Bullfights, Bearfights, and Elisha the Prophet

The other day in Madrid, a bull leapt from the ring into the stands. It gored a few, trampled a few, fell on a few. Altogether, 40 were hurt, only a few seriously. Sure scared the wits out of them all, though. Now....you know the way American TV is: they ran the scene as a loop so that you saw it, not once, but several times.  And then the evening news did the same, and the commentaries, and the talk shows, and probably the morning news next day, in case anyone had missed it. In short...if Americans were anywhere that day, they saw the charging bull and the fleeing people.
 
And......let's be honest. It was hard not to root for the bull. Not to imply that we're happy about the injured people. No. You know me better than that. I didn't say anyone rooted against the people. It's just that they rooted for the bull. These folks had come to see the bull taunted, tormented, tortured, and killed. But the tables were turned! It didn't turn out that way. Well, actually it did...the bull was put to death....but not before he had claimed a few for himself.
 
Watching the TV loop, wasn't it a bit like those revenge shows people love to watch, where the hero is pushed, shoved, framed, bullied, run over, his family molested, attacked, stomped upon....how can anyone endure such atrocities? but then finally, his nasty tormentor gets what's coming to him, in a blood-pumping mother-of-all fights during which he absorbs blow after blow, knifethrust after knifethrust, javelin piercings, bazookas blasts, gunshot after gunshot (whereas anyone else promptly falls with a single shot fired in their general direction) till he....YES!! staggers and crashes to the ground. Whew!! Our hero's exhausted! He turns his back....why would he not?.. ...and consoles the remains of his long-suffering family, and begins to......OMIGOSH!!!!.....the bad guy's getting up again!!! How is that possible??!! He's creeping up on tiptoe with a crowbar!!!! Our hero suspects nothing! He's not even looking! Turn around, you idiot!! His foe cocks for the final blow!!!  I can't watch!! (well...maybe a little)  but then KA-BLAMO!!!!....YES!! The cowering woman summons all her unsuspected strength and fires one last fatal shot through his head, splattering brains everywhere; he staggers backward and topples over the balcony, falling 40 floors and landing in a packed pool of piranhas, who devour him alive, turning the water bright red, all to the sounds of his agonized screams! YEAH!!!! THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!!
 
But, back to the.....huh?....what do'ya mean 'lover of violence?' The bad guy got what was coming to him, didn't he?
 
As I say, back to the bullfight.
 
As a general rule, a rampaging bull at a social gathering would be cause for concern. You'd hope no one got hurt. It takes only one crucial fact....in this case, that the purpose of this gathering was to see the bull tormented and slaughtered .... to turn all our normal sensibilities upon their head. And a thousand years from now, when bullfights are ancient and forgotten history, so that no one could ever imagine such an cruel purpose to any gathering, one might, missing that key fact, find it absolutely barbaric that anyone could root for the murderous bull. Everything turns on one key fact, which may or may not be evident.
 
All of which is introduction to the account where Elisha calls down evil upon taunting children, whereupon bears come out of the woods and devour them.
 
And he proceeded to go up from there to Bethel. As he was going up on the way, there were small boys that came out from the city and began to jeer him and that kept saying to him: “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” Finally he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah. Then two she-bears came out from the woods and went tearing to pieces forty-two children of their number.   (2 Kings 2:23-24)
 
Let's face it; it's hard to put a happy face on that one. About the best you can do is assign that week's Bible review to a bald brother, who will tap his own shiny dome and pass himself off as one of a protected species, courtesy of 2nd Kings. But might there be some key fact that, just like the missing ingredient in Madrid, might make all the difference if we but knew what it was? It seems a notion worth pursuing.

For this account is from 3000 years ago. And I remember, for example, just 50 years ago, my mother might holler “I'll kill you for that!” if I....oh...say....ate the frosting off her newly baked cake. Americans my age will remember those five words were once a harmless expression you might use on a mischievous child. They might, in some cases, be practically an expression of endearment. The words, in most contexts, were not to be taken literally. Wasn't the accused kid of Twelve Angry Men found “not guilty” when one juror observed just that fact? Today, however, using those words will land you in deep trouble with the child protective people, the hate speech people, and God knows who else. Those oft uttered words of a half century ago are absolutely taboo today (though the deed has become commonplace).
 
If such a cultural shift can happen in a mere 50 years, what might happen in 3000 years? We think of the small boys of 2nd Kings in terms of kids of today and feel Elisha should count himself lucky they didn't attack him with baseball bats, so that to create such a fuss over mere words is just plain unseamly. But might there have been a societal norm of the day that declared certain conduct absolutely off-limits? Some norm known by one and all, drilled into the innermost fiber of everyone's being, so that a knowing violation would be shockingly unspeakable? A norm that equated mocking a prophet of God to mocking God himself, at a time when God was central everyone's being? It's a plausible notion to me. To you?
 
To be sure, such a notion flies in the face of the modern-day concept of “human rights,” but isn't there something a little grandiose about that concept? I admit, I'm naturally suspicious of any point-of-view originating in the modern-day, lest it be a manifestation of Proverbs 30:12: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes but that has not been washed from its own excrement,” but even with that said, I distrust the concept. I prefer to speak of the “golden rule,” which embraces all that is noble about “human rights,” while discarding all that is pretentious.
 
For life itself doesn't seem to afford much respect for “human rights.” In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person alive. Ten years later, a victim of Alzheimer’s, he didn't know who he was. If nature itself discards us so easily...if we can so readily and unpredictably fall victim to loathsome disease or frightful accident....well....where is nature's respect for our “rights?”
 
Not to mention that, if you go speaking of “rights,” it almost seems that you ought to be able to do something about it if such rights are violated. While that may sometimes happen, we all know that, as often as not in the worldwide scheme of things, people's rights are violated with impunity. So how are they rights? Better to apply the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matt 7:12) It conveys all the kindness of “rights,” but sidesteps what doesn't fit. It does, however, imply humility, and ours is an age where people like to “stand proud,” so “human rights” is the terminology that sticks.
 
Anyway, I advance my theory in case I myself may someday be assigned a commentary of 2 Kings 2:23-24. I'll have to say something, and I won't be able to play it for laughs, like the bald brothers do; I have a full head of hair. Though.....sigh....it is thinning. Maybe when the time comes, the whole point will be moot.

00AE04B6-B800-4629-8E34-C4234782F553

***

the bookstore

 

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Cabinets of Curiosities, Solomon, and the Bombardier Beetle

If you threw a party back in Bible times, there was one person you just had to invite: Solomon. He was absolutely essential. You only have to read what 1 Kings 4:33 says about him:

And he would speak about the trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that is coming forth on the wall; and he would speak about the beasts and about the flying creatures and about the moving things and about the fishes.

I mean, could this guy liven up things, or what? What more can you ask for at your party than someone who tells you all there is to know about warthogs?

Tempting though it may be to write Solomon off as a insufferable bore, upon inspection it is clear that most generations throughout history would consider his remarks fascinating. It’s only in the last hundred years or so that we’ve come to substitute football, horsepower, entertainment, and babes as talking points. Well, probably “babes” has always been around, but before our modern age of soft porn TV and hard porn internet, even they could hardly have been the obsession they are today. Just like Solomon, the average Joe of the nineteenth century figured you could do no better than rattle on about the trees and beasts and flying creatures and moving things and fishes.

There used to be a permanent exhibit at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, first floor, entitled Cabinets of Curiosities. Alas, it has been replaced with wiz-bang Jurassic Park dinosaurs. I mean, dinosaurs are okay, but who doesn’t have them? Cabinets, though much more modest in scale, offered unique insight. The exhibit was a vast collection of stuffed birds, insects, mammals, shells, minerals, plants, leaves, rocks, and so forth. Explaining it all was a sign:

“Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Nature was seen as evidence of God’s work and people believed that studying it would bring them closer to the Creator. Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which replaced God’s role in creating species with natural selection, shook society to it’s foundations.”

So people collected these things….showed them off….studied them. They were part of the Book of Nature; they revealed things about God. Prominent scientists of the age: Newton and Kepler, Faraday and Hertz, thought of their work in much the same light. But people gradually adjusted to Darwinian thinking…..and little by little….natural things lost their appeal. One might as well collect hub caps.

So Solomon’s cherished topics of conversation and those of the nineteenth century are pretty much the same. It is we who can’t imagine what people could possibly find intriguing about “trees and beasts and flying creatures and fishes.“ Our times are the aberration, not those of Solomon.

Lately, though, the Awake! magazine has started talking up trees and beasts and flying creatures and moving things and fishes, highlighting one brief (too brief) example every issue. There’s more to these creatures than most people know.

For example, the bombardier beetle (December 2008) defends itself by spraying boiling, stinking liquid from its rear, sending spiders, birds and frogs running for cover. I mean, the liquid is actually boiling, it’s 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Built-in reactive chambers and release mechanism are potent enough to change speed, direction, and consistency of its toxic spray. Scientists try to learn from it, try to adapt it to various modern gadgets. “Andy McIntosh of the University of Leeds, England, says ‘Nobody had studied the beetle from a physics and engineering perspective as we did - and we didn’t appreciate how much we would learn from it.’”

The article concludes (as they always do) with “What do you think? Did (whatever the subject under consideration) develop by chance? Or was it designed?”

I can picture modern day devotees of reason and logic….the ones who idolize science as even scientists themselves do not….frothing livid at the question. You can‘t just ask that question point blank, they fume, first you must explain the ground rules concerning admissible evidence and the scientific method, otherwise people may come to conclusions you don’t want them to come to. But I see nothing wrong with the question. In fact, it seems foolish not to ask it.

The impetus behind the evolution model today applied to all living things is mutation, an “error” in replicating of this or that gene. The driver of the theory is natural selection. Errors, just like when you screw up something at home or in your workplace, are almost always bad. But every once in a while your bungling improves matters….we all know that can happen. And so it is with gene replication. There’s zillions of bad errors, and because they are bad they die out or get lost in the shuffle. But the one good error gives its recipient a leg up in the “fight for survival.“ Thus, natural selection sees to it that the good error is preserved for succeeding generations, while the bad ones disappear.

Now, nobody here has any problem applying this theory to the things Darwin observed in finches: changes of shape, color, beaks, feet, and so forth. Essentially it is animal husbandry. It’s been around forever. Everyone knows about it. But do you really, really expect us to believe that the same theory is enough to explain the bombardier beetle’s blasting butt? Just how many billions of these happy errors have to accumulate….each one nurtured by natural selection before being built upon….to equip the beetle this way?

The more successive coincidences you need, the more astronomical is the time required. If it takes you so long to flip a penny heads five times in a row, it will not take you twice as long to flip it so ten times in a row. Probability doesn’t work that way. The time required does not increase lineally, it increases geometrically. With enough needed permutations, you exceed the quantity of time supplied by even the boldest of physicists, for even time is not thought to be inexhaustible.

They are short articles, those Awake! snippets, thus frustrating those who confuse wisdom with tonnage. But Solomon would be pleased. You’d book him for after-dinner remarks and he’d regale one and all with tales of beetle flatulence.

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

They Will Come as Sheep in Llama's Clothing

Since I started blogging, I've received many comments saying that, in spite of my name Sheepandgoats, the animals in my profile picture are not sheep and goats. I've paid no heed. Surely those comments were submitted by religious cranks intent on making me trouble or otherwise distracting me from my Mission.

However, this year for Ground Hog Day, my wife gave me the handsome coffee table book All About Animals. I thumbed through the pictures and…..by golly, they were right! Those animals are not sheep and goats. They are creatures from South America called llamas.

Llama
From Wikipedia

The llama (Lama glama) is a South American camelid, widely used as a pack animal by the Incas[1] and other natives of the Andes mountains. In South America llamas are still used as beasts of burden, as well as for the production of fiber and meat.[2]
The height of a full-grown, full-size llama is between 5.5 feet (1.6 meters) to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall at the top of the head. They can weigh between approximately 280 pounds (127 kilograms) and 450 pounds (204 kilograms). At birth, a baby llama (called a cria) can weigh between 20 pounds (9 kilograms) to 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Llamas are very social animals and like to live with other llamas as a herd. Overall, the fiber produced by a llama is very soft and is naturally lanolin free. Very intelligent, llamas learn simple tasks after a few repetitions. When using a pack, llamas can carry about 25% - 30% of their body weight for several miles.[3]
Llamas originated from the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. They migrated to South America and Asia about 3 million years ago. By the end of the last ice-age (10,000 - 12,000 years ago) camelids were extinct in North America.[3] As of 2007, there were over 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America and due to importation from South America in the late 20th century there are now over 100,000 llamas and 6,500 - 7,000 alpacas in the US and Canada.[4]

Here: (not via Wikipedia) are pictures of actual llamas.

2_llama 1_llama

Now be honest. Mine look more handsome, don’t they?

How should I rectify this error? Of course, I could just flat out apologize, but….you know, I hate to admit being wrong. Moreover, might not an apology trigger lawsuits from readers outraged at being deceived so long? Be assured I did much soul-searching. In the end, stickler for accuracy that I am, honest conscience won out.

There! I’ve made a clean breast of things. Nobody can say I haven’t. And as an added bonus, for any misled readers who now have no idea what sheep and goats really look like, I found a site with lots of informative pictures. It is (not surprisingly) www.sheepandgoats.com

The people involved with this site appear fine and upright and have no connection with me. I notice that they sell sheep and goats. For the sake of authenticity and to prove to all that I am not a charlatan, I ought to buy one of each. Trouble is, I've grown attached to these llamas and I'm not sure they would get along. Winged Migration Man told me llamas can be "ornery."

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Alright, alright.....it's a lighthearted post. I admit it. But the atmosphere is lighthearted these days. It’s Lilac Festivalhere in Rochester. I've tentatively put the snow shovel away. Spring has pounced upon us emphatically. And I am about to take a stroll through the lilacs with the lovely Mrs. Sheepandgoats.  How can a person not be lighthearted about such things?

So far music highlights at the festival include Donna the Buffalo(another animal!....I like this group already), a backwoodsy Appalachian band with huge energy that had everyone bouncing. The female vocalist plays every sort of hillybilly instrument under the sun.....she must be Donna, you can't help but think. But no, their website tells us....the band just has a thing for Appalachia and buffalos. Here and there in the crowd you'd spot people in DtB sweatshirts: a goofy cavedrawing of a buffalo on the front, "herd of em?" on the back.

Earlier in the program was a young woman just now finding notice, Alyssa Coco, still in high school [!], who appeared with keyboard and three backup musicians, including a drummer so immersed in his material I could only think of a bobblehead. Mrs. Sheepandgoats liked her music, so I bought my wife a CD. I think it was the singer's mom at the CD table. That's fine at Lilac Festival, which is family oriented. You couldn't do it at the Water Street Music Hall.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Winged Migration Email

They’re building a garish church behind a certain writer's house, with it’s steeple in the heavens, flattening the forest as they go. But foxes live in the forest, this fellow keeps track of them, and now they are displaced foxes. Not to mention the birds which he faithfully feeds. Will they keep coming around with the woods leveled? So this fellow’s not too happy with anything that smacks of religion.

When he read my post on Winged Migration, he wasn’t too sure if I wasn’t making fun of the birds. Never cross an animal lover. Now, in fact, I think Winged Migration is one of the most beautiful films ever made, but maybe that point didn't stand out in my post. Besides, with the steeple of that church blocking sun, moon, and stars….he's in a foul mood.

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Blog Master,

I would like to complement you on you unique choice of a name for a blog. You appear to have a good knowledge of many things, but then that appearance is lost in some of the words you write. I do not pretend to be a scientist, or one that is very religious and in reading your “Winged Migration and the Evolutionists” you make light of the Theory of Evolution when maybe you need to crack a book on the subject. Anyone who uses Gary Larsen as a keystone for their writing might want to lay off The Far Side for awhile. Larson, unique as his work/play is, has swayed the mind of many a person into thinking about animals as he portrays them.

(I have put your words in italics, just in case you do not recognize them for what they are.)

We never see a person; do birds not care about us as much as we ourselves do?

Mostly people are not worth seeing, or caring about either. Birds find that people have a tendency to kill them so wild birds do not hang around people very much. Ask a Passenger Pigeon or a Carolina Parakeet or an Ivory Billed Woodpecker or many other birds that are extinct due to man.

Like how did that tern ever discover that such food bonanzas existed 11,000 miles apart? Does anyone have the answer? Do evolutionists?

Do a little research and discover plate tectonics. Antarctica was once tropical. You should know that the movement of the plates per year has been calculated to be about the distance a fingernail grows per year. It does not take a God given ability to adjust to changes that small over a period of time. If the wife had the refrigerator moved to the garage don’t you think you might be able to find it when you got hungry. That is what the theory of evolution is all about; you have evidently not been keeping up, only those that can adapt to changes will survive. Put another way only the strong will survive.

In winged migration you said “Ugly Birds”. There are no ugly birds but there are ugly people however.

Here is a frigate plying the waters, the birds land on deck. They strut to and fro, on short break from their journey. One or two catch a quick nap on the heat grates.

Do you know what a Frigate is? A Frigate would not have heat grates on deck!

No one can determine if you are serious or just uneducated. You have the tendency to display either of those things at random times. In 1955 I was stationed on the Light Cruiser Manchester and one time when we left port a flock of mostly yellow colored birds, sparrow sized, followed the ship till they became exhausted. They started landing on the ship and were everyplace that they could find to land, I feel sure they all perished, they evidently felt this was a safe island but were wrong. Did God instruct them do this or was it instinct, I think it was instinct.

They did it by exposing eggs of some of the birds to the sounds of people and film cameras so that the birds would not be afraid of them later.

No one can determine if you are serious or just uneducated. Sorry about repeating that answer but it appeared necessary.

One Manx shearwater was taken from Wales to Boston, (by scientists?…..did they blindfold it?) 3200 miles away. It returned to Wales in 13 days.

Did you ever hear of Homing Pigeons? Most folks would not question the repeatability of what these birds can do. Did they evolve this skill or did some unseen omnipotent intelligence give them this power? That is the question. In my opinion evolution is responsible for the behavior of animals and birds. If an omnipotent intelligence was in charge of all the things that some attribute to him/her I do not think the number of radical exterminations of birds, people and animals would have been allowed, I have been taught that our God is benevolent. All the folks killed by “acts of God”, war and disease could have been prevented by one so powerful. The great unproven flood of some centuries ago was “God given” supposedly, to remove the unfaithful and corrupt from this earth. It would seem to me that God would have been smart enough to change man to be a little more like what he wanted him to be, it would appear that God only wants to control everything by hanging a hammer over them, what kind of God is that? Yet, religions almost universally say that God loves us, that does not seem to be so, God only wants to control us. And shame be upon you if you stray from his supposed teachings. The poor birds and animals do not even have the guidance we have with all our preachers and churches. They are only destined to be at the mercy of man, and their actions and habits that allow them to exist are a matter of instinct and evolution, I somehow doubt that God even gives them the first thought.

The picture you have is a nice family group, but that one Lama is not happy. Any farm boy knows when an animal holds it’s ears back it is not pleased.

Winged Migration Man

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Now, notice that this fellow knows how to give counsel. He knows you don’t begin by saying “your writing sucks.” Instead you look for something which you can genuinely complement. Then you say "your writing sucks." In JW circles, they even serve “counsel sandwiches,” in which counsel is buffered on both ends by praise.

Opening:  Brother, you’re presence is always so delightful. We love your thoughtful comments at the meetings and your concern for the elderly, the widows, and the orphans..

Counsel: You have breath that would fell a T-Rex. Wanna try brushing your teeth once in a while?

Close: repackage the opening remarks and run them through again.

So.....how will we respond to this fellow?

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Dear WMM:

You have the ability to offer counsel. It is an art and I appreciate you’ve taken the time to offer it. You’ve put serious thought into your email. Again, I appreciate it. One cannot grow if one hears only from those who agree. And you manifestly have a love of animals. How can anyone not like that?

I like to write. It’s a hobby. Posting on a blog is a bit like an artist hanging his paintings. If I find some people read them….well, that's just icing on the cake, and more still if some take time to respond. I read a lot, think a lot, talk to a lot of people, and slap the results online. But I don’t imagine my posts are masterpieces, nor do I think they’re the final word on any subject. Some posts are serious, some are whimsical or flippant, and the lines of separation are not distinct. Sometimes people use the comment section to point out this or that blunder and I learn from them

I’ve never considered your explanation for the Arctic tern. It makes sense. To be fair, you must admit that I never said evolutionists had no answer…..rather, I asked if they did.

I don’t know anything about ships other than they float. Nor did I know those were heat grates. But the birds were landing on grates of some sort. What kind of grates were they, and what kind of ship?

The part about acclimating the eggs to film crews is accurate. I read it on a website explaining the filmmaker's techniques. It is in keeping with "imprinting," which we all know about.

And you're right, the lamas were grumpy that day. You may find it interesting that a little girl who was with us led the black one away temporarily. You should have heard the white one whimper!

Your final paragraph contains many good points. I've posted about some of themand put them in the various categories on the front page. On spiritual things, I defer to the opinions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their explanations on spiritual matters, IMO, is spot-on. Other posts on other subjects simply come from reading and pondering. I don’t claim they’re all brilliant, nor do I claim my writing is necessarily any good.

The reference to "ugly" birds was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I agree with you. There are no ugly birds. Ditto for "do birds not care about us..." Meant to be tongue-in-cheek. The truth is that I regard Winged Migration as one of the most beautiful films ever made.

I almost wish your email had been submitted as a comment. I would have gladly published and responded to it.

Tom Sheepandgoats

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Tom:

I did not really expect the kinds of answers I received from you, and that is to my liking. One can not really determine in many cases what another is trying to imply. I am guilty of that very thing and it was my impression that you were attempting to cast some poor light on the production of “Winged Migration”, the director, his methods and the subject in general. I was caught by surprise when in your response you thought it was a beautiful movie. I also thought it was a beautiful movie but that was mostly because I consider myself a bird person. The reason that I say I am a bird person is that I religiously feed the birds every day and when I am not home I have some of my family come to feed them. I have been doing this for over 25 years and it’s very important to me.

Before I go on with the intended subject let me explain a little more about my relationship with the birds. The area in which I live was, until about 15 years ago, farm land and numerous portions were heavily wooded areas. We have about three acres of land with most of it being heavily wooded and the woods are mixed, being both deciduous and coniferous. A number of years ago there was 49 acres directly behind our house which was also heavily wooded. There is also a creek that provides water for birds and animals that runs along side our property. There was also a large wooded area to the side of us that was at least 200 acres. As you might visualize this was a tremendous area for birds and animals. Over the years housing developments and other development has taken place that has reduced the habitat for the wild creatures which in turn reduced their numbers. I wanted to live in the country where natural things were abundant and now those things are changing, most folks would call that progress. I do not appreciate the development but I can exist with it and I will continue to encourage the birds to come to a place where they show their beauty and get a bite to eat.

There are a lot of unhealthy and hateful responses that come to anyone that blogs, and I would never attempt to engage in such a project. I have trouble enough just understanding the folks that I communicate with now and them understanding me, so I would not even attempt to be an author of a blog.

I do remember seeing the birds landing on the ship in the documentary, and I do not remember what kind of ship it was. I have watched the movie twice and I find it hard to believe that I do not remember what type of vessel was shown. I served many years in the US Navy. I will make it an objective to look at Winged Migration again and will let you know what kind of ship it was in the film.

I did read a little about the documentary and it is a fact that doing things to imprint the nearly hatched embryo is a thing that can be accomplished. And once the eggs have hatched they imprint very easily on the first things they hear, feel and see.

Llamas are very peculiar creatures and they are beautiful animals, but they can be quite ornery from my understanding of them. Being in the same family with camels it is easy to understand their attitude. But if these Llamas were pets they were probably fairly gentle creatures.

I meant to respond also to birds flying to great altitudes to get to their migration destination. And I think that they have learned to do the thing that is easiest or will at least allow them to make that journey which has become an instinct to them. Birds understand how to take advantage of wind currents and it is not difficult for me to see that certain birds can exert themselves to fly up a matter of miles and then catch the jet stream to glide for maybe a thousand miles.

As I said before I am not a scientist but I do like to read and try to understand the principles that scientists attempt to put forth. Unfortunately most folks of science once they understand, or think they understand some scientific theory, will put up tremendous barriers to prevent their protected beliefs from being tampered with. On the other hand religion has the same attitude, and if one is content to believe in the supernatural as being responsible for all the birds, animals, fish, microbes, and the weather also, that is fine. I will not criticize their beliefs very strongly even though I do not agree with them, but am unable to know for certain that what I have a tendency to want to believe is correct. Some folks as you have mentioned have no flexibility and therefore have to come on as very hateful when they do not happen to agree with your point of view.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

WMM

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Tidy Dogs of Ellicottville

Although most quality of life measures have declined duirng the past few decades, there are a few bright spots. For instance, people today have to clean up after their dogs.

This was not always the case. Dogs were once permitted to let loose any place they pleased, and few people my age escaped the experience of sliding headlong through a pile of you-know-what, say, in pursuit of a fly ball. Let me assure younger readers - there is no experience quite like it. But now folks follow around their dogs with inside-out plastic bags, ready to pounce at the first sign of nature.  How can this not be a good thing?

It's in this light that we must view modern efforts to tax or sue industries that deal with hazardous and/or sinful products - cigarettes, gambling, alcohol, asbestos, lead, guns, pollutants of all types, even piping hot Mickey D coffee. To varying degrees, all these items exact a social cost. Why not have the makers clean up their messes, just like we do with our dogs?

But has the pendulum swung too far? Driving into Ellicottville (about 100 miles to the southwest of Rochester), one encounters a sign informing that unnattended, defecating dogs will not be tolerated, and then adding "dog waste is unsanitary and harmful to our children." It's not the prohibition that forces a double-take; it's the preaching.

Ellicottville was once one of those tranquil backwater towns where homes were mobile but the five vehicles in the yard were not, where hogs roamed freely in the streets and houses, where "yeppur" was the pleasantry most frequently heard, a town that then-campaigning Eliot Spitzer included in his observation that upstate New York reminded him of Appalachia.

Ellicottville differs from neighboring towns, however. It sports a ski resort: Holiday Valley. In recent years the trendy people have discovered E-ville and have decided to make it their own. It used to be that for the price of a postage stamp you once could buy any property in town, now land prices are out of sight. And, of course, the high-brow folk bring their wisdom with them. Like the aforementioned sign. Dogs have been pooping in the woods since the beginning of time, yet the outsiders just have to lecture "did you know that s**t smells?" with every confidence that the local dimwits will be dutifully grateful and wonder how they ever managed on their own.

Incidentally, we all know what s**t stands for. So why not say it? The truth is that I'm trying to clean up my rating.

Have we come too far in our quest for safety and sanitation? Tom Whitepebble has already opined that today's obsession with safety is itself a fallback positionfor people unable to change things that really matter, so they redirect energy to hassling all the rest of us with more and more "safety" rules. And in the September 17, 2007 Wall Street Journal, reporter Cynthia Crossen points out that we've been down this road before. Almost 100 years ago began another safety campaign in the United States, a campaign progressive for its time, yet the palest shadow of what gets pushed today.  Syracuse NY, only 90 miles east of here, slapped "Safety First" warnings on sidewalks, utility poles, restaurant menus and theater programs. "No one in Syracuse can get away from the sign of 'Safety First,'" boasted the local newspaper. Somewhere else in the state, a Museum of Safety opened, and the theme echoed throughout the country.

But in time there was a backlash: wasn't America becoming a nation of wimps? "Life must be lived as an adventure if it is to be worth carrying on," said someone from the National Bureau of Casualty and Surety Underwriters in 1923. And Francis Greenwood Peabody, a Harvard theologian agreed: "What an undiscouraged and expectant person wants is not 'safety first' anymore than a sailor wants to lie safely in harbor."

I wonder what he would say today if he tried to scale a modern store-bought stepladder, with dire warnings at every step, turning to absolute panic as one nears the top. Yes, we really have become a nation of crybabies. Ah, but for the good old days where dogs pooped anywhere and nobody gave a sh.....well, I mean, people just adjusted.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Winged Migration and the Evolutionists

The bird newscaster was on the scene, microphone in hand....um....wing. Somberly, he related the details of the grisly crash. And it was grisly. Behind him you could see the downed airplane, broken and aflame. “Details are still sketchy,” he reported, “but it appears that the name of the bird sucked into the engines in Harold Kruntz.”

Such is the imagination of Gary Larsen, creator of the Far Side, who imagines the bird’s point of view.

That’s what the 2003 film Winged Migration does as well. It relates migration from the bird’s point of view. There you are, soaring shoulder to shoulder with big birds, small birds, ugly birds, pretty birds as they wing past and over fields, cities, factories, and ocean. There go the twin towers zipping past. (yep, it was filmed before 911) Does the camera stop to linger? Not for a moment; this is the bird’s point of view. Here is a frigate plying the waters, the birds land on deck. They strut to and fro, on short break from their journey. One or two catch a quick nap on the heat grates. Off yonder we hear some garbled voices on the shortwave. Do we track the source? Nope, this is the bird’s story. Off they fly and you go with them. We never see a person; do birds not care about us as much as we ourselves do?

Same story flying over the Grand Canyon and a few dozen other breathless terrains. No time to sightsee. It’s ‘keep on flying.’ Even a duck hunt is shown from the duck‘s point of view. There you are, flying with your duck buddies when there is a loud pop and one of them goes down!

“How in the world did they get that shot?” you say to yourself over and over again, as you and your birds wing around the world.

They did itwith the help of balloons, gliders, helicopters, and planes. They did it by exposing eggs of some of the birds to the sounds of people and film cameras so that the birds would be unafraid of them later. They did it with patience; French director Jacques Perrin with teams of filmmakers took three years to travel 40 countries and all seven continents, tracking birds of all types - birds on the go.

Narration is sparse, consisting mostly of terse remarks like “it is a matter of life and death.” We follow the arctic tern, a bird that migrates from the summer North Pole to the summer South Pole, and back again. At each endpoint, there are rich food sources. The narrator tells us of the never-ending search for food. You almost wish he’d say more.

Like how did that tern ever discover that such food bonanzas existed 11,000 miles apart? Does anyone have the answer? Do evolutionists? Did one tern just happen to “wander” that distance, and hit pay dirt to such an extent that all terns started doing it? What of the lazy terns that flew lesser distances? Did they all die out?

When fall arrives, Blackpoll Warblers gather on the New England coast. They've flown in from Alaska. By the sea they await the right weather conditions, a strong cold front, to begin their 2400 mile flight to South America. It finally comes and they take off, flying non-stop past Bermuda, heading straight…..for Africa! Approaching Antigua, they climb higher and higher, absurdly high, up to 21,000 feet. It's cold up there and there‘s not much oxygen. What are the stupid birds doing up there, for crying out loud?

They catch a prevailing wind that blows them to South America! Energy expended is less than if the warblers headed directly for that continent! Who’s stupid now? Can the evolutionists explain how that came about?

Come summer’s end, Manx shearwaters begin their migration from Wales. leaving behind their chicks. Once the latter can fly, they follow the adults and reunite in Brazil. One Manx shearwater was taken from Wales to Boston, (by scientists?…..did they blindfold it?) 3200 miles away. It returned to Wales in 13 days. Scientists did it to Adelie penguins, too, stranding them 1200 miles from their rookeries. Apparently unexasperated, (as I would be) they headed straight to the open sea to chow down for the trip ahead, and then returned to the rookeries.

Tom Pearlsenswine can get lost heading to the corner store.

In Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin wrote “Many instincts are so wonderful that their development will probably appear to the reader a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.” To my knowledge, just how such instincts developed has still not been solved. Instead, it is taken off the table. Evolutionists rely on the scientific method, and the scientific method is too narrow to deal with such questions. Where are the repeatable experiments with which you can test this or that hypothesis? So they simply dismiss the whole matter as irrelevant. Thus,  when you come along to discuss the subject, you find you’re playing a board game, the rules of which are that you can’t move your pieces!

Some of Gary Larsen’s birds have reached the ultimate in evolutionary prowess, providing rich fodder for scientific research. Thus, one of his cartoons has a duck approaching in the hallway. The wife says to her husband: “Here he comes. Remember, be kind, but firm. We are not driving him south again this winter!” Evolution being what it is, the duck will no doubt talk them into it.

 

 

******  The bookstore

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Will the Real Animals Please Stand Up

For the 4th time in 19 years, Jehovah's Witnesses are studying the book Revelation: Its Grand Climax at Hand, a verse by verse consideration of that final Bible book: Revelation. Verse by verse is an ambitious undertaking. Some verses are explained with spot-on, blow-you-out-of-the-water clarity, and some may make you say "hmmm, could that really be?" But even the latter are presented persuasively, backed with evidence, and presented with the non-dogmatic caveat that  "It is not claimed that explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say "do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophesy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times."  (page 9)

A new edition has been prepared for the current study, but, so as not to render the older books obsolete [these are not college textbooks, after all, which deliberately tweak information each year, so that the old book is no good and students must shell out $150 for a new one] an insert has been prepared with all the revisions. They are insignificant, for most part, generally just the updating of dates and statistics. But a few have more substance.

For example, in the midst of discussion of Rev 6:3-4.....

And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say: “Come!”  And another came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.

Paragraph 18 on page 94 states "some scientists forecast mathematically that an accidental nuclear war is virtually certain to take place within the next 25 years - let alone a planned nuclear conflagration!" The updated version, however, yanks this phrase for the blander: "some scientists speak of the possibility of an accidental nuclear war - let alone a planned nuclear conflagration!"   [!]

The reason the publishers have done this is because Tom Barfendogs has marked on his calendar (to the day, hour, and minute) exactly when 25 years from the first book's publication expires. He is praying, hoping, pleading that there is no nuclear war within that time frame (after that is okay) so he can launch into yet another false prophet screamfest. But now he's been checked in his nefarious scheme!

However, there is a school of thought which holds that the publishers too early quit a game of "chicken." The original may yet turn out to be true, even if there is only 6 years left. Do we not have Iran and North Korea cooking up their own bombs, unstable nations if ever there were unstable nations? Is not Isreal thinking they may yet someday teach hostile neighbor nations an atomic lesson? Has not the formerly monolithic Soviet Union more-or-less fallen apart, so that any Boy Scout troop can fill up a shopping cart with second-hand nukes?. Decidedly, the Watchtower publishers are being sissy, girliemen (per Schwartzenegger). It may yet turn out as they first said. And even if it doesn't, who gets egg on their face? The Watchtower? No! "Some scientists" said the saying. Why should Watchtower care if "some scientists" shoot themselves in the foot? "Some scientists" are always saying rash things, like how, if you 'give infinite monkeys infinite typewriters one of them will write the complete works of Shakespeare!' Or how boisterous flatulance evolved over the eons as a means to scare off predators.

The publishers also missed an opportunity to update when commenting on Rev 6:8

And I saw, and, look! a pale horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Hades was closely following him. And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Commenting on the "wild beasts of the earth" part, Watchtower lays stress on literal mean animals, like the vicious Monty Python bunny rabbit. [my example, not theirs] They also mention people who behave like animals, making a reference to Isa 11:6-9:

And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.

The animals in this verse likely refer to people as well as the literal critters. This is because other verses liken people to various animals, and "the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah" would affect people, but probably not animals. So formerly vicious "animals," under Kingdom rule, coexist peacefully with their nicer counterparts. But in Revelation 6:8, the vicious animals are having a field day, being one of the means in which Death claims a quarter of the earth.

Lots of people are vicious animals today. Unreasoning. Bombers, for example, ecstatic at the thought of dying, if only they can take a few dozen with them! And just today [July 17] there is an NPR report of gangs ("The Multitude") in Kenya that have beheaded 100 people. Heads turn up all over the city, sometimes on spikes. "Animals" is a perfect description! Even in the original 1988 edition, Watchtower observed that such "[animalistic] people are largely responsible for the global expansion of sex-related crimes, murder, terrorism, and bombings in the modern world." It was true then. All the more so today.

It was a area in which the current edition could have expanded, but didn't.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Monkeys, Typewriters, and Shakespeare

The driver behind evolutionary change, we are told, is mutation. Genes foul up in replicating, the theory goes, and the result is a slight tweak on life. Add up enough tweaks, millions upon millions, and look! an amoeba has become an orangutan.

Most mutations, though, are bad news.  And so, natural selection emerges as the determinant of which ones die out and which ones are preserved, to be passed on to the next generation. Only a beneficial mutation is preserved, since only that variety gives one an advantage in the "fight for survival."

Gene replication is amazingly accurate. "Typically, mistakes are made at a rate of only 1 in every ten billion bases incorporated," states the textbook Microbiology. (Tortora, Funke, Case, 2004, pg 217) That's not many, and, remember, only the tiniest fraction of those mutations are said to be any good.

Since gene mutations rarely happen, and almost all that do are neutral or negative, and thus not enshrined by natural selection,  a student might reasonably wonder if he is not being sold a bill of goods by evolutionists. Can benevolent mutations possibly account for all they are said to account for?

Enter Thomas Huxley, a 19th-century scientist who supported Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. Huxley came up with the pithy slogan: "If you give an infinite number of monkeys and infinite number of typewriters, one of them will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare." Surely you can understand that!

Nevertheless, his assertion had never been tested. Until 4 years ago, that is.  Evolutionists at England's Plymouth University rounded up six monkeys, supplied them with a computer, placed them on display at Paighton Zoo, and then hid behind trees and trash cans, with notebooks, breathlessly awaiting what would happen! They were disappointed.Four weeks produced page after page of mostly s's. Not a single word emerged. Not even a two letter word. Not even a one letter word. Researcher Mike Phillips gave details.

At first, he said, “the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.

“Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard,” added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.

They didn't write any Shakespeare! They shit all over the computer!

Alright, alright, so it wasn't a real science experiment. It was more pop art. And they didn't have an infinite number of monkey or computers (due to budgetary constraints). Surely, if you had a infinite number, groused the guardians of evolution, then you would end up with Shakespeare.

Hmmmm. Well, maybe. But wouldn't you also need an infinite number of shovels to dig through an infinite pile of you know what?

University and zoo personnel defended their monkeys. Clearly, they didn't want them held responsible for sabotaging science. Geoff Cox, from the university, pointed out that "the monkeys aren't reducible to a random process. They get bored and they shit on the keyboard rather than type." And Vicky Melfi, a biologist at Paignton zoo, added "they are very intentional, deliberate and very dexterous, so they do want to interact with stuff you give them," she said. "They would sit on the computer and some of the younger ones would press the keys." Ultimately the monkeys may have fallen victim to the distractions which plague many budding novelists.

It's true. I often get distracted working on my book and when that happens I will sometimes shi......no, no.....some secrets are too dark to reveal!

******  The bookstore

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Horses in Water

Ever since I was a kid, Durand Eastman beach has been closed. With much hoopla, the new administration vowed to open it. Opening day came and their first action was to close it. The bacteria count was too high.

Really, for 40 years you would never  had known the beach was closed. Come warm weather, swimmers flocked to it, almost as much as to the open beach two miles down the road. But every year, a child or two would drown, and the following chain of events invariably ensued:

First would come the tragic story of the drowning itself. A day or two later, somber "I told you so" scoldings from the newspaper, coupled with dismay that people still, even in the face of such tragedy, continue to play Russian Roulette with their very lives, swimming where there are no lifeguards! A few days later, some old codger or two would write in to say that he had swum at the beach for 50 years, same as his parents and grandparents. Furthermore, his children and grandchildren would also swim at the beach, and it was up to parents to watch their own kids, in which case tragedies would not happen.

These coots notwithstanding, city officials, as mentioned, coughed up the dough to hire lifeguards and build high chairs for them. They roped off an area, kicked out dogs, boats and floats, banned horseplay, splashing, chicken fights, snorkels and masks. Opening day finally came, after the bacteria had subsided,

While lifeguards badgered, cajoled, and nagged their charges, in the name of Safety, they were indulgent with those crazies, quite a few of them actually, who chose to swim outside the supervised area, leaving them unmolested for the time being. You don’t change 40 years of risk taking behavior in one day.

If it saves one life, it’s worth it, goes the slogan. But I will miss the literal horseplay.

They came from the stables across the street, clip-clopping straight into the water. You could tell straight off they weren’t people, because they didn’t dip their hooves in and take forever getting used to the water. No, they barreled right in, up to their shoulders, and frolicked around, having a good ol time. Of course, there were people with them, their handlers, and getting them in proved easier than getting them out. One horse got spooked at the mini-breakers hitting the shore, and he would not cross them. His handler tried and tried to coax him, but he would not do it. He might still be there, had he not finally sashayed around the wave, eying it warily all the time, oblivious that he was sidestepping through other breakers while making his escape.

They’re not all as smart as Mr. Ed, and from now on, they don’t swim at the open beach. Image

Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’