Thursday, 24 December 2009

Round and Round

I am trapped in an infinite loop, and there doesn't appear to be an acceptable escape subroutine.

I love writing philosophical essays. They make my brain feel good. But a while back, early in the morning (as in *ahem* before I went to bed), I had to argue against granting elective amputation to people with BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder). All was going well until I stumbled over the argument, "Yes, because people have a right to make their own decisions. They should be granted autonomy."

My first thought to counter that was people with BIID are irrational and so must be protected from themselves.

But then I thought that atheists think Christians are irrational, and we sure wouldn't want them to use that as a reason to take away our autonomy.

But then I thought that suppose a man is running around stark naked in the street because he believes he'll go to hell if he doesn't? Is it wrong to intervene then?

So I decided to allow nude men on the street. Clearly that will appall many people, but he's not hurting anyone. But what if he starts propositioning people? Freedom of speech would allow him to do that, doesn't it? So long as he doesn't force the issue?

But the response could be equally offensive. If people don't adhere to certain standards, then there's mayhem. It'd be practically anarchy and someone would eventually take control of the situation. And then we're back to making rules!

So let's skip the nudity and make rules to being with. The only fair way to do this would be to use the democratic process. But suppose that the democratic decision is to put all Christians in psych wards or make a switch to an authoritarian model of government? Can you overthrow democracy in order to maintain democracy? Does that even WORK?

Naturally, we could skip the democracy and supposed freedom altogether. That would be a bit more stable, but eventually there would be a revolt, which would naturally lead to a (short) period of anarchy.

And so it goes like this:George Orwell came up with a possible out in his book, 1984, but even if it would work, it would end up in a state of perpetual Big Brother, and not one of perpetual freedom. So what's left?

The only good way I see out of this loop is like this. You have to go out of phase on an angle tangential to politics and philosophy, which of course, while good as a theory, still leaves the question of how to apply it:
Aha! Yes! If everyone just loved God and loved their neighbour, then rules would be a moot point.

...But then I thought that I'm only supposed to argue for not allowing doctors to chop healthy limbs off people. And I still don't know how to argue it.

Sigh.

P.S. Merry Christmas! Happy birthday, Jesus!

P.P.S. Heal up fast, Judith! Thank God you're safe. My thoughts and prayers with you *hugs*.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dragons

It turns out that when I don't have tons of school to do, I have time to do some drawing. In particular, drawing of dragons or dragon-like creatures. My papers are filled with dragon scribbles. This is Malamordred.


And this is Evangeline. She's also a dragon, but currently in human form.


Since I don't have room to put these pictures up on my wall, I thought I'd post them to my blog.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nothing But a Creamer

This morning greeted me with a creamer explosion. I'm not talking about those little "baby creams" in white containers that you stick into coffees. I'm talking about the Tim Hortons "mama cream" bags that fill the creamer machines. Each one creamifies the coffees of what, say, a hundred or so customers.

At least it didn't explode on me. I was busy doing something else when I heard an ominous splooshing noise. I looked over just in time to see the white eruption on Debbie.

Goosh goosh.

Now, you understand that we have minor cream crises at Timmy's on a fairly regular basis. Most aren't overly dramatic, so when I saw the flood of cream, I thought, "Oh, Debbie will stop it. She's already got her hand on the bag. She can handle it."

Goosh goosh.

Then I thought, "Well, she should be stopping it by now. It's getting messy."

Goosh goosh.

The customers all watched goggle-eyed as Debbie wrestled with the torrent of cream. Brenda and I continued with our business, fully confident in Debbie's ability.

"Um, I need a bucket, please!" spluttered Debbie from beneath the geyser with just a hint of panic in her voice. It was at that point that I realized she wasn't winning. I stopped stirring coffees and went into the back room, picked up the bucket we mix ice caps in and came back. There was no where to step. The cream covered so much floor it looked like an ice rink. So I slip-slided across to Debbie and tried to figure out how to catch the rest of the cream from the still gurgling bag. Debbie stopped floundering around, picked up the mama cream in its metal box thing, and stuck the tip of it in the bucket. None of the customers said anything.

"Well, what a way to start the morning!" I said in hopes of keeping Debbie from getting upset. She laughed and slip-slided out into the back room, leaving a trail of white footprints all the way.

Still none of the customers said anything but just watched her glide out in cream-covered glory.

Then I ran out of cream in the second cream machine. That means that there was cream quite literally everywhere except in the cream dispensers. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. I mean, talk about a white Christmas all you want, but this was overkill. Debbie was too scared to replace any of the empty mama creams for all the rest of the shift.

You should have seen the mop bucket after we were finally done cleaning that up (four hours later). I guess it's disasters like these that keep work interesting.

Speaking of over-doing things:

Wadsworth: Well, he's certainly dead now. Why would anyone want to kill him twice?
Miss Scarlet: It seems so unnecessary.
Colonel Mustard: It's what we call "overkill."

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I Guess This is Fan Art

If you don't already know that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, you've clearly not been keeping up with my blog. If you do know that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, but don't know what Fire Emblem is, you are sorely deprived. At any rate, today you shall have the opportunity to be "wowed" by a few drawings of Fire Emblem characters that I have done. Here are the few I'm most proud of:

From left to right we have Natasha, Neimi, and Innes. Innes' colouring is a bit off, but that's what happens when you don't test pencil crayon colours before having at it. Oh, and Neimi especially had better put on a little arm protector thing before she goes and tries to shoot stuff with her bow.



Here, of course, is Seth the Silver Knight. I'm particularly proud of him. Who knew you could colour so many different shades of black?



And now here's Amelia and Marisa. All the official Fire Emblem artwork gives the girls much shorter skirts (and less boot) but I couldn't bring myself to follow suit. Personally, I think Marisa and Seth are my two best attempts, though the others I posted aren't half bad.


Here's Amelia's "friend", Franz. I don't think his armour fits quite right, but I like his face. He has a very nice face. Maybe that's why Amelia likes him so much.


And to take a break from FE 8, here are a couple of guys from FE 7. I was having a bad day drawing legs, so I made them both sit down. I'm actually quite pleased with how Guy turned out. Wil looks a little bit like a ramrod. Maybe he's posing for a photograph with his dead bunny...


And *cough* Wil's girlfriend, Rebecca. I seem to like drawing the archer characters...

I suppose a Fire Emblem quote would be appropriate here.

Knoll, to Lute: "Er, excuse me... if at all possible, uh, would you mind not stalking me like that?"

Monday, 14 December 2009

Four Brothers

This is a tale of four winter tires.

Once upon a time, a family in Canada ordered four winter tires for a little silver car with a bra (to read the story of the car bra, see this December's edition of Reader's Digest, page 215, or click here).

The first tire, third tire, and fourth tire were brothers. They had lived happily in Hodgkins, Illinois, until the call up occurred. Eager to make a difference in the world, all three tires volunteered to be shipped out to the family in need, up in arctic, frigid Calgary. They signed up to go on the second of December, and began their journey north the next day. It wasn't long before disaster struck. Despite the best efforts of the brothers to stay together, brother number four never made it to the first pit stop... or possibly missed check in or something. Tires number one and three spent the whole morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, looking for their brother, but they did not find him. Dejectedly, the resumed their journey north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, one brother short.

It was during their four day recuperation period in a UPS facility in Winnipeg that they joyously discovered that their brother was not lost, after all, but had only been sleeping in a corner of the truck, unnoticed. Now strengthened in their resolve to continue forth, the three tires boarded a truck, cried "Westward ho!" and excitedly began the final leg of their journey.

Together they arrived in Calgary on December the ninth. Huddled together for warmth in the biting cold, they waited outside the garage door of their new family. Slightly concerned that the delivery man had not signaled their arrival nor formally introduced them to the family, the four tires began to wonder whether they were truly wanted. After several hours, the family learned of their arrival and happily came out to meet them. Much to the disappointment of the three winter tires, the people scratched their heads and did not appear to be grateful for the sacrifice of the three tires.

"But, but, didn't you want us?" said the tires to the family.

"Oh, but indeed we do," replied the family, "and we are very glad that you're here. It's just that we need four tires, and you are but three. Do you not have a fourth brother? Has someone carried him off?"

The brothers had not thought of this. They replied that they had no brother and referenced the family to the organization they had volunteered with. It was five days later, on December the fourteenth, that there was a knock on the door. The three tires excitedly met their new companion for the first time. As they ushered him into the warmth of the family's garage, they begged him to tell his story.

"Well, you see," said the new tire, "I have long desired to make my mark on the world and help a harrowed family in need, but the opportunity never came up, because these families always need four tires, and I have no siblings."

The three tires looked at him sympathetically. "No siblings?" they said, "But where are you from?"

"Maumee, Ohio," the new brother said. "You can't imagine how excited I was when I was told that a family had been found for me. I left Maumee on the third of December for Windsor, Ontario. For four days I anxiously waited there, dreaming of my new family and my fellow winter tires. On the seventh of December, I was given clearance to continue on to Concord, Ontario. There I spent the night before beginning the road west. And now I am here, with you."

The brothers happily accepted him and it was not long before the winter tires had all fulfilled their lives' purpose.

Meanwhile, the family members continued to scratch their heads and wonder why four tires would travel three different routes to get to them.

"A joke is a very serious thing." Winston Churchill

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Batman is Worth it

So here's the classic Batman vs. L'Oreal personal worth conflict: According to Batman's love interest, Rachel, "It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you." According to airbrushed L'Oreal models, you should buy the products they are advertising "Because you're worth it." There doesn't appear to be any requirements for your being "worth it" - simply you being you.

In agreement with L'Oreal, we have the common assertion that everyone is supposed to simply "accept people for who they are." People are inherently valuable, like the old Sunday school object lesson with the $20 bill. In case you missed it, a $20 bill is worth the same amount muddy and ripped and faded as it is worth fresh and crisp and new. People are like money.

Yet society doesn't function this way. Scholarships are awarded based on merit. Trust is earned on merit. Job promotions aren't always given based on merit, but politics are a different subject altogether. We laugh at emo kids for whining that "nobody understands them" and shake our heads disgustedly at self-entitled nut jobs everywhere. And we bite out lips and feel really hypocritical when we catch ourselves feeling entitled.

I think this issue can be somewhat resolved for the human species if we make careful note of one thing. We are talking about two different kinds of value, here. The first kind of value, the inherent dignity and worth of a human being, is a result of God's dignity being bestowed on us. No matter what, we are "worth it", not because we're naturally awesome but because God is "worth it". The second kind of value, the amount we're worth in society, relies on both our integrity and our reputation.

I'd like to point out that a $20 bill, inherently valuable though it may be, is just a scrap of paper and utterly worthless unless put to proper use.

But this idea of bestowed dignity and value brings up another question: Where does God get His dignity and worth from? Again, we find there are the two conflicting opinions.

Opinion A: God is God, and God is good. He doesn't have to do anything. If God saves us or feeds us to the wolves, He is still worthy of our praise and worship. Romans 9:20, 21: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? This goes back to Moses and the burning bush, where God identifies Himself simply as "I am". Being is enough. This opinion kind of appeals to me. It takes me out of the picture and simplifies things. God is sovereign.

Opinion B: God sent His Son to die for us. He takes care of us. Because of His great love and mercy, He is a God worth serving. This opinion reminds me of the objection, "I want nothing to do with a God who lets people suffer." Though this objection can be dealt with by explaining God's permission of injustice (i.e. free choice - God wants people, not robots), the presupposition of the argument remains intact. Perhaps God, despite being God, does not deserve our adoration. Perhaps He has to earn it. Take the book of Isaiah, for example. How does this God-breathed literature argue that God is worth serving? By recounting all the things God has done for Israel. All the things that God is able to do and the things that He will do. Hosea 13:4 But I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.

Isaiah 40:10-14 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?

So which of these views is correct? Or how are these two views reconciled?

I'm not so sure that the first view completely disregards what God does. Would anyone argue that an evil God is still God and therefore worthy of worship? It's just that when God does something "bad", we assume that we don't understand what God's very good reason is for it. Can you be good without doing good? I don't really think so. What God does is a part of Who God is.

And here I could get into a long discussion on whether Good existed and God adheres to the rules of Good, or whether God defines the Good, but perhaps I'll save that for another day. To keep things short, if even God is judged by and identifies Himself by His actions, then maybe it's not such a shallow way for us to look at things, too. What we do is a part of who we are. At any rate, I think Batman got it mostly right. L'Oreal is mainly trying to exploit our narcissistic tendencies.

"'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth. Be content.'" C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thing One and Thing Two

There are two things that I relearn every winter. I have just spent the last week relearning them again this year.

Thing number 1: If you're going to wear ankle socks and boots, you might as well wear no socks at all. The sock is going to end up scrunched around your toes before you even make it to the bus stop one block away.

Thing number 2: If you use the big warm hood on your coat, you shall be compelled to look straight ahead at all times. In order to look at something to your side or behind you, you will be required to twist your entire torso in the desired direction. Turning only your neck will result in you looking at the inside of your hood.

At least it appears that most people have remembered how to drive on ice and snow this year. Usually the first few snowfalls are really hairy.

Speaking of not learning, thanks Bill Watterson:
Calvin's mom: What did I just tell you?!?
Calvin: Beats me. Weren't you listening either?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Coffee Count II

Before the blizzard started this morning was the seven to nine o'clock rush at Timmy's. This was the second time Brenda and I have endeavoured to count the pots of coffee made within that two-hour period. This time, however, we had no stock of steeped tea and I counted the decaf coffee separately.

Final count? From 7 to 8 on drive-through: 34 pots. From 8 to 9 on drive-through: 25 pots. From 7 to 9 on counter: 35 pots. Decaf total: 5 pots (yes, I realize the twenty minute rule means there should be at least 6 pots, but you try to keep fresh decaf on while all the machines are brewing the normal stuff).

All-in-all, that puts the grand total at a neat and painful 99 pots of coffee over two hours, which is approximately a 25% increase on last week's amount. To do the math, that's a pot every minute and thirteen seconds between us.

Brenda and I agree that today was about average in terms of business. Not slow, but by no means crazy busy. It's all relative, I guess.

“Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century.” Greg Egan

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tip of the Hat to Mowat

So, one of my favourite books of all time is Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens, or as my beaten-up paperback is titled, Two Against the North. You can imagine my excitement when I not only was able to locate the places mentioned in the book on Google Maps, but discovered that there is a river system that connects these places right to Calgary! If they existed, if would be theoretically possible for the characters to canoe their way to visit me!

I realized how hopelessly dweebish that all sounds, so I wrote a little piece of fiction to justify my spending so much time tracing the route.

***

Kieran is busy lounging on the common room couch, with one leg on the armrest and the other leg on the ground. His left arm is on the backrest and his right arm lost all sensation long ago. He is musing the shapes formed by the bumpy stuff on the ceiling when Renee pokes her head around the corner.

Sooo, Kieran” she says, dragging the words out, “I was thinking about what you said earlier.”

Kieran stops looking at the ceiling to turn his attention to Renee. “I said something thought provoking?” The surprise in his voice sounds just shocked enough to be fake.

Renee raises her eyebrows. “Well, remember how you said I really didn't know anything about Cree culture? At all?”

I think so,” says Kieran, stretching out to sit up. “You felt so bad about it you were crying into my shoulder.”

I don't recall that's why I was crying. And I don't think it was into your shoulder.”

I do recall.”

Renee rolls her eyes and makes a sound that signifies disgust and frustration, but the near smirk on her face kills the effect. “Anyways, let me tell you what I've been thinking about,” she says, pulling a soft-cover novel from behind her back. “Ever hear of Farley Mowat?”

Kieran peers at the book. “Sounds like a new model of motorcycle.”

No, goofy. He's an author. A Canadian author. And he wrote a book called Lost in the Barrens.” Renee steps forward and hands the novel to Kieran. Mildly interested due to the assumption that Renee has a point to make, Kieran flicks through the pages and turns it over to look at the back. Renee plops down on the couch beside him. “It's about a white boy and a Cree boy – a Woodland Cree boy, just like you, by the way – who, in accordance to the title, aptly get lost in the barrens of Nunavut and almost die while on a canoe trip.”

And?” Kieran looks at her expectantly.

Aaand,” Renee drawls proudly, “the idea of a canoe trip kindled my interest. In the book they only traveled from Thanout Lake to just past Wolf Lake before wrecking on the Kazan, but they find this cool viking grave.”

And that pertains to you knowing nothing about Cree culture how?”

Renee smiles tightly before walking to the computer desk and pulling up Google Maps. She points out a bend in Fish Creek.“If we were to start here, and your sense of direction proved to be as good as you claim it is, we could actually canoe all the way to the viking grave mentioned in the book. Well, to where it would be if it actually existed. But the rivers are real.”

Not sure whether she means to be taken seriously or not, he leans over and places one hand on the back of her seat and another on the desk. “Show me the route,” he says.

Starting at the bend in Fish Creek, Renee's finger follows the blue squiggle eastward. “See, we'd follow Fish Creek until it ran into the Bow, where we'd turn south and follow the Bow until it joined up with the South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat. From there, we'd just stay the course until it turned into the North Saskatchewan River and flowed into The Pas, Manitoba.”

She stops here to gage Kieran's reaction. He remains stoic. “And from there? Where did you say the viking grave was?”

Along the Kazan. I'm not sure exactly how to get to Thanout Lake from The Pas, but I know it can be done. I anticipate someone at The Pas could tell us, because the Cree in the area have been coming down to trade there on canoes for years. Or used to, anyways. I don't know if they do anymore.”

Kieran grunts acknowledgment.

So if we could get instructions from The Pas to Thanout, the rest of the route is outlined in the book.” Her finger continues to outline the path. “Through Kasmere, Putahow, North Nuelthin, then along the Mikkiku and Goose rivers, through Halo and Kakut Lake – don't worry, all these lakes are really close together – and then onto the Kazan.” She stops pointing and leans back satisfied in her chair. “If you do a Google search,” she says, “you'll find that canoe trips on the Kazan, or Kazon-dee-zee, as it's called in the book, are apparently quite popular. It has some spectacular falls, I hear.”

So let me get this straight,” Kieran says. Renee turns to look at him concernedly. Those words he just used generally mean he's about to become somewhat condescending. “The characters in this book you read are adept and experienced canoers who get wrecked, lost, and almost die in the arctic barrens, and yet somehow reading their story makes you want to try to do the same thing, times ten?”

Renee rolls her eyes and makes a pff noise with her mouth. “Of course not,” she says, “this was just to show you that it would be possible. All I'm saying is I think it would be fun to canoe on Lake Chestermere sometime.”

Kieran laughs and whacks her on the shoulder. “That, I would agree to,” he says, standing up, “provided that I got to push you out of the boat at least once.”

Aw, come on!”

You still know nothing about Cree people,” he teases. “Pakan.”

Yeah, well, I got a little sidetracked with my research. This canoe thing was too enticing.”

So I see.” He starts to head to the kitchen for some lunch meat and crackers as Renee turns back to the computer screen. Still gazing longingly at the satellite images, she sighs.

Hey Kieran?”

Yeah?” he calls back from the kitchen.

Just out of curiosity, how long do you think a trip like that would take?”


***

To quote a Cree friend of mine: Hamaga pakan. It means "Hurry then, you nut." I like to learn the useful bits of any language I come across.

P.S. I really would like to go on a canoe trip some time.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Coffee Count

If you are interested in statistics, service industry business ventures, caffeine, coffee, or repetitive strain injury, this post is for you.

For those of you who don't already know, I work at a little Tim Horton's (I refuse to omit the apostrophe) in an Esso station early Friday mornings. This morning I was working the beverage station at the drive-thru and my coworker, Brenda, was managing the counter. An idea struck me like lightning. Well, ok, actually, this is something I've wanted to do since I started working at Timmy's two-and-a-half years ago, but never got around to doing. My idea? Count how many pots of coffee we make in one hour. Brenda was equally intrigued by the idea.

Here's how we set up the experiment:
1. For each pot of coffee made, make one tally mark with the grease pencil on the front of the cream dispenser.
2. Steeped tea counts separately. Decaf counts as coffee.
3. Count only pots made during the two peak morning hours, 7 a.m. - 9 a.m.

Keep in mind that this is a little Esso station that doesn't even serve soup or breakfast sandwiches and that generally runs out of bagels by ten in the morning.

Final count? 83 pots of coffee and 6 pots of steeped tea. Breakdown? 32 pots on drive-thru from 7 til 8, 23 pots on drive-thru from 8 til 9. 28 pots on counter total. That works out, between the two of us, to a pot of coffee every minute and twenty-four seconds.

It was a slow day. We plan to count again next week, as today's stats aren't indicative of the norm.

All this to say "society is full of caffeine junkies".

“I've come loaded with statistics, for I've noticed that a man can't prove anything without statistics.” Mark Twain

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Philosophizer

I was sitting in a beautiful conservatory at the university today, eating a healthy home-made lupper and attempting to prepare for my presentation on elective amputation, which was tonight. In that serene yet academic environment, my eyes wandered to a piece of ceiling overhang. And I thought, "Huh. If I were a ninja, how would I climb up there?"

And the thing that has me worried is that I couldn't concentrate on my project again until I had figured it out.

I'll point the route out to you if you ever come visit.

Oh, and speaking of elective amputation, I'm stumped for a quote with which to end this post. Does someone want to lend me a hand?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Just for the Sake of Posting

I accidentally stumbled across the WikiHow page on hugging. It certainly provided me with the daily recommended dosage of laughter. I can't figure out if it was written by an utterly socially inept nerd who had to learn everything the hard way or by someone who understands that only these same nerds are likely to actually research how to hug someone. Though it seems a little cruel to describe how to perform a "lovers hug" when I seriously doubt these nerds would have a "lover" to try it on....

Yesterday the wind was insanely crazy. I'm glad that my psych classes are finally smaller in size. I'm loving helping out at the youth Bible study, and my Sunday School class is going pretty well, too. Tonight my sister and my dad and I are going to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! I'm super stoked. For those of you who remember the movie of the house with insane Christmas lights synchronized to music that went around the Internet a few years ago - that's the kind of music the Trans-Siberian does. And I feel accomplished because I just wrote a good ten page paper in less than a day, already finished my lit review presentation, and am slowly running out of assignments. They're not gone yet, but I feel that the end is in sight.... maybe.

What a random post.

Oh, well.

From the hugging advice page:

"Do not confuse a friend hug with a lover hug. Things might get complicated and awkward."

And

"Avoid a hug with a running start unless the person being hugged is aware you are about to do so, if not, this may result in both of you falling over."

Sunday, 15 November 2009

An Evening of Fine Art and Gang Fights

Last Friday, for the first time in three years, I attended a dance performance. It was put on by Corps Bara, which is a youth dance theatre that I was a part of for many good years - about 11 or so. Yup, this was the 10th anniversary celebration, and yup, I was part of Corps Bara before it existed. I was there when it was still called Dance Choir.

Being the 10th anniversary and all, a bunch of alumni were invited to the event so I went. It was good to see people again. The dance teachers are just as I remember them... so much so that it felt like no time had elapsed at all since I last heard Karen deftly compose a speech on the spot to cover technical difficulties or buy time. And it was super great to catch up with Krista and Miss Sally. Yes, I still think of her as Miss Sally. She follows my blog, actually. That makes me happy. Hi Miss Sally! Or do you prefer just Sally now? :-D

Because this is a blog and not a personal diary, I think I shall offer my opinion on the show. There were many things with which I was impressed, and two things with which I was not. To save time, I shall make a list:

Things that impressed:
-Technique of dancers (especially the Juniors, who outperformed everyone, I think)
-Video presentation during dances
-Creative choreography
-Corps Bara gear for sale

Things that made me a little bit sad:
-Lack of dramatic element to dancing
-Lack of ministry focus

I feel I should expand on the last two points so that no one from Corps Bara thinks these are random or unfair judgements. In the past, despite a lower level of technical ability on the part of the dancers, the emotion behind there dances was intense. When there was a "storyline" to the dance, it felt like we were watching a story that was told through dance. When I watched the dances this time around, I was watching dancers who were trying to trying to tell a story. Maybe it's a small distinction in when typed, but it's no small difference when live.

There's just something about the chemistry of old match of dancers, maybe, but in Cleansing, for example, when Sarah would reach desperately for the water bowl, you could feel how desperate she was. You could see the pain in her face and there was no guesswork about what she was trying to portray. When she lingered in a pose, you didn't notice because the emotion was first, and the position was second. This time, when I watched Cleansing, though it was frighteningly beautiful technique-wise, the girl in Sarah's role lost me. I saw her reaching for the water bowl, but I didn't feel it. I looked at the position and said "That's a reaching pose. She must want the water."

I don't usually go on about emotion. I'm more of a brain person. But dance isn't about that. It's an art form, and isn't that what art is supposed to do? Evoke emotion? With dances like Cleansing or Her Last Prayer, the emotion really can't be sacrificed for the dancing. The old group of dancers I knew that used to perform them would really drive the emotion home, and that's the reason they were such powerful pieces.

My second disappointed was the lack of the ministry aspect. It's a Christian dance company, but I feel it's lost some of that. There was next to no mention of God or the ministry mandate during the whole evening, which saddened me a bit. It's actually one of the reasons I eventually left the company myself...

But all around, I greatly enjoyed the evening. I just had to get those two points off my chest, and if I also expand on the parts with which I was impressed, I fear nobody would read this. The lack of comments on my long Bonhoeffer post are evidence that this would be the case.

Anyhow, my sister and I got home that evening to have my mom tell us that she had just called 911. A gang a teenagers beat up a teen from another group and left him in the street. The police came and dealt with him and his friends (he was ok, and they went home in taxis). Then the other gang came back. We watched through the window as they shouted, broke glass beer bottles on the road and sidewalk, and randomly climbed in and out of their SUV. I was angry enough to want to call the cops again, but they weren't technically doing much. Eventually about ten or so of them squished into the vehicle and they left (driving drunk?)

It's so weird. We live in the suburbs. I've never seen anything like that in our neighbourhood before. It's too new and nice. Yet they were pretty much in our front yard. I hope this doesn't become more common.

But to close, my dance teachers taught me a lot over the years, and so I pass some of that advice on to you:

"Carla, if you want to meet guys, don't sit around on Friday nights knitting with your girlfriends, drinking margaritas, and watching Johnny Depp movies." Miss Sally and Amy

"Carla, you need to feel it from your SCAPULA!" Krista

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Not So Dismal

I feel I may have slightly misrepresented Bonhoeffer's views on my previous post. While I still stand by what I wrote, I'd like to clarify a few things.

My prior post was mainly focused on the doom and gloom of the human condition, but that is not quite true to Bonhoeffer's attitude and philosophy. He focused on the strength, not the weakness, of the human species, and on joy, gratitude, and fortitude instead of fatalism and resignation.

Perhaps I have incorrectly interpreted his meaning of the idea of "responsibility", but I believe he just considers it water under the bridge. That is to say, yes, the human sin problem is there, but God has that covered, so let's move on to other things.

When discussing responsible action, he says, "We must learn to act differently from those who always hesitate... we must be clear about what we want, we must ask whether we're up to it, and then we must do it with unshakable confidence. Then and only then can we also bear the consequences." Consequences, in this context, referring to the earthly consequences, of course. God will take care of the rest.

So while we do have to resign ourselves to God's grace, we are not to be ashamed that we behaved as responsibly as possible. We are called to behave as responsibly as possible.

Does that clear things up?

To close with a related line: "May God in his mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may he lead us to himself."

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Seven Paradigms

A little MCQ for you:

Which of the following was pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer doing while he wrote his book on ethics?

a) Planning to assassinate Hitler
b) Courting a girl twenty-odd years younger than he
c) Acting as a triple agent for a secret intelligence agency
d) All of the above

I think it's time for a long over due post on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There's so much food for thought in his writing that's fueled my brain for a good while now. I need to at least start getting some of it out of my head and into the open.

Most of his ideas on ethics he discussed in a book cleverly entitled Ethics, but I haven't read that one yet, so I'm mainly going on what was in Letters and Papers from Prison. Still, I need to use a quote from Ethics to explain to the main concept behind his ethical decision making paradigm. As an aside, the book is unfinished because he was arrested by the SS and executed before he could finish.

The quote: "When a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it...Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace."

That is to say, his ethical theory can be summed up as such: Be responsible and pray to God for mercy.

When he was in prison, he wrote an essay on morality, and expounded on seven different ways people deal with ethics, and why they all end up swept off their feet. I'll run through them quickly.

1. The first group of people are the "reasonable people", of which I am one. Basically, reasonable people are those who try to be sensible and figure that everyone, when presented with the sensible thing to do, will also do it. The reason they eventually fail is because the world is not so sensible a place, and the irrationality of it all wears the person down, causing them either to give up or to be crushed by those opposing them. He describes them as having the "best intentions and a naive lack of realism."

2. The second group of people are the moral fanatics. Fanatics are single-minded and believe they can do battle with evil, but tend to attack the idea and forget the people behind the idea. In Bonhoeffer's words, "like a bull he rushes at the red cloak instead of the person holding it". They tire themselves out by chasing after non-essentials and are easily tripped up.

3. People of conscience live by - you guessed it - conscience. As soon as an ethical dilemma is posed, these people are hosed. "Evil approaches him in so many respectable and seductive disguises that his conscience becomes nervous and vacillating." At best they get by with a salved conscience, not a clean one, though a bad conscious is more honest and telling than a soothed one.

4. And then he describes those who just worry about their duty. These people do what they are told and put the responsibility on who told them to do it. It's not hard to see how duty can be twisted. Bonhoeffer warns, "The man of duty will in the end have to do his duty by the devil, too."

5. Those who most assert their freedom are very pragmatic. They are free of things they must do or may not do and so will sacrifice one principle to achieve something greater - a sort of "choose the lesser evil" approach. These people run into trouble because you cannot always tell what is worse. Bonhoeffer says this paradigm contains the "raw materials of tragedy."

6. The sixth group are those who retreat into their own sanctuary of virtuousness. The people in this group make little to no effort to better the world, but only try to keep their own hands clean. They have to shut their eyes to all the problems around them, and are tormented by all they leave undone. Eventually they are either torn apart by their distress or become "the most hypocritical of Pharisees."

7. The final option is really the only good option, he says. "Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God - the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life and answer to the question and call of God."

But how does that work? It sounds a lot being pragmatic to me - not all that different from those who assert their freedom. But he says here that you have to sacrifice your freedom. Actually, I can see the reasonable person and the person of conscience being closely related to the freedom fighter, as well. When push comes to shove, and there is no "good" option, people of conscience will take the path that makes them less afflicted by guilt, and the reasonable person will see that sometimes a trade-off is necessary, even though it speeds up the process of defeat. The paradox is the same for all of them. Is it possible that doing something wrong can ever be the right thing to do? By definition, no. But in effect, is this the case?

Maybe that's the difference. Perhaps responsible people are different not due to the actual actions they perform, but due to the way in which they claim the actions. A reasonable person, a person of conscience, and a freedom fighter all in the end say that they did the least objectionable thing possible at the time and so they should not be held accountable for the evil it involved. They say that it is in effect the right thing to do, even if it's technically wrong. The person who does it claims to be absolved.

The responsible person says that they did what was necessary (or best?) but that the evil is still their own. They are responsible for their actions (or inactions, as the case may be), and do not lay the blame on the people who created the hopeless situation for them. The severity of the crime is not lessened by the fact that it is the least poisonous of the options. In this understanding, doing something wrong is still bad, but may be ethically required. Which just sounds nuts.

It seems like a kind of fatalistic and angsty way of viewing things. I like the sound of "I did what I saw was best, and if God wants to punish me for it, so be it" as opposed to "I did what I saw was best and oh, God, please forgive me for it!" The former is so much more confident and "case closed" like, but it's also terrifying insomuch as we definitely make mistakes, and if we ask for God's judgement, we can be sure we're going to get it.

And yet, in a sense, being responsible for one's own actions also takes the responsibility off us. We know we're sinners, and we know we need mercy. We also know that God gives mercy to those who ask for it. Though we are responsible for our behaviour, God is responsible for our salvation. Perhaps this is what is meant by "freed from sin", which is a concept I've never quite understood to my liking. On the other hand, if we claim that we are not responsible for the evil we do, then we are claiming that we do not need mercy. And if we do not believe we need mercy, why would we ask for it? Though we may not acknowledge it, we are responsible for our own demise.

It doesn't seem fair that there may be no possible way to get out of a situation without condemning ourselves. Biblically, it seems there must be a way, seeing as how Christ managed. But barring a sudden endowment of the same power, wisdom, and foreknowledge that Christ possesses, it would be only blind, blundering luck that gets us through life unstained, and not our own cleverness. And we know that due to our sin nature, that's not going to happen.

Does Bonhoeffer's analysis of the situation make it impossible for someone to be morally excellent or praiseworthy? In comparison to God, clearly yes. It doesn't allow for even the hypothetical possibility. But as he states, we can be justified to our society and at peace with ourselves that we saw no better option. I see no reason to believe that we cannot be thought excellent by our society, though as soon as we believe ourselves to be excellent, we are in danger of condemning ourselves. And though the situation may sometimes prove (to us) to be a no-win circumstance, we are still called to, and able to, strive to be more like Christ. We are assured forgiveness, so there is no reason to wallow in misery over our inability. What is that verse? 2 Cor. 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Not that this gives us leave to go around sinning in order that grace may multiply, of course. Not finding a way to get out of sinning and purposefully sinning are two different things entirely. We are still called to be the best we can be.

I guess this is a self-maintaining view of things, at any rate (I think I agree with it). After all, even if it's entirely wrong, then we accept responsibility for being wrong, and therefore are in a place to beg to God for mercy.

Although the movie Kingdom of Heaven and Dietrich Bonhoeffer aren't really on the same level, I really like this quote by King Baldwin IV:

"None of us chose our end really. A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. But remember that even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say 'but I was told by others to do thus' or that 'virtue was not convenient at the time'. This will not suffice. Remember that."

Oh, and the answer to the question at the start of the post is, of course, D.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Quotes of Classmates

I had a midterm today. I present you with a snippet of the conversation that followed during the hallway debriefing party we undergrads always hold with our classmates after a test:

Ryan: I was up until like four o'clock this morning studying.
Amanda: Amateur.
Esther: I studied until like two o'clock and then I woke up at four to keep going.
Ford: I don't even sleep. And if I do, I wrap my face in my textbook.

Maybe you had to be there. My class is full of interesting characters.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Victory

It's worth a passing mention that today is the court date for the students who were charged with "trespassing" on campus while they ran the pro-life display these past three semesters. Yet they are not at court today, because it was announced just a couple days ago that the crown dropped all charges against the students due to "insufficient evidence".

Haha! At least someone has some sense, though the university is bummed. I am feeling quite smug, even if I had nothing to do with the outcome. Yay free speech!

On a completely unrelated note, I had the misfortune to witness a couple of senior citizens making out on the C-train today. I am thoroughly disgusted and slightly disturbed.

“We tend to idealize tolerance, then wonder why we find ourselves infested with losers and nut cases.” Patrick Nielsen

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Attack of the Syringes

Here is the link to another article I wrote for the Gauntlet. It pertains to the swine flu vaccine which just hit the city.

I don't have much else to say on the subject, except that the list of people "most at risk" seems to be growing bigger every time I stumble across it. Also, I have the afternoon off to do some homework because one of the kids I usually nanny on Saturdays is sick. Her mom thinks it's the swine flu. Actually, I had four swine flu symptoms myself for a couple days this week - cough, sore throat, runny nose, and body aches. I wonder if that works as well as the vaccine does to inoculate me from getting it "again". Of course, that's assuming the mutated flu versions don't soon reign supreme.

It's incredible how frantic people are to get vaccinated. A customer at Timmy's today told me that by 6:45 am, the line-up at a clinic was well over a block long. The clinic doesn't open until 8:30.

Yeesh.

“The most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones being argued, but the ones that are assumed.” C. S. Lewis

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Lost Treasure

I lost my purse. I had it with me, and then halfway through my second uni class, I realized I didn't have it with me. It wasn't on the table, it wasn't by my feet, it wasn't under my friends' feet, it wasn't under my chair, it wasn't hanging off my chair. It wasn't at the front of the room where I had checked my grades...

So I got up and left. It wasn't in the hall where I had been sitting, so I "walked" to Scurvy Hall, where my earlier class had been, praying that no one had taken it. It wasn't in the bathroom I had utilized there. That's it. It had to be in one of those places, because I distinctly remembered taking it into the washroom, and now it wasn't there. It wasn't anywhere. It was officially gone.

I contemplated calling dad to inquire after credit card canceling, but my phone, also, was in the purse. Growing more distraught, I walked back to class. I doubled checked - it still wasn't under the table, under someone's feet, etc. etc. so I packed up and left again (of course I had to be sitting near the front of the class so everyone could see my in-out-in-out-ness). Thinking I was going to be in tears shortly, I looked down the hall, heart thudding, and what should strike me but a sudden spark of hopefulness? Maybe someone turned it in at the Psych Head Office, which is just down the hall from where I probably lost it! I walked to the front desk and asked the man there if someone had turned in a brown purse.

He said yes. And so it was. THANK HEAVENS! And thank God! A small bit of my faith in humanity has been restored. As the guy at the desk said, "You got lucky." Don't I know it. It took me forty-five minutes to realize I had lost a full purse - at a busy university full of crazy undergrads.

It appears that nothing was taken - cash, credit card, cell phone, and camera are all still there (plus other things that don't all start with "c") ...I shall be writing a note in the Gauntlet to thank whoever it was that was kind and honest enough to prevent me from suffering for my carelessness.

What a relief!

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 26 October 2009

Crastination

I've been having some trouble managing my time this semester. I have officially destroyed the "pro" in "procrastination" (hence the title). It's not really an issue of having too much to do - it's an issue of having too much to do when I finally get around to not procrastinating and of keeping track of what I have to do. It seems there are assignments due soon that I'm barely aware of. I'm usually better at keeping track. I handed in my first late paper ever just this morning. Ironically, it was on time management and procrastination. It won't cost me grade-wise, but I feel kind of... dirty... regardless.

Yesterday and this morning I slept through my alarm clock. Then, when I got on the C-train today I realized I had left my cell phone at home. That means no texts, no calls, and no portable clock, and the uni doesn't hang clocks except in the classrooms. Plus, I shan't be able to easily call home for a pick up from the station tonight.

I figure there's a lesson in this. Maybe it's God's way of telling me that if I won't manage my time properly, then I won't even be given the privilege of keeping track of the time. Sigh.

This public self-lecture is posted in hopes that Mom won't feel the need to chide me herself...

"The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up." Anonymous

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

USEFUL(semantics class)

~WRITE(i, proper post) --> (VERY LIMITED(predicate logic) V ~∀x(PREDICATE LOGIC(x) --> LEARNED(i, x))).

~WRITE(i, proper post).

[More x: PREDICATE LOGIC(x)]~KNOW(i,x) -->DISAPPOINTED(i).

[More x: PREDICATE LOGIC(x)]~KNOW(i,x). Sigh.

UNDERSTAND(you) --> LEAVE(you, comment). ~UNDERSTAND(you) --> LEAVE REGARDLESS(you, comment)

"If you can't convince, confuse!" Anonymous

P.S. Happy fifteenth, J-man!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Cowboys and VeggieTales

So that you have an approximate idea of what I did over the Thanksgiving holiday, I present you with this, the Schedule for an Average Day with the Cousins in Saskatchewan (Icky Weather Version, times are estimated):

9:30 - Wake up. Roll out of bed. Put on my clothes.

10:00 - Meet with Fligg family and Schroeder family in the Fliggs' condo for brunch.

11:00 - Have an informal family church service. That is, sing songs while Randal plays guitar, listen as Aunt Gloria reads a passage from scripture, listen as we put Uncle Ray on the spot for an impromptu sermon (topic of "guard your conscience"), discuss whether it would be better to be lucky or to be good (decided on lucky. I may write a post on this sometime), sing a few more songs, gawk as the Schroeders display their incredible musical talent.

12:00 - Try to juggle. Watch brother try to juggle. Fail.

12:15 - Eat way too much lunch. Discuss personality types with cousins. Lie on the ground contentedly because there is no room left on the couches.

1:00 - Leave warm condo to chase down brother who is playing in a snowy field with cousins. Pack up to leave condo.

1:30 - Hug Fligg family goodbye, oust Schroeder parents from the Schroeder van. Celebrate because all the kids fit into the Schroeder van (parents celebrate because the Heinrichs van will not have any children). Claim passenger seat. Begin the drive to the Schroeder house. Discuss cowboy hats, how to hide fugitives despite satellite imaging and heat sensors, and sing along to Junkyard Poets. Notice that Randal has taken the impromptu sermon to heart - he shakes his head at people who ruin their consciences by speeding.

3:30 - Realize that parents have been trying to call all our phones. Learn that we are not going to the Schroeder farm, but to Grandma's house. Arrive at Grandma's. Apologize for missing Uncle Ray's call(s). Give Uncle Ray hug to boost his crushed sense of self-esteem.

3:45 - Team up with Jared and beat Aunt Ang and Thomas at pool. Do victory dance with Jared. Try to make pool balls jump over other pool balls. Contemplate trigonometry with Jared.

5:3o - Eat pizza. Teach baby cousin Gabriella to draw. Watch America's Funniest Home Videos (which aren't that funny)

6:45 - Pile kids into the van. Strut around because Uncle Ray grants me override power on all decisions (I am the oldest, after all). Sing along to KJ-52. Arrive at movie theatre. Make Logan sing rap song by himself. Make Thomas do beat-box by himself. Try to make them do it at the same time. Fail.

7:10 - Buy tickets to movie. Apologize to woman sitting behind us because her kid can't see over Randal's cowboy hat. Move Randal into another seat and make him slouch. Meet sister's friend Sam. Watch Up!

9:00 - Go back to Grandma's while singing along to more KJ-52. Randal purposely takes us on a detour to go by Grandma's old house. Who says cowboys aren't sentimental? Play pool with cousins and siblings and Sam. End up on the failing team, despite practice earlier in the day. Snack. Play noisy game of "THIS IS A PEN!"

10:30 - Pile back into the van, drive to the town of Balgonie while singing along to Family Force 5 and Relient K. Drop Sam off. Drive to the Schroeder farm.

11:00 - Arrive at Schroeder house. Play ditty on the piano. Watch as Jared listens once then adds flourishes and plays ditty much better than I. Actually, it's no longer a ditty. It's a blues concerto movement. Have dance/karaoke party to VeggieTales music with brother, Logan, and Thomas.

11:30 - Have dance party shut down by Aunt Ang. Bring suitcases in from van. Veg on couch, reading, while cousins play some sort of video game. Try to stay awake.

12:30 - Go upstairs and discuss theology with dad, sister, uncle, and aunt. Learn why Uncle Ray had to take a lie detector test. Vow to never leave keys in vehicle ignition while at work. Tease Aunt Ang for having boyfriends before Uncle Ray. Listen to Aunt Ang maintain that she didn't like boys, just free movies.

1:45 - Have cousins join the conversation. Discuss the dipsticks that tried to frame Jared in a theft.

3:00 - Break up conversation and go to bed.

3:30 - Fall asleep while wondering what on earth brother is doing with the cousins upstairs that makes so much noise...

“There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for boredom, ever.” Viggo Mortensen

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

She's Still Sleeping

My brother and his friend are attempting to cook supper. I was, until recently, curled up on the couch, sleeping. The following is an account - perhaps slightly embellished - of some of the conversation I overheard in my sleep (apparently I was only in stage 1 of the sleep cycle):

Justin: So we put this in the blender?
Caleb: Yeah.
J: How do we do that? We have to put the lid on, right? How do we put the lid on? Is it supposed to be sealed in some way so that the contents don't come flying out? What are we supposed to do?
C: Uh...
J: Let's ask my sister.
C: No! Don't do that, she's sleeping.
J: Well then, here. It's in the blender. How do we turn it off?
C: Let's turn it on, first.
J: Ok. Should I hold the lid on?
C: Sure. We'll just unplug it if we have to.
J: (over blender noise) IS IT DONE?!
C: (also over blender noise) I DON'T KNOW!
J: HOW DO WE TURN IT OFF?!
C: I THINK WE PUSH THE BUTTON AGAIN!
(blender noise continues)
J: THAT DIDN'T WORK! PLAN B?!
C: SHOULD WE UNPLUG IT?!
J: LET'S ASK MY SISTER!
C: NO, SHE'S SLEEPING! ON THE COUCH RIGHT BESIDE THE KITCHEN!
J: THEN WHAT DO WE DO?!
C: LOOK, THERE'S AN "OFF" BUTTON!
(blender noise stops)
J: Is it done?
C: I think so.
J: Want to taste it?
C: No.
J: Let's cut the chicken.
C: Ok.
J: How small are we supposed to cut the pieces?
C: Uh... it says 1 to 2 inches.
J: How wide? How thick? How long? Into how many pieces? I don't know the proper proportions. What are we supposed to make out of these instructions?
C: The recipe doesn't even tell us how many servings this thing makes!
J: Let's ask my sister.
C: No, look - she's sleeping!

I did contemplate groaning out a response to them, but I figured they'd manage. At any rate, it's good that they're getting some experience in the kitchen. Though it's a little odd that they're so confused over why it's taking them so much longer to make the food than mom estimated it would...

Now that dinner is over, I'd like to share with you a couple jokes told as part of the dinner conversation. They shall be my quotes for today:

What's the difference between avian flu and swine flu?
For one you use tweetment and the other you use oinkment.

People can't use the expression "When pigs fly" anymore. Because, you know, swine flu.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Evasive Question

“The Answer to the Ultimate Question Of.....Life, the Universe and Everything.....(is) Forty-two.” Douglas Adams

Yes, you saw that right. Today's quote is placed at the beginning, and not the end, of the post. Aren't I being unpredictable today?

There is a reason for this madness. You see, the rest of this post deals with that quote. I was sitting in my adolescent psychology class and was hit with a revelation. Douglas Adams has it right! The answer IS forty-two. Whoever said that we couldn't know both the answer and the question simultaneously was dead wrong, and I can prove it!

All we need is this simple equation:

ANSWER(life) Ʌ ANSWER(universe) Ʌ ∀x ANSWER(x)

which is easily solvable when we have the value of x, which is

[(Hod)/(32 ft/sec2)] log {(k log 16,000words/human/day)*[6,789,000,000(1+pct*Nd*∞dy/dx)]π}

Where

k = Aristotle's Golden Mean of Plato's Divided Line, and
Nd is the percentage of people who have an out-of-body near-death experience.

When we plug in these variables and take into consideration the truth-functional conjunction, we can see that the answer comes out to be a neat 42.

For those of you who didn't quite follow the reasoning:

To find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, we must take the logarithm of Fechner's Law of Psychological Sensation (which is Ψ = k log S) multiply it by the growing human population of earth (which is approximately 6.789 billion multiplied by (1+pct*Nd*∞dy/dx)) and because the earth is almost spherical, we must also multiply it by pi, which is approximately
3.14159265358979323846
264338327950288419716
939937510582097494459
230781640628620899862
80348253421170679.

S, of course, equals the average number of words spoken daily by a person (about 16000 - I congratulate the discourse analysts for discovering this), and naturally ∞dy/dx is the number of angels that can dance on the head of pin. We must then multiply all this by Hubble's expanding universe constant divided by the free-fall acceleration on earth.

It gives my life a lot more clarity, actually. I may have to rename this blog something other than "The Wanderer".

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Gauntlet Publication

Yeah yeah yeah! Woo! *pumps fist*

I was published in the U of C's weekly paper, the Gauntlet. If you are a person who does not happen to be around the U of C much, you can click this link to my article.

Oh! And I finally finished reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison. I hope to write a few posts on some of his thoughts, but I'll save that for another day. I have to be awake far too early tomorrow to attempt anything tonight.

I shall, however, leave you the final words of the book, which were part of Bonhoeffer's last letter to his fiancée before he was executed. It is probably my favourite quote from the whole thing.

"You must not think that I am unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person. I am grateful every day that I have you, and that makes me happy." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

P.S. Happy late birthday, Mom!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

An Index and Genocide

So, to give you a quick-link index of the Mormon/Evangelical discussion:

MY INTRO
CAV'S INTRO
PART I: GOD
PART II: PEOPLE
PART III: CHURCH
PART IV: CULTURE
PART V: QUESTIONS RE:MORMONISM
QUESTION RESPONSE

I'm still open to answer questions or receive comments if you feel so inclined! I think it's a pretty cool project - one that has been very helpful and interesting to me. It's so difficult to get accurate or purely honest comparisons between belief systems, but Cavan and I tried hard...

On another topic, the pro-life display was back at the uni this week. This time, the pro-lifers were toting something new, in addition to the rest of the display. Last year, they received a fair bit of flak for calling abortion "genocide" because unborn babies aren't an ethnic or religious group (therefore, rendering ridiculous the label "genocide"). So this year, Campus Pro-life was handing out pamphlets entitled "Is Abortion Genocide?" which I think was actually quite well-written and well-argued.

The pro-death crowd had some new tricks, too. Among them:
- setting up tents on the spot where the pro-life display is usually set up in an attempt to physically keep Campus Pro-life from putting up their signs (CPL simply relocated)
- writing signs proclaiming that Campus Pro-life was disregarding "privacy policy" (no mention of which privacy policy this might be) by filming the event and all the people who viewed it - despite the fact that the cameras weren't even turned on and were just there in case a riot broke out and the CPL had to prove to police they weren't responsible for it...
- a chalk petition (I think that's what it was) on the sidewalk of people who were pro-choice.

And, of course, the same old slogans advocating a woman's right to her body and the barbaric nature of coat-hanger abortions. This time, however, there were no TV cameras, so everyone was much better behaved.

Perhaps the most compelling argument offered by the anti-life people is that the pro-life display is "unauthorized" (which is only half true). It's rather funny, actually, because I'm pretty sure the tent village and chalk were also (completely) unauthorized, but who cares about that? I find it odd that although they claim that for "legal" reasons the CPL display should be taken down, their counter-displays only say (paraphrased) "The pro-life position sucks," and not "Those people are breaking the law."

Because, of course, we know they can't actually make that claim. Way to argue your position. What a sad, sad, state to be in...

On a happy unrelated note, I said hi to the Sunday School class I'll be teaching this year. The kids seemed rather excited to see me. :-D

“The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where reasoning convinces but one. “ Mark Twain

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Part V: QUESTIONS RE: MORMONISM

PART V
QUESTIONS RE: MORMONISM

DO MORMONS FOLLOW GOD OR MAN?

God. The prophet is only the Mormon leader insofar as it is believed he speaks for God. This is exactly analogous to how the children of Israel followed God even while they followed Moses.

DO MORMONS BELIEVE THEIR PROPHET IS INFALLIBLE?

That Mormon prophets have stated opinions or shown cultural biases that have later turned out to be incorrect or misinformed can be demonstrated. What is believed, however, is that the prophet will never lead the church astray, and that he and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will always collectively lead the church members to Christ.

That said, Mormons are taught that it is not only recommended, but crucial, for them to maintain a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father, and that they can and should pray and study and do what they can to find personal confirmation of what their leaders are telling them. Mormons should have faith that their leaders are called of God, but that faith should be borne of study and prayer, not inattentive hope. Where exactly the balance should be drawn here is another item of hot debate among Mormons.

CAN BLACK PEOPLE HOLD THE MORMON PRIESTHOOD?

Yes. Until 1978, however, the church did not allow men of native African descent to hold the Priesthood. Some Mormons would argue that this was a reflection of human error in the days of the church's inception, but in any case, most Mormons believe that it was within the designs of God.

IS MORMONISM AN OFFSHOOT RELIGION?

Mormons consider themselves to be the restored church of Jesus Christ, and many Mormon would be uncomfortable thinking of themselves as a Protestant, because they believe themselves to be part of the one true church, not a category of churches. However, with that said, many marks of Protestantism are evident in Mormonism, including the lack of icons and décor in chapels, the relative lack of rituals and rote ceremonies, and the emphasis on a personal relationship with the Saviour. Joseph Smith grew up in a Protestant environment, and this undoubtedly had an effect on how he administered the church. It would well be argued that Mormonism is, in fact, an “offshoot” religion, and falls tidily into the Protestant category.

An EVANGELICAL aside: The thought behind “true Church” vs. “category of churches” is interesting. While people usually attend the church they believe has gotten the most doctrine correct, it would be odd for an Evangelical to say that Evangelical Missionary churches, for example, are more true than Baptist or Alliance churches - they're all within the category of Evangelical churches. Some of the content may be more true or less true from one denomination to another, but the church itself isn't more true. That being said, some people would disagree with this paragraph, and churches outside the Evangelical realm do start getting rather questionable...

ARE MORMONS CHRISTIAN?

This question is a little confusing. Ultimately, it comes down to how one defines “Christian.”

If “Christian” is someone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the only path to salvation and who tries to follow Him in every way, then the answer is unquestionably “Yes.”

If “Christian” means someone who believes in the Trinitarian doctrine then the answer is “No”.

The important thing, however, is that Mormons consider themselves Christian, and Mormonism teaches that they have a lot to share with the Christian community, as well as having a lot to learn from them.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Part III: CHURCH

PART III
CHURCH

THE APOSTASY AND RESTORATION:

MORMONS believe that the fullness of the Gospel was lost with the ascension of Jesus and the death of His apostles. Although some basic tenets of Christianity survived through the ages and the Bible stayed mostly intact, the Church of Jesus Christ was lost until it was restored in 1830 through Joseph Smith the prophet. At the time, it was called the Church of Christ, but later the name was changed, due to revelation, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (“Mormon” was a derogatory name used for them that they have since adopted as a shorthand reference to the church and its adherents.)

EVANGELICALS believe that the truth of the Gospel was twisted and abused as, over time, it became a political tool. The Protestant Reformation helped turn it back in the right direction, but the fullness of the Gospel is only found in an individual, personal relationship with God, and not in a regulated religion. Although there is a large push to "Restore the Church", the main theme is not to correct doctrine, but to re-establish the Church as a dynamic body of active believers within society.

ORDINANCES:

MORMONS believe that the principles and ordinances necessary to save a human soul are first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, repentance, third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and fourth, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of those who hold Priesthood authority.

EVANGELICALS believe that a man need only accept Christ's forgiveness to be saved. Good works do not cause salvation, because only Jesus has power to save, but Christ orders that His followers do good works. People debate what faith without works will accomplish, and whether a “Christian” who does not obey Christ's orders is really a Christian. Some people hold to eternal security, which is the idea that once a person is saved, he or she remains saved forever, but there are many people who believe it is possible to lose one's salvation.

AUTHORITY:

MORMONS believe that a man must hold Priesthood authority to administer any of the formerly mentioned ordinances, or to perform a number of other ordinances, such as administering the Sacrament or blessing the sick. Priesthood holders are always male. They generally receive the Aaronic Priesthood (which allows them to perform some ordinances) at age 12 and the Melchizedek Priesthood (which allows them to perform all ordinances) around age 18. Of primary importance is the fact that Mormons believe the Church of Christ cannot be conducted without Priesthood Authority, and that this authority is received by the laying on of hands from one who already holds it. The Mormon Church keeps a record of every Priesthood holder and how a person can trace his Priesthood back to Joseph Smith, who received it from Peter, James and John, who came to Smith as angels, and who in turn received their Priesthood authority from Jesus Christ.

EVANGELICALS believe that the Bible is God's word and provides all the the truths necessary for the conducting of the church. The vast majority, if not all, of Evangelical leaders would not claim authority over anything spiritual, but only over practical matters of how the church is run. Some denominations believe that pastors shouldn't even have that amount of authority, but that the church should be run entirely by lay people. No special authority is needed to perform miracles. It is only the authority of Christ that is actually at work, and so anyone who has received Christ can act in His name.

Christ is the High-Priest for all people, and the only mediator between God and man. Anyone can approach the throne of God through Christ, so in a way, every person who has accepted salvation holds the priesthood. Typically, though, Evangelicals state that no one holds the priesthood, since functionally, everyone is on equal ground.

ORGANIZATION:

MORMONS believe that the church is to be fashioned after the design of old. Specifically, they have a Prophet who stands in as the mouthpiece of God (modeled after Peter), apostles, seventies, bishops, etc.

EVANGELICALS believe all sorts of different things. God is to be at the head of the Church, but pretty much everything else is up for grabs. It's typically considered an issue of personal preference or practicality.

SCRIPTURE:

MORMONS believe in the Bible. They believe that while some minor translation problems, both deliberate and accidental, have slightly corrupted the information therein, the Bible has remained miraculously intact and true. Joseph Smith started a retranslation of the Bible which was almost complete before his death, and his translation altered less than 2% of the King James Version, and the majority of the changes were clarification issues. Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, translated from its original Egyptian by divine guidance.

In their current standard works, Mormons also have the Doctrine and Covenants, a series of revelations mostly given to Joseph Smith, primarily concerning the administration of the church, although some new doctrines are introduced. There is also the Pearl of Great Price, which contains some of Joseph Smith's retranslation of the Bible in addition to a book giving an expanded account of Abraham from the Old Testament.

EVANGELICALS vary on this issue. Many believe the Bible is inerrant, while others reject all the writings of Paul. It's interpreted in many different ways, ranging from a completely literal interpretation, to grammatical historical, functional/midrash, and allegorical interpretations. There are many different translations floating around with varying degrees of accuracy, but which Bible one uses is generally considered just a personal preference.

There is no officially correct version of the Bible, just versions that are preferred for different things. In English, the NIV was the most accurate and easy to understand for a while, which made it the most popular, but the King James and New King James are preferred by many fundamental Christians. The NASB is currently considered, by academic standards, to be the most accurate translation of the ancient texts that are still around, while the Message is considered the most readable, but least accurate.

There is also disagreement over whether the Bible is truly complete - for example, some people accept certain apocryphal books, while others would immediately claim that any scripture apart from the Bible is heretical.

CONFESSION:

MORMONS believe, for the most part, that repentance is a private matter between the individual and the Lord. When they teach their children or people new to the ideas of the church about repentance, they say that the process includes recognition (of the sin), confession, restitution (of damage caused, where possible) and forsaking the sin. Usually confession is done by prayer to one's Heavenly Father, but in the case of serious sins (such as sins of a sexual nature, and probably ones that would get someone in trouble with law enforcement - the guidelines given the church on this are actually somewhat loose) one must go to the bishop of the ward and confess this sin in a private meeting with him. The bishop does not forgive sins. Rather, he determines whether the sinner's position in the church needs to be altered by probation or disfellowship (removal of one's Priesthood office) and possibly excommunication. In most cases, the bishop will advise the confessor as to whether he or she should continue taking the Sacrament and help talk the person through ways to overcome this sin and obtain the desired forgiveness from God. In general, confession should be a positive experience in which the confessor receives additional support while trying to work through a difficult time of life.

EVANGELICALS believe that confession of sins is exclusively between the sinner and God, though people are strongly encouraged to confess sins to one another, generally within a mentoring relationship, to a friend that has agreed to hold one accountable, an elder, a small study group, etc. The pastor is happy to help a person find ways to overcome the sin, but sin is not "officially" confessed - at least among the lay people.

BAPTISM:

MORMONS believe that baptism is a covenant with the Lord that they will always remember Him and keep the commandments which He has given them. A baptism is only valid if it's performed by someone holding the Priesthood, if the subject is entirely immersed in water and is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. There also have to be two witnesses present who also hold the Priesthood. Furthermore, the baptism must be followed by a confirmation, which is when two or more Priesthood holders lay their hands on the head of the recipient and command him or her to “receive the Holy Ghost,” at which point the Gift of the Holy Ghost is given. Mormons endlessly debate the details of what the Gift of the Holy Ghost is, but essentially it's entitlement to the constant companionship of God's Spirit as a guide and comforter, so long as one lives up to the covenants made at baptism.

EVANGELICALS have differing beliefs about water baptism, usually dependent on denomination. Most, if not all, believe that baptism is a symbolic act signifying the death of the self and resurrection with Christ. Many denominations perform baptism by immersion, but some by sprinkling. Some denominations believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, but many do not. Baptism is usually performed by a pastor in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but can be performed by pretty much anyone. Baptism is considered a public declaration that a person has chosen to give his or her life over to Christ, and so there must be witnesses, though there are no hard rules about how many.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is considered an entirely different thing. Many denominations believe that every Christian automatically receives the Holy Spirit upon first accepting Christ, while other denominations believe that a person will not receive the Holy Spirit until they have received the laying on of hands and been prayed for by believers who are already filled with the Holy Spirit. Still others believe that a person can ask by themselves to receive the Holy Spirit. What the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means is also debated. Some say that unless someone can perform miracles - in particular, speak in tongues, he or she has not received Him, while others place no such emphasis on miracles. There is also disagreement on whether the Holy Spirit can leave a person or not.

MIRACLES:

MORMONS believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. Notably, by "revelation", Mormons believe that the canon is not closed, and that God still reveals Scripture to His children that have equal bearing to, and may possibly be more contemporary than, the Bible.

EVANGELICALS believe different things on this topic. Some believe that if you can't perform the above-mentioned miracles, you aren't saved, while others believe that if you do perform them, it's satanic. Many Evangelicals believe that there are still prophecies and revelations from God today, but it remains only that they “may” be the word of God, and so they are not included with the Scriptures as canon.


WORK FOR THE DEAD:

MORMONS believe that those who did not accept the Gospel in this life must still receive the saving ordinances of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and the Endowment. All of these ordinances require a body to receive, so the spirits of the dead are unable to perform these ordinances themselves. For that reason, Mormons frequently do proxy work, or work for the dead, in which someone is (for example) baptized “for and in behalf of” a deceased person. The spirits in the Spirit World then have the choice to either accept or reject these ordinances.

EVANGELICALS have no equivalent to work for the dead.

TEMPLES:

MORMONS build structures called temples which are distinct from their regular meeting houses in both design and purpose. In temples Mormons will perform proxy work. Also, Mormon weddings take place in temples, and every Mormon receives the Endowment ordinance. The Endowment is one of the most controversial aspects of Mormonism because there are parts of the ceremony which Mormons are explicitly commanded not to talk about. The Endowment is not nearly so sensational as people like to think. Essentially, in the endowment, they tell the story of Adam and Eve using a great deal of symbolism. During the Endowment, Mormons are asked to make three promises, which are essentially to remain chaste, obey God, and devote themselves entirely to the building of the Kingdom of God.

EVANGELICALS don't build temples in this sense.

GENDER ROLES WITHIN THE CHURCH:

MORMONS claim that men and women have very specific, complementary, and equal roles in the family of God and in their own mortal families. The Priesthood is largely an expression of the man's role. The Priesthood is the power of God granted to man to accomplish His purposes. To attempt to use it for personal gain, maintenance of power or control, or in any way as an accessory to sin is a severe crime against God. It is the power and responsibility to serve others. Nonetheless, the church is by and large a patriarchal society, a fact for which it receives no end of flak from critics.

EVANGELICALS have varying views on this. Some church denominations and individual churches are more patriarchal than others. There are women pastors in some cases, but they're largely outnumbered by men. It's more usual to find women in elder and administrative positions than to find women pastors.

Cavan will post Part IV: CULTURE at 12:01 AM