul's letters
to Thessalonica), but not the second epistle. We know that Tertius admits
to being Paul's amanuensis in Rom.16:22, and Paul added a greeting "in
my own hand" to three other letters, which suggests that the rest of those
letters also had an amanuensis. Does that make those letters less authoritative?
Not any more than the Gospel according to Mark, which carried the Apostolic
authority of Peter, even though he did not attach his name to it, or Luke
which we assume (as according to church tradition) carried the Apostolic
authority of Paul. ALL Scripture is God-breathed and profitable...
But today I'm looking at the next article in the feature set, a guy who tells us how wonderful it was to go to LosAngeles and not drive. Mostly he used Uber. He spent about $200 and claims it would have cost him $500 to rent a car. He didn't mention the lost time waiting for his ride to show up. Time is money. He didn't mention the actual cost for a local resident to drive around town on the same errands. The amortized cost of ownership of my car (which I bought new) is somewhere around $2/day +gas. Many people buy their car used and service it themselves, which reduces that. If the author earns as much as the average tech person, his time is worth somewhere between $20 and $50/hour, which means waiting for Uber cost him more than he saved by not having his own rental. Uber may be great in large metro areas like New York and LA, but where I have lived for the last 15 years there is no public transportation at all. Bolivar MO (the county seat where I lived until last year) had a single cab that operated only during business hours, 5 days a week; this town doesn't even have that.
He admits to the divide between people with credit cards (and money, but he didn't mention that) to buy services, and people without, and offers a plaintive hope that somehow we can erase that divide. Not only is that not going to happen, but (apart from the very rich, who can afford to pay somebody at a quarter their salary to drive them around) car ownership offers a convenience factor in every part of this country except the big, dense cities like New York. I lived for a couple years in San Francisco, which has a pretty good public transit system. I could go anywhere in only two or three times as long as it took to drive and find a parking place. So I drove everywhere. Then I lived for a while in San Jose, where some parts of town were miles from public transportation, and the busses all stopped at night. I once had to walk 8 miles home when my car broke down at midnight. I don't have that car any more, and the car I have has stranded me only a couple times in the 26 years I've had it. The very rich can pay somebody to take them where they want to go, and the poor are stuck with public transportation (or not going), but car ownership is exceedingly liberating for the other 80% of the country. Nothing is going to change that, certainly not the wishful thinking of carbon-capped left-wing bigots.
The guy threw around a lot of numbers, but never in any way that you
could actually do the math. But it's not hard to Google those numbers:
The Department of Transportation gives numbers like 255 million registered
vehicles a couple years ago, perhaps two for every three people, man, woman,
and child. Many never go anywhere (who's going to drive the third car in
a two-driver family?) and most stay parked 23 out of every 24 hours. He
says, "We can't just keep building more roads. That only leads to more
cars, more highways, more traffic..." What nonsense! We already have more
cars than people to drive them, and we're killing off new people faster
than they are born, so more roads will not increase the traffic.
Anyway, this guy was trying to argue that "that day" in Matt.24:36 is a different time from "those days" in verses 19 and 29. Verses 19 and 29 came and went in 70AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, but verse 36 is still future. There are people who argue carefully that the whole chapter refers to 70AD (we call them "preterists" or Seventh-Day Adventists), but most conservative (meaning they believe the Bible is true) theologians argue that it's all still future. Me, I'm pan-millennialist. I won't get caught with my hand in the cookie jar if my hand is never in the cookie jar.
What bothered me about this guy was his different hermeneutic for "that" (Greek 'ekeinos') between verse 36 and the previous uses of the same word in the same chapter. I would guess he does not spend a lot of time reading the Bible in Greek, because if he did, he wouldn't make that mistake. I'm reading in John 16 this morning, where verse 13 tells us "when that Spirit of Truth comes, he will..." Does Jesus mean that there are two different Spirits, the Comforter in verse 7, and then some other Spirit in verse 13? I don't think so, and I suspect this guy would agree. The Greek word 'ekeinos' is used all over the Bible to mean "the one I just now told you about, not some other guy."
Matt.24 is no different. The word 'ekeinos' appears ten times in that chapter, first in verse 19 "those days" referring to the days he began to describe in verse 4 in answer to the disciples' question "When?" He's still talking about the same period of time (not some other time, as my preacher friend probably would agree) in verse 19, and again (twice) in verse 22, then again in verse 29 when the sun and moon will be darkened and stars will fall, and "the Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and will send out his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his Chosen..." Yup, all those things will happen "immediately" after "those days," the same days he was telling about earlier in the same chapter (and not some other time). Was there a loud trumpet in 70AD and were all the Christians gathered to the Coming of Jesus? I don't think so. That's the problem with Preterist theology, it doesn't match the facts of history. "Coming in the clouds" might be metaphor in verse 30, but what about the trumpet? Why weren't the Christians all gathered up to meet Jesus?
"Those days" is repeated again in verse 38, but this guy now wants to tell us that "that day" (verse 36) is now referring to some other, different day than what Jesus started to tell us about at the beginning of the chapter. Verse 36 is singular, the other five references are plural, is that significant? Probably: the general time (plural "those days") can be recognized by all the signs Jesus told about, but the particular instant in time ("that day and hour") is not known, not even by Jesus, but only the Father knows.
There is a use of the same demonstrative in verse 43 without a noun (which is not helpful in the present discussion), but the remaining three times 'ekeinos' appears in Matt.24, Jesus is telling about the faithful servant who is doing his duty when the Master returns. The servant is introduced in verse 45, then in verse 46 Jesus calls "that servant" blessed. Which servant, the one he just told us about in the previous verse, or some other servant? Why would we want to understand 'ekeinos' in verse 46 to be totally different from 'ekeinos' in verse 36? But if "that servant" in verse 48, the same guy, hypothetically were to behave badly, then the Master of "that servant" in verse 50, the same guy, there's only one servant described in all seven verses, the Master would punish him severely when He comes.
When we start cherry-picking different hermeneutics to fit our pre-determined theology, then the theology is not from the Bible, but the other way around. Don't do that.
Maybe the Christians in 70AD remembered what Jesus said and got out of town before the Romans came, maybe not, I don't know. I don't think this guy knows either, since the only contemporary historian of that event (Josephus) mentions Christians only once in his entire history, and not in that context. Three centuries later Eusebius said something like that, but he wasn't there at the time, and he didn't cite any eyewitnesses, so maybe he was inventing it to make the Good Guys look good. We don't know.
Maybe Daniel's "Abomination of Desolation" had multiple fulfillments. Certainly most people recognize it in Antiochus Epiphanes, so much so that atheists try to suppose the prophecy was written after the event. Jesus placed it in the future, which would be a second fulfillment. Was that 70AD? Is there a third? We don't know. Me, I'm a pan-millennialist. What I do today deserves much more of my attention than what God will do "in the sweet bye and bye." Jesus said not to worry about the future, it will take care of itself.
PermaLink (with additional
remarks from John 18)
I told her to vote for a third party, it has more effect than voting for a major party. Do the math. If you vote a major party, you will be among maybe 100 million votes, so your vote is one millionth of a percent. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning on a sunny day than affecting that outcome. If the third party pulls in one million votes (including yours), then you are 100 times more effective. More importantly, if you vote for a major party, nobody cares what you think, they are just happy you voted for them. If you vote for a minor party, the major candidates look very closely to see how they can modify their own position to recapture your vote. You actually have an effect far bigger than a tiny fraction of a percent of the outcome in that particular election.
She voted for Obama because of his race, she figured it would improve our standing among all the countries with black presidents. Her brother-in-law spends a lot of time on mission trips to Africa, and he says the Africans liked Bush a lot better than Obama. I didn't bother to tell her (she wouldn't have listened anyway) that when they had white rule, Rhodesia was the richest country in Africa (even the blacks were better off financially than the blacks in neighboring countries); now with black rule -- in her lifetime -- renamed Zimbabwe is now the poorest country in the world (or second behind Haiti, also black rule, they occasionally trade off for last place). The USA is still ahead of whoever is in second place, but not as far ahead as we were under Bush. I doubt it's the color of the face, but you gotta wonder. Especially Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, from top to bottom in one generation.
If I were quicker, I could have suggested she vote for a Latino, so to improve our standing in all those countries with Hispanic governments, but she also doesn't like Cruz or Rubio. She didn't say why, but she looks at the left-wing news media (is there any other kind?) and believes them. Ben Carson is black, but "he has no experience" -- which is true, but it was also true of Obama. The media disparage all the Republicans because of their party, and not for their qualifications. The reason "global warming" is so important today is because when Bush was President, they hated him for his religion, but they couldn't say that, so they had to find some other way to demonize him. They couldn't get him on education, he was to the left of the Dems on that. They couldn't get him on AIDS, he was to the left of the Dems on that too. They couldn't get him on the war, the whole country supported that. So they picked on climate change, which Bush was actually on the side of science but nobody knew that. Politics (read: money handouts) still overwhelms the science, but the "scientists" have their hand in the cookie jar, and the Dems support government funding of every stupid project they hear of, while the Reps try not to (but not very hard).
The bottom line is that this person -- there are probably millions of
voters like her -- will vote a "Presidential face" over any substantial
issue, or maybe whatever she sees on the boob tube. And you wonder why
this country is going down the tubes? I guess it was Churchill who famously
said "Democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for everything
else that has been tried." I've been watching "The
Truth Project" videos for the last couple weeks, and their Session
#10 on "The American Experiment" is compelling, every patriotic American
should see it. Democracy is unworkable apart from a moral (religious, as
in Christian) people. We are losing that here, and the government must
make up for that loss with tyranny. We are still way ahead of whoever is
in second place (they didn't say that) but everybody is actively trying
to close the gap. I reminded her that there are a lot of worse places to
live -- like Iraq under ISIS. Nobody disputes that,
just look at how many people want into the USA, compared to how many want
I keep thinking about my own relational failures, most recently a guy who (near as I can tell) sold his soul for a mess of pottage, or something like that. Like the real women in the fictional movie guy's life, he doesn't want anything to do with me, but apparently (reading between the lines) somebody at church is putting the screws on him to go through the steps of Biblical reconciliation -- as if they knew what that meant -- but they certainly are not paying much attention to his efforts. So I get these emails that obviously were written not to me, but rather for the benefit of whoever he is BCC'ing them to: he uses churchy words in ways that betray a total indifference to (and disrespect for) truth and justice. It's like the Pharisees, whitewashed on the outside for people to see, but inside full of gangrene and putrifaction, and Jesus doesn't seem to be available to call attention to it. Like the guy in the movie, he's not writing his own thoughts to somebody he cares about, he's just performing to a script. It would seem that whoever is putting him up to this exercise in futility must be running a factory seminar, checking off items on the checklist without verifying their credibility. Jesus never did it that way, and neither did I: different people have different needs, and you need to address them individually, not on some assembly line. It's sad, but he's ignoring me, so there's nothing I can do about it -- other than weep. sigh
The movie got too kinky and I gave up on it. As the Prophet said, "Woe
is me, for I live in a land of unclean lips." There must be a lesson somewhere
in there for me.
Far from being born blind, my disability (if you can call it that) is that I think slowly but very comprehensively. Part of it is personality type (see "How to Win" a month ago), and part of it is a childhood that did not encourage mental haste and superficiality. I do not regret who God made me to be -- indeed it enables me to be Right more often than other people, which in the long run is not a bad place to be, besides it's a little late in my life to be changing that kind of thing -- sort of like the man born blind, it may take me a while to "see" everything, but when I get there, I can see better than the "blind" (Judger) church leaders.
Anyway, I used to have this friend, but he came under the influence of those blind guides [Matt.15:14] and fell into the ditch. Today's Proverb:
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. -- Prov.22:24,25 oNIVThat's his problem, in spades. It started off as anger (see "I Am Judge" for how he might have been thinking) or as I sometimes call it, "not-anger" (because it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but "anger is evil so I don't do that"), and then morphed into something else. So he decided that the best way to bully Tom is to demand a face-to-face meeting (see "Cowardly Face-to-Face" two months ago). When I got tired of it, I did my homework and agreed to meet with him, but he backed out. It's not the meeting that is important to him, but the bullying. He can't do that if I'm prepared.
Despite the obvious fact that it's now known to be a pretense, not a genuine offer, he still demands a meeting. This week he sent another email,
I'm open to talking on the phone, meeting in person, and making accommodations for your disability of not being able to function in real time.It's a self-contradictory lie on the face of it. To the extent that I am not able to function in real time (which is reasonably accurate), it is incompatible with meeting in person or talking on the phone. If he would just start thinking,or if he had read any of my emails in the last four months, he would know that. If he won't read my email, why should I read (and reply to) his? If he has so little self-respect (or Christian virtue, respecting me as he wants to be respected, either way) that he cannot spend a few minutes to read my emails to him, nor even to read what he sends me, then any pretense of offering me a relationship of meeting in person or accommodating my requirements is necessarily a lie and a fraud, and his continuing in this sin for several months is evidence of unbelief. He included a Trojan Horse to notify him when I opened it, but I have a PhD in computer science, I know how to defeat those kinds of things. If I wanted to, but anybody sending Trojan horses doesn't want me to read it.
Maybe (this is only a guess) he has Clue Deficit Disorder. Being a Judger informs him (wrongly, in this case, as most often) that any additional thought about his interaction with me is unnecessary. He already has determined (again without basis in fact, but "J"s don't worry about little details like Truth) that Tom is an idiot undeserving of any actual engagement, so it doesn't matter what foolish things he does to me. He just needs to put on a good show for whatever audience he's really doing this for, and they are also all Judgers who won't be thinking about it either. Isn't it amazing what foolishness you can get into once you abandon God's Word and its command to "Love your neighbor as yourself." The Bible is full of rules and Do's and Don'ts to help non-thinking Judgers muddle along without doing too much damage, but you actually need to obey those rules for them to work. He sent me a paper copy of printed instructions with his church's logo, which he himself was in violation of. sigh
I mention all this because (like the man born blind) there's a lesson here. Once you head down the path of self-deception, getting back on the path of Truth is very difficult. It's like that "blind spot" he likes to accuse me of, you can't see it because you are blind there, but you can run experiments to prove it (see my blog post three months ago). The false accusations I take to mean he has the blind spot. The guy probably doesn't realize that his offer is not only not true, it's (as the atheists like to say) not even false. He's a Judger. He stopped thinking four months ago, and he's running on autopilot, or maybe only copy/pasting whatever the guys at church tell him to say. I know he does that kind of thing, because I was his ghost-writer for a while way back when he was being friendly to me. I think of it as being a zombie. When I had the opportunity (and before I realized how futile it was) I tried to encourage him to do his own thinking, but he doesn't have the personality for it. He's a good follower, but lousy at choosing good people to follow. Like the man born blind, he needs somebody to lead him around, but if his guides are also blind (as you know, church leaders are all Judgers, who like this guy are not open to better information when it becomes available), they both fall into the ditch. Jesus said so. Jesus is the true shepherd, follow him. But you must be able to read and understand what you are reading. Zombies can't do that, they can only twitch under the control of their master.
There is none so blind as those who will not see.
Fortunately, I have other more friendly friends. One of them (I think
he's "TP" like me) recently sent me a video series "The
Truth Project". I expect to have something to say about it after I've
seen more, but so far there's nothing to disagree with except maybe the
glitzy production, which comes off a little fake (not exactly what they
might want people to perceive in a program about "truth" ;-) If
that turns out to be its worst failing, I will be able to recommend it
I've written a few computer games (see "Tennis" and some of the remarks on Tiny Basic), but more recently I use the phrase "video game" as a metaphor for a thin cardboard imitation of reality that doesn't take as much skill as the real thing, or else trying to figure out how something works by trial and error instead of being given instructions. Here in this article was the first time I saw somebody admit that video games are fundamentally different from real life. Or maybe they're not:
All video games are deterministic; just some mask it better than others. [Jan.2016, p.95]The game featured in the article was brutally deterministic. They explained it as arising from the faith of the designer, who believes that God decides what is going to happen and the player just needs to get with the program. I guess that's why I grumble about working with inadequate documentation as "the video game method." The theology is closer to Calvinism than Arminian, and I'm sort of there myself -- but not quite. I see no evidence in the Bible that God forces people against their will into His Heaven... Hmmm, maybe video games are like that too: the game (generally) does not force you to completion, but there is a story arc that the designer worked into the game, and you must follow that arc if you want to get to the end. There is purpose in the game, and Christians -- probably including Arminians -- believe there is purpose in life, which God has more control of than we do.
It's an interesting metaphor.
A few months ago I went to a debate between neo-atheist Bart Ehrman
and a local pastor. One of arguments he considered compelling is recent
research showing eyewitness testimony to be unreliable. Not at the debate
-- good quality replies never happen in real time, as I argued elsewhere
-- but afterward, several evangelical scholars pointed out that the research
does not reflect on Biblical eyewitness accounts for several good reasons,
most notably that the research was done in a modern literate culture, where
people do not need to remember details they can Google on their phones.
The Bible was written by people in an aural culture: books were far too
expensive for people to have easy access, and there was no internet at
all, so people remembered details much more carefully. But minor variations
in details do not invalidate the main points, and we need to be careful
we don't try to impose a modern every-detail-exactly-right precision on
people who didn't think that way. Luke has the order of the three Temptations
of Christ different from Matthew. We can infer from the difference that
neither of them was intending to teach a particular order, but only to
tell us that all three happened. Anyway, nobody was there except Jesus
and the Devil, so the evangelists got their stories second-hand. Perhaps
Jesus himself told it both ways. Maybe both sequences are true, for example
if some of the temptations were repeated, then depending on which ones
you pick out to tell, you get different sequences. Mostly we don't have
enough information to disprove or impugn the eyewitness accounts, that's
not their purpose.
Wells thought back to the hate of the United States he'd seen during his years in the mountains. Hate fueled by religion, and by the bitter truth that Americans had so much and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan so little. The anger only increased since the United States invaded Iraq. So many jihadis, so eager to die, to strap bombs to their chests and tear themselves to pieces.The "religion" part is most important, because the "hate" part is derived entirely from the religious differences and their consequences. The economic prosperity of the USA and northern Europe is a direct consequence of the Protestant Reformation and the culture of individual accountability before God that the Reformation taught. No other culture or civilization ever developed as much prosperity and technological progress as started in Germany, moved to England, and thence to the USA (but is now on the wane here), generally about a century after that region's Protestant dominance in the world.
The Protestants used to teach their adherents that we are responsible to God to do Good. Modern evangelicalism tends to teach instead the unBiblical notion that we cannot do Good, but God loves us anyway. That often discourages people from trying. Doing Good (treating other people as you yourself would want, also known as the Golden Rule) creates wealth and value in the world for everybody. Selfish behavior destroys wealth. Islam is similar to evangelicalism, because there is little motivation for doing Good to others: you give alms, but success is "inshallah" (if God is willing) more than our own efforts, and yes, that is also taught to Christians, but the focus is different. Americans have a culture of "better" (aim your guns more carefully, so to hit the target dead-on) while the joke is that Muslims "spray and pray." Why bother trying harder, if it makes no difference, if the gods alone determine the outcome? That's why modern science and technology sprang up in a strongly Christian culture, and nowhere else ever.
If the jihadis were less eager to die, and more eager to do Good to
other people -- even their enemies -- then their country would also be
wealthy. Bombs and bullets and hate destroy wealth, not create it. The
USA would not have invaded Iraq if they had not first invaded us (and our
friends). We don't want war, we want wealth. We know how to create wealth.
We are losing it as the atheists take over the cultural instruments of
power, but there is still plenty of gas in the tank to run for decades
more. England and Germany are still doing well long after they gave up
their hold on Christian faith -- not as well as those who kept the faith
longer, but the consequences last far longer than the faith the gendered
How do you reconcile four or more weeks of unrelenting false accusations and slander with God's command to "Love your neighbor as yourself"? Does anybody really like to be falsely accused? Especially to other people? I really need to know.If he likes that kind of thing happening to him, then I might have a few of my own, sort of to return his "kindness" to me. Or failing that,
Do you really expect God to let you into His Heaven while you are still unrepentant and still continuing to do harm to other people? It wouldn't be Heaven for them (the other people) if He did that, would it?Or, if he somehow expects to magically stop this harmful behavior at the end of his life (and not before then),
What makes you think you will enjoy not doing it in Heaven, when it seems so delightful today?I really want to know. Me, I think Heaven is for people who enjoy doing Good. I hope so, anyway [Prov.8:13].
The only credible alternative explanation I can think of for doing evil because it's evil is the loss of mental faculties: being stupid, bamboozled, or angry. Anger is a temporary form of stupidity; bamboozlement is longer-term but still (in principle) curable. I don't think he is congenitally or pharmacologically stupid, but after three months he's still not over it, so it's probably not ordinary anger either. Anybody who can remain angry that long is willfully violating the command of God, and therefore evil. So it must be that somebody has deceived him. Yeah, that must be it. I bet I know who. Maybe he doesn't have enough moral compass to steer clear of such dangers. Like icebergs, they can be hazardous to your life. Don't go there.
* What was that line he used? Oh yes, "Man up!"
Postscript, 3 weeks later: The guy responded
to my posting but pointedly did not answer any question in it nor even
say anything true and meaningful (he is probably ashamed of his behavior,
or too cowardly to engage me on a level playing field). Considering the
trojan horse buried in his email, maybe I should reconsider the "evil"
option. If insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different
result, what is expecting the same result? Obviously, it's the outcome
he wants. God is gracious (even to the wicked) and I try to be also [Matt.5:44],
so I gave him what he wants (see "Biblical
Later this year
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