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Technomancer and troubleshooter by trade. Programmer by choice. Creator of Deviant Paradigm, somewhat by accident.
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Finally Bottled the Wheat
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Halloween Party: Images 2005
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Semper Nox Noctis: Memoirs of the OverAlpha 1
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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Things That Shouldn't Go Boom For $500
Okay, Xotz (my desktop computer and baby) just got through doing a great impression of a SWAT entry team: A flash, a loud bang, and everything seemed broken afterward. The powersupply just fried. Thank God it only took a stick of RAM with it. Now I'm a bit short on RAM, but I don't have to replace his whole system yet (that's for this summer's full time pay), and his harddrives appear to be fine and functional. My nerves are so shot I can hardly type...I need something to drink.
Monday, January 29, 2007
It is time for me to write another long winded essay, and it seems this sort of topic weighs heavy on my mind. I would guess that this is partly because I have a few gay friends and I would very much like to see them in the afterlife, and partly I write to seek my own redemption through them. Maybe I'll speak more on that bit in a different post. So in respect to New Jersey's recent (granted, forced) decision to become the third state to provide homosexual civil unions and the World News Daily's rather remarkable inability to do scientific reporting, essentially announcing that red-state, conservative Nebraska's three main exports are beef, corn, and gay; I dedicate this: an essay on God and our natures. As a warning, this post contains subject matter and some language that is inappropriate for the young. And, as usual, if you have something to add, please do so; I read all my comments and enjoy a spirited debate. I'm not right about everything, after all, I just try to be. <grin>
Let's start on the us thing, our nature, with a scientific bit instead of a theological one. This is really a side topic, but I think it's something that should be noted. Most of the analogies between human sexuality and animal sexuality are wrong. This is because of one simple thing – near as I am aware, human sexuality is unique in the entirety of the animal world. I do not have exhaustive knowledge, so if anyone knows differently and can back it up with a link or two (not Wikipedia please, I want something authoritative), please let me know, I welcome the knowledge. By 'unique,' I mean that human beings are the only social animal I am aware of that prefers to form monogamous relationships. Most of the cultures in the world practice serial monogamy. This is not true of all of the animal world that I am aware of, certainly not true of the other primates. It is very popular to bring up the bonobo, or pigmy chimpanzee, in relation to human sexuality. Bonobos are not our closest genetic relative, but they do demonstrate a human-like sexual proclivity, in that they seem to have sex purely for the pleasure of it. Not only that, but they often engage in homosexual activities. This has led a number of people to the conclusion that these things; sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and having sex just because it feels good, are natural things (that is to say, they are things which happen commonly in nature, and thus following these impulses is good). I would argue that this conclusion is false, simply because the principle is not entirely true. From what I have read, bonobos predominantly use sex as a form of conflict avoidance and resolution, largely unlike humans (excepting the human tendency for couples to have sex after a fight). To wit, bonobos use sex as a way to express “no hard feelings,” the way we humans do with a handshake. Anytime they do, or could, get into a conflict about something, they tend to have sex. Among members of the same sex, this amounts to rubbing each other. If we decide to make this analogous to human sexuality, it's okay for Joe and Ted to jerk each other off after getting into an argument, but most of human homosexual practices are right out. I've never read anything concerning bonobos (or other animals for that matter) engaging in oral or anal sex. Since those seem to be the big draw for homosexuals, bonobos might not be the best representatives from the animal kingdom to champion the human cause.
Just to drive home how unique human sexuality is, let's look at our closest genetic relatives, the common chimpanzees. Humans have this odd thing – females do not enter a visible estrus. In other words, despite the wishes of many of those of the furry persuasion, women don't go into heat (no, I am not speaking of my own personal opinion on this particular matter -- in honesty, I have not formed one). For those of you who have had unspayed dogs or cats, you know why this is probably an advantage for us in the end. This is likely tied into our strange obsession with monogamy, but I do not have the background necessary to do more than speculate. Now, when a chimp goes into heat, all the eligible males in the troop have sex with her. This is for one good reason – this way they cannot identify the father. If the males all have an equal stake in the offspring, that is to say, it has a relatively equal chance of being theirs, they will protect those offspring. Otherwise the males have a tendency to engage in infanticide (which is fairly common among animals), to give their own offspring the best advantages. Note that infanticide among human cultures is based on wholly different reasoning. Humans instead form monogamous relationships to give the males the necessary psychological belief that the children are theirs (among other reasons). This is not something common to other social animals. We humans have a unique sexual nature.
And on that note, let me get to the meat and potatoes of the post. As you all should be aware, I am a Christian by creed, and a Lutheran by denomination. Most Christians believe homosexuality is wrong. Some believe it is evil. Regardless, the majority can agree it is wrong – a sin. But just as you will hear that many homosexuals do not know a time when they were not gay, you hear many Christians disbelieve them, claiming they do not believe that God would “make someone gay” or allow someone to be born gay. My question is “why?” Why do Christians say this? At the risk of having some people misunderstand this analogy, allow me to continue; Why do we Christians believe in a God who is willing to tolerate suffering in this world, even to allowing children to be born with horrifying diseases, but we will not believe in a God that allows children to be born so that they will grow up to have desires for those of their own gender?
I, instead, will argue the opposite. Because we believe in a loving, just, and good God, we must believe in a God who will permit suffering, even that of the innocent, and a God who will permit those to be born with homosexual desires. These things go hand in hand. Please note here that I do not say that God “makes” people suffer or “makes” people into homosexuals any more than he “makes” people into race car drivers, furries, or insipid bloggers with a tendency to prattle on. God permits these things. There is a large difference between permitting something to happen because you feel that it must; and causing it to happen. This is not to say that He cannot make someone into something, it is that He chooses not to. Odd that the greatest stumbling block for atheists to believe (that a good God allows suffering) is the same as the greatest stumbling block for Christians to accept gays (by this I do not mean “accept their lifestyle as good,” I mean, “accept them as fellow human beings, no better or worse than ourselves”). Consider this: God wants us to love him. Love cannot exist without choice; God has no use for human beings who are simply robots. But as my old science teacher used to say, “Choices have consequences.” We have free will so that we can choose God, choose to love him. Without choice, without free will, there is no right or wrong, no good or evil, no justice or injustice. All these things need free will. But some will always choose the wrong path, and introduce suffering to this world. From the Christian perspective, that was done long, long ago, with the very first humans. And even the suffering of the innocent can bring people to God; he is able to use suffering.
Why is there suffering? Why do we make poor choices sometimes? Because, as Paul wrote, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” (Romans 3:22b-23). Much of Romans deals with this topic. We sin because it is in our nature to do so. We are sinful by our very natures. This is something which every Christian should be able to agree on. The common confession is “we are by nature sinful and unclean, but God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God does not express much differentiation in sins, most sins are equal before God. He paints sin with a broad brush. Homosexuality would be lumped in with the rest of sexual immorality, the same as prostitution, adultery, lust, pornography, and fornication. A broad brush indeed. So our sinful natures have a very large palette they can use to express themselves. We can easily note that for some, their natures lead them to lie, for some to steal, for some to rebel against authority (you know, breaking laws; everything from doing drugs to speeding), for some even to kill. So why is it so difficult to imagine that it is simply by the nature of some that they are homosexual? God did not make us sinful. Our natures cause Him enormous pain. But He is left with the choice of allowing us to be sinful and able to love, or perfect but incapable of love. I know that I am sinful by my nature, in many ways, some of them are things I do not even recognize as sins, or care to recognize as sins. But I am glad that God has given me the opportunity to stumble, for without it, I would not be able to stand back up. So I am willing to accept that I have a sinful nature, one that leads me to my own set of temptations and unnatural desires. (Okay, now that makes the sentence sound strange – my nature provokes unnatural things <grin>). I accept this of all people (I have stated before that President Bush and I are in complete agreement on this point). We are all sinful and have fallen short of God's will. That is the way human life is. But obviously, even though we are all sinful, we are not all sinful in exactly the same way (or I would not have the difficulties finding certain things when I look for them). Then it follows logically that all kinds of sin are provoked by the natures of different people. As soon as this is recognized, it becomes evident that some people would simply be homosexual by their nature. For some, this may be flexible, for many others it is not. So trying to “convert” a homosexual into a heterosexual has no guarantee to work (or vice versa) no matter how much some of us would like to believe it. Nothing in their lives necessarily made them gay. Not soy, not being nurtured too much or too little, and not watching the Teletubbies. Some people were born with homosexual proclivities. Just some food for thought, especially the next time you hear someone state that they can't believe that God would let a person be born gay.
"Even a demon would drink tonight"
I've been renting a lot of bizarre movies lately. The title here is a line that the guitar player sings in Izo. I liked the line. The movie...Well, let's just say it makes your head hurt. It's a mind blasting, terrifying samurai movie. There's no such thing as continuity, the camera changes scenes without warning. Each different scene is usually a different time period, but that doesn't mean much. Izo fights samurai on a busy street, modern riot police in Edo-period Japan, and those Edo-period policemen in modern Tokyo. There is a plot, but finding it and watching the rest almost kills you. And then there's the sex scenes...I don't think they could be more wooden or less believable if one or both of the parties involved were dead. Yes, I am aware that Izo is supposed to be the vengeful spirit of a guy that's killed at the beginning, so technically he is dead. The Guitar Player is one of the few people who appears almost as often as Izo and doesn't get killed. And the movie ends with what I've called "the Japanese ending" (I usually refer to Shadow of the Colossus as having this ending). That is, Izo gets reborn. Then he hyperages to his original age. It's seriously messed up.
Then I rented Forbidden Zone. Well, it was better... Still bizarre as all get out. Then again, it was a vehicle for the Mystical Knights of Oingo Boingo (yes, that Oingo Boingo). Danny Elfman had the distinction of being one of very few characters who wore pants in the whole movie. And then there was the copious nudity. The Princess of the Sixth Dimension was topless for the whole movie. And, like a Mel Brooks film, it was sort of universally demeaning. I can't imagine working on a movie like this. But it was entertaining enough. Especially when Danny Elfman as Satan had one character's head chopped off. Despite this, Squeezit managed to be in the rest of the movie, as a head flying around on chicken wings. While Izo made you feel like you were on drugs (and not very nice drugs), Forbidden Zone was like watching someone else on drugs. But hey, it had a music video for "Private Life" on the DVD too, so that was great, as I do happen to like Oingo Boingo, though I wasn't around for their Mystical Knights period. Someday I need a DP comic where Danny Elfman is called back into action to stop some sort of horrifying monster in a manner only Oingo Boingo could accomplish.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Okay, while I sit here blogging instead of doing Combinatorics and Number Theory homework (ugh...), let me catch up on things. First off, hello to my cousins Aaron and Sarah. They recently started to read the blog, and they're the ones who gave me the wonderful excuse to visit California by getting married. I'm going to go to a Skillet concert with them and some of Aaron's brothers this Wednesday, which I'm totally stoked for. Skillet's pretty much brought Christian music back into my life. They're spectacular, particularly "Comatose," their latest CD, which I will probably buy at the show. They're a hard rock band with a good male lead, a very nice female backup vocalist, and a terrific sound. If you have the chance, check out "Rebirthing" and "The Last Night," both songs are from "Comatose" and are up on their MySpace page. "The Last Night" is probably my favorite song of theirs.
I've been burning a lot of time on webcomics. I've scripted the prologue for the one Sapph and I are going to try to work on, so that's getting along. For reading, I probably look forward to TwoKinds the most. I love that comic so much, for so many reasons. Tom (the artist) has the fantastic ability to salute the cliches and then move on (I might have mentioned this before). Also, I'm a Natani fanboy. The fact that I can look back to when I started reading, and see the improvement in his art (which was already fantastic), just over the course of these few months, gives me hope about my own pathetic attempts (even with the thing Sapph and I are going to do, I'm not going to give up DP as my own largely gag strip). For something that's different and still very good, I've been reading Hero By Night, which is presented as diary entries by the hero. So it's mostly text, with images as newspaper clippings, photos, sketches, and diagrams. It's a very different way to see a comic portrayed, and I find it to be a much better superhero story than most. But I'm not really a superhero comic guy. I would go into a long tangent here, but I'm probably best off not diluting this post with all that.
I got started reading Outpost Nine. I've just about read everything on the site, and I'll have to move on to Gaijin Smash, the author's other site, which is all about his time as an English teacher in Japan. I really love Az's work, partly because it has a distinct tendency to sound like things I would or have written. Az went a little farther than I did, actually managing to drop the nice guy and become a jerk, which I haven't been able to pull off, but our perspectives on things, especially women, are not terribly different. Maybe my media-born terror about Blacks is totally misplaced, since the only ones I actually know are really cool guys a lot like me and not at all like what television, music, and movies keep trying to tell me Blacks are like. Are all their comments on minorities wrong?
Otherwise, it's all been school and work. Why is it that everything goes wrong at work when I'm in class? Is it because I'm not available that everything has to break? Needless to say, work's been a little frustrating. I've pretty much cemented a hatred of Red Hat and Fedora Core. Nothing like paring the worst package management in the industry (seriously, RPMs and Yum are about as bad as you can get and still call it package management), with a tendency to not load configuration files at boot time. We lost the network at work two separate days because FC (like Red Hat before it) sometimes doesn't load things like our IPTables config file. Not that bad on a standalone machine, but when the computer in question is the router for the office, that's a crippling problem. Then the next day, I learned that it didn't bother to load the rc.local file either, so the dhcp server didn't start up, and when everyone's IP addresses expired, they couldn't get new leases and lost the Internet again. Thanks Red Hat. I can't properly express how frustrating working with your product is. What I wouldn't give to have the chance to put Debian on all our servers instead. Or Gentoo (which is my personal favorite distro, it's just probably not the right one for my workplace).
At least I've still got my webcomics and my endless stream of movies from Blockbuster. *grin*
And for your seating, would you prefer window, aisle, or wingtip?
Okay, I couldn't pass this up. Looks like we of America can't hog all the heroes (okay, from my perspective, it was largely us and the Aussies, who I am rapidly considering the most steadfast people I have ever heard of -- I'd rather an Aussie than anyone else at my back in a knock-down drag out in any arena the way they're going). The Brit's RAF is out to prove they're still a shining force in this world of increasing shadow.
The reason I couldn't let this go by is two fold -- one, I am a lover of heroic tales. I can spend hours reading about how medal winners earned those honors. And two, the AH-64 Apache is my favorite helicopter of all time, dating back to a childhood of playing LHX, an old helicopter flightsim (the LHX, for Light Helicopter eXperimental, would later be christened the "Commanche"). As anyone passingly familiar with the Apache can tell you, it's a fearsome unit on the battle field, but it isn't exactly good at troop transport. It has a pilot, a wizard (sort of co-pilot), and lots of weapons -- no room for passengers of any kind. So when the RAF Marines hears they've got a fallen Marine in Taliban country, they're pretty much out of time and fuel, they can't do a proper rescue. So they act like the Marines they are and make due. They strap themselves to the outside of a couple of their Apaches and head out to pick this guy up. They are literally tied to the wingstubs of an attack helicopter out on a rescue mission. They hit the ground running, knowing they have a couple minutes to find their comrade before the Taliban catch wind and come out with guns blazing. And they're right. About three minutes after touchdown, the Taliban show up, and the third Apache, which flying around to provide cover, opens up. A 30mm chain gun on a swivel mount can make for a very frightening antipersonnel weapon, I'm sure. The RAF Marines find their fallen buddy, and strap him securely on one Apache, but the Taliban are coming out in full force now, and they have to dust-off immediately. So they skip tying themselves on, and just grab hold and take off. They hold on to the sides of these attack helicopters the whole way back to base. At touch down, there were two minutes of fuel left in the Apache carrying the man.
Sadly, the wounds of the fallen Marine were mortal, and he passed away. But he passed away in the hands of friends; the RAF refused to let him be captured or die alone. This is the mark of heroes. They volunteer to do the craziest things imaginable, because those things are what are right and good. And they don't think they did anything special after everything's said and done. This is one of the most amazing things I've heard about in recent days. The RAF Marines have more than proven themselves in my book, with just this alone. (Hey, I never get to hear about anything they do, since Afghanistan is virtually forgotten by the media, so I know I've missed out on a lot of British heroism. This sort of thing probably isn't so unusual.)
The video of this spectacular feat is on Sky News, the full story is at the Sunday Mirror, and I heard about it at Hot Air.