January 28, 2006

"I have slipped the surly bonds of earth"

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of STS-51-L and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger.

On that day, I returned home from school for lunch and turned on the television, only to catch the news reports and constantly repeated video of the explosion on every channel. In my memory this was only the second time I had seen this kind of wall-to-wall news coverage - the first was the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. But I was 10 at the time, and it had hardly the emotional impact as the Challenger disaster did on a more mature, 15-year-old spaceflight buff for whom the thrill of the first Columbia mission hadn't worn off.

This, for me, was my generation's "Kennedy" moment - at least until 9/11 made it look insignificant.

But, two and a half years later, NASA got back on its feet again; Discovery launched flawlessly on mission STS-26 on September 29, 1988. And for the next few years, new and interesting things were in store for us space buffs: the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station being the most notable. I worked for a time as a technical editor for a local company that supplied hardware to NASA for the ISS, so I have worked briefly with astronauts and had lunch with an entire shuttle crew.

NASA fell down, but got up again. It's too bad that in the aftermath of the Columbia's destruction in 2002, they seem a little wobbly on their feet.

Reagan's speech on the eve of the disaster is one of the most significant of his presidency.

January 27, 2006

January 25, 2006

Psycho-Fundy Argumentation 101: The False Dichotomy

I can't think of anything better to call this particular "debating" tactic that frequently crops up on chat forums and mailing lists, such as BaptistBoard or the Fighting Fundamental Forums, that are frequented by Fundamentalists.

Basically, the "argument" works like this: Fundamentalist A advocates a certain moral position, usually a strict and abstemious one. Fundamentalist B disagrees mildly. Fundamentalist A then accuses Fundamentalist B of wanton moral profligacy: Fundamentalist B doesn't merely disagree with Fundamentalist A on the one point that Fundamentalist A was arguing; rather, he has a secret agenda of wanting to legitimize every big, dangerous, grossly sinful act that his depraved little mind can possibly conceive of.

Alternatively, Fundamentalist A will imply that Fundamentalist B lacks self-control, therefore if he allows himself that one little activity, a downward spiral of moral degeneracy will be the inevitable outcome. Hence Fundamentalist A is protecting Fundamentalist B from himself.

Here are some actual examples that I have encountered of this form of "reasoning" in action. Some of them I have paraphrased from memory, but some were copied, more or less verbatim, from various Web forums.

Fundamentalist B: "Why can't you provide scriptural support for your view that smoking is sin?"
Fundamentalist A: "Do you advocate the liberty to drink antifreeze? After all, it has a sweet flavor. How bout the self-mutilation thing? Would that be okay?"

Fundamentalist B: [talking about various types of pulpits] "We use a table and a bar stool on our platform when we preach at our church."
Fundamentalist A: "What's next . . . a stripper's pole? I guess then you'll be able to wear your Speedo to the service though. What do you guys serve at communion . . . shots???"

Fundamentalist A: "The Bible says that women should not wear that which pertaineth unto a man. The Bible also says that women should dress modestly. Pants are men's wear, and furthermore they highlight a woman's sex. It is immodest for women to wear them."
Fundamentalist B: "There is nothing intrinsically immodest about a woman wearing a pair of jeans."
Fundamentalist A: "Apparently, you believe public nudity is all right, and there is no such thing as modesty when it comes to covering areas of the body, nor is there a problem with flaunting one's sexuality through attire."

Fundamentalist A: "The King James Bible is the only Bible God blesses."
Fundamentalist B: "There are many good, God-honouring translations of the Bible into English, and no reason to believe that God approves of the KJV more than those."
Fundamentalist A: "Well, I guess you must also believe that the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation must be good and God-honouring too. And what about the Book of Mormon or the Quran? People claim they are the word of God, too."

Fundamentalist B: "I was in the dorms at the school I attend the other day, and noticed two empty beer bottles on a student's book shelf full of change, so I asked him what was up with the bottles on the shelf. He told me he didn't drink; they were just to hold change. How should I handle the situation?"
Fundamentalist A: "I would demand to know where they bought the beer. Then I would go and buy a great big jug of wine and have a party for all the Christian drunks, and then you would all have bottles for your change. I would imagine you could keep your dope in one also. Is there nothing in this world that a Christian is told to abstain from in your eyes? Man, don't you people read the Bible?"

This is a false dichotomy because Fundamentalist A is implicitly saying there is no in-between. Either you abstain completely from drinking, or you chug your way through a 40-ouncer of vodka and a dime bag of weed every night. There's simply no possible allowance for the bottle of beer after work or the glass of Cabernet with your steak; indeed, for a Christian to admit to an occasional drink is to call his motives into question. He only wants to drink the glass of Cab because they secretly want to get completely blasted and have a wild, Bacchanalian orgy.

This species of sophistry crops up so often that I'm starting to wonder if psycho-fundy pastors are spiking the communion winejuice with some sort of mind-control drug. Someone needs to point out to these people (preferably with the Cudgel of Cluefulness™) that extremism doesn't make points, reality does.

And now . . . this - Jan. 25/06

The words of God © 2006 the Vatican

THE Vatican has been accused of trying to cash in on the Pope�s words after it decided to impose strict copyright on all papal pronouncements.

For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The edict covers Pope Benedict XVI�s first encyclical, which is to be issued this week amid huge international interest. The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff - as Pope and as cardinal - but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.

[Full Story]

In other news, the Virgin Mary will be suing the owners of tortillas, cabinets, underpasses, and so forth over image rights.

OK, but . . .

Here's a good idea as far as it goes: the SnackShotz Treat Launcher fires treats so that your pup can chase them, thus fighting doggy obesity.

I'm sure it's great fun for all involved. Our family Yorkie loved chasing down treats, notwithstanding my mother's fears that if I kept the habit up, he wouldn't want to eat unless his food was thrown at him.

Only thing is . . . can't you just toss treats to your dog without the gun, and burn a few calories yourself? If it's good for the dog, it can't be all that bad for his human.

(H/T: Boing Boing.)

January 24, 2006

Magnify to coolness level 4

Google Local has made another upgrade. In addition to adding new high-resolution imagery (such as the parts of Sydney, Australia that are actually interesting, they've bumped up the zoom resolution in some areas by a couple of levels. This means that we can now make out details like the lines on the roads, make and model of vehicles, and sometimes even individual people.

Interestingly, I don't think that the new images are actually newer. One of my favourite Google Maps shibboleths is Las Vegas, because of the interesting architecture along the Strip. Despite new high-resolution footage, for example, the Vegas images still show the Wynn Las Vegas, which opened last April, as a huge pile of sand In addition, I think at least some of the new hi-res stuff is really just resampled from the extant zoom levels, as it's pretty blurry at times.

Still - it's a lot of fun to zoom in on some of those details you couldn't quite make out before.

Half a loaf: Better than no loaf

Some final thoughts on the national election.

According to Elections Canada, the preliminary, uncertified results from the 39th General Election are as follows:

Conservatives: 124
Liberals: 103
Bloc Québecois: 51
New Democrats: 29
Independent: 1

As of today, Canada has a new Prime Minister-designate: Conservative leader Stephen Harper. He will lead a minority government, meaning that while the Conservatives hold the most seats in the House of Commons, they have fewer seats than the combined three parties and one independent MP that form Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Minority governments are weak and rarely last longer than a year; the Liberal minority that was defeated last night bucked that trend and survived about a year and a half.

Elections Canada has published a map [PDF] of the results. It's interesting to see the patterns that emerge, with the Conservative support being greatest in the West, naturally, except for the West Coast which went largely to the NDP. The three largest cities - Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver - remain Liberal strongholds. Here in Ottawa, however, thier support has been eroded: although they retained the central ridings, many of the suburban ones fell to the Conservatives.

Generally speaking, however, the Liberals' losses last night were the Conservatives' gains. This is especially true in Quebec, and the significance of that shift cannot be underestimated. French-Canadians have hated the Conservatives since the late 19th century, when then-Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had Louis Riel hanged for his part in the North-West Rebellion. Riel's execution was seen as symbolic of English Canada's oppression of the French. The Conservatives' gains in Quebec indicate either that the tide is turning, or at least that Quebec's discontent with the Liberals is now greater than that old grudge.

Things I expect to see on the Conservative government agenda:

  • Paul Martin's promise to cut gun-related crime by banning handguns isn't going to happen. No, wait, they've been banned from the streets of Canada for decades; handguns are already legal only on the shooting range and in owners' lockboxes. What will disappear, however, is that travesty of a national gun registry - a 2-billion-dollar boondoggle that has already exceeded its budget by three orders of magnitude.
  • I would not be surprised to see last year's infamous same-sex marriage legislation revisited, although with the Opposition filled with all the parties that supported it in the first place, I have my doubts that mistake is going to be rectified all that quickly.

Meanwhile, Paul Martin's leadership of the Liberal Party has come to an end after only two years. During his speech last night, Martin announced that he would soon be resigning his leadership. This means that the Liberals will be tied up for several months choosing a new leader. Names that are being floated as candidates to replace Martin include: current Ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna; former Fisheries Minister and premier of Newfoundland, Brian "Captain Canada" Tobin; and academic and Toronto MP-elect Michael Ignatieff. I've even seen Belinda Stronach's name mentioned; considering that only two years ago she was a contender for the Conservative party leadership, that would truly be an act of political prostitution. In any case, the Liberals probably not be interested in rocking the Parliamentary boat for awhile, and I think we Canadians are getting tired of elections for the time being.

As I write this, Dennis Prager is butchering "O Canada," both in words and melody. Oddly enough, it sounds like he has the same MP3 of the anthem that I've got kicking around. (Mind you, I think I ripped mine off from a government site!)

On that note, that's all I have to say about the election. We now return to regularly scheduled snarkiness.

Blogroll changes

Apart from a few administrative changes, and quietly adding links to the reciprocal blogroll as I discover them, I haven't made any additions to my blogroll in months. So it's about time I updated it to reflect what I actually read.

Carla Rolfe's blog has been languishing quietly at the bottom of my list of reciprocal links, yet over time I find myself increasingly looking forward to reading it. It's only fair that Reflection of the Times be promoted to my A-list. (FYI, I do make a point of perusing those reciprocal links almost as regularly as the others - as I see it, anyone who linked to me first is probably of like mind, and worth paying attention to. I don't consider those blogs "second-rate"; it just so happens that they usually find me first.)

I started reading Steve Janke's Angry in the Great White North about six months ago, but in the weeks leading up to the election, I stopped there first for political news. Angry is probably the hottest blog in Canada (apart from my own, of course).

Finally, for now, Phil Johnson has announced the closure of PyroManiac, citing time concerns and the headache of dealing with disgruntled readers. Not to fear: he simultaneously announced the opening of PyroManiacs, a new group blog, so I've adjusted Phil's blogroll link accordingly. I hope he didn't have to spend too much time Photoshopping that plural S into all his graphics. In addition to Phil himself, Team Pyro includes his son Jonathan (Pecadillo, the funniest blogger in history until he decided to get an actual career), Frank "centuri0n" Turk, and James "Coyote" Spurgeon. The blogosphere hasn't got a chance.

January 23, 2006

Let the counting begin

Here we go. Now that the polls have closed in Ontario, some of the results are starting to be reported from the Maritimes.

I am repeating CTV poll results; not because I favour their reporting over any other network, simply because I hate flipping through channels continually.

9:30 pm EST

» Liberals: 19
Conservatives: 10
NDP: 3
BQ: 1

CTV is now projecting wins by Liberal/Conservative turncoat Scott Brison, former Conservative leader Peter MacKay, and former NDP leader Alexa McDonough.

10:00 pm EST

Liberals: 69
» Conservatives: 82
NDP: 28
BQ: 16
Independent: 1

About 9:45, the Conservative numbers started to rocket upward, and they are now leading. This is expected, as Canada tends to lean more to the right the farther left (ironically) you go on the map, excepting the West Coast.

Here in Ottawa, the polls haven't started reporting yet in strength. Where numbers have come in, the Liberals are tending to hold their seats; the exception at this point seems to be Ottawa West, where Conservative John Baird is in the lead. In Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, CTV is declaring CPC Cheryl Gallant re-elected. In Ottawa Centre (formerly held by ex-NDP leader Ed Broadbent), there's a three-way race between Keith Fountain (CPC), Richard Mahoney (Lib) and Paul Dewar (NDP), with Conservative Keith Fountain in the lead.

10:30 pm EST

Liberals: 96
» Conservatives: 112
NDP: 25
BQ: 50
Independent: 1

Moments after my last update, CTV officially called a Conservative minority government. (Ha! I was right!)

In Quebec, the Liberals are losing big to the Conservatives, losing about half their representation. Their loss is the Tories' gain; this is significant, considering the Tories have over 100 years of French-Canadian animosity to overcome. The (ex) Prime Minister has been re-elected in Lasalle-Emard, but he had to fight for it.

In Ottawa South, Brother of Dalton is re-elected, winning handily over Allan Cutler. They're partying in Ottawa West: John Baird, a Cabinet hopeful, has taken the riding from the Liberals. Ottawa-Orleans is still too close to call, with the Liberal incumbent Marc Godbout fighting to retain his seat by a handful of votes. Ottawa Centre is still a nail-biter, only now Fountain is trailing, and the race is between the Liberals and the N-dippies.

11:00 pm EST

Liberals: 103
» Conservatives: 122
NDP: 31
BQ: 50
Independent: 1

Understandably, the numbers have settled down from previous updates; as more and more polls report in, the general voting trends have pretty much solidified. This isn't to say there may not be a few surprises to come - after all, there have been very few reports as yet from British Columbia.

Belinda Stronach, former Liberal cabinet minister, Conservative leadership candidate, and general opportunist has been re-elected. (Wonder how long before she tries to make a deal with Harper to get back on the government side of the floor? Ha!)

I'm tempted to change channels, as the scrawl on CJOH is showing only local results.

In Ottawa-Vanier, Liberal incumbent Mauril Belanger is re-elected. Paul Dewar has just been called in Ottawa Centre, which remains an NDP riding. Ottawa-Orleans remains too close to call. Gordon O'Connor, Conservative incumbent and likely our next Minister of Defense, has been re-elected in Carleton-Mississippi Mills. Pierre Poilievre, Conservative, is re-elected in Nepean-Carleton.

11:30 pm EST

» Conservatives: 123
Liberals: 104
NDP: 30
BQ: 50
Independent: 1

OK, I got tired of looking at Ottawa-only results, so I switched to NewsNet - same commentary, different scrawl. A few national results of note: Former Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is out. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is still in, but I'll bet the gun registry isn't. Former Reform Party/Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day has been re-elected. Former Liberal government leader Tony Valeri has been defeated in Hamilton. Ex-Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan is currently trailing in Edmonton, but that race is still up for grabs. Finally, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has been re-elected.

I notice that in my hometown riding, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, the incumbent Brent St. Denis is still fighting it out. This is significant, as the riding is a Liberal bastion; St. Denis is literally the second MP they have had since Lester Pearson was their member (and Prime Minister) - and his predecessor, Maurice Foster, was a longtime Lib MP as well.

In Toronto, Olivia Chow (NDP) has defeated the Liberal incumbent in Trinity-Spadina. The Klander blog that called her a dog enraged the Chinese community; the Grits didn't have a chance. Chow is the wife of NDP leader Jack Layton. I may be wrong, but I believe they are the first married couple to serve together in Parliament.

In Ottawa, all 18 ridings have now been called except for Ottawa-Orleans, which remains tight - Conservative candidate Royal Galipeau has taken the lead from Godbout by a mere 49 votes.

Meanwhile, just across the river in the Pontiac riding, Lawrence Cannon, whom Stephen Harper has said will be a part of his Cabinet, grabbed the district from the Liberals.

I really need a bathroom break.

Paul Martin looks tired.

Magic number for a majority government is 155.

11:30 pm EST - that's the ball game

No real surprises in the last half hour; the numbers haven't changed:

» Conservatives: 123
Liberals: 104
NDP: 30
BQ: 50
Independent: 1

Only news of note: Liberal Hedy Fry has been re-elected in Vancouver Centre, beating out Svend "Klepto" Robinson. The latter garnered a not insignificant number of votes, suggesting that there is a lot of leftist Kool-Aid being drunk in Vancouver.

CTV has reported that Paul Martin has made a congratulatory phone call to Stephen Harper, so despite all the cant on the news, there probably will not be some kind of constitutional crisis over his refusing to concede the election. (Canada is not Miami-Dade.) As I write this, he is making his way to the podium to speak, and I assume he will probably say something conciliatory, and likely also in French.

Anyway, that wraps it up for me. Night all.

January 22, 2006

This is it

In just under 10 hours, the polls open and Canadians choose their next national government.

Here in Ottawa South, a Liberal stronghold, the incumbent is David McGuinty (brother of Ontario premier Dalton - in fact their constituency offices used to share a building on Bank Street south). His biggest competition is Conservative Allan Cutler, the retired public servant who blew the whistle on the sponsorship scandal back in 1995. (Hard to believe that controversy has been going on for 10 years!) Oh, yeah, and there's a Green and an N-dippie also running. Darned if I can remember their names five seconds after seeing their signs.

My prediction is a Conservative minority government. I don't know if the Tories have quite the support to pull off a majority. Maybe I'll be surprised.

January 21, 2006

This is the way the campaign ends . . .

. . . not with a bang but with a whimper.

"Stephen Harper is not pro-choice."

You know the Liberal re-election campaign is foundering when even the spooky music and grainy, unflattering mug shot of Stephen Harper doesn't make this sound like a Bad Thing.

Meanwhile, the Libs' PR meltdown continues to China Syndrome its way into the core of the planet. In Toronto, of all places, they're even rooting for the Tories:

The president of a west-end Toronto Liberal riding association resigned Friday, saying he can no longer back the party's candidate Michael Ignatieff.

Ron Chyczij, of the Etobicoke-Lakeshore Federal Liberal Association, said he was now endorsing Conservative candidate John Capobianco adding he could no longer "in good conscious" [sic] support Ignatieff."

[Full Story]

Just up the Trans-Canada in Pembroke, the Libbies want voters to leave the country, especially if they don't like the idea of having their lawfully acquired handguns confiscated without due compensation. At a recent all-candidates debate sponsored by the local outdoorsmen's club:

[Liberal candidate for Renrew-Nipissing-Pembroke] Don Lindsay's self destruction continued when club member and Canadian Veteran George Tompkins stood to ask the candidates his question. "If the handgun ban goes forward. What plan would your party offer to compensate those of us who legally own the guns that would be confiscated?" To which Lindsay replied "Sir America is our neighbor not our nation, if you elect a society that talks about that kind of perspective I suggest that perhaps you go there!"

[Full Story]

Mind you, when he was pressed further on the issue, Lindsay proved that following an argument probably wasn't his strongest skill.

Club member Don Linke stole the show with his question for the candidates. "It seems like we are blaming legal gun owners for the theft of their guns. Should we also ban banks from holding money because that's what causes all bank robberies?" Gallant responded that a Conservative government would put money towards a victims support program to compensate victims of crime. Lindsay simply responded "No we won't ban banks from holding money."

The latest polls are projecting a Tory majority on Monday night. Watching the Grits melt down on Monday night is going to be the most exciting thing on any television channel. And here in Ottawa South, it's about as close to Ground Zero as you can get.

(H/T: Captain's Quarters and Angry in the Great White North.)

The Calvinist Gadfly is dead . . .

. . . long live the Calvinist Gadfly!

Though Alan announced the blog's retirement two weeks ago, this morning it was resurrected as a group blog of "seasoned pastors and theologians." As contributor "Luthersrose" points out, a gadfly likes to swarm with his buddies, so it's most fitting that the blog should return as a collaborative effort.

By the way, I don't think I've ever shown off the banner I use to sign my posts on some forums:

[Ransom is...the GADFLY! MAGNET to KOOKS, KRANKS, & KRACKPOTS!]

The tagline is inspired by my unusual tendency to attract various wackos and crap disturbers.

January 20, 2006

Wilson Pickett (1941-2006)

Wilson Pickett, the impassioned, raw-voiced soul singer who brought a hard-edged, sensuous urgency to a string of rhythm-and-blues hits of the 1960s, died Thursday of a heart attack at Reston, Va., Hospital Center. He had lived in Ashburn, Va., since 1999. He was 64.

[Full Story]

Thanks to his hits "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour," Wicked Pickett - not a more obvious legend like James Brown or the Four Tops - was the one who kicked off my love of R&B and funk music. Coincidentally, his offscreen presence is the "MacGuffin" of my favourite Irish movie, The Commitments, about the birth, life, and death of an R&B organized by the protagonist in an attempt to impress Pickett.

Our Lady of the Damaged Drywall

A Maine woman who discovered an image of the Virgin Mary on a blackened wall following a weekend house fire says she plans to rebuild the dwelling and cut out the image so she can put it on display.

[Veronica] Dennis' home caught fire Sunday morning after a space heater in her daughter's bedroom ignited a bed and a nearby dog bed. The image was revealed when she removed a framed painting from the kitchen wall, which was blackened by smoke and fire.

[Full Story]

Dennis says in the story that she has no intention of turning her home into a shrine. Good thing, too - all the Jesus Junk is one thing to have to contend with, but dozens of inevitable candles would be another Marification just waiting to happen. (It's a vicious cycle.)

Gile said viewing the image led her to believe that it could be message from a higher being.

Such as . . . ? "Don't smoke in bed"? "Check your smoke alarm batteries"? "Never overload an outlet with an 'octopus' plug"? The message I want to hear is why the Mother of Perpetual Help didn't help prevent the fire.

Why I'm considering converting to Satanism

It's a week stale (I'm working through a backlog of old blog reading), but it amused me to find out that Scott Adams had exactly the same thought as I did regarding the trampling deaths in Mecca last week during the annual Hajj:

I think it's interesting that when you pray to God for a new bike, it hardly ever materializes in your bedroom within seconds. But when you throw stones at the devil, quite often you get an immediate response. That's an example of good customer service.

[Full Text]

One aspect of the whole annual-mass-trampling story that I really found ironic was that the British police sent a delegate to Mecca this year to study their security and crowd-management arrangements. Heh. Hope he learned something useful.

January 19, 2006

Wendy's chili scammers get the finger

And now . . . this:

A couple who planted a human finger in a bowl of chili at a Wendy's fast food restaurant to extort money were each jailed for nine years on Wednesday.

Judge Edward Davila also ordered Anna Ayala, 39, and her 43-year-old husband, Jaime Placencia, to pay the US fast food chain 21 million dollars in damages it says it lost because of bad publicity from the case. . . .

Investigators found that the detached digit came from a Las Vegas construction worker, Brian Rossiter, who lost it in an industrial accident then sold it to Placencia for 100 dollars.

[Full Story]

Ah, sweet, sweet justice. I'm going to have to go for yet another celebratory bowl of chili . . .

Get the popcorn (and beer), this is gonna be entertaining

Some Liberals are already putting their new box of dim bulbs to good use. From LifeSite:

The Liberal Campaign in the Saskatoon-Wanuskewin riding of Saskatchewan has reached a boiling point after the campaign office was caught calling in to a television show falsely accusing the Conservative candidate of sexual abuse. Tuesday night on Shaw Cable, a caller phoned in falsely accusing front-runner Conservative incumbent MP Maurice Vellacott of sexually assaulting his church secretary at North Park Church. . . .

After the cable show ended, Vellacott was handed the requested phone number by Shaw Cable producer Gracie Field. Upon arrival back at his campaign office he was told that a person had reported in and was confident that the accusers voice was that of a friend of Liberal candidate Chris Axworthy. When the (306) 956-2570 number provided by the Shaw Cable staff member was dialed, it was found to be Chris Axworthy's campaign office phone number.

[Full Story]

The Liberal re-election campaign isn't just self-destructing; it's going China Syndrome.

(H/T: Western Standard.)

January 18, 2006

OK, this is freakin insane

Turns out that two disgruntled ex-Tories have alleged to Elections Canada that the Blogging Tories are a Conservative Party conspiracy to contravene campaign spending laws and influence the national election:

Canada's election watchdog received a complaint Tuesday morning from a disaffected party member who claims the Tories tried to sway political opinion in cyberspace in the leadup to, and during, the election by setting up the popular "Blogging Tories" website.

The site appears to be a coalition of like-minded individuals who have met in cyberspace to share their political opinions and express their frustrations with Paul Martin's Liberals.

But a Victoria, man, Eugene Parks, and Toronto Tory dissident Carole Jamieson allege the venture may be in contravention of the Elections Act and third-party financing laws. They say it may have "unduly influenced the election coverage and potentially the outcome of this campaign." . . .

Third-party election financing laws state that it is illegal for a group to spend more than $150,000 during an election period related to a general election. It can also spend no more than $3,000 of that money "to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in a given electoral district."

[Full Story]

Hilarious. Apparently, I'm supposed to believe that the Blogging Tories didn't exist before December 2005, notwithstanding the evidence of my own eyes. I guess all those bloggers who have spent precisely $0 on their blogs have overspent their campaigns, assuming they are actively participating in one.

Eugene Parks and Carole Jamieson, this DIM BULB du jour is for you. Your attack on free speech makes the recent Liberal advertising campaign look downright reasonable. While we're at it, let's deliver a gross of dim bulbs to the Liberal Party for their attempt to make hay out of this non-issue.

(H/T: RootleWeb.)

January 17, 2006

This one goes out to the one I love

After spending 20 minutes answering 100 lyrics questions, I wasn't not going to post this one:

Final score: 95.

The only embarrassing thing is that I managed to snag all the obscure answers, but missed a whole bunch of obvious ones. That's what I get for never seeing The Breakfast Club, I guess. (It's especially embarrassing that as a big fan of this particular band, I missed "I have _____, I have _____, I have scaled these city walls.")

(H/T: On the Other Foot.)

January 14, 2006

Rebecca vs. the volcano

You know, I would have thought that an active volcano in Alaaaska named Mount Augustine would have been a real treat for theological puns. Not so.

Blow up and read, blow up and read . . . Lame lame lame.

I guess I need to read more of St. Volcano.

January 13, 2006

Celebrating Canadian bloggy goodness

This Wednesday, Rebecca revealed the Out of Canada Christian Blog Showcase, a selection of posts from Christian bloggers a mari usque ad mare.

Much to my chagrin, I fell asleep prematurely and missed the submission deadline. Fortunately, Rebecca was looking out for me and included one of the posts I had on my short list of favourites anyway. Thanks! I'm also sandwiched between Tim Challies and Michael Haykin - prestigious company indeed.

In honour of the occasion, I've done something I've intended to do for awhile: mark the Canadian blogs in my blogroll. If I missed you, or made a mistake, please let me know.

The beer-and-popcorn saga continues

Angry relates an email from a reader detailing the goings-on at an all-candidates meeting in Nepean last night:

. . . Liberal candidate Lee Farnworth responded to a pregnant woman's question about Scott Reid's "beer and popcorn" comment by admitting that Reids' [sic] comments were inappropriate and that she personally did not agree with the statement. She then put her foot in it by suggesting that if you're lucky the Conservative tax credit was only enough for a donut and coffee . . . a Tim Horton's coffee, "not even the Second Cup or Starbucks' kind."

[Full Story]

Sheesh, she makes it sound like a bad thing.

In any case, as Angry points out, this woman was looking for an apology or a clarification or something about Scott Reid's comments that parents cannot be trusted to know how to use money in the best interests of their children - a condescending, cynical assertion on the part of the Liberals, to be sure. (But why should they stop now, just when they're on a roll?) Instead, Farnsworth turns the opportunity to save face into a chance to take a cheap shot at the Conservatives. (Note also the implicit class envy in the statement: poor people drink Timmy's coffee, while the well-to-do middle class [under a Liberal government] get to sip lattes at Bucks.)

Is it any wonder the Liberal campaign is self-destructing? Pollsters are now starting to project a Conservative win Monday after next. A lot can happen in the next 10 days, but at this rate, the 2006 Liberals will be like the 1993 PCs. I'd hand out a few DIM BULBs du jour, but it would be like trumpeting the arrival of Saturday after Friday at this stage.

(Additional H/T: Captain's Quarters.)

Too late, Pat

Just like clockwork: first comes the idiocy, then comes the apology.

Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has sent a letter apologizing for suggesting that Ariel Sharon's massive stroke was divine punishment for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip. . . .

In a letter dated Wednesday and marked for hand delivery to Sharon's son Omri, Robertson called the Israeli prime minister a "kind, gracious and gentle man" who was "carrying an almost insurmountable burden of making decisions for his nation."

"My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," the letter said.

"I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel," Robertson wrote.

[Full Story]

Hey Pat: Ever heard the story of the boy who cried "wolf"? Everyone knows that six months from now, you're going to step in it again. The entire Christian church is embarrassed on your behalf. Why don't you just shut up, and stay shut up?

January 11, 2006

Woo hoo!

This is kind of like being declared "Not Insane."

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Nestorianism

58%

Monophysitism

33%

Apollanarian

25%

Pelagianism

25%

Arianism

0%

Docetism

0%

Adoptionist

0%

Donatism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Modalism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Why are so many self-anointed "prophets" so wrong?

I have just reached a new mathematical conclusion:

Claimed infallibility × theological accuracy = a constant.

As I write this, I am listening to a program titled "Wilderness Restoration" hosted by a self-styled "prophet" named Walter Becker who claims to have received a prophetic mandate from Jesus Christ himself while in the womb. For the last half-hour, he has been ranting and raving about the "1611 AV Version King James Bible"1 and saying stuff like this:

  • other Bible translations are "New Age Communist Babylonian Communist Bibles of hell" (yes, he actually said that precise sequence of words)
  • they were translated by men possessed by the Devil
  • the KJV is a "word for word translation" of the Bible given directly by Christ himself
  • Jesuits and "Red Communist parasite snakes of hell" have been working since 1611 to pervert the Word of God
  • "King Jesus" called King James to correct the "errors" of the Geneva Bible
  • the "true" Biblical manuscripts are the ones that came from Antioch because Christians were "first called Christians" there, and the manuscripts originating in Alexandria, Egypt were "butchered up," just like the "Roman Catholic bastard whore church of hell really is"
  • reading the "1611 AV Authorized Version King James Bible" is the path to getting right with God
  • you aren't really right with God if you don't appreciate the thees and thous, because "you don't like the way King Jesus talks."

(And you thought God And Riplinger and Dr. Petey were wacko.)

But then he went on to make the following theological statement: "Jesus Christ is the Holy Father. Jesus Christ is the Holy Ghost." This is nothing less than the ancient heresy of Sabellianism, also known as Modalism or Patripassianism. These days it is most often manifested in so-called Apostolic2 or Oneness Pentecostal churches. Modalism teaches that the Godhead is a radical unity, not a Trinity: that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not one God in three persons, but one person with three different roles.

What is it about people whose theology is so off-base, that they have to claim this kind of divine authority for themselves? And why is it when someone does claim to be some kind of prophet, invariably they are going to say something that is transparently ignorant or heretical? I can't theorize on why this is. I can only accept it as a truism. You never see a mature, well read, learned Christian who is orthodox in his theology, claim to be a "prophet" in the Old Testament mode. They know better than to blame God for their idiocy.

Footnotes

1 Corollary 1: The longer the title that someone uses for the AV, the larger the quantity of KJV-only Kool-aid he has drunk.

2 Corollary 2: Churches that call themselves "apostolic" generally aren't.

Oh, not again

When Ottawa's NHL arena opened in January 1996, it had an übercool name: The Palladium.

Less than a month later, the Corel Corporation purchased the Palladium's naming rights for 20 years, and gave the arena the much less cool name: The Corel Centre. Nonetheless, the name stuck, and at least it has some nifty alliteration.

Not any more. The world descends farther into lameness.

Corel's fortunes were a lot more promising in 1996 than they are today, and the company's owners, Vector Capital, has been trying to get out of the naming deal for a while now, as it costs the cash-strapped Corel something like $1.3 million per year. It was announced today - apparently the 10th anniversary of the opening of the building - that starting on January 21, it would henceforth be known as - wait for it - Scotiabank Place.

That just stirs something up in the ol' heart, doesn't it?

It's almost as bad as "Rogers Centre," although the former name of the former SkyDome was already pretty dull.

Well, at least the Palladium the Corel Centre Scotiabank Place is still situated on Palladium Drive.

Hurray!

I don't understand it. But I don't have to.

After a week of enduring lack of access to my MP3 collection, all my blogging work-in-progress, no dialup, borrowed computers, and a 3-year-old installation of Linux from when I didn't know what the hell I was doing, I managed to solve the evil "reboot loop" problem.

In trying to troubleshoot this problem, I found out that:

  • it is ubiquitous amongst Windows 2000/XP users (i.e. you may be next!!!!); and
  • the number of potential causes of this problem, and therefore potential solutions, is almost as big as the number of sufferers:
    • restoring corrupted files from a "clean" installation
    • repairing the system from the installation media
    • resetting the BIOS to the factory defaults
    • and removing all USB devices (Windoze apparently freaks out if you mess around with plug-and-play devices, such as I did when I took my Pilot cradle with me over the Christmas break)
    • waving dead chicken entrails over the computer while dancing naked in body paint
    • other solutions too esoteric for me to mention

None of them, however, worked for me. What did work, though, was pulling out my RAM stick and re-inserting it in a different slot - the very last possibility on my list of things to try.

I don't know what I did, or what I forced Windows to do. And I don't care. As long as it works - that is, insofar as Windows works at all, as opposed to not working at all - I'm a happy little Canadian.

I also learned that perhaps the infamous Spontaneously Combusting Hard Drive of Doom is probably not going to do a repeat performance and kill me in my sleep. This, too, is a Good Thing, but I'm still not turning my back on it.

January 07, 2006

Two unsightly pimples on the rear end of the Body of Christ

I clean expected that my first DIM BULB du jour would be a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. After all, between the "beer and popcorn" scandal, the Klander Slander scandal, and the income trust scandal, the current election campaign has certainly been a target-rich environment . . . to say the least.

However, the inaugural twofer of DIM BULBS du jour doesn't come from the hallowed halls of Canadian politics, but from the three-ring Big Top of American psycho-fundamentalism.

Our first low-wattage recipient is circus clown Pat Robertson, for his idiotic, ex cathedra pronouncement that God smote Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for his ceding the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians:

"He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'" Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, "The 700 Club."

"God says, 'This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone,'" he said.

[Full Story]

Robertson holds the same basic extreme philosemitic views held by most "prophecy" experts and Dispen-sensationalists: the modern secular nation-state of Israel is the equivalent of the biblical nation of Israel; furthermore, since God promised Canaan to Abraham, the Jews are entitled to that particular patch of real estate in perpetuity, and woe on anyone who would take it from them or, as a matter of internal Israeli government policy, give it up.

As a non-dispensationalist, I reject this view of Israel. A close reading of the Scriptures shows that every last promise made to Abraham, concerning land or otherwise, is declared fulfilled in its entirety. Furthermore, Israel's entitlement to Palestine was conditioned on their continued obedience to the statutes of God, whereas disobedience would result in curses and exile. The conquest of Israel in 722  by the Assyrians, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusaelem and depopulation of the kingdom of Judah in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar were direct consequences of the Israelites' apostasy. Given Paul's description of the Jews' rejection of Jesus their Messiah as disobedience (Rom. 10-11) and the fact that the modern state of Israel is, by and large, unbelieving, it's hard to understand how present-day Jews are entitled to Palestine any more than their idolatrous ancestors were.

My friend Rand, who is a Dispensationalist and believes that the land does belong to the Jews, nonetheless points out the presumption in reading God's mind and ascribing a particular motive to Sharon's affliction.

Our second circus freak is none other than Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps of the infamous Westboro "Baptist" "Church" of Topeka, who has announced in one of his vitriolic press releases that 15 members of his "church" will be protesting the funerals of the 12 miners recently killed in West Virginia:

Thank God for 12 dead miners.

They died in shame and disgrace, citizens of a cursed nation of unthankful, unholy perverts who have departed from the living God to worship on "Brokeback Mountain," and who have replaced the Bible with "The Da Vinci Code.". . . .

Thank God for the lightning bolt that caused the explosion that trapped the Sago miners. God killed them and cast them into Hell. WBC will picket their funerals, warning sodomite America that West Virginia symbolizes this Hell-bound nation, and worse and more of it is on the way from God.

[Full Text (PDF)]

Well, if Rand thought that Robertston was presumptious in declaring God's wrath on Ariel Sharon, I'm sure he would have a field day with Phred. It's not clear what connection 12 victims of a mining accident have with "sodomites," Brokeback Mountain, and The Da Vinci Code, except insofar as the Phredster will use any excuse to get more attention. Indeed, I do repent in dust and ashes for even mentioning him on this blog.

Phred's demise can't come soon enough for my taste, and the only thing that would make me happier is if crowds of protestors showed up for his funeral. He shouldn't exult over a lightning strike so much, lest the Almighty (who is not without a sense of irony) use the same means to bring an end to his wicked life.

Better yet, maybe God could strike Felps with Pat Robertson, and rid us of two nuisances.

January 05, 2006

Concentrated paranoia

I always wondered how much paranoia you could get into one room before hitting critical mass. Now, thanks to Tuesday's Power Hour, I know.

During the second hour, Texe "Conspiracy Boy" Marrs was Dave VonKleist and Joyce Riley's guest, promoting his book, about the Illuminati. (Booga booga!) To borrow a turn of phrase from Phil Johnson, neither party ever met a conspiracy theory they didn't like. During the interview, Conspiracy Boy "revealed" what Fox News, generally hailed by conservative Americans as an alternative to the more liberal "mainstream" media, is "really" all about. Amongst his "proofs":

  • Jesus, in Luke 13:32, calls Herod a "fox" - a symbol for Satan.
  • F is the 6th letter of the alphabet, O is the 15th (1 + 5 = 6), and X is the 24th (2 + . . . oh, you know the routine).
  • The searchlights in Fox News' logo form an inverted triangle, which points downward to Satan.

As usual, a little bit of basic critical thinking deflates Conspiracy Boy's wild claims. Specifically:

  • Foxes are proverbially cunning. No doubt Jesus is alluding to Herod's character: like his father Herod the Great (who sought the infant Jesus' death [Matt. 2;16]), Herod Antipas was paranoid and treacherous. Conspiracy Boy also ignores the half-dozen or so other times in the Bible that a fox symbolizes something benign (e.g. Song 2:15, Matt. 8:20).
  • It's awfully convenient for Conspiracy Boy that "fox" just happens to work out this way in English, a language that didn't exist in any form until 400 years after Revelation was written. It is poor hermeneutics to read a meaning into the Bible that its original readers would not have understood. Furthermore, Rev. 13:18 says that the "number of the beast" is six hundred and sixty-six - not three sixes. This is a common error of prophecy buffs. Neither Greek nor Hebrew used the decimal system for counting. For that matter, neither did English before the introduction of arabic numerals in the tenth century.
  • When something as basic and ubiquitous as a triangle becomes a secret symbol of Evil, it's no wonder Conspiracy Boy sees Satan under every rock. He actually explained during the program that if a triangle points downward, it points to Satan. So you would think that a triangle pointing upward points to God, right? Wrong - it symbolizes Satan overthrowing the kingdom of God. (I suppose that a triangle pointing to the left or right symbolizes "Hey, look over there! It's Satan!")

Finally, of course, the real reason that Fox News is called Fox News is because it is a subsidiary of the Twentieth Century Fox media conglomeration, which was the product of a 1935 merger between Twentieth Century Pictures and the Fox Film Corporation. The latter was founded in 1914 by William Fox. In other words, it's an accident of history.

Conspiracy Boy (like many conspirinauts) suffers from an affliction known as parallelomania, a hermeneutical fallacy that overplays the similarities between texts and then attempts to draw meaningful connections between them. Form critics, for example, see superficial parallels between the stories of the Old Testament and the myths of the surrounding pagan cultures, and conclude that the Bible must be based upon them. Assuming that in some cases a triangle is an occult symbol, there's no rule that says every instance is. (Otherwise we're in deep trouble every time we approach a yield sign.) I'm sure that there are many legitimate criticisms of Fox News, but I sincerely doubt that their secretly being in league with Satan is one of them. Shame on Texe Marrs for fanning the flames of paranoia, and shame on The Power Hour for uncritically providing him with a soapbox to tell his lies.

January 04, 2006

ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK

What a way to come back from vacation.

Mere hours after arriving in Ottawa from my parents' place where I spent Christmas and New Year's, my Windows PC crashed. Hard. Now it won't reboot, and even the XP installation disk won't run properly.

That means that I had to make a quick switch to my old Linux installation to get the computer working. Now it works just fine, except for one thing: my ancient SMC Wi-Fi adapter doesn't appear to be supported. That means if I want to use the Net at home I have to resort to dialup, and with three other guys in the house, it also means I'm restricted to the early morning or after midnight if I want to be polite about it.

Also, my friends on #pros might remember back in mid-2004 where I disappeared suddenly from channel only to reappear about an hour or so later to announce that my hard drive had caught fire. This is that hard drive. While it seems to work fine and has been running about 24 hours now with nary a spark, you can understand why I don't trust it.

Here are the symptoms of The Crash. If anyone with experience recovering XP systems is reading this and can suggest a fix, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

  • The drive appears to boot just fine. I get the text screen where Windows notices that the it didn't restart properly the last time and gives me the option of starting normally, in safe mode, with the last known good configuration, etc.
  • No matter which of these options I choose, the screen goes blank for a few seconds, then the computer reboots, and the whole thing starts all over again.
  • In safe mode, the last file that appears to be loaded by Windows before it spontaneously reboots is "Mup.sys".
  • I haven't yet checked the disk to see if the data is still fine.
  • If I insert the Windows XP CD, it boots normally, but after the message telling me to press F6 if I want to install a third-party SCSI driver disappears, it locks up thoroughly. Only a hard reset revives the PC. I tried this with a roommate's CD instead of my own and got precisely the same result.

I hate Windows.

January 01, 2006

State of the blog 2005: The year ahead

With so many of last year's goals left unattained, setting the agenda for the next year feels a lot like playing catch-up. Nonetheless, without some sort of direction, 2006 will turn out to be just as pointless as 2005, won't it?

Without further ado, then, here is my blogging roadmap for the coming year.

God-blogging: In my series on Galatians on Sacra Eloquia, I'm well past the halfway point. The next installment is already in the works. My plan is to complete Galatians by May, then start on Daniel during the summer. Then, Lord willing, I'll switch back to the New Covenant to begin working on Hebrews, which should take me well into 2007.

Meanwhile, on this blog, my series on God's will has lain fallow long enough. Look for the next installment before the end of January.

Bookblogging: Actually, my plans here are closely tied to my theological blogging. Since I read Augustine's Confessions last spring, I've desired to work through it chapter by chapter. Then, after a brush-up on Plato, I intend to tackle a more challenging read: The City of God.

My recreational reading will tackle three series I didn't finish last year: the original Bond novels by Ian Fleming, the remainder of Stephen King's work, and the mysteries of Dorothy Sayers.

A year ago I posted a review of C. S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet. I intend to revisit the Space Trilogy: Perelandra in January or February, and That Hideous Strength in the summer or fall.

Everything on the CanLit reading list is still on the table, of course - and Canada Reads will be starting up again soon.

Finally, I plan to read at least two new works by John Bunyan - and hopefully more.

Movieblogging: My goals from last year are still on the table: complete my series on the films of the Coens; tackle the Star Trek features; start working through the ten best SF films of the second half of the 20th century. If time permits, after finishing with the Coens, I will start anew on another director, possibly Kurosawa - and I do have one potential, thematically-related series up my sleeve.

Finally: I will try my hand at music blogging again - but not right away.

A resolution

A few years ago, I regarded the daily ritual of shaving as a necessary evil: if it couldn't be avoided, then it was to be done as quickly, efficiently, and conveniently as possible. Somewhere along the line, I came to a different point of view: the feel of a smooth, clean face and the lingering scent of shaving cream made the effort worthwhile. Shaving was no longer a chore: it had become a masculine grooming ritual that was worth doing carefully and well. The process became as pleasurable and important as its purpose. It wasn't my technique that changed, but my attitude.

I've laid out some ambitious goals in this post, and they're going to be no more reached in 2006 than 2005 if I continue to view the writing process as the necessary evil to be endured if I want to push the Publish button.

So my 2006 New Year's resolution is: To change my attitude.