Friday, November 23, 2007

Religion Fact of the Day

The Documentary Hypothesis is the most widely accepted theory for the origin of the Pentateuch (aka Torah, aka the Five Books of Moses). While it has come under increasing criticism in recent decades, it still stands as the theory against which all others are measured. In essence, it states that their were four authors called the Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Priestly (P), and Deuteronomist (D). A fifth player, the redactor (R), brought these strands together into the Pentateuch as we know it. As mentioned in a previous RFoD, this happened in the postexilic period (6th century BCE).

Some Relief

I just finished my final assignment for my Intro to the Old Testament class. It was a five page paper on the Documentary Hypothesis. It's a bit of relief. I only have one class now, God and World, though that will keep me busy through the end of December.

I should be able to post more on here now. This blog has become like crack for me. I've been getting tremors and cold sweats with my minimal posting rate as of late. I need a hit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Looking For Your Parents

An L.A. Times reporter writes about his journey to find his birth parents and deal with his alcoholism.

Babes. Mouths.

There's some things you shouldn't ever have to hear come out of your child's mouth. My daughter, Erica, tonight: "Dad, I don't think we should have been pulled out school to go to Ismay. I mean just so Mom could get pregnant and beat up. And we got spanked with a leather belt."

This is in reference to a few years ago, when their mother (with my daughters in tow) moved to some little town in the middle of nowhere with a guy who knocked her up and knocked her around. Sigh.

Giving Thanks

Rumor has it that today is some sort of day to "give thanks" for whatever it is one may be...well, thankful for. I suppose you could call it "Give Thanks Day" or "I'm Thankful Day" or "Thanksgiving Day" or something. Not being one to be different or stand out from the pack, I suppose I will offer some thoughts on what I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful that my relationship with my two beautiful daughters, Erica and Shaena, has really improved over the last year. As they grow older they seem to be questioning some of what their mother and grandmother spew if not openly at least subconciously. I hope it continues to get better.

I am thankful that our presidential campaign season is becoming longer and longer. It gives us more time to carefully evaluate the candidates which is what we do in this country. We don't vote based on bad rumors we heard. We don't vote based on who is the best looking. We don't vote based on a coin flip. Nope, we take democracy seriously in our great nation. I'm hoping that by the next cycle, the campaign season will be at least as long as the President's term of office. Four years to get to know the candidates seems about right. And, then the one we have rigorously chosen can serve us for four years. I like the symmetry.

I am thankful for the MS study I am participating in. I get $4000 worth of free drugs every month and, really, who isn't thankful for free drugs? Hmmmm...maybe the government should hand out free drugs ala Brave New World. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all just get high when we wanted?

I'm thankful that we are finally accepting torture in this country. I've long said that we do not do enough to degrade and harm people foolish enough to become suspects of a crime. "If you can't handle the torture, don't be a suspect," I say. I look forward to the day we've expanded it so that we don't just torture people with brown skin and a funny religion. Any person - man or woman, child or adult, white or not-so-white, right religion or wrong religion - deserves the sweet pangs of stress positions, simulated drowning, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and solitary confinement if they don't know how to stay on the right side of the law. It's your own fault you became a suspect, Mr. Torture-Hurts-Cry-Baby-Waaah.

I am thankful that my MS progression is very slow and I am managing very well. Besides a few minor symptoms, I feel great and would not know I had the disease if I hadn't seen the MRIs of my brain.

I am thankful that my siblings are finally starting to realize how outdated the concept of "family" is. They are throwing off the trappings of this archaic institution and blazing a new trail of interpersonal relationships. Where this trail leads, who knows? It is exciting to see, though. Turn out for the family Thanksgiving meal was at a low this year. I'm confident that with their commitment to their new path, it will be even lower next year.

I am thankful for the new position I got at the hospital last December. It has been an enjoyable challenge and allowed me to flex some of my mental muscles that I didn't always get to use as a security officer. I also have to give kudos to my new coworkers. They have all been wonderful, but two especially have made a big impact on my life lately. Linda, my boss, is without a doubt the best supervisor I have ever had. She is willing to stand back and let me do my job and she supports me whether it is from angry people trying to blame me for something or from somebody trying to pawn off more work on me. Linda is also great about pushing me to do the best I can. She likes to call them "opportunities." I have very much enjoyed working for her. The other person is Brenda. She is the Volunteer Coordinator at St. V's. She has been a helping hand, a confidant, a matchmaker, a jokester, a friend, and in many ways a second mom. She helps me maintain my sanity and I can't be thankful enough to her.

I am thankful for the entitlement culture we have developed in America. Tyler Durden was wrong. We are all beautiful and unique snowflakes and we deserve to be treated as such. It gets to be a little tricky when more than one unique snowflake is in the same room (the temperature goes up threatening to melt both), but we're all special. I'm sure we can figure out a way to make it work. Just remember I am the most beautiful snowflake and you and I will get along fine.

I am thankful for my friends, especially Jeromy. Our friendship goes back nearly twenty years now and is full of wonderful memories. I feel blessed to have such a kindred spirit in my life.

I am thankful for blame-shifting. It is so much easier getting through life when you know that every time something goes wrong, you can just point your finger at someone else. Whoever came up with the idea of personal responsibility obviously did not realize what a pain it is. I bet if that person knew about blame-shifting, they would have dropped responsibility like a diseased monkey.

I am thankful for the fact that my mother has received a temporary stay of execution on the house and that she may be able to keep it. It is one of her dreams and the thought of losing it has caused her much grief. We may still have to sell, but she feels better that we are fighting it and if we have to sell now, it will be on her terms, not my brother's.

I could go on, but I'm sure someone will give thanks if I finally just shut the hell up now. Besides, now that Give-Thanks Day is almost over, I need to start preparing for the next holiday. Word on the street is that this one involves a visit from some fat man in a red suit with a sack of goods. Sounds weird to me. Why can't we just debase before this cool looking symbol I've seen? It's a giant "S" with two vertical slashes through it. I like that much better and it seems more suited to me as a beautiful and unique snowflake.

No Moon For Obama

Obama would delay our space exploration programs to pay for other programs. That's a black mark on his record as far as I'm concerned, though I still think he's the best candidate. Hell, Romney would probably put a rush on Moon exploration so he can make room for doubling Gitmo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


So, the Bush Administration sends our troops into harm's way for a ridiculous, unending war, gives people big enlistment bonuses because recruitment is getting harder, and then wants to take back bonuses for troops who get injured and cannot finish their commitment.

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

WTF? How could anyone think this was a good idea? "Hey, kid, sorry you lost your legs, but that wasn't in your contract. You're going to have to give your money back." This better be stopped.

A Pick Me Up

For no particular reason, I'm not really in the greatest of moods today. A sing-along with Jesus seems to be the perfect way to lift my spirits.

Catholics and War

Fascinating excerpts from an interview with a Catholic veteran of the Iraq war. I found the most interesting part his thoughts on killing.

That’s the really nice thing about being Catholic; that you can make these blanket assertions, and also recognize the futility of being able to totally avoid sin at all times if you are in the world. I guess I am kind of an Augustinian in that sense. Yes, killing is evil. Killing is wrong. There’s no kind of killing that’s justified. And I don’t care about all the ‘interpretations’ in the Old Testaments where it really says ‘Thou shall not murder.’ I don’t care if that’s a distinction. I’ve seen killing. Killing is wrong. There’s no way to justify it. And I don’t care if the people that I was in some way participating in the killing of were innocent or guilty, I mean, both happened. They were human beings and killing them was wrong. It just is, and it always will be. I don’t think that we can apply some kind of temporal form of justice or legal system to human life and say ‘OK, in this particular instance, this is OK, this guy can be killed,’ or ‘in this particular instance, he can't.’

But I understand that sometimes the way that the world is killing is necessary. There’s just no way to avoid it. That doesn’t make it right. I don’t think there are too many people –too many soldiers –who would come away from the war and say, even if it were the cleanest war in history, who would still come away from it and say, ‘Yeah, that was all really good. All we did was really good stuff.’ It bothers you and it bothers you for a reason because it’s not the sort of thing that we ought to be doing. In an ideal world we wouldn’t do any of it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Star Trek Critters

Wired has an article on the ten "cheesiest" creatures on Star Trek in honor of the HD release of the episodes. I, of course, take issue with cheesy. They're not cheesy, damn it! You can't say something like that about Star Trek, not unless you're referring to Voyager.

Okay, there was a lot of cheese in The Original Series. It's still the best show that's ever been on TV.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Torture and Christians

Sometimes I feel like I'm beating a dead horse (thanks, Axl), but I am so appalled that this is going on. We need more people standing up and voicing their opinion on this. We do not want torture in America, performed by Americans, authorized by Americans, or condoned by Americans. A great article in Christianity Today explains why it is always wrong.

As to the exact kinds of acts that constitute torture, there is no single definition, but this does not mean that the term is infinitely elastic. Almost everyone condemns the examples above. And international agreements have repeatedly sought to define torture as they have denounced it. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention (1949) asserts that "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war," but, instead, "persons taking no active part in the hostilities … shall in all circumstances be treated humanely." The 1985 U.N. Convention Against Torture defines it as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person." The United States is a signatory to all of these international declarations and has historically incorporated their principles into military doctrine. For example, the 1992 (current, though under revision) U.S. Army Field Manual tells soldiers that "[Geneva] and U.S. policy expressly prohibit acts of violence or intimidation, including physical or mental torture, threats [or] insults, … as a means of or aid to interrogation."
Among the sometimes approved measures have been prolonged standing, removal of detainees' clothing, sensory deprivation, hooding (often with smelly hoods), prolonged interrogations, use of dogs, forced shaving of beards, grabbing, poking, pushing, sleep manipulation and deprivation, and waterboarding (which refers to a variety of techniques designed to make a victim feel as if he were drowning).

Among the unapproved but practiced measures have been punching, slapping, and kicking detainees, religious and sexual humiliation, prolonged shackling, exposure to severe heat or cold, food or toilet deprivation, mock or threatened executions, and letting dogs threaten or in some cases bite and severely injure detainees.

Read the whole thing. Get angry. Do something about it.

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