Monday, April 30, 2007

48 Iranian Nuclear Weapons

That is the approximate number of weapons that were "placed" there before the Shah left. They were disabled, but not destroyed or removed right before the Shah fell.

At least one of them ended up in Saudi Arabia, when the new government flew a plane in to demonstrate to he Saudis that an air defense system run on connections rather than some merit is rather porous. The plane that flew in had well maintained engines (the French techs did a great job), but no avionics and no weapon system. Corroded to the rails was one of the tactical nuclear weapons, still disabled and non-functional.

It was disposed of along with the other garbage.

I would note that "weapons of mass destruction" are a fools game for most countries. Fuel oil bombs and short range missiles would have made Iraq a great deal more of a threat than its WMD programs. There is a reason the Nazis generated massive amounts of poison gases, yet only deployed them against civilians in concentration camps. In very specific situations (such as a small, heavily defended target, such as Israel) there may be no better choice (though see saturation missile attacks with missile launched fuel oil bombs) ...

For twenty billion dollars, if you spent eight billion on desalination plants and schools for Palestinians, five on producing LAWs (light anti-tank weapons) and five on fuel oil bombs, while running a student exchange program (the last two billion) you would get a lot further, and a lot more impact than Saddam ever did seeking WMDs.

Not to mention, but nuclear weapons rot. There is a reason radioactive decay is called "decay." And it happens faster when nuclear material is put together in weapons. The soviets had far more environmental damage from their remanufacturing program than they ever did building the weapons.

Just like men on the ground, nuclear weapons are subject to attrition and age. Just like men on the ground, it is often easy to overestimate what they mean.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why people read scripture - - an excerpt

I'm quoting from someone else.
"a paper at the Yale conference in February in which I argued that the reason that most people don’t read the works of Biblical scholars (LDS or otherwise) is that most people don’t read scripture in order to understand what scripture says; most people read scripture in order to interpret it in light of their own experience or to have a revelatory moment with God. Actually understanding the original intended meaning of the words is secondary to this personal divine experience and it is possibly entirely unnecessary to having this experience. This explains, I think, why most scripture readers don’t seek the original meaning"

People read scripture in order to have a personal divine experience, as a path to connecting with God. Given the audience to whom most scriptures were addressed and the vagaries of time, scripture is a Rorschach inkblot or a dark glass through which we look.

The essayist catches that very well. But that is what scripture is, else how does it remain relevant and speak to us now if it is not really a medium that is spoken through. We read scripture not so much for what it says, but for what God says to us through it.

4:20 a.m. Super Shuttle is late, there is a phone call

... and it is Yellow Cab on the line. They will be picking Win up instead (she is flying out to drive Heather home). Oh, they know we've pre-paid Super Shuttle, but we will need to have the full price of the cab fare, in cash, in five minutes for the pick-up. Can't get to an ATM and back in time, sorry.

Super Shuttle is called. Yes, they've passed us on to Yellow Cab. But, not to worry, they will re-imburse us the difference, once we've submitted the receipts. Not, mind you, the full fare we pay. They will keep the advance payment, and we have to pay the same amount to the cab company, but anything more than that, they will, eventually, repay us. No ATM close enough (who carries cash anymore? If I don't have it, I don't spend it) ... sorry, they've sold our seat to someone else and can't pick us up, and sorry about confirming with us the night before, they really didn't mean for us to trust them.

So, bundle the seven-year-old in the truck, drive Win out to DFW, listen to the seven-year-old cry all the way home and then cry herself to sleep, catch a nap, and then get ready to drive to Waco and back myself today for a hearing.

According to Yellow Cab, this isn't the first time. Sigh.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A choice of witnesses

In studying the Bible we come to sources, to the manuscripts with all their flaws, changes, alterations, differences and alternatives. Where in another genre they might be called versions or iterations, in some biblical studies they are called "witnesses."

In the writings of Paul there are accurate versions, known as authentic or true witnesses -- what we have good reason to believe are his words without alteration (or far fewer alterations). There also later in time, altered, so called inauthentic or perjured witnesses of Paul. Those versions tell different stories, and what is interesting, is the choice some people make between the true and the false.

As Pistas3 has noted, the discovery of older and clearer documents and sources gives the true witness of Paul -- a Paul who gives guidance on how to accommodate women preaching, praying, and prophesying in meetings without giving offense. Much like Paul writing about his abstaining from meats allowed by God, he encouraged a path for women that enabled, but did not offend.

The changes added to Paul by the perjured witnesses suddenly shift Paul to someone who forbids women to talk at all in Church. In that, such witnesses are not only false (being added at a later date) but inconsistent as well.

After all, is Paul's God one before whom we are all equal, neither male or female, black or white, bond or free, Greek or barbarian? Or is Paul's God one before whom (in some inauthentic witnesses) women have no souls and are failed vessels of wrath?

Julie is right that the original Paul, in what we now know to be his own words before alteration, spoke for women, commanding respect, care and equality. Those who could not abide that truth twisted his words and added to them. Those who would tamper with the true scripture and would quote a perjured witness are either too ignorant of the truth to have much credibility or they know, but they still choose to say something else, of which one may wonder.

There is an unwarranted pain for some in the scriptures, but it most often comes of false witnesses, and lies always bring pain. The study of Paul deserves better, as does the true doctrine of how God encourages woman to be equal partners, equally yoked, before Him.

In case there is any question about this essay, it is well established that the lines in Paul's writings about women being silent were added by later scribes -- and only exist in some versions. Any professional who deals with scripture is aware that Paul said no such thing -- that it was added in later by people who felt that Paul needed revising and should not be allowed to talk in his own voice without editing.

Alterations in scripture seem to be of the following kinds:

  1. A well accepted saying or story is added to the written record (e.g. the story of the woman taken in adultery. That appears to be a well established story about Jesus that was just added to the gospel of John in order to find it a home in the record).
  2. Easily made typographical errors (the equivalent of changing "fare" to "fair").
  3. Doctrinal additions that make a doctrine clearer (e.g. supports for the doctrine of the trinity were added into the scriptures) or grind an ax (passages attacking the participation of women).
  4. Misattribution. An accepted text picks up a new author over time. The common example is the Book of Hebrews, though that book is a classic midrash and is exactly what one would expect from Paul given his background and training. Hebrews may well be the natural voice of Paul vs. the Paul of his Greek scribes and aides.
  5. The attrition of time and chance. The loss of the Book of Enoch from many canon seems to fit into that category, with various versions all including changes from 1-4 above and 6 below.
  6. Embellishments, filling out the text. A number of "lost" texts have versions that are heavily embellished.
The essay is the one I had hoped to have Pistas3 write, albeit my version is much, much less scholarly and incomplete compared to her insights. I thought that I might as well share it, since I think the issue of which witnesses we choose is an important one in many areas.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We've known Marilyn for a long time, from the grief support group at Prodigy on, but we finally got to meet her tonight. It was a wonderful visit. She looks and acts about fifty years old and inspires me with hope sometimes. In person she looks much better than her photographs.

Her website is

She has buried three children, as we have.

Currently she is taking dispute resolution classes for a master's degree, having transferred out of a "Biblical" counseling program (when one of her professors told her not to tell people that Christ died for their sins, because he may not have [the professor believes that Christ did not die for everyone's sins, only a select few], she kind of parted ways with that program, which is not normative for the Biblical Counseling movement).

Roses in December: Comfort for the Grieving Heart
Roses in December: Comfort for the Grieving Heart by Marilyn Willett Heavilin (Paperback - April 1, 2006)
Buy new: $8.79

That is her signature book, though she has written others.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Panglossian DKL ... seems like a Snarkernacle post ...

What does it mean to see God as a Weaver? Is it all Panglossian nonsense, as DKL might say, or is there a deeper version of that view that makes sense and is real? If life were a game, and you were a character with the *real* you the player of the character, how would your life differ?

Seriously. How many of you have ever played a game on your computer? How many would keep playing if all you did was push a single button and it came up "You win" every time? (There are variants of that game, btw, and they are not terribly successful). How many of you play games where you lose, and keep playing them? Solitaire, for example?

As I've taken another look at games, especially role playing games after a long hiatus (mostly because I had some papers that sold for several thousand dollars after I was contacted by someone looking for insight into them, it got me looking back at the industry for a while), things like Life With Master, or Dogs In The Vineyard (LDS themed role-playing that is considered a critical and commercial success), I've been impressed by how much hardship is important to the lives people choose to simulate.

For the most part, with most people, if they were an unseen force guiding their own lives, their own lives would have more hardship in them than their lives have now, or so it seems.

But if we provide the threads, God weaves the tapestry from them, making use of what we provide in order to make what we need from it. So yes, this is the best of all *possible* worlds (though perhaps not the best of the impossible ones). Perhaps. Perhaps if there is a deeper reality that we are a part of, deeper meaning we are seeking, a deeper need that life meets than just animal existence.

Odysseus had it right when he fled the land of the lotus eaters. That is not the life we choose, and once we reject that course, the lives we live are the only alternative, taken at a deeper level, with a deeper perspective.

That is reality.

Shangri-la Diet Update

The paperback is finally coming out this month:

The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan
The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan by Seth Roberts (Paperback - April 24, 2007)
Buy new: $9.56

Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping.

Still working for me.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Global Warming Snow Flurries in Texas

We are having snow flurries in honor of global warming today. Nature has a sharp sense of irony. At least it is staying warm enough that the snow doesn't stick.

Also, Rachel's surgery went well. I'm not sure exactly what to do with a first grader who tested between kindergarden and fourteenth grade, depending on the area, but we are working on it. I was the same at her age, but my two years in school were the worst in my life (I had teachers who actively pushed the entire class to do no better than low "C" quality work). I want something far different for Rachel.

Friday, April 06, 2007

An Open Letter to President Bush by Daniel Clay Marsh

Dear President Bush

Recent British difficulties in the gulf have highlighted a shortcoming in American policy that you as Commander in Chief can repair. The military still lives under the shadow if not directions of "Name Rank and Serial Number" as portrayed in film and lore. The world situation has changed and increasingly captives of other cultures and governments are being pressured if not tortured into statements they would not otherwise make. The US could make such statements of no value by changing the national policy.

Our policy should be that citizens and personnel of the US may say anything their captives wish to avoid punitive actions that would not be permitted in the US. Further that any statements made by US Citizens not made at home or in a neutral third party setting were considered sheltered under national policy and not to be taken at face value.

The preceding policy would make the "publicity" statements and apologies of captives of no value and provide captives protection from torture through authorized capitulation to demands. You can change this by executive action and help lead the world to similar international agreement thereby providing a measure of personal safety to military personal and other national representives not currently available, both to our citizens and public servants and the rest of the worlds.

You as President and we as a nation can make a difference in the treatment and care of our public representives and servants and those of the world by your making this simple but important policy change. I respectfully request that you/we, Do it now.

Yours Daniel Clay Marsh

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bad Kids? Train the Parents

Stephen J. Dubner

Here’s an interesting paper from the British Medical Journal which argues that children’s anti-social behavior can be significantly altered by training their parents to be better parents. (And here is the BMJ’s editorial summary.)

The paper’s authors conducted a randomized study with 153 socially disadvantaged Welsh parents with children aged 3 or 4. Some of the parents were given a 12-week “intervention programme,” in which two professionals taught the parents how to reward, punish, and discipline their children. The control group of parents were wait-listed for this workshop.

From -- about parenting and children. Some really interesting stuff. It is possible to be vaccinated against pregnancy. The commercialization problems have to do with the process wearing off and the process not wearing off ... but I can see the day when that is added to the list of vaccinations that are required of all children ... with both a large population drop thereafter and perhaps licenses required to be allowed to have children.

But studies like this make you think.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Dad and the Jack Mormon

So, my Dad is out mowing his lawn with his electric mower (brought it with him from California) and a neighbor stops. She can't believe a man in his seventies with Parkinson's is mowing a lawn. (Neither does his doctor, though the doctor told my Mom to keep him at it as long as possible, as it was good for him to keep up function).

Next thing you know, she is mowing the lawn for him and telling him about how she was a Mormon when she was in Utah as a kid, but has left the Church as an adult (and how much she appreciates all the improvements made to my parents' house since they moved in).

Great conversation, my Mom has finally decided that maybe she will relent and go with the lawn service after all. They'll find exercise some other way, one that doesn't get strange women stopping and mowing the lawn.