I should perhaps apologise for not blogging more frequently, but there’s a reason for the lack. 

The reason is I have been learning stuff. Then learning some other stuff. Basic stuff, intermediate stuff; stuff written by an advocate, then stuff written by a critic. Then original source material – sorry, original source stuff. Evaluating it all to try to get the most probable solution. And not having perfect recall, then having to review the stuff I originally learned to put it into long-term memory. All the while making notes about other stuff I want to learn. 

Life was simpler before I wanted to know everything. 

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Romania, like everywhere else if you look hard enough, is a country of contrasts. The first impression you get, on leaving Otopeni International Airport, is of coils of black-coated wire cabling hung up on the posts, as if the installation company thought it was a good place for storage. The second impression you get is of buildings of every kind: some aged with discoloured concrete and rusting metal; others brand new with modern design and architecture. Many times they are right next to each other.

Infrastructure
In some areas, quite a few of the buildings exist in a state of semi-repair, or demolition, or construction, or at least looking as though they need repairs, or tenants. For some buildings, only the concrete frame is in place. Very close to the centre of town there is a block (as in a city block of land) with four enormous buildings, stately, with fluted columns at the front. Apparently Ceaucescu intended them to be Romania’s radio city, but they are empty shells, still looking majestic but friable along the edges.

On the whole, the impression you get of Bucharest by a glance at its infrastructure is of trying to start an old car on a cold day: it won’t at first; it tries and fails, but with care slowly comes closer to starting up. The idea that it will start eventually is because of the modern high-rise buildings and businesses that are operating in Romania. Not just McDonald’s either – thankfully, there seem to be few of these – but there are many clothing retail chains of all kinds and styles, from high-end to be-sloganed teeshirts. Then again, I’m comparing Bucharest with Perth, the cultural Rip van Winkle of cities. (more…)

The book that made your world: how the Bible created the soul of Western civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi.

Whatever you think of the Bible and Christianity, you can’t deny they’ve changed the world. I knew this, but I never realised in what ways and to what extent, until I read The book that made your world.

The Bible gives a particular view of the world – it is not divine, nor a living entity; it is able to be understood and investigated – and of humans: by nature equal, but because of pride and selfishness, socially unequal; born to rule the world but not to abuse it; the crowning glory of creation but rebels against the God who made us.

Manglwadi notes how this unique view of the world and humanity shaped the Western view of life; of humanity, education, technology, science, finance, work, heroism, ethics, equal rights, charity, justice, and compassion.

Considering just one topic, technology, he notes that Korea had movable metal fonts two centuries before Gutenberg developed wooden ones, and that China had developed the printing press before 1000 AD, and Buddhist monasteries contained 130,000 pages of writings; so many that they also developed rotating bookcases. In six out of ten monasteries you could hear the bookshelves revolving day and night – not because the monks were reading the books, but because they were meditating on the sound of the turning bookcases. This was because of their worldview, which sought to stop thought, not encourage it. A culture of sharing information only develops if there is a reason to share information.  (more…)

If Sauron had won the War of the Ring.

The lembas of the Orcs.

The lembas of the Orcs. 

Channel surfing, I spent a little time listening to a program titled Consider Islam.

The host and guest were talking about original sin, and the guest was amassing evidence from the Bible that humans are not born sinful. Some Christians have also rejected this doctrine, which could refer to Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden – the original sin – or it could (also) refer, as it seemed to in the TV discussion, to the doctrine that all humans have inherited, as an attribute, Adam and Eve’s decision to sideline God as the arbiter of right and wrong, arrogating to ourselves this role; and that this attribute, called concupiscence, is sin [1]. The result is we are, by nature, alienated from God. Moreover, it makes us all equal before God. The Bible is very clear that no one can meet God’s standards: no one is good enough. We all depend on God’s mercy.

What I want to focus on is not Islam versus Christianity, nor the doctrine of original sin – even some Christians disagree with it – but the logic and the arguments the guest used to support his theses [2]. An endnote briefly discusses why people find original sin so objectionable.  (more…)

Are you the self-aware hypocrite, who believes what you do is wrong, but you still do it again, and again? You despise yourself for falling into the same behaviour, and want to live what you say you believe.

Or are you the hypocrite in denial? Perhaps you advocate tolerance but then, if another person disagrees with you, you excoriate them, and justify your actions by saying they are intolerant and hateful. Even if they are, tolerance is your creed, not theirs.

“That’s disgusting!”

We were in the teacher’s lounge discussing marriage equality.

“People talk about marriage equality, but what they really mean is same sex marriage,” I had said.

“Exactly; and I think polyamory should be included as well,” he enthused.

I thought I’d stir the pot. “But even then, that’s not full marriage equality,” I said, emphasizing the “full”. “There’s equality in gender and number, but what about….”  The word “species” came to mind but wasn’t what I meant. “What about people who are objectophiles?” I was ready to explain but my friend knew what I meant. “That’s disgusting!” (more…)