Saturday, March 11, 2006


The Call To Revival

Scotwise is calling the church to revival. He quotes James Burns
To the church a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of failure, and an open and humiliating confession of sin on the part of her ministers and people. It is not the easy and glowing thing many think it to be, who imagine that it fills the empty pews, and reinstates the Church in power and authority.

It Comes To Scorch Before It Heals; it comes to rebuke ministers and people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the Cross, and to call them to daily renunciation, to an evangelical poverty, and to a deep and daily consecration.

This is why a revival has never been popular with large numbers within the Church. Because it says nothing to them of power such as they have learned to love, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin, it tells them that they are dead, it calls them to awake, to renounce the world, and to follow Christ.
It is so easy for the church to count itself more important than God, and yet the church exists solely to reflect His glory.

Why does "humiliation," in a context like this, have such a negative connotation? What other possible response is there to God than humble prostration?

The Lion Witch, Wardrobe movie played Aslan much lighter than Lewis wrote him. There is one scene though. After Aslan and Jadis have parlayed, Jadis publically questions Aslan's promise. The great lion responds with a roar that literally forces Jadis to sit down.

God's majesty and power would do much more than sit us down - such humiliation is not shaming, it is but a natural response to such majesty.

Indeed, humilation is the order of the day, but it is not parcel with shame, it is acknowledgement of God's goodness and to be celebrated.

Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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The Indiana Coaching Race Heats Up

You can tell -- the Indianapolis Star has decided to kick Bob Knight around again.

Hoosiers tell Knight: Stay in Texas

I have to be honest - this really hacks me off. Everybody with an ounce of sense is over the Knight firing, nobody but the diehard Knight-o-phile is talking about bringing him back, so why poll it? - which is what the story is about, and particularly why lead the story with that poll question?

Because the Indianapolis Star has all sorts of egg all over its face for supporting Davis way past when he was supportable, presumably because he was not Knight. It's no secret, Knight made pretty much ever reporter in the country look foolish at some point or another. The good ones took it in the spirit it was offered and moved on - Dick Vitale comes to mind, but the small-minded just can't resist the opportunity to kick the man when he is long gone and very happy where he is.

I find it amazing that there is room in a major city paper for this kind of personal vendetta garbage - even on the sports page. Get over it guys, he's moved on, so should you.

Speaking of bad reporting, Bob Kravitz thinks it should be Motta who I mentioned earlier. Kravitz never has quite gotten basketball in Indiana and this piece proves it. Says Kravitz of Motta
OK, so he's not a member of The Family.
Uh, Bob - Thad's a Butler grad - a couple of years behind me - he coached Butler to one of it's best seasons ever, especially in the post-Hinkle era. I've said it before, for the last six years, Butler is the place that has kept the real tradition of basketball in Indiana alive. Trust me, Thad's "in the family" - He's just not an IU alum.
Regarding Thad, I stand by my earlier opinion - he is not yet sufficiently proven to justify what it would take to get him to IU. I would not be upset if that's who it is, but He would not be my first choice.

As to the rest of Kravitz' "list", only Montgomery, formerly of Stanford, is worth a second glance, particularly when it comes to preserving the traditions that matter at IU. The fact that he brings up Rick Pitino shows that Kravitz just does not get it.

I'm still thinking a young, but excellent, guy - though I am not as confident about that as I once was. The pressure is pretty intense, a young guy, no matter how good he is, might have a hard time handling that. I'm not giving up the idea, just adding a caution.

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Comic Art

This break in the usual programming for this space is mandated by the fact that I spent several hours yesterday here - At the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, viewing an exhibition entitled "Masters Of American Comics."
Comic strips and comic books were among the most popular and influential forms of mass media in the 20th century. This exhibition examines 15 key American artists who have helped define the form and brought it to the highest level of artistic expression. It features an extensive selection of approximately 900 original drawings, progressive proofs, vintage-printed Sunday pages, and comic books by Winsor McCay ("Little Nemo"), Lyonel Feininger, George Herriman ("Krazy Kat"), E.C. Segar, Frank King, Chester Gould ("Dick Tracy"), Milton Caniff, Charles Schulz, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Gary Panter, Chris Ware, and Art Spiegelman.
I don'y quite know where to begin to describe my reactions - I guess I'll start with the negatives.

The modern stuff was...ugly and generally tasteless. Crumb, Panter, Ware, and Spiegleman are influential, but weird. Of that group, only Spiegelman even qualifies as a good artist in my opinion, but his stories can be quite off-putting.

Crumb's influence cannot be understated, but most of his work is just base. As time progressed it appeared as if those that put the exhibition together were trying simply to shock or make a certain political statement as opposed to look at influence and quality of work.

But enough of that, let's talk about the good stuff

This incredibly famous cover is for a comic I hold proudly (if not valuably, it's in rotten condition) in my collection. It's Jack Kirby - The Master. This exhibit feature the original art by Kirby displayed next to the comic itself - it nearly brought a tear to my eye.

This is not the first time I have seen original Kirby work, but there was so much of it, and none of it was second rate stuff - spalsh pages from his early New Gods stuff at DC. Original art from some of the most famous images in the history of Marvel Comics - early FF, Cap, Thor (oh how I love Kirby doing Thor) Viewing all that original Kirby, and such significant Kirby, was one of those things someone like me can only dream about, it was stunning.

And right next to it - a bunch of Will Eisner originals, including this very image. The guy that virtually defined the form and there it was laid out in glorious original, pristine detail.

This was stunning exhibition, so stunning I find my critical facilities stuck in some sort of stutter - Amazing, fantastic, wow, awesome - CAN I TAKE THIS ONE HOME?

That in the end was probably the deepest affect this exhibition had on me. I have stayed out of the original art market as a collector - it's expensive, risky, and most notably addicting, but this was so tasty, I may have to dip in just once. Time will tell.

This is a travelling exhibition - if it makes it to your town, please catch it. If you take the kids, scope it out first and do not take them into the modern stuff, but do show them the older stuff.

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So Why Do I Think...

...this story
Take one part high-frequency gravitational wave generation, then add in a quantum vacuum field.

Now whip wildly via a gravitomagnetic force in a rotating superconductor while standing by for Alcubierre warp drive in higher dimensional space-time.

So you're looking for the latest in faster-than-light interstellar travel via traversable wormholes? That's one theme among many discussed at Space Technology & Applications International Forum (STAIF), a meeting held here Feb. 12-16 that brought together more than 600 experts to thrash out a range of space exploration issues.
is going to end up related to this story:
Purdue University has opened an investigation into "extremely serious" concerns regarding the research of a professor who said he had produced nuclear fusion in a tabletop experiment, the university announced yesterday.

Fusion is the process the sun uses to produce heat and light, and scientists led by Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, a professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue, said they were able to achieve the same feat by blasting a container of liquid solvent with strong ultrasonic vibrations.

The vibrations, they said, collapsed tiny gas bubbles in the liquid, heating them to millions of degrees, hot enough to initiate fusion. If true, the phenomenon, often called sonofusion or bubble fusion, could have far-reaching applications, including the generation of energy.

The research first appeared in 2002 in the journal Science, but controversy had erupted even before publication. Dr. Taleyarkhan, then a senior scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, reported the detection of neutrons, which are the telltale signs of fusion, but two other scientists at Oak Ridge, using their own detectors, said they saw no signs of neutrons.
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Because Inventing The Cell Phone Just Wasn't Good Enough

Researchers have come up with a novel way to keep long-distance lovers in touch -- high-tech wine glasses that glow warmly however far apart the pining couple are.

When either person picks up a glass, red light-emitting diodes glow on their partner's glass. When one puts a glass to their lips, the other glass glows brightly.
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They Say...

'Hippie chimps' fast disappearing as dinner

...marijuana gives you the munchies.

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Remind Me Not To Run For Office Here

A mayoral candidate in Winter Park, Fla., accused of smearing dog feces on another man during an apparent outburst of anger is fighting back
Probably with cat poo, and I deal with that enough already.

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Friday, March 10, 2006


When Those In Authority Fail

My Wednesday post on forgiveness and the resigning vicar drew some interesting comment. Leading among them was this comment from someone that occassionally guest blogs here too.
Here's another take on forgiveness. Mine. Forgiving is an action, not a feeling. If you haven't been wronged, then there's nothing to forgive. Forgiving, in part, means giving up your legitimate right to exact retribution and handing it over to your civilization and its authority. This leaves your society with the terrible responsibility of OWING justice to its citizens in exchange for acting in a Godly way. A society that turns a blind eye to evil abandons its responsibility. Similarly, a misguided society that pursues forgivness for evil instead of justice abandons its responsibility. If the citizens and their traditions are sufficently Godly on their own, civil order may prevail for a long while, but eventually people will feel the Victim and choose vengance.

The bombers, products of a horribly corrupt and unjust society, chose vengance.

The vicar chose forgivness and tragically doesn't know it.

The vicar's culture owes her justice to the best of its ability to understand justice.

This is also my argument for the death penalty.
There is a lot I like about that, though at this point I am having a hard time fitting it with the theological undertsanding of forgiveness and the cross - I have asked my commenter to clarify. I think his notion of "forgiveness as action" is strongly related to mine of "forgiveness as transactional." But this issue raises a terribly important question.

What do we do when our society abandons it's "terrible responsibility." Especially when our society is the church! The primary public example I can think of is the shuffling of homosexual peadophile priests about the Roman Catholic church. Justice was not served, and in some cases still is not.

Al Mohler, looking at the case of the Presbyterian pastor that was exhonerated by a church court for charges stemming from her performing marriages of homosexuals said this
Her acquittal is a dark day for that denomination -- a sign that open defiance of the church's own policies will not be punished.
As a Presbyterian, how do I respond to this? I think my church has abandoned its terrible responsibility, and I have no court of appeal, save somt of civil action claiming that church heriarchy breached its contract with me as a member somehow, and submitting the church to civil authority that way is just wrong.

Say you are a woman that has been sexual abused by a pastor. We've seen a bit of that lately. Suppose in such circumstance the church removes the pastor from his job, but, in the declared name of forgivenesss, they allow that pastor to retain his ordination and seek other work? Is justice served? Has the church abandoned it's "terrible responsibility?" I think so? So how does one respond in those circumstances?

The church is God's authority in the world. God demands justice, and He went to the cross for it. What do we do when we do not see it here in His name?

Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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Self-Interest Is Not Always Intelligent

It starts with George Will's look at the Supreme Court decison regarding military recruiters on college campuses. Will doesn't mince words when he begins
The institutional vanity and intellectual slovenliness of America's campus-based intelligentsia have made academia more peripheral to civic life than at any time since the 19th century.
But it is his conclusion that does the real damage
Recruiters are obviously not components of law schools; they are outsiders on brief visits for a limited purpose. "Nothing about recruiting," Roberts wrote, "suggests that law schools agree with any speech by recruiters." Besides, "We have held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so, pursuant to an equal access policy." Then, Roberts's tartness: "Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."

The law schools and faculties earned that sip of the chief justice's vinegar by bringing this case to court. The professors deserved -- no, let us just say they needed -- better legal advice than they were able to give themselves.
Will reports Roberts slap at the plantiffs and in so doing points out that the professors are more interested in their personal right to free speech than to the idea of free speech itself. Selfishness is no substitute for arguement would be the eay I would sum that up. Which brings us to Thomas Sowell writing at Real Clear Politics.
In the grand scheme of things, the recent resignation of Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, was a small episode. But its implications are large and reach beyond Harvard -- and well beyond the academic world.

David Riesman said that we are living in the cathedrals of learning, without the faith that built those cathedrals. We are also living in a free society without the faith that built that society -- and without the conviction and dedication needed to sustain it.
Summers was victimized by the very same vein of thought that the Supreme Court so judiciously slapped down in the decision about military recruiters. And Sowell is right - that type of thought betrays the finest tenants of academia and it threatens the underpinnings of our nation. Later in the piece Sowell says
Is it surprising that we seem to have dwindling numbers of people willing to take responsibility and make sacrifices to preserve the social framework that makes our survival and advancement possible? Harvard is just one small example.
American is a nation built on man's higher instincts, not his lower ones, yet we seem to be using the freedom we have to exercize those lower instincts and it may cost us our freedom.

Education was intended to develop those higher instincts. It has left that mission far, far behind, leaving the church as the only viable institution with the same mission. That is ominous indeed.

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Building Up Or Tearing Down?

I was struck the other day by two posts on the same subject. The first was from GospelDrivenLife and it was on the source of heresy.
I am once again struck by the urgency of keeping the main thing the main thing. Error is infinite while truth is singular. Of the making of new distortions and emphases there is no end. Take anything that is good and elevate it to centrality and you have a new heresy. Take a text and derive principles from it, then more principles from it, then more -- and pretty soon you have a heresy.
The other was by James Spurgeon, writing at Pyromaniacs, defending the study of theology and attempts to understand god, that is to say, develop an orthodoxy.
There is an orthodox teaching of Christian theology. It has been in existence for hundreds, even thousands of years. It is extant in the writings that God's gifts to the church have left behind for us. There is a body of beliefs that are uniquely Christian and those beliefs are found, not just in old dusty tomes left behind by men long gone, tomes containing sermons, devotional material, and theological arguments, but also in creeds, confessions, and catechisms. These are the documents in which God's people have defined themselves and what it means to be a Christian. We do not need to re-invent the wheel here. Affirming those creeds and confessions is not limiting God, rather it is affirming that God has revealed his truth to a people - his people - and that we are identifying themselves with that people.
Now, I pretty much wholeheartedly agree with everything in both posts, but one I really liked, and one, not so much.

GDL concluded his post this way
Keeping Christ crucified and risen as the center of the Solar System of the church is a labor for the good of God's people. Only when he is properly exalted do all the planets orbit harmoniously around him.
The self-proclaimed arsonist, on the other hand, concludes this way
Those who dismiss classic Christian theology proper or who deny its tenets should not masquerade as Christians. If they wish to re-define who God is, then they should be fully honest and re-label themselves also. For when they stop believing in the Christian God, they are no longer Christians.
Do you see the difference? Both posts illuminate heresy, but one shows the heretic the way to restoration and the other just tells him to get out of dodge. Which approach do you think best reflects the attitude of Christ? Forget not that Christ was quite condemning of His Father's declared representatives when they got it oh-so-very wrong.

For years I have struggled with this question - when to build up and when to tear down. There is a time for each. This is the only thing I have found for certain - I have a tendency to lean in one particular direction, and everytime I feel myself moving that way I need to stop and ask God if it is the right way for that circumstance. He defines the time for building up and the time for tearing down.

The fact that both can happen, and should happen, in different circumstances tells me that I must rely on God's wisdom, that my own is insufficient.

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What's Wrong With This Picture?

Well-behaved teenagers are to be rewarded with a so-called "good behaviour card" to spend on sport and leisure, under plans being unveiled.

Chancellor Gordon Brown wants to give 13-19 year-olds up to £25 a month to keep them "off the streets", as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
So, the proposal in the UK is to PAY children for behaving? We're not talking extraordinarily good behavior here, we are just talking about "staying out of trouble."

So, where does this end? Should the government pay me for getting a job, instead of living on the dole? No, you say? OK, so what happens when I am past the age of eligibility, do I get to start mis-behaving? Well? Why should I behave at 21 when I am not getting paid to do so?

To me the bottom line question is this - what's wrong with a society wherein reasonable behavior is not its own reward? Either the society no longer values decency enough to have built in, non-monetary incentives, or it has decided that money is the only thing of any value at all and therefore the only acceptable incentive. Not a pretty picture, is it.

What really, really bothers me is that in either case, we are completely dehumanized for we have reduced our own humanity, as measured by our reasonable behavior, to money.

I hope this idea fails, and fails miserably.

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OK - But I do Need To Rant A Little

Michelle Malkin reprints an absolutely disgusting, vile, and sickening cartoon depicting Christ engaged in homosexual activity. She then comments
Needless to say: No reports of Christians rioting, burning down buildings, or issuing death threats over the vulgar [sic] cartoon.
I added the [sic] because I think her adjective choice utterly insufficient.

And, while I am not tempted to riot or burn, or issue death threats, I simply must RANT.

I am only grateful that God makes the final decisions about eternal damnation and not me, cause I know what I'm thinking and it's not pretty. I am content to leave the decision in God's hands, but forgive me if I let God know I would choose a particular outcome.

And frankly, I question Michelle's judgement in reprinting it, not because I want to censor it for religious reason, but purely on taste grounds - it's soft-core homoerotic porn. I know Michelle printed the Islamic cartoons, but they did not violate common decency as this one does. A simple description would have sufficed to make the point she made.

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Truly, Brothers-In-Arms

Please read this story about love and bravery in the military.
Out in the dusty scrub of Bell County, as Humvees and Bradleys churn across the hills and roads of Fort Hood's range, Staff Sgt. Reyes Sanchez puts on his brother's boots for the day.

Size 8 1/2 wide.

"Same pant size and hat size too," Sanchez said of himself and his brother. "Medium regular uniforms, large T-shirts."

They had big plans in the Army, big brother Reyes and little brother Rene.
They visited the recruiter together in Abilene, took the physical the same day, had the same drill sergeant. They both went into armor, choosing to earn their stripes as cavalry scouts. They moved from Army post to Army post together over the years, occasionally serving in the same unit.

Retirement, after at least 20 years, would be together. They'd share a going-out party, maybe go into business together afterward.

But Reyes Sanchez is wearing his brother's boots now.

A remotely detonated bomb on a bridge intervened in 2004, and Staff Sgt. Rene Ledesma was dead.
Read it all - it's a great insight into the men that defend us.

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Friday Humor

A semi-random assortment from here.

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R & B diva Mary J Blige reportedly requested a new toilet seat in her private dressing room for every night of her 35 date ?Breakthrough? tour.
and knowing:

Growing Aussies Need Sturdier Toilets

I believe we have proven that Mary J Blige is Australian.

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For Very, Very Tiny People

Singapore to build "DNA" bridge

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No Wonder Some Of My Teachers Lived So Long

Frog Survival 101: Fake a Mean Look

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NO, But A Wooly Mammoth Perhaps

Was Nessie merely a circus elephant

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Kilts And Horned Helmets Do Not Fit On Fish

Norwegian buys Scottish salmon assets

So that's never gonna work.

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For This To Be News...

Woman applied eye-shadow as she drove

...The Editor Must Never Have Driven In LA Rush Hour Traffic

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Thursday, March 09, 2006


So What Does God Think Beautiful?

John Cunningham had a great post at Common Grounds Online the other day. He's looking at the role beauty plays in our spiritual formation.
As Christians, we believe that beauty does matter, and that it is more than ?aesthetic appreciation.? It is also not something that can be grasped by human aspiration; it must be received as a gift. While the Greeks sought to ascend to beauty through contemplation, Christians believe that beauty was bestowed upon us in creation and was given in its fullest form in the Incarnation. We believe that God is both beautiful and Beauty itself, so that the Greeks were right to recognize an innate hunger for beauty (eros) in human beings. They were also wise to realize that humans must be enculturated into beauty, through acculturation into the community. Christian formation is a disciplined inhabitation beauty.
The absence of "beauty" is I think the absence of "joy" that lead to CS Lewis' conversion. I think it very important, but highly problematic, I cannot find a lot of guidance in scripture about what it is that constitutes "beauty," at least apart from creation itself.

Now, based on that last conditional I just wrote, one could argue that when it comes to the arts, that which best represents creation is the most beautiful, thus realism would be preferable to abstract in painting - that certainly would agree with my tastes. But what about something like impressionism. You cannot tell from prints, but if you ever see them for real in a good setting where you can step back from them, they, while not entirely real, reflect reality in a very meaningful sense.

What about fantasy in literature. Lewis, for example, wrote Narnia in part to wake up people's desire for beauty, or joy, thinking that giving them a taste would open them to the reality of God as it did for him. There is nothing "real" about Narnia, yet one finds real reflections of reality in it.

And music, how do we decide about music? Here I am clueless, I know my tastes, but that is about it. I have mentioned here before that I am no fan of contemporary worship music, but that is not necessarily because contemporary, it's because I just think its bad. Black gospel, which is equally contemporary, I suck up like a sponge. Is it because black gospel is more evocative of creation than modern praise music which is pretty contrived stuff? I'd like to think so, but I am not sure I can make the case very well.

As the guy said, "God is beauty," but so many people claim to meet Him is such crap. I could argue that they are not truly meeting God - they are meeting some personal emotional state - but how do I objectively demonstrate that?

I do think "beauty" is our introduction to the otherworldly - to God's realm. I also think there are objective ways to identify the beautiful and the not beautiful. I am tempted to say that is what part of what "discernment" is all about, but that lacks the objectivity I seek as well.

Any input?

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Policy From Science

On Tuesday, Prometheus blogged about using science as a policy definer as opposed to informer. It's a very refreshing post, let me quote the conclusion
So long as policy debates are dominated by people who believe that universal agreement on a particular set ?facts? or perspective on ?truth? is a prerequisite to policy action, don?t be surprised to see continued gridlock and inaction. That is a truth you can count on.
The fact of the matter is science often doesn't know with certainty, so it cannot be relied upon to dictate the correct policy choices. That does not mean science cannot provise useful information ot the public policy discussion, it just means that science cannot provide enough certainty to dictate what policy should be. The post quotes extensively an editorial from the journal Global Environmental Change and one of the quotes provides a great example of what I am talking about
the accumulation of information may lead to ?contradictory certainties? that may make decisions more complicated rather than self-evident. The result is often a surfeit of information from which decision makers with opposing viewpoints can pick or choose. A decade ago, writing in this journal, Herrick and Jamieson (1995) recognized just this problem with the US National Acid Precipitation Assessment Programme (NAPAP), which generated a veritable banquet of data and findings, but little guidance to help non-specialist decision makers to determine which items should be considered in the policy choice. As a result, the Clean Air Act Amendments were passed without the benefit of a clear scientific direction. In the end, public disagreements about science become a surrogate for political debates about values and science is reduced to the spectacle of duelling assessments.
Do you see the issue here? Science quite often does not automatically lead to truth! So how do we make decisions? The same quoted editorial says this
Opening up to the public the conditional, and even disputatious nature of scientific inquiry, in principle, may be a way of counteracting society's currently excessive reliance on technical assessment and the displacement of explicit values-based arguments from public life (Rayner, 2003). However, when this occurs without the benefit of a clear understanding of the importance of the substantial areas where scientists do agree, the effect can undermine public confidence. [emphsis added]
The first sentence of that quote is the important one - VALUES matter. Science does not have values, at least it shouldn't. In the end policy decisions are and should be based on values, not merely data, particularly when data conflicts or is inconclusive.

The second sentence in that quote is highly informative; however, science likes the power it currently has - it wants to be able to hold it when it can. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion the public will never have a sufficient understanding of science to not experience the "undermined confidence" about which they worry.

What matters in this instance is clarity. In public debate we need to learn to once again express our values as opposed to merely making "scientific" assertions, especially when the data does not make the assertion nearly as strongly as the PR guy needs to make it to get the policy done.

In the end this demonstrates the failure of a purely naturalistic worldview. If the data is inconclusive from whence can values be drawn? Quite the dilemma, isn't it.

That is the role the Judeo-Christian ethic has played in our nation's history until very recent times. That is the role is needs to continue to play.

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The Tension Of Government

Last week I asked how to build a genuine church organization that rightly followed scriptural principle. Seems I am not alone in that struggle. Dan Kimball writing at Out of Ur says
Leadership in the emerging church is a paradox. I am someone who fully sees the need and value of mission statements, organizational charts, and a strategic approach to leading. I read everything John Maxwell, Bill Hybels and Jim Collins write, and they really do fuel my heart and passion for leadership. The irony however, is that most growing up in our emerging culture are fairly critical of anything that looks like ?organized religion.? So when it comes to developing a leadership culture, there is great suspicion of anything that seems to be ?business? oriented or too structured, since that feels like a reinforcement of the exact thing they are critical of.
I understand the tension he describes completely, even if I do not like very much his description of the source of the tension being "emerging culture." The critical attitude towards "organized religion" should arise from it's apparent almost universal corruption, not mere cultrual suspicion.

Jollyblogger responded to my post last week, he put it this way
I agree with Newbigin that the political order is itself a source of profound corruption, but so is the family, so is the rest of the culture, and for that matter the church itself has often been a source of profound corruption throughout history. But this doesn't nullify the fact that the political order, like all these other institutions is divinely ordained.
David also has very interesting view of the book of Judges, viewing it as an apologetic for monoarchy. It may be such an apologetic, but I have always viewed it as a vision of how God wishes we could be governed, if we were but sinless -- that our fallen state is that which necessitates monoarchy. David says this
Israel's sin in the book of I Samuel is not in wanting a king, it is in wanting a king like the other nations. Israel's sin is in wanting to be like the other nations. God's plan for them was to give them a king after His own heart.

So, we can't say that politics and human government are not a part of God's plan - we can say that corrupt politicians and corrupt governments are not a part of God's plan. The goal is to have rulers after God's own heart.
[emphasis added]
I would contend that a ruler after God's heart would be a judge. David also wonders how this applies to modern times, a question I find most fascinating.

This is a bit of a digression, but an interesting one. I am currently teaching CS Lewis' SciFi books to a Sunday School class. I must confess to being absolutely stuned with Lewis' contention that an unfallen world is very different before and after Christ. I am not stunned that our fall has effects throughout the universe, but the idea that our redemption changes God's idea of perfection is fascinating. I bring it up primarily because of the question of God's ordained government before and after Christ, as I say a bit of a digression.

In the end, the key phrase is "after God's own heart." That's why the source of the tension Kimball describes is the wrong place to look. I have been part of larger organization where, at least for a time, people function close to God's heart and it was a good place. I admit, the bigger the organization the harder that is to achieve, but I have witnessed it.

That's why, in the end, our call is to build disciples, not churches. When we concentrate on building people after God's heart, they will make pretty much any organization structure look good.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Salute The Troops!

Check out this Flash animation. At first you think someone let Terry Gilliam loose in an aquarium, but eventually all those sea creatures work themselves into quite the nice tribute.

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Condemning The Church

JB over at Fraters Libertas, a blog known more for its booze consumption than its Christian commentary, looks at a Townhall piece by Doug Giles.
Parent, if you have a young son and you want him to grow up to be a man, then you need to keep him away from pop culture, public school and a lot of Nancy Boy churches. If metrosexual pop culture, feminized public schools and the effeminate branches of evanjellycalism lay their sissy hands on him, you can kiss his masculinity good-bye?because they will morph him into a dandy.
Sometimes the cultural has more insight into the church than the other way around, THAT FACT makes me very unhappy.

Time to pray methinks.

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As Might Reading Articles Long On Speculation And Short On Data

Manufactured Nanoparticles Might Pose Health Threat

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They Didn't "Create" It...

Students create plant that glows when thirsty

...they just grew it in some dirt they stole from under Chernobyl #4.

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I Hope He Cancan

Editor aims to rescue the zoozoo

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And How Does It Taste With Melted Butter?

Divers discover new crustacean

Truly inquiring minds want to know.

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Can I Play?...

Please, I wanna play!

Rotting whale's carcase may have to be blown up

That's gonna be more fun than human beings should be allowed to have.

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Ah - Music To My Ears

Beer Guts Save Lives

I'm gonna live forever!

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Oh, This Will Sell Well

Japanese researchers extract vanillin from cow dung

Let's say I back a cake (because I know there is no way it would happen the other way around in this hypothetical) - "Honey, come taste this cake, I made it with that new vanilla derived from cow poop!"

Precisely how long do you think it will take for that cake to be carried out to the trash?

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


When Liberal Theology Goes Oh So Wrong

This story absolutely broke my heart.
A British vicar whose daughter was killed in last year?s London suicide bombings has stepped down from her parish role, saying she cannot and does not want to forgive the killers.

The Rev. Julie Nicholson said she had taken the difficult decision after her 24-year-old daughter Jenny died in the July 7 bombing on the underground transport network.

She said she could not reconcile her faith with the feelings of hatred she has towards the killers.
The article does not quote the woman sufficiently to know what the woman thinks and what is the press interpreting what she says, and I think it is important. The way the story is writing there is an equation of love and forgivness. That is to say, if Rev. Nicholson loved the bombers she would forgive them, but since she has feelings of hatred she does not forgive them.

I don't believe in that equation. If Rev. Nicholson indeed hates the bombers, then I agree with her decison, but if the issue is forgivness, then I think she should stay the course.

By the way, the headline of the story discusses forgiveness, not hatred.

I once knew a partor whos brother-in-law had been murdered. This pastor had interactions with the murderer and struggled with precisely the struggle this woman had. His choice was to stay the course making precisely the distinction I have made here. I have argued before that forgiveness is transactional, not unilateral.

Long ago, in a place far away, I wrote about this equation of love and forgivness. It's a long piece that says most of what I want to say here, but there is one part I want to quote
Look at it this way, if I give you a gift and you refuse it, gift giving has not been accomplished. Gift buying has been accomplished. Gift-wrapping has been accomplished. But gift giving has not been accomplished. Now, if I love you, I will keep that gift in its nice wrapped box on the shelf and it will be yours for the asking. But there are some things you can bet on. I am not going to buy you anymore gifts until you take the original one. You and I are not going to share the fruits of that gift. Chances are you and I will not be friends. We may be acquaintances or colleagues, but not friends. If at some point you accept that gift, then whole new worlds are opened up to us.
God does indeed call us to love our enemies, and if Rev Nicholson has only hatred in her heart for the bombers, then, perhaps she has indeed, as it says later in the article, "lost her faith." But somehow, I doubt that.

I think she struggles with the fact that she merely wants to see them brought to justice and punished - a perfectly valid and Christian impulse. As it is a loving act for a parent to punish a child, so her impulse for the bombers to receive justice is a loving act.

My pastor friend that had his struggle is, I think, a genuine asset to the church in general - I think this woman, less infected with psuedo-Christiam-psycho-babble, could be likewise. I will pray for her. I hope you will join me.

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Gentic Traits - Convenient and Inconvenient

The search for a genetic source for the better and more selfless aspects of human behavior continues.
Infants as young as 18 months show altruistic behaviour, suggesting humans have a natural tendency to be helpful, German researchers have discovered.

In experiments reported in the journal Science, toddlers helped strangers complete tasks such as stacking books.

Young chimps did the same, providing the first direct evidence of altruism in non-human primates.
These studies are all an attempt to explain selfless behavior without appeal to a higher authority like, oh I don't know - GOD! One of the great problems with evolutionary theory is explaining selfless behavior.

So, now we know such behavior may, on some level be instictive, not entirely taught - at least that is what they want us to decide based on this study. Let's stick to chimps. Suppose the contention true - altruism, selfless behavior is a genetic trait.

Then why do chimps ever behave in any other fashion? And yet there are reports of chimp murder, rape and other just darling behaviors.

You see, if everything is genetic, then behavior, good, bad, or indifferent should be entirely predictable. But it's not.

Now what's an evolutionary proponent to do?

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Incredulity Belies Ignorance, and Insult

Sheep's Crib links to a couple of pieces about people of faith in politics and faith as it relates to political issues. One is an ITV interview with Tony Blair regarding his faith. I am struck by how the questions sound incredulous, as if a man that had the ability to rise to the job of Prime Minister of the UK could not possibly be ignorant enough to believe in God. The other link there is a more standard pacifist Christian rant, again in an incredulous tone.

Have you ever thought about how much is communicated by tone? In both cases, the incredulous tone serves to be dismissive of the contrary point-of-view. It's down right insulting. One is left without any retort, for merely by tone anything one utters has been reduced to silliness. It's an admittedly effective rhetorical technique, even if completely devoid of substantitive arguement.

Reading it is one thing, but I wonder how many of us as Christians have experienced it first hand. I have, and I must say I am truly tempted to slap them every time. In the end its a subtle form of bigotry.

I think it may be time to start calling people on it. "Did you know if I spoke to you that way, you'd call be a bigot?" Something like that. I'm getting really tired of it.

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A Blogotional Discovery - The Near Perfect Web Site!

I'm not making this up! - The Periodic Table of Comic Books. Follow the link you'll find a periodic table, click an element and see comic pages that reference the element! Oh come on, you know that's cool! And yes, it's true, I am a geek for saying so.

"So why," I am sure you ask, "is it 'near perfect'?"

Because it is from the Chemistry Department of the University of Kentucky, and as a person from Indiana, that's enough.

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I Just Love This Stuff

Regarding Haleigh Poutre (HT: Michelle Malkin)
A nurse told the mother of Haleigh Poutre during a hospital visit on Tuesday that the severely beaten Westfield girl, whom officials once wanted to let die, has been able to eat scrambled eggs and cream of wheat, and has tapped out drum rhythms during physical therapy, according to the mother's lawyer.
WAIT?! Wasn't she in a persistent vegatative state, beyond the help of therapy? Well, that's what some doctors thought, but apparently they aren't that smart after all.

You just have to love that.

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I Just Love This Stuff - Two

You know that murder in Iraq that we have been following so closely here at Blogotional? Well, it's good to know the victim's family is being cared for.
In the corner to the right, Stuart Tashman of Slate Hill. Pediatrician, sports aficionado, die-hard Angels fan, father of two.

In the corner to the left, Lou Savarese, retired heavyweight boxer, also the father of two young children. Resides on the Warwick-Greenwood Lake border.

No, they won't come out fighting. But they're fighting for the same cause: the Allen family.
Tashman is running a sports memoribilia show and Savarese is signing at it - the proceeds to help the Allen family.

Great Job Guys!

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The Best(?) Of Pravda

So much I did not know, so much, for example:

Mercury, the molten metal, poses global hazard to humans

I had no idea that the earth was threatened by drowning in a sea of mercury, I mean think how many thermometers you'd have to break! OK, so the story is about mercury in seafood, but did you know that ingesting mercury isn't much of a problem? It's the inhalation of vapors that's the issue! I explained toxicity on Monday.

This, on the other hand, I knew quite well, having been there:

Ukraine dumps nuclear wastes and chemical poisons at Russia's borders

What they conveniently fail to mention is that the facilities Ukraine is using were built by the Soviet Union when Russia was in charge! Wasn't a problem then.

I know you're wondering - how did Pravda cover the Academy Awards? Here is the lead headline:

Brokeback Mountain fails to win Best Picture at the Oscars 2006

You have to love that! -- It's not about who won, it's about who didn't.

Finally, if this headline does not make you laugh, then you will never get this weekly feature:

What will be the lies of the British Broadcasting Corporation this time?

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OK, in a second here, I am going to give you a link. Turn up your speaker a little and follow it. When you get there, click "WATCH" then sit back and enjoy!

Something new, amazing, and unique from a juggler!

I'm not kidding, just when you thought you'd seen everything a juggler could ever think of...

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Papal Authority On The Rise?

You know, we evangelical protestants are not supposed to think much of the pope, but we recently learned he has an iPod.
It's official: computer technology is the future. And, if you've got any doubts about that, ask God's main man on Earth - Pope Benny 16 - cos that's what he said when Vatican staff presented his Pontificateness with a personalised iPod Nano packed with Vatican Radio broadcasts and classical music.
and then we learn
The rush to be seeker-sensitive has made it's way to the nation's megachurch bathrooms. Many top churches are now installing Atech?s ?iLounge hybrid toilet paper dispenser/iPod dock?. The iLounge supports all iPod models that have a dock connector and has an integrated USB slot for the Shuffle. Speakers are hidden in the dispensers arms with navigation buttons located conveniently on top for easy access. (HT: SmartChristian)
Clearly the time for a new reformation is at hand.

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HEY! - When You Need it - You NEED It

Police called to fight over toilet paper

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The Damage To His Sense Of Musical Appreciation...

A TEN-YEAR-OLD boy who was engulfed by an avalanche while skiing with his parents in the French Alps was rescued by mountaineers who heard him singing The Sound of Music.; however, regrettably permanent. Julie Andrews could not be reached for comment. It appears that "Doe, a deer" song is stuck in her brain permanently, and all ability for reasoning has been lost.

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Let's See... was supposed to rain Monday, one of those gully-washing-Southern-California-traffic-emergency-hillside-running rains - instead it just sprinkled. Given that, please tell me why I supposed to believe this:

More intense solar storms predicted ahead

If we can't predict a storm in LA, how are we supposed to do it on the sun?

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Generally As Victim

Mice play a critical role in medical research

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


From Encouragement - Shame

Scotwise's Monday Encouragement was a list of things Jesus has done for me:

John, of course, has scriptural support for each of these points, and concludes with

John asks a great question, but I was struck as I read his list of how often I spit on these precious gifts. How much I fail to acknowledge them. I think the first thing I need to do for Jesus is simply remember what He has done for me.

It dawns on me that as Christians we are faced with insurmountable debt, but we have no bankruptcy option. We can't repay the debt, but we can't stop trying, for then there is only debtors prison open to us, and that is a place I do not wish to be.

The gospel demands more from us than just agreement.

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TONIGHT! 9PM E/6PM P My Alma Mater Butler plays Wisconsin Milwaukee for the Horizon League Championship and an automatic bid the the Big Dance. Live on ESPN - Be there or be square!


There Are Limits

The March issue of Scientific American (not yet available online) has a very interesting article by
GREGORY CHAITIN is a researcher at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. He is also honorary professor at the University of Buenos Aires and visiting professor at the University of Auckland. He is co-founder, with Andrei N. Kolmogorov, of the field of algorithmic information theory. His nine books include the nontechnical works Conversations with a Mathematician (2002) and Meta Math! (2005). When he is not thinking about the foundations of mathematics, he enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the mountains.
Chaitin's article is an expansion, if you will, of Godel's famous proof, racasting it in that "alogorithmic information theory" he helped found. Chaitin summarizes Godel's proof this way
It fascinated me because Kurt Gödel used mathematics to show that mathematics itself has limitations. Gödel refuted the position of David Hilbert, who about a century ago declared that there was a theory of everything for math, a fi nite set of principles from which one could mindlessly deduce all mathematical truths by tediously following the rules of symbolic logic. But Gödel demonstrated that mathematics contains true statements that cannot be proved that way.
Chaitin does not shy from painting the consequences of his work in broad brushstrokes
In ancient Greece, if you wanted to convince your fellow citizens to vote with you on some issue, you had to reason with them?which I guess is how the Greeks came up with the idea that in mathematics you have to prove things rather than just discover them experimentally. In contrast, previous cultures in Mesopotamia and Egypt apparently relied on experiment. Using reason has certainly been an extremely fruitful approach, leading to modern mathematics and mathematical physics and all that goes with them, including the technology for building that highly logical and mathematical machine, the computer. So am I saying that this approach that science and mathematics has been following for more than two millennia crashes and burns? Yes, in a sense I am.
Now, the ramifications of that are nothing short of astounding - mathematical proof of the fact that reason fails, that ultimately science and math cannot prove everything. But that has been known in some sense since Godel's work which was published before WWII. Scientists and mathematicians have long since dismissed Godel on a philosophical level, because they dare not give up their precious naturalistic assertions. This is a long discussed issue in science, math and science philosophy.

I want to focus on one particular aspect of Chaitin's work, because I think it extremely informative concerning some modern theories
My story begins in 1686 with Gottfried W. Leibniz's philosophical essay Discours de métaphysique (Discourse on Metaphysics), in which he discusses how one can distinguish between facts that can be described by some law and those that are lawless, irregular facts. Leibniz's very simple and profound idea appears in section VI of the Discours, in which he essentially states that a theory has to be simpler than the data it explains, otherwise it does not explain anything. The concept of a law becomes vacuous if arbitrarily high mathematical complexity is permitted, because then one can always construct a law no matter how random and patternless the data really are. Conversely, if the only law that describes some data is an extremely complicated one, then the data are actually lawless.
Chaitin's own work on algorithmic information theory quantifies this assertion of Leibniz and this is where he bases his expanded proof of Godel.

Why do I find this so important? - a single "scientific" issue -- Global Warming. No theory of global warming can possibly meet the limitations of simplicity that Leibniz sets forth. A while back, I caught a little comment heat over my distinction between mathematical, statistical, and descriptive models in science. Global warming is a classic statistical model as I have described them -- it is not reductionist, it simply massages the data and is as Chaitin puts it a "law that describes some data is an extremely complicated one, then the data are actually lawless." Statistical analysis teases pattern out of chaos and orders the apparently disordered. That's the problem with statistical models, they do not simplify or reduce, they simply order, and are therefore as complex as the data itself.

The mathematics here is pretty complex and much as I find it interesting, I'm betting my average reader does not. So, to simplify matters. There exists mathematical proof that there are limitations to human reason. This fact says we cannot know everything by reason, somethings must be matters of belief. This also implies that so-called "scientific proof" must pass certain sniff tests to gain vaildity.

I am more than willing to conclude that much science, particualrly science about which public policy swirls, does not meet that sniff test.

I urge you to get a copy of SciAm and read the piece for yourself. Then think about it.

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This Doesn't Add Up To Me

As a member of PCUSA, I will not attempt to defend much of what is going on in the church, it is wrong. I am; however, getting a little tired of condemnation instead of solutions. There is a post that tries to strike a balance that just doesn't add up to me. Mark Driscoll:
the stats bear out that churches with a high view of Scripture, a high view of Jesus, and an ongoing call for people to repent of personal sin and trust in Jesus tend to grow while their counterparts do not. Why? Because there is power in the gospel, and the church has no power when it walks away from the gospel. As the PC-USA is discovering, churches marrying the spirit of the age instead of Jesus end up being widowed. The only hope is repentance, which is the key to all of the Christian life, and not merely another year of stats without an explanation, repentance, and a renewed sense of mission.
But Dirscoll then goes on to cite eight variables that "help make churches grow" - now before I even look at any of the variables, I'd like to tackle the idea that growth is a sign of a good church. Simply put the great commission is NOT to build the church, it's to build disciples. Now, I know, in theory those are supposed to be synonomous, but are they? Consider this "variable"
Larger churches tend to be more conservative in theology and more liberal in practice, while smaller churches are often more liberal in theology and more conservative in outward practice (e.g., liturgy, hymns, and vestments).
What makes a disciple, theology or practice? Why when discussing smaller churches are they liberal in "outward" practice, but he makes no distinction when discussing the practice of larger churches? What does he mean by "practice?" This strikes me as, at least, an arbitrary shot at traditonal worship forms as opposed to a meaningful observation, and if taken at face value, I WOULD MUCH RATHER HAVE A CHURCH CONSERVATIVE IN PRACTICE AND LIBERAL IN THEOLOGY THAN THE OTHER WAY AROUND. I care less if you are arminian or calvinist or cessassionist or charismatic than I do if I see Christ evident in your life - i.e. practice. Consider these "variables"
Larger churches tend to have a smaller number of leaders making decisions while smaller churches are either in theory or practice more committee and congregationally governed.

Larger churches tend to listen to a small and influential number of church members for direction while smaller churches tend to give ear to most everyone.
The observation is largely true, and most of the reason is practical. It is simply impossible to govern a larger organization in a highly distributed fashion. Now consider a couple of other points that are very important.

How does one become an "influential" member? In my experience - money talks, and frankly listening to "influential" members heavily accounts for the increasing liberalization in the PCUSA - its not necessarily a good thing.

Distributed leadership and a democratic approach is indeed a two edged sword. One the one end, EVERYTHING ends up as a compromise, and such compromise creeps towards liberalization, as we saw yesterday but it does reinforce the "priesthood of all believers." The problem in the Presbyterian system is most decidely not its decentralized leadership approach, but rather the lowering of standards about membership in general.

The large church model Driscoll appears to be supporting seems blatantly to be one that tries to make the church function with a large contingent of non- or marginal members. It is the church as demographic/regional community, not community-of-believers.

PCUSA, as a denomination, is broken, of that I make no denial, but within it are the seeds of the way I think church is supposed to be done. The problem is not how the organization is put together, but how those that operate the organization are ignoring those traditional rules.

Driscoll seems to be changing the paradigm for church altogeher, from the faithful in community to a permanent tent revival - that's just part of church, not all of it.

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Smart Moves

Robertson Loses Seat on Christian TV Board

Teacher Who Denied Student Use of Bathroom Suspended

Once in a while things work out like they are supposed to.

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Fark At It's Finest

If you don't know Fark, you should. It's a highly irreverent news site that links to articles everywhere with some amazing comments. Every now and then, one of them is so funny you can barely contain yourself. I thought this one fit the bill and had to pass it on.
Obesity is worse than terrorism, according to U.S. surgeon general. Presumably because exploding fat guys have a bigger blast radius
The link to a Guardian UK article with that little tidbit, but who cares, it's just laugh out loud funny.

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Wait - I Thought Church And State Were Separate?!

'People are people,' says man sentenced to church

Church as punsihment sounds like not mere disestablishment, but robbing of integrity to me.

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Alphabet Soup

I say the word "geyser" and what do you think of? Why Yellowstone National Park, of course - and it is the "Y" stop on Alphabet Soup.

Everybody knows the "Old Faithful" geyser - so much so that they say the average visitor goes there, watches the eruption and leaves. But it is one of hundreds, if not thousands of geysers. There is so much to see at Yellowstone - It's huge.

The highlights are the geo-thermal features in general, they come is all sorts of varieties for all kinds of tastes.

These extraordinarily clear springs were truly amazing to me - they are chock full of dissolved solids, which usually clouds a solution, but in this case they actually improve the opitcal clarity and give them that wonderful color. You want to dive in (It would scald you, of course) but you want to because you think you can see to the very core of the earth

Mudpots lke this are also quite amazing, but in an ugly sort of way. They come in all sorts of colors and viscosoties. This one is reasonably fluid, but some are down right sludgy, which is great when they are boiling - they sort of spurt, its really cool.

The engineer in me would really like to experiment with the stuff as a building material, and also try to figure out ways to move it - I mean it has the near consistentcy of cement. But I digress.

Of course, the wildlife is the other widely known feature of Yellowstone. Bison like this are everywhere. Other animals are somewhat harder to see - for example, a male moose - saw lots of females, but never a male. I also must comment that I think people make absolute idiots of themselves when the animals show. Sometimes city life is not a good thing.

My one disappointment was, try as I might, I never could find Yogi Bear - or Boo-Boo for that matter.

And the rangers did not like it if you called them "Mr. Ranger."

Depicted here is what I think is the most spectacular feature of the park and one most people miss altogether - its up on the north end and its called "The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone"

You can't really see it in this picture but at the upriver beginning of this magnificent gorge are two spectacular waterfalls. You can take a rather difficult hike to the top of the second falls and hang out over it - it is a real thrill.

As you can see, the colors of the gorge are what really make it, and of course, it is how the river got its name - see the yellow stone.

My only serious advise if you visit Yellowstone - give yourself several days and see as much as you can. You cannot do it justice in a day.

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Stop Reading Stupid Books!!!!!!!!!!

The living dead beat rhino horn to be named Oddest Book Title of the Year.

Bookseller magazine gave the award on Friday to a self-help book on being haunted entitled "People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It."
I mean, everybody knows that!

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Does It Come...?

New paint blocks out cell phone signals the handy "Personal Spray Can In A Holster" - I'd take a case!

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The Perfect Gift For That Special Guitarist In Your Life

Tell them how you feel about their playing at the same time with the Toilet Guitar.

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Oh No - Here Comes THE Summer Film

I have mentioned before about the upcoming summer blockbuster with the lamest concept, and title in the history of film - Snakes On A Plane. Seems I am not the only one that understands how incredibly lame this idea is. Somebody went a made "the rough cut" version. It's very funny, enjoy.

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And Horror Movie Writers Are There To Capture All The Nuance

Sydney battles invasion of the tree-snatchers

How do you steal a tree? There is nothing stealthy about them.

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For Ten Bucks, They Ought To Glow In The Dark!

New, More Colorful $10 Bill to Debut

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