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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today in the News

Here's a little gem from the Wall Street Journal, echoed this AM by FoxNews:

CIA Plan Envisioned Hit Teams Killing Al Qaeda Leaders

WASHINGTON -- A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative axed by Director Leon Panetta examined how to assassinate members of Al Qaeda with hit teams on the ground, according to current and former national-security officials familiar with the matter.
The goal was to assemble teams of CIA and special-operations forces "and put bullets in [the Al Qaeda leaders'] heads," one former intelligence official said.
The plan was never carried out, and Panetta canceled the effort on the day he learned of it, June 23. The next day, he alerted Congress, which didn't know about the plan

My goodness. The big bad CIA were planning to pop some bad guys. Leon Panetta, horrified by the existence of evil (which for him, I suspect, would be defined as "the United States military, and the paramilitary branches of the three-letter-agencies"), slams the brakes on and then immediately runs like a tearful little boy to Congress to spill the whole upsetting tale. News flash, Mr. Panetta: you are the director of the CIA. That makes you the spymaster for the United States of America. Your job, therfore, is to (a) close your mouth, (b) open your ears, (c) listen and understand, and (d) lead your agency with all the diligence and loyalty you can muster. Right now you are behaving like a third-rate trash journalist, eager to dig up the dirt on Big Bad Bush and prove to the public what a horrible guy he was. Or maybe pile up brownie points with your new boss in the Oval Office. Or maybe I don't care what. Just do your job, or quit and give it to someone who is competent to do it.

And as for those dreadful CIA types --- why, they were behaving like there was a war on, and thousands of innocent Americans had been massacred, or something!

No, wait, that is what happened ...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Outline for MACS course on the Trinity

Posted here for collaboration purposes while the course is being developed.

Several months ago, Ed was soliciting ideas from people who had been involved with MACS Classes in the past and I hatched the idea of doing a course on the Trinity. Because the intention is to structure courses in four-week blocks, I expanded it to involve discussions of the deity of Jesus, the deity of the Holy Spirit and the character of God the Father. The outline as it has developed to date is as below (the order is still tentative).
In each segment I want to emphasize ...
  • group input and discussion;
  • why these concepts matter to us in day-to-day life;
  • Scriptural support.

1. The Deity of Jesus
  • Verses that indicate Jesus is God
    • his claims about himself
    • his actions
    • the claims of others on his behalf

  • Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah
  • Old Testament theophanies and Christophanies
  • Objections or alternative theories of Jesus' nature; responses to them
    • If Jesus was divine, how could he say things like "Who touched me?", "the Father is greater than I" and how could he be surprised ("He was amazed, and said, 'I have not found faith like this in Israel'")?
      • Answer: He had both a fully human nature and fully divine nature, and these were occasions when it was consistent with his will and mission to operate within the confines of his human nature. Conversely, on other occasions he made statements and did actions that were consistent with his divine nature.
    • If Jesus was divine, why there were things that the Father knew that he didn't: e.g., ("Not the angels, nor even the Son, but only the Father")?
      • Answer: "Equal" is not the same as "identical." They are one Being but three Persons.

  • Why it matters to us on a practical level that Jesus is divine, and not merely a created being (even one of a very high order).

2. The Deity of the Holy Spirit

  • Verses that indicate that the Holy Spirit is a Person and not just an impersonal force
  • Verses that indicate the Holy Spirit is divine
  • The function of the Holy Spirit, to point to Jesus
  • Why it matters to us that the Holy Spirit is divine

3. The Character of God the Father
There would be a different emphasis here because we obviously don't need to defend the idea that the Father is divine. Instead, I would focus on God's attributes and why they matter to us in daily Christian life.

  • Omniscience: God knows everything, past, present and future.
    • How can God know everything and we can still have free will (and therefore accountability)?
  • Omnipotence: God is infinitely powerful.
  • Omnipresence: God is everywhere.
  • Some objections to God's existence and nature, and how to respond to them.
    Responses to questions such as:
    • "If God created everything, where did God come from?"
      • Answer: The question presupposes that God exists in time in the same way we do, i.e., He has to "come from" anywhere. This is a false assumption because time is a means of measuring part of His creation, i.e., the physical universe, and He is no more bounded by time than by distance or by any other measurement of the universe. "I am that I am."
        Why this matters practically to us.
    • "Is there anything God can't do?"
      • Answer: Yes, there are many things He can't do, and they can all be summed up in the phrase God cannot do anything that is contrary to His nature.
        Why this matters to us.

4. The Trinity
  • Verses that indicate God is three Persons in one Being.
  • Old Testament verses that point to the Trinity.
  • Discussion of how the three Persons are co-equal and co-eternal, equal in prerogative and divinity but different in role and in interaction with us
  • Why this matters practically to us.
    • In a strictly monotheistic view, God would be incapable of love and communication without having creatures to share these things. In essence they wouldn't be part of his nature, i.e., even these attributes would be created, not innate. But with the Trinity you have love and communication in eternal existence between the Persons of the Trinity, not contingent on us creatures to share them.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

UFC 94 :: St. Pierre / Penn II

Just got back from the standing-room-only James Street Pub where I watched most of UFC 94 with my buddies Rick and Andrew. I know you're all waiting for it, so here's my analysis.

Lightweight bout: Nate Diaz vs. Clay Guida
I don't understand Diaz losing the split decision: I thought he clearly took rounds 2 and 3. Apparently the judges didn't see it that way. Guida takes the evening's I Looked Really Goofy But Still Won The Fight Anyway award.

Welterweight bout: Karo Parisyan vs. Dong Hyun Kim
The clear winner of the Most Boring Fight of the Night award. After three rounds it wasn't so much a question of who won as who really cares. The referee, engrossed in his book, looked up with surprise as the bell sounded to end round three.

Light Heavyweight bout: Stephan Bonnar vs. Jon Jones
Don't be fooled by those thin little legs. 21-year-old Jon Jones is going to be huge, repeat huge, in the UFC. The kid is incredibly talented. The evening's award for I Was Owned To The Point Of Humiliation goes out to poor Stephan Bonnar, who alternated between getting pummelled in the standup and getting tossed like a rag doll to the canvas. Repeatedly. Bonnar just didn't have any answers tonight.

Welterweight Championship bout: Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn
The bar repeatedly erupted in deafening cheers as St. Pierre pounded Penn on the ground and in the standup. Georges had to work for most of the first round to get a takedown, but by round four he was doing so at will. Not a mark on him at the end of the fight, which came when Penn's corner signalled "we're done" during the break before round five -- I thought I heard the phrase doctor stoppage from an announcer, but the noise in the James Street Pub was a little overwhelming at that point.
Good for Georges. I was hoping he would take it. No one else will be welterweight champion as long as he's around.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The software design process: a pictorial summary

Differences between men and women

  • If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah.
  • If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.

  • When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in $20, even though it's only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
  • When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.

  • A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
  • A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.

  • A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel .
  • The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.

  • A woman has the last word in any argument.
  • Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

  • A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
  • A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

  • A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
  • A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.

  • A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the trash, answer the phone, read a book, and get the mail.
  • A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.

  • Men wake up as good-looking as when they went to bed.
  • Women somehow deteriorate during the night.

  • A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
  • A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

... so bad it's embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Qantas mechanics

I know, everyone has seen this by now. I just really like it.

"After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a gripe sheet, which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form,
then the pilots review the gripe sheets right before the next flight. Here are some of the actual maintenance complaints submitted by the Qantas' pilots (as marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (as marked with an S) by the maintenance engineers."

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in the cockpit.
S: Something tightened in the cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on backorder.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of a leak on the right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume reset to a more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: The number 3 engine is missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after a brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under the instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from the midget.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Does the Bible contain secret codes?

My bus ride to and from work is about 30-45 minutes each way, during which I sometimes doze off and sometimes read the Bible. Came across the following verse the other day as the bus rumbled down the transitway past the Tunney's Pasture office complex:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. [Deuteronomy 29:29]
Now, some people contend that there is esoteric information embedded in the Bible. The theory is that you perform some sort of calculations ("Gematria," in the Kabbalah tradition) on the text, yielding special hidden information not otherwise accessible. But it seems to me that Deuteronomy 29:29 nixes this idea of hidden information. To wit:

There would seem to be two categories of information referred to in the Scriptures: the secret things and the things revealed. The things revealed "belong to us and to our children forever." Their explicit purpose is to lead us to live according to God's rules. The term forever is significant for two reasons. One, because it's prophetic: here we are talking about it thirty-three centuries later, and the Bible is not going away any time soon. Second and more importantly, because this category of information is put in the special zone of Fundamental Universal Truth --- things that will never change, basic knowledge that underlies all human experiences ("that we may follow the words of this Law," i.e., that we may order our lives as God wants) for all people ("us and our children forever").
The secret things, in contrast, belong to God. The things revealed are ours forever, and so a second contrast is hiding below the surface: the secret things likewise belong to God forever. Never to be divulged. They are His and His alone.

So "gematria," and any similar scheme for ferreting out hidden information from the Bible, can't be for real. The secret things belong to God, forever; and the things revealed belong to us forever, and provide us with all we need to follow Him. There is no third category of knowledge, no "things that we secret for a while until we dug them out;" and there is no overlap between these two.

Does the Scripture provide us with everything required to follow God?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
Do we need special esoteric knowledge in addition to that?
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." [Luke 10:21]
I'm guessing that if "little children" can master the requirements, there can't be anything too esoteric about it ...