My Zunivers

30 November 2005

And Old News

It's not so old, really. But over the course of Thanksgiving week I managed to forget about this.

The most interesting thing is that compared to the general public the scientists more strongly favored of Newton on both questions.

29 November 2005

The News Gets Better

It's a very good news day.

You should read this.

Republicans and Democrats

An interesting opinion article from thr Christian Science Monitor:

"The questions go to the core of the party. What does it mean to be a Democrat?"

This has been a good news day :)

White Crash

I normally don't post links to the Chicago Tribune because everyone complains that they aren't registered so they can't read the article.

Too bad. Register and then read this one.

I'm not the only American who thinks that education is being dumbed down. And this author is in the humanities, not the sciences, so this is even more exciting.


I normally have a bit of respect for the senators from my state, but this is just, well, dumb.

I summarize the senator's position-- Terrell Owens violated his contract, so maybe punishing him for it is in violation of antitrust law, and I think it's the team's right to punish him, yea verily to sue him, but I think it's unfair for them to punish him because... well... because he didn't commit a crime, he just breached a contract.

Um... yeah... only crimes are punishable? I can do whatever wrong things I want to anyone and it's unfair for them to do anythign about it unless I violated a legislated law?

I won't even start on relating this to my rant about how morality and justice have more to them than "Did it hurt anyone?"

28 November 2005

Unmaintainable Code

Here is a long article about how not to code. Few of you will appreciate the tips and tricks provided, and all of you who will are probably Slashdot readers who have already read this, but I figured it's worth a link.

On Vacation

I'm finally on vacation from my vacation to the in-law's. It was nice to come home. Dispite some blatant violations of The Rules, there were a few highlights on the trip.

We got to see Jordana, her Husbandlet, and The Squid. Husbandlet and I had some time for shop talk about geek things. He's in biology/ecology and I'm in physics so we have the common ground of chemistry and computers, not to mention memories of old times like second semester, junior year, when he and I showed up for lab 20 minutes late together. For at least half of those weeks we would meet at nearly the same spot on the sidewalk every week on the way to lab. (Did I mention that I was his TA that semester?) I got to hold The Squid, too (while my wife was not there; I don't hold babies when she is there because she pushes them on me and I'm just plain stubborn), and Squidgle is a very cute Squid. The five of us, along with the siblings-in-law, piled into the minivan for a Barnes and Noble run.

The males-in-law and I, and possibly a few others at some other point in the well wired house, got to watch the Geogia at Georgia Tech game. The game was close this year, and in fact it was a fun game to watch, both teams being strong on defense. Lots of turnovers and good play. Georgia pulled off a 14-7 win, mostly from special teams and penalty yards, I reckon. Their punt returns were much better.

My family, sans mom who had to work late on Wednesday and early on Friday, were at the in-law's house for Thanksgiving and the morning after. My kid brother and I had some bonding time, and my sister and I had some sibling time. My sister grown up is a much cooler person then my sister the little kid. I think it comes down to the fact that we're not at home, so I, being the bad kid, no longer have to deal with her being the good kid, which makes me realize, rather than ignore, her coolness. We got to do some music, so cool.

I was tired most of yesterday, but I hit a second round of liveliness upon returning to familiar surroundings. I got to go shopping for things I needed and for food. Food! Real food! My in-laws try very hard to feed me, and their efforts are appreciated, but nothing compares to the food at home. At both Stuff Mart and the grocery store I managed to go slowly and pick up the things I needed. My feminine side got a great kick out of trying on belts, deciding that the ones that fit had numbers too big, and leaving without one. I remembered to get some dried parsley, an ingredient I was missing from my last batch of turkey soup. I found transmission fluid. I bought some really nice, cheap salsa. I bought a humidifier filter. I found counry style pork ribs on sale. And so on. Two hours and $100ish dollars later I was done, and even had a small Christmas present for my wife.

So now the reglar routine resumes for almost month. Upcoming I need to finish sending off abstracts (where is my advisor?), get some research programs edited and running, and strat getting together a meeting for my dissertation committee titled "We Haven't Done Anything From My Proposal, But Look At the Shiny Graphs!" I also have to make the graphs.

21 November 2005


The AP put out this article to tell us that the Catalogue of Philanthropy's generosity index. (I might try to find a link that's not in the Chicago Tribune, so that you can read it). The index is based on adjusted gross incomes and itemized tax returns for the most recent available information, 2003.

I find a problem in this way of calculating, though. Only about 35 perent of taxpayers itemize deductions. The poorer 65 percent take the standard deductions and leave it there. So if we use tax returns to rank giving, we're only ranking giving among the top 35 percent or so of the population in terms of adjusted gross income. And then to break things up geographically as if the itemizers are randomly distributed, that's just wrong.

Folk wisdom in the working class is that although wealthy people give more in dollars they often give less of their income by percentage. Of course, if we could know whether this is true we would also not even be having this discussion because we would have some way to measure the charitable giving of the other 65 percent of American households.

20 November 2005

Pennsylvania Dutch Mouth Orgasm

[11/21 Oops! forgot to turn on comments! They're on now so that you can all make fun of me.]

My mom came up today and we took a little trip to Krumsville to visit Detrich's Meats. Yes, a large yummy meat store was at hand. I resisted the urge to buy pounds upon pounds of beef jerky, duck, pork tenderloins, and various smoked and unsmoked livestock parts, and settled for a trade with my mom-- a jar of chow-chow for some smoked sausage.

Smoked sausage! How many praises of this meat product can I sing? None. But how many good things can I say about it? More than I feel like saying here. Tonight, making supper, having the onions and potatoes and smoked sausage all going on the stove, I was overcome with joy at the smell.

"Honey," I said to my wife, "we've got to preserve this culture. I want my grandkids to know how this smells. Fatten up and wear a bonnet. We'll learn the language." Or something like that.

It was "my" grandkids, not "our" grandkids, because according to my wife our offspring are not going to be raised, they will be reared, and they will be reared in such a way as to not know the ethnic pride of their father. Apparently it's not cool to be a Dutchman, but I consider us the luckiest ethnicity in the country. We've got cool diction and cool accents (I don't; I sound Canadian), and excellent, fattening food, and folk art traditions. Even so, I guess I'll have to watch as my children become "normal" like every other suburban dumb bunny. Quite sad, but my great great grandparents probably would have said the same about me not learning Pennsyvania Dutch. So grump.

Back on subject, it was a delightful platter of food. Three ingredients, old time flavor, like grandma used to make. I have not had smoked sausage for ten years at least. You used to be able to get it in local grocery stores, but Weis, the last supermarket near Reading to sell it, stopped a long time ago. Now the local meat stores are the only source, and I've got to get it more often.

Although chow-chow and saurkraut are downright nasty, in my opinion, my mom and I were bemoaning, after the discussion about how we don't need to refrigerate this sausage and we could eat it raw, that we had forgotten to ask about the availability of pig stomachs. I was happy to have the standard pig stomach filling, but cooked in the stomach it would have had a little more of a bacon flavor.

Can't have everything, ja?

19 November 2005

I hate computers.

18 November 2005

New Not News

What is sadder, the fact that this is or that it is news?

To help you answer, consider that I have heard similar stories every few months for the past few years.

17 November 2005

2b? Nt2b? ???

This is sick.

It's simply a translation into another language, if you want to call a lazy bastardization of written English a language. The quality of the language is terrible, though.

Of course, that could just be my biased opion from growing up with a Pennsylvania Dutch approximation of proper English. Maybe the younger generations will find the same meaning in such written language that I find in proper English. Perhaps language today is changing more rapidly than in any point in recent history, so that we can see it over a decade, but in a natural way. If that's so then younger generations will go on just fine. Or, maybe, if it's really as dark as I feel it is, they'll all end up like Napoleon Dynamite.

I'll just go throw the cow over the fence some vomit, now oncet.

This Guy's Nuts

are no longer with him.

Um, yeah. People just should not remove certain parts of themselves. At the same time, people who do might deserve it.

If this becomes The Rage, I will not be pursuing it.

16 November 2005

Almost Forgot

Have I mentioned how much I loathe 66 degree air at 02:30 in the middle of November? I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it!

Mid sixties is when our apartment gets really warm even with windows open but the air outside is too cool for the air conditioners. 75 would be better, but 35 or so would be best.

This Two

I explained the time signatures as a comment on that post.

Everybody argue with me at once, please. Or at least check my math. I've been staring at a computer screen for literally days now, and its boggling me to the point that I'm doing things like incresing denominators in an attempt to increase the value of a fraction (a positive one; a negative fraction does incerase in value as you increase the denominator). I see two roads when I drive, too. Actually, I don't. The double vision usually goes away on the walk to the car. This reminds me about a sketch involving the twin peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro....

Research work is perhaps getting somewhere. I'm running a different ensemble so that I can try to sort a few things out. I think that after a day's work (I've been at it since 2:30 in the afternoon) I found a gel. That's good news. I don't want a gel, but now I know to look elsewhere for what I want and I know which way to go. I'm getting about a point an hour, plus maybe another hour to home in on the point (that hour is time intensive, but once it's set it lets me take only one hour to get a point instead of two to six), and some time was wasted on the gel. I should have recognized the first gel point. Life's like that.

And my life is, like, incredibly boring.

15 November 2005

Why I Can't Post More

I'm busy.

Anyone want to try the boat problem from yesterday's post? Not even a guess? I won't post the answer unless I get more guesses. Ditto for the 8/8 vs. 4/4 question from a few days ago. So far only one person's playing :( One is enough to keep me from depression, but more is merrier.

14 November 2005

Ignoring the huge inefficiency in making hydrogen for a "hydrogen economy," a hydrogen based energy system would produce no greenhouse gasses and thus would curb climate change... not!

Water may be a natural thing on earth but its main nautural place is in liquid form, not the atmosphere. At this point we don't know if excess water vapor is a problem, and I'm not an environmental scientist so I don't know where one would even start to think about such a matter. I do think, though, that if we plan to make water vapor like crazy all over all of our cities then I think we need to be prudent and take one of a few rather important steps--

Option 1, prove that the excess water vapor will not be harmful (that it really is not itself a pollutant). I said prove, not just say "I think...." Yes, you can't really prove, but at least lets get it much less fuzzy, okay?

Option 2, make the hydrogen from condensed atmospheric water vapor rather than surface water, and collect the vapor from the atmosphere at many locations and in volumes proportional to where new vapor is most emitted.

Option 3, condense all water that comes form the hydrogen economy into liquid form before placing it in the environment, and place it in ways that it will return to its original source or be turned into new hydrogen fuel rather than evaporating into the atmosphere.

From a standpoint of efficiency and practicality, how many of those sound like good options?

Two Physics Problems

Problem 1: recitative

The New York Times had an excellent article today by Timothy O'Brien about the decline of inventivenes in the US. A few of you probably read it (I can't link to it because it will go away rather rapidly). I thought it was odd, though, that at some point after the first paragraph there was a discussion of scinetific literacy.

Why was this odd? Because the first paragraph made a science error!

"Mr. West's hand sealed to the light socket as 120 volts of electricity shimmied through his body..."

Okay, people, what is a volt? If you said anything besides "a unit for the electric potential difference" then you're wrong and need to buy me an expensive Christmas present!

Volts are not a force or a pressure or an energy. A volt is not even a potential difference. It is the unit we use for potential differences. And a difference in electrical potential does not drive a current any more than gravity drives planes into the ground after their engines stall.

The two worst error is thus-- we cannot have 120 volts of electricity, because volts don't measure electricity. What the author is trying to say is "some number of amperes of electrical current, passing through the unknown resistance of his probably non-ohmic body under an electrical potential difference of 120 volts, shimmied through his body..."

We'll just give him the one about 120 being the RMS value for an alternating current, and since the current passed through a shimmying Mr. West we will grudgingly accept that the current shimmied, although I'd never use that word for it. The shimmying was not directly from the current but rather from the current's affecting muscle contractions.

Otherwise the article was good, although sobering.

Fear not, fellow scientists! We will win the war to make the public scientifically literate. And we'll probably do it by moving to other countries so that we can work with a different public... like one that can answer

Problem 2: responsive

a) Go grab some aluminum foil and a big bucket filled with a nice qauntity of water. Make a little aluminum foil boat, make sure you don't have air trapped between any foil layers, christen it the Titanic, and float it in the bucket (position A). Now, without removing any boat, sink the boat and wait until it settles on the bottom (position B). Did the water pressure in the bottom of the bucket go up, down, or stay the same when the Titanic sank (compare pressure at positions A and B)? There are two interconsistent ways to go at this.

b) I fill a small, rigid glass with a quarter of a pound of liquid. The surface area of the top of the liquid is four square inches and the atmospheric pressure on that same interface is about fourteen pounds per square inch. Given that therefore the total force from the atmosphere on the exposed surface of the liquid is far greater than the liquid's weight, why does the liquid spill when I turn the glass upside down?

Go ahead, non-physicists! Restore what tiny faith I ever had in the US population!

And physicsts, feel free to answer if you're wrong.

13 November 2005

Gibbs Sux


My simulation did a weirdie. I'm poking around for where I should be on a phase diagram (the one I'm going to make, so I don't have it to just look and go), and when I made the volume incredibly high the particles spontaneously got an infinite energy. This is weird.

On inspection, it seems that two of the particles got moved to poitions of infinity. This must have happened early in the run because the run took orders of magnitude longer to run than it should have taken, and the sheer number of failed steps indicates that we did indeed have a problem. I'm not sure what to blame-- the algorithm, the OS, the power company, or the compiler. I think I'll blame the compiler (MS Visual C++) because Microsoft is evil.

Physics geeks will be interested to know that this is a Gibbs Ensemble Monte Carlo program, and it's a great program but I didn't write it (I got it from some guy from The Bronx... don't ask) so using it is a bit of a wild ride, one that only some can appreciate.


At least during that long time (se the geek stuff, if you really want to know) I got to write a small song that sucessfully used a deceptive cadence and a few seventh chords. Yeah, I'm a closet music nerd.

Bet most of you didn't know that.

Where's my eyeroll emoticon?

12 November 2005

Minor League Hockey

Hockey fascinates me. I hardly get to watch it anymore because I don't have a decent selection of TV channels. I don't even have an AM radio to tune in to 690AM from Montreal. So IW As delighted that tonight I got to go to a hockey game. It was a comfortable game-- an ECHL game between the reading Royals and the Dayton Bombers.

Even the most hockey hardy in the crowd may be wondering "Who?"

Okay, I'll admit, this isn't exactly class A hockey. ECHL is AA, in fact-- two steps from the big time. It's a brawl league and dominated by US and Canadian players. Fans of sociology of sport will notice that I was just redundant. The US and Canada are the only places in the world where violence on the ice is part of the game of hockey. How this subculture arose is an idea that fascinates me to the point that I once wrote a research paper on the subject that incorperated social theory from James S. Coleman (most famous for his racist antics).

At that point in time there were four published studies on violence in hockey, and although there was a consensus on the fact that European hockey and North American hockey were different about violence (compare the 1980 olympics to the 1980 NHL playoffs), there was no clear explanation about why the game evolved differently in the two regions. This was soon after the Matry McSorley incident, which I call one of History's most intrusive legal prosecutions after the Dino Ciccarelli incident, but that's a post for another day.

Anyway, I've never been to an NHL game. In fact, this hockey game marks the third piece of ice I've seen hockey played upon, the first being the old Hersheypark Arena and the second being wherever the heck the Wheaton club played. I like the small, intimate environmate. It has nothing to do with intimacy (sorry honey) and everything to do with things being not too loud and the view being not too bad from a place where there is nobody sitting behind you (the back row) and the tickts are in the sub $10 range. I also have bad eyes, so I prefer a slightly slower game.

Tonight was a good game. There was drama-- early scoring, mascot screwing up the t-shirt gun-- action-- European NHL wussies don't fight 'cause they don't want to get hurt-- and the ritual taunting of the away team from an easily spotted section (listen for the boos when the refs first show up) at any minor league hockey arena best called "The Regulars."

The ritual taunting of the away team by The Regulars was actually deserved, in this case. I won't get into details, but here's a hint-- if you want to make the big time as a goalie, you can't do dumb things during away games like go smack the glass behind the net with your stick. The people back there will not stop hitting the glass, they will bother you more, and then you'll let a puck get by, get a tongue lashing form your coach, and just look like the dumb hockey player that you are. Smart sells in hockey, and riling up the fans doesn't even let you try to pass the "How many times in the interview can you say 'Uhh' between syllables?" test.

As for violence in hockey, let me take this chance to thank all of you who don't like hockey because of fighting and are idiots about the matter. I've heard many people who like watching many sports say "I don't like hockey because there's fighting" but I've never heard anyone say "Oh, hockey is so great, so if they would just fight less I would become interested and be a real fan."

You see my point? If you don't like hockey, just say so and leave it there. Don't use some pseudo-moral aspeect of the game as an excuse to make you seem less subjective. I don't like basketball, and that's because I don't like it. I'm not going to say all the stupid rationalizations like "the game always comes down to the end so why play it" or "the referee calls are so arbitrary" because those aren't the reasons why I don't like basketball. I simply don't like it. Likewise if you simply don't like hockey, just don't like it. Don't take an issue like fighting and then make hockey and hockey fans into mere issues of barbarism just so you can pat yourself on the back and feel justified of yourself for having a dislike.

Ain't This Risqué?

[censored] pointed out to me this stunning bit of, shall we say, art. Yes, curling and sensuality can indeed be combined. The nude female form, in black and white, on the curling rink.

Thank you [censored] for bringing this amusing product to my attention and getting me in trouble with my wife.

11 November 2005

Time Signatures

I know why 8/8 is different from 4/4. The question is, do you?

And no cheating by posting a comment if I told you about it in the past three weeks and that is how you know!

This only comes up because most people seem satisfied with the perfectly illogical answer of "The difference is that 8/8 is faster than 4/4." I mean, it is so obviously true that if you count half as many at a time but do it twice as fast, the counting must get done sooner-- not!

If you really mean there are twice as many notes so the beats go faster, then why is it that every high school band in America plays 8/8 measures faster? Why is it faster but not twice as fast? If beats are the fundamental unit and there are twice as many beats in a measure, shouldn't 8/8 be half as fast as 4/4? (Why don't the mathematicians and scientists and accountants even notice this option?) And for that matter, why do 8/8 classical songs sometimes go slower than songs in 4/4 by the same composer but not always half the speed? If 6/8 is faster then 3/4 then why do Viennese waltzes in 3/4 go faster then morals should allow youth to go? Because 6/8 would have been even faster and we don't want the basoonists wig to fall off? And if time signature is how you tell tempo, why is tempo usually given as a separate bit of notation, be it shards of Italian or a good old metronome mark? Are composers just idiots, or do they have reasons for doing things?

8/8 is faster. Bah-humbug! Quite frankly I'm sick of it. I mean, it is faster, but not for any reason that most people suspect, but even this is overridden by any tempo instructions, something any good composer provides. I didn't even know the difference until recently. There may be a convention that 8/8 is played faster in a few genres, but there is a more fundamental difference and I curse everyone who hid it from me for the past twenty years. Yes, I started reading music at the tender age of 5, and here I am, finally singing in a tux, and still learning about the frickin' time signatutes!!! Life is really too short for this sort of stupidity.

Music teachers lie. Evil people. Organized people, if they'd just bother to read a decent music theory book before blabbering about time signatures like they were the basis of tempo, but even then probably still evil. I had a bad experience with one once, so I'm probably biased.

Now musicians, those people I like. A lot. Especially conductors and composers.

Goat Cheese

The reason I haven't been posting anything much here recently is twofold.

First, nothing is getting my goat lately except some ID sttuff, and I've put up a voluntary hold on excessive blogging about the same thing over and over and over.

Second, and related to the first, I've been fighting illness and death. Actually, it hasn't been too bad. My wife got sick, and I have been feeling that fatigue that comes before the illness sets in, so I've been sleeping a lot. With more sleep comes less time to have my goat gotten (or got, in proper English).

Third, and honestly second, I've been doing some research. My computer simulations are telling me that the experiments are wrong. That means the simulations suck goats.

10 November 2005


The corn in Kansas will be exceptionally blessed this year.

(Confused? Read this. Every step I take towards promoting the Thinking Christian™ just gets knocked a furlong back when this man opens his mouth.)

08 November 2005

Pinnicale of Poultry Perfection

Turkey, roasted in the proper position (breast side down), and cooked half time covered and half time uncovered, basted twice, and with no coating but some olive oil and some salt and no herbs, vegetables, old bread, or spices.

That was dinner. In fact, it will be lunch, tomorrow's dinner, and a few more meals to come.

I was happy. So happy, in fact, that I had a triple helping and then some more for snack. I've never made turkey this well before.

My mom would be proud.

07 November 2005


More cold fusion.

The skeptical await more details.

Swashes and Buckles

Choral union rehearsals begin tomorrow for the Christmas vespers program. We'll be doing Byrd's Dona nobis pacem and a few segments from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, as well as one or two other tiny bits. The choir will be doing a few more songs on top of that, those poor souls. But one of the reasons that choral music works in these two groups is because our director is willing to let the people rise to the standards rather then lowering the standards to the people. It sounds kind of swashbukley, in a way that only choral directing can be swashbukley, but it works.

06 November 2005

On Myself

You'll probably wonder what I'm smoking when you think that the topic changes suddenly in a few moments, but by the time you get to the end you still won't understand but you'll know why I'm sounding weird. No drugs here, I'm high on life.

Adn for those of you who don't want to read a long, long statement of something person, you can just go away now. You'll just get diappointed in the end.

What is prayer? What is worship?

A simple answer is "Something I don't do often enough."

A long time ago, back during the spring, I wrote a blog post about how I don't much enjoy my church's music, I don't much like the way that my church restricts the word woship, whether they are trying or not, to singing, and how I'm rather bored with sermons. I've been getting the feeling that this might be going to far, though. Perhaps there's some positive in all of this that I'm missing, or that I should, at worst case, make up so that I don't implode on myself from trying to live a life without meaning.

This is all very cryptic, of course, but remember that what goes on inside my head is something that none of you see except when I choose to show it. I'm not a person who wears a facade, technically, because I don't actively coat myself with anything. I am a person who stays closed a lot, even from people best friends, my family, and my wife.

Think of it this way-- a person who puts up a facade paints a mural on their windows intending for you to get an impression that something completley different is happening inside than what is really there. A person who is closed simply shuts the blinds, locks the doors, and peeks out sometimes to say hello. The difficulty with this position is that people can't deal with it well (we live in an extroverted culture), so they take action. Some people assuem you'll open the door if they knock, and so they knock and knock and knock. That is tremendously irritating, so it never works. In fact, it can lead to facades, just to get rid of the person. Another thing that can happen is that people will assume they actually are seeing in the windows and then go from there. I don't know how they manage to project such images, but it's irritating. Irritation does not lead to openness, it leads to a facade, either by frlat-out painting an incorect picture to get rid of the person of just yelling from behind the shades to guide their delusion. Either one gets rid of the person, and the irritation goes along.

I'm coming to the conclusion that my attempt to sit still and only open up every now and again has possibly gone awry. Have I made too many facades? Have I done it without knowing it? Or has it been active? I don't think that there is anything wrong with some facades, like where you pretend to be interested in some non-leechy person who is hurting just to appease the person, encourage good feelings, and so on. It's not really a facade if you do fundamentally care about the person but jsut aren't interested in listening.

How far can the facades go before they can't be justified, though? I swear that I lead multiple lives, somehow, that combine in interesting ways. I'm different things to different groups of people. I have freinds who don't ever hear my conservative, evangelical protestant side. I have friends who never hear my librul rat bastard side. Some people have head me say nothing worse than crap, others have heard me address their sisters as if they were female dogs. Some people think I am very religious, some people think I'm merely spiritual, and a rare few don't even know for existence of a bushel. Is this a facade of apathy, tepidity, and so forth, that doesn't reflect what's really inside me?

I have friends who don't know about what I really think about so many things. In fact, it's a problem when even my wife doesn't know what I think. (We had a nice discussion recently over what I think about intelligent design, for example. She hadn't known what I thought until then.) Of course, it's not usually her fault that she doesn't know. She gets free range into more rooms of my allegorical house then anyone else gets, but she's not exempt from knocking turing to annoyance. My best and favorite friends don't get past where she gets. But has all of this formed any fake walls? Have I actively told even the closest peopel some lies jsut to get them off of my case? My wife is probably the only person who knows my allegorical house well enough to say that some of the rooms look out of proportion, and notice that there must be secret passageways and rooms. But she's wise to keep it to herself, as she often does, and I thank her for it. But do I ever take advantage and actively lie about the house?

I have friends who don't know about my heretical side, that whimsical place in my brain that asks questions just for the fun of answering them and the additionaly fun of getting other people to answer them. This year, I have been (or rather pretended to be) a non-practicing, non-lusting homosexual to explore what part of homosexuality is a sin. I've also developed a hypothesis that God the Father is two inches tall and lives in a cabinet above Jesus' fridge. I come up with all sorts fo crazy ideas, three quarters of which I never share with anyone. There are so many points to all of this nonsense, including hearing peopel's opinions, getting them to argue with each other so that you don't have to argue for yourself, and just the fun of getting people to react. But do I, in the process of being this way, actively put up facades, making people think that I am less serious than I really am, or more serious, or that I really think differently than I do?

You know what? I think in all cases the answer goes to the side of the facades. It's easy for me to lie. It's even easier for me to do it and not notice I'm doing it. I have wicked cool people manipulation skills and I am a master of deception. I'm not passive, I'm being active. That different people would see me as different things is not in doubt, but I don't need to encourage them to see me differently. Yet I do. I'm making facades somewhere. My closest friends and family are not exempt-- it happens on all levels.

For personality typing buffs, you know that it's very INTP to be a chemeleon. Hiding becomes a reflex. Unfortunately, a lot of hiding leads to trouble. For one, hiding gets lonely. Excape comes form being with small numbers of highly regarded people (I won't list the criteria). The INTP types tend to be extroverted amd childlike in these small social circles. Much that is normally hidden comes out, and that is so relaxing that it makes you feel nine years old again, and you want to make more come out to improve the good feelings that come. It's so much nicer than having people harass you, even if it does take so much of yoru time that you can't deal with even the simple things like praying or worshiping.

But then when you have to be with people who have bothered you, and for many INTPs bothering of even the most minute form is, for all practical purposes, hurtful, you clam up again. Better to stick to yourself. Wield, defend, hide! Bite your tongue, lest people know that you have feelings! Don't let them out because you don't understand them and you only say things that you understand! Don't let anyone see that your opinion is different, because you might not be able to defend it while destroing the opposition, and you don't want those mindless people, who are wrong, to think they won just because you shared your opinion and didn't defend it. (One of my peeves, really, but that's for another day.)

And if all else fails stop closing yourself. Just lie. Mislead. Build a facade. Tell people you are okay. Tell them you are no longer upset. If they don't go away tell them you were lying and that you are very upset. Don't reveal that you actually don't care and want them to just go away. Tell them that you care. Tell them that they are right. It makes them stop so that you can think, the most importnat activity in the world and the only thing to which open time with good friends is second. It's not a problem to have these facades. Facade maintanence is easy for one who gets a lot of practice. Building them becomes a macro. Build more and more and more... and sooner or later you might come to a place where there's no time for maintainece. It's easy work, but there's too much of it.

So, I'm thinking about making an internal resolution-- facade free Nate. Here on the blog you get less of a facade than in person, although there is a lot of intentional hiding. Of course, you won't see when the resolution is passed. It will follow the normal gauntlet of the mind. It wil get through, becase I'll eventually become determined.

But if it is passed you might see the results. Or I could just hide them and feel guilty, which might turn out to be easier.

And it might be until after then that prayer and worship get fit into the picture.

And maybe someday I'll spell check this post.

04 November 2005

STD, Anyone?

A Chicago Tribune editorial on STD vaccinations.

I don't know what I think about the subject, but I do have a comment.

The hepatitis B vaccine is not intended primarily as an STD vaccine. Public perception is a huge part of this. People get hepatitis B vaccinations often get the vaccine because they are told to do so (for school, work, and such). I know one person besides myself who elected to have the vaccine, and when we made our choice we were told that sexual activity is a transmission pathway but the main focus was on all of the possible non-sexual paths to infection.

I'm not trying to say that hepatitis B is not an STD. I am trying to say that many people, even health workers, do not think about it as one. We need to solve this dilemma before we can go on to use hepatitis B as an example, and it comes up every time, in discussions about STD vaccination.

The Same Old Problems

See June 17, 2005.

Same problem, now resurfacing after being brushed off for a few months. The interesting thing about this problem? Everyone with whom I discuss it says that the solution to the quandry must be "easy," but not a single one of them has given an idea that actually works. (This is near the top of my definition of idiot.) And I know that they don't work because I'm so depressed about it that I've actually tried them....

03 November 2005


It's a wonder to me that Catholics complain about "division" among protestents. Why? Because when I have a question about Catholic beliefs and I ask my Catholic friends, I can't get a consistent answer. But it's not simply a matter of Catholics being theologically lazy (although many of them, like many protestants, are). As one of my Catholic friends put it, the doctrines of the church often depend on who is doing the preaching. I've never bothered talking to the Catholic priests myself, but he has had extensive dealing with them so I will take his word for it.

Now you might object that I'm not being fair because questions don't all have easy answers, and by and large the church has multiple beliefs that can all be considered doctrinally correct. That's fine, and it's the same way with protestants. But those aren't the questions I'm talking about. I'm not talking about social issues, politics, and the like. I'm talking about doctrines, such as things about the nature of God, humans, scriptures, and the afterlife.

Some Catholics tell me that people are inheirently good because they are made in God's image, others tell me that humans are inheirently bad because they are fallen and so humans need mercy and grace from God. Those can't both be correct, can they? Likewise, my Catholic friends seem to have three different opinions on what books constitute the Holy Canon; the protestant Bible is agreed upon by all, but different ones of the apocryphal books get included or left out. How can "the" Canon be more than one thing? Every Catholic I know knows that the Catholic church restricts birth control, but most of them don't have a clue about whether or not the Church teaches that Hell is a place.

Of course, whenever I bring this up with my Catholic friends, they decide to set be straight, and then they go on to tell me the way things are. But this is "are" according to that individual, and so the setting straight seems to constantly set me in a different directions as I talk to different people.

Anyway, I bring this up because I have solved a problem. One thing that I, protestant boy, have always wanted to know is "Do Catholics believe in Purgatory?" That's obviously the wrong question, because half of my friends say Catholics do and the other half say that Catholics don't. Projecting my meager sample, half of all Catholics believe in Purgatory, question answered. So the question that I really want to have answered is "According to the doctrines of the Catholic church, does Purgatory exist?"

I've found an answer. The answer is yes, purgatory exists. What is it? See page 75 of the Vatican II documents-- "The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed. In fact, in purgatory the souls of those who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions, are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt."

Closer to our time, in the bull Incarnationis Mysterium, John Paul II wrote "every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the 'temporal punishment' of sin."

Let's not misinterpret another thing John Paul II said at an audience in August 1999. I summarize-- Purgatory is not a place. In fact, I heard this said before John Paul II said it. Purgatory is not a place. Right after John Paul II said (what amounts to) this, though, that he said that it is a state of life that happens after the one we are in now. In Purgatory, God's love and whatever-it-is coexist with the soul until it is free of blemish. So saying Purgatory is not a place does not mean that Purgatory doesn't exist. The doctrine states that it exists but we just can't say, physically, where. This matches with the words of the Council of Florence, which declared that souls in Purgatory are "cleansed by the punishment of Purgatory." It does not say "in Purgatory."

My conclusion is that Catholics do, or rather should, believe in Purgatory.

Before you throw too many fits about me villianizing Catholics, I'd like to point out that I'm not. Most of them don't talk about their faith, but some do, and when they do it is often at times that are quite effective for learning a lot about what they believe from as few words as possible. They display an economy of words that is better than a lot of protestants that I know.

Also, not all Catholics who I know complain about protestants being nonunified, but some do. I'm happier with the ones who don't complain because they have reality correct. On paper, the Catholics are unified, but in reality they are not-- there are various groups with different beliefs that violate the beliefs. Protestants have unification neither on paper nor in reality. I think that the reality is better than the paper.

First Things, October 2005

The October issue of First Things contains this article by Stephen Barr. Written from a Roman Catholic perspective, this article has some things to say to everyone. A good read for you folks who think about origins, theology, and philosophy of science.

In the same issue there is a review of Mark Noll's new book.

01 November 2005

A New Look

There's a new look happeneing around here. Anybody like it?