December 26, 2002

Christmas Eve we attended the "family service" our church started holding last year. Tenth used to just have one Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols, which started about 7pm and was packed. Not very conducive to bringing small children to.

This one was great though. My son decided he was bored and wanted to cause a ruckus so he missed alot of it. But at the end I came back in for the candlelight singing of Silent Night. I lit my candle from my wife's and showed it to my son in the hopes of interesting him in it. He immediately blew it out. "No, its not a birthday candle, son." My wife: "well, in one sense..."

We kept him amused by relighting the candle and letting him blow it out for the rest of the song. It kept us amused too.

We rented Minority Report tonight. Wow, what a great movie. Really kept you guessing, and gave alot of good sciencefictional thought experiments to work your head around. Of course, its based on a Philip K. Dick story. Its would be nice if good SF movies could draw from some other writers, but I will admit that Dick's peculiar brand of ideas are well suited to movie format.

The blueish tones to all the cinematography was irritating, but was not present in some key scenes, and it does thematicly fit the movie by highlightinh the sterility and unnaturaliness of the future world of which the precogs are a part. Nice religious allusions, in calling the precog's tank "the Temple" and recognizing the cops were like Priests of an Oracle. I laughed when the Federal agent checking out Precrime said he was a student at Fuller seminary for three years before becoming a cop.

December 25, 2002

I think The Two Towers was a really amazing film. It's a more loose adaptation of the books than the first movie was which was mostly distracting to me. Also, I'm still not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing when one is conscious while watching a film that some missing scene will "probably make it to the extended DVD". That mollified in me a tendency towards getting annoyed with Jackson's seemingly inexplicable changes.

When it was over I spoke with another audience member who's companion had left the theatre in disgust. I was nowhere near there.

Hearing some of Jackson's comments on the extended Fellowship DVD helped me have a better context for viewing the changes. Jackson says he always tries to be faithful to the visually present the world of middle earth as faithfully as he can to the books. Hobbiton, The Moria gate, the two enormous statues at the falls, and the the bridge of Khazad-Dum all illustrated his success in that regard. I can always accept some condensation and visual transposition of the long didactic portions of Fellowship.

But the changes in Towers [spoiler warning] don't fit this model. Supposedly Jackson found Faramir's lack of temptation by the ring to be incongruous with the way every other character presented with the ring behaves. This seems plausible I guess. But Tolkien writes with a series of dramatic contrasts between otherwise very close characters. We have Gandalf and Saruman. We have Gollum and Sam and Frodo. We have Legolas and Gimli. And I think we have Boromir and Faramir. Both are of the house of stewards of the kingdom of Gondor, and Faramir stresses how the stewards would hold the regency for a thousand years with no temptation to seize the throne. This model of faithful service should be seen as the Gondorian strength that Faramir can draw upon to ignore the ring's power where Boromir contrastingly falls. It is, I think a similar power to that shown by Sam, who, as as servant to "Mr. Frodo" is really unswayed by the high matters that his master has to trouble himself about.

Now it has been awhile since i've read Return of the King, so I'll have to recheck my analysis of Faramir's relation with Aragorn, and Sam's attitude towards the ring.

I also disliked the rewriting of the Entmoot's decision and Merry and Pippin's resort to subterfuge to convince the Ents to act. The Ents were way cool though.

Also in later reflection, the added scene with the warg attack was at least written in the spirit of Tolkien, though not from him. The wargs were well done, and the fight was well choreographed. Some would consider the false death of Aragorn at the cliff a "cheap shot" but its only one more in a series of "false deaths" in the Lord of the Rings. (Frodo and the cave troll, Gandalf and the Balrog, Merry and Pippin and the Uruk-hai, etc). Its a nice way for Jackson to segue in some of the Arwen story he is (validly) trying to make more prominent in the tale.

Gimli was good comic relief, but I wish there was a bit more, particulalrly the soliloquy he makes about the beauty of Helm's Deep.

Gollum was amazing! I wa sglad that Jacksom gave him a sympathetic portrayal, allowing you to feel an analogous pity that Frodo and Bilbo felt. Good sermon's on the nature of sin should draw illustrations from Gollum more.

Awaiting with bated breath the next installment.

Anyone think a documentary format for the Silmarilion might be fun for a lark?

Weird experience. Friday night and Saturday I was at a small gaming convention in New Jersey. It was an opportunity for me to catch up on some scenarios I missed as a participant in the "Living Greyhawk" shared campaign roleplaying game. The location was one I'd visited before for a single "game day", again to catch up on a missed scenario.

The house is the second floor apartment of two men; one of whom is a law student, and the occupation of the other is unknown. They'd hosted a small "convention" there before and I didn't hear any bad feedback so I saw no reason not to give it a try. There would be about 25 people there over the course of the weekend.

Friday night when I arrived, neither of the two organizers was there, but the scenario judge was, and he was just getting started.

I came up the stairs into the kitchen. The sink was full of dirty dishes. There were more dirty dishes on the stove. The wastebaskets were full. A drawer from a piece of furniture not in evidence was laying on the floor at an angle with some junk in it. In another corner was a cardboard box with bedding and a pet rabbit. It had not been cleaned recently, and the detritus was not confined to the box.

Moving into the living room, I recalled the place much as it was on the last visit for a game in the summer. There was a largeish collection of miniatures on some shelves. A small collection of Star Wars action figures was hanging on the wall in unopened packages. A very large Pink Floyd "Back Catalog" poster (with the five women bodypainted on their backs with 5 Floyd album covers) also hung on the wall. A couple of replica swords were laying
about on shelves or mounted on the wall. A fairly large TV was in one corner, festooned with stacks of DVDs and playstation games.

The room where the game was held had a large table, and next to it some kind of framework for excercize equipment. One chair with a missing back was off to one side. When I was there in the summer we played on the second floor porch and either it was somewhat neater, or I just ignored it at the time.

It appeared the rabbit had free range of the apartment and had left his mark out here as well.

So I played my game round that evening and went home to return Saturday and get this over with.

The dishes were still undone. The wastebaskets were overflowing. The living room had a trash bag filled with the previous nights snackfood bags and soda bottles.

It turned out that the schedule was not being adhered to, and so the judge for the next round wouldn't arrive until about 2 pm. I went downstairs and noted the empty trashcans outside. The one roommate was present (along with his two children: it was his visitation weekend). I asked if he would object to my taking the trash out. Not at all, he said. I located the empty trash bags finally and proceeded to empty the two wastebaskets and the freestanding bag; I also policed the living room area.

Still awaiting the start of the game round, I considered the kitchen. No way was I going near the rabbit. But perhaps I could tackle the dishes. In for a penny, in for a pound. Would good come of this? Would the hosts have burning coals heaped upon their heads in shame? Would such service set some kind of mysterious process of grace to work in this world of filth?

The baked-on ramen noodles were particularly stubborn.

Well I never really ended up in any redemptive conversation with the hosts. A few of the other conventioneers gave some minor assistance and at least reassured me I wasn't alone in seeing this environment as a problem. The divorced roommate thanked me and offered that his counterpart was the one who did the cooking, and didn't clean up afterwards, and that the rabbit was going to be gone in a week as it was acquired as a pet for his children's benefit during visitation, but that they didn't come frequently enough for it to be worth the trouble.

The law student roommate smilingly and briefly thanked me as did his girlfriend, who came and went with the hosts but also participated in some of the gaming. In retrospect I wished I'd at least have offered a word about my heart operating in the spirit of Christmas, but nothing had really reminded me to make the connection. Maybe the spiritual deadness of the place was rubbing off on me.

Next time I'm playing at a game store.

December 23, 2002

Hey, my holiday party was over a long time ago. Now I'm sitting at home blogging.

December 20, 2002

As I get ready to leave for my office holiday party, the Washinton Post is reporting that Lott is stepping down. Merry Christmas!

December 18, 2002

This Time photoessay on "girl culture" is sobering stuff. Fits well with the Frontline special on teen markting I refered to. It made me superficially more sympathetic with home-based patriarchy, but you have to realize the problem here stems from a whole other cultural milieu. One that doesn't agonize over the matters I mentioned in the post below.

Duane Garner writes about his ambivalence in buying toys for his kids at Christmas. I can relate. My oldest will soon be four and already it seems like there are so many toys for her. Grandparents keep her supplied and also we have a nearby thrift store and have accumulated a large collection of original (choking) sized Little People. All this made Christmas shopping for the kids a source of guilt, uncertainty, and doubt. What do they really need? Did I have this much stuff growing up? Am I just being stingy?

I think we kept the kid gift buying to a fair minimum taking into account likely probabilities from the grandparents. Andrew is getting (either for his upcoming birthday or Christmas) a play tool bench that we got for shipping and Pampers Points. Thats a pretty "big" item that feels like it overwhelms any other things, but since we didn't "pay" for it we felt the need to add other things, like some more Legos.

Shopping with my mother in law when we were in Minneapolis crystallized some more of my ambivalence over gifts for my kids. I've always enjoyed browsing in toy stores and pointing things out that I think are "cool" or interesting. But since we were with her on an intentional shopping trip, things I expressed a passing fancy became objects for her consideration. So I end up saying "no, I don't really think so" to avoid exploiting her affectionate interest in her grandchildren. This would be ok, but I found that it translated into inertia keeping me dispassionate about the whole matter. Where was a feeling of joy in gift-shopping?

I'm a recent convert to Christmastime, so many may have dealt with these feelings longer and can make more sense of them.

Since Sunday I've had a bit of a revelation about one aspect of my relationship with my children. I've really been taking personally some of their young obstinacy towards me. My daughter has been a stickler for mom's ministrations at bedtime for quite a while now, but from very early on I've been closely involved in putting my son to bed. This used to consist of just giving him a bottle and putting him down in his crib, which progressed to some play or book reading, followed by holding and singing to him until he fell asleep. Now it seems he never knows what he wants. He will refuse to be held, refuse books, ask for a song, ask me to stop singing, demand a book. Mostly he asks for mommy to put him to bed.

This built up and has been more constant lately, and its hard, harder than I thought it would be. There is the guilt of leaving all the work of putting them to bed to mom, and the ambivalence I feel when I appreciate the time freed up from my disinvolvement. There is the feeling of rejection and disappointment. There is the feedback into other moments when my kids express a preference for mom's involvement with discipline or help or mealtime.

A new sunday School class on "Christian Relationships" hit the nail on the head for me though: The teacher related how he was trying to arrange a fun day at an amusement park for his family of four children. He'd saved months in advance for the park; packed a lunches to save money, bought 4 of each kind of soda so each kid could have a choice. He looked forward to the day, and looked forward to the joy of his kids hearts at being able to give them a good experience, and looked forward to their expressions of thanksgiving. As it turned out, there were only two cans of one soda, and one kid drank the other can in the car. When lunch came, pandemonium ensued. As he said "if you wanted to spend you time fighting over a soda we could have stayed home and I'd have put a soda in a cooler in the back yard and you all could have had a wonderful time."

But he stopped up short after that and saw that he was really interested in the benefit his planning would bering to himself; how he would feel receiving the thanks of his children for being a good provider. [I want to pull this all togther into a cocclusion, but its late and The Two Towers starts in ten and a half hours. G'night]

December 17, 2002

If the Presbyterian church (rightly) has apologized for racism and segregation, shouldn't it apologize for prohibition too? This measure might be a start in a right direction. And Jon barlow reports in the comments on Presbytermark on a church that holds a "Beaujolais Nouveau Party"
with a Jazz Band - the assistant pastor gave a brief talk about the symbolism of wine in the bible, the process of winemaking, etc., and then they had good food, tried the new wine of the year, and danced to the jazz band.
You'd have to have wine in communion as a start first though.

So if everybody has been praying the payer of Jabez ("enlarge my territory"), are we invited to see an invasion of Iraq and Afganistan as an answer to prayer?

"We only have fifteen of these carriers? We need twenty! No, thirty!" - a peacenik on getting a tour of an aircraft carrier (link from Dan Drezner)

December 16, 2002

Josh Strodtbeck,

you are my friend!

My wife's OB-GYN's practice was closed down by Jefferson Hospital forwhatever reason. So she had to find a new one, and needed to get her records transferred. Today we get a bill for $15 for the cost of the records transfer. I'm not really sure why we should be the ones to pay for the transfer when we're only needed it because of their own actions.

Rather than complain, I'm enlisting the power of the blogosphere that got Lott in such hot water!

Well, maybe not...

I wonder if josh from gonkdroid knows about these. I'm amused that out of all the sets, the ewok in this set has fairly accurate proportions. (thanks to amberBach for the link)

December 13, 2002

Since Duane Garner posted this link, its only fair I blogroll him

December 12, 2002

Curious about the effectiveness of medieval weaponry? [warning: pictures of raw meat]

Amazon has Settlers of Canaan for only $20. They say its a limited time offer. This is based on the award winning German boardgame Die Seidler von Catan (Setters of Catan). It uses a fixed board, instead of the random setup of Catan.

There was an article mentioning it in the New York Times a while back

I was really excited to see this article in US News and World report a couple of weeks ago on German boardgames. It hit all the right notes.

December 11, 2002

Life with Bonnie did a great job again, this time with a Christmas episode. From the start with the simple observation of the son and daughter mimeticly copying father and mother as they engaged in household chores, to the unrehearsed christmas play
Mary: Isn't the baby beautiful?
Joseph: Of course he is! He's the Lord Jesus Christ!
Mary: That's OK, he's very forgiving
the show was just plain entertaining. Its low-key and warm in a unique way. The guest segmants are usually a stitch, but I'm really connecting with the gentle humor of the domestic scenes. I wonder when feminists will discover this show and jump all over it. The episode where Bonnie's husband rather firmly reminds her to keep better track of the checkbook, which she graciously accepts and explains to her daughter's questioning was like something never seen before on television. The episode with Tom Hanks in a dream sequence was also uniquely touching. I remarked to my wife that if the domestic sub-plots remain prominent, Bonnie Hunt has invented a new genre: the marital romantic comedy sitcom.

Ok, I guess Mad About You was like that, but it didn't have the romantic comedy plots very often, more of a seinfeldian look at marriage.

I like the Less than Perfect show too. Sara Rue plays an atypicly cute and witty character.

UPDATE: How odd. Rue and Hunt were both in a show together back in 1990 called Grand. It was only briefly aired, since I, as Bonnie Hunt fan, never heard of it before.

Chrysostom on avoiding lust:
"When thou seest a fair and beautiful person, a brave Bonaroba, or well-dress'd woman, a beautiful Donna who'd make your mouth water, a merry girl and one not hard to love) a comely woman, having bright eyes, a merry countenance, a shining luster in her look, a pleasant grace, wringing thy soul, and increasing thy concupiscence; bethink with thyself that it is but earth thou lovest, a mere excrement, which so vexeth thee, which thou so admirest, and thy raging soul will be at rest. Take her skin from her face, and thou shalt see all loathsomeness under it, that beauty is a superficial skin and bones, nerves, sinews: suppose her sick, now rivel'd, hoary-headed, hollow-cheeked, old: within she is full of filthy fleam, stinking, putrid, excremental stuff: snot and snivel in her nostrils, spittle in her mouth, water in her eyes, what filth in her brains, &c --------- Or take her at her best, and look narrowly upon her in the light, stand nearer her, nearer yet, thou shalt perceive almost as much, and love less"
Quoted from William Miller's The Anatomy of Disgust

Rod Dreher's article on the New York City public school system's banning of creche scenes [typical] but allowance of "secular symbols" like a menorah and a star and crecent is illuminating.

You might be confused as to why the two other symbols get a pass and the creche doesn't. Is it just anti-christain bias?

This is what I think might be going on. The menora and crescent are percieved as functioning as mere pointers to their respective holidays. A menora says "its hanukka". It doesn't really say much about what hanukka celebrates or means. Likewise, the crescent is just a sign of islam and tells you "its ramadan".

But a creche says: "This baby, in this historical setting, is God, and is worshipped by these adoring people". Its a narrative picture, that actually communicates the meaning of the holiday instead of just pointing to it.

In a sick and lonely quest to direct more traffic to my blog, I have read every blog in Joel's list and left comments almost everywhere I could. To those of you who have followed me here I salute you.

I did make some cogent remarks. Sometimes I just said "yeah, man, way to go".

Now its bedtime

Chilean Sea Bass is really good. Like butter.

December 10, 2002

This comment from Andrew Leonard in Salon hits close to home, or a home I used to live in at least.
Winona was the girl with the great musical taste and the wry putdown, the one that made you feel that you were cool just because you had her attention. Neither blonde nor bombshell, she was also a girlfriend who could be aspired to. She wasn't looking for hunks or he-men -- she could see through all that stuff to the real you, that incredibly desirable guy who wasn't really a loser, no sir, but was in fact an artist who needed only the love of a girl like Winona before blossoming into true creativity.
Garver and I used to be big Winona Ryder fans. We had a very young Intervarsity staff worder who closely resembled her that Joel publicly embarassed me about. She's a published Christian author now, so I won't mention her real name.

This report of the death of the lettercol is depressing. I always liked being able to read what some folks thought about a book in the book. I really don't have time to go hunting down internet discussions of comics anymore. Well, I barely read any comics either, so I guess it doesn't matter.

But what will the world be like for future generations?

My tracker (the saturn-like button over on the right) reported someone found me on google by looking for "presbyterian church weekly communion pennsylvania".

I wish.

Since instapundit and others have been hammering Trent Lott for his gaffe at Strom Thurmond's birthday celebration I've wanted to figure out at least one piece of the puzzle. I don't think the comments really implied, but rather, allowed the inference to be made that perhaps Lott was nostaligic for segregation. Manys of critics of Lott have been declaring that Lott's remarks mean he endorses the dixiecrats pro-lynching stance, which is inferred by things like this sample ballot Thurmond's 1948 campaign.

While I realize "state's rights" were often a cover for preserving white supremacy in the South, it seems to me also that there should be some allowance that someone (like Thurmond) could have been a segregationist that regarded lynching as a moral horror, and was still opposed to the impostion of federal anti-lynching legislation on acceptable grounds like federalism or specific issues with particular legislative proposals.

A quick google search turned up this record of some original congressional debate from 1949, which doesn't give me much backing for my polyannish non-judgementalism.

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary, which seems to be the "Bronze" anniversary according to the ancient lists. We didn't really get our act togther on planning anything spectacular, but that's probably for the best since the kids and my wife are still a bit under the weather with colds. We couldn't get a sitter last night so we could attend our bookclub together, and we just decided to skip a sitter tonight and stay home. We've ordered in some Chilean sea bass, duck, and stuffed chicken breasts, so all will not be lost.

Eight days to the Two Towers.

December 08, 2002

Eight things on my (home) desk
- A coke twist-off cap
- A miniature druid
- A bunch of computer equipment
- Bible
- stray leaf
- crumpled old reciepts
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1
- Turbo-Tax for 2002

Seven things I touch each day
- me
- my wife
- my daughter
- my son
- the ground
- a keyboard
- my toothbrush

Six movies I can't live without
- Blade Runner
- Brazil
- Magnolia
- Fargo
- Trip to Bountiful
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Five nicknames
-Doogie Hauser

Four places I want to visit

Three things I wish I could change about myself
-eating habits
-my lack of discipline
-shyness in large social gatherings

Two phone numbers I call most
-my mom and dad

One person you plan to spend the rest of your life with
-my wife, duh.

My wife: "does anybody read your blog?"

December 07, 2002

A meritricious posting

So now on to Fearsome Pirate's criticism of Jordan's piece against merit theology
But what of Christ? When the angels call the Lamb "worthy" in Revelation 5, they aren't kidding (we need to get past this mentality of glossing over statements in Scripture as though any of them aren't pregnant with meaning). They even tell us why the Lamb is worthy: "Because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Here is the "Herculean labor" which Jordan claims is nowhere to be found in all of Scripture: it is Christ's death on the cross, reconciling the world to God. How can one be a scholar of the Bible and miss this glaring point?
So Strodtbeck want to claim that Jordan is "missing the obvious" when he doesn't see the crucifiction as a Herculean labor that merits worth and reward? I think Strodtbeck is making too little distinction between the kind of heroic action of a Superman or Hercules and the "heroism" of failure, suffering, and death. To call Jesus' death on the cross "heroic" in the Herculean sense is to miss the paradox of the cross: victory though defeat. (Has Strodtbeck forgotten the "way of the cross" in contrast ot the "way of glory"?) Victory is just through "holding on"; though "testifying to the end". The Lamb who is proclaimed worthy is worthy because slain, and the faithful of the seven churches in Revelation will join him in worthy victory when they simply "hold on".

In Reformed circles, the putative merits Christ acheives are a matter of his "active obedience", his lawkeeping which earns a just reward of life, which is then given to those who have faith in him, justifying them. But a better view is to see that Jesus does not succeed where the pharisees failed at lawkeeping. Galatians is clear that no flesh is justified by keeping the law, and that Jesus found himself actually cursed by the law he faithfully obeyed in being hung on the tree.

Where then did he achieve justification for us? He himself was declared righteous when the condemnation of the law did not stand for him. His faith-ful "passive" obedience to the will of the father, going to the death before him, and NOT his ability to keep the torah flawlessly was the grounds of his ressurection in his humanity, and we, in union with him by faith participate in his same justification.

But Strodtbeck says
where there is no concept of merit, there can be no concept of justice, reward, or punishment, and there can be no concept of atonement
In Reformed terms, making merit the basis of atonement means that rather than the shed blood of Jesus availing to turn aside the wrath of God, all the rewards earned by Jesus as a lawkeeper are needed to do so. I always was taught that the value of Jesus's atonement was he was a sinless sacrifice of infinite worth, because he was God's Son, not becasue as a man he had earned the righteousness avilable in the law. Strodbeck would have to offer more than an assertion ot deny that there is a doctrine of atonement possible without merit.

Well I'm up too late, so when holes get poked in this I'll have a good excuse at least. G'night folks.

Off to Christmas shop at the malls tomorrow, DV.

Goldberg II

Goldberg's column had some good points and some mixed points. He writes
I see no reason not to think of Mohammed as an enlightened ruler as far as things went back in those days and in that place. But let's also face facts: Mohammed was a general, and his generations of successors and disciples were conquerors. There is just too much in Islam about the importance of grabbing and holding territory to ignore. Jesus was a nonviolent martyr who argued for rendering unto Caesar what was his. Mohammed was Caesar. The seed of the notion of a civil society outside the scope of religious authority was planted by Jesus in Jewish soil; it was subsequently nurtured, with much bloodshed, over two millennia until today where the separation of Church and State is a bedrock of Western Civilization. This separation of the City of God and the City of Man, to use Saint Augustine's formulation, is still quite alien to Islamic society.

Furthermore, the first few generations of Christianity were marked by suffering and oppression. The first few generations of Islam were marked by conquering.
I think the latter observation is quite telling. Its really a variation on the difference between Mohammed and Jesus too, as the exemplary life of their founders was imitated by each group. I find it fascinating that there is great reverence for Jesus (Isa) in Islam and the Koran, even to the extent that thier denial of the death of jesus is not simply to likewise deny a ressurection, but because a prophet of God suffering murder and defeat is unthinkable.

Wright's essay on Christian establishment is a good corrective to Goldberg's americanized reading of the seperation of church and state as some kind of perfect progressive perfect acheivment. Maybe I'll send it to him.

Goldberg on Islam

Jonah Goldberg had a column a few days ago dealing with the issues sometimes raised by westerners that the terrorist acts and, more importantly, violent threats and declarations of war against the west that are made by some muslims are not denouced strongly enough by the body of Muslims that like to publicly claim that Islam is a "religion of peace" that means nobody any harm. [sure, some do]. This is in contrast (quite fairly I think) to the public condemnations of, say abortion doctor killers that are watched for whenever that rare crime occurs.

One could say that much of this is a matter of definition; that as muslims are quite confident their religion is the unalloyed truth, there will be "peace" when all submit to the will of Allah, and that being forced into the status of a dhimmi, or killed if you try to escape that status doesn't constitute "harm" because, after all, its for your own good.

I'm going to hazard a guess at another dymanic that comes from my very minimal experience with Islam, but more from experience with my own religious tradition. This will get at a very basic constrast between Islam and Christainity.

One of the atrractions of Islam is that there is a stark simplicity about it. There are "the five pillars" of Islam (faith in Allah as the one God and the prophethood of Muhammed, the mandatory daily prayers, giving of alms, the ramadan fast, and the pilgramage to mecca). There are five articles of faith in Islam (belief in one God; belief in God's angels; belief in God's books, and in the Koran; belief in God's prophets, and in Muhammad as His messenger; and belief in life after death.)

Believe the articles of faith, and practice the pilars and you are a Muslim.

In contrast, while in Christainty there are very simple confessions of faith (the apostles creed), and simple rites and rules of living, there is also a history in Christainty of complexfying of the creeds and casuisticly specifying the rules of living. And in that complexity, there is more room for heterodxies and divergences to develop and cause conflict; conflict that leads to schims between the Christian groups of divergent confession.

What I'm trying to say is that Christianity has had more experience defining "out groups" from its own borders by drawing those borders more narrowly. You get alot of "yes, Joe beleives in the Trinity, but he doesn't hold to justification by faith alone so he's not really a Christain", or "Suzie goes to church every sunday, but she's sleeping around on the side and so I have doubts about her conversion" or "Mike holds to the Real Rresence, but he doesn't beleive in the Law/Gospel distinction so he's not welcome at communion"

This means that it has almost become reflexive for Christians to respond to challenges of Christian involvement in, for instance, the Holocaust or the Inquisition by replying that "those guys might have said they were Christian but they weren't really following Him". Thats helpful to clarify how terrible those events were, but it also displays a willingness to avoid contamination by association by merely denying association instead of arguing against the logic of associational or institutional guilt.

I think Muslims just feel less free to make those dissociative sounds. If bin Laden follows the Five pillars and confesses the articles of faith, and he seems to read the Koran, which average muslims find hard to do, who would we be to say "this man is not a muslim". Sure, ok, he shouldn't kill innocents. But he still reads as a good muslim based on the minimal applicable criteria.

So what I'm saying is the experince of schism within Christianity leads to a greater willingness on the part of Christians to set boundaries that deny associative claims to those who act in the name of the same religion.

December 06, 2002

PC gamer

Yesterday was very lazy, but pleasurable in a way. I had alot of difficulty with my back all day. A friend of ours had made us a nice flannel pillow filled with rice that we could microwave for about 3 minutes which worked great as a heat pad. It aslo has a nice smell. I wonder about repeadtedly microwaving dry rice though. Will it one day do something wierd to the rice?

My back and Sylvia's mild flu notwithstanding we went out into the snow for a grand time in the morning with the kids In addition to our cheapo sled my daughter also improvized a free form roll down the hill which she enjoyed. I think we'll be investing in a more useable sled. We saw some folks enjoying a big inflatable figure 8 shaped one that I though would be pricier than I found it to be in a catalog.

I hoped to get some productive blogging done yesterday, but ended up playing NeverWinter Nights most of the time. I'd put this aside as it seemed to be getting tedious instead of fun, with repetive monsters and boring time spent opening boxes, crates, and barrels to get a few gold or a weak potion. But yesterday I completed a really well done part of the game that offers the chance to do some roleplaying. It allows your charcater to make a decision based on pseronal criteria that doens't spoil the rest of the game. Like many other times, you could mouth off to NPCs in the game because you felt liek it but then they wouldn't help you with the quests and the game wouldn't be fun.

This is what happened [spoilers: highlight to view]

The village of Charwood has apparently been ripped out of the timestream long in the past as a punishment for some horrible crime. A madman named Quint approaches you in the town blabbering somethign about the death of children. Others in the town point you to talk to the Jharegs, two brothers who rule in a castle at the end of town. When you get to the castle, you are prsented with a riddle about justice, claiming one hand of justice is firey torment and another is death and a third way "straight ahead" joins hand and head together with reason to come to justice. This enourages you to take the middel door which leads to a Guardian.

The Guardian was really a nicely designed animation. A silvery feminine figure wearing what looked like a bustle made of sheeny spikes and energy. She says that my game character is the Judge, the mortal who has been awaited by Lathander (a Forgotten Realms god) to determine the one who should be punsihed between the two brothers for the crime (of leading all the children of Charwood to be murderd in a bloody ritual). Lathander won't judge because he feels he's too invested in the case to be objective [!] Its apparent that Quint lead them all together and that Karlat the other brother then killed them. Before I judge I need to get their sworn testimony. Each one is locked in a different tower of the castle.

So I proceed to the tower of Karlat. Face alot of Sladdi and fire elementals, which take double damage from cone of cold and die easily. I could go straight up the middle, but I discover a side chamber and follow it to the end of the long gallery. Karlat turns out to be a lich who claims he had a phylactery stolen from his evil brother who killed the children to activate it. But the you find a journal where he speaks of his devotion to the demon Belial and how he asked Quint to get the children for his own purposes. Ah, so its simply a matter of judging him as evil. But then I notice another book where he details how he's been trying to summon Belial using a brazier and different components. It becomes clear how to do so from reading it, and when Belial is summoned (very impressive flame effects on his wings) he testifies that he played Karlat for a fool since he didn't need any children's blood to make the phylactery for his lichdom, that he just threw that in. So looks like Belial is at fault too. Or should he bear sole responsibility?

Investigating Quint's tower and getting his sworn testimony that he didn't kill the children I returned to the guardian for judgment. I saved the game to try out a few different options. The guardian summons the two brothers and asks if my judgment is to judge one or the other guilty, or neither. I picked neither. The guardian asks if I have evidence showing someone elses guilt. I pick to offer Belial's testimony. He shows up in court. I judge him guilty and then I am offered to either take the phylactery and let everyone go free, or have the guardian keep it as she always has.

Hmm, a difficult choice.

Well my inclination was to keep the phylactery for myself. The guardian asks me what my reasons were, with the options of 1) "Everyone should should be free to do good or evil" 2) no reason or 3) "I'd rather not say". The freedom of a demon doesn't sound like a good outcome so on reload, I decide to have the guardian keep it. She is flabbergasted, but agrees (since I'm, the judge) and the reason I can offer is "everyone is a little bit guilty somehow". This keeps the demon trapped, but along with everyone else.

I was really impressed with the ability of the game to present this dilemma and let you solve it according to the roleplay tastes of your character. Its a total side quest in the game. Some would argue the "right answer" according to the game is to convict Karlat alone, which leads to the phylactery being destroyed, the village freed and you get more XP and treasure. But in the conversation tree you don't get a chance to convict Karlat after you include the demon's testimony, and i thought it made sense to include it. When you convict Karlat, the explanation that he murderd the kids while believing Belial's claim that they would ressurect afterwards struck me as not really offering him much of an excuse, even though Belial is the one my charcater thinks makes more sense.

Apparently, the game contained a fourth option in design where you could summon Lathander and get his testimony. You find a desecrated statue of Lathander in Quint's tower and the means to sanctify it with healing potions, but the code wasn't included. I wonder if convicting Lathander for dooming all these people until the human judge can show up would have been an option.

There is an interesting debate on the morals of the choice on the bioware site

December 05, 2002

Strodtbeck's comments are down so I can't tear him a new one gently correct him on how he is mistinterpreting Jordan. I'll do it here later.

Snow day today. I'm not enjoying it so much, since I pulled something in my back last night vaccuming and still have pain today. We took the kids outside and down to the park to do some sledding. We have a cheapo plastic sled that's small and doesn't steer, but the kids had fun anyway. Now we'll have some hot cocoa.

December 04, 2002

When i posted my first foodblog entry I wondered if it would be a turn off or not. My wife was the only one to comment, when she called me and said "hey! share!" But blogdex reveals I have been subjected to speculation about my intentions on blogs4God
Proving that a faithful heart should be supported by a healthy body, it appears Hierogrammate is sharing a food journal online. This being the season of Advent, it is probably not a bad idea to use the time to take care of ourselves physicially as well as spiritually (especially if you overdid it this Thanksgiving).
So continuing:

1.5 bowls honey bunches of oats with skim milk
8 oz OJ
hot tea with 1 tsp sugar (replacing my daily 20 oz coke I think)
1 handfull of M&Ms

December 03, 2002

Off to give blood

And today:
some pineapple chunks
20 oz orange juice
sausage egg and cheese on a roll
Hot tea with 1 tsp sugar
small handgrab of chex mix
Ham and cheese on whole wheat with light mayo
more pineapple chunks
12 oz applejuice
small bag of pretzels
3 oz of crackerjack
1 20oz cherry coke
beef stroganoff
cooked carrots
brownie with small scoop of icecream
1/2 piece of leftover pumpkin pie
8oz cranberry juice
hot tea w sugar

I think this was an improvement, as the sodas were toned down.

December 02, 2002

So far:

1 Bowl Honey Bunches Oats
1 glass OJ
1 boston cream donut
1 20 oz Moutain Dew
1 tiny piece of apple pie
1 ham and cheese on whole wheat with light mayo
1 apple
12 oz can of lemonade
1.5oz bag of pretzels
3 sugar free cookies in lunchroom (yuck)
1 20 oz Coke
1 3 oz Doritos
16 oz cranberry juice
leftover stuffing
salad with ranch dressing
a little leftover turkey
pasta, sausage, sauce and cheese hotdish (small portion)
very small scoop of icecream
some handfulls of popcorn

I think I ate *less* during the thanksgiving weekend. Stop snacking, and things will improve...

I seem to recall that Advent is often considered a fasting season like Lent.

December 01, 2002

we had a sermonette on the new Word Made Fresh [non-] statement this sunday evening. I agreed it sounded pretty vague, so useless. A long list of names signed it, but who wouldn't?

Anyway, I wanted to know more about it so I did a search on google and found it. I also found this. Pretty bad, in an amusing way.

De script shun




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