My Zunivers

30 October 2007

Is This Stoopit?

I'm not going to comment on the content of the article, which is about whether or not the government is right to ask honor guards at military funerals not to recite the "meaning" of the folds of the flag. (I will comment on the "meaning" of the folds-- I'm sick of people who do not realize it was an after-the-fact symbolism, not the reason why we fold the flag the way we do, and is not part of the flag code.) I do, however, want to point out this little bit (you'll need ot read the article to understand the context; I had to read it twice.)

Rabbi Yitzhak Miller of Temple Beth El said he understands the ban.

"It is a perfect example of government choosing to ignore religion in order to avoid offending some religions," Miller said. "To me, ignoring religion in general is just as problematic as endorsing any one religion."

Um, what's this? I see him saying "The ban is making the situation have no religion at all so no single religion is offended. That's got as many problems as endorsing a religion." I don't see him understanding it. Of course, this is Fox News, so anyone who isn't a God-loving evangelical American is wrong. Best make sure that no matter what those Jews say, it's against what God fearing Christians should say.

Is Fox News being Stoopit, or am I missing something?

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28 October 2007

Well, That's Over

The concerts are now over. That means, of course, that I'm now stuck in post-concert depression. I'll bounce back eventually, but that doesn't make me feel better now. Sigh. I'll just be over here sulking with Simon and Garfunkel.

We sang better tonight than last night, even the sopranos. It turns out that TBLitDPwSSS had on a different dress tonight, so I've officially given up on her wardrobe and must call her TBL. Sadly, TBL didn't give up on her wardrobe in my presence, which was unfortunate, although she did seem to miss covering a good bit of her upper front. For my wife's sake, I point out that TBL did not kiss me. We did exchange words of a pleasant sort backstage, however, so I'm sure that I'm in serious trouble. I'm probably in more trouble because I can't tell you what kind of look TBL had on her eyes. My eyes were drifting... um... south.

I get a few more weeks with this choir, and then I'm probably actually done with them for real. Sadness. These sorts of choirs don't exist everywhere, and have I ever mentioned that I absolutely love the director?

By the way... there are a few times I've said to people "I sang Beethoven's Missa Solemnis," and they've said "No, way!" Tonight, looking for a picture of TBL, who I could not find, I came across this piece of photographic evidence that I did indeed sing the Missa Solemnis. TBL was not there. Actually, there is no proof of the choir singing in that picture, but you can infer it.

[Edit: I thought to myself "That picture must be from near the end of the piece. Soloists but no violins." Then I looked at the EXIF data. The camera's time puts toward the end. That totally creeps me out.]

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27 October 2007

Little Bits

I've been kind of boring lately. Sorry about that. My life is sort of an apathetic lump right now, and most of what I am thinking about is stuff that nobody wants to hear me think about again. In fact, many of my regular readers from the past two years have basically stopped reading, that's how sad I am. So, to continue giving you nothing, here is what you get from me tonight....

Tonight's concert was almost nice. Almost. That little three quarters of a beat behind for a while thing wasn't so hot. That ones's going to get us a lecture tomorrow. It's so easy to fall behind in that piece because the tempo isn't matched with the intuitive rhythm you get rounding out the beautiful German words. The small miniscule audience was not terribly stirring. And my tuxedo smells like butts to me. Everyone else says it stenches of Febreze. It darn well should. Most of that basically empty bottle has been sprayed on it over the past two years.

The stage manager told us a classic joke--

A C, an E-flat, and a G walked into a bar. The bartender said "We don't serve minors here!" so the E-flat went home and the C and G shared a fifth.

That, my friends, is class. It is on the level of "Old chemists don't die, they just stop reacting," but it's class. Classy jokes can always be transposed. That's the key to success with musical humor, anyway.

One final note, the soloist is no longer the Tall Blonde Lady in the Shiny Green Alligator Dress. TBLitSGAD is now the Tall Blond Lady in the Dark Purple with Silver Sequins Set. Perhaps tomorrow I'll get to snog TBLitDPwSSS.

On the subject of the kid, I didn't spend much time with her today. I doubt she's changed much. I should get another picture of her on Facebook, which is where I put any pictures that I do post. I did change a diaper today. Oh, and get this-- she was tired enough this evening that she actually leaned her head on me for a while without screaming. She would only do it while I was singing quietly, though. Having sung my little heart out earlier in the evening, my laryngical phlegm coat was already in place and I didn't have much quiet singing left in me.

On the subject of my feet, Gimpy's little toenail was ripped off by the base of my kid's swing this evening. Lucky for me, Gimpy's little toenail does not actually touch the nail bed. The nail tore down to about 1/10mm in length. Hopefully it will grow back nicely, like it usually does when this sort of thing happens. Both of my feet were quite okay hanging out in their dress shoes tonight, too. They only get to do that a few hours a few times a year.

On knitting, it's not exactly the most interesting thing to do. I can do it for a few minutes at a time, though. As my hands get practice, I'm sure it will become more bearable.

I told someone I would do something on Sunday. I have no idea who it was or what I said I'd do.

The heat is now on in our building. I know this because it is hot in here without the heater on. You know how I get to cool the apartment below us all summer? I also get to bleed off their fricking excess heat all winter. I have to do that to keep the bedroom warm enough. I'll let someone come along and tell me how little sense that makes instead of explaining it again. I have to explain that one multiple times per year to the same people.

I want to take a road trip. I want to go somewhere that is not here, and spend time doing something that is not nothing. I don't want to visit people, I want to visit places and have experiences. I nearly pulled a Rabbit the other night. (You'll need to read the first few pages of Rabbit, Run to understand.) I turned around at the intersection of I-80 and I-476, although it would have been fun enough to drive to New York or Michigan or Colorado or something more exciting. I think I'm proving that somewhere inside I'm a helpless romantic. I should write music or something.

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26 October 2007

Election '08

Since nobody reads This Party anymore, I figured I'd post this here. This Party will probably get itself up and running come late fall, because those of us who contribute to This Party understand that election season really begins around Thanksgiving before the leap year, not around Thanksgiving the year after the leap year. That and we need more contributers. (Mister guy who I was best man for, I have my eye on you.)

Anyway, related to the primary elections next spring, I have dropped my guys into the sidebar of this blog. Mock me all you want. I'd vote for either one. Honestly, however, I think that this is really going to be a hair election. Let's survey the top candidates--

Mitt Romney is a thumb pointer, but that is more than displaced by his being both a Mormon and charismatic. He undeniably has the best hair among all of the candidates from both parties.

John Edwards is a close second on hair, but he's got the same chance of getting the Democtaric nomination as my left foot. Brother actually is a Democrat, but he's not the type people vote for, especially people who find out that he is close to Gimpy.

Hillary Clinton has crappy hair.

While Imus and I might disagree about what to flippantly call Barack Obama's hair, we might agree that he will only win the nomination if Hillary comes in third in Iowa and throws a screaming hissy fit.

Rudy Giuliani, well, he really seems to have more ears than hair.

In my opinion, no hair is better than crappy hair, and the best hair makes the best looking photo ops. So, come November, I'll probably choose the Republican candidate.

Like I said, a hair election. Not hairy, just hair.

Until then, we can hope that Americans under the age of thirty can get their heads out of their political anuses and get down to having a say in government. That I know people who ask on the first Monday of November "Which one dis that guy say I should press, the one that says Republican or the one that says Democrat?" makes me unhappy. That I know people who are amused that I've written to my congressmen makes me peeved. That I know scientists-to-be who think it's funny that I've been to Capitol Hill to talk to powerful people about science funding just makes me sick.

Seriously, kids. Turn off the TV, close AIM, put down the online petitions, step away from your favorite candidate's MySpace page, and get yourselves involved. Don't ask how, because you know that I mean "in the traditional grassroots ways that-- horror that previous generations could be so wise-- actually work."

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Speaking of Babies

My kid hates me. It's been almost a week since she smiled at me. My every grin is met with a wail. She will sit in my hands one way without screaming, and that only for a few minutes. Otherwise it's "Waaaaah! Waaaaah!" punctuated by some "Wah! Wah! Wah!" and occasionally the slightly amusing sounds of a crying child temporarily choking on her own drool.

This is probably all fair, because I do lots of things to annoy her. I blow on her face, turn her into a hat (a trick I learned in a parenting book I've been reading), bounce her up and down on my knee, change her clothing... Playing with toys can become fun for the first three to five minutes, after which hiccups always begin. Hiccups last fifteen to thirty minutes. While they used to make the kid scream after a while, she's decided to just get it over with and start screaming right away. I swear I'm going to start feeding her Tums one of these days.

She does like being bounced around in my hands as long as she is not facing downwards. By "like" I mean "disorientation from loss of balance wins over the urge to scream and silences the baby." Yes, that's a pretty utilitarian definition. Deal with it like I deal with 90 decibels of "Help me I'm dying" screamed at me in two month old talk all the time-- bounce it facing any direction but downward. Facing downwards when being bounced is out because it absolutely terrifies the child. By "terrifies" I mean "the urge to scream wins over the disorientation and screaming intensifies." You can turn whimpers into a cry-fest by bouncing her facing downwards.

About the only time she settles down is when I change her diaper. Not to be gross, but I'd probably calm down if someone grabbed my legs and scrubbed my sensitive parts with a wipe, too. For some reason when my butt needs a cleaning and I'm feeling horny my wife tells me to take a shower.

Actually, there's another reason why all of this is fair. I was a difficult child. I still am. Such is my lot in life.

This week I did get some fun out of the whole thing. The kid was sitting on my lap continually smacking herself in the face. There is nothing better in parenthood than not having to annoy your baby because she is busy annoying herself.

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Speaking of Math

My friends are happily multiplying. I hope they continue to do so, too. If not, my kid will end up running the world, and even if she is the only one left I can assure you that you don't want that.

Anyway, my hat off to the parents to soon be!


25 October 2007

The Final Word

Today I finally reached a level plane in my opinion on math, saying "Mathematics is like Alanis Morisette: It is beautiful but I don't see it." I think that about sums it up.

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23 October 2007

Weekend Stuff and Other

I had beef! Lots of beef! There were days upon days worth of London broil sandwiches! Friends made steak! Sunday lunch was at the steak buffet! It wasn't busy so they let me have two at once! Mooooo! Now I need to eat veggies for a month to lower my cholesterol from walking dead back down to horrendous.

The demon dog started leaving me alone. I will not share my secrets. In fact, I point you to the fifth amendment of the U. S. Constitution. I did get back on speaking terms with her by offering her some meat and tending to her water bottle.

My younger sister in law and I spent an hour and a half or so freezing our tooshies off out in the driveway in the middle of the night this weekend. We had excellently clear skies for the Orionid meteor shower. There's nothing like lying supine on cold asphalt freezing off your tooshie to help you bond with your younger sister in law. We discussed why math sucks, literature courses and authors, and some oddities of the other siblings. As a secondary effect, we also got to see a couple dozen meteors, several quite bright.

My younger brother in law and I spent some time swapping stories of living it up at college. He is a freshman this year at a midwestern college of the more conservative then I would go to sort, and he has found, as I did, a niche market among Christian college students for an awkward homeschooled guy to corrupt everyone's virgin ears. This is useful, because nudity seems to be the way the public school guys and missionary kids go. Anyway, we sat entertaining ourselves with all sorts of hilarious things, including some old SNL sketches such as this one. I remember when I was in college and we made fun of that one. "What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck and I can't remember how it ends, but your mother's a whore." Funny stuff there. We also went to Wal-Mart to pick up something for the dorm-- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the collector's edition with bonus features and 24 additional seconds of footage).

I discovered that there are two basic stitches useful in knitting, which I call the forward kind and the backward kind. The backward kind seems to only work one way, but the forward kind works two ways. Odd. I also found that if I alternate the two I get this lovely stuff that looks like the stuff of a nice sweater! It's hard to keep the tension even, however. I'm sure Judy could tell me names for these things and how to fix them. I'm just happy to have figured them out.

The white thing is growing with every new moment wasted. A whole row of stitches takes about two minutes tops. Although it resembles a crappy scarf, it is just a white thing-- an object of art. You can see the human condition when you look at it. I swear. Sure, you see a lot of white yarn, but there's human condition in there somewhere. I will hang it on the wall when I finish.

A bunch of random stuff just fell behind the desk. I hope none of it was important.

My food is still downstairs in another apartment. I do have a key. This should end in a few days when the replacement fridge comes.

My sister and I are both liberal nutcases. Even so, we have concerts this weekend. It's like $18 a pop for grown ups, but you get lots for your money! Mahler the stiff! Mahler the tart! Mendelssohn-Bartholdy! Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Hansel! Schumann! Schumann! Even some Bach and Brahms! We've got orchestras and men singing and women singing, and the return of the Tall Blonde Lady in the Shiny Green Alligator Dress! Will TBLitSGAD kiss her way through the baritones? Will the new young mother be there to beat TBLitSGAD for it? Will the new faculty member and TBLitSGAD get along? Will the soprano sister stay out of it? This dramatic affair! It isn't what a ticket will get, but sneaking backstage might give you firsthand answers to these questions and more. Oh, and they need to shoot whoever made the seating chart. Seriously.

You have thousands of miles of blood vessels in your body.

Baptists aren't that bad when they sing the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies during the sermon. They' re then just a bit bad.

My fish survived a few days home alone. I stuffed him to the gills before we left. Literally.

This is my 777th post.

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20 October 2007

My Day

I'm in Maryland.

My food is not in my apartment. We had to move it downstairs to the vacant apartment. Our fridge conked on Thursday, you see. We called the management and they are dealing with it. The management where we live is spectacularly good at getting things done. I think God is punishing me for buying ice cream and snacks at the store even though I'm unemployed. Either that or he's getting me for being an intellectual, or for being an old-earth creationist.

Oh, yeah, young earth creationists. In an announcement e-mail, my pastor was totally excited about last weekend. You know, the thing I spewed about like I have not recently spewed? I made a comment to my pastor about how he shouldn't be so happy about the event of last weekend. He wrote back and said he was shocked that I would make such a statement after not being there, because I'm interested in the subject and objective. I didn't know where to start except to tell him that I had no appreciation for "you didn't see it, so you don't know anything about it" mentality. Does that make any sense? Dumb butt. To make myself feel better, I wrote myself a nice critique of one of the visitor's articles. Next time I find a church, I'm finding a pastor who can rub his brain cells together. This one could, he just doesn't.

Being in Maryland, I'm having to deal directly with Satan. Satan is currently in the form of a cockapoo. Stupid dog. My brother in law and I are both about to kill it. I nearly boxed her ears earlier. Even though we have 198% enough gumption to kill the thing she remains alive because neither of us is over %100 angry. I think that the possession is making a mind-altering field that is keeping us below the threshold. Satan sucks. If she gives me one more bit of late-night trouble, she's going into my parents in law's bed. Or into her crate and then placed on the left lane of some remote stretch of I-70.* Sort of like Jesus with the possessed man, but this time instead of setting up a ol' time pig drownin' I'll be setting up a real life remake of Duel with a truck truly posesed. Well, maybe I will. Jesus was a lot more sure he could get such things to work than I can be. But if it works, take that Steven Spielberg, and give me your money.

Large amounts of cow abounded for dinner. There was a huge London broil cut. I convinced everyone to just grill the thing outside even though it might rain. Fun. It was very tasty.

Tomorrow, we are probably going to go visit some people we know. Hopefully our crazy front brakes will not cause a problem. If they so much as start, this car is getting wheel area surgery of a major sort.

I didn't get nearly enough time with the kid today.

[*You know I don't kill dogs, I hope. I prefer to give them to competent owners.]

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17 October 2007

I Am Male

On tonight's shopping expedition, I came home with one of the manliest tools ever made and that with which it is used. If you said a chainsaw and gasoline, you're wrong! You do have a good idea for a cool autumn afternoon, though.

Instead of those pussy little toys, I brought home what really is the manliest thing ever invented-- knitting needles and a big ball of cheap-o yarn. This is allowing me to delight myself with one of the manliest pursuits ever invented-- forming a bad looking, uneven white thing a few inches wide and as long as I bother to make it. Fun in a bucket! I never knew I could kill time in this way! No flowers or frilly stuff for me. We're talking all manly all the time with the bad looking, uneven white thing on tap.

Somebody tell Mr. Cummings that I now see his point, and apologize on my behalf for losing his e-mail address.

Size 10 needles have turned out to be just about right for practice with cheap-o yarn, but I realized after a row or two that real men should use a size 6 or 4 to turn cheap-o yarn into truly cool bad looking, uneven white things. Keep that in mind when you go shopping, gentlemen.

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16 October 2007

Oversimplified Political Crap

Reading the New York Times the other day, I came across this opinion piece by James Dobson. I was a little disturbed, mostly because, as those of you in evangelical circles know, Dobson is an Authority who people Listen To.

Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent or the other leaders gathered in Salt Lake City, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.

The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.

Okay, let's ignore the whole "speaking personally" part, which is more about his organization's non-profit status than about reminding people that he's just one man. I find this contrast to be curious. One approach he puts forward is to vote based on morals, specifically the standard talking-head evangelical set but allowing for others. The other option is to vote based on who will win. That last one seems a bit misguided, but could mean two things. He could be saying that we do not pick a candidate just to beat the opposition, morals be pooped. This assumes a Christian party, though. On the other hand, he could be saying don't personally vote for people just because they will win.

My problem comes from this thing about the other option-- "the" is Dobson's word, not mine. Apparently he is setting up some kind of dichotomy here, but I see no basis for it. I think that there could be reasons to vote for a candidate that are amoral in the sense that the people who Listen To him would think, but they are not about electability either. The economy, for example? Foreign relations? The environment? Even if those do have a moral component, the kinds of people who Listen To the likes of Dobson are the kind who laugh at those things as concerns for liberals, intellectuals, and other non-Christians.

Dobson could be correct on some level, technically. What makes me sad, however, is that anyone who would take him seriously is probably only going to read this shallowly, taking away from the essay that Christians must vote based on candidate's views of abortion, gay marriage, and family values. I'm even cynical enough to think that was Dobson's intent.

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In Which I Really Go Off to Blow a Lot of Steam

I didn't get to church on Sunday to hear the Guest Speaker, who was supposedly preaching sermon on what I assumed would be things related to the book of Genesis that I think shouldn't be preached. Call me silly, but I like to save souls with truth, not horrible logic related to how the earth is young and science doesn't work. These people don't seem to realize that among Christians who are scientists, it's the anti-science part that gets us fuming and not the rest of their message. That and the fact that some professor at Podunk Christian U. will always carry more weight than a hundred real scientists, because he must be an authority because he Toes the Party Line.

Instead of going to an event of such sad potential, I took a few hundred pictures of helicopters and got minor sunburn.

Anyway, my wife was trying to summarize the sermon for me, and I was less than impressed. It didn't sound like a sermon, but more like a "wow the people with pictures and numbers" session. Seriously. There was a lot more elementary school science in there than there was theology, and the Bible made some passing appearances to ornament it all. There was so much simple science, in fact, that any reader who was there and was impressed should stop being impressed and consider that they've forgotten so much since elementary school. If it's really that great then why did you forget it? Okay, that's a little harsh, because you might not have learned it. If you didn't, sue your school. And make sure to be at least as wowed when I tell you about what I do for a living. Oh, wait, what I do isn't cool enough to get me an hour behind the pulpit at our church. Never mind, then.

I summarized back my wife's report in one statement, and my summary made her get a look of horror on her face. "You can-not post that in your blog!" she said. "Why not?" I asked. She said it was offensive or something. I said I'd verify the contents of the sermon with my sister. Apparently I had it pegged.

Now, with knowledge that I was correct, and with the full lack of permission form my wife, I give you my title for the sermon--

Third Grade Science, and Mr. Tinky Reads the Bible

If Mr. Tinky really makes you so happy, buy some learn-to-read books and sit around rocking a lot. You probably need it. And for goodness sakes, don't ask my why I think what I think. If it's not good enough to be preached in our church then it must be wrong, and you won't have a fecking clue anyway. If you did, you wouldn't have been to church on Sunday either.

There, I said it. Now I feel better about this moronic event and everyone who thought it would be so great.

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13 October 2007

Some Stuffs

My proposal got approved, so now even if I don't get that job that my wife has been talking to everyone about, I can feel happy that I've hoodwinked someone into thinking I know what I'm doing. My adviser's congratulations told me that using paper to convince other people that you know about something you don't have a clue about is the definition of proposal writing.

TV is boring on Fridays in my apartment. So boring that I hate it. A lot. Thursdays are fun again, however, thanks to a new season of This Old House starting up. It's a really neat house for the first time in a while.

I made Jello tonight for the first time since... high school. It is setting up in the fridge. Double strength sugar free. If I had a couple more boxes, I'd make them for tomorrow. Maybe nice shallow sheets, rolled up with artificial dairy whip and sliced into little pinwheels. More on pinwheels later.

My sister and I made chicken for dinner. We took chicken breasts, stuffed them with cheddar cheese, coated them, fried their outsides, and baked them until crispy. It worked way too well. Next time I think the filling will be a mush made of mushrooms, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. After that, I'll find some Chinese or Indian variant. This could get way too exciting. I'm thinking of getting a meat tenderizing mallet so I can smash chicken breasts or beef into thin sheets to roll with goop, like my mom used to. On an unrelated note, we are planning to make chicken soup Saturday evening. I'm thinking a whole roaster or two, some carrots, some celery, and a bag of potatoes. We might need to borrow a stock pot from someone.

My wife has been having a fever. She insists that she has influenza. I pointed out the unlikeliness of that, due to time of year and lack of respiratory symptoms. She thinks I'm telling her she's not sick. I did tell her that she didn't have a fever, when the thermometer said that her temperature was low. I never said there was nothing wrong. In fact, I said that I hate these cheap digital thermometers because they suck, and I want a nice mercury model. Somehow, I'm in trouble about this, which proves to me even more that she is sick.

Choir rehearsal tomorrow, 10:00 to 3:00. I need to get to bed, don't I? I should have asked my sister if she could come over here, so we could save gas.

Gas. The kid has a lot. She has become interactive, a bit, thankfully. She now has more modes than On, Off, and Poop. These include I Will Cry Unless I'm Sitting Up, I Want To Play With a Toy, I Want a Pacifier, Lets Make Silly Faces at Each Other, and Hang Me in a Sling So I Can Rest. She no longer thinks that Diaper Changes and the Carseat are The Most Horrible Things Ever. Every day I tell her that I love her, and that the reason why I love her is that she is the fruit of my loins, plucked from her mother's. This horrifies my lady relatives, who fear she might learn to repeat it someday. I hope the kid is still saying it to her friends when she's twelve. I hope even more that she says it in Sunday School when she's five.

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11 October 2007

Hermeneutics Rant

This post might tell you something about how I approach theology. If that bores you, forget about it. And, thinking about it, it might be more of a rant about debate then about hermeneutics.

I've recently been looking at some articles on some theological points, and doing some talking to people about them. It truly tends to be talking to rather than with, which is what I'm here to talk about. There is one thing that I'm constantly bumping up against that grates me a lot. I'm sure one of you scholarly types can come up with some name for it, but for now let me call it the "That's One Way" principle. This has a really specific meaning that I'm probably not going to explain quite well enough, but I hope you can catch my thought.

The "That's One Way" principle manifests itself in people hearing an interpretation of a biblical text, and then upon facing to the conclusion they hear saying something like "That is true, in one interpretation of the text." Call me whatever the opposite of Barth is, but I have some issues with this kind of comment. My issue is not that it is never a true statement. It can probably be true. Rather, my issue is in the use of that statement. Specifically, using that statement neither invalidates the interpretation it is mentioning nor validates another interpretation. The statement is made as an end, and it does end progress in the discussion. I do not, therefore, see any point in using it. I'm probably confusing life with a place where people learn all the time, but it is how I feel.

Let me give you an example of a situation where it bothers me a little, and specifically one where I've been hearing it a lot.* I've taken a fancy to pointing out to people that plain reading of Genesis 1 and 2 tells two stories of creation that conflict with one another. Look, one of them says plants, animals, man, but the other says man, plants, animals. All I'm saying is that they are out of order. I find others who say it too. The responses are sometimes at least an attempt to explain, things like "Well, maybe chapter 2 is a local story and chapter 1 is a global story." I disagree, because while interesting it is not a plain reading, but let's go on.

The other response is the "That's One Way" principle, which says "Well, they are in conflict, in one interpretation. But there are other interpretations too. We're not going to talk about those, except that the fact that they exist means it's perfectly okay for me, without argument, to not accept the point you're making and believe what thing I'm thinking and not saying." As I said, I'm annoyed that the idea of someone having just one interpretation being the end of the argument, rather than a statement that there is debate to be had and then getting to it. "That's One Way" almost always comes from people who are making a stand different form the one they are commenting on. As a turning point before describing their own stand and getting down to the nitty-gritty of which idea is right or if they can be true at the same time, the "That's One Way" comment is fine. Using "That's One Way" as a point of argument rather than as a rhetorical change of subject, however, smacks of either "Who cares what it really means" or, "Well, it can mean that, but it can mean something else that I think" or even worse, "It means what you said, and something else too."

The first I don't like because is smacks of willful ignorance. Sure, you might not care, but can we play a game and pretend you do? I'm unsatisfied with the second option. What I'm talking about here is when that option comes naked, the "something else" never disclosed, discussed, or demonstrated and certainly no banging against the original idea. The third option bothers me because I'm just not that detached from reality. Of course "That's One Way" is not only said quite like those things. It can wear different hats that amount to those things, adn can be thought or implied without being stated.

One prime example is when people in Sunday School are discussing a verse in the Bible and don't have a good teacher. Confusion erupts over what the verse means as read from the teacher's Bible. Someone pipes up and says "My Bible says _____ instead." The teacher is now flabbergasted because that's not what his notes say. Two translations might use different words because the translations break up the sentences differently, but he doesn't realize that the two passages say the same thing when you stop dealing in verses, an organizational imposition not in the originals, and deal with complete thoughts. Instead of immediately encouraging people to read the whole appropriate chunk-- the right paragraphs, if the translations broke those the same way-- to iron out the sentence split and see that both versions say the same thing, the leader sits befuddled while the guy with the King James Bible says "But mine says _____." The teacher is now so confused that if he even knew that the KJV had an intentional mistranslation there on the king's orders, he doesn't recall it.

Hermeneutically nasty things then hit the fan. What looks like debate breaks out, usually involving only cross references, study Bible notes that conflict all around, and, if an engineer is present, a quick word study that everyone else ignores. It's not debate, it's everyone saying their idea is right and not engaging the other ideas, or even looking at the question really is and how to get to an answer. At the end of the class, the only conclusion anyone left in the class has is "Well, this is what the verse means to me." While the differences are usually not as stark as someone thinking God is male, someone thinking God is genderless two inches tall, and someone thinking God is a My Little Pony so he must be a she, it can often be half that bad. When I observe these sorts of sessions, I don't even try to interfere. Not usually having the clout of the teacher, my pleas for trying to figure out what the verse says by trying another means are usually hit over the head by a tangent from Scofield or two different translations of a verse from the other testament, and a whole lot of emotion that amounts to "Well, that's your interpretation."

People, and by that I mean people who think that there is history to be learned from the Bible but who like to say that some idea is just one interpretation, there are times that you can't just pick and choose whatever interpretation you want. Well, you can, because you can believe anything, but you won't be connecting to truth with every choice. You can tell by looking at any question whether it can be answered many ways or if it really has one answer to be found somehow. Consider answering a question like "How did the world get to be the way it is today?" Make up all the ideas you want, concoct all the interpretations of Genesis that you want, the world got here somehow, not a lot of conflicting somehows. It happened one way, not whatever way you get out of your analysis of the question. If the Bible is giving history on the matter, then there is an interpretation that will give you that history.**

On Genesis, the crux of the argument from people who point out the conflict is one of interpretation. If there is a very plain conflict answering that question from the Bible, therefore there isn't a plain answer coming from the Bible. When there is no conflict on something, we can take it. Both chapters say God did it, so the Bible says that. God created Adam in both stories, so the Bible says that. Only chapter 2 says that Adam was made from the dust of the ground, so we can even take that because there is no conflict. Chapter 1 puts a lot of things on "days" while chapter 2 doesn't, so if we have to take "days" (we have, by way of the Hebrew word translated as day having its length come from context, no way of knowing if it means 24 hour days, however). But chapter 2 says God made man, then plants, and then animals. Chapter 1 says something different. God made those things in both stories, but the difference in order means that we need to go elsewhere in the Bible or nature to find the ordering because Genesis 1 and 2 do not say what order the things were made in. It could be that one of those orderings is true and the other isn't, or that both are wrong. That's not the point. The point is that we need to go elsewhere to figure it out. Why would something wrong be said? I don't know. Generally the Bible is consistent on things that actually matter, so we can at least maybe decide that nothing matters.

I don't hold anything in the previous paragraph up for defense here. Do with it what you will. My point in giving it is that when you go through that kind of process, there is thinking going on. You cannot argue against that thinking or support other thoughts by simply saying "That's one way of interpreting the text." You actually need to argue against the thoughts, or present new ones.

So, my friends, what I'm really asking you to do is to think. Pit idea against idea. Do what I do and smash them around like a Hot Wheels demolition derby. Make them say vroom! But point towards getting some truth, not just ignoring the subject or making your point.

Of course, there is one place where you can have multiple interpretations and still be thinking quite well. What I was talking about with Genesis was an example where the question has only one answer. There are times when a question has a lot of answers. How do you feel when you read Psalm 42? What did you learn form the story of Jonah? Do you get scared when you read Revelation? You can think really deeply and creatively, come up with an answer different from your neighbor, and still have gained something valuable. Why? Because your answering questions that have more than one answer. "This is what it means to me" is fine when what a passage means does not affect what it says about external reality. If what you learned drifts to places where there is only one answer, like "Did Jonah really live in the whale?" then when you say yes and your neighbor says no, someone is wrong. But if Revelation scares you and Revelation makes your neighbor joyful, kudos to you for taking time to explore. This is "That's One Way" manifesting itself in a good way-- "I Got Something Different" in a place where the presence of a difference isn't changing some universal reality. Even better, it's "That's One Way" without the offhanded discounting of what other people say.

In the end, my main point is to always check your questions so that you know what type of answer you should need. If "That's One Way" can't answer the question, drop it and go for answers. You'll be better off for it. And remember, you can't always check your questions if your brains are checked at the door.

I see now that I am confusing life with aplace where people learn all the time. Oh, well.

[*An example I am not discussing here where I see the "That's One Way" principle applied a lot is in the good old free will versus predestination debates, which I haven't been looking at recently but I have looked at deeply. I think that Genesis as literal history is a better example. I can rant about it knowing that most of my readers rank it pretty low on their lists of things in Christianity that matter as part of the religion, who know that I agree on that, and thus who won't be personally offended if I end up wagging a very limp finger at them.]

[** You know, there are people who disagree with this. They think things like the past really did happen multiple ways. If that's you, fine. I'm only here to rant about people who time after time seem like they want to know the truth but suddenly get to a particular argument and act like any old idea is equally fine, just so that they can mistake saying that there are multiple arguments for actually joining the argument.]

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09 October 2007

I'm Laughing

I just think this is funny. My apologies to the offended.

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Speaking of eBay

I recently told someone that I can never find anything I want on eBay. It happened again tonight. Apparently good deals on windshield washer fluid tanks aren't just falling out of the sky for me.

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Calling You Know Who You Are

The rest of you know you aren't called, because you don't know what I'm talking about, so don't answer my questions.

What do you think of Rob Bell and Mars Hill? I'm curious, because some of it hits me as good and some doesn't. I feel the same about the criticisms I find, with some of it sounding solid and some of it sounding like a complete misunderstanding.


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04 October 2007

Academic Sanctuary

I was pleased that once again a court has refused to stick its nose in academic affairs. Read about it here.

This sort of thing is bittersweet news for those of us who have to or want to deal with students. On the one hand, you're pretty safe giving out a grade as long as you do it the same way for everyone and you do not change your system in weird ways. Discrimination, or the appearance of discrimination, against an individual or cohort can get you in trouble, but being a tough or quirky grader probably will not. On the other hand, there are people in this world who have no clue, and who want to do things like throw so much of a fit that 84 points is not a straight B or better. It's bad enough that they think this way for things like multiple choice tests. It's worse when they think that way when anything even less objective is involved. Students do not often realize that coherence is the best truth you get from grades. They think it's some more impressive correspondence.

You do need to be careful with letter grade, however. Most primary and secondary schools, and some colleges and universities (especially public ones) do have official, although basically un-followed, percent score to letter grade conversions. These are often hidden deep within the academic policies at colleges and universities. Such scales are unfortunate, in my opinion. They put the onus on the teacher to make work such that students can score on average a certain level, instead of simply making students do work and then evaluating how well they do. Frankly, most colleges would drop this sort of thing if science professors had their way.

If you do find that sort of scale exists where you work, you're probably running at your own risk if you grade differently, unless you are straightforward with your students about what you're doing. The best option to play it safe, in my opinion, is to give ridiculously low number scores compared to letter grades. Seriously, when was the last time someone sued a school for making a 65% an A-? That alone shows that these sorts of complaints are not about rights and contracts, they are about whingers who don't like finding out that they've been labeled worse than their imagination makes them feel.

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The War

I just watched Tavis Smiley interview Ken Burns about The War, a large new documentary about World War II. I was absolutely fascinated by this show, from beginning to end, and I have gotten a number of other people to be interested in watching it-- exactly zero.

The stuff that Ken Burns was talking about in the interview is the stuff that you'll pick up on if you watch all fifteen hours of the film. This was not a Military Channel eighteen episode series with some narrator reading a dry script and telling us a history class outline, interrupted by talking head experts sharing their own two bits. Instead, The War is deeply infused with first and second person accounts, told by the people or by the narrator, with no talking heads at all. It isn't about what happened to armies or nations, it is what happened to people.

I don't know how many of you have ever talked to war veterans like I have, but there is one thing that you learn quickly when you do-- old soldiers talk about war on their own terms, sharing what they want to share when they want to share it. The same goes for those at home who lost someone in a war, or those who were in some other way victims. Their stories are not something you ask for and get. Their stories are something that you are given. They don't give their stories lightly.

Oh, sure, they'll tell you where they were, when they were there, some of the more mechanical things about what went on around them. You'll easily hear the names of ships and towns, the date they finished training, the time they washed their laundry in a creek, and things like that. The things they don't tell you about are the things that actually tell you something emotional about their experience, like the day their best friend was burned to death next to them in a filthy foxhole, or the time they had to kill someone with their two hands. I give them every right not to tell us. Many combat veterans have enough trouble dealing with those moments for themselves. Understanding the complexity of comprehending what happened to them, they don't bother to share with people who were never there. Really, they is no way for the rest of us to completely understand. Frankly, we should be thankful, and when these veterans do open up we should take them seriously.

For those of you who hated school history and couldn't care less about what happened between 1939 and 1945, I don't think you can like watching The War. But if you liked your grandparents stories from their youth, you really should give this show a chance. Watching The War isn't sitting down for a history lesson, it's sitting down on your grandfather's lap that one time he opened up his heart and told you what really happened to him. All of you should see it, at least a few episodes if not the whole thing.


03 October 2007

Totally Garfunkeled

My sister pointed out to me a few weeks ago that she had no clue about the meaning of some of the words to the Simon and Garfunkel song "Baby Driver." After making a detailed analysis, I can say with confidence that I have an definitive answer.

Sister, you don't want to know what they're singing about. Don't think about it, ever again. Just get on with life.

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