My Zunivers

30 April 2005

I walked

I walked far tonight. I was way the heck up past the mall, and in fact I could see the shimmering lights of Catasaqua not far ahead of me, across the river. In fact, I was right near the Race Street bridge. (For non-locals, this is far form home. For my wife, this is where we crossed the river tonight coming home from play practice. For locals, yes, I do go that way, because it's much more peaceful than 22.)

If it had been half an hour earlier and I had not meandered all over from Grape Street to West Union, I probably would have gone down and crossed the bridge for kicks. You know, one of those "I walked to Catasauqua last night" sorts of stories that I need to have on hand to, one, make people think I'm weird, and two, not get any conversation out of anyone because they think I'm weird.

So I walked a long way, twice as far as usual. I only went that way because ther ewas a guy walking very slowly in front of me, and when he turned down my reular street I said "screw it, I'm going north!" I've never been that far north on foot before, actually. One reason is that it's hard to cross 22. The only sane way is to go over the bridge on 5th street. Another reason is that I've only recently gotten a feel for that area. So, anyway, it's a bit long to be a regular walk, but it sure was nice.

On to other things....

A friend at school very wisely described me a week or two back. He said that I talk like I hate people, but I really don't hate people. He said that I need people, but they need to be the right people. I think he's right.

I can think back for 20 years, and at each point there are a dozen people I can point to and say "You've been a really, really good friend for me." I like those people enough. They're sort of like shopping. Sometimes I can shop for hours and be fine, other times I can't stand it for more than five minutes. Some of them I can tolerate much more than others.

In practice, I talk about these people like I can't stand them (and my poor wife hears this every day about soemone), but as soon as they are with me I honestly enjoy them most of the time. This isn't becaus eI'm soem sort of two-faced jerk who says "Act nice, now, so they don't know you can't stand them." Trust me, they see it when they bug me. I think that in principle I genuinely like those people. I really do. In my constant tossing around of thoughts in my mind I just don't manage to ever focus on their good points. I seldom think about good points. They're boring.

There are other people who are fewer in number-- people who don't bother me at all. There hasn't always been one of these, and there's one blessed place on the timeline where there are two! I can count these people on one hand. Strangely, none of those people are like me. They have wildly different personalities from me and from each other. None of them share a quarter of my interests. Some of them are quiet, some are loud. Some of them like science, others are either off the deep end, talking about science fiction, or completely clueless about science. Some of them are wallflowers and some of them are butterflies. Some of them are patient thinkers and some are not. Some of them are organized and others are not.

I don't know how many of them have liked me as much as I like them. Lacking a proper lingistic device, but making an attempt anyway, I have a sibling-like affection for these people. They're all people that I want to hug when I see them, help when they have problems, etc. They are among the few people that I trust enough to throw out my heresies, deep thoughts, and other opinions... just like I do with my sister. (Yes, I know, I put some of those things here, too, but you don't get all of them. I'm real with you here, just not complete, because there's only so much space and because some heresies, deep thoughts, and opinions are worse than others.)

I've never been able to figure out why these particular people manage to avoid the dark side of my brain, or why I manage to keep them out of it. If I could, though, I might unlock some secret to making friends. It's easier, however, to just assume it's not me. Either that or I could track them down and ask them.

Friends are important people. So are wives. Wives, in fact, are special-- friends with so many benefits that they're a new class entirely. Believe it or not, my wife does not fit into the class of people who never bother me. In fact, she drives totally me nuts sometimes. But that's something I need. I wouldn't trade in my wife for a second hand of friends who never bug me. It's too bad, though, that I am quick to take my wife's opinions less seriously than I am of those other friends and that I'm sometimes nicer to them than I am to her. My mind likes to jump around, so it's easy to get bored with things if they aren't rotated and it's easy to forget that I sometimes need to consciously rotate thoughts because they don't always move on their own. That's not an excuse, it's just something to work on.

One day this weekend I may not post here because I'm due for a revising and correcting session. I have a take-home programming test next week, Monday to Wednesday, so I may be busy then as well.

29 April 2005

Kitten Cannon

I have a sick sense of humor sometimes. Part of that sense of humor involves making perverted comments until I've crossed others' tolerance thresholds. It's funny because of the perversion and the line-crossing.

Another bit of humor that I like is talking about dead animals. I don't kill animals myself, but I talk abou tit.. you know, the whole eating cats and rats on sticks and the like.

Well, I have a treat for you. It's the best thing since Bat the Penguin. I give you Kitten Cannon! I like the spikes.

Go have fun. I've gotten over 1800 feet.

28 April 2005

Romberg

We have a functioning Romberg integration function.

Great. Now I have to go use it.

Bother.

FYI, Romberg integration is the sexiest thing this side of Gaussian quadrature. You combine the results for low numbers of trapezoidal panels (2^k, like1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32,...) using an extrapolation formula. (Romberg integration is sometimes called Richardson extrapolation to the limit, but they never seem to say which limit.) The neat thing is that Romberg integration gives exactly the same results as cappping the panels with higher and higher degree polynomials. The results from a few small trapezoid integrations are thus not only more accurate than a large numebr of trapezoids, just like higher degree capping, but they are significantly less computationally expensive than the fits required for higher degree capping.

The results from Romberg are highly accurate for nice, smooth functions with few inflections. For example, 1/x on [1,2] comes through my Romberg function, when using order k=5, in less than a third the time required for 1000 trapezoidal panels and with a result that is more accurate. My trapezoidal integrator eventually breaks from round off error (1,000,000 panels of 1/x on [1,2] is worse than 1000 panels of 1/x on [1,2]), but I use that function for the steps in my Romberg integration because the round off error is insignificant for low numbers of panels. Using Simpson's rule (quadratic caps) would be even worse, as a programming project and as a useful tool for what I'm going to be doing.

Yeah, so you're bored.

I have to go bang out some numbers that my advisor wants, although I don't know exactly where to find them. I'd personally rather go integrate things. In fact, that's probably what I'll do.

MODULE integration
!
! functions for integrating
!
IMPLICIT NONE

!define a type for limits of integration
TYPE limits
REAL :: x1 ! lower limit of integration
REAL :: x2 ! upper limit of integration
INTEGER :: n ! number of equal width bins between limits
REAL :: dx ! width of a bin
END TYPE limits


CONTAINS

SUBROUTINE setdx(lim)
!
! gives lim%dx for a type limit based on lim%x1, lim%x2, and lim%n
!
TYPE(limits), INTENT(INOUT) :: lim
lim%dx = (lim%x2-lim%x1)/REAL(lim%n, kind=8)
END SUBROUTINE setdx


REAL FUNCTION trap(fn, lim)
!
! trapezoid integrate function "fn" over limits in "lim"
!
IMPLICIT NONE
TYPE(limits), INTENT(IN) :: lim
REAL, EXTERNAL :: fn
REAL :: area
INTEGER :: j
area = 0
DO j = 0, lim%n - 1
area = area + lim%dx*0.5*( fn(lim%x1 + REAL(j)*lim%dx) &
+ fn(lim%x1 + REAL(j+1)*lim%dx) )
END DO
trap = area
END FUNCTION trap

REAL FUNCTION romberg(fn,lim_in, kmax)
!
! Romberg integrate fn between domain limits in lim_in, to order kmax
!
! To preserve lim_in%n and lim_in%dx, the variable is copied
!
IMPLICIT NONE
REAL, EXTERNAL :: fn
TYPE(limits), INTENT(IN) :: lim_in
INTEGER, INTENT(IN) :: kmax
TYPE(limits) :: lim
REAL, ALLOCATABLE, DIMENSION(:) :: t0,t1
INTEGER :: k
INTEGER :: j
lim = lim_in
ALLOCATE(t0(0:kmax-1), t1(0:kmax-1))
lim%n = 1
CALL setdx(lim)
t0(0) = trap(fn,lim)
!WRITE(*,*) t0
DO k = 1,kmax
lim%n = 2**k
CALL setdx(lim)
t1(0) = trap(fn,lim)
DO j = 1,k
t1(j) = t1(j-1) + ((t1(j-1) - t0(j-1))/(4.0**(j) - 1))
!WRITE(*,*) " ", t1(j-1), t0(j-1), 4.0**(j)
END DO
!WRITE(*,*) t1
t0 = t1
END DO
romberg = t1(kmax)
END FUNCTION romberg


END MODULE integration


27 April 2005

Old Hymnals

A few of you know that I have a small stack of hymnals on my shelves. Even fewer of you know that those hymnals do not collect dust. I have at least one of them out at any given time, and I open at least one of them every week. I'm also familiar with three or four different hymnals that I do not own, having spent time with them at various churches, and I can easily navigate cyberhymnal.org (which isn't hard to navigate, by the way).

This weekend I had the pleasure of adding a new hymnal to the collection. The newcomer is Inspiring Hymns compiled by Alfred Smith for Singspiration (which was, even in 1951, affiliated with Zondervan Publishing, of NIV fame). It's the oldest hymnal in my collection, although it is the basis for Great Hymns of the Faith.

Let's look at the music.

In 1951, it was a good choice to skip the bombastic opening hymn and instead make number one the rather sublime "May Jesus Christ be Praised" (aka "When Morning Gilds the Skies"). Sadly, only five of the fifteen verses are given.

In 1951, few of the hymns are dated. In fact, none of them come with tune names or meters. There is no metrical index of tunes. This is probably all well and good, as I've often been stared at for talking about how, for example, I heard an organist play Finlandia. No, no, no! That can't be right. The organist played "Be Still My Soul!" I could probably counter that one with "No, silly, it was 'We Rest on Thee,'" but I would have trouble with those tunes that only match one common hymn's meter. We could avoid these problems if people like me didn't get our hands on proper musician's tools, or if people like me just went to Lutheran or Episcopal churches, where there is a paid organist who, although usually stuck up, is available for pleasant chats about oddities like options for 6.6.8.6. with repeat.

On the matter of technical details, I recognize now that our older hymnals are more likely to be rich in musical notation. Inspiring Hymns uses such statements as D.S., fine, Allegro, Allegretto, Moderato, not too fast (rather boring compared to its Italian equivalent, but notable for at least appearing), Spirited, cres., rit., faster, dim., joyfully... Of particular interest are the dynamic markings of p, mf, f, and ff in "Hallelujah, What a Savior" (aka "Man of Sorrows"), something I've never seen before in a hymnal. There are lots of crescendo marks floating about. There was one small hymn that had the word "duet" for its verses, which is is the first time I've seen a hymnal explicitly request two-part harmony for a section of the song.

"Make me a Blessing" is all full of notes for the instrumentalists and instructions on parts like men, women, parts, unison, tenors, and ad lib. There is no fear of using repeats when possible in these old hymns. "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" is written on two, rather than four, grand staffs, the upper with repeats for the encompassed verses (whose words are double layered) and the dangling, italicized D.C. fourth line for each verse, sung when you come off the third line which is actually the second grand staff. Some of the songs have sustains marked, others have descant parts included (some with and others without instructions on which verses are to use the descant parts, which probably means that unless otherwise told, use them only on the final verse).

My point in saying all of this is that in 1951 people actually gave a rat's butt about musical notation.

Sadly, musical taste was sometimes lacking. No, I'm not talking about the fact that this hymnal contains old hymns that I've never heard about. I'm not talking about how "Rise Up, O Church of God" used to be "Rise Up, O Men of God." That one isn't in this hymnal anyway.

No, I'm talking about the praise choruses. If you thought those were modern thing, you're mistaken, although it is true that they are much more extensively used now than they used to be used. If you thought including those in a hymnal was a modern thing, you're wrong again. And I'm not counting useful things like a few versions of Gloria Patri. This hymnal has the Greatorex version inside the front cover, and that's it. I'm talking about trite pansy-praise, like "Shine Jesus Shine" in six measures or less, without 64th notes and with only a dozen words. (Actually, I like that song.)

This hymnal has, scattered about, praise choruses of the kind marked "copyright 1938, used by permission." They can compete with any of our 7-11 choruses of today, including the fact that they probably haven't been sung by anyone since late 1963. Anyone out there remember "Thy Word"? "I'll Be So Glad"? "As the Deer"? "He Cannot Fail"? "Seek Ye First"? "Hear Our Prayer, O God"? Some of those have been out of style longer than others. In fact, some of them have been out of style since before the others were written. But then again, Real Christian Musicians™ can worship through fifteen verses whose even numbered lines are all "May Jesus Christ be praised!"

Anyway, I could go on and on, but you're bored enough. (Which makes me wonder, why didn't you go surf somewhere else three paragraphs ago?)

I saw Scamper tonight about a block from his house, and he had no interest in playing with me.

26 April 2005

Back Again

Yeah, whatever. No, I didn't do any of those things I mentioned.

Anyway, I was thinking today about something my pastor said on Sunday. Hitler followed the philosophy of Darwin, which is survival of the fittest. In fact, the philosophy of Darwin is responsible for all kinds of evil in the world. We let people like Terry Schaivo get unplugged and we let abortion happen, so we're only one step away from just killing people who are sick.

Let's take this apart, shall we?

Point of fact, it was Herbert Spencer, not Charles Darwin, who coined the slogan "survival of the fittest" and all that we take that phrase to mean. Darwin was not focused on individuals in this way. In fact, Darwin thought near the end of his life that his term "natural selection" was mistake and that instead should have said "natural preservation" to emphasize that he was focusing on ability to yield offspring as his test for fitness. (Read more about Darwin here.) So it is entirely possible to believe evolution and denounce the Spencer's concept of "survival of the fittest" and everything that social science, literary intellectuals, and sociobiology have made it out to mean.

Hitler was more Nietzschian than Darwinian-- more focused on the than on selection and mutation. If he were really a follower of Darwin he would have said "The Jews are not superior, so let them die off!" or "Gee whiz! They live on! Maybe they are no less fit then the rest of us!" Instead, Hitler said that the world needed to be purified. His first step was to kill the Jews. That doesn't sound like Darwinian evolution, it sounds like some twisted form of secular humanism.

In his review of Richard Weikart's> From Darwin to Hitler, Johannes Jacobse makes a very nice statement,

"Early Darwinists were intoxicated by the scientific character of evolutionary theory and accepted it at face value. Weikart chronicles in considerable detail how Darwinism grew from a theory about biological evolution to become the dominant interpretive paradigm of history, sociology, and anthropology in German intellectual life."

In other words, by the time Hitler was ruining the world, Darwinism is no longer the philosophy of Darwin. Jacobse goes on to say

"Weikart concludes by reiterating that Darwinism alone does not explain the German descent into Nazi darkness. Political and social factors come into play, as well as the nihilism of Nietzsche and others. Nevertheless, the dependence of the Nazi social vision upon Darwinian ethics is so great that Hitler cannot be properly understood apart from it."

We must remember that the "Darwinian Ethics" are not Darwin's ideas, they are philosophy derived form Darwin's ideas. I suspect that those philosophies might use Darwin's ideas as an analogy or example, but more than Darwinism must be presupposed (for example, nihilism) in order to develop those philosophies.

Here is an example of bad philosophy derived form Darwin:

I've heard biologists thank Darwin for letting us know that there is no God. All well and cool, except that these biologists don't know what they're talking about. Darwin's theory is not contradictory with the existence of God. At best, Darwin gives an intellectual framework for an atheistic philosophy. I say "at best" because Darwin does not supply us with a source of matter to undergo mutation and selection in the first place.

Logical positivism handles this by declaring as an axiom (see Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic) that we cannot ask such a question because we can't test it experimentally. I won't even begin to pick that nonsense apart. My point however, is that Darwin himself does not do what he's claimed to have done. Rather, people point to Darwin as an excuse for their claims of what must be done. Darwin doesn't disprove God; people who want to disprove God appeal Darwin.

So when we talk about a horrible thing like abortion, should we slander the name of Darwin? I don't think so.

The mistake made here by conservative Christians is the false belief that killing the excuse for bad philosophy will make the bad philosophy go away. This does not work because we're talking about excuses, not sound reasons. An excuse comes after the fact, a reason before the fact. If a secular humanist wants to use Darwin as an excuse, you can remove Darwin and the secular humanism will not go away. This is quite different from Christianity, where if you remove the Bible then there is nothing left to believe. The difference is that Christianity is derived from the Bible but secular humanism is not derived form Darwin. Rather than attacking evolution and Darwin, Christians should look to exposing the pre-acceptance of atheism required in things like sociobiology and eugenics.

Okay, now on to abortion, Terry, and euthanasia.

Abortion sucks, and it fundamentally comes from failing to value human life. But it's not Darwin's fault that people don't value each other's lives. You've heard the story of Cain and Abel, I hope? Nero burning Christians for sport? That was failure to value human life, and that was before Darwin.

Terry was unplugged because we don't value human life, eh? I was glad that my pastor called her death a "brainless" decision because I've seen scans of her cranial cavity. No, it wasn't a brain, it was a cranial cavity. The decision to let her go truly was a brainless situation. I almost laughed my head off when my pastor said that. I, and many who think like me, don't know whether her case is even about valuing life because we honestly don't know what life she had. As far as we can tell, without the outmost layers our brains are useless. My stand is that without those layers, you're no longer human. This is a part of the overblown world of “science that could possibly be proven wrong,” but I doubt a complete overthrowing will ever come. So you can heckle me all that you want, I'm not changing my mind (pun unintended).

Please explain to me why it's Darwin, not secular humanism, that is to blame for all of this, and then we can talk about why it's all Darwin's fault that we're one step away from euthanasia.

Oh, wait, I'm wrong. We're not one step away. We're already there. There is a state in the US where assisted suicide for terminally ill people is legal (Oregon). Let's keep talking about euthanasia in the future tense so that we can continue to make Christians look dull-minded and uninformed, especially after all the noise that was made about the Oregon law being the introduciton of euthanasia before it was passed. Not only do we appear out of touch with the real world, we appear out of touch with ourselves.

To his credit, my pastor did say that Darwin is "an excuse" used by those who want to deny God and "an excuse" for the cultural problems. But he wasn't thinking about what I've said above. Either he meant to say "reason" or for some reason he decided not to go into the nuances of why Darwin is a poor excuse instead of a sound reason. Either one is a mistake. So is refraining from using the term "eugenics." Oh, well.

23 April 2005

A Break Begins

I honestly don't have anything to write about tonight, and this time I'm not kidding. There are essay ideas floating around in my head, but I can't seem to get any of those together.

I'm going to take a day or two off form writing here, actually. Perhaps I'll write some letters to old friends or something. Or not. I have some things weighing on me that I want to talk to a few people about, but I doubt that I'll get the guts up to do it.

Maybe I'll just read. I'm still working on the Birthday Books. And if I can't read those, I'll at least keep up with my friends' blogs.

Rest assured-- I will be back in a few days to write way too much about things that you people don't even care about anyway.

Exercise for the reader: Why is Nate thinking about voting for Casey in 2006?

22 April 2005

Curbside

Thursday is trash and recycling night along my walking route. Not having a chance to play with Scamper tonight (his owner called him inside when I was half a block away), I decided to seek the last-fruits of everyone's cleaning. In front of every house was a small collection of trash cans, trash bags, recycling baskets, and old stuff. It is sort of an odd sight to see in the wake of the street sweepers that have recently scrubbed our pavement.

Sadly, there was nothing interesting in the trash. I have a few basic rules that prevent complete discovery, though. I don't open trash cans, bags, or boxes. I don't sift piles. I simply look at what is visible. There may have been all kinds of interesting things in there. But just as we see only a portion of the sea from the shore, so also do I only see a portion of the trash from the sidewalk. And it’s illegal for me to take anything from anyone’s trash, anyway.

Thinking about it, there has to be something interesting in the trash. There's no other way to make the faint landfill smell. But all the rotting food aside, there was nothing terribly interesting in the trash. Last week there was a boogie board in one trash can, and that was interesting.

This week I did pass three lawnmowers, piled on one another like Greeks at the temple, bottoms and tops touching and all. One house has two vacuum cleaners, circa 1970, waiting to be scrapped. On the same block I found a recliner broken into pieces.

Another house used to have a children's backyard play set with swings and a sliding board in its backyard, but tomorrow that play set will be going away in the big truck. A nearby house was scrapping a toddler bicycle, made of high quality rust, holding on its left handlebar a youth-sized life preserver (one suitable for waterskiing and sort of Rainbow Brite in pattern and color).

There were no books visible in anyone's trash. I say visible because I doubt that there were no books at all. Some of the houses had magazines, but I wasn't interested in any of the subjects.

Newspapers were common. About half of the houses had copies of The Morning Call (Allentown's paper) in their piles. A few houses had other newspapers showing, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I admire those people, sort of. One of those houses had a Jaguar parked outside-- it's amazing what you find walking the same direction as usual but on the other side of the street.

So there was no good trash tonight. That's okay, though.

The thing that makes this a bad week is that the township has done the spring street sweeping and I haven't set eyes on the street sweepers themselves. I love seeing those big ol' dump trucks growling away with their brushes whirling. Call me weird if you want, but those brushes are one of the most awe-inspiring sights in modern suburbia. I love watching the machine as it scrapes the crud off of the asphalt and straight into the vacuum hose that collects half a year's dirt and grime. If I were a child with cancer, I would ask the Make-a-Wish foundation for a ride in one of those cleaning marvels. It would be the coolest thing ever.

A working street sweeper beats a boogie board in the trash any day.

21 April 2005

Why I can't post

MODULE stopwatch
!
! Time procedures that work like a stopwatch, and necessary support
!
! Nate Wentzel 20 April 2005
!
! Functions:
!
! startbutton gives a zero time (time of day in seconds)
! splitbutton gives a split time (time of day in seconds)
! elapsedtime gives the elapsed time between two times within 24
! hours of each other and formatted as time of day
! in seconds
!
!
IMPLICIT NONE

CONTAINS

REAL(kind=8) FUNCTION startbutton()
!
! sets a start time use dlater to find elapsed times
! sets error started to
!
IMPLICIT NONE
INTEGER, DIMENSION(8) :: ta !output array from DATE_AND_TIME
!intrinsic function
CALL DATE_AND_TIME(VALUES=ta)
WRITE(*,*) ta
startbutton = REAL(ta(5))*3600. + REAL(ta(6))*60. &
+ REAL(ta(7)) + REAL(ta(8))*0.001
END FUNCTION startbutton


REAL(kind=8) FUNCTION splitbutton()
!
! finds the elapsed time in seconds since zerotime
!
IMPLICIT NONE
INTEGER, DIMENSION(8) :: ta !output array from DATE_AND_TIME
!intrinsic function
CALL DATE_AND_TIME(values=ta)
WRITE(*,*) ta
splitbutton = REAL(ta(5))*3600. + REAL(ta(6))*60. &
+ REAL(ta(7)) + REAL(ta(8))*0.001
END FUNCTION splitbutton

REAL(kind=8) FUNCTION elapsedtime(split, zerot)
!
! elapsed time in seconds between a zero time "zerot" and
! a split time "split"
!
! zerot should be a result from startbutton or splitbutton
! split should be a result from splitbutton
!
! If split < kind="8)," kind="8)"> split
IF (zerot > split) THEN
elapsedtime = split - zerot + 86400
ELSE
elapsedtime = split - zerot
END IF
END FUNCTION elapsedtime

END MODULE stopwatch

20 April 2005

Scamper

Tonight there really isn't anything to post. I'm stressed out about homework, my last homework assignment ever.

I did manage to run into my friendly neighborhood cat-friend for the third time this evening. (The second time was a day or two ago. I didn't write about it.) His name, by the way, is Scamper. Tonight he was sitting peacefully on the stump in front of his house. When I came by he got all happy. I petted him a bit.

Just as the last time I saw him, he followed me for a block and a half away from his house and then just stopped still on the sidewalk to watch me walk away. Scamper didn't lie down in front of me and try to stop me every fifteen feet like last time, though. Instead, he walked so that his head was always in my most prominent shadow. Weird cat. I also think, after petting him, that he may have a tick that's itching. I might start carrying a note with me so if I do find a tick the next time I see him then I can leave the note on the door to his house.

18 April 2005

Feminism Design

I've typed a lot tonight already. I was working on my thoughts on an article that a friend sent to me. No, I won't be posting that stuff here. I will tell you, though, that it is an intelligent design paper and, although it is written at a very high level and does good things like use lots of examples, it still fails because it uses the two major blocks for intelligent design-- a poor definition of "information" (they all are, as far as I've seen) and explaining nicely but in a way that does not convincingly refute the alternatives.

Those things are up for debate, though, because a lot of people think that those aspects of intelligent design are perfectly fine. I do caution you, however, not to confuse intelligent design with Paley's teleological argument. Intelligent design is not merely a first-causes explanation. It is also an explanation of how the designer made life. (In Paleyan terms this would be "how the watchmaker made the watch.") If you only are thinking about the fact that there is a designer, don't say that you believe in intelligent design. You are then possibly bringing along extra baggage in the areas you aren't thinking about.

Carelessly saying you believe in intelligent design is like carelessly saying that you are feminist. If you think you are feminist only because you believe that women and men are treated differently at work, then calling yourself a feminist may cause you trouble when someone who has actually given thought to whether men should be destroyed thinks that you too support eating male babies. You can make yourself look like a fool in such situations where you follow a label instead of explaning yourself.

Some labels are so hugely diverse that they have almost no real meaning.

17 April 2005

On Friends

I do have friends.

In fact, I have friends who think that they aren't good friends. My normal day-to-day personality can actually do that to people because I don't act like I appreciate them. On the other hand, I have no social skills to get rid of people who think that I like them even when I don't. This is something that we call a character flaw, namely something that is wrong with us that we choose to ignore even though nobody else can.

My friends, because I come across as a slug sometimes, this is my praise to you.

I won't mention you by name. Hopefully you know me well enough that you will know who you are if I mention you. Some of you will be more obvious than others to people ho know us. I can't help that, really, because I don't want to hide that I like you. Keep in mind that I am using a very rigid definition of friend, one that does not include any simple acquaintances and even skips people with whom I regularly have positive interactions. So I will miss people. Trust me, I have similar nice things to say to many, many people I know. I just have a few that are more on my mind than others right now, so they get my attention.

Tonight my wife and I had a chance to spend some time talking to two of our good friends. I've mentioned them before in this blog, actually, through my thoughts as I write and my direct words. (I don't want to be too straightforward about who I'm talking about!) They are fine people and I love them dearly. I love a lot of other people dearly as well, but the two that I talked to tonight also make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Most people can't do that.

We talked about relationships this evening. These particular friends, although they believe some minor things that are different than what I believe, have a very similar way of approaching the application of basic principles. I very much appreciate a balanced approach that is careful, thoughtfully rooted, and flexible in the right places. Moral rigidity based on tradition drives me insane, as does outright moral relativism. I like the ethical principles to allow for outside-the-box solutions without compromising fundamental truths.

A number of Wheaton people can do these good things too. I appreciate all of you.

It's a good thing to appreciate a dirty joke every once in a while. In fact, it's a good thing to be open enough about things like bowels and sexuality (verily, even their combination) to the extent that we can have a good time discussing those matters without hurting anyone's feelings or making them feel shameful or embarrassed. This evening our small group watched a video on relationships, and I was kind enough to hold back a number of jokes that came to mind. I know that they can attract unnecessary attention when there are more important things to think about. So I guess it's a good thing that I can hold back a dirty joke every once in a while. It's the least I can do to help people who like me when I behave. I like you people.

Speaking of dirty jokes, I did share my dirty joke on The Second Coming with a friend of mine. Trust me, there are actually two jokes in there. Don't think you're smart just for understanding the obvious one. Anyway, this particular friend was incredibly amused, gave me some helpful information that a real theologian has already said about the matter, and provided a link to some very interesting literary work. This particular friend can also write well, far better than I can, and he made me all fuzzy inside when he told me that he really liked one of my posts back in mid March.

I have a friend who doesn't even know about this blog because he doesn't have decent computer. I've known him since I was six years old and I actually live closer to him now than when we were growing up. Although we are often pressed for time and so don't spend a lot of it with each other, we're buddies. That's much more his fault than it is mine. Um, yeah, right. (wink) Anyway, considering how different he and I are, it's amazing that we're also so much the same. He is the person in life that I admire the most in terms of extraverted people skills. I've learned a few things from him over the past 18 years, both in my head and in my heart.

I have a friend who I spent a lot of time with in college. She and I bonded over homework and a summer being in close proximity. It's platonic bond, of course. I don't interact with her much anymore, but when I did I always trusted her as a good listener. Whenever she spoke I listened because she had a lot of good things to say. This week some things that she once told me and that I didn't heed came back to mind. I guess that I still have a few things that I need to learn from her.

I also had a roommate in college for two years, and I cried when I had to pack up and move out the day before his graduation, knowing that he and I would never live together again. I don't keep in touch with him as well as I should. There are many times between 1 and 2 in the morning that I put on some classical music, grab a snack, and contemplate life. Sometimes I'm here blogging when I do it, but no matter where I am, that thinking time is just not the same without him. He is a great listener and encourager, and I sometimes didn't appreciate it. In fact, I spilled his drink on him once on purpose when he was actually trying to encourage me! Oops. If I had my close-quarters relationship to live all over with him, I would definitely do a few things differently. It's only been since we parted that I've come to understand him even better.

My favorite undergraduate professor is no longer with us. He died much too soon for his friends and family. I am willing to accept it. He was the most genuine authority figure I've ever had in my life. I think he's subconsciously responsible for my beard. He's also responsible for my interests in science, both the technical aspects of what I study and the and in the interaction of science with other bodies of thought. I can't wait to see him again. Big Bird, this one's for you!

I have a wife, too. She's the nicest thing on earth. She's really hard working, always trying to please everyone including me. She is a very good gauge of my behavior. Because she is so in tune with other people (a personality thing, not a gender thing) she can always tell me when I'm doing things wrong. I argue sometimes because I'm stubborn, but I eventually give up. I should save her the trouble and just listen in the first place. I think that she's probably the main victim of my often oblivious nature. Folks, you heard it here-- I should fix that.

You know what? I'm stopping here. I'm not stopping because I've gotten my favorite people out of the way or something like that. I'm stopping because my fingers are tired.

Sleep well, people.

16 April 2005

Acting and Personality

Let's pretend again for a moment that I care about personality tests. I just wanted to point out that, after great amounts of research into MBTI personality types, I have found two important things. First, the Keirsey MBTI profiles are so muddled that nobody should ever try to use them. Second, I have found this website which has information that is quite good, whether you're looking for applicable knowledge or for toy models to think about.

The explanations of the test results do nothing for my personality type except say "Congratulations! Your social life is screwed!" I am considering a soul transplant.

My final thought on the subject of personality tests is that there should be some research done to look at which personality types are more trustful of and more accepting of personality tests and which think that they are rubbish. My opinion falls about two thirds of the way towards rubbish. I always deal with new people by building models of them and allowing them to unknowingly remold my model. Personality typing has the potential to allow me to go from guessing to make my model and straight on to outright stereotyping from first principles. That will save me some time. The tests are nearly rubbish because they serve no other purpose.

So, my research into personality tests and types is now over. Of course, you probably didn't know that I was spending a few hours per week on the subject in the first place, did you?

And I bet most of you didn't know that I spent a few weeks last fall studying freemasonry. I won't get into that now in detail, but there's a lot of fascinating stuff that one can learn. One thing I will mention is that freemasons are very secretive about what they do, but they are open to answering questions. It's sort of an "I won't tell voluntarily, but if you know something halfway or in the wrong way, it is my duty to make sure you actually understand the truth" mentality. The more you learn about freemasonry the more you are able to learn from personal conversations with freemasons. I have had none of those, though, because of my family history. You see, one side of the family was a bunch of womanizing drunks. The other side has had some forays into the occult. I dare not go there.

Tomorrow is church play practice. It is really amusing watching this thing go together. I am basically a non-participant, at least as far as acting goes, so I can think it's funny. I don't have to worry about things like who will sit on the furniture provided on the set. You see, with only 60% attendance among the cast at any given practice, I'm pretty sure that everyone thinks that they are sitting on the couch, and they also think that they are all standing near it. The best we could wish for is that on the night of the play everyone is so confused about where to go that they simply float to the ceiling, solving all of the blocking problems and the problem with the audience not being able to see the shorter people. Only in my dreams, though.

The cast personality is interesting also. Some of them are more sensitive to criticism and suggestions, other are constantly barking orders like the play will fall apart if we follow their last unwelcome and useless order. These people really need a director dressed in a black vinyl catsuit, holding a riding crop and some ankle irons.

As far as acting ability, there are one or two people who are excellent at acting, one or two people who are good at making it up as they go, one or two people who are really artistic, and one or two people who just kind of do what they are told to do. Of course, that still leaves only one or two people who are excellent at acting. Since it's a dinner theatre, rather than a theatre dinner, I suppose people will think their tickets are more for the food than the quality of the acting. And come to think if it, I've put one or two people into four categories, but there are nine cast members. Since I haven't seen them all at once for three months, I don't know who I'm missing.

Hopefully the narrator will be everyone's favorite character. Being the narrator is actually a really good thing. I don't need to memorize lines, for one thing. I may end up taking on some more adaptive public speaking role than the narrator's scripts, doing introductions of various sorts before the play begins. And even if I don't, so what? I get to crack a joke or two that I think are very funny, which means that nobody will laugh at them. But the point is that I think they are funny, which is more than I can say for most of the play. Oh, sure, the play itself is funny. My jokes are just so funny to me that I can still laugh at them even after hearing them a few dozen times.

Yes, being the narrator is the good life-- second only to being backstage. Doing a sex scene for an evangelical movie on the second coming, complete with eye contact, hand holding, and an embrace, is the only other thing that could possibly compete for second place. Such cross-gender contact in acting makes me nervous in front of an audience, though, so I need to get more practice doing those sorts of things on-set before they will give being backstage a run for its money.

Play practice is in a few hours and this little boy needs a nap. I could end with a highly sexual definition of The Second Coming, but I will refrain.

I'm going to go surf the internet for a while until I get tired.

15 April 2005

I'm tired

I'm very tired. I haven't been getting enough sleep lately. One reason is that I basically had last week off. My body went into end-of-the-semester mode, where I slept for hours on end. Then all of the sudden this week I'm thrown back onto a more rigid schedule. Combine that with the clock change and you can see that my pituitary is, well, screwed.

Today's advice is don't breathe fire. People try to kill dragons.

What more do you expect form a tired, depressed, fat guy?

14 April 2005

Stupidity

I think that people are stupid.

My proof is simple. People have too many strong opinions about things that they could never have taken time to think about. If they really had the capability to think, they would use it, and if they used it, they wouldn't have enough time to think they can speak about everything. But they do think they can speak about everything, therefore they don't really have the capability to think.

I was going to write along post about how each and every English major that I know has personally hurt my feelings in social settings, but I've decided to suck it up and get my rewards in Heaven instead because some stupidity cannot be overcome on Earth.

13 April 2005

Linguistic Regrets

I have only one linguistic regret. It has nothing to do with using "couple" for "few" or using "left" for "allowed." It isn't related at all to my having a bit of a central Canadian accent.

My regret is that I don't know my ancestors' language. My great-grandparents (some of them, anyway) spoke Pennsylvania Dutch.

Side note: Please leave me alone about it being called Pennsylvania Dutch. That is the name of the language. I know it's basically German, but you probably don't know that it's also Dutch. So many people walk around acting smart because they know, quite contrary to truth, that the Pennsylvania Dutch were German, not Dutch. Actually, they were Dutch and German but mostly German. The language they spoke was neither Dutch nor German although it was mostly German. So trust me, when you bring up that subject you at best just annoy me. The politically correct renaming of the language as Pennsylvania German has my inner Angstadt is tizzy already, even if my inner Wentzel is okay with it. What can I say except that I'm just more in touch with parts of my feminine side? Of course, I call it either Dutch or German as I please, but always Pennsylvania Dutch and never Pennsylvania German.

Parts of the Pennsylvania Dutch language are ingrained in me-- very small parts. It's not uncommon for my mom to say simple things like "Come here!" or "Thank you" or "Please" or "Do you understand?" in German rather than English. She's been doing it my whole life, so it's truly ingrained in me. When she says those things I know exactly what she means and never give a thought about the fact that she just said something in German. Those phrases are just a part of my English. In fact, I know that there are probably more than just the three phrases that I mentioned, but I don't know how many. I only know those phrases because people have pointed them out to me.

I also have a college friend who also occasionally blurts out little bits of German that I understand. It's no different with him than with my mom. I understand everything he says and I don't even notice it was German until he either apologizes or says it again in English. When he says in again in English my gut response is always "Why did you say that twice?"

One notable thing is that my mom only seems to use these phrases at home with the family. And I too have been known to use them at home with the family. Since they're mixed in as part of our lives, the words just just slip out. I've said my share of danke and bitte and verstehen sie? Just like my mom, it's not an every day thing. But the Dutch does come out. Nobody notices at home. When I'm at school or church, people notice. At home, we're used to it. We hear it from each other, and we don't think it's odd at all. Other people didn't grow up with tiny bits of Pennsylvania Dutch mixed into their English so it sounds foreign to them.

Anyway, my implicit skills with Pennsylvania Dutch go beyond merely being bilingual in a few dozen phrases. I also know how sentences are put together.

One time, Nancy-Elizabeth and I were wandering around in that big grocery store that's next to the old Shady Maple building on Route 23 down in Blue Ball. We're talking the heart of one of Amish and Mennonite territory, one of the ten places on earth that the UN considers to be imminently threatened with cultural extinction.

There were two rotund Mennonite ladies who met near us and got all smiley to see each other. I remember that their conversation opened, after hellos and one or two pleasantries, with one of them asking the other, in Dutch, whether they should talk in Dutch or English. I honestly don't remember how to say this in Dutch, but I know it when I hear it. They happily decided on English while I mindlessly eavesdropped, looking at the nearby produce.

I don't remember what their conversation was about except that one of the women had a son she was concerned about. I also remember feeling a tug on my shoulder. Nancy-Elizabeth was beckoning my ear, so I leaned over. Her question took me by surprise-- "What language are they speaking?" She had that adorable concerned and confused look on her face, like the kind you'd expect of a lost traveler in a foreign country.

I remember telling her "English" and her telling me no, that's not English. I darn well knew it was English, because the two of them had decided on English before they really got going. So I pondered the situation. Had they slipped into German? After about two more sentences I realized what was happening.

Their English had a thick German accent. On top of that, their sentences were structured like German. (Anyone up for a round of the Juba Game? I hope you MKs know what I'm talking about!) That was enough to make it sound like a foreign language. But to me it didn't sound foreign at all. It sounded exactly like two people talking about trouble with one of their kids, not necessarily in standard English, I realized, but in a way that I understood perfectly.

The brain is amazingly flexible for infants. Had I been adopted at eighteen months I probably wouldn't be able to do this little party trick. In fact, it might be more due to my great-grandfather, whose first language was Dutch and who was one of the only people I liked as a wee one (I was picky about people then, too), than to my mom. I'll have to ask sometime her just how Dutchified my Pappy was.

Anyway, if I have all of these "skills," why my regrets?

Well, I don't actually know Pennsylvania Dutch. I can't have a conversation in the language. (I'd point out that I can't read in it either except that there isn't much to read in it, or at least there wasn't until recently.) You may be wondering why I want to be conversational in a language that there's nobody around to converse with. They honestly are all dead or senile.

My response is "That's not the point."

I want to know the language not for any good reason except that I have this craving inside me to learn it. My grandfather knows Pennsylvania Dutch. I'd love to talk to him for ten minutes in Dutch just once before he buys the farm. I'd love to be able to wander to Lancaster and be able to listen in whether the choice is Dutch or English. I'd really like to hear gossip about Amos and his milking cow.

More importantly, I want to get in touch with my roots. On one branch of the family, I'm only the fourth generation to know English and the second not to know Dutch. I have a feeling that we would not need to go back much farther on a number of the branches to find people who didn't speak English. I know it's not rational, but I have this gut feeling that I should be a part of that past.

I have another gut feeling that's telling me that I have to learn this thing soon, before I end up moving to another part of the world where there's nobody who can teach me. Since it's much more of a spoken language than a written one, the only way to really learn it is to talk. Those senile people aren't dead yet.

So, that's my linguistic regret. Anyone want to give me lessons?

12 April 2005

J or P?

Let's assume for a moment that I actually take personality tests seriously. I don't take them seriously because of the dubious uses like forcing one's own life in certain directions and putting people in boxes. But let's assume, just for tonight, that I do care.

One particularly delightful sort of test, because it's so specific, ranks people according to Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTIs). I won't go into detail here, except to say that there are a few websites with good information on the MBTIs and a whole lot of websites full of crap about them.

Basically, the test gives you an ETLA (that's an Extended Three Letter Acronym, folks!) that picks at a few different aspects of your personality. The first letter ranks you as Introverted or Extroverted. The second letter ranks you as Sensing or iNtuitive. The third ranks you as Thinking or Feeling. The fourth ranks you as Judging or Perceiving.

One thing that I've found interesting about these tests is the way that, depending on the specific test structure, I get different results. On the first three letters, I get INT every time. The result differences are always in the last letter, which comes out as either a J or a P.

Now, of course, there is only one "official" test, and I have not taken that one. So you might be wondering why I don't just take the “real” test to definitively solve the J or P question. Well, I have an answer for that. For introverts, the J and P types are fundamentally flawed. I first suspected this when I noticed that the INTJ is typed (Jungian) as "Introverted Intuition with Extraverted Thinking" and INTP is typed as "Introverted Thinking with Extraverted Intuition."

So what, you say? Well, it's easy for introverted people to be more focused on the extroverted parts of themselves when taking the test because the questions that sort J and P involve external things, like actions and planning and such, not just internal things. In other words, for an introvert taking the tests, the extroverted part may falsely dominate the introverted part, resulting in Js being Ps and Ps being Js.

Think of it like a medical test that's meant to show your blood type but for some blood types does nothing more than proving that you have blood.

Those of you who are fans of such tests may be thoroughly confused at this point, and those of you who haven't heard of this stuff are definitely confused. In fact, I didn't even know what to make of any of this, and I've only found one reference, third-hand, about it. I give you this reference to amuse yourself on the matter. Please note that this reference goes to a socionics website, which is different from MBTI but based on similar psychological classifications. Sadly, even the information there was not enough to sort out the J or P problem for me.

Of course, all of you who know me and are fans of such personality tests probably have your opinion of whether I am a J or a P. In light of what I mentioned above, this is really cute of you, since you're not in my head. But anyway, it's also rather cute because I've heard your explanations. Usually what you do is take one or two things you know about me and say "Nate has these, therefore he is..."

You never bother to realize that once you read the INTP and INTJ definitions thoroughly enough, you find that they are really just babbling about the same things. Either that or you speculate about what goes on in my head.


Am I a P insisting on better language in the type definitions? Or am I a J trying to compare the definitions to what I already know and throwing a fit because I can't get it organized in my mind? There is so much in those descriptions that can get you confused about internal versus external things.

For example, INTJs tend to always think they are always right, INTPs don't. How, I ask, are you going to use this to figure me out? You don't know what I think. I could be here posting day after day what I think is gospel truth that I would ferociously defend (J), or I could be posting day after day my random thoughts that I'm in the process of working out without any desire for your help (P). You can't use conflict as a measure, because thinking I'm right makes the conflict, not the other way around. You can't reliably use the frequency of conflict, either. Maybe I have a lot of buttons to push, or maybe you just happen to push all of my small number of buttons.

Does Nate have trouble with NE(B)'s feelings because he thinks they are a game to play (J) or because he's completely oblivious to them no matter how well she tries to express them (P)? Does he turn it into a game because he's oblivious (bored P)? Is he oblivious because of the game (preoccupied J)?

Am I a hard-to-live-with J because I demand a clean kitchen and throw fits when it's dirty, or an easygoing P because I honestly could care less how clean the rest of the house is?

You'll never know any of this because you're not in my head. Nee-ner, nee-ner, neeeee-neeeer!

We could go on and on like this. I won't put you through it.

I'd so much like to tell you what I think of myself, but I know that no matter which way I go, half of you who read this will say that I'm wrong about half of what I say, making me anywhere from 25% to 75% right, with even odds each way from 50%. Heck, I'm sure you're falling all over yourself trying to reconcile my above J and P statements to the stuff you've read on the subject. So I'll let you come to your own opinions, and I'll keep mine to myself whether I think they are right or not. It doesn't matter anyway. I'll just post in my blog and you can read and get to know the parts of me that come out. My personality type isn't something you should carelessly use to put me in a box or to put my thoughts in a context.

Considering the fact that I only invited my better friends to come here and read this, am I being a P who has a small number of friends and interacts with that little circle very openly? Or since this is the internet where anyone can find what I say, and I being a J that's tooting my own horn from confidence that I'm never wrong about anything?

Quite frankly, if you're trying to answer those questions, you need to get a life.

See, I've once again stopped caring about personality tests. In fact, I don't even care whether you use this whole post as some kind of meta-indicator of my J or my P.

Should I say whether or not I structured it on purpose to be confusing if you try? Does that make me a J or a P?

Please, keep it to yourself. I may care about my J or P, but I don't care what you think.

11 April 2005

Rainy Day

I've had a few chances to wander around in the Chicago Art Institute. What a wonderful museum!

I enjoy the Chicago collection almost as much as I enjoy the National Gallery in D.C. The National Gallery has Renoir's Girl with a Watering Can, and an overall better selection of, um, naked chicks from renaissance Italy. I don't think Chicago has a Foucault pendulum, or a landscape that contains detailed but flatly painted industrial buildings. And Chicago's atriums (atria? atrii?) can't compete with a Calder mobile.

At the Art Institute, though, I remember finding all kinds of interesting things. One painting that I was impressed to see in person was van Gogh's The Bedroom which is, hands down, one of my favorite paintings of all time. In the same room you'll find Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette, which is a huge pointillistic monster of a painting. Just around the corner there's more van Gogh to enjoy, and lots of other colorful stuff by overrated European artists from the impressionist, expressionist, and post-expressionist eras.

Being weird, I decided on my first trip to the Institute that I would take a look at the paperweight collection. Quite frankly, it was nothing more than a big collection of paperweights. That little side trip did take me into a part of the museum that, surprisingly, most of my Wheaton friends never visited in detail.

Down in the bowels of the back building you'll find such works of art as a pile of candy in the corner and a string of light bulbs. Closer to the entry and the paperweights, there are some galleries with paintings and sculpture. I'm working on memory here, but I think it's mostly American stuff from the time period of, but not in quite the same genre as, the overrated, colorful Europeans. Apparently it's not nearly as exciting a place as the Monet and Cezanne and Picasso to be had elsewhere, so it’s a place that Wheaties don't often tread.

I found something very nice there, though.

It's a cute little painting by Frank Weston Benson called Rainy Day. I was attracted to it by the colors, which are a bit washed out in the link image, but not terribly so. What really got me was the title. Why? Well, there's a girl reading a book, which is all well and cool. The problem is in, or should I say outside, the windows.

In Rainy Day, it's not raining.

I've found this interesting, and every time since my first trip, I head to that painting before I go anywhere else. (I confess, that's a lie, sort of. When I go in through the front of the museum I need to walk through the armory to get to Rainy Day, so I've usually looked at the left hand side of the armor collection as I make my pilgrimage.)

I think that I'm terribly excited about this painting for two reasons combined.

The first is the chick reading a book. That sort of turns me on, in an intellectual way. The second reason is that in my mind this chick was reading on a rainy day and got so lost in her book that she doesn't seem to care that it's now sunny outside and she can go to do other things.

Why do these things get my attention? Reading books isn't popular these days. Worse, people are actually proud of how little they manage to read.

When I go into someone's house and I don't see books, I feel stifled, like I'm going to have to do a lot of explaining with small words whenever I say something. I don't know how many times some intellectual subject comes up in conversation and these people tell me that it's unfortunate that I don't have cable because I could have seen the show about.... Thank you, but I can usually get the same information on two pages of a book, requiring five minutes, at most, of active thought, rather than an hour of spoon feeding from a mass media that thinks pretty pictures will clean up my drool as I sit, comatose, staring at the shiny images they send into my house.

On the other hand, when I see a huge bookshelf, I get very excited.

When I find that half the books are Christian novels, and half of those are romances involving Godly studs and Christly steeds, I go back to feeling just worse than neutral. (Sorry, ladies, but I think girl porn minus the porn is really, really odd and probably does little to help you overcome some rather silly problems with Christian gender roles. I'm not saying don't read them but I am saying don't read them exclusively and don't base your phiosophy of life on them.)

A small aside, many Christians' bookshelves bother me because I can't find much there that didn't come form the local Christian bookstore. In the words of a former pastor of mine (and a Grace Brethren one, actually) on Christian bookstores, "Where are the books? I don't mean those bound papers that they have for sale. I mean books; the well written, meaningful books." I honestly think that Christian literacy needs to go beyond Christian literature, both because of the low quality and because of the limited subject matter. Even if you think secular books are evil, I suggest you remember that it is wise to know the ways of one's adversaries.

But then if I see, on those Godly shelves, even one or two good books, or books that I have, or books that I want to read, or decent Christian sex books, or anything with primary color pictures of dinosaurs, I get all perked up again. My friends with bookshelves really do have all kinds of things on those shelves that intrigue me. If I were not so busy reading the books that I constantly buy, I may be borrowing a lot more from my friends.

Books are for the intellect what bread is for the body and Christ is for the soul. As something of a monist, I'd say you can't leave any one of those things out. Mind, Body and Soul are one-- feed them all lest you perish.

You don't have time to read? Then your priorities are messed up. You need to make some time, even a short chapter of something every day. Half an hour less time in front of the television every day, one less sports event per weeek, an evening without comptuer games, etc, etc, etc.

You have a reading problem? I have some sympathy there, but you're not off the hook. You need to urge the readers, or potential readers, around you to talk to you about books, or even to read to you. Heck, call me. If you're genuinely interested, I'll tell you all about what I'm reading, anytime.

You see, it's not the act of eyes on paper that makes the difference. It's the act of minds interacting with ideas. Challenge what you think! Use your mind! Believe it or not, the "average" mind can do incredibly meaningful thinking when it is exercised a little. Thinking isn't just for smarty-pants graduate students studying impossibly difficult things like physics. Thinking is for everyone, and books are the best way to do it.

Honestly, there's nothing wrong with setting down your book because the sun has come out and the ground is drying. There is something wrong, though, if you've never even bothered to pick up a book on a rainy day in the first place.

10 April 2005

Oh, well.

I did have a nice post about food and cooking, but it's gone.

I was so busy happily chattering away that I wasn't doing my routine draft saves, and when I sent the post I got a server error. Firefox is excellent with page caching, to the point that I can't recover anything from the form. Oh, well.

If you want to read the text of a 1980s Allentown newspaper article that how I was nerd even back then, take a look at this article. The page you'll get is a chapter from a book, and the first block of italics is the newspaper article. The print version of the book had a picture of us, too, as did the Reading newspaper. Don't read the whole book, though. It's boring. Just read the part about me and my friends. (Side note: I won't speak to Howard Richman's personal character or recent lobbying in Harrisburg, except to say that he did give me this chance for two lines of internet fame.)

Sleep well, people.

09 April 2005

Walking, gardening, and the police

Tonight on my walk, I made a friend. While walking my regular route, a little cat meowed at me and came trotting across the street. At first I didn't know exactly why it came up to me. Kitty was very friendly and looked quite healthy, so I wasn't afraid to stop to let it catch up with me. As soon as it got to me it started purring and rubbing on my legs, so I reached down to pet it. The cute thing was very happy for the attention.

It was wearing a tag, so I picked kitty
up to read the tag. There were no front claws and it had a very clean coat, both signs of a pampered housecat. It turns out that this is one of the neighborhood cats who lives a few houses away from where it stopped me. The cat's name was on the tag also, but I don't remember it.

When I sat kitty back down, kitty was very unhappy with its tag being in the wrong place nad started throwing a wild fit, scraping its collar all over the sidewalk and making quite a ruckus. I reached into the blur of fur and turned the tag over, saving kitty the trouble. Kitty then sat down and had the "Pet me!" look, so I gave it a few rubs on the head.

Since we were only a few houses from home, I decided that kitty was in familiar territory and didn't need me a ride home on me, so I left kitty go. I did figure out why it came up to me, though. It's not very warm outside tonight, and its house was dark. So kitty either accidently got out or was accidently let outside for the night. It's not going to be freezing tonight, so even a pampered indoor cat should be okay outside until morning.

As I finished petting kitty, I reminded it which direction to go to get home, told it that it should be home at this time of night to stay warm, and then saw a neighbor from across the street open the door and look at me funny for talking to a cat on the sidewalk in the middle of the night.

I didn't mind, though. The world's full of weirdos who don't understand people on perfectly normal midnight walks stopping to talk to friendly cats.

Other news, it will soon be time to plant the garden. Unless me wife comes home with some strange assortment of plants that I will allow to die, I plan to put impatients in the big containers and maybe sweet williams in the small containers. I would plant begonias except that my wife can't stand them for some reason. In the end, I may end up with zinneas in the big containers and impatients in the small containers. This may also be the year that I finally get some herbs planted. And I could also plant certain vegetables in small amounts.

Pansies are cute, but I would need to plant them now and they would be done by the end of May. I would rather get the summer plants in earlier since I can pull the containers inside if the air gets too cool. So I will forego the precious pansies, my favorite Queen of All Flowers, for yet another year.

In terms of big plans, I would like to have a bird feeder on the patio rail, but my wife is against spending money to feed wild birds. I've been offered bread ends, but those are not healthy for the birdies. Maybe I can at least put out some water for the birds. I know that we live near a big creek, but some birds prefer to find water away from there. They like shallow water to bathe in, and still water to drink.

I really do miss gardening. I enjoyed it when I was a kid. My only problem there was my well meaning parents who would do things like flood the tomatoes in flower fertilizer and kill them (flowers mean fruit, which the plant will force even if leaf area or stem strength is too low). They tried, and they just can't keep a garden weeded and living.

Other mistakes included planting things too close together ("This is six by eight feet, we should be able to get at least 10 tomato plants in there!"), not rotating crops ("The tomatoes need to go in the back becasue they die in the front from getting no sun," as if they didn't die in the back, too, the way they were treated), not planting enough variety (it was always tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. Pull the cucumbers, they're starngling the tomaotes. There's no room for marigolds, we need it for the tomatoes. Etc.), and overall just not paying attention to the only person in the family who can keep plants alive and healthy.

I do miss the rows of zinneas that we would always plant. Those things were the best butterfly flowers in the world! We even had the occasional hummingbird come taste our zinneas. I miss the crocus that used to just pop up in strange places in spring. I did get a chance to see them at Easter. I miss the dusty millers that added a little grey to the mix. I miss the wax begonias and the sweet williams up along the front of the flower row. I miss the occasional sunflower or two, growing eight feet tall and always harboring nasty spiders (a brown recluse one year, of all things). I don't miss the petunias. Vile little flowers!

I miss my constant tries at pepper plants (they were usually destroyed) and the smell of tomato plants and wild onion all over my clothing after watering in the evenings. I miss the bean plants, too. One year in college I had the guts to sabotage the tomatoes (the truth comes out, Dad), and, oh look, room for green beans! I had four plants, properly spaced and weeded, and we got nearly a bushel of yield from just those plants. The beans just kept coming and coming.

Those were the gardening days.

Today I have fantasies about my gardens when I'm older. I'll have white birch along the driveway, but far enough away that the roots won't mess up the pavement! There will be a stone wall behind those, and in front of the stone wall will be low flowering perennials. Nearer the house there will be some yew trees. There will be various perennials and shrubs. Some of the shrubs will be nice geometric works of art, others, like juniper, will flow freely. There will be a seasonal garden just for vegetables, and there will be annual beds in key locations, like along the path from the driveway to the front door.

I'll still have houseplants, too. Lots of houseplants.

I may even have my own greenhouse. It's not like I'll be living in Zone 8!

Those will be the gardening days.

Well, one more thing before bed.

My blogging was rudely inturrupted about an hour ago by a siren, some engine noise, some crashing, and some flashing lights. This was followed by an Allentwon police officer jumping out of his car with his gun drawn, telling someone to stay in the car. I couldn't help but notice, after I turned out the lights for a better look, that there was a car smashed into two parked cars in the parking lot across the street. The excitement continued to build, as a second Allentown police car came, and then a Whitehall police car, and then an ambulence.

The driver of the misplaced car (it was on a sidewalk and grassy area) was tossed (quite literally) into one of the police cars, and the passenger of the car was gently placed in the ambulence. Another Allentown police car came, and by this point the traffic jam included five cars trying to get into the apartments and three cars and a newspaper truck trying to get out. A few emergency persons were nice enough to clean that up by getting their dad-gum vehicles out of the way. To show you how much goes on around here, two more Whitehall police cars bothered to come down here and drive by the scene, tooting merrily as they passed. Folks, we don't live on a through street. They came on purpose.

After much flashight work going on inside the crashed car, some alert neighbors searching for vehicle owners, and a few things getting put into the trunk of a police car, it all came to a very anticlimactic end.

Some of you might be wonderring what Allentown police were doing here in Whitehall. Actually, most of you aren't, because it seems that only Pennsylvanians appreciate our strict separation of local governments. Whitehall is not Allentown, period. We have our own government, our own fire, our own taxes, our own zoing lawas, etc, etc, etc.
The locals won't wonder what the APD was doing here because they know the answer already-- Allentown police are allowed to work in Whitehall as long as they followed someone out of town.

Big whoopie, most of you say. Well, for you non-locals, let me just tell you that I'm sure the people in Whitehall threw up an absolute stink about it when it was decided. Allentown police in Whitehall? Tell them to go back to the city where they belong! We can handle their shoddy, poverty-stricken criminals! We're our own municipality, and we don't care what you city people have to say. Keep your cops out of here. And keep your crimnals out, too, you rotten bastards!

Ah, the strict separation of municipalities. One of thosee things that makes Pennsylvania great. I love this state. And I won't begin to talk about how much money we waste because of it. What's money compared to freedom?

Oh, and my favorite part had to be either the gun or the driver getting tossed in the police car. It's like an episode of Cops in my front yard.

08 April 2005

So where was I?

Okay, a few short things.

First, I didn't post anything last night because I went to bed and fell asleep. Surprisingly, I fell asleep just after 10:00, when I normally just bounce up and come alive no matter how tired I am. Perhaps I had passed a critical value. Anyway, I slept until nearly 12:30, and I mean in the afternoon. 14 hours of sleep. Delightful. I must have needed it because I'm not stiff or cranky or anything like that.

Second, for the more mathematically inclined, you too can calculate Easter see this website which gives the algorithm. I may impliemnt the algorithm to get a more complete data set for my Easter experiment, and then I will be able to adjust the parameters involved in deciding whether or not Easter is on time.

I would be writing a computer program right now but I can't find the paper with the fornulas. I thought it was this one guy's article from Physical Review Letters but I can't find it in that journal. I have either the wrong person or the wrong journal. Anyway, I have the module all planned out (I'm going to use Fortran 95) so that it will be easy to use and exapnd. I just need to equations so that I can start programming.

Remind me to buy some folders and binders sometime. My wife will probably not be happy, but such things are required equipment when you have this many papers flaoting around.

By the way, I have just edited a few weeks worth of posts for spelling and, in one case, content. Yes, I have the power to completely rewrite a post from weeks ago and post it today like I posted it then. I could even make a fake blog that goes back to 2002. You would never know they were written recently.

I want to be honest with you, however, so I won't ever change content significantly. I don't count changing words or spelling as changing content, and I count both adding and removing content as changing content.

If I ever change the content of any post, I will note the change date at the end of the post.

[edit 4/8 to explain edits and content changes]

07 April 2005

Confessions on cross-sex friendships

I realized, while out on my evening walk tonight, that I forgot two important things in my post on cross-sex friendships. (3/21)

The first thing that I forgot is a rather detached, impersonal thing about social contexts. Recall that there is no cultural or linguistic handles to describe cross-sex friendships. I emphasized that people frown on such relationships for looking like dating or such. I forgot to emphasize how the friendships are seen by those who have them.

Rather then using dating as their context, people involved in cross-sex friendships put their friendships into the sibling context. If I have a friend who is a girl, and I can't call her a girlfriend because I'm married, what's the next closest context that I can put her into? Obviously, sister. She's like a sister.

I can say from experience that this is true, but it's because my sister is not just an organism with common DNA but also a great friend more than because I feel like my girl friends (two words) are not just friends but organisms with shared DNA.

As you can see, even the language required to explain this social context is bulky, showing that there is some difference between a sister and girl friend or a brother and a boy friend.

Anyway, this only came to mind because of the second, more personal thing that I wanted to share. Men are physically attracted to women. I am.

I come form a long line of Cassinova types who mingle with the chicks. Some of you are probably rolling with laughter at that thought of me as a chick-mingler, but it's true. I played with girls when I was little instead of with boys, and I wasn't ashamed of it. I have friends now who are female and that I will intentionally take time to visit even when I am waiting for a boy friend to come along for some more important reason than mere chit-chat.

Honestly, only a fool would say that boys never at any point in time feel physical attraction to girls. I cannot say that I have girl friends who I never noticed physically. For each and every girl who I consider any level of friend, there was at least one thought. If I ever say "I can get along great with girls and never be attracted to them" what I really should be saying is "I can get along with girls because I can kill my attraction to them, and I can kill it so hard that I forget anything about the attraction except the fact that I had it and killed it, and sometimes I can even forget that much." That’s why in my original post I talked about throwing off lustful thoughts rather than about not having lustful thoughts.

A thing that really bothers me is the way the church handles this. The teaching is that since every male and female will have some kind of attraction, we cannot run the risk of being attracted to each other. The Bridges of Madison County makes us realize that the sky will most certainly fall if we dare even entertain the thought of friendship with the opposite sex. Christians just can't do that.

Actually, I can, and I realized tonight on my walk what I do to get over girls bodies. Well, it might not be a new thought, but I feel like I understand it differently.

I get over their bodies by getting to know more of them. Not more of their bodies, more of their person.

I just recently (in the past few months) feel as though I've finally come off a year-long mental struggle with one particular person. Don't ask me who because I'm not telling. Just be glad that you've now graduated to the level of my Prayer Path group at camp, who really, really opened up after their big, fuzzy, Model Christian counselor shocked them into the reality of human frailness when he said "I'm married and I have problems with lust."

Part of my getting over it came from realizing that this was a sister in Christ whose image I was dealing with. Lustful thoughts were not just messing with this person, they were messing with something that belongs completely to God. It took some time to prove this to myself, getting to know this person and about this person, and getting to know some of her friends and family. Now, the physical desire is gone. I don't know her well, though. In fact, it took a year to get to know the little bit I feel like I do know because Christian boys and girls aren’t allowed to become friends. We're not really even friends as much as just past acquaintance. Even lacking deep friendship, she's someone and something that I now admire and respect.

My point here is not to make every girl I know paranoid and to get the husbands and fathers after me with pitchforks and shotguns. If you're reading this don't worry about whether or not you're the particular one that I am mentioning. First, before I became friends with any of you I felt at least one flicker of attraction to you. Second, trust me, I'm over you now.

My point is that laying the basis for a friendship is what got me over inappropriate thoughts. Contrary to the church's blabbering, run from temptation so you don’t get burned, I realize that the fire is only skin deep. Getting past the skin gets me past the fire, to a place filled, for my Christian friends, with the Holy Spirit. I can't get away from the fire by just running because I keep looking over my shoulder, stopping, and heading back. The only way that works is to head straight in, through the thin wall of flame and into a place that fire cannot touch.

Obviously this analogy is not perfect. I cannot find a good reason why it would extend to non-Christian girl friends, but I have had so few of those that I'm not sure what’s up with them.

And then there's all that jibber-jabber about girls being emotionally attracted in place of being physically attracted, so even if it's better for me to make friends with girls I should stay away for the girls' sakes. I don’t buy it, really. Perhaps, in the same way that physical attractions must be directed properly, any emotional attraction must be directed properly. I emphasize that "directing properly" does not mean the standard Christian "staying away form cross-sex friendship in any form." Directing implys action applied to the attraction rather than action applied everywhere else in order to avoid attraction, as if that is even possible.

And of course, the fire cannot touch within the girl only if she's allowing the Holy Spirit to be a guide for her life. So if I were to become friends with a Christian girl, I would need to trust her and she would need to trust me. This is probably uncomfortable because it sounds a lot like what we say about marriage. But don’t jump to that context just because it’s familiar. I’m actually talking about something different but common. The nature of the trust is different because cross-sex friendships do not share all the content of marriage and have their own content that is not found in marriage. The nature of the trust is common because even within sexes we have no friendships without trust.

The bottom line of all of this is that friendship with me, even a small amount, encourages me away from sin by giving me a whole person to focus on. There's no room for me to have eros when there's so much philos and agape that has to go on.

I think that I can also use this to understand why marriage is something of a miracle. My wife is a friend, someone who I know very, very well, but someone who I'm physically attracted to up and down and sixteen ways from a multidimensional helix. She's the only friend with attraction.

In my pesky little theology that I'm preaching here (and likely to get stoned for), I am tempted to believe that it's not multiple miracles from God that prevent physical attraction to each girl friend but rather a single miracle from God that keeps my wife and I in love with each other, physically and in every other way. In other words, contrary to common folk wisdom, God designed us so that the normal thing is a true lack of physical attraction after the initial burst. He plants continuing attraction as a miracle where it is must remain, or we mere mortals refuse to listen to Him and fan the initial burst into a raging fire that is outside His will.

So, how did this inner wandering lead me to my first point above? Well, I was thinking in the context of the church, and how we use the phrase "sisters in Christ" to describe Christian girls we know. Calling the above mentioned particular person a "sister in Christ" helped me seek the whole person.

There is something here that is very similar to my first point. Sisters in Christ are not biologically sisters, but rather sister-like because we don't really know what other context to put them into. They are not real sisters, but the sibling analogy is appropriate because we don't quite know what to make of the church, being made up of both males and females, being the Body of a male Christ and the Bride of a male Christ. (Don't pull out that often abused verse from Galatians about "neither male nor female" or I'll hammer you with my Big Ol' Schtick of Context.) I think in Church, as in cross-sex friendship, we lack a context, so we go to the standby for positive cross-sex interaction, the sibling relationship.

Sisters, someday we'll all be friends.

You too, brothers. But I think you suck at it, so I don't feel like being as nice to you as I am to the sisters.

Go grunt at each other or something and leave me to mingle with the chicks.


[edit 4/8 for content]

06 April 2005

Communication Skills

Apparently I ticked off my department chair.

All I did was say that my tuition had not been paid, it should have been paid, I didn't know where the problem was, but if it didn't get fixed soon then there would be even more problems to fix when registration gets messed up, so could he try to resolve it, thank you? I sent this to him because my conversations with people under him did not get it fixed.

He told me to go away.

Well, he didn't start that way. He started by basically saying he didn't really handle tuition and that he would tell the appropriate people to take care of it. That was nice of him.

Then he explained that these problems Are™ and that there's nothing to do to avoid them. True, I say, except that since it's nobody's fault (trust me, every office would say it is some other office, every person would say it is someone else) it must be the fault of the System Itself. You know, the System that must be The Way because everyone is an efficiency expert and can just tell this fact without actually knowing how it works.

I didn't know what to make of that part, exactly, but his PS gave me a clue that he was ticked off.

"PS Sending me irate messages will accomplish nothing that is positive."

In other words, he's a squid.

And that's not just because he also sent my message and his response to his secretary and to my advisor. (My advisor, upon the department chair's message going out, stopped responding to my e-mails, so he's probably all full of mixed emotions right now wondering if he should be upset at me for setting off the chair or at the chair for being a prick. I'm sure he'll get over it and I'll hear back from him over the weekend.)

He's a squid because he got it all wrong.

"Irate" is a matter opinion. A simple, straightforward statement of facts cannot be irate. Sorry, but unless a person says something like "I'm in a huff" you have to project that in for yourself. The note I sent him was nothing like the flames I spit here. It was fact, fact, fact, fact, concern, please, thanks, bye. There is no fact in there that he can say is incorrect, no concern that is wrong to have, and no request that is unreasonable to make. That must be why he said I am "more conscientious" than most people.

Although he wants to say nothing positive can be accomplished, nothing negative can be accomplished either. He has no control over my grades, my graduation, or whether I get funding. He can't kick me out of school or make me leave the program. Oh, sure, he can refuse to sign papers. But like the Queen of England ruling Canada, if all I do is express a concern then his power only exists if he refuses to exercise it.

You don't want to approve my thesis committee? I'll have the graduate research committee do it for you. You'll be a snake and not excuse yourself for that discussion because you're an involved party? Well, the associate dean can do it, or the graduate dean, or the college dean, or the provost, or the president. And I can find some snakes of my own to file some court papers. There are plenty of university and legal procedures to take care of single administrators who get in the way of one of their department's best students working with their best professor. For as much ego as this man would like to show, he would surely pee himself if the provost came in to tell him he's going up for a special review because he made an academic decision with no good academic reason and got the school sued over it.

Of course, none of this matters anyway, because he didn't actually mean what he said.

You see, what he meant to say was "You make me mad, pea-wit grad student, wasting my time with your problems that I'm not serious about listening to when I say 'Let me know if you have any problems.' Shut up and piss off or I'll do all kinds of nasty things to you."

Then he realized he can't threaten to do nasty things because he can't do nasty things, so he decided to remove that part.

Then he realized that just saying he's mad sounded unprofessional in this case because I didn't actually say anything worth his being mad about. He decided to remove references to himself and to me in order to make it all more "objective." That left him without a subject or an object.

Without those the verb is subject to change anyway, so he had to scrap the whole thing and restart.

Since he was feeling mad, he decided to attack the thing he was mad at, me, without explicitly mentioning me, since he had decided not to do that, but rather through mentioning my medium of communication. At this point he typed "Sending me messages." Then he remembered that he can only be mad at me if I'm mad at something, and he can't mention me being mad directly because he isn't mentioning me directly, so he changed it to "Sending me irate messages" in order to place neative spin on me.

Now he had to decide "Sending me irate messages what?" Even though he can't make threats, he decided to try to be powerful and mighty anyway, so he went for "will accomplish nothing." But he realized that although was good grammar, it did not look mighty enough. He changed it to "will accomplish nothing that is positive," throwing in the word positive to sound scientific.

The result is that he replaced a statement about his feelings, something full of meaning, with an empty statement devoid of meaning. An incorrect subject invalidating an already empty threat? That is not clear, meaningful communication.

This only happened because he had feelings that he could not share. There is no morally acceptable reason to be fuming at a graduate student simply for explaining a problem that has not been resolved by anyone with less authority, especially when you are constantly trying to project the image of a person who cares about helping people resolve problems.

The moral of the story for personal communication is that if you are mad about something, think. If you don't, you may end up looking like a fool.

It's a mistake we all make, and one that we should all avoid.

05 April 2005

Music I Like

I'm sure you all, on some level, want to get to know me better. That's why I've decided that, today, instead of spewing fire at everyone, I would point out one of my more likable talents.

I can get completely lost in music that I'm listening to.

I can't get lost in just any music, though.

A little background is in order.

In 1993, a friend talked me into learning how to run the sound equipment at our church. MGBC had a big board by church standards. When I started, we had a huge Allen & Heath 32 input, four bus, board. Each fader had four auxiliaries, four EQ, and all the other stuff like PFL, gain, AUX sends, etc. Along with this, we had a nice tape deck for playback, an old workhorse of a CD player, a Yamaha FX generator used to add resonance, and a big ol' patch bay under the board where we mapped our snakes to board inputs.

A good part, and the thing that was scary at first, was that we often used 20 or more of those 32 inputs at the same time. One person had to take care of balancing that live feed, form all of those sources. It was scary to learn to do, but a good thing to have done.

A better part was that I was trained by a guy who had a great ear. He showed me the ins and outs of making tiny adjustments to faders or EQ knobs. He trained me in settings and sounds. When I say we ran 20 inputs, I mean 20 inputs each with a seperate EQ balance and with volumes tweaked to single decibels.


We had a really fickle space to deal with, too. Sorry for the buzzword, but unlike “rooms” becoming “spaces” to interior designers as of late, a volume intended to be filled by sound from an amplifier has been called a space for decades. There was no ringing out the system because any microphone needed to be within ten decibels (our board's overfade) of its ring point. Musicians had no control over their equipment-- no choice of microphones and no slider switches to play with. If it was hot we had to keep an ear out.

We ran it all to exacting specifications. I miss that.

My good ears didn't actually start there, though.

In late 1992, I had an illness that blocked up my middle ears very badly and killed about 80% of my hearing. Like any other sense, hearing is something you don't appreciate unless you've nearly lost it. To this day, I remember what it was like to have my hearing slowly fade away, to the point that I had to strain to hear people talking loudly.

That straining to listen trained my ears. When the fluid was removed, I had golden ears. Yes, I had golden ears. I still do have a golden ear. My left ear was sadly knocked from significantly better than normal to around normal when I had an airbag go off to my left in a car accident. Those things happen.

My ears have served me well since 1993. I do two things with them to keep them sharp. One thing I do is to avoid really loud sounds at high pitches whenever I can. My eardrums will take care of the low pitched sounds. The other is to listen very carefully to anything I can pay attention to hearing. To keep my hearing sharp, I listen to music.

Oh, the joy in that! Too many people take music for granted. When I lost my hearing, I lost music. I have it back now, and I give it my time.

Have you ever listened to Beethoven's 9th symphony? I don't mean as a background track at your hoity-toity dinner party. It sucks for that anyway, so don’t try it. If you listen very carefully to the 9th, you find that you can never stand it as background music again. Except for the third movement, the music is just entirely too complicated. There are places where you can hear three or four separate lines of musical thought being played around the orchestra. What you perceive as the "melody" passes back and forth between those lines. Each one is, when you listen carefully, a melody in itself.

I like music that can hold my attention. For me, music has to be complex. I don't like standard rock bands, for example, because the music is too simple. A few chords here and there, two guitars, a bass, a keyboard, and some drums? Please. There's one melody and one boring, repeated harmony.

Some songs can get my attention a little better. Take, for instance, Where the Streets Have No Name by U2. An excellent song as far as rock songs can come, in my opinion, because it is layered well. Something about the way it's constructed grabs my ear. There are things to listen to besides Bono droning like a lovesick puppy in heat. Yes, he sounds like he's panting for some action, in my opinion. Just compare that sound to how he sounds in the song "Elevation."

Of course, most of you will disagree. That means I have to move on to music you may not have heard. Hopefully you’ll learn to like it so that you can prove me wrong there, too.

Rich Mullins gets my attention. His music has layers and his lyrics are engaging. The instruments change around. Listen, for example, to "Calling Out your Name." That string part is different every time it plays, but people don't notice that. Look at all the instruments that went into A Liturgy, A legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band and tell me that Mullins is your standard Rock/Pop/Folk. No, folks, he's something different. There's always something to hear.

Have you ever listened to the lead trumpet parts in the song "Summon the Heroes" by John Williams? As the song progresses that horn gets way out of synch with the rest of the orchestra, in more ways than one. It's up to you to go pay attention and tell me what ways I'm thinking about.

Beethoven, who I mentioned before, is full of all kinds of harmony that you will miss if you don't actively listen.

I love organs, too. Not the biological ones, the musical ones. A big mother pipe organ is, hands down, the most complicated and breathtaking of musical instruments. I'm sure a few of you remember the new organ in Edman Chapel at Wheaton. I almost cried when I heard it that first time. It ranks with the great organs of America.

An organ can do so much stuff. It can make a huge noise. It can make the tiniest of sounds. Have you ever heard a recording of an organ and listened, during soft spots, to the sounds of the organ's mechanical parts thudding around? And an organ often plays more than one melody, rather than melody with harmony.

But there's more.

What do you think of a large orchestra and large choir? A big choir can do all kinds of things that no one voice can do.

So, what kind of music do I like?

The answer is "Anything complicated."

Look around my collection next time you come over. I challenge you to find piles of boring "normal" music. There's some musically dull stuff that I have for the lyrics, but even then the lyrics are above average in almost anyone's opinion.

I'm looking forward to being able to purchase the two albums by The Polyphonic Spree. There's complicated music!