Ideas

Have you ever noticed that some people have ideas lodged in their heads that they seem to come back to all the time?

You’ll convince them that another way is indeed better, and they’ll agree, but later be back to the original idea. After a while you sort of pick your battles, but even then it’s not really worth it.

Are you getting in the way?

If Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” to you, how would you respond?

I don’t know how Peter responded — it isn’t in the Book — but I can say I’d be mighty unhappy. A little hurt. Wounded pride, that sort of thing.

Pride aside, it goes to show what happens when you’ve got your own ideas about what the Messiah’s supposed to be. What happens is your ideas get out of the way.

Peter was, I imagine, pretty caught up in the messianic vision of the day: A conquering king come to kill Romans and wrest the holy land away from the pagan empire. It’s actually a pretty cool idea, come to think of it. On an earthly scale it weighs a lot.

Of course, that’s not what the Messiah was, or what he had come to do.

Doesn’t that raise a question for me and you, though? What funny ideas do we have about Jesus that are getting in the way of what he’s really supposed to be doing?

I know some people who look at Jesus like a national hero. Others who look at Jesus as a focal point for a precise doctrinal framework. Others who see him as a good man, a teacher of morality. Others yet who say the right words but in reality see Jesus only when things go wrong, if even then.

Lots of people have lots of funny ideas about Jesus. What about you? What about me?

Who is he really, and what did he really come to do?

Are you getting in the way?

Reading between the lines.

Interpreting the Bible is hard thing. If you do it wrong, you can literally make the Bible support almost anything.

I find it difficult to extract myself from the reading. There’s a cultural context to everything I do — if I’m honest with myself — and that cultural context is often in conflict with what the Bible says.

Is it just popular culture, though? Every group of people has a particular slant, a way of looking at things. Could it be possible that Christians read certain sub-cultural things into the scriptures?

This seems to be a real problem. In the hands of the Greeks, the Bible became a philosophy textbook. In the clutches of the Enlightenment, the Bible turned into something rational, something factual. In slippery fingers of the modern western world, it’s been transformed into a manual for a better, more fulfilling life.

I don’t pretend to know what God was thinking when he inspired the scriptures. I don’t even know — neither do you, admit it — what that process looks like or what it means. I don’t know what the original authors thought of truth, whether they were what we think of as modernist or post-modernist, what their approach to facts was.

All this highlight how difficult it becomes to understand some things. Certainly most things are clear, but modern life brings up issues people in Biblical times couldn’t have dreamed about. Obviously you can’t write a blank cheque and say, “Well, if the Bible doesn’t mention it, it’s okay!” There are principles for almost everything.

Which is, of course, when things become tricky. When things start creeping into the interpretation that just might not really be there.

The question becomes how much you let your viewpoint inform the scriptures and vice versa. What does the Bible have to say about that? For example, the idea of verbal plenary inspiration is a very rationalist doctrine: is it actually in the Bible, or is it something a bunch of rationalistic theologians came up with because they were so fixated to a certain mindset that the Bible must obviously have been inspired that way?

I’m not saying this is what happened: I’m just asking the question.

Still, at the end of the day, how far can imperfect humans with biases and an imperfect perception of reality really read between the lines?

This is where it began.

I’ve been socially liberal (at least in contrast to my surroundings) for a while, but I can’t remember ever tracing that philosophical shift to its roots before. I certainly didn’t get it from my parents, or from my communities at the time. I didn’t get it from the books I was reading. You couldn’t squeeze a drop of liberal out of the Contemporary Christian Music[1] I was listening to even if you had industrial equipment.

Well, for the most part, anyways. There’s one line in one song that really poked me in the head when I was about 18: Caedmon’s Call singing This World. The part that says, “And the least of these look like criminals to me, so I leave Christ on the street.”

That might be it. I can’t be sure; my memory is a terribly threadbare fabric. But that’s the first thing I can honestly point to. Maybe it woke me up a little bit, I don’t know. Can’t you see why “this world has held my hand and has led me into intolerance” might do that?

Today’s hobby…

Browsing source code with Google Code Search. Search for any array of words that means “this is the words code I have ever created”. Examples:

  • ircd-hybrid.com/fullhist.php – line 29926 – #undef’d USE_TABLE_CODE this is f*****d*.
  • downloads.activestate.com/WebService/PHP/webservice.tar.gz – line 766 – // man is this f****d up. can’t do wsdl like dis!
  • Some Freebsd package referring to (of course) Internet Explorer – // ugly hacks for an ugly browser
  • gentoo.osuosl.org/distfiles/HTML_Template_Flexy-1.2.3.tgz – line 175 – // wtf does this do
  • freshmeat.net/redir/scribus/13994/url_bz2/scribus-1.3.3.9.tar.bz2 – line 1529 – //CB: Stop calling damn GUI code in loading docs! IT doesnt *look* like //this makes a difference apart from being faster, of course.
  • www.bullfreeware.com/download/sources/aix43/fltk-1.0.10.tar.gz – line 27 – // Another disgusting X interface, based on code extracted and // purified with great difficulty from XLayerUtil.C

Seriously fun.

I didn’t write this essay on the Cold War.

Let’s just say I found this on the internet and have no idea who wrote it.

The Real Cold War: A High-Stakes Chess Match of Global Proportions

No missiles were launched and no guns were fired between the two superpowers, but The Cold War was a war nonetheless: a battle of indirect aggression, of politics, of economics and propaganda. The term “Cold War” was originally coined by presidential adviser Bernard Baruch during a 1947 congressional debate. That term would come to signify decades of tension and hostility between the United States and the United Soviet Socialist Republic.
The conflict would take many forms, from the chess game of ever-shifting global alliances to an escalating arms race that would spark worldwide fears of a nuclear holocaust. Often thought to refer solely to the strained relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., the Cold War, in fact, involved the whole world. If the United States and the Soviet Union were the main players, then lesser countries were their pawns.

Fall of Hitler, rise of Russia

At the end of World War II in 1945, the clear-cut relationships between the Allies began to unravel. Their common enemy, Hitler, was done away with; ideologies and agendas set aside during the war were taken up again. The victors of WWII, surveying the altered landscape of global power relations, also began to eye one another warily.
By 1948, the Soviets had already established leftist governments in the liberated Eastern-bloc countries as a bulwark against any renewed German threat; America and Great Britain feared that Soviet influence, if not curbed, would spread to Western Europe. In 1947-48, the U.S. was building its own bulwark, sending aid to Western Europe under the Marshall Plan. With the Soviets having installed openly communist regimes in the East, the Cold War had begun.
The next five years would mark the height of the Cold War, with the Soviets and the U.S. dividing Europe with their military forces and ideologies. The subsequent years unfolded in an unnerving match of maneuver and counter-maneuver: After the Soviets unsuccessfully blockaded Western-held sectors of West Berlin in 1948-49, the U.S. and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military presence that served to keep Soviet influence in check. But the Soviets were advancing in other quarters nonetheless, exploding their first atomic warhead in 1949, ending the U.S.’s primacy in weapons technology. Also, in 1949, the Soviet-backed North Korean government penetrated the border into South Korea, which was supported by the U.S. The ensuing Korean War would last until 1953.

Hot points

That same year, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died, easing the standoff somewhat. But two years later, relations were strained anew as the two superpowers’ military organizations — the West’s NATO and the Soviet Union’s newly formed Warsaw Pact — scrambled in a sort of larger-than-life membership drive.
The race was for technology as well as allies: the U.S. and U.S.S.R. began developing intercontinental ballistic missiles in 1958, touching off another intense period. When the Soviets were discovered to be secretly installing missiles in Cuba — well within range of U.S. cities — the superpowers were poised at the brink of war. Fortunately, this episode, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, was defused when an agreement was reached to withdraw the weapons.
The outcome was strangely hopeful: it showed that even top defense leaders of both superpowers feared the awesome destructive power of these new weapons. With the signing of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in 1963, both sides agreed not to engage in above-ground nuclear weapons tests.
But hostilities still ran high. The Soviets considered the outcome of the Cuban Missile crisis nothing less than a humiliation to them; they vowed to never again be shamed by their rival in the west. The Soviet Union thus began a buildup of conventional and strategic forces over the next 25 years — and the U.S. would be forced to keep pace. This escalating arms race would be one of the definitive aspects of the Cold War, inspiring civilian peace movements and deep fears of The Bomb.
The Cold War had its hot points, battles carried out in allied and enemy countries. The Soviet Union fortified member countries such as East Germany, Hungary and Afghanistan. The U.S., meanwhile, tried to stanch communist influence closer to home, overthrowing a leftist regime in Guatemala, invading the Dominican Republic and Grenada, and backing a failed invasion of Cuba in 1961. Most infamously, it fought from 1964-1975 to stop North Vietnam from bringing South Vietnam under communist rule.

The thaw

But cracks were forming in the Communist bloc. Countries that were once of middling consequence showed signs of autonomy and political strength, and the globe wasn’t so easily defined in terms of U.S. or Soviet influence. China had largely distanced itself from the Soviet Union, creating a rift in what was formerly considered a unified Communist front. Meanwhile, Western Europe and Japan were developing at an explosive rate.
Tensions were eased further with the SALT I and II agreements, which limited the development of antiballistic and strategic missiles. Still, tensions spiked in the 1980s with a flurry of mutual arms buildup. However, the administration of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Cold War wound down, as he attempted to democratize the U.S.S.R.’s political machine. With the fall of the Soviet bloc of Eastern Europe in 1989-90, the rise of democratic governments in its place and, most notably, the unification of East and West Germany under NATO oversight, the tensions of Cold War were finally disappearing.
In late 1991, the final stubborn bastion of Communism, the Soviet Union, collapsed, creating 15 newly independent nations. Russia itself saw a democratically elected leader come to power, and the world sighed with relief: it was the surest sign that the Cold War had thawed at last.

Congratulations are in order, I hear.

To Kevin and Sarah, who have managed to birth a child. Clearly, the grace of God has been with them thus far, and I hope it will continue with them in the future. See, it’s a boy. It’s Kevin’s boy. They’ll need it.

Here’s an idea for Google.

You want to do something interesting? Start a netlabel. Start giving away music. Let those enterprising people who will give away music for free for whatever reason do so. And be picky.

Deluge: the best Gnome Bittorrent client. Period.

I used to use Ktorrent for downloading Linux ISOs and getting free music from Jamendo. It worked well, but suffered from a lot of overhead, as was a KDE application and had to load a whole bunch of extra components. Plus (and I’m being charitable here) DHT didn’t work quite as well as one might expect.

Now, changing software is a bit of a big deal. I had a lot of settings tweaked in Ktorrent to get it right to where I wanted. Yet, when I typed aptitude install deluge-torrent and ran the thing, I was P2P-ing in literally a minute or so.

From a functionality standpoint, Ktorrent had always been all right, but not amazing. It lacked certain things, one of which was a simple layout and a nice skin. Frankly, it looked like a KDE application, and that’s not a compliment. And while it got the job done, I was always looking out something more like uTorrent, which is the gold standard in Torrent apps.

Or was. Deluge has most of the features of Azureus (that bloated hunk of crap), is free and open source, runs on Unix and Apple and has an alpha build on Windows, has a plug-in architecture, is functional, lightweight, and pleasing on the eyes.

Deluge is, in my opinion, the new gold standard in Bittorrent software.