Thursday, May 31, 2007

Taking it on Faith

I really like reading Paulius' blog. He's sharp and witty, but more importantly he makes people think. A couple of days ago, he wrote another rant against the recent rise of Christian pseudo-science. For the most part, I agree with what he's got to say. I believe that our universe is millions or billions of years old, not a few thousand. I believe in evolution. I believe in science.

But I also believe in God. Just as science has provided me with ample proof of certain fundamental laws, God has offered me sufficient evidence of His existence. I cannot scientifically prove His existence, and it's certainly not something tangible. But that's what faith is all about. Faith, by definition, is a belief that is not based on proof. I have faith in God. But I've also got faith in science.

Faith in science may seem a little contradictory. It is. After all, science is based on theories... physical evidence... laws. Isn't that proof? Uh, yeah. Proof is simply the existence of enough evidence to establish something as true. By that definition, God has given me sufficient indication of His existence to establish truth. I am taking this evidence on faith, just as I am taking the aforementioned scientific evidence on faith.

How do I reconcile these wildly different beliefs? I don't always succeed here, but the first step in meshing these divergent doctrines is to realize that the Bible was written by men, not by God. Since man is inherently fallible, the Bible cannot be error-free. God speaks to a man, and the man writes the word. The simple translation from divine inspiration to written word is prone to mistakes because it has passed through the mind of a creature with a limited understanding of the universe.

This same thing applies to science. Certain fundamental "laws" of science have been proven completely inaccurate over time... the earth is flat... "bleeding" sick patients... you get the idea. In the end, the best I can do is acknowledge that I don't have all of the answers. But I do have faith that one day all will be revealed.

One area where I completely agree with Paulius though, is that fundamentalist Christians who refuse to believe science are complete crack-pots. Just because the Bible says it's error-free does not make it so. Heck, the Catholic Church (I'm not Catholic by the way) believes in the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, yet that same church has had popes overturn previous popes' infallible statements. How can this work? One infallible entity cannot claim that another infallible entity was wrong while maintaining the perfection of both. It simply doesn't work. Besides, I can claim to be infallible as well. That doesn't make it so. This is one area where science has an edge on religion.

Science on the other hand, requires definitive proof for everything. If I can't provide sufficient evidence of a given belief, my idea isn't good enough. Science doesn't allow any room for faith. This is where religion has an edge. Religion without science is an ignorant existence, and science without religion is hollow. The zealots on both sides of this argument need to realize that there's room for both doctrines. It is arrogant of an atheistic science to refuse to acknowledge the existence of God simply because His existence cannot be "proven." Likewise, it is ignorant of the religious right to ignore the demonstrated laws of science. I'm taking it on faith that there's room for both disciplines.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Today's News in an Instant

All of today's news comes courtesy of Yahoo news, my favorite news source.

Bush: bin Laden ordered non-Iraq attacks
According to the news article, President Bush is pointing to U.S. intelligence asserting that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005 to form a terrorist unit to hit targets outside Iraq, and that the United States should be first in his sights.
Isn't Bush the same guy that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion of Iraq in the first place? Sorry Mr. President, your credibility is long gone.

Navy stages show of force off Iran coast
The U.S. Navy staged its latest show of military force off the Iranian coastline on Wednesday, sending two aircraft carriers and landing ships packed with 17,000 U.S. Marines and sailors to carry out unannounced exercises in the Persian Gulf.
I'd love to think that our presence would calm the Iranians down, but these guys are nuts. Note to Mr. Bush: Dude, don't flex your muscle unless you intend to use it. And by the way, don't use it. We're already stretched too thin. Are you trying to start WWIII?

Golfer dies after cart plunges off cliff
A golfer died Tuesday after his golf cart plunged 75 feet off a cliff and crashed onto a road below.
To add a little bit of irony to the stupidity, this happened in Fallbrook, CA.

Study: Climate change could harm crops
Climate change could drive many wild relatives of plants such as the potato and the peanut into extinction, threatening a valuable source of genes necessary to help these food crops fight pests and drought, an international research group reported.
Let's see here, they needed to study this? They couldn't use empirical evidence? And oh yeah, why don't they just plant the stuff somewhere else?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

An Open Letter to a Fun Hater

A few weeks ago, my neighbor bought a go kart dune buggy. We live in town and there's not really a place to play with it, so I don't quite understand the purchase, but it's his toy not mine.

Since purchasing his new machine, he's taken it for a few spins around the block. Since it's a go-kart it's not street-legal, but nobody has complained. I told him that he should take it out to the grassy flood plain area behind my house and tool around for a bit -- you know, to give it a little bit more of a workout and find out what it could do.

Yesterday, he asked me if I wanted to take it for a spin, and I tried it out. I have to admit, I had fun. I took the kids for a few spins around the block, and then went out to the aforementioned field. The kids loved it. After a couple of rounds with the kids, I asked the neighbor if he was ready to take it out in the field. He was a little reluctant until I told him that I'd drive if he didn't want to. He jumped in the passenger seat and off we went. After a couple of figure-eights around the field, some old guy came running out to the field and I knew we were busted. I guided the buggy toward the old guy and he yelled "You can just get the hell out of here now." I said "Okay," and we left, immediately putting the cart away.

I honestly felt bad. After all, I didn't want to piss anyone off, I just wanted to have a little harmless fun with the neighbor's new toy. I didn't expect anyone would mind if we tore around in the grass for a few minutes; and if I had known who owned the area I honestly would have asked. All of my feelings of contrition disappeared when the cops showed up though. The cops did a couple of laps around the block, ostensibly looking for the evil go-kart bandits, but fortunately we had hidden the get-away buggy, so they never found us. I've got to say though, when the cops started snooping around my regret turned to irritation. I get that the guy was pissed, and we quit when he asked demanded that we leave, no harm, no foul. But no, that wasn't enough for Mr. Fun Hater. He had to tell us to leave and call the cops. And considering how quickly the cops showed up, he had to have done both simultaneously.

With this in mind, I feel the need to address the guy...

Dear Mr. Fun Hater,

Please accept my sincere apology for disrupting your day and for flattening some of your grass with my neighbor's dune buggy yesterday. I regret any hard feelings that I may have caused through my thoughtless actions. The only thing I have to say in my defense is that I didn't realize that you would object to my actions, and since I didn't know who you were up to that point, I had no way of asking for your permission in advance. If I had known your identity, I would have sought your blessing.

With that said, I'd like to air a couple of grievances of my own. When you asked demanded that we leave, we did so immediately. So why did you call the cops? In my opinion, that was a little cowardly, and a little overkill. It's not like we said "fuck off" and kept on going.

Furthermore, I'd like to address a little bit of carelessness and selfishness on your part. A couple of years back, you had a dead tree on your property. Do you remember that? I'll bet you do. You didn't want to mess up your ostensibly pristine view of your lawn, so you asked the tree removal company to access your property by going through mine. That in itself was no big deal, except...

During this time, I had a minivan, which was broken down. I had parked the van on the street until I was able to repair it. The van was parked at a dead-end and nobody cared, until your tree removal service needed access -- through my property no less -- to your tree. Did anyone ask me? No. I was greeted one morning with a "move it" sticker on the van, placed there by the local police. You could have asked me to move it and explained what you needed, but you didn't. You called the cops.

Once I moved the van, your tree removal service drove over my water-logged lawn to get to your dead tree, killing my grass, compacting the dirt and leaving deep ruts in my lawn -- ruts that are here to this day. This was done without my advance knowledge, and without my blessing. You may consider my actions yesterday thoughtless, but your hands are just as unclean as mine. The grass I flattened yesterday will grow back in a few weeks, and there will be no permanent trace of my presence. The ruts you left in my lawn are a permanent reminder of your thoughtlessness.

I know who you are now, and I understand how you operate. You will probably never get this letter; based on your demeanor yesterday I suspect you're a little too old and cranky to tolerate this new-fangled internet thingy. But rest assured, I will be watching for you so I can personally deliver this message... so I can apologize face-to-face and so I can point out that I'm not the only one who's been selfish and thoughtless when it comes to the neighbors.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Trailer Hitch

Last weekend I bought a new Reese trailer hitch for my 2002 Dodge Dakota. I bought the hitch for towing a pop-up camper that I've acquired courtesy of my youngest brother, and because this same brother just bought a boat - which he said I could use. Of course, in order to use the boat I need to be able to tow it... hence the trailer hitch.

When I started shopping for the right hitch, I insisted on a good price, a strong hitch rating, and an easy install. I first looked at an Acme brand, but that hitch required me to drill holes in my frame (no easy install). On my second stop I found the Reese brand, which requires no drilling on my truck. Score!

I did the install yesterday, and I am pleased to report that it was as simple as advertised. I had to remove two OEM bolts, but I had access to an impact wrench so the removal process was effortless. If I would have had to remove these bolts by hand it would have taken a little longer, but the process still would have been relatively simple.

I won't bore you with the details, but I will unequivocally say that the Reese trailer hitch was the perfect fit for my 2002 Dodge Dakota. I definitely recommend this hitch for this vehicle.

*NOTE: I am not specifically recommending Reese for any vehicle other than mine. I am, however, saying that it was a perfect fit for my Dakota.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Paint + Patience = Parody

I don't know about you, but for a long time, I've thought that the default Microsoft Windows XP wallpaper looks a lot like the Telletubbies set. Today I finally decided to try a few things out and see if my hunch was right. The results are below. What do you think? Do they look like they're at home?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Mystique of Flowers

I really don't understand the magic power a bouquet of flowers holds over women. I get that the phenomenon exists, but I don't know why. Fortunately though, I don't need to understand why women love flowers, I just need to realize that women love flowers.

I am a little unique though when it comes to purchasing flowers. I spent years buying pre-arranged bouquets, only to be disappointed when the arrangement didn't meet my satisfaction in one way or another... they would die early, the real thing didn't resemble the picture, and so forth. Eventually, I started visiting the florist and selecting the flowers myself. It was a learning process. In the early stages I tended to pick flowers that were cut a little too early and didn't fully blossom as a result. This is especially true of roses. Over time though, I learned the ins and outs of selecting good quality flowers and gained experience in arranging them. Now, I won't do a bouquet unless I select and arrange things myself. This isn't getting in touch with his feminine side, it's me saying "Dammit, if I'm going to buy this stuff, I'm going to buy what I want... something unique, and something that's going to last!"

Like I said, I don't get the whole flowers thing, but I know that my wonderful wife really likes 'em. For Mother's Day I took the kids to the store, and the three of us hand-picked an assortment of flowers for the Mrs.. We selected the flowers based on how long they would last, variety, how well they coordinated with one another, and wifey-poo's favorite colors. As you can see from the picture below, we ended up with quite a large bouquet.

Next came arranging them. The little 'un and I spent the next 20 minutes or so cutting and organizing things so that each flower would stand out and that no two similar flowers would look "clumped together." This is the final result. I'm happy with it because we got a LOT more flower for the same money by picking and arranging them ourselves, because there will never be another arrangement exactly like this one, and mostly, because my wife likes it.

Like I said, I don't understand the magic behind the captivating power of flowers. But I do know that women love flowers, and I like pleasing my women. I guess that's all the reason I need.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

An Asshole Among Assholes

Let's face it, lawyers suck. With rare exceptions, they don't truly contribute anything to society. The reason they are necessary in our world is because they have created the need. They have sued and legislated their way into the basic fabric of our existence without adding any real value. Once upon a time, mankind was able to exist, evolve and thrive without the added complexity brought on by lawyers. This was a time of common sense and personal responsibility. (As you can see, I don't have a lot of respect for lawyers.)

I used to have a great deal of respect for judges, assuming they were at least the best of the worst. Over time though, that opinion has been severely eroded. I still think they're a little better than your average attorney, but that isn't saying much.

That brings us to today's story. This guy is an asshole among assholes. I highly suggest you read the original story. But here's the short version, in case you're too lazy to follow the link. Some idiot judge in Washington is suing his dry cleaner for $65 million over a pair of lost pants.

-He dropped off several suits.
-The cleaner lost one pair of pants.
-He demanded $1000. The full cost of the full suit.
-They later found his pants and refused to pay the $1000.
-The jackass sued.
-During the course of the lawsuit, the cleaner offered to settle... $3000, $4600, and then $12000.
-The idiot said "it's about more than the pants."
-He wants $15,000, the cost of renting a car every week for the next 10 years, so he can drive to a different cleaner.
-The bulk of the suit (no pun intended) is based on his interpretation of D.C.'s consumer protection law, which "fines violators $1,500 per violation, per day. According to court papers, Pearson added up 12 violations over 1,200 days, and then multiplied that by three defendants." That adds up to a little over $21 mil. I don't know where the rest comes from.

Like I said, attorneys suck, but this guy...