Monday, December 12, 2005

Space Daily is reporting:

SpaceX is now now hoping to make its first orbital flight on December 19, the first day of a three-day window sandwiched between a missile defense test and the Christmas holidays, following a scrubbed launch attempt on November 26.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Canon law preventing a priest from giving the police information so that they can rescue a boy being held by a child molester was a central plot point in last night’s Boston Legal. The priest in question refused to answer the police enquiries regarding a certain individual, claiming that he could not reveal what was said in confession. Of course, in real life, the church would not be so legalistic, I don’t think, and most priests would not be so nasty. But it worked as a fictional device, and it serves as a good illustration of legalism and how (as Christ’s points out) it gets in the way of doing what is right. Following the rules, he argues, sometimes means that you do the exactly wrong thing.

So is Christianity all about what I can’t do? Christians wonder, and those who are not Christians wonder for them, what is permitted and what is not permitted. Of course, this is like the question in the Hitchhiker’s Guide asked of Deep Thought: what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? 42. And then Deep Thought points out that they are not asking the right question. Asking if Christianity is about what I can’t do, or asking about what is permitted and not permitted is the focus of most Christians through most of their lives, most of the time. It is the same thing that focuses the minds of the practioners of most faiths and even the minds of those who practice no faiths.

Unfortunately, the answer to that particular question is 42.

You see, it is the wrong question altogether, akin to asking about the nature of the ether, or the color of Unicorn blood. Those would both be the wrong question, given that the ether and Unicorns don’t exist. Perhaps a question more in keeping with, do they exist or not would get better traction.

So what is Christianity all about? Consider that Jesus told his disciples that all would know they were Christians by their love for one another. It wasn’t about their behavior, in avoiding certain “bad” things. Nor did it have anything to do with what they “believed”, another thing that is the focus of many Christians, once they get past the issue of what they can and cannot do; and of course that question tends to result in a lot of answers similar to 42 as well.

Our relationship with God is based on what he did on the cross, so perfection in our behavior and perfection in our beliefs have nothing to do with it. Jesus said that everything hinges on just two commands: to love God and to love people, and really, Paul and John seem to indicate that it mostly comes down to loving people, since that’s how love of God happens.

At the Garden of Eden incident, when Adam made a poor choice with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it is important to notice that knowing good was as much a problem as knowing evil. When we ask the question, is this good or is this bad, we are already acting as fallen creatures. Ideally, as Bonhoeffer put it, we shouldn’t even think of such things: the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing. Our focus is ideally simply on Christ and acting or not acting; love is all that concerns us. And as Paul points out, love fulfills and sums up the law, because obviously, he says, if you love someone you want what’s best for them, and if you love them, you don’t hurt them. In loving someone, you avoid killing, stealing, and so on from them. Love fulfills all. If we focus on that, the rest takes care of itself and we’ll stop being puzzled by the number 42. We’ll finally have the right question, and then the answer is obvious.
Start saving your frequent flyer miles. Yahoo reports:

HONG KONG (AFP) - Virgin Airlines is to offer frequent-flyer "Space Miles" that passengers can put towards flights in space with the company's soon-to-be-launched Virgin Galactic, boss Richard Branson revealed.

The British tycoon, in Hong Kong to promote new Virgin flights to the city, said customers who collected two million points would be entitled to be among the first commercial astronauts when his space plan takes off in two years.

"There are already 30 people in the world who have collected enough air miles to fly into space," Branson said Tuesday.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Jerusalem Post reports that the International Red Cross may have finally found a way to let Israel join:

The formal reason for the exclusion of MDA [Mogan David Adam, the Israeli version of the Red Cross] was based on the Geneva Convention prerequisite stating that the member organizations must adopt one of the "recognized symbols" of the international movement.

The Red Star of David was not one of these, and since 1949, when the issue was first raised, MDA was unwilling to operate under the Red Cross or Red Crescent, he said. Arab and Muslim countries prevented International Red Cross recognition of the Red Star of David alongside the other two.

In 2000, a compromise was reached in which the International Red Cross agreed to adopt a third, neutral red symbol shaped liked a diamond but called a crystal.

Is it just me or is their something wrong with all of this? What is wrong with the International Red Cross? Islamic symbol is okay, but God forbid they should allow the Jews a Jewish symbol; can't dare offend anyone. Why is it that anti-Semitism remains so widely acceptable to so many?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

UCLA lost today, 66-19, against the team "who must not be named." It was so bad that the guys who came over to watch the game left near the beginning of the third quarter. Why? They decided it would be more fun to go help their wives clean up our church after a bridal shower.
This is cool, from

MOJAVE, Calif. - XCOR's EZ-Rocket flew into the history books Saturday. The craft made a record-setting point-to-point flight, departing here from the Mojave California Spaceport, gliding to a touchdown at a neighboring airport in California City.

And it was piloted by Dick Rutan, Burt's brother, who flew Voyager around the globe nonstop without refueling a few years back.

It's cool to see the continuing advancement of the technology which will make space travel more common and cheaper. It's also cool to see the Mojave Airport referenced again as what it has become since SpaceShipOne: a spaceport. This should be good for the local economy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I do not much care for the US Postal Service. I collect postage stamps, and so I'm fond of those, but so far as the service is concerned, I have an intense dislike for it.

My local service at my home has taken a nosedive in the past month or so. It used to be that the mail was delivered around four PM at the latest. I liked our mail carrier and he did a fine job. But in the last month or so I've not seen him and instead have seen several different people pretending to do his job. And the mail has been arriving at 7:00 PM or even as late as 8:00 PM! Or not coming at all.

In one memorable scene from the TV series, Cheers, Cliff Claven, the mailman, had delivered mail along a hallway in an apartment complex. Once he leaves the scene, we witness the inhabitants exiting their doors and exchanging misdelivered mail with one another.

Well, the mail that is delivered to our church suffers that problem on a regular basis. At least twice a week I discover mail delivered to the church that should go to our neighbor, or sometimes to someone on the next block.

Last week, it happened at my house. My next door neighbor came by and handed us our mail--the whole bundle--because it had mistakenly been delivered to his house!

And twice now in the past two weeks, our mail wasn't even delivered at all; it showed up the next morning in one case, mid afternoon in the second, followed much later by the regular mail delivery.

And now, for this deteriorating service, the postal service intends to raise the cost by another 2 cents. I already avoid snail mail as much as I can, doing my bill paying and bill receiving almost exclusively on the web. I will cut back even more now.

And the postal service, like most government agencies, seems not to have a clue about basic economics. When usage declines and their revenue suffers, their thought is to raise the price to compensate for the falloff. Other industries, such as airlines, instead LOWER their prices to encourage people to come back. That's kind of the basic principle of how supply and demand function. Economics 101.

But government bureaucrats and congress people don't think that way. And so the price goes up every time usage declines. And what will happen? Usage will continue to decline, and the revenue will continue to drop. And they'll scratch their heads and raise the price again and again, completely confused and clueless that bad service coupled with overpricing, when there are alternatives to everything they offer, will only result in further declines in their revenue.

Unfortunately, since it is a government operation, it won't go out of business like any similarly incompetent corporation would mercifully do.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Well, SpaceX has now delayed their first launch by at least a week; they're having trouble with the liquid oxygen tank. But Musk figured it would be late, given that this is the first launch for this rocket and it is, after all, rocket science.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SpaceX has postponed the first launch of their Falcon 1 again. reports:

An upstart rocket company on Saturday postponed its first-ever satellite launch on Saturday after a series of last-minute snags....

After a series of ups and downs, Larry Williams, SpaceX's vice president for international and governmental affairs, announced that the launch would be have to be postponed yet another day, until Sunday at the earliest.

So, maybe Sunday.

Friday, November 25, 2005

According to, SpaceX has been forced to delay the maiden launch of their Falcon 1 space rocket by 24 hours:

An upstart rocket company says it has delayed the startup of its launch schedule by at least 24 hours, due to the U.S. Army's need to prepare for a missile defense launch.

The maiden launch for the Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, had been scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Friday from an equatorial launch site on an island in the Pacific Ocean's Kwajalein Atoll.

However, the El Segundo, Calif.-based company said in a statement issued late Thursday that the Army Space and Missile Defense Command had bumped the first launch of SpaceX's Falcon1 rocket by 24 hours, to 4 p.m. ET Saturday, "in order to facilitate preparations for a missile defense launch."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

MEMRI reports that:

On October 20, 2005, the Lebanese press reported that a delegation from the Presbyterian Church USA, headed by Father Nihad Tu'meh and with Robert Worley as its spokesman,(1) visited southern Lebanon at the invitation of Hizbullah, and met there with the terrorist organization's commander in southern Lebanon, Nabil Qawuq.

During the meeting, Qawuq expressed his doubts about U.S. actions in the region and the intentions of the Bush administration. Worley, on his part, assured Qawuq that he was not defending the U.S. administration, that all delegation members had voted Democratic, and that the Presbyterian Church had been pressured by U.S. Jewish organizations because of its campaign to divest from corporations working with Israel.

A year previously, on October 17, 2004, a Presbyterian Church USA delegation visiting Lebanon also met with Qawuq. MEMRI TV translated excerpts from a report on the meeting that was aired by Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV. During the meeting, church elder Ronald Stone(2) said, "We treasure the precious words of Hizbullah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people. Also, we praise your initiative for dialogue and mutual understanding. We cherish these statements that bring us closer to you. As an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders."

I do wonder how history is going to report on the Presbyterian Church USA. I suspect it will not be kind. To me, these "leaders" resemble those in the churches of Germany who applauded the Nazis. There's something desperately wrong with people who think that terrorists are the good guys. Is it really that difficult to figure out that people who blow up synogogues, restaurants, buses and schools in order to kill women and children are the bad guys? Can't they grasp the concept of evil?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

As most know, awhile back Pat Robertson called for the assassination of the President of Venuzuala. Now, according to a story in the LA Times, Venuzuala is expelling missionaries.

Last month, Chavez ordered the expulsion of about 200 evangelical Baptist missionaries from the country's Amazon rain forest. He accused them of spying, mining, exploiting indigenous tribes and using jungle airstrips for "imperialist penetration." Last week, the missionaries were given 90 days to leave the zone....

Some observers see the expulsion, which targeted the Florida-based New Tribes Mission and its offshoots, as a part of a hardening attitude toward religious groups since U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson suggested in August that someone assassinate Chavez.

Robertson, besides making vile statements, has brought the name of Christ into disrepute and has harmed the spread of the Gospel message. Peter wrote:

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:14-16)

Unfortunately for all of us, Pat Robertson is a meddler.

Friday, November 18, 2005 reports that SpaceX has set a date for the first launch of the Falcon 1:

After more than three years of development, an upstart competitor to the Goliaths of the global launch industry announced Friday that it would attempt its first blastoff in one week.

The Falcon 1 rocket from Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is scheduled to lift off from a launch complex on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands at 9 a.m. local time on Nov. 26, which translates to 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 25. The launch window lasts four hours.

SpaceX, as the company is known, was founded by software millionaire Elon Musk. In announcing the launch, Musk said he saw the launch as "the first steppingstone in reducing the cost of access to space."...

During Friday's news conference at SpaceX's headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., Musk said "approximately $100 million" has been invested in his company, with 98 percent of that coming from his own wealth. The other 2 percent came from "friends and family who were crazy enough to put some money into the company," he joked.

Musk already has plans to beef up his line of launch vehicles with a heavy-lift Falcon 9, which could conceivably be used for human spaceflight. Indeed, he told reporters that future generations of Falcon rockets would be used for "not just satellites, but really ultimately for human transportation."

So, one week and counting...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Remarkably, for the second straight year, Congress passed a budget that fully funds NASA, so the President's vision for space exploration, the building of the shuttle replacement and a return to the moon by 2018 continues. NASA's FY 2006 share of the federal budget comes to $16.5 billion. For those who think we should focus our attention on problems here on earth, well, that is precisely what we do. The bulk of the federal budget goes to things like social security, medicare, education, and the like. NASA's $16.5 billion for the year represents only 0.7 percent of the federal budget. 99.3 percent of the federal budget focuses on all those things that the naysayers think are important.

I suspect that the naysayers drop a larger percent of their personal budgets on watching movies and other frivolous things (or do such people really spend all their time and money helping the homeless at soup kitchens?)

So there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Before teaching class tonight at Quartz Hill School of Theology, I was looking at the science news on and discovered that a letter I’d written to Alan Boyle, who writes Cosmic Log there, was published in his column. It is critical of Intelligent Design. You can see it here:

Just scroll down to the second November 11 posting; it is at the beginning, and he gives my name, and mentions the School of Theology!

Monday, November 14, 2005 ( is reporting that lasers are that much closer to becoming practical weapons:

Solid Success in Speed-of-Light Weaponry

A laser has blasted to a new energy level, a milestone that picks up the pace for moving them from the lab onto the battlefield.

Northrop Grumman announced November 9 that the company’s solid-state laser being built for the military has fired one of the most powerful beams yet produced by an electric laser.

The advancement stems from a military effort to leap frog speed-of-light technology under the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) demonstration program.

The solid-state laser churned out more than 27 kilowatts of energy with a run time of 350 seconds. In a separate test, the company reported that the laser demonstrated “excellent beam quality” at 19 kilowatts power level, showing how well the beam can be focused and thus get to a target. The company’s laser demonstrator could have operated much longer....

Engineers raised on Star Trek are determined to make it happen. We already have communicators, after all. Now, if we can just figure out how to build warp engines...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sigh. Pat Robertson's constituency must appreciate the fact that he says stupid, foul things. Otherwise, it's hard to explain how come he still has a forum to keep spouting nonsense. According to (, now he's popped off with this:

WASHINGTON - Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting “intelligent design” and warned them Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.
Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and founder of the influential conservative Christian Broadcasting Network and Christian Coalition, has a long record of similar apocalyptic warnings and provocative statements....

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city,” Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, “The 700 Club.”

“And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for his help because he might not be there,” he said.

You know what? Just because people don't agree with Intelligent Design Theory, that doesn't mean they have rejected God. One can reject Intelligent Design Theory and still believe in God and be a Christian. Apparently Pat Robertson can't comprehend that, and apparently his followers don't either; but then, it seems, many creationists and the like demonize their opponents in just this way on a regular basis. I've found it relatively common among many of my fellow Christians to consign those who dare disagree on some point of doctrine, however minor, to Hell.

From the theological standpoint, I believe that the intelligent design concept is deeply flawed. It is simply a new version of a very old error: the God of the Gaps fallacy. To put it simply, the God of the Gaps fallacy argues that God is to be defined as mystery. Where there is mystery, there is God: if we find something in the world we don’t understand, the explanation is always the same: God did it.

This is an incredibly lazy approach to the world. When explanations for objects and events are found—as they must always be—the God of this fallacy inevitably shrinks. Needless to say, those caught in the grip of this fallacy inevitably fear explanations. Each time humanity’s understanding of the universe grows, a little piece of their God shrinks. They little realize that they’re worshiping a false God who needs to disappear.

Most theologians, along with most scientists, discarded the God of the Gaps fallacy a long time ago. God is not dependent for his existence on ignorance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One of the sites I read regularly is the one belonging to Jerry Pournelle, the science fiction author ( He has written several novels on his own, as well as in collaboration with Larry Niven. He also has a PhD and has been involved in the space program and is a computer expert, having written for the print version of Byte Magazine for years and now the online edition. Anyhow, I found this humerous item on his page:

President Bush May Send Up To 5 Marines For French Assistance

President Bush has authorized the Joint Chiefs to begin drawing up a battle plan to pull France's ass out of the fire again. Facing an apparent overwhelming force of up to 400 pissed off teenagers Mr. Bush doubts France's ability to hold off the little pissants. "Hell, if the last two world wars are any indication, I would expect France to surrender any day now", said Bush.
Joint Chiefs head, Gen. Peter Pace, warned the President that it might be necessary to send up to 5 marines to get things under control. The general admitted that 5 marines may be overkill but he wanted to get this thing under control within 24 hours of arriving on scene. He stated he was having a hard time finding even one marine to help those ungrateful bastards out for a third time but thought that he could persuade a few women marines to do the job before they went on pregnancy leave.

President Bush asked Gen. Pace to get our marines out of there as soon as possible after order was restored. He also reminded Gen. Pace to make sure the marines did not take soap, razors, or deodorant with them. The less they stand out the better.

Cruel, I suppose, but funny.

Monday, November 07, 2005

According to (

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian space officials Monday set a Nov. 9 blastoff for a European probe to explore Venus after its earlier launch was postponed because of a booster rocket problem.
Engineers will be able to fix the flaws by that date, the Federal Space Agency said in scheduling the launch at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. ( gives a nice overview of all the previous space missions to Venus:

1961: Venera 1 (Venus 1), Soviet-made probe designed for a fly-by of Venus. Fate unknown. Communications with ground station broke down about seven million kilometers (4.37 million miles) from Earth.

1962: Mariner 1 and Mariner 2 (US). Mariner 1 veered off-course and had to be destroyed shortly after launch. Mariner 2 became the first successful interplanetary probe. Found no significant magnetic fields or radiation belts around Venus. Heat sensors found the surface to be dry and scorching hot.

1965-83: Venera 2 - Venera 16. Ambitious programme of Soviet campaign of fly-bys and landings, characterised by several failures but some successes. Among them: Venera 7 (1970), which parachuted a capsule of scientific instruments to the surface, marking the first successful landing on Venus, and Venera 9 (1975), which sent back the first TV pictures of the Venusian surface.

1967: Mariner 5 (US). Flyby, measuring magnetic fields, charged particles, ultra-violet emissions.

1973: Mariner 10 (US). NASA flyby of a probe en route for Mercury. Returned first close up pictures of Venus, despite navigational problems.

1978: Pioneer Venus (US). Orbiter, operated until 1992. Included the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe (US). Comprised one large and three small probes, equipped with sensors, that were sent down to the surface in 1978.

1984: Vega 1 and 2 (Soviet). Flybys of Venus while en route to Halley's Comet, dropped scientific packages to surface.

1989: Magellan (US). Orbiter designed to map Venus' surface. Highly successful. Operated until 1994.

- Galileo (US). Flyby of Venus in 1990 while en route to the outer planets.
2004: Messenger (US). Two scheduled fly-bys of Venus (Oct 2006, June 2007) en route to Mercury.

Venus is a harsh place to visit: sulphuric acid clouds and 800 degree F. surface temperatures.
Google now allows searches of books. They've been scanning books in the public domain from the University of Michigan library, among other places. It is only the beginning, but already, it seems to be quite a useful resource. Check it out:

Of course, the project has generated controversy, primarily in how they are going to handle books that are not in the public domain.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ugh. From Jihad Watch (

Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the "millet" system of the Ottoman Empire: Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs.

In parts of France, a de facto millet system is already in place. In these areas, all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist "hijab" while most men grow their beards to the length prescribed by the sheiks.

The radicals have managed to chase away French shopkeepers selling alcohol and pork products, forced "places of sin," such as dancing halls, cinemas and theaters, to close down, and seized control of much of the local administration.

A reporter who spent last weekend in Clichy and its neighboring towns of Bondy, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Bobigny heard a single overarching message: The French authorities should keep out.
"All we demand is to be left alone," said Mouloud Dahmani, one of the local "emirs" engaged in negotiations to persuade the French to withdraw the police and allow a committee of sheiks, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate an end to the hostilities.

President Jacques Chirac and Premier de Villepin are especially sore because they had believed that their opposition to the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 would give France a heroic image in the Muslim community.

That illusion has now been shattered — and the Chirac administration, already passing through a deepening political crisis, appears to be clueless about how to cope with what the Parisian daily France Soir has called a "ticking time bomb."

It is now clear that a good portion of France's Muslims not only refuse to assimilate into "the superior French culture," but firmly believe that Islam offers the highest forms of life to which all mankind should aspire.

So what is the solution? One solution, offered by Gilles Kepel, an adviser to Chirac on Islamic affairs, is the creation of "a new Andalusia" in which Christians and Muslims would live side by side and cooperate to create a new cultural synthesis.

The problem with Kepel's vision, however, is that it does not address the important issue of political power. Who will rule this new Andalusia: Muslims or the largely secularist Frenchmen?

And of course, the new Intafada continues elsewhere in Europe, too. It's not only France that's burning...

A two state solution was good enough for the Israelis, eh. Land for peace. Does it seem such a good idea now that we're talking about France?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Events in France give new meaning to the word schadenfreude: taking guilty delight when something bad happens to someone you know. Gee, maybe appeasing Moslem extremists doesn't do any good? You'd think they'd have learned that from their experiences with Germany. Oh well. Of course, they don't seem willing to learn much of anything. They still think socialism is a fine idea, despite their 9.8 per cent unemployment versus the U.S. 5 per cent.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Back in the summers of 1976 and 1977 I worked on a kibbutz in Israel; that was while I was an undergraduate in college. While there, I discovered the Jerusalem Post (I still subscribe to the International edition) and within its pages, I discovered a political cartoon, Dry Bones.

Well, today, I discovered that Yaakov Kirschen, who still draws that cartoon, has a blog. He tells the stories behind his comics and puts them on the blog.

You can see it here:

I really like his cartoons. I even bought a book of his collected cartoons published back when I was still in college.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What is a failed writer? A failed writer is a writer who gives up, a writer who quits, a writer who does not write. Failure is not a consequence of an editor turning you down. Failure is not doing the writing. If you're writing, you're not a failure.
A song of ascents.
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.
(Psalm 123:1-2)

Whether we live in joy or in despair, God remains with us.
MEMRI is a website I visit regularly; I also receive emails from them. I just got this one today, which I found interesting:

Liberal Bahraini Journalist: "Who Hates America in the Arab and Muslim World, and Why"
To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit

Against the backdrop of the September 2005 tour of the Middle East by U.S. State Department official and presidential advisor Karen Hughes, who is heading the effort to improve the U.S.'s image abroad, in a recent article liberal Bahraini journalist 'Omran Salman presents two explanations for the hatred towards America: Arab and Muslim culture, and a post 9/11 coalition of Islamists, Pan Arab Ba'athists and nationalists, and Arab regimes.(1)

The following are excerpts from the article:

Hatred is a General Phenomenon in the Arab and Muslim World, and Not Limited to Americans
"...Hatred in the Arab and Muslim world is a general phenomenon that is not limited only to the Americans. It is possible that the Arabs and Muslims hate each other no less than they hate others...

"In the 1990s, over 200,000 citizens were killed in Algeria – most of them by extremist Islamic groups. What was the response of most of the Arabs and Muslims? A mixture of amusement and of presenting justifications for the murderers and terrorists. During those years, the Taliban movement also abused Shi'ites, Azeris, Tajikis, and other minorities, and no one did anything [to stop it].

"In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, occupied it, and expelled its residents. What was the response of the Arabs and Muslims? Nothing. On the contrary: Most Arabs and Muslims supported Saddam... And in 1991, Saddam murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites and Kurds, and most Arabs and Muslims did not condemn it.

"These days, the Arab Janjaweed militias, which are supported by the Khartoum government, are continuing their racist campaign of annihilation against the African Muslims in Darfour.
"In Iraq, Al-Zarqawi and the terror groups affiliated with him are slaughtering Shi'ites and blowing up their mosques and their schools, after declaring war on them. In both cases, none of the Arabs or the Muslims are acting to prevent this, or even to condemn the deeds.

"In total, during a single decade alone no less than half a million Arab and Muslim victims were murdered by Arabs and Muslims.

"In addition, the religious, ethnic, and national minorities in the Arab world, such as the Shi'ites, Isma'ilis, Zaidis, Christians, and Jews, have been subject to humiliation characterized by racism...

The U.S.'s Powerful Response to 9/11 Infuriates the Extremist Muslims and Pan-Arabs as well as the Arab Governments

"American policy in the [Arab and Muslim] region did not change essentially for over 50 years, until 2000. So what new thing happened to arouse the hatred [towards the U.S.] in its current broad scope? ...

"The new element in the American-Arab-Islamic arena was the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the U.S.'s powerful and decisive response. This response was aimed at accomplishing three goals simultaneously.

"First, to strike a crushing blow against the Al-Qaeda organization and its allies in the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. This goal was accomplished.

"Second, to destroy the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein and of the fascist Ba'th party in Iraq. This goal too was accomplished.

"Third, to spread democracy and freedom in the Middle East. This project will continue for decades to come.

"The first blow infuriated the Islamists; the second blow infuriated the pan-Arab nationalists; and the third blow infuriated the Arab regimes.

"Gradually, an unofficial alliance emerged between these three parties, with the long-term goal to thwart the new American policy. [But] since this alliance is too weak to respond militarily to the American policy, it responds in the media and with propaganda.

"Its first goal was to distort the image of the U.S. in order to make the Arab citizens loathe everything American.

"The main means which they are using to distort the image of the U.S. are:

"1. The printed and electronic media, which are for the most part subject to the control of the Arab governments (whether via funding or via influence), beginning with Al-Jazeera in Qatar and including the national papers in Egypt.

"2. Educational programs, all of which are subject to control by the Arab governments and to the influence of the Islamic groups.

"3. The mosques, which are also subject to the control of governments and the Islamic groups, via the Ministries of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs in the Arab countries. Exceptions are the Shi'ite mosques, because the Shi'ites are usually economically independent from the governments of their countries.

"This [propaganda] machine operated at full power in order to brainwash the Arab citizens, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to fan the hatred against the U.S. ...

"[The Islamists, the pan-Arab nationalists, and the Arab regimes] are the ones who hate America. The ordinary Arab and Muslim citizens are mere blindfolded hostages in the hands of this alliance.

"The U.S. must respond [to the hatred against it] not by appealing to the hostages and convincing them of the good things in the U.S. – because they are incapable of seeing them even if they wanted to.

"They must be helped first of all by freeing them of their [Islamist, pan-Arab, and Arab government] abductors."

(1) Mideast Transparent, October 25, 2005.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837

Phone: (202) 955-9070

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Friday, October 28, 2005

I subscribe to Sky and Telescope Magazine, which is a magazine for amateur astronomers and those who enjoy astronomy. The cover article of the current issue (December, 2005) is about the good work that the European orbiter Mars Express is doing at the Red Planet; the photographs are just spectacular.

There's also a report on the Deep Impact probe that slammed into the comet Tempel 1. According to the spectroscopic analysis, the comet is made up of water, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, methyl cyanide, and other organic molecules. There are also minerals like olivine, calcite, and aluminum oxide.

Based on the nature of the explosion from the impact and the way the dust looked and acted, the concensus at the moment is that the mass of Tempel 1 is 72 trillion kilograms. Its density is about 0.6 gram per cubic centimeter. That value, along with the gravity dominated nature of the nucleus, has led team members of the Deep Impact mission to conclude that Comet Tempel 1 is a porous rubble pile--a loose body that is weakly held together by gravity.

The crater created by the Deep Impact probe's colision is thought to be about 100 meters (330 feet) across and about 30 meters deep.

They got some neat photos, too, one of which was in the article in this current issue of Sky and Telescope.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

You know, I've lost all respect and confidence in the newsmedia. CNN bothers to give a report on Louis Farrakhan. The report is uncritical, lauditory, spun to present him as a reasonable and decent fellow:

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Saturday that the federal government should be charged with "criminal neglect of the people of New Orleans."

"For five days, the government did not act. Lives were lost," Farrakhan said at the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. "We charge America with criminal neglect."
A crowd of thousands cheered as dozens of prominent speakers -- academics, activists, artists and media pundits -- spoke, recited poetry and sang songs in the 12-hour program on the National Mall.

Pointing to the broad spectrum of participants, Farrakhan said the march included an "unprecedented" array of black leaders of organizations "coming together to speak to America and the world with one voice."

"This tells us that a new day is dawning in America," he said.

Yes, a new day. A day when the newsmedia treats an anti-Semitic loon with respect and reports his words and his ideas as if they are worth anyone's attention. A new day when they think what he does is reasonable and legitimate and newsworthy. A day when a man who believes all the anti-Semitic claptrap that would have warmed the heart of Adolf Hitler, when such a man, who believes that whites are the creation of a mad scientist, who believes that AIDS was created in a laboratory, who believes that 911 was an "inside job", who believes that the flooding in New Orleans was caused by bombs set off in the levies for the purpose of killing African Americans, who repeats lies on a regular basis as if they were facts. Yes, this is what the news media thinks is news. This is what gains their uncritical reporting as fact and they give him a platform to spout his lies and his idiocy and they act as if he matters. What next, are they going to go to Idaho and interview the neo-Nazis hiding in their compounds there? If not, then why do they give this jerk a forum?

But then it has always been thus, it seems, since the last century, when Adolf Hitler was portrayed by the newsmedia as a decent fellow to be negotiated with, while Chamberlain was praised and Churchill villified. Yes, this is the same newsmedia, who praised Stalin while he starved Ukranians by the millions. Yes, a news media who even now thinks Mao was cool and Che was a good fellow. Who thinks that Communism is a good thing and waxes nostalgic over dead socialist dictators. A news media who thinks that Castro is a decent man (so what that he throws people in jail and kills those who write or say things he doesn't like) and that there's nothing peculiar about dictorships running the human rights commissions at the UN.

So why shouldn't they think Farakhan is a fine fellow. After all they're cheerleaders for those who chop off heads and blow up children. Terrorists are only "insurgents," or "freedom fighters" fighting the good fight against tyrany--since they imagine America is merely the home of the oppressors and the land of the dictators. They seem to imagine that the enemies of America are righteous and doing the Lords work. America is evil and deserves to be punished they think.

I can only hope that history judges them for the foul, evil, moronic people that they are. I find it difficult to come up with words to express my contempt for them. The newsmedia is unworthy of any respect, and is not particularly trustworthy if they present reports like this. Why should I believe them if they won't tell us who Farakhan is and what he really believes? Why should I listen to them when they act like a crackpot's ideas deserve equal billing?

If reporters would merely do their jobs, and in their reports of Farakhan point out that the Nation of Islam, whom he leads, believes certain foul things, then that would be okay. If perhaps they would actually read Elijah Muhammed's book Message to the Black Man in America and report what it says; if, every time they interviewed Farakhan, they would quote from it and ask him to explain how he can believe such racist idiocy, then I could stomach the news reports about him. Of course, if they forced him and those who march with him, those who participate in what he does, who want to tell us "well, look at all the good work he does"--if they actually confronted them with his vile beliefs, how much longer would he be followed? How much longer would anyone listen to him? But the news media abrogates their responsibilities and become willing participants in his evil, as if anti-Semites forming youth groups and getting people into the streets and making them politically active is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

When I hear certain evangelicals commenting on natural disasters, or other unfortunate events, that they are signs that the end of the world is near, I can't quite help but think of Chicken Little and wonder whether they know that story? Or worse, they sound like the boy who cried wolf. Frankly, when Christians go off like a certain televangelist with a tendency to say stupid things just did, they wind up sounding like dolts. Why, oh, why don't Christians work harder at being educated and knowledgable? Why can't they calm fears, pointing out that every year, for the last few thousand of them, there has been one 8 point earthquake and seventeen 7 point earthquakes? And hurricane frequency and intensity go in cycles. There's nothing unusual going on. Why don't idiot televangelists just comfort the suffering instead of sounding like a stupid chicken?

Friday, September 23, 2005

When something bad happens, there are those who take delight at looking at the horror and pronouncing that it is a judgment against the people who suffered. Of course, in the current hurricane season, this is performed in a schizophrenic way. Somehow the hurricanes must be a judgment against the current administration, or against US policy here or there, or because we tolerate homosexuals, or pornography, or some such thing. Odd, really, given that Washington DC wasn’t washed away at all. And I don’t think that one can demonstrate that the majority of our nation’s gay population suffered from what happened along the Gulf Coast, nor, after a quick googling, have I been able to tell that there is any less pornography available.

So if God is judging those particular sins which we might object to, are we going to also argue that God’s aim was off and instead of hitting the guilty people, instead of making the wicked homeless or drowned, it was, instead, a bunch of generally poor, sick and disadvantaged people who suffered in New Orleans, people who were already mostly living on the sucky side of life? God was just drunk or something, huh? And meanwhile, the wonderful people who brought us 911, suicide bombers blowing up old women and children, and sawing heads off slowly with dull knives while video tapes roll, dance with glee and point their fingers, informing us that God is indeed damning the infidel for his horrible toleration of Jews, gays, and uppity women.

You know what? If God is as powerful as we theologians like to point out, and as all-knowing as we also argue, then don’t you suppose if he were judging whatever thing you imagine is most vile in American society, that he could do it without causing collateral damage? I mean, our own military has smart bombs that they can shoot down a stove pipe. Don’t you think God’s tech might be up to that sort of challenge?

Job’s friends watched bad things happen to Job and then blamed him for his own suffering: “if you weren’t such a wicked sinner, none of this would be happening to you. Fess up. What have you done?” And the more poor Job argued for his innocence, the harsher his friend’s condemnations of his imagined sins became.

Of course, if we really read the story, we will discover that Job’s friends had a bit of a problem. Their theological understanding of God and how he works was identical to that of the Devil. Which should serve as a clue that there’s something wrong with what Job’s friends are arguing.

And what exactly is their argument? They believe that if you’re good, then God will bless you and if you’re bad, God will smack you. That’s what the Devil believed, too.

But you see, the reality is, God doesn’t work the way the Devil or Job’s friends thought. He doesn’t work the way that the jihadists or other fundamentalists want us to believe. Or for that matter, he doesn’t work the way most everyone else already believes, either. Because just about everyone believes that God has a list, and they believe that if only they can find it, memorize it, and follow it to the letter, then all will be well.

But such a belief is mere superstition.

So why, then, do we do find lists in the Bible that are very specific about what things are good and what things are bad? Why does the Bible encourage us to behave?

But here’s a radical question: why do we think this listing of ethical and unethical behavior has anything to do with our relationship with God? Why do we imagine a cause and effect relationship between our behavior and whether God loves us?

How many of us have someone in our life whom we are constantly doing stuff for? It seems like they are always in crisis, always having a flat tire, always needing a sink repaired, a computer hard drive defragged. We’re always watching their children, or lending them “twenty bucks till payday”. We’re always there for them.

But the first time we ask them to do something for us, they can’t help. “I’m sorry, but I’m all out of cash just now.” They’ve made plans. They are too busy, not interested, or something came up. They are never there for us and they always have very reasonable excuses for why they didn’t get back to us. We find ourselves forever giving and never getting anything back. We wonder why they have no problem asking us for help, while it is unreasonable to even hope for an acknowledgment, let alone a thanks.

Kind of like how it is when we take care of a baby, eh?

We get up at three in the morning, but when we ask them to mow the grass, they just cry and insist that we feed them or change their diapers instead.
Or how about this: our friends that keep a running tally on who’s done something nice for them? If we invite them over, they feel obligated to invite us over. In fact, they have a list of all the things we’ve ever done for them, and they keep a list of everything they’ve ever done for us, and they work hard at keeping the lists the same length. If we do something for them, they do something for us. They are always keeping track, keeping count, keeping a balance, as if they are a borrower and we’re a creditor. They don’t want to fall behind or feel indebted.

Is that a good way to live? Is that a fine way to relate to our friends? Do we relate to our parents that way? Is that what we expect of our kids? “Okay kid, I diapered your bottom for the last two years, now it’s your turn” or “you know, I’ve seen to it that you had food three times a day for the last eighteen years. I’m expecting payback real soon now.”

That sounds ludicrous, but how many people act that way with God? How often do we think of our relationship with God that way?

“You know God, I went to church today, I put money in the offering, heck, I went twice today and that money…it was a TWENTY! Did you see that? Huh? And how about when that guy cut me off. I didn’t cuss once! And you know Jill down at work? I haven’t had an affair with her yet, now have I? And it’s not like she doesn’t want me.”

We’re always asking God for help, to make us well, give us money, protect us, keep us safe on our travels, bless our activities, strengthen our weaknesses, give us the words to say.

And yet, most of the billions of people on the planet don’t respond to God much at all; in fact, we hardly think about him except when we hurt and then we’re crying out for help right away. And whenever something goes wrong, we’re quick to blame him or at least to ask, “So what were you thinking?” and “why?” We talk to God when we need stuff. Otherwise, we’re too busy living our lives and doing our thing.

God is the lover sending flowers and candy to the beautiful neighbor, who listens to her tales of woe, and then watches her go out with Joe Loser instead. What do you suppose God thinks about that?

Not a thing. He doesn’t even notice.

Why? Because he LOVES us.

He gave everything he had when we were his enemies. We have trouble sometimes doing things for our dear friends and family. Would we even consider lifting a finger, let alone giving all we have, to someone who just punched us in the face and sued us for a million dollars because our face broke his hand? And yet that’s precisely how God operates.

Therefore, when we start doing things as if to “even the score,” God doesn’t understand what in the world we’re going on about. He’s already giving us stuff, he already loves us. His question for us is, “How can you be nice to me, only thinking of what you’ll get out of it? You think that’s love?”

“I gave you roses, and I made the bed, and I picked up my socks and put them in the hamper. Did you see that? And how ‘bout this, I put the toilet seat down! So tonight, don’t you feel I deserve to get lucky?”
Does that work?

Ever? Are our spouses going to be happy with us? Are we going to get anywhere with an attitude like that? Do we know what we sound like when we talk that way?
So how is it that we’ve decided that if we live good lives and do good things, that for that reason, God must protect us from the horrors of life? Ethics has nothing to do with whether God loves us. He simply loves us, just as we simply love our babies.

It is superstitious to imagine that the reason we lost the basketball game today is because we didn’t wear our lucky underwear. But, if only we’d prayed more. If only we weren’t such sinners. If only we read our Bibles more. If only we had tithed better. Then God would have made us win that game. No. That’s all superstitious too. We lost because the other team played the game better.

It’s really as simple as that.

If you build your house on the edge of the ocean, below sea level, it might get wet. If you build your house on an earthquake fault, it might fall down. That’s all there is to it. If you spend your entire paycheck at the bar Friday night, don’t be surprised when you get evicted because you forgot to pay the rent. We make an enormous mistake in imagining that there is a connection between our ethics and whether God loves us or whether we get the blessings of God. God’s love is not dependent on how we behave or act.

If we’re good because we think God will then be obligated to bless us—then we’re not being good at all and, even worse, we’re accusing God of not being good. We’re telling him that the ONLY reason he is nice to us is because he’s getting something out of it. We’re buying him off, earning his favor. Too often, the only reason we put the toilet seat down and picked up our socks is because we think we’ll get lucky. That is not loving our spouces. That is manipulating them to get something from them that we imagine they don’t want to give us. And so the same sort of behavior, no matter how we might try to pretty it up with spiritual verbiage, is certainly not loving God. Instead, it is turning God into a whore.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I've been distracted of late. Neurofibromatosis, type I. Often shortened to just NF-1. This is a medical term, relating to a neurological disease, that I now need to learn about. My oldest daughter, Vanessa, had a doctor’s appointment recently. For somewhile now, Vanessa has had some freckling and maybe half a dozen dime sized faded brown spots on her left side. We were thinking that maybe she could see a dermitologist to get them taken care of, since she seems embarrassed by them: she will rarely wear a bikini as a consequence. At twelve years of age, she’s starting to think more about how she looks.

So, to the doctor my wife took her. Vanessa’s bloodwork all came back normal; in fact, the doctor said he wished his own blood work were so good. But as soon as he saw the spots, he got very quiet, felt my daughters abdomon, and then, when he was done, took my wife out of the room while Vanessa got out of her paper gown and back into her normal clothes.

“Did you feel something?” my wife asked.

“No. She’s fine. But I’m concerned about those spots; we call them café-au-lait spots.”

“She has Starbucks disease?”

The doctor smiled at the joke. “No, but I want her to get an MRI. Right away.”
Rather than leaving it up to my wife to make the call, he called the local MRI facility and set up an apointment for Vanessa. And he told my wife that he strongly suspects that Vanessa has NF-1, explaining that it was a genetically based neurological ailment.

My wife phoned me with the news. When she got home, she went straight to her computer and looked up more details online. I also did some searching and discovered some details.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has created specific criteria for the diagnosis of NF-1. Two of these seven “Cardinal Clinical Features” are required for positive diagnosis:

• 6 or more café-au-lait macules over 5 millimeters in greatest diameter in prepubertal individuals and over 15 millimeters in greatest diameter in postpubertal individuals
• 2 or more neurofibromas of any type or 1 plexiform neurofibroma
• Freckling around the armpit or groin
• Optic glioma
• 2 or more Lisch nodules (iris harmartomas)
• A distinctive osseous lesion such as sphenoid dysplasia or thinning of the long bone cortex with or without pseudarthrosis
• A first degree relative (parent, sibling, or offspring) with NF-1 by the above criteria (adapted from: Huson SM, Hughes RAC. The Neurofibromatoses. London, UK: Chapman and Hall; 1994;1.3.2:9)

It used to be thought that this was the illness that the Elephant Man had; it is now known that, although he may have suffered from this disease as well, his primary problem was Proteus Syndrome, a problem that affects tissue, not just the nerves. From what I have read, the prognosis for those with NF-1 is good. In most cases, symptoms of NF-1 are mild, and patients live normal and productive lives.
However, and this is the scary part: tumors are a possibility and can be very serious. Most are benign, but malignancy can occur. My wife made the mistake of looking on some bulletin boards devoted to the disease and read horror stories. I encouraged her to stop reading such things.

About five days after the preliminary diagnosis, Vanessa had an MRI of her brain, to check for brain tumors. It took about two hours, with an hour and a half of that time spent on the table. She didn’t mind it too much, outside of the one injection that they had to give her to increase the contrast: they put something into her bloodstream. Vanessa hates needles and shots, and so was quite unhappy about that.

Then, for the next two days my wife and I had to wait for the results, which turned out to be negative. We joked with her that they did an MRI of her head and found nothing. Her response was, “That’s messed up.”

So, for the moment, she is clear, without any tumors, aneurisms or any other problems. Nevertheless, her pediatrician has told us to get her to a neurologist that specializes in such things, so my wife is researching some of the specialists in our local area who work on such things.

At the moment, there is no cure for NF-1, nor is there any treatment, aside from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments should any tumors develop. But for now, Vanessa is perfectly healthy and tumor free. This week she tried out for cross country in her middle school.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Attorney General of the state of California has sued McDonald's and Wendy's for failing to put warning labels on French Fries telling consumers that they contain chemicals (which in very large doses) might cause cancer or other health problems. Also included in the lawsuit are various makers of potato chips.

The fact that it takes high dosages to give cancer to rats, but that the very, very low dosages found in fried foods (naturally, no less; it's not like the chemical is being added) has not been found to be harmful apparently matters not to this elected official.

But then, like so many, he has no understanding of science. He also lacks the common sense God gave to turnips. Apparently, our state Attorney General is a blithering idiot.

Also, he apparently has way too much time on his hands. What, this state official has nothing better to do than pick on naturally occuring chemicals that people have been consuming without problems for years and years? There are no criminals in need of catching, or whatever it is he is supposed to be doing with his time?

This is why we make jokes about lawyers and politicians.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

According to news reports, the Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist in Kansas, contends that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps' children, grandchildren and in-laws. He and his followers have been crisscrossing the country to demonstrate at the funerals of American soldiers who have died in Iraq. At the funeral, they wave signs at the morners and yell at them that "God hates fags" and "God hates you."

This is the same group that also visits the funerals of gay people, most famously at that of Matthew Shepherd, where they wave signs with the deceased's name and the message that the deceased is now burning in Hell.

Apparently, from accounts I've read, this church has successfully sued some municipalities for infringing on their civil rights or failing to protect them properly for their protests.

Nice people these are not.

I can think of many words to use in denouncing Fred Phelps and his followers. But I have to remind myself that Jesus died for them, and that despite their opinion to the contrary, God loves sinners, even sinners like them.

On the other hand, Jesus did not refrain from harsh condemnation of the self-righteous. So his words will work with these vile people:

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of
hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:28-29)

I'd like to throw at them what Jesus threw at the self-righteous in his day just a few lines later, in verse 31. But he was God so he could be more certain about someone's actual future destination.

And besides, repentence is always possible. And I also remind myself over and over: salvation is by grace, not by works. Being an asshole does not negate the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
Every so often I receive email from anti-Semites. Today was one of those every so oftens. Since I teach a course on the History of Anti-Semitism, I find such email useful as a primary source; as is very common, the email is a conglomeration of cut and pasted articles, and excessively long.

This one was a little different in that it included a weird diatribe against the Bible, making it too a part of the Jewish conspiracy to rule the world (which seems to be going badly, given how Jews have been, and continue to be so badly persecuted most places in most times).

I find it hard to understand crackpots. Most crackpots I try to ignore. They depress me. Unfortunately, these particular crackpots have been responsible for murdering millions, so I can't in good conscience ignore them or be silent. But arguing with them is as effective as nailing jello to a tree. So what to do? Taking a page from Jesus' response to certain leaders, condemnation is the tactic I use now; approaching them in love and reason consistently results in only condemnation and personal attacks; the nicer I get, the meaner they become. Very odd.

For those who have not swallowed the lies of the hate-mongers, then on the website I've posted a considerable body of material refuting and warning against the crackpots. And I teach that class; I don't know what else I can do.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

You know, I really don't understand statements like this (from a news article):

The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank in Washington, D.C., argues in its book Getting It Straight that finding people are born gay "would advance the idea that sexual orientation is an innate characteristic, like race; that homosexuals, like African-Americans, should be legally protected against 'discrimination;' and that disapproval of homosexuality should be as socially stigmatized as racism. However, it is not true."

First, do these people think that discriminating against gay people is a good thing? It certainly sounds like they do. They frankly give the impression that rouding gay people up and sticking them in concentration camps might be part of their agenda.

I wonder too, what part of what Paul said does the Family Research Council not comprehend:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22)

We are sinners because we are born that way. Duh. And all of us are sinners. Why in the world pick on gay people more than gluttons or the prideful, or even the self-righteous? And what part of Jesus dying for us sinners, and that as a consequence we can all be one in Christ, is so tough to get? Do they seriously want to argue that Jesus died for everyone except gays? Sounds like they might.

Or what part of "loving your neighbor as yourself" is so tough to understand? Perhaps hating your neighbor gets in the way of comprehending simple sentences?

Further rantings against those who hate gays shows up in my article, God Loves Gay People.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I get email. My article that points out that the United States is not a Christian nation and that its founders were not all Christians (see Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State) has brought me more hate mail than anything else I've written. It's also brought me acolades, however, ranging from the fact that it is frequently cited by others, to its being reprinted at least once by a newspaper back east.

This week I received an email from someone accusing me of blasphemy on the basis of this article. I'm still not quite sure how arguing against the US being a Christian nation falls into that category, despite the letter writer's insistence that it does based on his odd defintion of blasphemy. Anyhow. I've always been a bit concerned about those who wish to argue that the US is a Christian nation. Many of them seem to be part of what is called Dominion theology (and a few of them have also been anti-Semites, though I don't think the two necessarily go together). Most of the negative responses I get consist of people sending me quotes that seem always to be identical to those contained in the books by David Barton (founder and president of WallBuilders), in which he argues against separation of church and state. He insists that the US is a Christian nation and presents many quotes that he believes proves his contention. The fact that many are out of context and even a few just made up seems not to disturb those who have fallen under his influence.

Frankly, one would think that the history of Europe through the middle ages and up to the present time would be enough to demonstrate the wisdom of separating church and state. Roger Williams, the Baptist who founded Rhode Island and argued for the concept, suggested that the state tends to corrupt the church. Jefferson, some years later, argued the other way around, that the church tends to corrupt the state. I think a reading of history demonstrates that both men are right.

I fear that if people like Barton ever got the upper hand, I'd wind up being one of those experiencing what Roger Williams did, when he was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for, well, being a Baptist.
It is a very peculiar thing how Israel is so often targeted by various groups. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issues anti-Israel diatribes, and so too, now does the Presbyterian Church. It really makes little sense. James Lileks had some interesting thoughts on the motivation behind this odd focus on a tiny country:

The Presbyterian Church (USA) -- not the members, but the learned elders -- has announced it will use its stock holdings to target Israel for being mean to the Palestinians.

But they're not anti-Semites. Heavens, nay. Don't you dare question their philosemitism! No, they looked at the entire world, including countries that lop off your skull if you convert to Presbyterianism, and what did they choose as the object of their ire? A country the size of a potato chip hanging on the edge of a region noted for despotism and barbarity. By some peculiar coincidence, it happens to be full of Jews.

The right and the left seem to take turns deciding who's going to be anti-Semitic. But for some time now, the hard left in the West has led the charge against the Jews -- or, as the sleight-of-hand term has it, the Zionists.

These adolescent spirits love nothing more than a revolution, a story of a scrappy underdog rising up against a colonizing power, and the Palestinians, with their romantically masked fighters and thrilling weapon-brandishing, fit the bill. Plus, there's something so deliciously naughty and transgressive about calling Jews the new Nazis.

It doesn't matter that one side is a liberal democracy that grants rights to women and non-Jews while the other has thugs and assassins for rulers and sends its kids to summer camps where they learn the joys of good ol' fashioned Jew-killing.

According to the hard left's script, Israel was created when some Europeans (hisssss) invaded the sovereign nation of Palestine, even though we all know the Jewish homeland is somewhere outside Passaic, N.J. Then for no reason Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza -- which for some reason had not been set up as New Palestine by the Egyptians and the Jordanians, but never mind -- and made everyone stand in line and get frisked. Those who joined the line in '67 are just getting through now. Evil Zionists.

You can read the whole thing here. Sadly, anti-Semitism remains alive and well. It merely changes the words it uses so that it can stay socially acceptable. The Presbyterians should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe someday they will be.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I’ve disliked the Intelligent Design concept since I first heard about it when Behe's book came out. Frankly, to me it seems to be another example of the disreputable idea theologians have referred to as “the God of the gaps” theology. That is, there has been a tendency among many Christians to look at things that they don’t understand, then jump up and down with glee, “see, that proves it: there is a God. God did it.” Unfortunately, as our understanding of the universe advances, this “God” will continue to shrink until he becomes entirely unnecessary (and this, I suspect, is why so many Christians and members of many other faiths fear science: they know that this “God” is likely to be destroyed by it, and that’s the only “God” they have). ID has simply repackaged this foolishness and given it a new name. It reminds me of GTE renaming itself Verizon: it’s still the same bad phone company.

I recently read someone who wrote, in thinking about God, that “since natural laws are His, presumably He can violate them any time He feels like it.” This reflects a widespread assumption regarding omnipotence which I don’t think is correct.

I do not think it is accurate to say that omnipotence means God can do just anything at all. I also disagree, therefore, that “miracle” in any way is a violation of natural law. Hume’s comments on miracle are devastating to that traditional concept of miracle, but only assuming this widely accepted definition of miracle is accurate. At least since the late nineteenth century, most theologians who have thought about the issue have attacked Hume’s conclusions by dismantling this key presupposition (one that most people, unfortunately, still believe) that “miracle” means “violation of natural law.” A more precise definition is that a miracle is a sign, or an intervention by God, by which he hopes to get the viewer’s attention.

Most people would find it difficult to commit murder. Their morality constrains their behavior. Most would argue that God is moral and thus is unable to violate his moral precepts, especially given the additional assumption that God is perfect. What if we now also assume that the laws of nature are as much a part of who God is as the moral laws are? What if we modify the definition of omnipotence to then mean that God is capable of doing anything that is consistent with his nature? God is constrained, I would argue, by his own nature and can do nothing in violation of it; nor do I think that he can do anything that is logically absurd. God can no more make 2 and 2 be 5 than I can.

God then, might no more be able to violate natural law than he is able to violate his moral law. Certainly he does spectacular things, but do those spectacular things require violation of natural law? An airplane would be mighty spectacular to a person living in the middle ages, as would flights to the moon or computers. But none of those spectacular things are violations of natural laws. We simply know the natural laws well and can manipulate them in very creative ways. God, to put it oddly, perhaps, is then simply more technologically advanced than we are. And thus, in a universe where God is like this, science then would be compatible with the nature of reality.

I would expect that we could learn in detail how the universe functions down to the smallest level; I thus am content with evolutionary theory and modern science, though I remain a theist who believes that God is intimately involved with his universe, in that his manipulations are no more intrusive or problematic than the manipulations of his creative creatures and differ from them perhaps in degree, but not kind. I would also point out that God made us free, and thus it is always going to be possible for us to explain Him away, precisely because we would not be free otherwise. How free are you when you are aware that your boss is watching your every move? God didn’t want us to live that way, either.

I suspect that the moral laws and natural laws are both a reflection of God’s fundamental nature and that he cannot be other than who he is. For instance, the fundamental forces (weak force, strong force, gravity, electromagnetism) must exist in a certain relationship with one another—to several decimal places--in order to have a universe capable of supporting life as we know it. We can logically posit universes where the forces are different than in our universe, but such universes would be very uncomfortable for us and incompatible with our existence. God is constrained by 2 and 2 always having to equal four. Likewise, “thou shalt not murder” is probably a necessary constraint on a properly functioning universe, too; anything else would be uncomfortable. While God could have done and could do anything, I believe he is constrained by who he is, just as my behavior is constrained by who I am (such as, what are the odds that I will voluntarily drive on the wrong side of the street, even though the only thing stopping me is a double yellow line painted on the asphalt; hardly a big physical barrier).

Thursday, August 11, 2005 is reporting that:


Launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been officially reset for Friday morning. The launch team will start a fresh countdown this evening, leading to liftoff at 7:43 a.m. EDT (1143 GMT).

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will join three other satellites currently in orbit around Mars. It will take higher resolution photos than any mission previous to this, and has ground penetrating radar to look for water. It also will be able to send data back at a much faster rate than previous interplanetary spacecraft.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I set my alarm early this morning so I could watch the landing of the space shuttle Discovery at 5:12 AM local time. It wasn't too long after I switched on the cable news that that I heard the familiar double sonic boom shaking my house and briefly awakening my wife and one of my daughters. The shuttle's route toward its landing at the nearby Edwards AFB (I live just a few miles south of it) was a little different this time around. NASA decided to alter their route so they didn't fly over Los Angeles, just in case the worst were to happen. It seemed like the bang-bang of it dropping subsonic was louder than normal for us in the Antelope Valley thanks to that.

But nothing went wrong this time and Discovery landed safe and sound. Within the next couple of days maybe I'll get a glimpse of the shuttle flying back toward Florida, perched atop its carrier 747 aircraft.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

MSNBC reports:

HOUSTON - As the shuttle Discovery prepared on Friday to leave the International Space Station, NASA scheduled its next shuttle mission for Sept. 22 provided it can find a quick fix to falling fuel tank foam that has grounded the rest of the orbiter fleet.

Seems like more good news.

Friday, August 05, 2005

I was awakened at about 2:30 AM with ideas, oddly enough for next week’s newspaper article that I wrote on Thursday; I write a weekly article for a small paper in Northern California.

It was an added paragraph to conclude the thing. I did the article on 2003 UB313, the newly discovered planet beyond Pluto and the issue of whether to call it a planet, or for that matter, whether Pluto is really a planet, or just one of the estimated 100,000 Kuiper Belt Objects that are out there (about 600 found so far, including the very large Quaoar and Sedna, plus this new object and another (2003 EL61) 70 per cent Pluto’s size that was announced the same day). The addition to the article was to point out that the conflict is a conflict between categories. We have the traditional category called “planets” and this new category called “Kuiper Belt Objects” and that’s the source of the conflict.

I thought that perhaps--and this is what woke me--that a resolution of the conflict would be to simply refer to Pluto, Sedna, Quaoar, 2003 UB313 and the other new object, 2003 EL61, should be designated Kuiper Belt Planets; after all, we have what are called the “terrestrial planets” which are Mercury-Mars and the “gas giants” which are Jupiter-Neptune; seems a nice compromise solution to me. And since I can write anything I care to in the article, why not? So that’s what I did at 2:30 in the morning. Odd thing to be awakened from a dead sleep to write down I suppose.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Well, I changed internet service providers today, abandoning the company that I've used the last eight years. The reason I left the company I was with was because the service had deteriorated radically in the last month. My DSL connection was going down at least once a day, sometimes as often as three times a day, for hours at a time. Technical support, which is now in India, was very polite, but could never resolve the problem. After all they merely follow a script and have little idea on what to actually do, and there was no way to get to someone who might actually be able to think outside the script. So, today, my local cable company hooked me up. I find that my connection is now six times faster, the tech people are local, and it works. Oh, and it costs only a third as much as my old ISP. Maybe I should have done this years ago, but I am a creature of habit and it takes a lot to make me change. I've been with the same bank, for instance, for thirty years. If something isn't broken I tend to keep it.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The LA Times reports this morning that the US is going to pull out of 13 German bases, removing 6100 troops. But that will still leave about 50,000 troops in that country. What a quagmire Germany has been. Where's the exit strategy? We've been in Germany now for 60 years. Mission accomplished? When is World War II ever going to end?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Okay, this is really exciting. Besides the earlier announced Kuiper belt object that is about 70 per cent the size of Pluto, most likely, Cal Tech has since announced the discovery of what, by all measures (assuming that Pluto is to be classed as a planet), must now be classified as our Solar System's tenth planet, since it is larger than Pluto. This comes from, by way of Cal Tech:

Planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system.

The planet was discovered using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The discovery was announced today by planetary scientist Dr. Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., whose research is partly funded by NASA.

The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper belt, but its sheer size in relation to the nine known planets means that it can only be classified as a planet, Brown said. Currently about 97 times further from the sun than the Earth, the planet is the farthest-known object in the solar system, and the third brightest of the Kuiper belt objects.

"It will be visible with a telescope over the next six months and is currently almost directly overhead in the early-morning eastern sky, in the constellation Cetus," said Brown, who made the discovery with colleagues Chad Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., on January 8.

Brown, Trujillo and Rabinowitz first photographed the new planet with the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope on October 31, 2003. However, the object was so far away that its motion was not detected until they reanalyzed the data in January of this year. In the last seven months, the scientists have been studying the planet to better estimate its size and its motions.

"It's definitely bigger than Pluto," said Brown, who is a professor of planetary astronomy.

Scientists can infer the size of a solar system object by its brightness, just as one can infer the size of a faraway light bulb if one knows its wattage. The reflectance of the planet is not yet known. Scientists can not yet tell how much light from the sun is reflected away, but the amount of light the planet reflects puts a lower limit on its size.

"Even if it reflected 100 percent of the light reaching it, it would still be as big as Pluto," says Brown. "I'd say it's probably one and a half times the size of Pluto, but we're not sure yet of the final size.

"We are 100 percent confident that this is the first object bigger than Pluto ever found in the outer solar system," Brown added.

The size of the planet is limited by observations using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which has already proved its mettle in studying the heat of dim, faint, faraway objects such as the Kuiper-belt bodies. Because Spitzer is unable to detect the new planet, the overall diameter must be less than 2,000 miles, said Brown.

A name for the new planet has been proposed by the discoverers to the International Astronomical Union, and they are awaiting the decision of this body before announcing the name.

For more details, go to this at Cal Tech.

A hundred fifty new planets and counting discovered already beyond our solar system, over 600 Kuiper Belt objects, and now this! Exciting times for a space geek like me.
Another world has been discovered in our Solar System, according to a report by New Scientist

Astronomical detective work led to the stunning discovery of a large new world beyond Pluto – and hiding in plain sight. The object could be the biggest in the Kuiper belt of rocky objects that orbit the outer reaches of the solar system.

The first data made public about the object suggested the object could be up to twice the size of Pluto, but newly revealed observations indicate the object is about 70% Pluto's diameter.

The find suggests more such objects are waiting to be discovered and is likely to reignite the fierce debate about what constitutes a planet.

It looks like this object, as yet unnamed, also has a small moon. You can check out the full article here. is reporting that:

SPACE CENTER, Houston - NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said Friday he hasn’t given up on launching another shuttle this year, despite suspending flights until the agency can stop foam insulation from snapping off and threatening the spacecraft.

He said he has set up a “tiger team” to try to solve the problem as quickly as possible. “We don’t expect this to be a long drawn-out affair,” he said by telephone from Washington in a briefing with reporters in Houston.

That's good news, I think.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I watched a new show on the Sci-Fi channel tonight that I had seen advertised and thought might be interesting. It’s called Master Blaster. Apparently each week there is a contest between two teams to launch something with high powered rockets. Tonight, the teams launched a play house, with a wicked witch dummy on top and Dorothy on the inside in a re-creation of sorts of the scene from the Wizard of Oz. The requirement was to see which team could launch the house the highest, getting it to spin at least 3 times on its axis, launch the witch off the roof, and then recover the house with Dorothy safe on the ground.

Neither team succeded in launching the witch or in a safe recovery. Both teams had their parachutes fail. What determined the winner was the launch height and since one team sent their house twice as high as the other, that’s the team that won. The loosing team then had to dress up like the characters from the Wizard of Oz and dance across a field.

I found it all rather amusing. Great TV it probably is not. Next week they are supposed to launch giant lawn darts (ten feet long or so) and try to hit bull’s-eyes painted in a field.

Meanwhile, in the world of serious rocketry, NASA has decided to once again ground the shuttle fleet once Discovery returns, until they can solve the problem of stuff falling off the external tank on launch. Apparently a rather sizable chunk fell off this time, though thankfully it didn’t hit the orbiter, so all should be well for re-entry. It is of course best that they be careful and get this issue solved, though it is a disappointment that it remains a problem for them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A beautiful launch, right on time this morning; the Discovery is safely in orbit. Way to go!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I am really frustrated and unhappy. My ISP, who've I've been with since 1997, has been very unhelpful of late. My connection has been going down at random, with no explanation, for hours at a time. I call and call and sit on hold for a half hour or more; the tech people I talk to are very nice, but they don't make anything better, offer no explanation and simply apologize for my inconvenience. Very nice of them. So come Monday, I'm going with a different ISP since they can't seem to make me happy and really are doing nothing to try to keep me as a customer. As far as I can tell, they really don't much care. I suspect that the primary problem is with who they subcontract with: Verizon, who has a monopoly in the area. They are the only phone company here and there is no alternative. I blame all the government agencies responsible for allowing such monopolies to exist. I blame Verizon for being a horribly incompetent company. I'm a patient man. My patience is used up. May they all rot on voice mail hold forever like I've had to the last several days.

Friday, July 22, 2005

According to today:

NASA engineers believe they have isolated the fuel-gauge malfunction that stopped last week's countdown toward the shuttle Discovery's launch, and with Tropical Storm Franklin headed north, the launch team is set to begin a new countdown Saturday for a Tuesday launch.

Good news.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

According to the Space Shuttle Discovery is now scheduled for launch on Tuesday, July 26, 2005:

Editor's note: NASA has set next Tuesday, 26 July as the next launch attempt for STS-114. Launch is planned for 10:34 am EDT. No fueling test will be performed. The cause of the sensor anomaly seems to be a grounding issue.

This seems like good news.
James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series and in seven Star Trek movies, died early today. He was 85. I met him a couple of times when I was in graduate school at UCLA. I drove a shuttle bus to and from a private parking lot at the Burbank Airport (now the Bob Hope Airport) and he happened to park with us when I was on duty so I got to drive him to his plane. About a week later, he came back when I was on duty again. He was working on the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at the time.

He was very nice, though grumbled a bit about being type-cast as Scotty. At the time, he drove a nice white Jaguar. He also tipped well.

Of all the famous people I got to meet while I worked there, meeting him was the highlight, since I'm a huge Star Trek fan.

Today is also the 36th anniversary of the moon landing, July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first human being on the moon. Buzz Aldrin followed him onto the surface shortly thereafter.

Google has decided to celebrate the first moon landing by offering us Google Moon, something similar to Google Earth:

Google Moon

Make sure you zoom in all the way. It's amusing.

Monday, July 18, 2005

It now appears that the earliest that the Space Shuttle Discovery can be launched is July 26. They still can't figure out what's wrong with the sensor. is reporting that:

Discovery's sensors have been acting up for months: The system flunked one tanking test in April, then passed another one in May. Then Discovery's tank was swapped in June for a newer heater-equipped tank, and the launch team had thought the problem was solved. During last week's countdown, however, one sensor started exhibiting bad readings on an intermittent basis.

Now that the tank is empty, the sensor seems to be working as expected — complicating NASA's troubleshooting efforts.

"It's difficult to find a glitch that won't stay glitched," Parsons said.

If the troubleshooters are unable to find the source of the problem, NASA managers could reconsider their rules to allow for a launch even if one of the four low-level sensors isn't working, Hale acknowledged. "We're thinking about it," he said. But for the time being, the mission management team was putting aside that scenario, pending the outcome of the upcoming tests

Isn't that the way it is with our cars? Or computers? Something goes wrong, but as soon as we call the repair person, the problem can't be found.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Another thing that annoys me and is a pet peeve is well expressed by Jeff Jarvis on his blog, discussing the London terror bombings and terrorism in general:

Yes, to call them "terrorist" gives them too much justification.

Look at it this way: Would you have tried to understand Edgar Ray Killen, the convicted Ku Klux Klan killer in the Mississippi Burning murders? Would you have explained his cultural shame at losing the Civil War and called him an insurgent or a militant or even a terrorist? Would you have blamed his grandparents for teaching him to have no respect for black people? Or would you simply condemn his hate and his act? The answer, of course, is C. So why should it be any different when condemning the crimes of these murderers?


A suicide bomber in a fuel truck blew himself up beside a Shiite mosque on Saturday evening in a town south of Baghdad, killing at least 58 people and wounding 86, the police said.

And what separates this from the bombing of a Mississippi black church?

Murder is murder.

My thoughts exactly.
I watched the season premiers of Stargate: SG1, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica last night. I enjoyed them. But it seems unlikely that any of those programs will have the impact on popular culture that Star Trek has had. As I saw asked on one Trek website, how likely is it that anyone will ever look at some new gadget and comment, "wow, that's like something out of Battlestar Galactica"? And yet people will invoke Star Trek that way, not to mention the little catch phrases, like "beam me up" that have entered the lexicon.
I have pet peeves.

One of them involves Communism. A few months ago the LA Times wrote a front page article about a retirement home for old communists; it was a glowing piece. I wrote them a nasty letter that they actually published. Today, I got the new issue of the National Geographic (August, 2005) and at the end, they did a piece on a commune called East Wind in Missouri. They wrote the following:

"We thought we were going to change the world," says Deborah, 56, one of the group of friends who left Boston in 1973 to create East Wind. Back then it was still possible to believe a socialist revolution was sweeping the globe. "The east wind is prevailing over the west wind," said Mao Zedong in 1957, when he was chairman of the People's Republic of China. His vision of socialism blowing away capitalism gave East Wind its name and helped inspire its mission...

Such things puzzle me immensely. It is unlikely they’d publish a similar article about a neo-Nazi group in Idaho, calling them say “fascists” or “old rightists,” or speak nicely about their being inspired by Hitler’s Mein Kampf while waxing nostalgic over their lost causes. Why is it that murderous thugs on the far left evoke such feelings of warmth that they can’t even call them what they are: communists? What makes dictators and those who worked for their evil and unworkable cause worthy of such fawning? It is, frankly, disgusting. Marxism is as bad as Nazism and deserving of equal opprobrium. Mao is responsible for slaughtering at least 50 million of his citizens while oppressing the rest, sending millions to slave labor camps, and depriving all of them of basic freedoms. The Soviet Union slaughtered nearly as many, oppressed a dozen other countries, and sent millions to the Gulag. And yet if people walk around in a T-shirt with a picture of Mao or Che, that's okay for a lot of people. Personally, such an idea should feel as offensive as walking around wearing a T-shirt with Hitler or Goering on it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I am one of apparently a relatively small number of people who very much enjoyed Star Trek: Enterprise which was cancelled at the end of this, its fourth season on UPN. Well the Emmys were announced today and the show has been nominated for three, all in technical categories, specifically:

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special (Prosthetic) - Michael G. Westmore, Makeup Supervisor, and his team have been nominated in this category every year since 1991 and have won the award four times. This year their work on "United" was honoured. Enterprise will compete against Nip/Tuck, as it did last year, as well as Carnivale, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and MADtv.

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Series - Michael Moore and his team of stylists will compete against Carnivale and MADtv in this category as well, plus Alias, American Dreams and Deadwood. The two-part episode "In a Mirror, Darkly" was singled out for this nomination.

Outstanding Stunt Coordination - Vince Deadrick Jr. was selected for his management of the stunts in Augments episodes "Borderland" and "Cold Station 12". Alias was also cited in this category, along with 24, ER and The Last Ride.

Interestingly, these were the only three Emmy nominations that UPN received this year. So they have cancelled what was apparently their best quality program. Rather typical of a network, I suppose. Like the comedy Scrubs,, which received four Emmys. But of course, NBC cancelled it this year, too.

Ah well. At least Numb3rs was renewed on CBS.
Spam in our message boards at Quartz Hill School of Theology, part two.

Today I found more posting for junk on two of our message boards. It is normally an easy matter to remove offensive posts--our message board software has a simple way of doing it. But today, as I've found on occasion, one of the postings had not only appeared as a message on the board, but it was invisible to the message board's software's message removal tool; and of course, even going in there and physically removing the particular post (posts appear as separate html files) did not make it disappear from the top page. I had to go in and restore the index file from a backup in order to finally make all traces of it vanish. I really dislike these clueless spammers.
Well, now the Space Shuttle won't be launched until sometime next week, at the earliest, according to CNN:

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- The first space shuttle launch since the 2003 Columbia disaster will not take place until late next week at the earliest, NASA spokesman Mike Rein said Friday.

NASA previously had said the shuttle Discovery could lift off as soon as Sunday, although it was unlikely.

The launch originally was scheduled for Wednesday, but it was scrubbed 2 1/2 hours before liftoff because of a faulty fuel sensor.

The space agency has until July 31 to attempt a launch or must wait until September.

"We are still looking at launching during this window," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.

Beutel said the delay will allow NASA "more time to work on our troubleshooting plan."

If one considers the difficulty of discovering the cause of an electrical problem in one's car, one can only imagine how hard this seemingly minor issue is likely to be.