9/11, 16 Years Later

September 12, 2017   9:15 am

Yesterday marked 16 years since the al-Qaeda sucker-punch known as “9/11” reached our shores. We are now far enough out that, if you were to survey high school seniors, very few of them would be able to speak of memories of that day. In a way, that’s a good thing - even adults have trouble processing evil of that magnitude. In a way, though, that means that they’ve grown up with an ever-present threat of terrorism within our homeland; we have always been at war in the Middle East, and getting on an airplane has always been a tedious process.

As we observe this particular anniversary, we are a few days past the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall; we are watching Texas’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey last month; and we are watching Hurricane Irma thrash through Florida up into Georgia, having devastated several islands in the Caribbean on her way up. Katrina was blamed for 1,833 deaths, while Harvey currently stands at 70, and Irma is at 26. Of course, these numbers are adjusted when emergency workers are able to fully assess the aftermath; but both Harvey and Irma will have U.S. death tolls less than 10% of Katrina, despite Harvey bringing (unexpectedly) more water and Irma bringing way more wind. These lower death tolls are not just dumb luck. We have poured lots of resources into identifying the threats these hurricanes pose to our mainland and territories, and we can give warnings far further in advance than we could 12 years ago. We evacuate people in harm’s way, and we provide a strong law enforcement presence to protect the homes of those who evacuated.

What does that have to do with terrorism? The goal is the same - preservation of the lives of our citizens. To do that, we rely on intelligence to give us as much advanced warning as possible. We warn our citizens of danger, and we do our best to mitigate its effects. Unlike weather, we do have the capability to eliminate this threat before it makes landfall; however, like weather, sometimes unexpected shifts occur. In these intervening 16 years, we have had occasional attacks that have been carried out, but we’ve had others that have been thwarted before they could be. As this post-9/11 effort continues, approaching the 20-year mark, let’s continue to pray for those who are defending us. Pray for their success, for their safety, and for them to complete this mission honorably.

There is one other way in which terrorism and the 2017 hurricane season are similar. I think I speak for all of us when I say “No way, José…”


Random Thoughts on Current Events

August 22, 2017   8:50 pm

These thoughts all center around issues of our current discussions on race relations, Confederate memorials, etc.

People who are not neo-Nazis or white supremacists all believe that they hold to morally reprehensible views. White people who miss an incident and do not immediately decry it should not be assumed to be “with them.” Their numbers are quite small, and while they are being more vocal as of late, we should be thankful they are few.

Lots of folks are opposed to the concepts of “white power,” “white supremacy,” or “white pride.” Lots of folks also find it nearly as reprehensible when you change “white” to any other term. Diversity is great, but our current iteration seems to be focused on our differences more than our similarities; it should rather be focused on a richer unity.

You can believe the Bible, or you can be racist - not both. What part of “every tribe and nation” is unclear?

You can be against white supremacists, and against Antifa. You can even believe that we’d all be better off if everyone just stayed home and did things in a way that wouldn’t so easily escalate to violence. And, you can be assured that if you felt the president’s initial remarks were a strong rebuke, you’re not alone.

It would be a lot easier for some of us to be more vocal if we didn’t have this false duality, where to be against one “side” aligns yourself with other. The left has proved themselves the biggest group of sore winners in the world, and any sort of firm, quick “win” in this area will just embolden them to mob-rule their way on top of whatever the next grievous ill they determine. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” - yes, that’s why the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it…)

I do not believe that race relations, nationwide, are nearly as bad as they’re made out to be whenver these flash points arrive. Regular people should not buy into the divisiveness an excessive focus on these issues can bring; rather, we should each make positive steps to be friendly, understanding, and helpful. Seek out similarities, don’t point out differences.

The same people who sneeringly chide that Antifa is the good guys, because “you’re supposed to be anti-fascist,” don’t see to see the irony of massing against an event called a “free speech rally.” Of course, the main issues are a) just because you’re prone to violence doesn’t mean you’re legally allowed to stamp out fascists; and b) who decides who is a fascist? Ditto for the Southern Poverty Law Center and “hate groups;” their lists have long ago outstretched the credulity of any fair-minded individual.

I wonder if, now that our country has recently seen how distasteful racism is, if people understand why Tea Party members were so bothered by that same (proved unfounded) allegation? I wonder if anyone feels that they owe them an apology?

Racism is hate borne out of a lack of knowledge - at least, that’s the generally-accepted source. These same people who want Confederate memorials gone have also vandalized statues of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Christopher Columbus. Apparently the lack of education cuts both ways.

 

(Some of you may recognize this format as one used by the highly-esteemed and, sadly, now-retired Thomas Sowell. The above is an homage to him and his pithy insights he would share from time to time. Do a search for “thomas sowell random thoughts” if you want to be enlightened.)


In Their Own Words

August 16, 2017   9:58 pm

These seem appropriate today.

Abraham Lincoln:

We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.

Robert E. Lee:

…I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Maybe if we could all stop shouting and each other, and really think about what these mean, we’d find ourselves living in a better place.

(And - smile at someone tomorrow; and if someone smiles at you, smile back.)


Jekyll

February 4, 2017   1:00 pm

If you’re still perusing this site every so often, you’ve likely noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lot of any new stuff for over a year. Some of that was technical, but much of it has simply been life. Of course, in the time, I would need to make sure the server stayed up, and that the software behind it stays updated, to keep up with security and such.

As I was working on another project, I had some experience with Jekyll, a package that generates plain old HTML files. This means that there doesn’t need to be any special server software or database backing the site; once it is generated, the files are just served statically. As there is no dynamic aspect, there are no lurking security holes or constant updates. There also, as of now, are no comments, either those from the old pages, or new ones that can be entered. There are different techniques for that, but with the advent of social media interactions, blog comments may not be worth the spam-fighting efforts it takes to support them, or the time it takes to moderate them.

The site is now being generated using Jekyll. I won’t say that it will help me be able to post more; while I have some ideas of things I’d like to write, static HTML files don’t add hours to my day. :) But, the site generates on my development machine in about 30 seconds, and the job that checks for updates runs every 5 minutes, so we’ll see. It even produces an RSS feed, so you’ll still get updates that way.


Popesplaining

September 26, 2015   10:44 am

Has anyone coined the term “Popesplaining” yet? If not, allow me. (If so - well, hey, my server, my rules. Why am I asking for permission, anyway?)

Popesplaining (n.)

  1. A politically conservative Roman Catholic justifying the public papal positions that disagree with their political positions and/or established church theology.
  2. A politically liberal person, typically allergic to anything religious entering the public square, justifying the papal message that coincide with their political views, while failing to recognize his message as a theological one.

(Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan of either one.)


My Web Log

June 7, 2015   8:32 pm

When I started this blog, I was using static files; I’d update them and replace them when I wanted to make a post. Back in 2004, I moved it to a database-backed system that I was writing myself. I guess you could call today “back to the future,” because I have moved the site from Orchard to MyWebLog, a solution which I am in the process of writing. It is designed to be very lightweight on server resources, while having the ability to serve multiple sites from a single instance of the code. When I get it to a more releasable state, it will be hosted at CodePlex; I already have the project there using a prior attempt I made at this.

Why change? Orchard is great, it just wasn’t the best fit. I think it was overkill for my little ol’ blogs. There were also a couple of annoyances, the biggest of which is that it wasn’t running the comments through Akismet. A 10-year-old site gets a lot of spam, and I don’t want to have to deal with it. There were also some hit-or-miss connection issues with the back-end data store, which (to their credit) the developers helped me try to resolve.

It’s still a little rough around the edges, more so in the admin section than this part. And, while it does not (yet) allow new comments to be made, it does display existing comments. Once I do get a bit further into this, I’ll do a write-up on my tech blog detailing the technology behind it.

Maybe I can even post more regularly… :)


2014 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous (and the Funny)

January 3, 2015   6:54 pm

I missed this in 2013, and this is not a 3-post series as usual. Instead of writing a lot about each topic, I’ll give a short reason I categorized it where I did. Please make no assumptions or conclusions about what I don’t say; the fact that people are so apt to do that should probably make the “Bad” list, but not this year. Since this is a single post, we’ll lead with…

The Good

  • No Terrorism at World Stage Events - 2014 saw the Winter Olympics in Russia and the World Cup in Brazil. Neither were marred by terrorism.
  • 16 Out of 20 Ain’t Bad - Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not want to provide coverage for 4 of the 20 forms of “birth control” mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as they work post-conception (an “abortofacient”). The Supreme Court agreed, in a rare victory for religious freedom.
  • Plummeting Oil Prices - In spite of the current administration’s best efforts, our economy overcame them. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd was vindicated, as an explosion in US oil production caused prices to drop substantially. Fracking has enabled this boom while preserving the environment, and the drop in prices has hit hostile-to-us oil-based economies hard. It’s a big win-win that progressives still can’t throughly grasp.
  • Republicans Win Control of Congress - This is a qualified “good” entry, assuming that they’ll govern as they ran. Hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?
  • Tennessee Football Rises - Playing an SEC schedule and non-gimme out-of-conference games with the youngest team in FBS is a recipe for a 3-9 season; the Vols made it 6-6 (and, since this is written after their bowl, 7-6) and have great momentum for 2015.

The Bad

  • The Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - Neither the Brown nor Garner families had loved ones with them this Christmas that they had last Christmas. There may be speculation as to the incidents surrounding their deaths (and neither are going to trial, so we’ll likely never fully know), but even the public knowing every little detail of what happened will not bring these young men back to their families.
  • Colorado Going to Pot - The first year’s experiment with legalized marijuana has not gone well. Assurances that children will not be able to easily get it have evaporated, and nearly all the tax money it’s generated has gone to enforcement. Their governor caught some heat for saying that the citizens acted foolishly, but the facts certainly indicate he was correct in his assessment.
  • Ebola - 2014 was the year Ebola came to America. While there were some ridiculous things with how it was handled, the bad was limited, with some who contracted the disease surviving, and a new set of medical protocols helping to protect those who care for people.
  • ISIS - Nearly 10 years after being freed, Iraq fell back into enslavement thanks to a group coming in to make a hostile takeover, combined with an army that was not willing to fight for what it had won. Islamic law marches on, while Christians die, in a place where thousands of Americans gave their lives to win freedom.
  • Russian Aggression Versus Ukraine - Russia invaded and took over part of another sovereign nation. They do not appear to be done yet.

The Ridiculous

  • The Handling of the Death of Michael Brown / The Reaction to the Brown Grand Jury Verdict / The Reaction to the Garner Grand Jury Verdict - Ferguson and Missouri police handled the initial aftermath of Brown’s shooting about as poorly as you could. The riots once the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson were unnecessary and unhelpful (and unwanted by Michael Brown’s family), and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” gesture would have been impactful had it been based in verified fact (which it was not). This was also the case where “unarmed teen” is supposed to imply harmless, peaceful, law-abiding child, but video showed a certain store owner who would dispute that characterization. Once the Garner verdict came out, there were die-ins all across the country, proving nothing, but inconveniencing people who had nothing to do with anything surrounding the case. Two dead New York policemen and one in Florida, at last reports, still hadn’t brought Michael Brown or Eric Garner back to their families. (If I have a chance, there will be much more on this in my MLK post.)

    p.s. ALL lives matter.

  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing E-mails - Under oath, and subpoena from Congress, IRS chief Lois Lerner claimed to have lost her e-mail. This was after other e-mails came out that pretty much confirmed their deliberate targeting of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. While those e-mails were “found” toward the end of the year, this Watergate-esque dodge was pathetic. IT does not work that way, and if it does, those people need to be fired.

  • Computer Security - This was a bad year for computer security. “HeartBleed,” “Shell Shock,” and “Poodle” were names given to long-existing exploits that were discovered in the software that runs much of the Internet. Target fessed up about how large their breach was, and Home Depot let a lot of customer information get away as well. Finally, targeted attacks released iCloud data from celebrities, while an (internal? North Korean? We don’t know yet…) attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment released salaries, movies, even e-mails among leaders and actors. (Maybe we should sic the Guardians of Peace on the IRS!) Hopefully some good will come of this; if nothing else, it will make people think about security before they trust a “cloud” service with their information.

  • Kaci Hickox - Kaci is a nurse who was exposed to Ebola. She defied quarantine, though, and created a lot of concern. While she ultimately was not found to have the disease, her foolish, selfish actions stirred up a lot of concern in her community. As a medical professional, she should have known better. But, of course, if she had, then her name wouldn’t be on some random guy’s blog in a year-in-review post, would it?

The Funny

Continuing his tradition which he didn’t miss last year, Dave Barry has his take on the year’s events.

Here’s to 2015 - let’s hope it’s a good one!


Same Vocabulary, Different Dictionary

December 20, 2014   12:26 pm

“Same vocabulary, different dictionary.” This is the way Skip Heitzig described false teachers in a recent sermon on 2 Peter 2. That certainly is good to remember when it comes to theological matters; think about how many different definitions, just in evangelical circles, you have of the word “worship” and of its role in the life of the church and believer.

It works outside the realm of the directly-theological as well. Take the CIA report released last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of banter back and forth over the results of the report, but relatively few questioning its characterization. Even though pretty much everyone is against “torture,” there are competing definitions at work. If we just debate back and forth without addressing the root issue, we’re simply reinforcing the “other side”'s view of us.

Now, to be fair, it’s generally the left who like to redefine things. Racist no longer means “one race is superior”; rather, it covers a host of things, from ethnically-related comments, stereotypes, or even common insensitivity, if the object has a different ethnicity from the one who is offended. Rape is expanded to include a whole lot of things that are not really rape, including simple after-the-fact regret. Marriage means something today that it has never meant throughout millennia of history. And, somewhere along the way, freedom of speech has been replaced with freedom from offense, and freedom of association has been replaced with freedom to compel.

That being said, I’m not necessarily advocating for “the right” either - it’s not about the right, it’s about being right. We cannot flourish, either as a Christian or as a society, if we do not share a common lexicon. And, until we do, it is futile to try to defeat one person’s argument with an argument that has an entirely different meaning. All you’ve got is ships passing in the night. Same vocabulary, different dictionary.


2014 College Football - Weeks 12-14

December 9, 2014   9:51 pm

Thanksgiving and vacation conspired to keep me away from here. How did my teams finish their seasons?

11/15 Results
Tennessee Volunteers 50, Kentucky Wildcats 16 (W)
New Mexico Lobos 21, Utah State Aggies 28 (L)
#9 Auburn Tigers 7, #15 Georgia Bulldogs 34 (L)
#1 Mississippi State Bulldogs 20, #5 Team That Shall Not Be Named 25 (L)

11/22 Results
Tennessee Volunteers 21, #20 Missouri Tigers 29 (L)
Colorado State Rams 58, New Mexico Lobos 20 (W)
#14 Auburn Tigers 31, Samford Bulldogs 7 (W)
Western Carolina Catamounts 14, #1 Team That Shall Not Be Named 48 (L)

11/29 Results
Tennessee Volunteers 24, Vanderbilt Commodores 17 (W)
Colorado State Rams 24, Air Force Falcons 27 (L)
#15 Auburn Tigers 44, #1 Team That Shall Not Be Named 55 (L)
New Mexico Lobos 36, Wyoming Cowboys 30 (W)

These 3 Weeks: 5-7
Final: 30-26 (.536)

Above 500, but nowhere close to where I’d hoped. However, all three of my primary teams are going bowling, which is way better than last year, so I don’t know that I can complain. Tennessee will be taking on Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl on January 2nd, Colorado State meets former Mountain West foe Utah in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on December 20th, and #19 Auburn gets #18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. (As if I needed another reason to crave cheese fries!)

See you next year!


2014 College Football - Weeks 10 and 11

November 9, 2014   2:37 pm

Quite a swing over the past two weeks. Week 10 saw the first 4-0 week this season; week 11 saw us nearly give it all back. I’m also glad that I picked a replacement game rotation, because I missed some off weeks when I was putting the schedule together back in September.

11/1 Results
Tennessee Volunteers 45, South Carolina Gamecocks 42 (W)
Colorado State Rams 38, San José State Spartans 31 (W)
#3 Auburn Tigers 35, #4 Ole Miss Rebels 31 (W)
New Mexico Lobos 31, UNLV Rebels 28 (W)

11/8 Results
New Mexico Lobos 49, Boise State Broncos 60 (L) (Tennessee off)
Colorado State Rams 49, Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 22 (W)
#3 Auburn Tigers 38, Texas A&M Aggies 41 (L)
#16 LSU Tigers 13, #5 Team That Shall Not Be Named 20 (L)

These 2 Weeks: 5-3
Cumulative: 25-19 (.568)

Colorado State is #23 in today’s AP rankings - nice job, Rams! Enjoy your week off. Next week, Tennessee looks to pull within a game of bowl eligibility against Kentucky; Auburn visits a smarting and likely fired-up Georgia; and - uh, how should I put this - HAIL STATE!