Monthly Archives: March 2015

When Living is a Crime

I’ve said it before on here. Other, more adept and well-known writers have said similar: a non-belief in God requires, philosophically, that one must find or apply Godlike attributes to something else. It’s an accidental side meaning smuggled in Voltaire’s famous quote: “If God didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him.”

Related to this is an article from Reason.com, a site not particularly friendly to religious belief but not necessarily opposed to it. “Born Guilty: How the fed govt has replaced Original Sin with its own version of existential guilt“:

Have you diverted rain water from around a building? Then you might be guilty of a crime. Inadvertently pick up a feather that once belonged to a bald eagle? Same deal. Welcome to the Kafkaesque world of “regulatory crimes,” a vast atlas of misdeeds that increasingly covers just about the whole of everyday existence.

Writes the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds of University of Tennessee, in USA Today:

“Regulatory crimes” of this sort are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. That is why Michael Cottone, in a just-published Tennessee Law Review article, suggests that maybe the old presumption that individuals know the law is outdated, unfair and maybe even unconstitutional. “Tellingly,” he writes, “no exact count of the number of federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions has ever been given, but estimates from the last 15 years range from 3,600 to approximately 4,500.” Meanwhile, according to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations (enacted by administrative agencies under loose authority from Congress) carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.

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About Time and Travel – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #6

“I let my past go too fast
No time to pause
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain whose ship runs aground
I can wait until the tide comes around”

-Rush, “Time Stands Still”

Though in Pale Blue Scratch there isn’t any time-travel—or is there?—the idea of a machine that allows for traveling time is the catalyst for much of what happens in the story.

There’s plenty of media out there that deal with actual time travel and the different avenues of possibility. From books to films and…video games. Everyone can easily rattle off 2 or 3 titles easily that use time travel as a major plot point.

As a matter of coincidence, the past week celebrated the 20th anniversary of one of my favorite video games of all time, Chrono Trigger. You can read all about it on its Wikipedia page, but for those of you who are unacquainted and are currently Wiki-averse or in a tl;dr mood, Chrono Trigger can easily place in the top 10 video games of all time in a lot of people’s lists, and this is due in no small part to the story, which involves heavy use of time travel.

Why am I mentioning a decades-old game in this email? Well. mild gaming enthusiast that I am, in honor of its 20th anniversary I put a reference to Chrono Trigger in Pale Blue Scratch. It’s not obscure but it’s easily passed over if one isn’t looking for it. No decoder ring or calculators are needed, but basic knowledge of the game and a keen eye will help.

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Time To Brag About Not Getting Sick Again

I don’t mean to brag, but tThis is the third year in a row I haven’t gotten sick—not the flu or anything else. This is even with living in a small house with a wife and two kids who all got sick, and with a 9-5 type of sit-down desk job.

There was a time late last year when I started to get sick. For maybe a day or two I developed some of that flu-like fatigue, but it wasn’t severe enough to cut down activity at all, except for going to bed a little earlier than normal. The fatigue dissolved on the third day.

Here’s what I did/didn’t do. In last year’s post I mentioned these things but there’s a few different factors.

  • No flu shot.
  • No obsessive use of hand sanitizer. I think I used it maybe once or twice the whole season.
  • No alien mushroom supplements or detox/cleansing schemes. From time to time I took a multivitamin, Tummy Tuneup, or Immuno Max, like before, but I was far from being religious about it.
  • A diet high in fat and cholesterol, moderate in protein, low processed carbs and sugar, with lots of vegetables and fruit. That’s animal and nut fats, by the way, not test tube-Frankenfat. I eat bacon and eggs, full-fat cheese and other dairy, and fish many times per week, sometimes every day. I add full-fat butter (Kerrygold is my favorite) to nearly everything and use olive oil where appropriate. The diet is not exactly paleo because I eat legumes and dairy, and the occassional side of pasta or rice, but it’s fairly close. Sure, I’ll have a cheat meal here and there, but I don’t stress about it (see last item below). Larabars are a quick and easy way to get nuts and fruit. I don’t count calories at all.
  • A batch and a half of beef bone broth. Great for cold mornings, an adding different veggies and bacon will kill hunger until lunchtime.
  • Smoothies nearly every day. There are some slight variations among them but the key sickness-preventers are various dark berries and spinach or mixed greens.
  • Daily resistance training. Well, mostly daily. Some days I rested or went easy. 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity. No weird infomercial contraptions. Just bodyweight, weights, push up bars, and a pull up bar.
  • Mild to moderate cardio: two mile bike ride or walk in frigid temperatures, twice a day. If you can walk and have the right clothing, all you need is a disposition adjustment and it’s easy. Hint: if you have a good jacket, hands-in-pockets is much more effective and cheaper than $200 winter gloves.
  • Lots of coffee, sometimes with full-fat creamer, but usually black. I drink barely any water since I don’t get thirsty at all.
  • Sleep is okay, but not ideal. 5-6 hours a night, a little more on weekends.
  • Little to no stress. I don’t get riled up about stupid or inconsequential things, and most things are stupid or inconsequential in the grand scheme of life.
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Imagery in Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach - mountain

Here’s a neat bit of imagery I noticed at the end of the Halo: Reach game.

Some backstory (and spoilers, obviously): your player-character arrives on the scene in the beginning of Reach, on the planet Reach, as the replacement for the Spartan’s recently-KIA sixth member. Hence, your player’s name is Noble Six.

The end of the game involves Noble Six having to provide cover for a ship, the Pillar of Autumn, leaving Reach that is carrying an AI construct crucial for the human side of the war. Noble Six is essentially left behind as all the human military forces have evacuated the planet, and he’s left to fend off Covenant forces by hand. This last mission is called “Survive,” even though to complete the game you have to be killed.

Besides taking out as many Covenant soldiers as he can, the Covenant end up glassing the planet anyways, killing all life on it.

Without Noble Six’s sacrifice, the war may not have turned out the way it did. The last scene shows Noble Six’s helmet on the ground at Reach. There’s a large mountain in the background with a large vertical gash, symbolic of Six’s sacrifice and impact on the Human-Covenant war.

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Can You Understand Jesus’ Divinity Via Enlightenment Reasoning?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: watch video. Guest speaker’s at my church last Sunday, Austin Hohn.

Jesus is God from Discovery Christian Church on Vimeo.

To be clear, I think you can get some vague idea of what Jesus’ divinity was because, as the famous phrase goes, “words mean things.” I think Chalcedon is about as clear and succinct as we’re going to get to explaining it on a human level, especially to those of us in the modern day, English-speaking Occident. Every sort of culture will have some starting point as such, but to go further in that direction is to court disaster.

Language is a product of the human mind, and it’s rather useful when we’re talking of in-universe phenomenon. Language can provide a little outline of the “idea” of Jesus’ divinity; just the barest of directions, but that’s about it. Understanding Jesus’ divinity is apprehended by the spirit, not the mind. Maybe during Eden there was some better congruence between mind and spirit, but the repairing of that relationship in the world’s current state can only go so far. Things need a complete overhaul if that were to happen again.

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Images. And Words. Part 2 – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #5

Nothing fancy-pants this time around–just another email with some quote images. I don’t even have a quote under the email title!

But there is some actual news to share: there will soon be a first-draft chapter of Pale Blue Scratch available online soon. It’s called “The Flights at Bridge Zero,” and yes, the chapters have titles. My chapters are like children, or really well-made, delicious sandwiches. How could I not name them?



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Update: Russell’s Cosmic Teapot Argument is Still Bad

I posted about Bertrand Russell’s teapot argument a while back, but it’s been resurrected to my attention recently by some random blog post I read that voiced support of his argument in passing. In reading the post (it was more of a quasi-academic article than something linkable, and I have no idea where I came across it anymore) and the documented comments brought up even more thoughts.

Russell’s teapot is really a criticism of the burden of proof for an empirical claim. Even if a supernaturalist makes the teapot claim, and even if it’s based on his religious beliefs, the criticism says nothing about the truth of those religious beliefs necessarily.

The evidence of the cosmic teapot would have to exist somewhere in some manner and be apprehended by someone: someone had to make the teapot, send it into space (or let it float out the airlock). Someone knows it’s up there. This is a burden of proof scenario that it (literally) worlds apart from supernatural knowledge.

This brings up another issue. Russell is implicitly proposing a level of technology in which a small teapot can be sent into orbit but can’t be detected. I generally despise useless hypotheticals when they don’t conform to statistical likelihoods. People navigate the physical world based on what’s most likely to happen. That’s why I really don’t care for the question whether it’s more ethical to divert a runaway train so that it kills 20 babies instead of 20 nuns. There’s no falling piano insurance.

This constant dragging of every claim into the realm of empiricism is getting annoying.

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Images. And Words – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #4

“The role of the artist is to not look away.” -Akira Kurosawa

I first saw that Kurosawa quote on Mike Duran’s blog. After I finished writing my first book which will never be released, I had searched for “swearing in Christian fiction” and Mike’s blog was one of the first results returned.

The quote is no longer on his blog’s sidebar but it stuck with me for a few years, to this day. It inspired one of the lines of dialogue you see in the second image below.

Oh, by the way, this email is the first of an undetermined number of emails with images of quotes from the book. They link to larger versions. Keep in mind they are initial-draft quotes so they are subject to change. You get what you pay for.

Not that anything online requires practical or social blessing, but feel free to share them however you like–but don’t be a butt and remove the URL. That makes baby seals cry.



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A Possible Metaphor

When there’s as decent amount of accumulation of snow or ice, especially on the street, and it rains, parts of the snow or ice on the ground melt and some doesn’t. It depends on the thickness of the snow/ice, how dirty it is, the grade of the hill it’s on, the type of ground it’s on, exposure to sunlight, etc.. What you end up with is a varied environment of hills of snow/ice, valleys, real running rivers, swamps, lakes. Essentially it’s a miniaturized, ersatz geography.

There’s a neat metaphor in all of that somewhere, but it doesn’t feel like I’m the one destined to engineer it. Anyone reading this should feel free to take it if strikes you.

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Criticism of the Kalām Cosmological Argument

Just Thomism talks about the Kalām Cosmological Argument, one that I’ve been iffy on:

If the universe were ten minutes old, it would make sense to say it was not around 11 minutes ago, but this doesn’t mean there is a physical meaning to “eleven minutes”, and without this physical meaning it makes no sense to ask what happened 10 minutes ago in the sense of describing some transition from an earlier state to a later one.

Say a production of Hamlet starts at 5:00. At 5, everyone in the audience can enter into a world with kings, suicides, gravediggers and melancholic philosophers. So where was the Denmark that the play brings to life at 4:59? The world that comes to be is not some transition from an earlier state. The Denmark that comes to be in fact doesn’t come to be at 5 but in the middle of the night, with a patrol seeing a ghost.

The remark about Denmark existing prior to the Hamlet production is odd. If we work with the analogy, Denmark does exist prior to the production because it exists in the real world, in a “different state” than the fictional one. We can conceive of the Hamlet Denmark because we know of the real one, yet Hamlet and Co., could conceive of the real Denmark if they chose to, but only as a metaphysical object. In other words, since the actors of the in-story Hamlet has the same faculties we do, they could theorize a “form” of Denmark—ours, the “real” one)—of which their instance of Denmark is only a certain incarnation.

So, if I’m understanding correctly, us real-worlders, existing at 4:59 before Hamlet starts, know the real Denmark in much the same way God knows the “real” world at “the beginning of our universe minus one second.” We have the raw materials to construct the fictional Denmark, but if we consider time as a raw material the analogy starts to break down since we are still measuring with in-universe time. We don’t know the how of time before the Big Bang. God’s 4:59 is most likely very different than how we experience 4:59, for sure, but how could that translate to the real vs. Hamlet Denmark?

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