Friday, August 31, 2007

This week in Iraq

Iraq body count has reinstated thier weekly roundup feature.

This last week, ending on Wednesday: 383 dead, including:

  • child shot dead while riding in car with father.
  • US air strike kills 7 family members in their house -Mohammed Abdul Wahad, his wife and their 5 children aged 4-8 years. According to the US military, they dropped the bomb on the house when gunmen they had been fighting ran inside.
  • US shelling of two residential areas kills 7
  • US air strike kills 4 policemen
  • gunmen attack house, kill woman and her 5 children.
If you are American, $2 Billion of your tax dollars went to help pay for maintaining this situation last week.

Which work out to an average of ... (300 million of us ... dividing ....) $7 per person. or enough for each of us to double the wages of one of the 1 billion people in the world who are living on $1 per day or less.

Try not to think about it. Maybe it will just go away or get better by itself.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


the existence of god

last night I realized again that my lack of belief in/relationship with "god" is still more personal than I generally admit. Usually it's "How could one believe in god in light of the way the world is--in terms of drug resistant TB, AIDS, malaria, weapons of mass destruction, torture, sexual abuse .... if god exists, she must be either too weak or too evil to qualify for the position"

but really what it is is much simpler stuff (Megan finds it so funny when I say "what it is is .... "). life if god is all powerful, and good, and ... therefore interested in Benjamin, then by golly she ought to be able to fix up much simpler little stuff. like letting me win at blackjack, for instance. I mean either god just lets the cards fall the way they do because she *can't* make them fall differently, which makes her pathetically weak, or else she lets them fall that way because she *won't* make them fall differently, which makes her aloof, and thus cruel, because it amounts to her making them fall that way on purpose.

I'm sure them some massive logical or philosophical error in there, or both. but there it is.

(I mean yes, in this example, we do have the casino's well being to consider. but what about other even simpler stuff, like helping that rusted bolt come out without breaking off. and all that other murphy's law stuff.)

complex carbs

today I realized the simple truth about complex carbs. They are really just simple methods for delivering all sorts of delicious sauces and toppings.


why does "cleave" mean the opposite of itself? Why does "flammable" mean exactly the same thing as "inflammable". And why are the redundancies "extra virgin" and "100% pure" used to describe olive oil and sunflower oil respectivley? Hmmmmmm...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Michael Vick

the whole michael vick saga just goes to prove, among other things, that the money and worship which americans pour into professional sports is a sign of their seriously tweaked priorities.

vick should just declare that all the dogs he used were terrorists, and therefore it's perfectly reasonable for him and friends to do anything he wants to the dogs and their relatives. I mean that argument has worked fine for Bush and co.

people all are all freaked out that vick and friends "brutally" killed dogs, and forced them to fight and so forth. But is anybody freaked out that ... children in this country are dying from lack of basic health care, while children in iraq are dying from u.s. airstrikes?

Friday, August 17, 2007

My story about KJV onlyism

In the summer of 2000, I flew with my soon to be fiance Megan from Manfredonia in Italy, where we were serving aboard the MV LOGOS II, to Seattle, for a two week vacation.

Before I had left in August 1998 to spend two years aboard LOGOS II as a volunteer, I had been a member of the church in which I grew up for 11.5 years--since the age of 13. During that entire span I had been steeped in a tradition called King James Onlyism, which holds that the King James Version of the Bible is the only proper bible in the English language--it is "God's peserved Word". I had never really thought very deeply about this--it was just part of the belief system with which I grew up, and which I had mostly accepted.

However, during two years aboard LOGOS II, I spent rather a lot of time doing communityish things with the Bible. We had small groups, and larger groups, and we did bible studies, and talked about the bible, and preached from the bible, and heard the bible preached from, and so forth. There were about 200 of us on board, from some 40 different countries. While we used English as our community language, the large majority of crew members were speaking English as their second language. Again, without thinking about it too terribly much, I came to accept that the King James traslation, which is 400 years old, and used early modern English, was really not super useful at all for second language English speakers. This led in turn to the realization that it didn't really work super well for me either, being a fully modern english speaker as I am.

So in summer of 2000 I was in for a bit of an unexpected surprise. I went to a men's retreat with about 30 other guys from my church, and one of the elders was giving a talk one evening. I was sitting in the back with my bible software open on my laptop, and half listening to the talk, and half poking around in my bible software, and the speaker was asking various guys to read this or that scripture verse, and he caught me by surprise when he said "Benjamin, could you read such and such a passage?" It was some 5 or 6 verses from Ephesians. So I typed it into my bible software, found the passage, and started reading.

I guess I hadn't realized how much sound there was in the room until it all started to go away. Just the little noises of guys quietly chatting to each other about the talk we were hearing, I guess. Have you ever heard a jet engine wind down? It was kind of like that. By the time I finished reading these 6 verses, the room was amazingly silent. And when I finished reading them, the silence dragged on for another amazingly long 3 or 4 seconds, before the speaker said "Well, um, okay, I'm just gonna read that again.", which he proceeded to do, from the correct version!


Now it makes me smile a little. At my own ... surprise, mostly. Shoulda known. Oh well. But writing the memory also gives me strange uncomfortable shivers--the same ones I had that evening. Those aren't super pleasant.

If you're curious about KJV onlyism, wiki has a reasonable article about it.

Or I could tell you more about it directly. I found myself doing a bit of study on the whole subject later in the year 2000, when I was attempting to figure out what the right of it was.


this is so cruel. I totally used to buy into all this stuff, and I read the first four left behind books too. I really have changed rather a lot.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Annoying Signs

Seen on a little sign at a blackjack table at a casino recently:

"English Only Spoken at this table"

(They put this sign up because a lot of Asians come to play in the casino, and the management are a bunch of jingoistic, culturally insensitive .... English speakers, who don't want the Asians talking to each other in their native tongues while playing blackjack. IMNSHO)

I wonder if any of the Asians ever tell them they're not doing anything with English other than speaking it, so what's the problem? Probably not, I suspect. What else would one do with it, one wonders. Butcher it, perhaps.

"English only butchered by the management"

(English clearly not written! Or do I mean to say "English not clearly written"?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Post Secret

Jen introduced me to post secret today. Wow.

I've known for a while, actually, that people have astouding, life altering, glorious and tragic secrets. And they are generally ... very very difficult to get at.

What's yours?

(dude--checked it out--they're ranked 9 at technorati. that's insane. now I'm going to have to find who's 1 through 8)

dick cheney said this? Wow!

H/T gladly suffering fools

more demotivation

=) see them all here

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

de motivation

I came across these posters from a few years ago, and was recently reminded of them by the whole emergent church posters foo foo rah. I found, and still find them, enormously entertaining. I think I might buy a couple =)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Is starbucks evil?

I can't get my head around this question. It seems like some people think that starbucks is a bad guy because it's ... contributing to globalization? Not doing enough (or much of anything) to fix up the imbalance between the lifestyles and incomes of the people who ultimately buy the coffee, and the people who actually grow it? Spends more time and dollars on advertising and so forth to make people *think* they are being corporately earthwise, responsible, just, green, ... what have you, than they do actually *doing* those things?

Any of you know about this stuff? I always ask for fair trade coffee when I am at a starbucks. But you do have to ask for it. And if you buy drip, like me, then you have to get the french press. Is fair trade really fair trade anyway? Or is it still bad, but not *as* bad as that which is *not* certified fair trade?

Is there a reasonably clear, reasonably fair primer on this stuff somewhere?

racism alive and well in america

and it continues to destroy people.

Aren't you glad that you and I are so far above and beyond this sort of thing?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

meteor shower!

In case you didn't alredy know, tonite is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Find a relatively dark spot outside, lie down on your back, give your eyes about 15 or 20 minutes to adjust to the dark, and enjoy the show =)

Friday, August 10, 2007

would you go?

I don't have a television. I don't think I've ever seen this before. Pretty impressive.

Shuttle Endeavor is at the international space station!

By histogram, you have a 1.7% chance of dying in a fiery explosion on a space shuttle mission.

If you were offered a berth, would you go?


Did Walmart finally do something ... (right, kind, good, green,) ... just?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

emerging pastor

found this amusing. H/T Out of the Cocoon.


are in order for Mr. Barry Bonds, who recently broke the major league baseball career home run record by hitting his 756th home run.

All the members of the sausauge club who think it's bad that he supposedly used steroids, and that therefore somehow his record doesn't count, or some kind of crap like: Why not just ... relax for once, and enjoy a great accomplishment and let the rules be damned.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

strange loopiness

So douglas hofstadter talks a lot about "strange loopiness" in his still delightful book "Godel Escher Bach". There is something amazingly delightful and strangely loopy about the fact that the featured article on English wikipedia's front page today is their article about encyclopedia britannica, who rumor has it, wikipedia has to some extent displaced. And if the rumor is true, you can certainly understand why. Just compare the article on any subject from brittanica and wikipedia. The wikipedia articles are invariably far easier to read and more informative. Plus wikipedia has 4 times as many articles. Plus wikipedia infinitely less expensive for the end user.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Making amends

Glenn Hager tagged me for a meme for Christians confess.

I'm not a christian anymore, but I was a christian for rather a while, so I think I can participate.

I learned different language for "I'm sorry" in the twelve steps. I'm happy to say that I have already been working on making the following general amends, and hope to continue to do so.

1. I'd like to make amends for all the negative rhetoric which I, and we, as Christians, used. It was often just rhetoric to us, but was often, I am quite sure, terribly and personally painful to those who were members of the people groups we condemned, judged, and criticized. Especially to those who are homosexuals and to the witches and pagans.

2. I'd like to make amends to all the Christian women inside and outside the sect in which I grew up. In that sect, and in other churches I've been involved with, women have been pushed down, belittled, abused, and generally treated worse than shit by the christian guys, including me.

3. I'd like to make amends to myself. As a Christian, I worked for many years on honing my self hatred. Brennan Manning talks about how in his 30 years as an itinerant preacher, the largest overall problem he has seen among Christians is self hatred. He calls Jesus "The stranger to self hatred". I think Brennan nailed it, at least in my case.

Directions for the meme:

  • Apologize for three things that Christians have often got wrong. Your apologies should be directed towards those who don’t view themselves as part of the Christian community. Alternatively, apologize for things you personally have done wrong towards those outside of the church.
  • Post a comment at the originating post so others can keep track of the apologies.
  • Tag five people to participate in the meme.
  • If desired, send an email with the link to your blog post at the Christians Confess site, giving permission for your apologies to be added to the website.
I tag:


Monday, August 06, 2007

help--what is a "nonce"?

I learned a new word today, but I can't seem to get a sense of the meaning, which makes the amateur philologist in here crazy.

OED gives: 1.a. for the nonce. a. For the particular purpose; on purpose; expressly. Freq. with infinitive or clause expressing the object or purpose. In quot. 1949: for the purpose of teasing or joking; for its own sake. Now Eng. regional (south.) and Sc.


1.c. For the particular occasion; for the time being, temporarily; for once.

So a google "define: nonce" gives the above and also: A randomly chosen value, different from previous choices, inserted in a message to protect against replays

The only definition I found which does make sesne is a secondary definition in OED:

(british criminal slang) nonce: A sexual deviant; a person convicted of a sexual offence, esp. child abuse

Ah here's a fun column from william safire in the new york times (which, by the way, you'll probably have to register for a free account in order to view) in which he says: "Today’s linguistic space odyssey shows how mainstream readers can tangle with the weaving Web. A last word: Don’t knock yourself out looking for the origin of e-maelstrom, “a storm of electronic communications.” It was minted today, right here, and if it does not die in the nonce, a dispute will arise over capitalization."

Ha--okay, I get that.

Any of you use this word? And how?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

the rules--finally written down!

Ran across this list of rules for the site teens-4-christ today. They hit home. I realized as I read it that this is almost exactly the set of rules with which I grew up with in the sect where I grew up. The great thing about teens for christ is that they at least post the rules in written form up front. I never had that. I especially like numbers 7, 8, and 9. (Note--these are just a few of thier list of 20 rules). H/T Hemant. I love that they call people like me trolls (you'll have to read down a bit to get the good stuff about trolls on that one).

  1. All posts contrary to the doctrinal beliefs this site was founded on are subject to being deleted at the discretion of management. We do not restrict people from other Christian denominations from posting - but we do not subscribe to ANY of the teachings of the modern Charismatic or neo-evangelical beliefs. Any posts supporting beliefs contrary to "What we believe" will be deleted...may result in banning of the poster.
  2. The Board will not be used to promote, in any way, worldly media (this includes music, television, movies, reading material, etc.). Likewise, Teens-4-Christ will not be used to promote Rock, Country, CCM, or X-tian (so-called Christian) rock music. Please do not quote songs, or list singers/artists that fall in either of these categories. This includes promoting these types of music in Personal Messages. Violating our policy in this will result in receiving a warning and losing privileges.
  3. Any picture to be posted on The Board must be approved by an administrator before it is posted. If you post a picture on The Board, everyone in the picture must be modestly dressed (by our standards), not promoting any sinful activity (including any premarital physical contact), and not crude in any way.
  4. Abstain from the appearance of evil. You never know who is watching or reading. Though we do our best to protect your privacy, this should not be considered a private forum. One thing for sure. Jesus is watching.
  5. Teens-4-Christ is a King James Version Bible site.....please use King James Scripture when posting Scripture reference. failure to do so will result in the editing or deleting of your post. Your account may also be deleted or banned.
  6. God's Word (The KJV Bible) is the final authority on all matters.
  7. Please treat each member with respect. Differing opinions are bound to occur on the message board, but rude and hurtful messages will NOT be tolerated.
  8. Teens-4-Christ is not a 'debate' site. You will not change our minds, do not try. A quick read of Romans 1 will show that those who debate are in the company of adulterers, sodomites and murderers. Therefore, debating will not be allowed.
  9. Love one another....this is the happy way.

Galloping Gertie

I recently saw for the first time ever this video footage of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing. It was built in 1940 for a cost of US$8 million, and collapsed four months later under a relatively mild 40 mile per hour wind. I drive across the new bridge occasionally, as it's relatively close to where we live and a useful way to get over to the kitsap peninsula.

Here's the current bridge.

I haven't actually driven over the brank spanking new eastbound span, which opened last month, and charges a $3 toll.

To me, the most fascinating thing about some of the footage of the collapse found on youtube is that it shows groups of people walking in the foreground and completely ignoring the crazy twisting and motion of the bridge in the background. It seems it was normal to them, and they paid it no mind. That is totally fascinating.

Friday, August 03, 2007

What I learned from church

(that turned out not to be true, and what I'm learning now)

(reposted from

Glenn Hager kindly invited me to participate in his synchroblog. Thanks Glen!

So a coupla lists–and a tiny bit of a justice and compassion slant (I’m not making this stuff up)

What I learned in church:

  • Sex is mainly for procreation.
  • America is the greatest nation on earth.
  • Alchohol is evil. period.
  • Using contraception is almost always a dumb, and perhaps even bad, idea.
  • The U.N. is evil.
  • Homosexuality is a far worse sin than gluttony.
  • We’re right, and they’re wrong.
  • God created the United States.
  • Public Education is evil.
  • The King James Version is the *only* right translation of the Bible into English.
  • The Bible is about principles.
  • Most of the stuff that came out of the civil rights movement was bad because it destroyed personal freedom.
  • Roman Catholicism is evil.
  • You can follow Jesus by going to church once a week and praying a prayer. And you can even pray the prayer in secret
  • It’s not hard for the rich to get into the kindom of heaven. It’s easy.
  • Forgiveness means you have to forget what the perp did, and pretend it didn’t really hurt you.
  • The dichotomy between good and evil is simple and easy to see.

And what I’m learning lately–well, I don’t got do church so much anymore. But from lovely Monkfish, and Brian McLaren, and Jim Henderson, and Seattle Mennonite Church, and Dan Allender, and perhaps even Union a bit, I’m learning:

  • It’s more important to be kind than right.
  • You don’t have to buy into the idea that billions of people are going to burn in hell forever to be a christian.
  • God’s not stressed or freaked out by gnarly pagan ideas and rituals.
  • God cares more about the poor, the broken, the raped, the starving, the whole hurting world, than I do, and she certainly cares more about these people than she does about … stupid little doctrinal debates between various sects of the church in America.
  • God doesn’t need the bible to talk to me.
  • Actions are more important than words.
  • I can make a difference.
  • The Bible is about stories.
  • God likes the idea of people giving power away to other people. Prodigiously. And Bit by bit.
  • Real christians have to at least take into consideration the idea of war tax protest.
  • Jesuits rock.
  • Nuclear weapons are evil.
  • Following Jesus is hella hard, and involves more than … openly changing your lifestyle.
  • It’s okay to hate someone who hurt you.
  • Good and evil are nuanced, and as humans we can’t really escape being victims and perps.
What about you?

And here's links to some of the other synchroblog posts on the same subject.

Glenn @ Re-dreaming the Dream: Synchroblog (Introduction)

Alan @ The Assembling of the Church: Here I Am To Worship.

Heather @ A Deconstructed Christian: 15 Things I Learned From and Another 15 I Am Learning Lately

Jim @ Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief : Some Ecclesiastical Paradoxes

Lew @ The Pursuit: It’s A Grace vs. Works Thing

Lyn @ Beyond the 4 Walls: Learning To be “Proper”

Paul @ One For The Road : A Gracious Voice

Sonja @ Calacirian: Losing Her Religion and Keeping Her Faith

Benjamin @ Justice and Compassion: Pithy and Provocative

Julie @ Onehandclapping: Faith, Certainty, and Tom Cruise

Aaron @ Regenerate: Hope

Monte @ Monte Asbury’s Blog: Jesus Doesn’t Matter Much

Rachael @ Justice and Compassion Rachael Stanton

Glenn @ Re-dreaming the Dream: Unsaid Communication

Glenn @ Re-dreaming the Dream: Reflections About Refugees (Summary Reflection)

Is hatred okay for christians?

I kind of grew up with this fakish understanding/interpretation of turn the other cheek, love your enemies etc. Hatred was considered an unchristian emotion. C.S. Lewis and others get freaked out by David’s imprecatory prayers in the psalms–you know–the “god please make my enemies fall into a nest of scorpions, skunks, and porcupines.” We weren’t allowed to pray/think that way, even though the jews certainly *were*.

A couple years ago my wife and I were invited to attend a Purim service with an orthodox Jewish family that are friends of ours. We all gathered in the synagogue, and we were all given little noisemakers. then the whole book of esther was read out loud. Every time Haman’s name was about to be read out, everyone would use their noisemakers and their voices and feet and hands to make enormous lots of noise, so as to blot out the reading of his name. They would go on for 2 or 3 minutes every time. There was this astounding anger and hatred toward him–a wish to blot out his name and memory forever. They do this every year at purim–orthodox jews all over the world. The negative emotion is palpable and intense. I found it a little frightening. But I think they are onto something. Haman wanted to completely and utterly wipe out the jewish people, and he nearly pulled it off.

Dan Allender said we must hate the perp so much that we want him to die. Not to be obliterated completely–but that the person who did such a horrifying crime against us would cease to exist, and in their place would be born an amazing new person–the compassionate, wise, gentle, glorious person god meant them to be.This is something I’ve seen Iraqi people doing in a couple documentaries and news reports I’ve seen–calling out to god to destroy and wreak vengeance on those who have brought blood and ashes upon them. There’s something so amazingly real and refreshing about that after trying to listen to american christian positive thinking “Your best life now” type stuff.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Emergent church

(Oh dear, the funny one is gone--their site seems to be down. Maybe it will come back up later.)

So I consider myself half an insider in the emergent church (sans Mars Hill in Seattle). I found these posters via Julie, who didn't like them much. I found them slightly amusing--mocking, but as with all good mockery, with an element of truth there. I really liked this one, because of the "Down with Metanarratives" sign. I want a sign like that. very kewl. Emergent Grace made some more sincere posters in response, including this one.


This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

death (7x) abortion (5x) torture (4x) hell (3x) shit (2x) zombie (1x)

How stupid is that? only people over 17 are allowed to read about death, abortion, and torture? I mean you can totally experience these things if you are under 18, but you mustn't talk about them. very much like the no-talk rule I grew up with

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bush's IQ

Found a really interesting article by Dean K. Simonton published late last year entitled "Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations for 42 U.S. Chief Executives," published in the journal Political Psychology, Volume 27, number 4.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any free copies on the web anywhere. But you can probably get it through your local library's website using your library card. At least that's the case here in Seattle. Or you can pay to access it here.

An excerpt:

"First, Bush is definitely intelligent. The IQ estimates range between 111.1 and 138.5, with an average around 125. That places him in the upper range of college graduates in raw intellect (Cronbach, 1960). Admittedly, this average is influenced by Cox’s (1926) corrected scores, which may be overestimates. Yet even if we focus on just the uncorrected IQs, the range is between 111.1 and 128.5, with a mean around 120, which is about the average IQ for a college graduate in the United States. In addition, the figure is more than one standard deviation above the population mean, placing Bush in the upper 10% of the intelligence distribution (Storfer, 1990). These results endorse what has been claimed on the basis of his SAT scores and his Harvard MBA, namely, that his IQ most likely exceeds 115 (Immelman, 2001). He is certainly smart enough to be president of the United States (Simonton, 1985).

Second, Bush’s IQ is below average relative to that subset of the U.S. citizens who also managed to work their way into the White House. In fact, his intellect falls near the bottom of the distribution. When compared with twentieth-century presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Clinton, only Harding has a lower score (at least on three of the four estimates). A similar conclusion is suggested by the Intellectual Brilliance measure, albeit in this case there are now two twentiethcentury presidents with lower scores, namely, Harding and Coolidge. Moreover, Bush’s IQ falls about 20 points—more than one standard deviation—below that of his predecessor, Clinton, a disparity that may have created a contrast effect that made any intellectual weaknesses all the more salient. Clinton’s intellectual attainments as a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate, his demonstrated capacity for mastering impressive amounts of complex and detailed information, his verbal eloquence and fluency, and his logical adroitness and sophistication—at times, as during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, verging on sophistry—places Clinton head and shoulders above his successor in terms of intellectual power."

I guess this isn't exactly super surprising