Saturday, September 10, 2005


What Place Theology?

I enjoy theology -- that should be obvious to regular readers. But sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Jollyblogger took a look at one such place on Wednesday.
I'm not sure where to draw the line. I've been combative and polemical on this blog and I think a large part of the apostles' ministry was of a polemical nature. I also think there is plenty of false doctrine and false practice out there today that deserves to be contended with. But I also think that some of us look for fights where there should be none.
Yesterday, I asked if there might someday be a place for Mormons in the Christian family, and some of the comments I received had a tone that seemed to accuse me of being some sort of evil, faith-based libertine, simply because I dared ask.

In that post, I was truly wondering about the phenomenon of how much energy we spend making sure people understand Mormons are not Christians, when many who bear the name Christian have acted in ways that are as egregious, if not more so than the Mormons. Honestly, while the theology is quite different, practically, the difference between Mormon ministry and the ministry of say, Jim Bakker, is not all that different. Shouldn't we at least spend as much time and energy denouncing Bakker as we do the Mormons, even if his theology is in large part acceptable to us? Oh sure, few Christians are walking around pointing to Bakker as an example of a great Christian, but few are willing to denounce him as out of the family. I also wonder if we might not be better served inviting them into the fold as opposed to telling them they are so different.

On a side note, the utter fluidity and and transitory nature of Mormonism is where they go so wrong and there should be a lesson in that for those that think the church has to "stay relevant and up with the times."

The essential question is, "Are we defined by our theology?" My answer is no -- we are defined by our Lord! Things get real tricky now, because, of course, what we believe about that Lord (theology) makes a huge difference, but He is not what we believe Him to be -- He is who He is.

Jollyblogger's post that I linked to earlier is looking at the question of what theological points are worth "going to war" over, and what are not. I have got to answer -- darn few. I am not going to try an compile a list here, maybe you want to leave your ideas in the comments, enough and I might work up a post out of them, but I can't imagine the list is much larger than five or ten. The deity of Christ, the Trinity, come immediately to mind -- but many more that are not worth war spring to mind - paedobaptism, transubstantiation, virtually anything related to eschatology, confession as sacrament, or not....

One essential fact sticks in my mind endlessly -- theology is the systematic study of what we believe about God -- but definitionally, we can never know all there is to know about God. Wars of theology are, in large part, idolatrous, they put what we believe about God ahead of God Himself. They demand a confidence in our knowledge of God that places us in front of Him.

Class 1, day 1 in college science, I was taught that a theory never is actually proven, confidence in it rises and rises, but it never reaches completeness. Newton's Mechanics were thought for a couple of centuries to be be the theories that controlled the universe, then we discovered parts of the universe Newton never knew existed - Oops. We now try to breed scientists with sufficient humility to never allow their current understanding to block new insight. It is also interesting to note that Newton's Mechanics are still the physics of everyday life -- it's replacements work in realms that most of us never encounter or even think about.

Despite the fact that as politics invade science that humility is getting harder and harder to find, we are worse at such breeding in our theologians than we are in our scientists -- and yet the thing that theologians study demands that humility far more than the mere physical universe. Or maybe it is not the professional theologians, maybe it is that every believer has to be a theologian to some extent that creates this hubris.

Who you believe in matters far more than what you believe about Him. Remember that the next time you are deciding that someone just isn't really a Christian.


For Once...

...a class action lawsuit I can get behind.
A lawsuit spawned by a $1,133 bill to clip a toenail and run some tests at a hospital has been certified as a class action.

The ruling this week in King County Superior Court could raise the stakes by millions of dollars in a consumer protection case brought by Lori Mill against Virginia Mason Medical Center.

Mill is challenging a $418 fee included in the bill for "miscellaneous hospital charges" because she had the work done at Virginia Mason's downtown complex rather than at one of the medical center's satellite clinics.
Years ago, I had a huge dispute over the excessive bill I was charged by an emergency room when I woke up in the middle of the night with a eye infection, what they did for me would have cost 25% as much at the doctor the next day --problem was I was in pain at 2 in the morning. I paid them double what the doctor would have charged if I could have waited until morning and told them to come get the rest. They never did.


Comic Art

Back to the Honorable Mention series we are going to look today at Mike Mignola. Mike is young in comparison to many of the artists I have featured here and he has had a career path that is unique compared to other guys we have looked at because of that. Most artists have to prove themselves for years and years before they get full creative control, but Mike's career has been ata time in the industry where he was able to go solo pretty early. He was a proven performer, but only had about 10 years in before he hit it dead nuts on in his solo effort.

Mike started his career at Marvel ,inking and then drawing. As you can see from this picture and the next, he liked his heroes skinny.

Mike's art has always been distinctive and the evolution of his style has been interesting to watch. He has never been afraid to try things -- like his skinny heroes.

My personal favorite work of Mike's for the two major publishers was his Spectre miniseries. The series set this most fascinating character back into the comic fans consciousness after years of absence. He made the Spirit of Vengenance more spirit than vengance, very ethereal.

It was also this series where I took notice of Mike as an artist for the first time, prior, at least in my world, he had been just another workman artist.

Mike was also the artist on one of the most important story arcs in the history of Batman -- the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. I loved that story, but did not love Mike's art -- I honestly thought is distracted from the fantastic story.

Regardless, that series was real feather in Mike's hat and it paved the way for his move to independence, which lead to his phenomenally successful solo effort --Hellboy. Hellboy is a demon conjured by the Nazi's, captured by the Allies as a "youth" and now used as a force to battle the dark forces on behalf of the nation.

Given the opportunity to design a character from scratch, Mike sems to have come up with a character that suits his style perfectly. Frabkly, Hellboy is indistinctive drawn by anyone else, but by Mike -- He is a perfect.


They'll Take To The Streets When This Gets Out

Who? You ask. The environmental whackos, of course.
Bic, the company that has made a fortune out of things to be thrown away, has sold its 100 billionth disposable ballpoint - selling an average of 57 pens every second since it was launched in 1950.

According to the company, that is enough pens to stretch 40 times the distance from the earth to the moon if laid end to end or to fill the Arc de Triomphe 23 times over.
No doubt, even now they are planning the protest -- to be held in a field opposite company headquarters. I can see it -- They'll build a scale model Arc de Triomphe and bury it in pens while some sit in sackcloth and ashes, and others, dressed as skeletons, sacrifice "mother earth" to an idol shaped like dollar sign by burying it in a pile of disposable lighters. It'd be funny if it wasn't so close to the truth


I Just Thought It Killed Cats?!

A squirrel too curious for its own good caused an outage that left the Statehouse and other downtown Topeka buildings briefly without power Thursday, according to Westar Energy Inc.

Company spokeswoman Gina Penzig said the squirrel got into a power substation and was touching different parts of a circuit, causing electricity to flow through its body and overload the circuit.


Gaining Real Wealth

Somehow these things just seem to run together - don't ask me how, I just read 'em.

First we learn that there is now a 50 proof beer.
A German brewer has concocted what he says is the world's strongest beer, a potent drink with an alcohol content of 25.4 percent that is served in a shot glass.
Being a chemist I'm tempted to tell you how this is done, and its links to light beer, but I won't bore you.

Then we discover that the price of beer and the price of gas are linked
If gas prices are driving you to drink, here's the place to go: the Handlebar, 2311 W. North. [Chicago]

Under its Inverse Petrol-O-Matic Beer Pricing Scheme, beer prices will fall as gas prices rise.
So far, so good, more booze less price.

Finally, we see this headline

Scottish Gas prices to increase

Now the picture is complete! First you drink expensive Scotch and get gas, then you sell the gas at high rates and use some of that money to buy cheap beer that has the same effect as the expensive Scotch. Now your saving money! -- if you can find the bank to make the deposit.

Oh yeah, and while we are on the subject of gas, check this out
At the top of every hour the clock in Elton John's dressing room at Caesars Palace breaks wind. And every hour, the gassy clock makes John laugh.
Can you help me with this? I thought gay men were supposed to have better taste than us neanderthal heterosexual males? Then can you tell me where to get one of those clocks?

Friday, September 09, 2005


Can A Religion Be Redeemed

I am currently reading Under The Banner Of Heaven by John Krakauer. It's the story of how a couple of fundamentalist, polygamist Mormon (LDS) brothers killed their sister-in-law and niece in the name of God. It comes complete with a reasonable, if cursory, examination of Mormon history. It is fascinating and uncomfortable reading.

I have always considered LDS cultic and off the Christian spectrum, but have been struck as I read the book at how much it resembles some of the "out-there" Pentecostal churches that while considered whacko, are considered on the spectrum.

So it was with that mindset that I encountered this post from Pyromaniac. Phil takes on some recent Mormon efforts to make it's theology appear to be allied with more mainstream Christianity. He continues the discussion with this post. Specifically, Mormon's appear to want to be under the "evangelical" umbrella. Based on Phil's comments, he would probably be uncomfortable with my alliance with the Southern California Bloggers Alliance, wherein we identify ourselves as Christians but have a Mormon member. We ask our members to affirm one of the traditional creeds, which our Mormon member was willing to do. Phil is actually a little rough, as far as I am concerned, as he goes almost as hard on Roman Catholics as Mormons. Maybe I accept the rejection of Catholics as "evangelical," but to do so in the context of Mormons is a bit extreme as far as I am concerned.

But this is not my real question with this post. There is in my mind, little question that the mainstream, Salt Lake City, LDS church has been moving more and more towards mainstream protestant Christianity. My question is, given their past, can they ever truly make it into the fold, and if so, under what conditions and circumstances? We all carry with us past doctrines and beliefs that are truly ugly (slavery comes to mind) yet we can claim the status the Mormons appear to desire.

I really don't have answers here, and I am not sure I am supposed to. I am confident we are not, in the end defined by our doctrines and theology. I know my place in eternity will not be determined by same. It's not that I don't think those things are important, they are, but I refuse to believe that God is constrained by them.

Jollyblogger has posted several times about the inexactitude of "salvation." David makes a great case that it is a process and not necessarily a point in time or specific event.

I wonder if the Mormons are in that process? If so, at what point in the process can they be said to be truly Christians? - How about the rest of us for that matter. Can this thinking even be applied to a religion in the same way it can be applied to an individual?

Mostly I don't want to be so prideful as to think that I really understand what God wants or is thinking. If I could, would I not be Him?


Too Much Liberalization? In Canada?

This makes me laugh.
Women's rights activists are to march in 11 cities in Canada and Europe against plans to allow Sharia law tribunals in the province of Ontario.

Islamic law could be used to settle civil and marital disputes under a proposal made by former Ontario Attorney General Marion Boyd.

Roman Catholic and Jewish arbitration tribunals already operate in Ontario.

Opponents of Sharia law say allowing Islamic tribunals could lead to discrimination against women.
This is gay-marriage-allowing, draft-dodger-hiding, let-everyone-do-thier-thing Canada! It's nice to know they have limits, but what a very interesting and unusual place to draw the line.

What I really want to know is what happens when one of the gay marriages comes before one of those Roman Catholic tribunals?


Perspective On Marriage

Eternal Perspectives is talking about marriage and divorce. It's a great post
As an old Southern Baptist preacher said, ?God is the audience. Everybody else is just eavesdropping.? All of us, although I speak most directly to husbands, are to live our lives in the sight of God and to look to Him and Him only for approval. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, not on our spouse for her approval. When we seek to serve Christ and Him alone, we will lay up treasures in heaven.
Understood and agreed, I just hope what it takes to gain God's approval and hers never runs counter!

This is probably not something I should make a joke about, but I just could not resist.


Today's Trip Pic

Leaving Russia behind us, we steamed to Helsinki on which I have previously posted and which is a memory -- that's all, a memory.

From Helsinki we steamed to Gotland island, belonging to Sweden and in the middle of the Baltic, it was the place on the cruise about which I had the least anticipation -- boy was I wrong.

This island, as it turns out, has been an active part of Baltic humanity almost since its inception. It contains, among other things, the oldest known Viking graves in the world -- see how the stones are arranged in the shape of a boat? This whole trip had a distinct Viking flavor to it, but no where was that more apparent than on Gotland.

The bigest bummer was that no matter how desparately I tried, I could find no place that would even reinact the raping and pillaging aspect of the Vikings, let alone allow me to play along. And I was so looking forward to it.

They pointed out that Viking society, at least on the home front was very matriarchal becasue the men were, in fact, always out an about doing what men do when they wander. I could not help but wonder; however, how much PC archeaology was at play here though.

The island is dominated by the city of Visby. The present city traces its roots to medievil times and in fact has the most intact medieval wall in all of Europe. This alone made it worth the journey I was really able understand how a city like this operated in its prime.

The skyline of the city was dominated by these church towers. Sadly the church is ill-attended as a house of worship, but well maintained as a place of beauty. Typical for protestant churches the inside is not nearly as ornate as the exterior, but it was lovely nonetheless.

Gotland was a wonderful island. My wife and I decided that of all the places we visited, here it would be wonderful to enjoy an extended stay. Perhaps renting a cabin on the island for a month. This was an unanticipated favorite of the journey.


Which Way Comics?

Even the casual observer knows that things in the comic industry are changing radically. Just this week there were two important articles concerning reorganizing and realigning in the industry. The Wall Street Journal carried this article (subscription required) about Marvel reorganizing to make more movies.
Marvel Enterprises Inc. completed a $525 million, seven-year debt facility to finance 10 films based on its comic-book characters, and will change its name to Marvel Entertainment Inc., reflecting the company's expanding Hollywood presence.
Publishers Weekly carried this piece about new hires at DC.
Continuing its efforts to reorient its sales and marketing efforts towards the book trade, DC Comics has appointed two experienced book industry professionals to senior marketing positions. John Cunningham, former v-p and associate publisher at St. Martin's Press, has been named v-p of marketing; and Nellie Kurtzman, former associate director of marketing at S&S children's and its Spotlight Entertainment imprint, has been named director of marketing, reporting to Cunningham.
It is interesting that both the major comics houses are making moves in seemingly opposite directions, but centered on a central theme. It is also interesting that DC, owned by entertainment giant Time-Warner, is making moves in print and Marvel is doing alternate media deals. But the central theme is what is most fascinating, two themes actually. The first theme is the more mainstream acceptance of the material and the other is the move away from the traditional serial story form into the story arcs of the mini-series (gathered and bound into book form), the graphic novel, and the movie script.

This has all been driven by the collectors glut that began in the late '80's and took off like a rocket with the publication of Frank Miller's miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Prior to that event comics were a niche market, but Miller tapped the pop vein. More importantly the phenomenal sales of those four books drove collector's prices through the roof which drew in speculators instead of fans.

The industry responded by increasingly publishing mini-series wherein the perceived high value #1's could be churned out with great regularity. As the market expanded to those not steeped in the traditions and legends of the form, "Continuity" became less of a concern. Characters could be reinvented, reimagined, and repackaged over and over in an endless stream of mini-series.

This also meant the audience for this material grew-up. The key market was no longer the 12-year-old male, but the 30-year-old with considerably more disposable income. But alas, publishers really did glut the market in response to the collector's market, and as is inevitable in such a glut prices and quality dwindled. Soon the speculators moved on and the bottom dropped out.

That was a problem, but two discoveries were made that have helped tremendously. One was the influx of Japanese material via the video game, manga is largely dominated by the graphic novel form. The other was that a good quantity of fans had been created amongst the speculators, they were just no longer willing to haunt the specialty stores for the next issue, but were more than willing to pick up a book bound copy of a whole miniseries when they were in the mall, and read it for sheer pleasure. There were also willing to shell out big to see their favorite characters on the big screen.

As a long time fan of comics (my personal collection is somewhere near 8000 magazines dating back to the '60's) these moves are both good and bad. The bad is that they break apart the clubby fan atmosphere and the us-and-them mentality that many of us have enjoyed for years. It also takes away the thrill of being able to recall references from something that happened in a title 20 years ago and getting the joke, knowing most other readers had no idea.

The good news is that these moves preserve the medium when it might otherwise go the way of the dinosaur. As a result, some pretty good stuff has been done. The best example I know of lately is Marvel's 1602 by Neil Gaiman. The movies have been at least reasonably good, and it truly is convenient to pick up the a graphic novel at the bookstore and not have rush to the specialty store every week to get this week's shipment.

As these trends continue, the industry would do well to remember the lessons of the very silly Batman TV series of the '60's. It was so successful, and created such a demand for the comics, that the publishers started to gear the comics for the TV audience. The result was disastrous and the Batman comics really did not regain form until Miller, nearly 20 years later. The publishers need to remember that these are, at their essence, pulp-fiction, serialized characters. The ability to reinvent and recycle them into other media may provide the economic basis from which to continue the essential character development in the comics, but if they begin to cater to the new media forms, they run a severe risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.


When You Can't Lay A Glove On Your Opponent...

...kick his dog.

Activists target handcuffs firm

Campaigners have targeted a Birmingham (England) firm which they say makes "shackles" used at the Guantanamo Bay camp.
Poor company -- they are just trying to make a buck, well a quid actually.


Friday Humor

Are you a Democrat, a Republican or a Southern Republican?

Here is a little test that should help you decide.

Question: How do you tell the difference between Democrats, Republicans and Southern Republicans? The answer can be found by posing the following question:

The situation: You are walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you. You are carrying a loaded Glock .40 caliber pistol and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Democrat's Answer:

Republican's Answer:


Southern Republican's Answer:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click.....(sounds of reloading)....BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click

Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?"

DISCLAIMER: The source of this video is my wife, my blond wife.


A Serious International Dispute!

A dispute between Macedonians and Greeks over the right to the name Macedonia has flared again after the European Commission said the Balkan state must stamp its unwieldy internationally recognised name on exports.

EU Taxation Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs, quizzed by a Greek opposition lawmaker in the European Parliament, said that to qualify for trade preferences Skopje had to use the title of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on goods.
I did some business in "FYROM" not long after Yugoslavia broke up, and before they had settled on the name "FYROM" and were just using "Macedonia." The dispute was intense and the result was that when I went into Greece from Macedonia, Greek immigration officials stamped "Not Recognized in Greece" all over my Macedonian visa until it was unrecognizable. Is that an act of war or what?

Apparently, the Greeks fear that the Macedonians have imperial aspirations over the northern region of Greece known as "Macedonia." The thing is "FYROM" has absolutely nothing with which to even attempt to realize those aspirations should they truly exist (which they don't), so I, for the life of me, do not understand what Greece is so worked up about.


True Importance!

If a British TV show can decide that "The First Rule Book of the Football Association" is one of the Twleve Books That Changed The World then I can tell you that this post from Parableman may be the single most important blog post of the last 60 days.
When I was a kid, my favorite superhero was the Beast. He furry and cuddly. He was built like a football player who could nonetheless jump around like an ape and hang on the ceiling. Most importantly, he was a brilliant scientist who had an expansive speaking vocabulary that he was quite fond of using. My favorite moment was when he told someone to go orally extract the embryonic fluid from a hen's egg. It was almost as good as when Namor the Submariner told Hercules, "May your beard grow inward!"

It's a little suprising (given his physical form) who they've cast for him in the third X-Men film, but it's pretty clear why. They wanted someone who could perform as Hank McCoy the intelligent scientist, and I assume they're figuring they can work out the physical look with special effects, depending on how much they want to spend on Beast's look. If that's their criterion, then their choice is absolutely perfect -- none other than Kelsey Grammer.
The reason should be obvious.



Help me make sense of ths story please:
Scientists have built a backpack that turns the spring in your step into electricity for your cell phone. And, they say, it's more comfortable than the average backpack.

This device would allow soldiers, rescue workers, and field scientists ? all of whom use several electronic instruments such as cell phones and GPS locators ? to leave bulky and heavy replacement batteries at home.
That thing on your back is better than carrying a few batteries? Particularly with the rest of your gear? I'm confused?


So Wrong, In So Many Ways

The cat is out of the bag at a restaurant in northeast China that had been serving donkey meat spiked with tiger urine in pricey dishes advertised as endangered Siberian tigers.
Not bad enough to sell and order endangered tiger meat, they have to actually serve what they were serving. The funniest part is this is pure rip-off and not some sort of "protest" by animal rights whackos.


Now THIS I Resent

From The Chronicle, an independent student paper at Duke University
Members of the University and the Triangle-area community met in the Gross Chemistry building...
THERE IS NOTHING GROSS ABOUT CHEMISTRY!!! (OK, maybe some parts of biochemistry, but in general)


Who? For What? And How Did The Beeb Find Out?

Polls suggest Schroeder fightback

Thursday, September 08, 2005


The Futility Of Constant Opposition

It is truly amazing to me how rapidly and virulently the catastrophe that is Katrina has descended into division, fingerpointing, and just politics. I also think it is interesting coming so soon on the wake of my visit to St. Petersburg, Russia -- the former Soviet Union.

More than anything else, it points out the futility of always finding what is wrong in a situation instead of doing something, anything, right. There is certainly an attitudinal divide, and likely a practical, one between fixing a perceived problem and building something.

In New Orleans we have seen leadership elected upon, and standing for, opposition to things -- in some cases its racially based, in some economically based, and probably some others I can't think of. Regardless, they ran on, were elected upon, and governed by, saying "That is wrong, and I will help fix it." That builds popular support, but when the time came to get the job done, to do something, all they could really do is point out what others were not doing. This is even more narcissistically true for those that stayed behind expecting to be rescued when compared with those that took the bull by the horns and left (excepting, of course, those who by some physical ailment or disease were incapable of leaving under their own power.)

Communism in theory, and the Soviet Union in practice, were build upon being against the perceived inequities of the autocracy. The ideas and government were formulated not to accomplish something, but to make sure something bad (serfdom, poverty....) did not happen. In so doing they created even greater evil, but that is really a side effect of the phenomena I am talking about. The USSR could not last, because in the end, it had no aims other than what it was not going to be.

We see this same thing in some "movements" in the US. For example, "environmentalism" is against industrialization, but it offers nothing constructive in its stead. Their ideas fail because they seem only to be able to prevent or stop something, but they never seem to make anything.

I have also seen this concept illustrated in the Christian circles. I am sometimes guilty of it. I am not going to name names, but there has been a pretty big flame war between a couple of reasonably prominent Christian blogs lately. Both blogs, in my opinion, have good things to say, but it is also possible to criticize both of them as well.

In my opinion, the war erupted in large part, out of the almost constantly critical tone that the one of the blogs takes. Tired of always hearing what is wrong with things, I believe the other blog lashed out. Frankly, I've been tempted to do the same myself from time to time. Even valid criticism becomes wearing if it is a steady diet.

I should take a paragraph here to draw a distinction between criticism for criticism sake, and criticism in pursuit of building something. Criticism and opposition are necessary parts of any political process -- in government, church, heck even homeowners associations. The difference I am discussing here is the difference between living in opposition and opposing for the sake of the alternative -- having a positive vision for what it is you think should be happening.

This blog does not pull any punches when it thinks things need criticism. I hope; however, that this blog also presents, and more importantly models, a positive vision for how things ought to be.

Criticism for its own sake divides. In some cases one of those divisions is large enough to gain actual political power in whatever arena is being considered. But when it is defined soley by its division, and not by its vision, it has little to do with the power it has obtained. Chaos ensues -- we've seen it in New Orleans, we've seen it in the Soviet Union -- and I have seen it on the micro level in individual congregations and I am worried I am seeing it in the Christian blogosphere.

Blogs have gained their current status largely through opposition and criticism. But they have to have a vision to be more than simply voices of criticism and opposition. When it comes to the Christian blogosphere, I hope GodBlogCon will present and opportunity for the Christian blogosphere to work together to forge that vision, both for the "sphere," and help each of us as individuals within that sphere formulate our personal visions.

I have recently learned that I am to be the moderator of the two plenary sessions planned for that conference. We are still lining up the panel and the precise discussions for those sessions, but I can promise you it will be exciting and interesting. I can also promise you that my effort as moderator will be to seek a vision, something to positively build. The conference planners are also working on ways for those that cannot make it physically to the conference to participate, but that effort is still to seminal to make any promises.

I hope you will put forward your best efforts to participate in this conference. It will present us with some genuine opportunities to raise blogging into something really important in Christianity.


Let's Get Busy -- Praise the Guvenator

Proving that my state representatives haven't a clue about what I,or other Californians, think they have voted to allow gay marriage here in California. Now bear in mind it wasn't all that long a go that the population of the state voted by ballot proposition to restirct marriage to opposite sex couples.
The California Assembly has become the first state legislature in the US to pass a bill endorsing gay marriages.

The 41-35 vote in favour by the Assembly follows a similar ruling by the state Senate last week. It comes after bitter debate over gay marriage.
The bill now goes to the Guvenator. As Hugh Hewitt said
We will soon know if Arnold is going to run for re-election. If he's even thinking about it, he vetoes California's new same sex marriage bill,
Proving Hugh prophetic, Arnold has already announced his veto. The man needs our support in every way possible, we are honor bound to give it to him. Thanks to Cheat Seeking Missles, here's how to let him know what you think
Contact him at: 916-445-2841 or via govmail.
By the way, if you don't live in California, let him know what you think too -- this is important for the entire nation.


Too Late, But VITALLY Important

Terri Schiavo is, sadly, dead - that cannot be changed. But the precedent set by her death is chilling in ways I shudder to consider. Which makes this the most important story I read yesterday.
Months after her death by court-ordered dehydration, the Justice Department has ordered an investigation of a complaint alleging discrimination against Terri Schiavo under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act.

The Justice Department's Disability Rights Section directed the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services in July to conduct the probe, reported the Empire Journal, an Internet news site that has published numerous investigative stories on the Schiavo case.
Anything that can be done to weaken and break down that precedent is vital. It is very difficult to participate in a bureacratic investigation like this unless you are an involved party -- but pray about this and pray hard. Numerous lives can be saved.


Illuminated Scripture

For those on the Gulf Coast and those that love them


Hatred Finds A Way

Despite the fact that there is a "ceasefire" betweent he government and the IRA in Northern Ireland, the violence continues. Yesterday, church leaders ecumenically denounced that violence.
The leaders of the four main churches in Northern Ireland have described the present level of violence on the streets as "totally unacceptable".

Homes, schools and churches in County Antrim have been targeted, whilst parts of Belfast have seen rioting.

In a statement issued after meeting Secretary of State Peter Hain the churchmen described such attacks as "immoral" as well as criminal.
At this point, I see only two roads to peace -- either the churchmen succeed in changing the ideology that breeds the violence, or the beligerents will simply have to be eliminated. This is a huge test for Christendom. These churches must find a way.


A Serious Challenge For The Church

Emerging church advocate Tall Skinny Kiwi is wondering if the price of gas won't drive people from megachurches in to emerging house churches. TSK quotes Musings
People who travel outside of their suburb to go to a mega-church might end up going to their local church...
I'm not sure about the price of gas in all this, but I find the idea of a mega-church being anti-environmental quite interesting. Think about it.

A mega-church puts a whole bunch of cars on the road, and to draw those huge crowds they have to come from a pretty long way away. Comparably sized business are required to engage in mandatory carpooling, ridesharing, public transportation reimburement and other programs to reduce the auto emissions. I know that our local mega-church creates quite the little jam on Sunday mornings.

Wouldn't this be an interesting church-state case? Can such regulations be enforced against a mega-church? How would it affect the ministry of the church? More importantly, how long will it be before some anti-Christian left-leaning whacko puts this on the public radar for debate? Much as I am no fan of mega-churches, I would not want to see them go down like this.


Today's Trip Pic

Welcome to our final day in Russia. I could go on for a good deal longer, but this is enough. As I said earlier, we did not visit the most famous of the suburban palaces this trip -- Peterhof, or in Russian "Petrodovets." This palace is located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland slightly out to sea from St Petersburg itself. It is most convenient to travel there by boat. I could not help but be strick by the similarity in this way to London where the rulers would travel from Westminster Palace, to the Tower, to Greenwich on the River Thames.

Peterhof is best described as "Versaille on steroids." The place is enormous! All these pictures are from my '91 visit. The interior is incredible, but on a room-by-room basis, not that extraordinarily different from other palaces, though the number of rooms is amazing.

What sets this palace apart is its size and its grounds.

"Why walk on stone or concrete when you can climb stairs made of gold?" that's what I always say. I think the Romanovs had a standing order that if it did not move in ten minutes it was to be gilded. I mean look at this thing.

The grounds are littered with fountains -- these being perhaps the most spectacular. But there are hidden ones as well, designed to soak you when you least suspect it. Playfulness is a good thing I think -- particularly on a hot summer day. Though I wonder what it did to all the clothes they wore in those days.

Peterhof is a marvel. Sometimes I am regretful that I did not take my wife there, but then it gives us an excuse to go back - doesn't it?


Environmental Scare Tactics

This story was everywhere yesterday.
But this is not the same water that flooded the city. What started flowing back into the lake on Monday and continued spilling into it Tuesday is laced with raw sewage, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides and toxic chemicals, Louisiana officials said on Tuesday.
Yes, yes it is, but what level of those things are present, and how much water is being pumped back in comparison to how much is already there? One time environmental events are generally not a problem -- systems are well capable of absorbing a one time shock and coming out smelling like a rose, its the continual drip-drip-drip that does serious damage. It is quite likely that 6 months from now none of this will be detectable in Lake Ponchatrain. Besides, what are they supposed to do, leave the flood waters there until they can design and build a treatment plant 6 months to a year from now? Dump it into the ocean? What? This is asinine.


Why The EU Is Doomed

Regulations like this that they just revoked.
The European Parliament voted to leave it to individual EU states to regulate whether bosses should have to protect staff from the sun's harmful radiation, in a victory for pro-business conservative, liberal and nationalist deputies.
The line between "nanny-union" and oppressive dictator is a fine one indeed.


Best News Of The Week

Jane Fonda Cancels Anti-War Bus Tour
Certainly, Fonda is still very much against the war in Iraq and in favor of helping our troops there. But she said that she didn't want to distract people from Cindy Sheehan's bus trip, which is already under way and gathering support.
How excrutiatingly humble of Jane. Are you sure it's not because Sheehan stole her thunder? And showed the "anti-war movement" for what it is? -- ignorant!


This Explains So Much About Me (Taste Alert!)

Does suppressing the urge to toot endanger one's health?

YES! As the article says
Yet the truth of the matter is that farting is a natural--nay, a beautiful--process by which we bring our inner being into harmony with the universe.
My harmony is excellent!


Are My Days Numbered?

Population numbers may doom salmon

Presented in accordance with the edict.


Danger! Danger! Danger!

She's a beauty, eh?
Crocus, a 2-foot pet alligator escaped from his backyard enclosure, but was captured by a girl who used what she learned on a nature TV program.

Nicki Hilliard and several friends saw the animal swimming in the Allegheny River.

Hilliard said she learned how to catch the animals safely by watching the television show "Crocodile Hunter." The secret is to grab the animal's snout and hold its mouth closed.
Either Steve Irwin makes it look a lot harder than it actually is, or his TV show endangered this girl's life. Granted, a 2 ft. croc is not that big, but this is a little girl, and 2 ft is big enough to take a hand.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Chernobyl's Back In The News

Back at the end of April I posted, in three parts, recollections of visiting Chernobyl in 1991 - here - here - here. At the time there was a full court press on to raise money to reinforce the sarcophagus -- the great vault that holds the nasty nuclear core that remains there.

Now there is a study out that shows the health effects of the accident are not nearly as severe as many believed. From the NYTimes
Nearly 20 years after the huge accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, a new scientific report has found that its aftereffects on health and the environment have not proved as dire as scientists had predicted.

The report was prepared by a panel of more than 100 experts convened by United Nations agencies

It says huge compensation programs for people in the Chernobyl region have become "a major barrier to the region's recovery," both by creating a culture of dependency and by soaking up a high percentage of the region's resources. It recommends that the compensation programs be cut back.
I am not terribly surprized at this finding, but I think there needs to be some clarification of what is, and is not being said.

Chernobyl became, almost instantly, a great extortionist lever. There are some that believe that is was Chernobyl that truly brought down the Soviet Union -- between the costs cited in the last paragraph I quote and the loss of confidence in the regime the accident engendered, I think it is fair to say Chernobyl played a significant role in the downfall of that state. I doubt any factor, in the end, can be singled out as the most important.

This report really is vitally important in the economic recovery of the region and particularly Ukraine. But ending this benefits extortion, should not be confused with the very necessary work of properly maintaining the site security and the integrity of the sarcophagus. Lying inside that sarcophagus is the most toxic pile of material known to mankind. Should it be allowed to escape, the nightmare health scenarios upon which the extortion has been based could become a reality.

This report is, in the end, a testament to those that fought and sacrificed to put out the fire and contain the accident. They did their job well, and we owe it to them to maintain it.

And as a side note, the reporting on this study is amazing. Surprizingly, the NYTimes headline read, quite honestly

Experts Find Reduced Effects of Chernobyl

But the BBC chose to head it's story

Chernobyl 'likely to kill 4,000'

Only in the second paragraph of the story did they say
The figure, in the report by the Chernobyl Forum, is much lower than other estimates.
Note that even in admitting, belatedly, the lower risk estimates, they report the result as anomalous, as opposed to definitive.

Sometimes, I am truly amazed at how the politics of a situation can transcend the science. Most sad, in my mind, is that there really are people hurting from this, and all this politics overshadows that. They are reduced to pawns in the power and wealth transfer game, in the name of protecting them. That is really sad.


Mystery and Majesty In The Midst Of Disaster

Anytime there is a disaster like Katrina, there are thousands of stroies of heroism and amazement. Few have intrigued me and moved me like this one from the LATimes, via Scotwise.
In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.
Turns out the kids were separated from parents accidentally in the chaos that was the evacuation, limited helicopter capacity, etc. -- they have been reunited.

What a miracle that a 6-year-old had the maturity to take care of the others. That's a kid I'd like to meet.


Narnia Movie -- Read All About It

Hey, is this Internet thing cool or what? We have viewer comments available from a test screening (HT: Boar's Head Tavern) of this coming Christmas' Disney movie "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." There are no spoilers (how can there be? -- everyone already knows the story), but I'm not sure I'll read more when it becomes available -- I even love the cheesy BBC live action TV shows, so I know what I'm going to think about this.


Today's Trip Pic

Let us return to Catherine Palace for a second day and examine the interior of this marvelous place. As any palace, it actually consitutes several buildings and a large grounds. Here we shall examine only the main residence of the Tsars. Guesthouses, bath houses, servants quarters, detached kitchens, and other various "out buildings," any one of which is multiple times larger than most houses you will find in America, are, frankly, beneath our notice.

Remember when I said yesterday that everything that glitters really is gold? True on the inside too. This is one small portion of one very large ballroom and the whole thing, save where there is glass, is done like this -- it's a bit overwhelming. "Gaudy and ostentatious," as my father might like to say.

In a bit of pure show-off with out a speck of decorating sense, all the heaters in the place are Delpht china from the Netherlands. At the time, Delpht was the thing, even though it in no way matched any of the decor surrounding. Worthy more of Trading Spaces than palace opulance, I found this bit of decoration quite amuzing.

I guess this just shows that even the monarch can be overcome with the desire to demostrate wealth over common sense.

The highlight of the palace is the "Amber Room." A gift to the Romanovs from some German noble, it is truly astounding -- virtually every inch of the room is covered in amber of some sort. The original amber was completely destroyed in "Th Great Patriotuc War," but the plans, which had been meticulously drawn when the room was originally delivered survived and what you see was completely reconstructed based on those.

This picture gives you some detail to understand what the what was realy accomplished in the room. This is the top of one of the pictures frames that are built into the walls themselves. It is truly remarkable.


On The Subject Of Movies I Know I'll Love

From the Wall Street Journal:
Marvel Enterprises Inc. completed a $525 million, seven-year debt facility to finance 10 films based on its comic-book characters, and will change its name to Marvel Entertainment Inc., reflecting the company's expanding Hollywood presence....

...The characters in the arrangement are Captain America, The Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack, and Shang-Chi. Each film is expected to have a budget of up to $165 million. Marvel plans to use the financing to make live-action films.
Be still my heart!


I Knew The Japanese Economy Was Down...

...but I had no idea things were this bad:

Japan's Imperial Palace Selling Copper


Read The Christian Carnival Here!

Thanks TechnoGypsy for hosting this week.


The Best of Pravda

Yet another in the very long line of drunken Russian tales
The personnel of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs? office in Poltavskaya region arrested 39-year-old milker and watchman of one of the farms for cutting cows? tails, Ukrainski Novyny reports.

The arrested man was in the state of alcoholic intoxication and became angry when one of the cows lashed his face with its tail.
I've never milked a cow drunk, but I have milked a cow, and I've been tempted.

Archeaological Self-Reference:
Discoveries in Egypt may be extremely surprising sometimes. In Beijing, an international joint research group from the Catholic University in Leuven and Beijing University discovered a collection of Egypt art that was believed lost for many years already. A Chinese ambassador to Cairo compiled the collection in 1906; when he died the items of the collection were distributed between the Beijing University Museum, the Arts Museum in Beijing and Beijing National Library.
Archeaologists are discovering things that archeaologists lost. Imagine what happens in a few thousand years when they dig up the British Museum, they may think all of civilzation started in London.

World's best naval flanker Su-33 crashed in Northern Atlantic

I know some guys in the Navy and the Air Force that would read that and respond with but two words -- "Prove It!"

Wishful Thinking? - Katrina is to undermine Bush's authority

This is really proof that they don't get the whole constitutional thing -- the President's "authority" does not change. His poll results might be affected, but not his authority.


Did NASA Put Some Dryer Sheets Into Orbit That I Did Not Know About?

Saturn ring particles 'fluffy'

Analysis: Deep Impact Comet All Fluff

It's either that or the Saturn people and the Deep Impact people got the same memo.


Play Along WIth The Beeb

The BBC is compiling a list of "Rules of Advertising." Here's some examples
7. Cat food smells delicious to humans.
(Ian, Redditch)

9. Shaving is always performed to music, semi-naked and accompanied by a blonde woman in a towel. (Lorraine, St Albans, UK)

29. Dogs in adverts never sniff your crotch. (Colin, Glenrothes, Scotland)
Here's my contribution -- No matter what the film, it will be the greatest of it's type of all time, for example, This is the greatest, most important animated children's film made for a budget under 10,000 dollars!

What are your ideas?


No Kidding

Next Bush pick could steer court to right

If that is not true, I'll have wasted a vote and a bunch of campaign donation money.


I'm Betting Alcohol Was Involved

A west Devon couple are baffled by how their nine-year-old white cat turned pink after a weekend stroll.
I am certain this couple has never been on a shore leave bender with some sailors -- body modification is commonplace.


Can A State Get Pregnant?

Mystery Bulge in Oregon Still Growing

Apparently so!


Watch Your Behavior!

Neutron Star Kicked Out of Milky Way

Now that is what I call an expulsion. I wonder what the guy did?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The Interface Between Reality and Principle

Evangelical Outpost is pretty upset at conservatives for, in his opinion, abandoning their principles, and not participating in local government, thus leading to many of the failures seen in NOLA.
But mayor's offices, city councils, and state legislatures all join the "little platoons" that serve as our first line of defense when natural or man-made disasters strike. So why then are we not working to put our best and brightest into these offices? Why do push them to take jobs as Senatorial aides rather than as state senators? Why do we lead them to roles as assistants to assistant directors in the Department of Education rather than as leaders on county school boards? Why do we put our rhetoric behind the local and yet but our faith in the federal?

If we expect to be taken seriously, conservatives must start supporting the principles we claim we believe. One way that we could begin is by "subsidizing" subsidiarity, by using our resources to promote our intellectual and political leaders at the state and local levels of governance.

Imagine if conservatives had identified a true leader ? whether a Democrat or Republican - and supported them in the New Orleans mayoral race. Imagine if such a candidate had won instead of Nagin, a self-financed Republican who switched party registration to the Democratic Party days before filing for his candidacy. Imagine if we had supported a candidate who understood the responsibility of the chief elected official in a city was to look after the safety of his fellow citizens. Would there have been fewer deaths? We'll never know. Perhaps in the future, though, we?ll start acting like we claim to believe. And then maybe next time disaster strikes we won?t even have to wonder.
The thing about a principle is you have to have a battlefield on which to fight for it, and unforutnately, through no fault of conservatives, local government is not that battlefield. Liberal action on the federal level has rendered local government largely ceremonial. Liberal action has made Washington the battleground - so that is where our best and our brightest are going to go.

Let's say we took Joe up on his idea here, the result would be to win the battle but lose the war. Yes, local government would function better in this instance, but in the meantime, we'd be losing the bigger fights in Washington, rendering those able local officials less and less able to do what they do best.

And do you really think anyone would fall for that last minute party switch gag?

Finally, we cannot let Louisiana with its long history of inept and corrupt local politics color our view of local politics in general. Many good and able national politicians have done their time in local government. Some of the most prominent were at their best in local government -- Richard Lugar, for example, was a great mayor of Indidnapolis, while he has been only a mediocre Senator with, at best, moments of effectiveness.

Finally, try to get elected on a local level as a conservative -- for any party.

I think Joe is letting his rightly placed and felt passion override his political judgement in this circumstance.


Gee, Do You Think?

The potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research have probably been oversold to the public, fertility expert Lord Winston says.

He fears a backlash if science fails to deliver on some of the "hype" around the cells - as he believes may happen.

He says the notion that a host of cures for serious, degenerative disorders are just around the corner is fanciful.
There is little doubt in my mind that much of the hype that has surrounded embryonic stem cell research has been efforts to make abortion appear somehow "useful." It is the grossest kind of rationalization -- a rationalization that leads one even further into the depths of depravity.

Lord Winston is a brave man for taking a stance like this. He is to be applauded.


Soldier Salute

MilBlogger "Boots In Bahgdad" is going home. He posts his reflections on his deployment here. I just have to quote this for all the naysayers and backbiters out there.
I can't even begin to describe to you what it feels like to be on the verge of going home and returning to life. This journey began a year ago? an eternity ago. And, for the world I wouldn't trade the last twelve months of my life.
For some, the "hardship" of deployment is the honor of service. I don't know where the country would be without them, and I am truly grateful to them.


Today's Trip Pic

Leave return to St. Petersburg for a few days. The city of the Romanovs is perhaps at its absolute finest in the "suburban" palaces. The winter palace, now part of the Hermitage was used by all of them, though some of the smaller buildings were added by differing generations -- but it was in the 'burbs where the various generations really made their mark. The most famous of these palaces is "Peterhof" which we did not visit this trip -- mostly because I did in 1991 and wanted to see some that I had not seen. Though I will post some Peterhof pictures from my '91 trip is a few days

Where we did end up visiting is "Catherine Palace" Built originally for Peter the Great's second wife, Catherine, it was a couple of generations later when Catherine the Great brought the place into its full glory. The palace is on the edge of a small village, traditionally where the servants lived, and borders on the grounds of another widely known suburban palace -- Alexander Palace. Alexander place has not been restored for it shares as much infamy and fame. This was the palace from which the Nicholas II clan was taken as a part of the revolution.

The restoration job on Catherine Palace is not yet complete, but what has been accomplished is extraordinary.

Russian restoration masters are sticklers for detail, and this place has a lot of detail. They are also sticklers for using the correct original material, which means everything that glows is, in fact, gold. The ornateness is truly amazing, though I must say it is a little fussy for my taste. Outside of Moscow is a place where the Moscow Csars would spend their summers, and it includes a log cabin in which Peter the Great was born. In actuality, that is far more my style.

The grounds at Catherine Palace are also extraordinary. Utterly demolished by the Nazis, the statuary was buried in place before the invasion, being far too heavy to remove. The Nazis rolled right over it and it was there when the war was over. In a place as much a monument to Soviet determination to capture hard currency as a committment to the decadent history of the monarchy, that bit or originality was charming indeed.


Dare To Be Different

SmartChristian links to a CT article about the possibility of evangelical monastism.
The faint but (we hope) growing call for remonasticization is provoked by the recognition that our situation will not change merely with continuing talk. American mass culture presents the church with a challenge unique to its history. It is a culture dominated by the mechanisms and mentality of consumerism, and facilitated by mass media that penetrate every nook and cranny of the country.

In this milieu individual Christians, and the church as a collective body, cannot easily maintain their distinctive identity as a people killed and raised with Christ (Rom. 6:4?10). The dominant ethos is all pervasive, able to assume milder, less offensive forms for those who will not embrace it with its mask off. So if the church dislikes coarse "worldly" celebrities, let it create its own celebrities. If it is cautious about the worldly mania for numbers (stocks sold on Wall Street), let it develop its own mania for numbers (souls saved by the megachurch).

Thus the church must not only recognize its plight, it must imagine new and truer ways to address that plight. It is in this context that we issue a formal call for remonasticization in the church.
There are aspects of this idea I really like and others I don't. Firstly, I think setting aside people with extraordinary levels of devotion is a very worthwhile idea.

I wonder; however, if there are not new implementations of that basic theme that might not be better. -- How about couples instead of celibacy? Wouldn't couples modelling marriage in the context of devotion to Christ be a great thing. Children might be problematic because of the necessity to provide for them, but that energy could be redirected into ministry. Maybe such couples could form the community in which a seminary resides? Thus those preparing for ministry would spend some time in the company of the utterly devout.

I'm just throwing ideas on the wall here -- do you have any?


This Is Tiring

Scotland's most senior Catholic has come under fire after claiming that proposals to allow gay couples to adopt would place children "in peril".
When, oh when will people come to understand that by definition, the church is not accountable to the them, the government, or anything other than God. Consider
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said: "We are saddened that a senior cleric is exhuming 19th Century prejudices rather than recognising the reality of life in the 21st Century.
I really have a hard time with the hubris of a statement like that. While most everyone agrees that Islam must reform if the violence is to end, few if any of us have the hubris to try and browbeat them into it -- why should these people feel free to do it to the Western church? They rob religious authority of any authority whatsoever. Our society is based on a plurality of authorities, not the centralization thereof.


From the Edge of Taste...

English Signs Around the World


Is Science Education Dying In America?

Parableman is wondering.
Check it out. China passed us sometime in the mid-1980's and the growth rate in number of degrees granted is much higher. The trend is similar for graduate school, and also for the natural sciences generally, not just engineering....

...Again, I'm not too sure what to make of all this. I don't have a fundamental problem with having lots of foreign postdocs and faculty members, but I wonder if it says something about our science education. I'll be interested in comments.
I do think this says something about education in America, but not necessarily science education. Science is, frankly, antithetical to much of what is taught in the humanities today. In literature courses we hear about truth being relative and in the eye of the beholder -- science remains the search for the truth. Either f=ma or it doesn't. Force is not one thing to me and another to you. Either you correctly calculate the molecular weight of sulfuric acid, or you do not. Your professor will not give you a good grade for your "creative and unique insight" if you decide that molecular weight is an oppressive concept designed to constrain molecules to a predetermined set of molecular norms and mores.

Now, if you are a student, all of whom, myself included, are a bit more interested in the Friday night beer bash than the Monday morning class -- what major are you going to chose? The one where you can say pretty much anything and pass or the one where you have to actually work and learn?


Really Smart Move

Bush Nominates Roberts To Be Chief Justice

One thing's for sure, when Bush says he is going to address something quickly, he's not fooling around. This may be the sinlge most politically astute move of Bush's presidency.

Roberts has been on the hot seat for a while now and the opposition has had a hard time laying a glove on him, this will turn up the heat on him, but as he has been found difficult to boil, he should stand it fairly well. In the meantime, this move removes focus on the other nominee, leaving room for an even bolder appointment.


Touching Me Too Many Ways Not To Link

Seriously, this story crosses my path more than my cat does on the way to the food dish in the morning.
The name Manning is legendary in the city of New Orleans for two generations of football greats. Now those hometown heroes are doing what they can to help their friends, family and thousands of their longtime fans recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Both Archie and Eli Manning played college ball at Ole Miss -- where I was born as both my parents attended there. Peyton plays for the Indianapolis Colts -- the city where I was raised. And then there was that time we were on the Ole Miss campus and gave a kid a ride to the Student Union and had a cup of coffee with him, only later to find out it was Archie.

The Mannings are good people in a way that few professional athletes can imagine. Their efforts in this situation are just typical, at least for them.


As An Asthma Sufferer -- NO THANK YOU

Irish scientists are investigating parasitic worms to try to find new ways to prevent asthma and reduce allergies.

Dr Padraic Fallon, from Trinity College Dublin, and colleagues have already managed to cure asthma in lab mice by infecting them with the tiny creatures.
Sometimes the cure is just yuckier than the disease.


Too Much Vodka?

Russian man survives snooze under moving train

Pretty much a given don't you think?


I Am Not Sure This Will Get Very Far With The NBA

Dwarves in south India unite to fight job discrimination

Monday, September 05, 2005


Are You A 'Grace Grinder?'

On Saturday, Jollyblogger linked to Scott McKnight's post at Jesus Creed and confessed to being, from time to time, a "Grace Grinder." Here are some of McKnight's defining characteristics of a "Grace Grinder.
"These people can't talk about grace without emphasizing that we are wretches;
they can't read Yancey's What's So Amazing?? without saying it isn't the whole story;
they can't preach obedience without saying this isn't works;
they can't talk about grace without talking about all those who are on their way to hell;
they can't preach love without showing holiness is behind it all;
they can't talk about grace without reminding us that it is all for God's glory and that God didn't have to do this and that we ought to consider ourselves lucky;
I've added some emphasis where I believe I am particularly guilty.

David confesses to being very convicted by this post. While I understand the point here, I am not sure I am entirely convicted.

First of all, grace really is not the whole story. There are five "Solas" of the Reformation: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and God's Glory Alone. If we fail to acknowledge all, we run the risk of an unbalanced and minsunderstood faith.

This is, in fact, where I think the concept of "Grace Grinding" has arisen. Sola Gratia has come to be so overemphasized, and so misunderstood that some sort of balance must be made. Here, I think; however, is the true heart of the matter. McKnight says
It is the sort of communication that does extol grace, God's good grace, but it makes that grace an angry thing God has to do because he is gracious. God, being so loving but downright ticked off with humans for their sins and stiff-neckedness and hard-heartedness, is still gracious to us. That sort of idea.
Now that is a problem! I am not sure McKnight's list of characteristics are truly indicative of the real problem. It is possible to note the weaknesses in Yancey's book without "making grace an angry thing." It is possible to emphisize our wretched state without portraying God as "ticked off."

The immense grace of the Cross was preceded by tearing through the Temple courtyard. Our call is to understand the character of Christ sufficiently to understand, and model, how the destruction of the Temple was as gracious as the crucifixion. The concepts are not mutually exclusive, save in our insufficient intellects. This is not an "either/or," but a "both/and" question. I think the best approach to the question of grace is, in fact, to learn how to embrace the complete wholeness of the Gospel message.


Some Interestng Katrina Links

But first, a mini-rant: Why is it the same people that accuse the federal government of prying into people's private lives in terms of things like abortion and same-sex relations act like that same federal government has an obligation to forcably remove people from their homes in the event of a natural disaster? I am getting really sick and tired of this stuff...

Hugh Hewitt paid me a very nice compliment last night because I took him up on his very excellent suggestion. I have begun working with my church to partner with JJ White Memorial Presbyterian Church (link broken at publication time, unsurprizingly) in McComb, Mississippi. McComb escaped the worst of the damage from Katrina, but was pretty heavily damaged nonetheless and will be the perfect staging ground for reaching both New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast -- it's about 45 minutes to a hour from each when the highways are in decent shape. Tod Bolsinger and Hugh have more detail on that great longer term idea.

Dadmanly is linking to special resources for military folk.

Mark Steyn looks at local government in Louisiana.

Finally, I have to link to this because it explains so much, and is at the same time, somehow sadly funny. From WorldNetDaily
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he's feeling better about his city, he feels confident he has gotten the attention of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and President Bush, but he said he fears the Central Intelligence Agency may take him out because he's been yelling at these officials.

He didn't say it once. He said it twice.

Last night he told a reporter for the Associated Press: "If the CIA slips me something and next week you don't see me, you'll all know what happened."

Today he told interviewers for CNN on a live broadcast he feared the "CIA might take me out."
Now remember, the city elected someone with those delusions -- I think the picture is starting to come together, don't you?


Requeim For Rehnquist by a Guest Blogger

The newest member the Southern California Bloggers Alliance is "Powder Tracks and Fever." Unfortunately, he is having technical difficulties right now -- so I am presenting his thoughts on Rehnquist's death as a guest blogger:

Judge William H. Rehnquist has gone to meet his MAKER!

This Brave Judge carried his Cross of Cancer along his Via
Dolorosa until the very end! The Judge built his
House on the "Rock"!!
Matthew 7:24-29

"Everyone then who hears these
words of mine and does them will be like a wise man
who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell,
and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on
that house, but it did not fall, because it had been
founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these
words of mine and does not do them will be like a
foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the
rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and
beat against that house, and it fell, and great was
the fall of it." I think he will hear the words from
our Lord "Well Done Thou Good and Faithful Servant"!
President Bush in Honor of this Brave and Great Judge
replace him with a Person who will Honor his great
Legacy... The Judge was no fool and he did not build
in a ridiculous sandy and marshy place like the French
did in New Orleans....
Its seems that Our Lord was better Urban Planner than the French and American Engineers
--Francis Yubero, M.D.


Today's Trip Post

Today is the last day of the St Petersburg break -- tomorrow we return to that most lovely of cities. But let us look for a moment at tour life -- we looked at the ship, but let's look at the other most ubiquitous part of life when touring -- the bus.
We did not take any actual pictures on the bus on our trip -- these are random pictures I found on the Interenet -- they are all the same anyway. I got pretty good at telling Mercedes bus from a Saab bus, but the differences were so minor that the effort was really just to pass the time.

A trip like this sees you moved, en masse, onto the ship, onto the bus, through the attraction, back on the bus, back on the ship. And it came complete with people moving around you keeping you orderly and guiding you where to go next.

If all of that sounds familiar to you, that's because that's pretty much how a cattle drive works, except without the boats and buses -- substitute trains. At times, one is tempted to Moooo.

It's been a long time since I took a trip like this, I had kind of forgotten how it was. Upon my return, I pulled out the "trip book" from my 1991 visit to the Soviet Union, a compare and contrast thing if you will. As I was a part of an official delegationon that trip, we kept pretty meticulous records of meetings, abstracts for all papers we presented and heard, a simple daily journal, and so forth.

Seems in addition to forgetting about the cattle drive nature of things like this, I'd also forgotten that that same nature had driven myself and a couple of buddies on the '91 trip to creative heights -- we composed a song, and there in the journal entry for the last day of the trip were the lyrics, sung to the tune of "Rawhide" by Frankie Lane I give to you now -- "Busride"
Chorus 1: Rollin', rollin', rollin
Keep those delegates rolling
Though their feet are swollen, busride

Don't try to understand then
Just push, count and command them
Keeping my interpreter by my side

Chorus 2: Wake 'em up, move 'em out, cram 'em in -- Busride

Repeat Chorus 1

Through Aeroflot, heat and swelter
We want to see the smelter
So let's all hurry up and take another busride

Repeat Chorus 2

Repeat Chorus 1

It really is a pity, here in our city
We can't read s*&^ without a guide

Repeat Chorus 2

Trust me, after a week, it's funny


Where We Differ

From the Beeb
BBC chairman Michael Grade has ordered a report into claims that Today presenter John Humphrys mocked politicians in an after-dinner speech.

The Times newspaper said the Radio 4 broadcaster made remarks about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and John Prescott in the speech, which was given in June.

A BBC spokesman said Grade had asked director general Mark Thompson for a full report on the claim.

But Humphrys denied being insulting, calling it a "light-hearted" speech.

He is said to have implied all MPs were liars, and claimed former BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan was right in his controversial report that claimed the government "sexed-up" intelligence on Iraq's weapons capabilities to aid the case for war.
Implying that a Congressperson was a liar would be business as usual for our press. Maybe there are some things they do better over there?



Boy, the whackos were out in force this week.

The Guvenator can't win. Apparently it is more important to pass new environemntal laws, even about environmental problems that likely don't exist than it is to enforce existing laws addressing real problems.

And while we are considering that the idea matters more than the reality, consider the State of Washingtion. Despite the existence of carpool lanes on the freeways, traffic has increased, the opposite of the desired affect. So when they decide to dump the lanes to accomodate the increased traffic the greenies complain. Seems to me they should be concentrating on new ideas, not trying to make failed ones work.

This is silly.
A Hungarian zoo says it will reduce the number of large animals it holds and restock with smaller ones because it fears that zoo effluent could pollute a local spring, the state news agency MTI said on Monday.
How about build a system to reliably handle the waste?

This is dangerous.
The key Millennium Goal of halving poverty in a decade cannot be met without better environmental protection, according to a new report.
Environmental Protection squelches economic development, even in the most robust of economies -- consider the lack of refining capacity in the US right now -- all this will do is keep the poor poor, by preventing poor nations from devloping as rapidly as they should. Please read this book!

This will break the church.
Stop Climate Chaos brings traditional environmental groups such as Greenpeace together with Christian development agencies like Christian Aid.
Greenpeace thinks the planet is God. -- there is a problem here.

Seems even the underdevloped are contributing to "Global Warming." That's gonna put a hitch in the get-along of some environmentalists - no deep pockets to pilfer here.


Apparently, The World REALLY Is Not Enough

The new 007 film has a problem: it can't find a James Bond


Bad Husband Move

I could be referring to the post below this, but...

Hugh Hewitt recently complained on his radio show about a fender bender his wife was in. With all sympathy and understanding, I am not sure referring to his wife as "#3" is a wise move under the circumstances.

No. 3 Hewitt Escapes Scare From Dent


A Source Of Marital Strife?

We spoke to 6,000 people and found that young males are embracing new technologies much faster than women...
This, frankly, is why men should always hold the TV remote.


Better Living Through Chemistry

My Organic Chemistry professor in undergrad school was an interesting soul. It was the late '70's and he had completed his gradutate work in the late '60's with all the personal habits that entailed. Thus whenever we considered a new functional group in lecture, he would begin my telling us what the psychoactive compounds in that group were. This led to a number of interesting syntheses in lab.

Anyway, it appears he, or someone just like him, has turned their attentions lately to felines.
Feline experts are unlocking some of the mysteries behind catnip's intense effect on cats, according to a recent report in Chemical & Engineering News.

At the center of the mystery is the herb's volatile essential oil, nepetalactone. Carolyn McDaniel, a veterinarian at the Feline Health Center at Cornell University who contributed to the report, theorizes that it must be very similar to a substance that all cats respond to, like a pheromone.
I better get to work on a synthesis -- I could "cook" the stuff in the kitchen and sell nickel bags out the window to all the neighborhood cats. Soon dogs would be "turning them out," and the street would be a cat stroll. Quite the picture, isn't it?

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