Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hyper Reality

The blogosphere has been brutal the last few days. It's not like reality, when a crisis in one form or another happens to you or your friends. But the last few days have been so grim for so many, that I'm calling it a kind of "hyper reality".

It started when Captain Chuck got blown apart by an IED in Iraq. I was following his blog directly from the action in Iraq, when bam! We here from his wife Caren begins posting of his being severely wounded. I wasn't prepared for the "reality" of knowing someone's inner thoughts and having that person "blown apart" almost before your eyes. The Captain is recovering in Walter Reid.

Then it was Steven Vincent of In The Red Zone murdered in Baghdad. I came in late on that one, but his once incredible blog is now lifeless.

Anyone who has followed Michael Yon's amazing saga from Mosul, Iraq knows who LTC Erik Kurilla is. Well, he was shot up pretty bad just a couple of days ago. He and his amazing intuition for combat is now stateside. Michael's heart-pounding reporting of the event has got to be an internet classic. Nevertheless, I was stunned by the news.

And hurricane Katrina. Oh my God in Heaven. Here is an excerpt from a blog written live from New Orleans (thanks to Right Wing Sparkle):

lisalog here, giving everyone an update on Michele. . . The good news first: Michele and S. are fine, and their house was not damaged in the hurricane. They live in a neighborhood that is 6 feet above sea level, so they have been spared the worst of the flooding... in fact, when I spoke to her yesterday, there was no standing water on the property at all. She and S. have enough food to last them a while, but they don't have much water. They've been boiling what they need. The bad news: New Orleans is in a state of utter chaos. Communication is difficult. Michele was able to hear some news reports via radio, but most communication is happening by word of mouth. Criminal activity is rampant and people are becoming more aggressive... one policeman was shot in the head by a looter and Michele mentioned some looters using forklifts to break down the doors of peoples' homes. . . She half-joked about putting up a "looters will be shot" sign on her front door, but once the sun goes down it is so dark (what with the power being out) that it would be impossible to see the sign anyway. Her mother tried to leave the city last night, but I'm not sure if she was successful or not. I called Michele again this morning, around 9:30 am central standard time, and she and S. were trying to get out. The situation has become very grim. The looting and criminal activity has gotten worse. Roads leading out of the city are blocked by debris, and Michele only has a half tank of gas in her car. Her dog Jack is ailing, and she is not sure if he'll make it. I'm not a praying woman, but I'm praying now. I hope she, S., and their beloved pets are able to get out of the city safely."


The pictures, videos, and stories coming from Louisiana and Mississippi are horrifying and emotionally draining. I've mentioned Desperate Houseflies before, well, Al Sturgeon is the moderator of the "flies" and is from the Gulf Port area. He is the pastor of Ocean Springs Church of Christ. His house is completely gone. Insurance will not pay a cent. How can this stuff be happening?

Finally, I surfed over to Right Thinking Girl, hoping, I guess for a "fun" boost. Someone close to her died. Now RTG is deep-down angry at God. I guess now her blog will die as well. I'm bummed, as are a lot of others.

It's been a tough few days in the blogosphere.

My spirit groans for all of them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ok, I like that better ...

... That original template didn't work too well. I had possibilities, but only if I did a lot of customizing. This one just starts off better.

It's not that I haven't been on the blogs, but I've been reading. Mainly on post modernism and the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate. I'll post on both soon.

Until then ...

Yikes!

It's been almost a week since I've posted!

I work at a college, so the first week of school is really, really hectic ... My only excuse.

I think I am going to change the appearance of the blog ... I don't like it right now.

Let's see, what can we do? ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Relativism and Martyrdom

Post modern thought contends that truth cannot be known outside of one's culture and experiences. So-called "hard" post moderns contend that objective truth is neither obtainable nor desirable.

How does this assertion affect Christianity?

Very negatively, I would think. The first approximately 3 centuries of the Church's existence was defined by severe and constant persecution. I wonder if those first Christians, the founders of our faith, would have been willing to endure the suffering and hardships, if they hadn't believed in objective truth. The objective truth being, of course, that Jesus the Christ was the Son of God, that He died, was buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven.

Post modern Christianity seems kind of mushy by comparison.

Have you ever read Foxe's Book of Martyrs? Foxe chronicles a bit about early church fathers, but mostly about Protestants who die for their beliefs at the hands of Catholics (thank goodness both have mellowed). To be willing to die at the hands of another for your beliefs is an amazing test of strength & faith. I cannot imagine one willing to undergo torture and finally death for a faith that cannot even assert that it is "true". I don't think it's even a remote possibility.

I think truth just is. It is true outside of me, my experiences, or my cultural background. How could science even function without the search for objective truth? I cannot know all that is true. My finite mind simply will not comprehend all that is. But to me, at least, that has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not something is true. Something is true because it is true, not because of any perception, or lack of it, held by me.

I'm not saying that post modern thought process doesn't hold value. It does. Many times I've seen people read and interpret the Scripture without attempting to understand the cultural and historical context in which it is written. This is faulty exegesis at best, and at worst, purposeful misinterpretation. The value of the post modern viewpoint that we all are subject to cultural interpretation cannot be overstated. However, we cannot follow the line of "reasoning" to a conclusion that objective truth does not exist. That's simply errant.

Can you imagine Peter being crucified upside down on a cross for some fuzzy relativistic religious concept?

No.

Monday, August 22, 2005

There's a Fly in my Car!

Don'tcha just hate it when a housefly manages to get into your car? It buzzes around, pestering you incessantly until you finally have to swat it ... or at it. It's actually rather dangerous to swat at flies when you're driving 60 mph. I usually roll the windows down and attempt to coax the little booger out the window. "Here little fly, it's just open air, you won't die ... really you won't."

For whatever reason, my thoughts inevitably turn to how fast the fly is traveling. If the fly is flying from the back of the car towards the front, then relative to the ground, he is traveling 60 mph + the speed of the fly. But from my point of view the little guy is flying just fast enough to keep me from swatting him into oblivion. I guess if we could be viewed from a stationary object (if there is such a thing) looking down on the earth, and my car were traveling with the earth's rotation, the fly would be flying his speed + 60 mph + approx 800 mph. That's pretty fast. And, I suppose if my little motorized conveyance could be viewed from outside the solar system, the fly would be moving his speed + my 60 mph + approx 800 mph of earth rotation + approx 67,000 mph that the earth rotates around the sun. Whew! Assuming, of course, that all of the directions are the same (otherwise we'd be both adding and subtracting). All of that is without considering a host of other factors, not the least of which is how fast the universe is moving "away from itself".

So how fast is the fly flying? It depends. How fast the fly is flying is relative to the observer. As far as I know, Einstein was the first to document that speed (really velocity) is relative to one's frame of reference. I would imagine that now, early in the 21st century, most of civilization, at least those in the west, understand the relative nature of speeds & distances at least at some elementary level.

Perhaps, then, it is to be expected that relativistic thought would pervade our thinking processes. Certainly the evolutionary model as a thought process has become pervasive. Why not the relativistic model? Maybe it's natural for culture to borrow from science. Perhaps. But is it valid?

Post modernism, at least if I understand its rather loosely knitted postulates, attempts to assert that truth can only be known relative to one's cultural point of reference. That collectively we understand truth relative to the culture in which we live, and individually we understand truth in terms of the experiences that we've had. The post modern mindset proposes that one cannot extricate one's self from these influences and therefore one's view of truth is relative to them.

I'll not deny that culture and personal experience have an enormous amount of impact on the way that we think. One must be ever mindful of one's frame of reference when evaluating a given subject or situation. But does it naturally follow that truth cannot be ascertained outside of this reference? I don't think so.

If truth cannot be known apart from one's culture and experiences, then how does one evaluate the following statement:


"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me."


Jesus' bold, even earth shattering statement leaves no room for relativistic analysis. It doesn't appear, at least to me, to be immeshed in any culture. In fact, the statement quite frankly transcends time and culture. It simply is. If you'll pardon the term, it sounds rather absolute to me.

I've been studying a movement dubbed the "Emergent Church" (or "Emerging Church"). This movement, a mere dozen or so years old, questions the existing models of "doing church" in favor of new, or really really old, traditions that engage the post modern mindset. I was quite excited at first. I missed the Jesus movement of the 1970's. I was busy, ahem, building my testimony. So I was excited to be on the brink of a new movement of God.

But what I have found is a movement that not only engages post modernism, but embraces it. With that I have a problem. Post modernism, and the associated weaknesses thereof, seems 180 degrees out of phase with Christianity. Truth, in the traditional Christian mindset, is not a moving target that shifts with the cultural winds. It just is. We may not know everything there is to know about it, but not knowing doesn't alter its veracity. It just is.

There is a dark side to post modernism: its dogmatic absolutist viewpoint that modernists, absolutists, fundamentalists, or whatever "ist" that is in vogue, are all evil intolerant beings and do not deserve attention in the least as they have nothing worthwhile to say. The post modernist has accepted all points of view except that of the traditional (modernist) Christian. The Emergent Church seems to have embraced this dark side as well.

I suppose that I am a fundamentalist because I do not believe in evolution. Maybe I am even considered an absolutist because I believe in the correspondence theory of truth. I guess that I am a modernist because I am not a post modernist. I don't know. The labels seem arbitrary and nonsensical to me.

I just believe, at the end of the day, that the speed/velocity of the fly can be known. I may not have all of the information necessary to calculate the speed/velocity of the fly. The information, once obtained, may not even be of value. But there is One who does know:

God.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

This is a Cool Free Program:

KeePass. It's an encrypted database where you can store all of your userid / passwords. It allows you to define a global hot key that will paste the userid / password key sequence into a target program. That is cool.

When you work with networks, everything has a userid and password. You can't make them all the same, so I'm forever getting lost. A month ago I had to completely re-set up a router because I couldn't remember the password and couldn't break my own pattern. This little program allows you to remember one password (or pass phrase as I've implemented it) to a database and all of the others you have can be stored there. Neat. The program is small enough to fit on a jump drive too.

If you don't have it, get it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I Just Don't Get It ...

... Why is it that I read left-wing blogs? I read a lot of blogs. Some are for fun. Others are personal journals. Most are about politics and/or religion. I tried out the left-wing political blogs. I couldn't stand them. They're geared mostly to Bush hating and are mostly incomprehensible and intellectually bankrupt. But the left leaning Christian blogs fascinate me. I don't really understand what makes them tick. One thing they do: they write prolifically. It gives you some insight into who they are.

Part of why I'm interested in left-leaning Christian blogs has to do with the so-called Emergent Church. It seems that the Emergent Church has learned to engage a culture steeped in post modernism. What concerns me, though, is that rather than engaging post modernism, they may have indeed embraced it. That seems 180 degrees out of phase with scriptural Christianity.

The following is a creed of sorts by Brian McLaren. He is the Emergent Church's rock star in residency:


The Jesus Creed



By Brian McLaren

We have confidence in Jesus
Who healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed.
And even raised the dead.

He cast out evil powers and
Confronted corrupt leaders.
He cleansed the temple.
He favored the poor.
He turned water into wine,
Walked on water, calmed storms.

He died for the sins of the world,
Rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father,
Sent the Holy Spirit.

We have confidence in Jesus
Who taught in word and example,
Sign and wonder.
He preached parables of the kingdom of God
On hillsides, from boats, in the temple, in homes,
At banquets and parties, along the road, on beaches, in towns,
By day and by night.

He taught the way of love for God and neighbor,
For stranger and enemy, for outcast and alien.

We have confidence in Jesus,
Who called disciples, led them,
Gave them new names and new purpose
And sent them out to preach good news.
He washed their feet as a servant.
He walked with them, ate with them,
Called them friends,
Rebuked them, encouraged them,
Promised to leave and then return,
And promised to be with them always.

He taught them to pray.
He rose early to pray, stole away to desolate places,
Fasted and faced agonizing temptations,
Wept in a garden,
And prayed, “Not my will but your will be done.”
He rejoiced, he sang, he feasted, he wept.

We have confidence in Jesus,
So we follow him, learn his ways,
Seek to obey his teaching and live by his example.
We walk with him, walk in him, abide in him,
As a branch in a vine.

We have not seen him, but we love him.
His words are to us words of life eternal,
And to know him is to know the true and living God.
We do not see him now, but we have confidence in Jesus.

via Emmaus Theory.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hopefully, before hell freezes over ...

... we'll get broad band internet here at home. The Konfabulator, discussed below, requires Win XP SP1 ... I built our home machines just before the SP1 disks came out. It would take, oh, about three months to download SP1 on our pathetic SBC dialup connection. Until now, there's been no real penalty for not having it, but no Konfabulator! That's just wrong. It just is.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Coolest Gadget

I stumbled over the coolest "gadget" today. It's called the Konfabulator. It allows you to build desktop "widgets" that do cool stuff that you normally use javascript for. Folsks, this is AWESOME!

I don't really use my desktop (at least not at work). Except for icons, it's wasted screen real estate. These widgets occupy a small amount of space on the screen and do really useful stuff. Within minutes I was able to download one of Konfabulator's widgets and load my local weather radar so that it updates every three minutes on my desktop. Cool! There's one for the temperature and forecast, a calendar, a URL launcher, games, and even one that gives you the current price of oil.

This deal rocks!

It even has a little widget that allows you to blog from the desktop, no muss, no fuss! Watch my content go up!

You've got to get it now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Cottin' Pickin' Spammers!

I've been chasing spammers today. I came in and found
226.70-84-227.reverse.theplanet.com attached to port 4805 on my machine. The actual IP is 70.84.227.226 and is the same clown or clowns that crashed the gatekeeper here a while back.

See these guys send out Net Send commands that hammer port 1026 on a range of addresses. Our Video Gatekeeper has a little task that monitors the gatekeeper software on, you guessed it, port 1026. So when the monitoring task fires up and finds port 1026 in use, it freaks out and thinks the gatekeeper has lost connection and reboots the computer!. When the server (Win2K) reboots, all of the video calls are disconnected and cannot be re-connected until the gatekeeper is back up and running. It appears to be entirely random to the casual observer. We blocked incomming UDP traffic on port 1026 and everything has been smooth ever since.

The way I found it was, I turned on trace logging on the server. I logged everything: every TCP packet, UDP packet, file open, file close, process start, and process end. The file was absolutely HUGE. I only created 10 minute segments, but still had a whale of a time trying to find something that would read these enormous files.

Once I found something to open the log, I went to the end where all of the processes were closing just prior to re-boot. I then backtracked until I found the offending UDP transaction and voila! It was the clown with IP 70.84.227.226 trying to send some stupid advertisement to a computer that doesn't even have a monitor and has Messenger disabled. Why does Windows even keep the port open if Messenger is disabled? Arghh.

This guy caused a lot of grief on state-owned systems trying to advertise in a way that is at the very least unethical. He waisted a lot of my tax dollars with his stupidity. So ... I port scanned him in the most invasive way I could think of for quite a number of hours. He disappeared of the net, at least for a while. I guess now he's back.

Cottin' Pickin' spammers!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It's not that I haven't been blogging ...

... I just haven't been here for almost a week. Ooops!

Blogging, at least in the comment section where communities hang out, is a bit like the e-mail lists where I used to hang out almost a decade ago. Similar also to the forums I used in my programming life. Groups of people meet and, well, they type a lot. It's kind of fun, ok, it's a hoot.

Of all things, I actually found someone that I know over on Desperate Houseflies. He's cool, very well educated, and a military chaplain. He's also Church of Christ.

The CofC (Church of Christ for outsiders) has always been a bit of an enigma to me. In my growing up past, they were staunchly dogmatic in their beliefs. They and they alone were the "One True Church" and they and they alone were going to Heaven. It was, frankly, insulting.

Now, you get to talking to the CofC intellectuals, and they are not nearly so dogmatic. In fact, they don't even believe those things. But somehow, they have failed to inform or convince the rank and file CofC that their dogma is a bit misplaced.

Case in point: A few years back, I went to a city wide praise and worship service. In fact, I was a part of the advance prayer team. Now, this service was held in a local CofC sanctuary, and yea, baby, there were instruments. With amps and speaker towers taller than me. On the night of the service (still one of the best I've ever attended), there were people in the foyer from other CofC churches snapping pictures of what was going on. The pictures were to be taken in front of who I am not sure, but the intent was to get the offending CofC in trouble. Now supposedly, all CofC churches are autonomous, so I have no idea to what authority these pictures would have been taken. It was the venomous approach to "church" that bothered me about the incident. And I've seen the same attitude all of my life.

Honestly, the old attitudes are beginning to change. I have seen a much more spiritual, accepting, and open CofC as of late. But then, my friend brings to my attention A Christian Affirmation 2005. Now, if you are unfamiliar with the CofC, then the Affirmation will make little if any sense to you whatsoever. But if you've grown up beside them all of your life, and finally see a break in the clouds so to speak, it's disconcerting at the very least to see a statement signed by so many of the CofC "top brass" that at first blush seems to be leading the CofC back into the darkness. I mean, why? Why issue such a statement? Why now?

To be sure, there are dissenting voices. Leroy Garrett wrote a response to the Affirmation creatively entitled Response to A Christian Affirmation 2005. It's pretty good. The signers responded with A Reply to Leroy Garrett (another really snappy title).

With all of the things going on in the world, all of the needs in the world; with the faith of Christians worldwide being constantly put to an ever greater and greater test; with a new emerging church on the horizon that may (or may not) invalidate the pre-modern and modern models; with everything that is happenging, why in the name of floor polish would you want to issue a pseudo official statement about communion, baptism, and a cappella music?

I'm just sayin'....

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Interesting Article About the Results of Gay Marriage

Read it here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Please Be Patient

Be patient. I've been commenting over at Desperate Houseflies about almost the same subject as I'm about to blog on here, namely gay marriage and equal rights for homosexuals. So please be patient while I do my research.

To keep you interested, here is what I have found to be the most exciting blog on the net, so far.