27 October 2006

I can't help but post these...just a few verses from Fry's song "You, You, You". What sort of madness must take hold to inspire the shaming of frozen veins?

You, you, you, you
The you who do what none can do
The you that haunts my ears
On the shortlist of wasted rains
The avenue of chandeliers
That shames my frozen veins,
That shames my frozen veins.

You, yes, you, you, you
You who knows what once I knew
The you that spits my blood
And stares at both my clouds
You wear a sleeve of mud
Your cuffs become my shrouds,
Your cuffs become my shrouds.

You, yes, you, you, you
You the which why how and who
You crumple the skirts of need
In the belly of desire
Where my freshly planted seed
Can spin its tangled wire,
Can spin its tangled wire.

In other news, I am surrounded by my company's gooseneck cameras, all coiled in various positions, giving me a vague sensation of being surrounded by black metal snakes. The "other news" category is really being stretched today as you can see. Anybody else like their Mac mini? I do...have the little $599 wonderbox on my desk right now, tiny little thing. Of course, I don't like actually USING it so much as admiring its smallness. If you like Macs its a great little bargain, but I'm a Microsoft man. If you know how to handle Windows, its a powerful, stable, and safe operating system. Mac OS is more limited (to me), but has an out-of-the-box safety factor that makes it good for more casual computer users. That said, I'm not going to be touching Windows Vista for a long, long time. A totally unjustified upgrade. I can get a lot more mileage out of XP.

I've come this close to doing another paragraph on several entirely irrelevant and unimportant topics, but it isn't in me, I'm afraid. Thus endeth the worst blog entry ever!

Just....the parcel...of my dreams.

23 October 2006

I was doing a little metacognition (there's another fun word) and I came to the slightly pretentious realization on how I develop thoughts and ideas...I prototype. The last post and subsequent comment thread is a good example. Prototyping is a very common method of development (if not exactly the best one) used in software design, for example. What I tend to do is start with broadly, weakly supported assertions that may or may not be quite correct and sort of hone them in subsequent passes. Instead of trying to do it in a modular sense (honing each piece into completion and then synthesizing all items together as a full and complete package) I start with a rough exposition of my thoughts, warts and all, and work from there. And yes...this is all just a long-winded way of excusing any intellectual inaccuracies or fallacies contained in my last post and subsequent comments.

So who's up for a jumbled collection of thoughts on pacifism? You are? I thought as much! And a few caveats...for those of other faiths or of agnostic/atheistic persuasions, bear in mind that these arguments are not intended to be relevant to you necessarily, but they are concerned primarily with Christianity and pacifism.

St. Peter's Sword
Jesus's rebuke to Peter in John 18:11 is often used as an argument for pacifism. Bearing in mind the context, what is more likely Christ's motivation in this rebuke? That Peter was to meter out violence in defence of others, or that Peter was trying to intervene in the fate that God had chosen for His Son? Examine the two things he said. He asks Peter if he should refuse the cup the Father chose for him; he knew that resisting was futile and counterproductive. He instructs Peter, "put up thy sword into the sheath". He never tells him to cast it aside. He tells him to return it to its proper place: in its sheath, hanging at his side, ready to be used if truly needed. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus says "put up again thy sword into his place", which indicates that it was properly carried at his side, and the sword belonged on Peter's belt. Peter was a civilian, not a soldier or centurion. It is notable that Jesus had walked with Peter for three years, and had never admonished him to cast aside his weapon.

Swords as a Defensive Weapon?
There is often the implication that swords differ from handguns in that they can be "defensive" where handguns are purely "offensive". This is perpetuated by the concept of parrying and blocking which is possible with swords and similar weapons. However, it is fundamentally flawed. Handguns are defensive in that they can deter hostile action, or force it to cease when it occurs. Additionally, swords are naturally offensive...they would not require edges or points if they were purely designed for parrying the blows of an opponent.

The Sword as Symbolism
Throughout the Bible the sword is used in symbolism, typically to refer to the Word of God. If warfare and violence, for which the sword was designed, is inherently and consummately evil, then why would God choose a tool of evil to represent something so holy? Why would the sword be holy in a symbolic or spiritual sense, but be evil in its physical manifestation? This is a similar argument to those who see wine as inherently evil; God doesn't choose things he hates to symbolize things of purity and holiness. The sword was chosen because during that age it was the predominant sidearm. If Christ had come and the Bible had been written in modern times, would God have symbolized His Word with a Smith and Wesson revolver? I know it is abjectly unpoetic and distasteful to think about, but at the time swords were the cutting edge (seriously, no pun intended, believe me!) of weapons technology. Would Christ have told Peter to "put up again your Springfield 1911 into its holster"?

Weapons of Our Warfare - II Corinthians 10:3
As Paul states, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. This is to say, that we as Christians do not win the war of the kingdom with Crusades, jihad, forced conversions, or genocide, but through spiritual warfare: through prayer and ministry of the Word. But to say that this makes the presence of "carnal weapons" wrong lacks something...just as Jesus and Paul spoke of spiritual bread, meat, wine, and milk, we still require physical food. The physical food we eat is a part of our simple daily life, and has no real importance to our eternal souls, but it is not sinful. Our use of physical food keeps our bodies (for which we are stewards) alive, just as the carrying of physical weapons likewise is intended to keep our bodies (and those of others) alive. Do we win souls and advance the Kingdom with them, or tear down strongholds of the Enemy with them? No...and Paul's point here is very important, because there was a lot of misunderstanding about this in the Middle Ages, in particular, by people who thought they were doing God's work by waging war with the Mohammedans in Palestine. Islam continues with this concept (embodied in "jihad") to this day.

Sell Your Shirt and Buy a Sword!
In a passage (Luke 22:36-38) that I've often read over without a second thought, Jesus speaks to his disciples before his crucifixion, and admonishes those who do not have swords to do what they need to do (including selling the shirt off their back!) to buy a sword. The Greek word used here for sword (maxairan) references a contemporary Jewish short sword or dagger used for defence against robbers and wild animals. Because this passage surprised me so much when I read it, I went to a number of commentaries to see what people had said of it in the past. To my surprise, the few that did not skip conveniently over this text all seemed to dismiss it as symbolic and non-literal, without giving any clear reason why or what he actually did mean, seemingly because the commentators could not believe or accept what Jesus said at face value. It reminds me of the classic Monty Python line about the misheard "blessed are the cheesemakers" at the Sermon on the Mount: "obviously it isn't meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products." A plain reading of the text, on the other hand, shows Jesus clearly telling his disciples to arm themselves. If Jesus did not want his disciples to do so, why would he have used such confusing and apparently literal language?

Spiritual Warfare
All will readily agree that God engages in spiritual warfare; he is not a "pacifist" in the spiritual realm. In that the physical reality is a reflection of the spiritual reality, would God see engaging in battle as inherently sinful in this world but inherently righteous in the spiritual realm? It is worth bearing in mind that the spiritual realm is not, as we sometimes imagine it, "less real" and more symbolic, as if the term spiritual warfare was just a conceptual model for the struggle between God and Satan; the spiritual realm is eternal, and thus "more real" than the temporal physical realm.

Faith and Pacifism
A frequent argument for pacifism is that arming oneself for protection is to be lacking in faith in God's protection. We are to have faith for much more than just protection from evil men; "our daily bread" is just one other example. How many of us have refrigerators and pantries full of food, instead of waiting every day for God to mystically provide for us and making no provision for our nourishment? Is this a lack of faith? Most of us apply for jobs to earn money to take care of ourselves, and we plan for the future, setting money aside for our children's education, and other types of preparation. Would the God who gave the Book of Proverbs to Solomon find this planning wise or foolish? Is faith wise or foolish? God grants us stewardship of our lives, our bodies, the things we possess, and he trusts us to do his will with what he has given us. A sidearm is simply a tool used to preserve our bodies, just as physical food is, and we realize that we require no less faith for our protection when we go armed than when we are unarmed, because either way, our lives are still in his hands. An excellent article on this subject is posted on the Ethics/Religion section of http://www.corneredcat.com .

The Centurion
Jesus, upon meeting the Centurion in Matthew 8, never exhorted him to lay aside his weapons, but rather praised his faith. The man's very identity was embodied in his skill to do violence and lead his men in war; if such things were inherently sinful, would Jesus not have addressed it? Similarly this brings up the very practical and contemporary issue of police officers. Does a man who straps a Glock 22 every morning, trained and ready to use it to defend his life and the lives of others, violate God's law? Can a Christian be a policeman in good conscience? Or are these people "necessary evils" that we honor greatly because they do a work of evil that keeps us safe so we don't have to? If we stop and examine it, instead of conveniently ignoring it, is the work of a policeman, who is trained and willing to use lethal force if need be, sinful? Most would say no...and the delineation between policemen and civilians becomes markedly blurred when we think of off-duty cops, retired cops, ex-volunteer cops, EMTs and other first responders, and highly trained and certified civilians. Where do we draw the line? Is the use of lethal force sinful across the board, or in some contexts, or does it depend on who executes it? This all becomes very arbitrary and pointless to debate, but it illustrates that it is unfortunately not quite as simple as "Christians should never kill anyone".

David and Goliath
A very interesting case, in that it is used frequently as a testament of David's great faith in God, that God fought for him. But David did not take the pacifist role of inaction, waiting for God to smite Goliath before his eyes without lifting a finger. God had sent the bears and lions to him with his flock probably in order that God could teach his "hands to war" and "fingers to fight". Thus when David picked up his sling and carefully selected 5 stones (which could be considered equivalent to picking up a S&W J-frame and 5 rounds of carefully selected JHP), it was a tremendously deadly weapon due to his God-given skill in wielding it.

Many pacifists will point to non-violent martyrs as examples of the righteousness of pacifism, and it is certainly a good point. You could take as an example Jim Elliott and his party that were martyred by Aucas. But the problem is that you can't take the moral decision from that instance and apply it as easily to another situation. If a hostage rescue sniper is sitting on a rooftop with the reticle of his scope trained on a hostage taker's cranio-ocular cavity, he may be forced into a decision; if the hostage taker, who for the sake of an example is holding a revolver up against the head of a pregnant woman, pulls the hammer back on his revolver to shoot, the marksman is faced with a choice. He has sufficient training and experience to take out the criminal and save the woman's life. If he fails to do so, he will watch an innocent expectant mother be brutally murdered for no reason. What is the Christian decision here? This is a genuine question, and I can't claim to know the answer. In Ecclesiastes 3:3, the Preacher says there is "a time to kill". It seems that pacifism says, "no there jolly well isn't!".

Selflessness and Selfishness
There is a distinct difference one can note between selfish violence and selfless violence. The men who comprised the front rank of a Greek phalanx (a square formation of spearmen) knew they had almost no chance of survival going into battle, even if their side won decisively. A policeman walking into a "shots fired" situation or a SWAT team member taking point on entry into a hostage rescue assault are not acting in their personal interests, but they are exhibiting a good degree of selflessness. Selfishness and selflessness can be defined pretty broadly, so this is not a moral rule of any sort, but it is important not to conglomerate all acts of violence, both the selfish and evil, and the selfless and noble, as the same thing.

Paternal Instinct
A father's instinctive reaction to physical harm threatened against his young son or daughter, that is either sin nature or God's nature. The Bible speaks repeatedly of God's dedication to destroying those that harm his children, which leads me to believe the latter. A protective instinct is natural, but are all natural natures sinful? There is a natural nature of selfishness and greed which is sinful, but just as love for children is both present in physical nature and in God's nature, the protective instinct can be present in both natures as well.

Assorted References
Psalms 144:1 "Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:"

Judges 3:16 "But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh."

Luke 11:21 "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:"

Song of Solomon 3:7-8 "Behold, it is Solomon's carriage! Sixty mighty men are around it, of the mighty men of Israel. They all handle the sword, and are expert in war. Every man has his sword on his thigh, because of fear in the night."

Genesis 3:24 (First Mention) "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."

16 October 2006

Cheers, Mr. Scott, for the most propitious lending of Chesterton's "Orthodoxy". I'm into the Maniac chapter, the second, I believe, and it is quite interesting (specifically Chesterton's asserted causes of insanity). I have a nagging suspicion that to some degree his logic may take a somewhat oversimplistic view of insanity, in that his version of insanity may in actuality only represent one particular type of mental illness, among the many diverse forms known to the medical community now (but that were all lumped in together in his day). Not so much a criticism, but a defensive anticipation of external criticism. Debra had the probably-quite-boring task of achieving a Psychology degree, so I might have her read the chapter and see what she thinks from that perspective. I forgot what little I learned in my Psych 101 class. That said...I think Chesterton's argument works (in spite of any potential incompatibilities with the whole mental health issue) because he is not making a point about insanity at all. He is making a point about reason and creativity.

I don't want to wage a holy war on the emerg[ent/ing] church movement on here, at all, but I find Chesterton and Lewis, in particular, quite refreshing when considering these movements. While I've just started it, Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" seems to be a comedy of irony, or "farce" as he puts it, that shows Mr. Chesterton coming full circle as a logical, free thinker that finds the answers in the place he leasts expect...traditions, the established church. And Chesterton was (egads!) a Roman Catholic (hisssssss). And Lewis...well, he was a member of the Church of England...not exactly that great of a church, but he accepted its faults and didn't call for a "revolution" against the established church. Nor was he a conformist or a traditionalist. In The Screwtape Letters he talks about how churchgoers can be tempted to turn their focus to the frailties of the church body itself, by looking at their neighbors and dismissing the church because it is composed of imperfection. The thinly veiled contempt of the Emergies (great new word!) for "conventional church" reminds me so much of that. The thing I like about both of these authors is that they didn't dismiss 2000 years of church history because, surprise surprise, there was sin and apathy in the churches. But anyway, don't want to open a can of worms here. If I go into a real critique of "la revolucion" I would go on for a long time and probably run the risk of being firebombed by some revolutionaries. Debra and I discuss this stuff a lot, we are analytical types. No matter, though. Movements falter and disappear, denominations come and go, revolutions and rebellions fade to footnotes of history before being squeezed out of even such insignificant notoriety by the march of time...God remains.

On that note...I hate to say this, because other than being a hippie (and Cartman haaates hippies! "hippies everywhere! they wanna save the earth but all the do is smoke pot and smell bad!"), I've got nothing against him, but I've amused myself quite a bit coming up with parody ideas for Rob Bell videos. I mean, the guy is interesting and all, but his videos are just ripe for parody...I can't help it. I'm not sharing the ideas on here though, so at least I've got *some* self control.

I think "Emergies" is a great new term. What about you? It's like the Monkees meet the Goonies meet hippies meet Erwin McManus. See, why can't I have a nice logical discourse on this stuff without inventing a new pejorative term by which I am probably the only one even remotely amused?

By the by, I am now a happy possessor of the complete first and second seasonings of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie (Deceased)". I think with that sketch comedy, my favourite five British comedies have been established, including the following: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Good Neighbors/The Good Life, Yes [Prime] Minister, and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Honourable mention to Jeeves and Wooster, though its more of a series than a sitcom. Kind of literary sitcom, in a sense.

06 October 2006

One downside to my fascination with the "Bit of Fry and Laurie" series is that only 2 of 4 of the seasons have been released on DVD, and I am left with naught but internet scripts for season 3 and 4. Neverthemind you less, for the clouds of night do but never such break the sun! It is but nary a small and incognificent thing, for to which has been sufficed most grandly with the present exemption of these the following sketches, with the which I present you to for your most endeavorsome enwritten enjoyment:

"A Word, Timothy" - nice little punchline, that...

"Milk Pot" - wanton, profligate silliness

Oh, and the episode of the Office that was on last night...fan-sodding-tastic. The fallout of Dwight's attempted coup had a dramatic inevitability and such a magnificent sense of ominous foreboding. He knows, Dwight (or is it "Dwigt"). He knows it was you. And it breaks his heart. The other side effect to that show is that now at work, I really want to play Call of Duty. Can I transfer to Stamford? I know what the difference between an MP40 and a 44 (assumedly the Stg. 44) is, unlike Jim. And I'd take the Sturmgewehr 44 over the MP40 any day. Huh-hoy.

Speaking of!!! What a magnificent transition. I've decided on two rounds, I believe. In .380 ACP for the Bersa, the Remington Golden Saber is said to have excellent reliability and is used widely among Bersa owners. For the Kel-Tec in 9mm Parabellum, I will probably go ahead and use Cor-Bon DPX. That is expensive stuff, about $1 per round, so it won't be for practice once I prove its reliability, but it is probably the best in that chambering. Excellent expansion, uses the Barnes X bullet. The expanded bullets look like little copper flowers, and if I recall correctly, can hit 3/4" after expanding, which is essentially .75 caliber. Although, hang on a minute...that may be the number for the .45 in DPX, so I'd expect the 9mm version to be more in the .50 to .65 range after expansion. Anyway, I'm feeling range deprived...need to get some more .380 to run through the Bersa. I won't trust it til I've run at least 200 rounds through it, and it runs malfunction free. Right now it is at 1 malfunction in 25 rounds, but it is still in the break-in period.

I cannot get Bertie Wooster's version of "47 Ginger Headed Sailors" out of my head. What a silly little song. "It's all the rage at the Drones at the moment".

04 October 2006

Alright, true to my words, no talk of politics or ballistics in this entry...this time we are celebrating (oh isn't that a fantastically annoying liberal word?) the works of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The latter being known to American audiences mostly as Dr. House on the similarly titled Fox medical dramedy. I say dramedy because "drama" just seems too heavy for that show. I digress. Anyway, the following are somewhat randomly selected snippets of their late 80s, early 90s sketch comedy show, "A Bit of Fry and Laurie". I heartily suggest you watch all of them. Every...last...one. If you must skip one...the Hey Jude a la chipmunk is amusing but disposable. The "subject of language" sketch is funny because Stephen Fry's character reminds me of the classic insufferable academic that loves to hear himself expound on any number of topics.

Hugh Laurie singing "America":

The "Major Donaldson" sketch:

Hugh Laurie's angry and incisive "Where is the Lid" song:

The "Subject of Language" sketch:

Two quasi-jazzy but very witty Hugh Laurie songs, "Mystery" and "Little Girl":

This is just wrong...a chipmunked "Hey Jude":

A limp-wristed song about Steffi Graf:

OK, this final one is the strangest, most absurd thing I've ever seen. And it is abjectly disconcerting...the sort of thing where you are unsure whether to laugh hysterically or just be confused. Don't watch this until you've watched at least most of the others, just so you don't prejudge the comedy of Fry and Laurie:

Also, check out a number of the "related" videos, because there are tons of Fry and Laurie clips on youtube. Enough to easily waste an afternoon. Trust me, I know.

02 October 2006

Pardon me as I allow this blog to delve into the realm of its former existence as a haven of political ramblings. This isn't so much political as philisophical.

But "The Scandal of the Century of the Weekend" is Mark Foley. Let's look at what we know. Mark Foley is a prat, first off, we'll all readily admit it. He was commonly known to be gay, and he sent lurid emails and IMs to a 16 or 17 year old male teen page working at the House. Oust him? Sure! I'm all for that.

But what irks me is the predictable reaction to this...that Republicans and conservatives are all hypocrites and, well, evil child molesters. That conservative moral standards are somehow bad because someone who advocated them turned out to fail them miserably. Sooo...painting with a broad brush, conservatives say that there is right and wrong. Some of there members crash and burn and fail to live up to those standards, and liberals scream hypocrisy. Liberals don't really have to worry about hypocrisy because they hardly ever take a moral stand on anything. I am not communicating this well...it makes more sense in my head. But it is like one side saying "sin is wrong" and the other side saying, "there is no sin". The first side sins, and then the other side attacks them as hypocrites for sinning when they said sin is wrong. Well, newsflash, all men are by nature sinners. The fact that people are imperfect does not excuse the faults in our lives. The right thing for Republicans to do is to live up to the standards and punish Foley according to the law. If it was a Democrat, he would be celebrated and feted for his heroic stand for ephebophilic Americans. Don't believe me?

Gerry Studds was a Democrat congressman who was in an actual, physical relationship (not just instant messages) with an underage 17 year old male page. He was lightly censured by Congress when it broke in 1983, but he went on to be elected FIVE MORE TIMES to Congress. Tell me. How is this ANY different. The only difference is that one is a Republican, one is a Democrat, and Democrats feel that they don't have any standards to abide by sexually...pretty much in their book anything goes and its all "private matters". But when a Republican does it, shrieks of hypocrisy break the clouds from the Left. When will they understand...conservatives are not advocating moral standards to be forced upon all the other imperfect underlings...they advocate those moral standards because we are all imperfect, we are all prone to sin. If a Republican is caught speeding in his car it does not mean that the party's support for speed limits is not genuine. There will always be corruption, scandal, and immorality in Congress. The answer is not to claim it doesn't exist or to interpret its existence as support for removing moral standards, but to root it out whereever it does exist.

Ehhh, running out of concern here. Pardon me, this was probably one of the most poorly written blog entries I've done in a while. It makes me feel like a writer for Newsweek (har, har).

On to more pressing matters! The flat-stack 9mm I've had on order is shipping, though I'm far down the list. However, a guy on the Kel-Tec Owners Group forum managed to snag one Sunday...looks beautiful! He even managed to get it to the range, fed it 50 rounds with no malfunctions. He said the trigger was a little stiff, so we'll see on that. I'm trying to decide what a good ammunition selection would be...I've got it nailed down to Remington Golden Saber or Federal Expanding FMJ (EFMJ), both in +P. I think Golden Saber may be the first choice, but if I have any feeding issues, the Federal EFMJ will be next in line as its round nose will feed quite reliably. I'd love for a .357 SIG version of the PF-9, but due to the increased recoil that is unlikely. For the uninitiated, .357 SIG is a newer caliber that takes a 9mm bullet with an (approximately) 10mm necked-down casing, resulting in what is essentially a 9mm +P+P+P cartridge...huge muzzle velocity and energy because you're using the power of a 40cal cartridge to push a smaller 9mm bullet. There have been very good field reports from police departments around the country regarding the cartridge...including reports of higher-than-average one shot stops, and non-fatal shots that still stop an assailant.

Also, there is a company developing an electric less-lethal round that is very interesting...it generates electricity as it is fired and delivers a strong electric shot upon making impact. Note it is not "non-lethal" in that it could still be lethal, but the diminished need for multiple shots to stop makes it more likely that you could stop an attacker without necessarily killing him. Which we can all agree is a good thing!

For next time...no politics and no gun talk. I promise. How about a Bit of Fry and Laurie? Coming soon!