Friday, July 29, 2005

I'm running on nothing but caffeine today. The series of movies last night kept us out until 1AM, then we had to recap when we got home. I think I finally fell into bed around 2:30 or 3AM. I'm supposed to get up for work at 6AM. Needless to say, I was late.

Today was a day destined to be unproductive. Not only was I dog-tired, but I spent the entire day cleaning up messes created by network problems last night while all my jobs were running. I love doing scut work. Of course, I don't know that I'm fit to do anything else today given the lack of sleep.

The movies: overall, about what you would expect from this type of festival. There was a range of quality and enjoyment with only one that I regretted spending the money on. Details:

The Axe - a French film with subtitles. It was one of those films that shouldn't have been funny, but it had everyone rolling. At least those that could keep up with reading the subtitles and watching what was going on. Out of the four, I'd put this one at number three.

Mondovino - This was supposed to be some sort of documentary about the wine industry and the fight of the little guy against the big, multinational corporations. I only know that because National Geographic did an article last month that covered the same ground far more coherently than this film did. There was so much jumping around interviewing different people that I lost complete track of who was arguing what with whom after the first hour. We left about an hour and a half into the movie because we were hungry and because none of us understood what the point of the movie was. Obviously, this was our least favorite.

My Summer of Love - British, so no subtitles (woo hoo!!), but in parts I wish there had been. British idiom can get pretty thick sometimes. This was Michael Moore's contribution to the festival, so he was hanging around the theater before the movie. I had a chance to talk to him for about two minutes. It was pretty cool. He gave a little speech before the movie started, and he was pure Michael Moore. Anyway, about the movie. It was certainly British with a good story with a lot of depth. Typical of European films, there was little violence, and a lot of nudity. There is just something about Euros that makes them want to scamper around nude a lot. At least the subjects of the film were pretty easy on the eyes. Of all the movies, all three of us enjoyed this one the most, although personally I would not say it was "best."

The Woodsman - Kevin Bacon plays a child molester just released from prison. The movie is disturbing on several levels, the most significant for me being that by the end of the movie you are sympathetic for the guy. Because of the subject matter, I can't say we really enjoyed this one, but I don't think that was the intention. I walked out disturbed and conflicted, so in that sense it was probably the best of the four in its ability to impact the viewer, but I can't really say any of us enjoyed the movie.

A note for Traverse City merchants. All I hear is this incessant whining from you about how everyone goes to the mall instead of downtown. This four-day film festival was your chance to show off. You are blowing it big time. I mentioned we left our second movie early to find something to eat. Because we were downtown where the parking is a complete joke, we had ditched the vehicle in front of someone's house and were on foot. We had limited time, so that ruled out a regular sit-down restaurant. I had a minor with me which also ruled out most of the bars-with-food places. No problem; while walking from place to place, we noticed several small sandwich shops. Only one problem; they all close by 4PM. Lucky for us, there is a Subway tucked into Front Street, otherwise, we would have had to walk to the car, drive to some fast food place out on the highway, eat, drive back, repark the car, walk to where the movie was showing, most likely arriving late. This is one of the most-hyped things to happen in Traverse City since we moved here, and the local merchants didn't think it was important enough to stay open later. Nice move, idiots. And while Subway was open, the management there wasn't much smarter. There were only two people working, which meant they both were making subs as fast as possible, with no one to clean tables or restock anything. So we felt like we were literally in a New York subway trying to find a place clean enough to sit down and eat.

All I can say after spending over ten hours in downtown Traverse City is that a lot of businesses there seem to want to fail. And I will continue to shop at Meijers and WalMart, which at least are open hours other than the ones I work.

Tonight, we only have two movies on tap: The Baxter and Grizzly Man. I'll report on those tomorrow at some point. The problem is that it looks to be a very busy day tomorrow as well, with a lot of stuff going on. We want to hit everything, but that is not possible without violating physics. I will try to get something posted, but no guarantees.

From today on the web, another call to ditch the shuttle. This won't happen until NASA destroys the remaining orbiters in launch and/or landing failures. There is too much pork in the shuttle for Congress to ever kill it, and NASA's shuttle operations have become too entrenched. They will literally have to crash every last one of them with the full loss of the crew before anything changes.

From the part of NASA that still knows how to do things, we have more water on Mars. This time, it is a large frozen lake in a crater. It just keeps getting better and better. And the rovers are both still chugging along more than a year after they were supposed to die. NASA can do some things well.

Speaking of Europeans shedding their clothes, here is one for the weird file: a clothing-optional museum. If it's anything like a nude beach, it will mostly be an argument that clothing is a very good idea for the vast majority of the population.

And Vox takes on another touchy subject: why women treat their friends like crap. I can't claim vast personal experience here, because neither Debbie nor myself have friends (inside joke; please don't flood our blog with comments). Seriously, I see this mostly in the context of the office. Most women (not all) that I have worked with don't seem to understand how to get along with co-workers. Sure, guys argue constantly, but it almost never escalates to the level of personal attack. Any time I see two women in the office going at it, there is nothing but personal attacks. Every guy I have ever worked with is endlessly amused by this, and some will even throw gasoline on the fire by encouraging one (or both) sides to keep escalating. I have no explanation. It seems very illogical.

And that's all I have today.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lots of good stuff over at Jerry Pournelle's place:

It seems that the flap over Microsoft data mining was the result of a mix up of what data would be collected for software activation and bug reports. Still, the whole activation scheme is nothing more than Microsoft going to the model of software rental rather than the one-time purchase of a software license. I could care less; I will be Microsoft-free by the end of this year. Uncle Bill can do whatever he wants.

An interesting quote:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

Sir Winston Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

And more on the politics of Global Warming and other scientific pursuits.

Today will be a short day at work and a long day of movies. Nestina, one of her friends, and I will be hitting the first full day of the Traverse City Film Festival. We will be seeing The Axe, Mondovino, My Summer of Love, and The Woodsman. All of them sound like they could be really good or really bad. I'll report on them tomorrow.

That's all I have time for right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Not much going on so today is just a linkfest:

Fred Reed reports on the Maribel Cuevas stupidity. It's called anarcho-tyranny. Look it up if you don't know what that means.

This is amazing. It isn't Photoshop, even though it looks like it. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you see the trick. The image only works when viewed from eye level at a certain point. Of course, I'm sure he is breaking a dozen laws. We can't have random people drawing on government property with chalk.

And as one would expect, there is a lot of chatter about the shooting in London. Again, I'm not all that clear on what should have been done given recent events there. And, of course, the agendas are still very clear, even if the facts are not. In any case, you can read up on it here and here.

Vox Day seems to share my opinion of "law enforcement." Not that it will change anything as our course seems fixed by history, but it is nice to know that I'm not completely alone.

Microsoft is completely shameless. Hey Bill!! Up yours! :-)

There is an old joke about what you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean (a good start). This is no joke. What do you call a spammer beaten to a bloody pulp in his own apartment? A good start.

Kip over on A Stitch in Haste scored a hat trick plus one:

On "Consenting" versus "Submitting" to a search
AMT Liability to Explode in 2006
New Pope Has His Priorities Straight
New York Diabetics May Lose Privacy Rights

And that is all I have time for right now. I have to hit the road here pretty quick. I will probably post later tonight.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another busy weekend. Thursday on the way home I got a flat tire. I was able to air it up enough to get home, but that meant I would at least be late to work if I made it at all. I needed an oil change anyway, so I had Nestina follow me into Kalkaska so I could dump the truck at the garage, then spent all day just running errands. We didn't get home until around 5pm. Nestina went to Traverse City for a couple hours with a friend and I called the soccer team about a scrimmage in August. That was pretty much the day.

Saturday, I hauled old lumber out of the garage and set it on fire. I managed to clear a decent-sized hole in the garage and got rid of most of the wood. There is still a pile left out by the fire ring, but I should be able to make that go away the next time I burn. It started raining just before dark, which always makes me feel better when there is a pile of hot coals in the fire ring.

Sunday, it rained most of the day, so Debbie and I stayed home in the morning and worked on indoor stuff. I think I have finally found and put covers on all the outlets in the basement. That doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment until you consider that the boxes are recessed into the cement block wall. Most are crooked, recessed too far for the screws to reach, have blobs of mortar blocking the screw holes, etc., etc. It usually takes about an hour or so to get each one situated. Also, several have gotten buried behind bookcases or file cabinets that have to be emptied and moved. But in any case, we are done. Sunday evening we did church and hung out with the teens at the pastor's house. We got home around 9:30 and everyone just chilled out until bedtime.

Random things from today's internet browsing:

Vox Day has an interesting proposal after the London police shot a Brazilian tourist on suspicion of terrorism. First, a few thoughts on the shooting. Were the police a little fast on the trigger? Under ordinary circumstances, yes. A couple days after the second bombing attack in as many weeks? The answer isn't so clear. I only know what I read, and much of what I read is contradictory, and most of the authors I have read show more concern for agenda over facts. But as a male, I have no issue with Vox's proposed policy. Unlike women, men have no problem deluding themselves into believing women want to see them naked when they are hairy, fat, forty, and bald.

And Bob Thompson offers his take on the terrorist/tourist shooting. There is great logic in the thought that two days after a bombing attack is not the time to run from the police. Maybe we just write this off as evolution in action. He is spot on with regards to our own anti-terrorism efforts. No matter what, no law enforcement officer must ever search young, Middle Eastern males carrying suspicious packages. Instead we strip search 80-year-old Catholic women.

And another one for the stupid file. Monty Python would never do a skit like this because satire has to be at least plausible to be funny. The best line: "One sympathizes with the reader from a non-legal point of view, but property rights often trump civil liberties. There is no human right to read." Only a lawyer could say something so stupid with a straight face, and only a modern J-school graduate could report it as serious news.

This article outlines the importance of basic research. Bell Labs used to be the R&D department for the human race, but we decided that .03/minute long distance was more important. De-regulation has certainly been an economic boom in the short term, but what are the long-term costs? Understand that I am libertarian enough to support the Bell break-up, but I also understand that the drive for short-term profit pretty much eliminates much of the answer-seeking described here. One of my co-workers once said that we could accomplish so much more for our organization if the ten biggest problems were posted on a wall. Everyone would be allowed to work on them individually, in small groups, on campus, off campus, at midnight, on Sunday, whatever. The problem is that management is about budgets and schedules and efficiency, and this route is sure to create a lot of dead ends and false starts that look very inefficient. But it can also offer brilliant solutions by bringing unique perspectives to the problem. Motorola used to be famous for allowing this sort of ad-hoc work, but I'm sure the shareholders have killed that. Microsoft and Apple also used to encourage it, and Apple still shows signs that such activity is allowed to some extent. As far as I can tell, it has been completely beaten out of Microsoft. Any my employer doesn't even allow us to work from home because we might not be really working. We could be doing all kinds of other things, like surfing the web or blogging.


Ah well. In ten years, the Chinese will be have a permanent habitat on the moon. But I'm sure that will have no effect whatsoever on the US GDP.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Last night was youth group. I didn't teach this week, and started to wrap things up as far as Debbie and I being involved with the group. I expect to be out of things completely by the start of the school year. Maybe sooner.

I'm continuing to add and delete links. There are a couple blogs that may disappear if I don't see some activity. I know I sometimes go a week without a new post, but a couple haven't been touched since May. I'd rather keep a short list of active blogs than a long list of abandoned ones.

Anyway, from the daily skim of my contacts:

More indications that "law enforcement" officers are doing a great job of convincing the nation that the whole lot of them are morons. First, a meter maid is handcuffed for ticketing an illegally parked car. The police union rep has no immediate comment. Of course not. There is simply no excuse for this sort of stupidity. Next up, the Denver police are killing domestic dogs at a rate of about 3 a day. The dog's crime? Looking like a pit-bull. I understand the need to destroy vicious or dangerous dogs regardless of breed, but there is no such thing as a vicious breed for one, and second, there is no recognized breed called "pit-bull." So the Denver police are combing the city looking for and killing any dog with pit-bull-like markings. Undefined, of course; that way it is impossible for the police to make a mistake. If there is no objective standard, no one can be held accountable. Welcome to post-modernism. The last time I checked the FBI crime statistics back in 1999 or 2000, about half of all murders in the United States were unsolved. I would think the police would have better things to do than bust meter maids for doing their job and killing pets based on their appearance.

And on a more serious note, James Doohan died yesterday morning. Based on the above stories, all I can say is "Beam me up, Scotty. There is no intelligent life here."

Speaking of no intelligent life, Nestina is all done working for Avalanche Bay. It's a rather long story that I may go into later after I have an opportunity to talk to Nestina tonight. But this much I do know: right now I have a lot of doubts about my faith. One of the primary reasons is the attitudes and actions of individuals that claim to be Christians, including some in Calvary Baptist Church of Kalkaska. As of this moment, I am prepared to severe all ties immediately. That may change after I calm down, but probably not.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Explanation of Life

I just got this from one of Debbie's cousins:

On the first day God created the dog. God said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years." The dog said, "That's too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I'll give you back the other ten."

So God agreed.

On the second day God created the monkey. God said, "Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I'll give you a twenty-year life span." The monkey said, "How boring, monkey tricks for twenty years? I don't think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that's what I'll do too, okay?"

And God agreed.

On the third day God created the cow. God said, "You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years." The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty and I'll give back the other forty."

And God agreed again.

On the forth day God created man. God said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. I'll give you twenty years." Man said, "What? Only twenty years! Tell you what, I'll take my twenty, and the forty the cow gave back and the ten the monkey gave back and the ten the dog gave back that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You've got a deal."

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves; for the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family; for the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren; and for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.
We had people over for dinner last night. Nestina had a friend over, and Debbie and I had asked over the other couple that works in Sr. High youth group to hash out a transition. I tried to cook steaks on the grill. Everyone said how great they were, but I thought they were tough. I don't have a lot of luck with steaks on our grill; the heat is too uneven for one thing. I should probably invest in lava rock and see if that spreads the heat more evenly. In any case, there was way more food than anyone could have eaten, so I guess it was OK. More importantly, I think the transition will be as smooth as transitions ever are. I've seen these done badly a number of times, and we are all trying as best as we can to not repeat history.

That obviously took up the entire evening, so there isn't much else to report.

I have been working with my links over on the right side of the page. If something disappears that you use or there is something you feel should be there that isn't, let me know.

Some items from skimming through my usual sources:

I know I sound like a broken record, but everyone needs to realize that school isn't about learning. Schools are a tool for union featherbedding and brainwashing children with whatever political views are held by the "leaders." If some knowledge happens to fall into a kid's head along the way, that's OK as long as it doesn't interfere with the indoctrination process. Now we have the Florida legislature equating a person's patriotism with the size of their flag. I wish I were making it up.

And another black smacks down black "culture." I'm sure if the schools recognize Ebonics as a legitimate language, it will fix everything in the black "community." It couldn't possibly be that the people living in black neighborhoods are just disfunctional.

On a lighter note, I have never seen clouds like this. They are called Mammatus clouds for the obvious reason. Here is an explanation of how they form.

And that is all I have for now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cleanup time: This is just a bunch of random stuff sitting in the queue.

Wearing a mask in public is not protected speech. Understand this guy was just walking down the street, minding his own business, while wearing a Grinch mask.

A judge decides parents cannot take their own child to the religious service of their choice. The most distressing part of this story is that most Christians would agree with the judges ruling and not have any clue as to why they should be vocally opposed to this.

I received this through back channels. I post it just in case people think I'm exaggerating how bad our schools have become. The name and location have been obscured to protect the intelligent from school administrators.

Hello. I am Khruv S, a high school sophomore from Riutoh, ZZ, whose school year just ended -- meaning that anything I write to you will not come back to haunt me until the end of August. I've been following your education discussions for about a year and a half now, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) many of the conclusions reached on your site were the same conclusions I came to during my freshman year.

For example, reading, writing and math seem de-emphasized, while science is gradually dumbed down for the hordes of students who enter ninth and tenth grade not knowing d=r*t or how cells divide. Some of this may seem like trivia, but there are many students I have spoken to who do not know the basics of evolution, can not explain cancer more than two months after the cancer unit has passed, and who have no concept of what science (repeatable, demonstrable) is or is not.

And that, sir, is from a GATE-level classroom. At Edison, one of the top 100 high schools nationwide (at least two years ago), there are about twice as many non-GATE or Prep students as there are GATE students, and these know far less. I have spoken with P students who have not read a book in their lives, who are stumped by basic algebra, and who have no knowledge of politics, government or history. Their grammar and spelling fall anywhere from middling to atrocious. Some of the teachers seem to have given up, while others do the best they can to teach classes full of 'students' who bring neither paper nor pencil to school. Many of the parents do not seem to care. And discipline is also an enormous problem; profanity and general rudeness is the rule rather than the exception.

(An aside: There is a running joke about how an observer can pick out P-students from a distance. They wear sports jerseys, have tiny backpacks or small sports bags, and swear a lot.)

In the meantime, teachers bend over backwards to fulfill 'the standards' and to teach what should have been taught before. I have one English teacher in mind as a prime example of this. We read two books and two Shakespeare plays in his class, one book/play per quarter. The rest of the time, we read stories of various types aloud in class. (! Isn't that for elementary school kids? Never mind; certain kids read very slowly, so this may have been necessary. Unfortunately.) During the entire school year, we did only three forty-minute essay-type writing assignments. On Thursdays the teacher brought out one of his old orange grammar books and retaught the basics."This is a noun/verb/apostrophe/semicolon." I lost interest in his class rather early in the school year; perhaps from my writing you can see why. But many other students liked his class. One of them said that he taught her 'a lot' that she hadn't really learned before. What he was doing ought to be taught in the third or fourth grade, not tenth. Am I missing something?

The smartest students are seeking out AP-classes to cover the loss. I switched to AP Biology midyear because we were repeating seventh grade science. (Many of my former classmates had forgotten the material, because the schools of today train students to have short-term memory. The math classes are going ballistic over this; students keep forgetting the basics over summer vacation.) Now three or four freshman want to take AP Bio as sophomores. Others are reaching out for AP English and AP European History. One or two take AP Psychology. Why? My guess is, they aren't being stimulated enough in their regular classes. This is No Child Left Behind, in all its macabre glory.

One last lament. The way certain schools are run has become ridiculous. My sister, a seventh grader, asked if she could paint out graffiti on her locker when the school was closed. The administrators kindly informed her that to do so would be a violation of the Janitors' Union or some such. And when debate started over soda machines, her middle school (Computech)replaced the soda machines with ice cream machines. Edison did the same, but replaced two machines instead of all of them. If this is an improvement, I must have missed it.

Thank you for listening. Part of this felt like a rant, but I thought you might be intrigued by a student's perspective.


New medical diagnosis: Power Point Disease. Everyone knows it isn't how much work you actually do, just how busy you can look while not really doing much.

Well, got to go. I will probably do more house cleaning later.
Last night, I attended another school board meeting. Kalkaska schools are considering adding soccer as a varsity sport. I had attended last month's meeting when it was initially proposed, and the resulting committee fact-finding meeting a couple weeks ago. Last night was the final decision to make it a varsity sport or not. I got to the meeting and there were cars everywhere. I couldn't believe it was all about soccer. I was right.

The fun started with some guy and his twenty-slide PowerPoint about a new student health service that would operate in the schools. It basically uses tax dollars to duplicate all the health services already available, only make them more convenient and free, thus guaranteeing over-utilization, leading to calls for expanding free services with more tax dollars, leading to more over-utilization, and so on. Economics 101, and everyone with a job gets to pay for it. After his 45-minute presentation, he had several members of the student and parent advisory boards get up and give their little speeches. Here, I have to go on a bit of a rant. Why do people do this fake question/answer format (ala Miss America) when you know the whole thing is scripted? Just let the person do their blah blah and get it over with.

Anyway, that little dog-and-pony show was followed by a question-and-answer period dominated by some woman asking over and over why the State of Michigan allows minors to seek certain medical services without parental consent. The guy presenting tried to explain about four different ways that teens can already get abortions, mental health counseling, birth control, etc. without a parent's knowledge or consent. Whether anyone agrees or not, that is already established law and has nothing to do with putting free medical services in the schools. In fact, abortion and abortion counseling were specifically excluded from these clinics.

In any case, another 15 minutes of my life dribbled away.

The next controversial item was the school board putting out bids for private contractors to do maintenance and janitorial services. This was the reason why most of the people were present. The union has already hired some down-state loud-mouth who insists that he isn't here to spread fear or propaganda, but if the school board out-sources janitorial services, the private company will immediately hire every sex offender in 100 miles and send them to clean the elementary school. Not that I think that contracting out the school janitorial and maintenance services is automatically a great idea, but this is just typical union fear-mongering, propaganda, and disinformation. There are very good reasons to not out-source, and concerns about the quality of the people who will be sent into the schools is certainly one of them. But you know when the first words out of this idiot's mouth was to pull out the number of registered sex offenders in Kalkaska county that facts will have nothing to do with this debate and inflammatory BS is what will rule the day.

Oh yea. Two hours later, soccer was voted in as a varsity sport with no discussion or comment. They will have to post the coaching positions internally for two weeks, then I can apply for them (I think; I'm not sure what the qualifications are other than "warm body"). Speaking of which, I forgot about the 15-minute rant from some guy that failed to get elected to the school board about how the board wasn't putting out enough effort to find the best-qualified candidate for basketball coach. Yea. Right. The school has lost a half-dozen teachers that I know of in the last year, with one new-hire and the school board is supposed to drop everything and go on a nation-wide search for the most qualified basketball coach. Sometimes, I think Kalkaska has just the schools it deserves.

In any case, I remember now why I got out of local politics years ago. I do have to give the school board credit for at least acting like they were dealing with intelligent adults. I would have been a lot harsher with several people.

Speaking of schools that don't teach, Ebonics is back. Why don't we just give the blacks a couple states. California and Massachusetts come to mind. All the whites leave, all the blacks move there. They can be completely autonomous provinces with their own language, culture, whatever. We can rename them Quebec II and Quebec III. I mean, having two nations inside one set of boarders has worked so well for Canada, why should we miss out on all the fun?

I ran across this one today. Once again, if the goal is to convince the nation that anyone who wears a badge is a complete assclown, then our "law enforcement" industry is doing a wonderful job. They have certainly convinced me. Every person involved in this "prosecution" should be chained spread-eagle to a wall and beaten in the nuts with a nightstick until they pass out.

The country I was born into is dead. I feel no loyalty whatsoever to the monstrosity that has replaced it.

And enough.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Another hot and humid day. Massive lines of thunderstorms are rolling through which triggered a Code Weather here at the hospital. During a Code Weather, we have to keep all drapes pulled on all windows, even in non-patient areas. So today, I am basically working in a cave. If I want to see any of the excitement, I have to walk to a window without drapes or blinds. It is supposed to reduce the risk of injury from flying glass or something. I figure if this building gets hit by high enough winds (or debris carried by said winds) to bust out the windows, flying glass will be the least of my concerns.

My favorite game growing up was chasing dust devils and running in front of them or just jumping inside and getting pushed around. The small ones (typical) were no big deal and did little more than mess up our hair. The larger ones (rare; at least in mid-Michigan) would knock us down and fill our eyes and mouths with dirt. It seems this wouldn't be a good move on Mars. The photo sequence from the Spirit rover is just too cool for words. I want to go!!

Vox Day has an interesting article, especially given recent conversations here. The money quote: "What are the chances God's will for you is to sit numbly in your cubicle and mindlessly pay your taxes and your mortgage while you wait for the sweet release of death?" Interesting question. Vox also takes so-called Christians to task for putting more faith in George Bush than in God.

Then again, maybe they are on to something. My parents have a coffee cup that says "If Mom says no, ask Grandma" that was bought for them shortly after they became grandparents for the first time. Maybe Christian bookstores could carry one that says "If God says no, ask George Bush."

At that is all I have time for right now.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Just a quick post, then off to bed.

Another weekend of work around the house with brief interruptions. Saturday, I hussled outside first thing in the morning, put a fresh chain on the chainsaw and started attacking all the dead stuff around the house and cabin, and what had fallen on our trails. It's been a couple years since we have done any trail maintenance and they are all pretty much blocked at this point. I was hot and muggy, and after three or four hours of work, I could literally wring out my shirt. But I got a lot done, and now we need to have another big fire in the back yard.

Saturday afternoon and evening was the annual Luau. At first, it looked like a bust, but we ended up with 30+ people there for most of the time. Good food and it felt nice to be in a pool most of the day.

Sunday we did morning service, then went to one of our favorite restaurants. It is now under new management, and it was definitely not an improvement. We will not be going back. Bad food, worse service, and higher prices. I don't expect to see it around for long. After lunch we came home and slept most of the day. Nestina came home from hanging out with friends in Traverse City in time to make us dinner. We just chilled then went to bed.

I have re-installed Zandros again. I decided to partition the disks differently. The larger drive is now for files and the OS is installed on the smaller drive. It is so sweet that I can do that without even cracking the case. Now I just need to dig into how to set up shares so I can try to get everyone's files on one PC for backups and such. That should be fun. Once I get the network side set up, I'll have to invest in a DVD burner for the Zandros box. Then I will get to see how well Zandros does with new hardware. If it is like everything else I've run into so far, it will Just Work.

Anyway, I need to try to go to sleep.

Friday, July 15, 2005

As Debbie indicated in her last post, we've been really busy lately. Last weekend, in keeping with being selfish and immature, we stayed home both Saturday and Sunday and worked out in the garage. We got things done that have been on the to-do list for two years. I expect more weekends just like it. We were both exhausted, but we made a huge dent in the mess in the garage (fire is our new best friend; it turns bulky, hard-to-dispose items into fine particles that take up about 1/100th of the volume and can be easily transported in a wheelbarrow).

Monday was Debbie's Bible study, so I worked on computer junk and Nestina studied for her life guard training class at work. Tuesday, as Debbie already mentioned, was a day at Michigan Adventure. The nice part about that was we just turned the kids loose, then the two of us found chairs and a quiet spot to just sit and talk. It's been years since we have been able to do that. Wednesday was youth group, Thursday was supposed to be a day off, but I had a doctor's appointment, then picked up our walk-behind tractor from the shop, put in a couple hours of work, then home. Debbie was out with people from work, so it was Nestina and I on our own again. I helped her run through more life guard stuff, then she went to bed early. Debbie and I did some reading, then hit the sack ourselves.

And that has been our week. Tonight, I plan to work outside. Tomorrow, we have the annual Luau with the youth group, but not until 4pm, so I still plan to kick out a bunch of work in the morning and early afternoon. Now that the walk-behind is working for the first time in two years, I need to seriously do some mowing. Our trails are all blocked and over-grown and the driveways are not looking much better. But I would still like to keep hammering away at cleaning out the garage. We'll see.

I had a meeting with our pastor Thursday morning. I'm pretty much done as a deacon, and our role in youth ministry will be limited. I can live with that. We'll just let things be for a time and see what happens. I do know that I won't be spending nearly as much time at the church as I have over the last six years. I have a house to finish and property to get into shape and it will never get done as long as everyone and everything else has priority. So that will change. If people want to accuse me of being selfish, then by God I'm going to show them what selfish really looks like.

As a libertarian, I don't agree with government intrusion into much of anything, especially when in comes to licensing. Most people who have them will tell you a license is a nice piece of paper suitable for framing and not much else. The worst, of course, is the marriage license. Maybe I missed a step, but I don't recall taking Debbie for a test-drive in front of some county licensing board to prove I knew how. Other than creating jobs for government workers and restricting everyone else for no purpose, there is simply no point.

Anyway. The one human activity that isn't licensed certainly needs to be judging from some recent stories. How can a person have enough mental activity to sustain life and believe that a 3-year-old "might be gay"? Sounds like some projection going on there, which might be a good thing, given where Ronnie Paris Jr. will likely spend a significant part of the rest of his life. I hear prison inmates really like baby-killers....

Another case of a parent who shouldn't have been. Of course, the lawyers/vultures are feeding on the baby's still-warm body. I guess we shouldn't be surprised by that. We all know what happens to people who refuse to learn from history (or even be aware that there is such a thing).

Anyway, that's enough for one day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

We survived 11 teens!

And now for other news in our lives......

Our junior and senior high youth group took a trip yesterday to Michigan Adventure for the day. We ended up with 11 teens and 4 youth leaders. I am so very glad the weather wasn't the scorcher it was suppose to be down in Muskegon. It was overcast most of the day ... hot and humid with a nice breeze at first, then the rain moved in mid afternoon. We had just finished a group lunch and most of the group were heading to the water park anyway ... so who cares if it is raining?! It was a cool rain ... raised a few goose bumps.

We all had a good time -- even James and his scraped up chest -- water ride or wave pool mishap. All of the adults missed seeing him (James again!) get knocked over by the splash from the big log ride near the back of the park. The van ride home was interesting ... I thought they would have been wiped out, but OH NO!, they were still going (and going, and going) We got back to the church about midnite -- and finally home about 12:30am. It made for a short night for alot of us working class people.

Work has been good this week ... 4 Alaska cruise booking, Las Vegas package and odd assorted tickets and such. (And today is only my 2nd day working this week!)

Busy rest of the week with a craft night with the work gals tomorrow nite and getting ready for the annual Youth Group Luau on Saturday. Time to dig out the Hawaiian shirts and leis. We should all have a great time there.

I will not comment or discuss anything that has been said in the past week on this and other blogs in this public format ... if you want, you can email me or call me at home.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I guess it could be worse; I could be this guy.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Yesterday's post generated pretty much what I expected.

Michael and Courtney: if I mean so little to you, I will be happy to no longer be a part of this family. It certainly makes my life easier as I have never seen a bigger bunch of needy whiners in my life. I have no problem what-so-ever with skipping the family reunion, church, and all the rest of the time-wasters in my life.

And Michael, for you to call me an arrogant, know-it-all jerk just makes me laugh out loud, coming from an arrogant, know-nothing jerk.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hmm. I seem to have stuck my foot in it again.

First, I will start with a confession. I have not come out and said this on my blog simply because I didn't feel the timing was appropriate. But I guess now is as good a time as any.

I do not agree with our church doctrine on the interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2. The idea that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old cannot be supported by any form of evidence whatsoever. A century before Darwin was born, geologists had already concluded that the earth was ancient and that Bishop Usher's exercise in mathematics was just that: an exercise. I have also been convinced by overwhelming evidence of the truth of the common decent of all life on earth. I am also convinced by overwhelming evidence that there has never been a global flood.

This has all happened fairly recently (over the last six years) as a result of my study of biology, geology, cosmology, creationism, intelligent design, and so on. I have spent every spare minute over the last decade reading. This is not a decision I have come to lightly. For one thing, the consequences are pretty severe. I was hoping to finish out my term as deacon (one reason why I was trying to keep this under wraps), but at this point, I really don't have much choice according to the church constitution: I have to remove myself from church membership. The worst part will be leaving youth ministry. That will hurt. As I said, this hasn't been an easy process, but I have to go where the data leads me, not where my emotions want to go.

But even apart from leaving my church, the impact on my faith has been even more severe. If homo sapiens sapiens is not the result of special creation, what does that do to concepts such as the soul? Also, rejecting a literal reading of the first twelve chapters of Genesis naturally leads to the very serious question of just what parts of the Bible do I read literally? I haven't had the time to really dig into it yet, but from what I have already researched, I suspect Biblical inerrancy won't fair any better than young-earth creationism did.

And then what? Accepting the modern synthesis still leaves me with a lot of options for churches. All the mainline Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholics, and the Orthodox traditions have no problem with an ancient earth and common descent. However, rejecting Biblical literalism starts to really narrow the field, and I have major issues with what I am left with. So what I expect at the end of this road is that for the first time in my entire 40-year life, I will not be a member of or even regularly attend any church.

At that point, I have to fundamentally re-think who and what I am.

Again, this isn't something that I take lightly. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to never have gone through this process. But I have to. I have no choice. As you say, Lindsey, God is a God of reason and logic. That is actually the foundation of western science. Early European scientists were all Christians, and most were clergy (they were called "natural philosophers" then). They believed they could learn about God by learning the laws of nature. So when natural law and logic crash head-on into evangelical doctrine, what conclusion should I have? Either God is not a God of reason and logic, or evangelical doctrine is wrong. Maybe it is a defect in my brain (and that is certainly a possibility; I'd probably be in a psych ward except that I have learned how to lie to keep the doctors at bay), but I cannot live in a universe ruled by a capricious God. Which only leaves one other option. (And yes, this is a true binary situation; science and evangelical doctrine are incompatible. ;-)

Now to address some specifics. I am perfectly aware that my approach to this may have not been the best. I tried as hard as I could yesterday to not use examples of creation "science" when we talked about logical fallacies. And yes, I intentionally skipped what I was going to teach in order to discuss logical fallacies prior to Scott speaking at our church. I considered doing things in a different order, but decided not to for one primary reason: all the teens already know where I stand. We've talked about it several times when they have been at our house. I'm sure you've heard, "What's happens in the basement, stays in the basement." (Note this does not include incidents arising from high-velocity BopIt's) This is just one of many topics of conversation that I have asked them to not bring up in other contexts. I could have easily been far more specific yesterday and given them examples right from the creationist literature for every one of the logical fallacies we talked about yesterday, but I didn't want to do that.

Science has never attempted to prove or disprove God's existence. Science is based on methodological naturalism; natural phenomenon have natural explanations, and natural phenomenon encompasses anything we can directly or indirectly perceive. This does not mean that there are only natural phenomenon and that everything has a natural explanation (that is philosophical naturalism); only that if something is supernatural, then it isn't something that science can investigate. This principle is exactly what creation "science" and intelligent design are trying to subvert. Worse, the entire movement is based on lies, deception, and logical fallacies. Worse still, the leaders (Kent Hovind, Ken Ham, Duane Gish, Henry Morris, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, ad nausium) know this. Christians who accept modern science have begged these people privately and publicly to stop damaging the name of Jesus by intentionally spreading falsehoods. Yet they persist.

I have thought long and hard about what I would do if our church promoted creation "science" (as opposed to creation doctrine). I decided that it wasn't something that I could just grit my teeth and ignore. I had hoped this day would never come, but it has. I feel an obligation to prepare my kids for what they will hear; to give them the tools necessary to deflect the barrage of pseudo-science and propaganda they will be subjected to Sunday morning. I will also respond to Scott personally, and to the church for giving him a forum. I doubt either will like what I have to say, but it has to be said, not because the origins debate is a salvation issue per se, but because evangelicals have made it a salvation issue by requiring the rejection of knowledge and logic in order to be in fellowship with them. Further, the posturing, lawsuits, lobbying school boards, and the rest of the purely political actions by evangelicals creates the perception that all Christians are a bunch of fundamentalist nutjobs. St. Augustine had this to say in the first century AD:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
[ italics referred to 1 Timothy 1:7]

(translation is by J. H. Taylor in "Ancient Christian Writers," Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.)
And I will not presume to have anything to add to that.

Other than to link to several articles where creationists "are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books:"

Teaching the Fake Controversy on
Intelligent-Design Creationism on Public Radio
That's another fine mess you've made Jonathan!
News, news, news!

The articles are short, and please take the time to read the comments. Note that all these were posted today. The Panda's Thumb archive is brimming with such things, as is the website. "Taken to task" indeed. Repeatedly. Devastatingly.

And I think that is enough for one day.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When I was in high school and the lawyers first started to over-populate the country, it was common to read about people suing their rescuers. Some Good Samaritan would run into a burning building and save someone, then get sued by the family because he didn't save someone else or injured the person in some way while carrying them out. Most states quickly enacted Good Samaritan Laws that shield average citizens from lawsuits when they just stop to help someone. So the lawyer/pigs had to go find some other trough to snout around in.

But now, Good Samaritans can be arrested. This is stupidity on stilts. If law enforcement is trying to lose credibility or authority, then all I can say is "Keep up the good work, guys!!" The money quote:

Police say Dave Newman, 48, disobeyed repeated orders by emergency personnel to leave the water. The police report does not mention Newman's rescue of 35-year-old Abed Duamni of Houston on Sunday afternoon.


University spokesman Mark Hendricks said he did not know whether Newman rescued Duamni. Hendricks said it was his understanding that Newman was uncooperative with authorities.

Of course the police report makes no mention of the rescue, because that would make them look like the complete idiots that they are. And we all know since the Martha Stewart case, that being "uncooperative with authorities" will land you in prison. I would think that this sort of stupidity would be rare in Texas, and I do note with pleasure that the crowd gave the pigs a hard time about what they were doing. A lot of people in Texas still think they live in a republic of self-governed individuals and are not likely to take kindly to "police officers" that treat citizens as if they were subjects, especially citizens that risk their lives rescuing someone while the "police officers" stand on the shore barking orders.


I feel I need to address Lindsey's comment to yesterday's entry. I know this guy is small fish and isn't really a scientist. That is part of the problem with the whole Creation Science movement (and its primary cheerleader organization, the ICR). None of these guys are scientists, yet they (not necessarily Scott, but others like Henry Morris, Kent Hovind, etc.) make a living out of giving lectures on scientific topics. Because they have no basic understanding of what they are talking about, they often make complete fools of themselves. But of course, their primary audience is as scientifically illiterate (and generally proud of it) as they are. Preaching to the converted has the advantage of not having to concern yourself with accuracy as along as you bracket every statement with a sufficient number of "Praise God" and "Can I get an aaaaaa-men" -type phrases.

Having said that, I do not intend to stand up in the middle of his talk and try to shoot him down. I may not be able to restrain myself if he says something monumentally stupid, like "Evolution is just a theory." Yea, well so is gravity; so go jump off the roof. But I will content myself with voluminous note-taking so I can later correct him via e-mail or some such. I prefer to do such things in writing because a) it makes it harder to get into he-said/she-said arguments afterwards and b) I can include references to back up what I say.

And while Scott may not be a scientist, his ambition is to teach secondary school science classes from the "creationist viewpoint." Unless he is talking about teaching in private schools only, his plans are in direct conflict with established law here in Michigan and any other state I am aware of. This is main reason for the Intelligent Design movement as promoted by the Discovery Institute. By being vague about who the designer is (according to Bill Dembsky, it could be aliens) they are trying to sneak in under the radar and teach creationism in the classroom. The problem is that every time you turn around, someone is spilling the beans and equating the designer with the Christian God.

And that is all I have time for. Gotta go.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Woo Hoo!!! I've been upgraded to Multicellular Microorganism!!!!

Someday, I hope to be a worm.
Bo Leuf had the following on his Wiki for Monday, July 4th:

How can you tell when an area of research is slightly dodgy? Well, one rule of thumb is when the threshold for disproving a claim in the field is higher than the threshold for publishing the claim.

Such a state may be transient -- most sciences have gone through times of speculative upheaval. Unfortunately, some fields of study never seem to reach any sort of firm ground. Often this state of affairs is because the researchers are too busy proposing and fighting for particular views instead of finding out all the facts.

The last sentence is the best summary I've seen of Creation "Science", including its current manifestation (Intelligent Design) that attempts to subvert the establishment clause. The Global Warming hysteria also seems to be in the same state of instability.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July

Today is a day of celebration for some, reflection and even mourning for others. But for most, today was a day off work to drink beer, hang out at or on the lake, and ooo/ahhh at fireworks. Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but leisure time is Valium.

Because the weather was so bad today (thunderstorms rolled in and out all day), we decided today was the day to catch up on bills. All our check registers have been sadly neglected since the beginning of the year. I got a lot done, but I could use at least two more days to complete the task. Once we have a better idea of where we are, we can take a stab at how to get ourselves on a firmer financial footing. Today was also Nestina's first day at a new job at one of the local resorts. It sounds like they didn't have any trouble keeping her busy, which is always a good sign. She was too tired for fireworks, and neither of us were in any real hurry to deal with people, so we stayed home and listened to the fireworks from the basement.

And it is getting close to bedtime.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fred Reed has another excellent column about race relations in the United States. This is one of many reasons I left Flint. Fred says he isn't sure if the stupidity of affirmative action is from a few loud-mouths or the average black as he doesn't have much contact with blacks. Well, as someone who has lived in a 50/50 white vs. black city for most of my life, I can tell you it isn't just the loud-mouths like Jesse Jackson. There are a lot of ordinary blacks that walk around thinking the entire world owes them something and think nothing of taking offense at stupid things like postage stamps from another country. Speaking of which, it's too bad these cost so much money on E-Bay. I'd like a set to frame and put on my living room wall...

Another typical weekend, meaning crazy-busy. Saturday, we were up early to drive to Lake Ann and pick up Nestina. Then straight up north for a wedding and reception. We landed back at home and made it to bed around midnight. Today we had the normal Sunday routine; nothing special, other than a few faces at church that we haven't seen for a while.

We did have some exciting news from camp week. The other senior high girl that went with Nestina became a believer while at camp. We love you, Katie!! Welcome to God's family.

Next week we have some uber-Creationist "Scientist" coming to our church. I'll be sure to take very detailed notes so I can pretty much level him. Not that it matters; these guys only speak to those that don't have the knowledge to refute anything they say. I'll just be another closet Satanist undermining the One True Teaching (tm) on the origins question.

Evangelicals do have a point when they get so uptight about the evolution vs. creation issue. A couple days ago, I blogged about how I was questioning a great deal of evangelical doctrine and it wasn't holding up so well. To continue to stretch the analogy I made, the original thread I started to pick was precisely this issue. Even if you leave aside the mountain of evidence from the field and the lab that evolution is true and the earth is far older than 6,000 years vs. absolutely nothing on the young-earth creation "science" side, you are left with a host of "Christians" that lie about their college degrees, lie about their qualifications, repeat lies about things Darwin or Dawkins or Gould or Hawkings have said, done, or written. They make assertions without a shred of evidence, then wave aside a mountain of evidence that contradicts their assertions with some tired cliche that does nothing but demonstrate their ignorance. They lie about their life stories, claiming Damascus-Road conversions from evolution to creationism, when in fact they have never been anything but. They try to hide who they really are with false identities. These people are Christians?!? If that is the case, then maybe that is a label I no longer desire.

If I can't keep my mouth shut, next Sunday morning may be my last at Calvary Baptist. One thing that will help is that I can't find anything about this guy on the web, so I have no idea what it is that he will be presenting. I assume that it will be Kent-Hovand-level crap, but without any indications ahead of time, I won't be able to come with specific refutations. I will make sure to rectify that situation next Sunday around 2PM. Look for me on Pandas Thumb.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Last night was busy, but at least it was my stuff I was busy with instead of someone else's. I spent a couple hours digging rocks out of the old foundation over at the parents. I got into some big ones that I can't really move too well myself, so I need to find some strong backs and weak minds somewhere. My youth group used to be good for that until it went all-female last summer. I'll figure something out.

I was supposed to dial into work around midnight and run all the fiscal year end jobs for the Accounts Payable system, but the gremlins were out in force. I finally gave up around 3AM and grabbed a few hours of sleep, then came into the office. I'm gone as soon as the last job finishes. I want to stop by the hardware for some casters. I need to make a couple dollies to haul generators around on. I'm tired of lifting and dragging them everywhere. I'm sure once I have them, I'll find a hundred other uses for them as well.

Anyway, last job just finished and I'm outa here!