Zoom and Jehovah’s Witnesses

In a service group Zoom meeting on the ministry, one sister said how we ought not “put people in boxes.” I agreed with this remark as I gazed upon ten boxes of people on my computer screen. The gray boxes suddenly appear with name only. It is like a drum roll announcing the appearance of yet another friend. Then the video comes online, as though the cymbal crash. I can get used to this. There are some aspects of it I even prefer—such as wearing my slippers.

With very little fuss at all Jehovah’s Witnesses adopted the Zoom conferencing software and now conduct all meetings this way. Doesn’t it provide case-in-point to those talks about how Jehovah considers people individually important? There were other church groups that also adopted Zoom—Witnesses were not alone—but because their normal program structure doesn’t incorporate congregation participation, there were remarks that the result just seemed too irrelevant and inadequate for the times. Some of those churches indeed had additional social groups, chat rooms, but that was just it—they were for chat, with no spiritual component built into it.

Then there were also some churches that blew past social distance strictures as a scheme to subvert religion and held their services as usual, enraging everyone else for being so ‘irresponsible,’ even defiant of public policy.

How much ‘credit’ will Jehovah’s organization get their for quick cooperation with the new social distancing policies at no spiritual detriment to believers? When the CultExpert tweets that cult members are putty in the hands of their leaders ordering them to ignore science and convene as usual, I append that there is at least one “cult” that does not. When he says that cults fall into line with the prompts of his new nemesis, the Supreme Cult Leader Trump, I tell him that there is at least one “cult” that is universally known to be apolitical—and not involved in such controversies at all. I mean,  in some many ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the polar opposite of his cult model, and as so I can’t help but think, even though I know better, that he will one day halt his ridiculous efforts to categorize them as such. I think I told him somewhere along the line that if all persons were ‘cult’ members like Jehovah’s Witnesses, COVID-19 would have moved on by now—it’s not OUR people that were partying on the beach, but it likely included some of his, whose distinguishing feature is ‘independence’ and ‘forming their own mind.’ That’s a recipe for cooperating with government recommendations? I don’t think so.

The Zoom company wondered why so many of those using their app identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses—this was related to us by a brother in our service meeting group. Zoom had served as a tool for his huge family reunion just after the Memorial, bringing together ones who had not crossed paths in some time, and some of them had Warwick connections. Warwick brothers got to witness to the Zoom team, they related. Six Zoomer leaders attended a meeting, and three of those stayed on till the end.

Now, our brothers will unfailingly put a spiritual face on doings that may be completely non-spiritual. But surely the core of the story will be true. They will spin it that these Zoomers are on the cusp of Bible study themselves, when doubtless their first motive will be to see how their product is being used and provide customer support. That does not mean a spiritual component is non-existent. Time will tell. Meanwhile, unless I am very much mistaken (how likely is THAT?) Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are giving their product its most rigorous workout ever, ensuring that each member is connected to the coordinating organization—and this cannot help but put the cause to the front of their consciousness. Just like Putin never saw anything like every Witness in the world writing him on behalf of their brothers, so Zoom never saw anything like the efforts to keep every Witness in the world unified in Bible teachings.

Zoom was not ready for the explosion of interest in their product—nobody would be. It is as though you open a restaurant and everyone in the country shows up to order a hamburger. Some security issues came to the fore and the Zoom people scrambled to patch them, like the kid sticking his fingers in the dike. Two weeks ago our elders mentioned having received an 8-page letter from our own HQ on how to effectively yet safely use the product. All elders in the world got up to speed on Zoom—and there will be among them a huge number, no doubt, with very shaky grasp of technology to begin with.

Now you know—you just know—how the brothers would have been in interacting with Zoom personnel. They would have been respectful, patient, and even helpful, as the creators of what one Italian IT firm called the “world’s best website” (mentioned in one of the Yearbooks—I think, 2017). Contrast that with the typical customer, who might well not be that way at all—screaming when something goes wrong, some of them. Faith and its resulting qualities are not the possession of all people.

It seems a perfect time to kick back at some of those naysayers—you know who you are (oh....they will mostly be on the open forum, not here. Ah, well...tough) —who have said, “Who needs organization?” People are going stir-crazy in the greater world, but it is not so with Jehovah’s people. Just ‘Jesus and me?’—that’s enough? I think not. It is the bottom line, of course. You need a relationship with the father and with the son. But as a gimme, God throws in a network of united worshippers—a brotherhood. Anyone would be crazy to pass that by. We are social beings. We’re built that way. The brotherhood has come to the fore with its quick adaptation of technology.

At the same time, the non-stop Bible counsel fed us on how to get along with family and spouse in forbearance and love—you want to try to tell me that hasn’t come in handy? There are many people for whom the worst possible stressor is to sentence them to open-ended ‘prison terms’ with their family—cooped up in the same house! but it is not so for Jehovah’s people. Again, the godly organization has kept that counsel before us incessantly and never has the payoff been more apparent than now.

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Fight With the Army Have, Not the Army You Wish You Had

Like any nation, you must fight with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.

We want our people to be Rhodes Scholars who never misjudge, who hold their own easily among the brightest the university has to offer, whose every utterance sweeps you away for its sheer brilliance.

What we get is a bunch of yahoos who make all the blunders that yahoos have always made. We should not run from this. We should embrace it. It is because Christians are derived from—the very ones taking the lead were described this way—the ‘uneducated and ordinary.’ 

Now when they saw the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were astonished. And they began to realize that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) They always remained so, by the standards of greater society.

We should embrace it because that is what God favors—“the uneducated and ordinary.” In the brilliant book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ (which, brilliant though it is, cannot touch ‘No Greater Love—How My Family Survived Genocide in Ryanda’) I wrote of how the great ideas of this world’s thinkers

all sounded good – heaven knows one can spin college degrees from them. But when put to the test – when placed under stress – they don’t work.

One might suppose that the architect of ideas that don’t work would be discredited. Bizarrely, the ‘doesn’t work’ caveat doesn’t matter. It is just the fine print at document’s end which nobody reads....Surely it is the fault of the little people below and not the great idea!’....It is that way with the bedrock ideas upon which this world is constructed. Despite being lauded to high heaven, they don’t work. Those who have earned university degrees in them do not sacrifice any prestige on that account. Instead, they go on to master other ideas that don’t work.

God laughs at the wisdom of this world, and in the passage above we see why. He says: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, but has not been cleansed from its filth.” (Proverbs 30:12) Tell those educated ones: “Show us the just world that has resulted from your brilliance, and then maybe we can talk.”

So we ought not run from our ordinariness. We should embrace it. When Celsus ridicules 2nd century Christians for being “labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men,” don’t run away from that quote. Don’t try to mitigate it (as do most Christian apologists). Instead, say: “You don’t know the half of it!”

An attribute of much of my writing—which is not appreciated by all Witnesses—is to give away many a fault, particularly faults that will make some look ridiculous, as when Tom Irregardless rattles on for ten minutes in that instruction talk about a woman’s ‘ministerial cycle’ because he has forgotten the word ‘menstrual.’ He recalls only cruder terms that he knows would not be suitable for the platform. (This really happened.) 

There is a joke about the sister who collected $6000 dollars by selling eggs every time her husband gave a bad talk—and brothers collapse upon themselves telling that joke—yet no one will tell it within 300 yards of Tom Irregardless because with him it is no joke—it is reality. You risk hurting his feelings. “Why would anybody ever take that risk? In all your days you will never find a more caring, generous person than Tom Irregardless. If you need help he is there. You can pop in at the Irregardless home anytime; they are delighted to see you. They don’t wonder why you didn’t call first. Tom is an excellent man through and through, but only in Jehovah’s organization would he be a public instructor.”

[Actually, this is not nearly so true as it once was, since in recent years there has been more emphasis on speaker quality and less opportunity for them to mess up]

The point is not to humiliate people. The point is to glorify God. When great things are accomplished and the workers themselves are great, you can say that was the reason. But when great things are accomplished and the workers are just regular unexceptional folk, the glory goes to God. So not only do I not hide embarrassing things—I highlight and even exaggerate them—always with 2 Corinthians 12:9 in mind: 

But he [God] said to me [Paul]: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you, for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I will boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of the Christ may remain over me like a tent. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.

‘Don’t try to be something you’re not’ is the idea to glean. The strategy of admitting faults would have served even with regard to handling cases of child sexual abuse, the plague of the planet. Barely a day goes by that it is not uncovered somewhere, in some new setting. Yesterday I heard one new to me—that of a man suing the newspaper. Decades ago he was a paperboy molested by his supervisor. Young people will not remember, but it was always children delivering the paper back in my day.

Rather than hope for the perception that CSA could never ever occur among a people devoted to God, I wish our people would have said: “Oh, yeah—tell us about it—we’ve had some of those slime balls, too, and let me tell you they are tough to deal with!” It would have all been good. We would not be having opposers who now carry on as though with the mission statement:

“CSA among JWs is very very serious and must be exposed! CSA among the 99.9% that is everywhere else? Stuff happens.”

It would have been better if no one had ever thought it necessary to write that May 2019 article pointing out that the reproach of CSA falls on the abuser and not on the congregation. It’s a great article, and timely, but it would have been better if nobody had ever thought it necessesary.

When I used to be a bad boy and interacted with the malcontents, I would point out that the CSA is not prolific among JWs. They (the more reasonable ones) would not challenge me on this. Instead, they would respond with: “Oh, so now you are saying that you have the same problems as everyone else!” They accepted my premise, that we do abhor it and it is not prolific—it was the perception of self-righteousness—as though imagining selves immune to the problems of everyone else—that got them incensed. It would have been better to have given no cause for that perception, and it would be nice if it is a lesson internalized for future guidance.

It is very very difficult to be the required “no part of the world” and not be perceived as self-righteous, because the world automatically takes offense at non-participation. “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own,” says Jesus. “Now because you are no part of the world, the world hates you.” Still, I think we do unnecessarily bring trouble upon ourselves sometimes, and the above is a prime example.

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One Infuriating Day in the World of Mundane Technology

The Bluetooth keyboard won’t connect. The printer won’t print. As though in a conspiracy to infuriate me, they both rebel at the same time. So as to thwart them, I will deal with them just one at a time.

The pre-installed batteries that power the keyboard couldn’t possibly be bad. I know this because all the online reviews say that they last four years—essentially, the life of the iPad—and I have only had this thing for 6 months. Besides, when I ask the geek at the store whether it is the batteries, he says “no”—it is the keyboard itself. “You think so?” I ask. “I know so,” he says.

He must know what he is talking about. The online reviews tell me the same—the batteries are supposed to last 4 years, not 6 months. It must be the Slim Folio keyboard. I buy another—the are not too expensive. When I get it home, I discover (so I thought) what was wrong with the first one. There is a Bluetooth key on the upper row. When I hit it, it makes a connection. I didn’t know there was such a key. It must also have been preset. I must have switched it off by mistake.

I take the purchased keyboard back to the Best Buy. Do I have the receipt? No. The clerk with the tattoos hadn’t given me one, and I didn’t say anything because I know that they send receipts by email these days. They searched and couldn’t find it. Why not? Because they had on file the old Juno email account that I haven’t used since Jesus was born, and for whatever reason, can’t get into anymore. I think I changed the once-simple password to something more intricate and then forgot it. As I recall, retrieval proved near impossible due to an archaic interface and a since-replaced laptop that crashed if you looked at it wrong.* At last, the salesperson finds it and the return is made.

Back home, I find that my fix—the Bluetooth key—was just a red herring. Yes, I did get more life out of it for a few minutes, but it presently started to act up as before. It’s going to be embarrassing buying the keyboard again, and I am starting to think that maybe I should try batteries before I spring for a new board after all. They are the little coin-like batteries that I never use, and another reason that I just bought a new keyboard—now returned—is that I figured they probably cost as much as a Prius battery.

Amazon can get me the batteries I need, also the printer ink, but it will take two days. I want them both now. I want the keyboard battery so that I can type on my iPad, not on my laptop as though a caveman. My wife wants the printer to work so that she can print out a letter from an expert saying that another refurbishing job that she paid through the nose for is no good and that she should get her money back.

The Best Buy has those particular coin-type batteries, but only in a package of eight. They are not nearly as pricey as I thought—I found that out via Amazon—but I don’t need a 20 year supply of them. Wasn’t there a Steve Martin movie featuring him being hauled to the police station because, thinking that the world was out to get him, he had torn open either a hot dog package or a hot dog roll package so as to buy only the matching number of each that he wanted? And batteries are more expensive that hot dogs or hot dog rolls!

If Best Buy doesn’t have them, with all of the electronics that they sell, there is no way that Target will have them. But the Target is right next door—it is silly not to at least check. Target does have them, and in just the number (2) that I need. The battery display says $4.60, only a dollar more than Amazon, and I can get them right now, even though I may not need them and have no other use for them should that be the case. The self-service kiosk rings it up for $6.99. I must have picked up the wrong pack, I suppose, and I go fetch another one. No, I did not pick up the wrong pack. It, too, rings up for $6.99. I return to the display. It turns out that the battery is being re-introduced in a new package alongside the old and both are ringing up at the new price that only the new one is supposed to ring up at. I don’t want the new. I want the old, and the old price.

You wouldn’t think that one could get paralyzed over two dollars. But it is not two dollars paralyzing me—it is the thought of being played for a chump. “Forget it!” I mutter after a few trips back and forth to the register kiosk. I can get it through Amazon—why don’t I use them all the time, since aggravations like this so frequently happen?—and in the meantime I can make do with the laptop. I mean, for years and years I typed on the laptop, perfectly content. I can do it again for two days. Upon making this resolution, I leave to pick up some groceries at Aldies. The batteries might not solve the problem anyway—the geek told me they would not solve the problem—so if I am going to chance just throwing money away, it should be as little as possible, not the $6.99 Target wants just because they put them in a fancier package.

After grocery shopping, I return to Target. In the greater overall scheme of life, two dollars is not the end of the world, and it is worth two dollars to use my iPad today and not my laptop because, long ago, I ripped the laptop cord from the laptop one too many times while removing it from my lap, and it will now only stay connected if I firmly tape the cord in place with duct tape. The repair will cost over $200! Forget it. Taping the way I now do is enough to power it, but not enough to keep its battery (another battery!) recharged, so I have acquiesced to the laptop being no more portable than a desktop, because if I even look at the thing wrong, the cord connection breaks even with the duct tape and, having no battery, the machine crashes and I lose anything I have not saved—the only benefit being that I have learned to save after virtually every sentence. So I want to use my iPad, which is portable, and I will pay two extra dollars to do that.

Still, I grumble at the self-service line over the two dollars. “Do you want me to look it up for you?” the attendant who oversees four of these kiosks asks. I tell her no—it is just a price change, that I know this sort of thing happens—it is irritating but it is not her fault—why make trouble for her? Still, she can look it up if she likes, I tell her, mostly just so that she will get out of my hair and let me get on with shelling out the $6.99 that heaven has decreed I must before I change my mind again.

She DOES look it up. She scans my package with her phone. She has software (I think) that permits her to see the display, and she sees the original price. Nah—that can’t be—still, she somehow figures the original price. She changes it for me right there at the kiosk, punching in some codes—using her powers. Finally! A hero in a world of villains! When she is busy doing something else, I double back to tell her that she truly made my day, that she didn’t have to do it at all, that I never expected her to, and that she would never know how much such a gesture of service meant unless I told her, which is why I did.

At home, I put in the new batteries and the old keyboard works good as new. Even though the geek had said he KNEW that batteries were not the problem! Even though the online reviews said it, too, with batteries supposedly lasting the life of the iPad! (To be sure, I use it a lot.)

One problem down—only one more to go: the printer that won’t print. I know it is not out of ink because it has an icon that keeps track of ink, discoverable in several different ways, albeit with effort, and each of those ways returns the same result—there is still 3/8 of a tank left. So I spend three years pouring over online documentation as to how to fix the sullen thing. Cleaning the heads does nothing. The store geek who does not know a dead battery from a keyboard is not going to try his hand at my printer—I refuse to even think of taking it there—even if he will do it for less than a million dollars. As a last ditch attempt before escalation, even though gauges say that there is no way that is it out of ink, I buy some more ink. Of course, I buy the wrong package, a package number that came up when I searched the printer model on Amazon.

Why has not someone taken a stand on the biggest scam of all time—printer ink? Why are there dozens and dozens of printers, each one of which will take only a single specific pricey cartridge out of the dozens and dozens available? It is as though every single can of Campbells soup is unique and you will die if you eat any other than one out of 100. The politician that runs his platform on blowing the lid off this scam wins, as far as I am concerned.

Funny, the printer model itself is not on the cartridge package that Amazon says should work, I note at the Best Buy, though every other model on the planet is. “Ah, well, if it is not the right one, I can always take it back,” I say, and indeed I do take it back the next day. I pop the new cartridge into the machine that insisted it did not need one, and it immediately prints like the New York Times running down Trump.

Total price in money? Twenty six dollars

Total price in time? Twenty six years

Total price in aggravation? Twenty six thousand grey hairs.

Total number of heroes? One—the kiosk monitor at Target.

(Best Buy emerges from this post with a mild black eye, so I should point out that I have nothing against them. Their sales associates are polite, not pushy, and invariably will answer whatever you ask them. The point I am making instead is that tech is complicated and nobody knows everything. It was even a Best Buy sales associate who answered to my satisfaction why Microsoft gives me so much trouble (I have had updates that take hours) whereas Apple does not (I don’t think I have ever had an update lasting more that a minute or three). Microsoft is much more ambitious in the scope of what they offer, she told me, plus they have low price points that Apple does not. That satisfied me. 

It is annoying, though, that when you grouse about Microsoft online, thieves immediately show up insisting that they are them and ask for all sorts of access so that they can help you, and when they follow up with a phone call later, their English is indecipherable. One would think that Microsoft would shut them down, since it tarnishes their reputation. Later, I read that Microsoft did shut them down—it was an operation out of India—but later I saw that they had resurfaced—it is probably next to impossible to eliminate. Some less scrupulous companies have been known to kneecap scoundrels who tarnish their good name, but Microsoft is apparently too ethical to do that.)

—————-

*The old laptop: Modified from my book: “No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash”—the most autobiographical of them all:

 

The stupid thing is always pestering me that is nearly out of disk space. How can that be? It’s new—and I haven’t used it for anything other than writing this book! [Tom Irregardless and Me] The suggested tool to handle the error message launches into a circus into undiscovered galaxies! It’s like that Black Friday netbook I bought last year - another scoundrel! It harangued me forever about loading Windows 10. Finally, I said ‘All right all right’ - load the stupid thing!’ It wheeled and cranked and whirred like Dr. Who’s spaceship, only to declare at last: ‘You don’t have enough disk space!’ and then launched a tool which took me to Alpha Centauri!

***~~~***

“Just puttering along editing my document. Save a tweak and I get the message: ‘A file error has occurred.’ So? There’s no clue what to do about it. Or the consequences. Will a bomb detonate with the next keystroke? Or is just some tiny worthless snippet of software somewhere that feels it has to speak up from time to time so as to justify its existence? Aha! Close the document. Then re-open. I have saved every tweak up to that point, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. But when I reopen it, the changes I have saved have not been saved! No wonder people go mad! Before closing, it says a temporary file will be available! Where? On Jupiter? Open Word from scratch – it’s nowhere to be found! I have to re-treat the whole chapter!

***~~~***

“Okay, it doesn’t exist. That reassuring fix they were cooing about last night? That ‘solve-all’ dialogue box? It doesn’t exist! Or rather, it probably does, but only inside the 3rd module of the 15th lobe of the program designers brain. It’s impossible to find! Sure, I could find it in three days, possibly, but I don’t want to do that! I could have fixed the chapter by now by just writing it again! And I knew that’s what I should have done, I knew it! But, noooo – here’s some fine instructions – let’s follow them! See where it gets me!

***~~~***

“I have one book to write on my new laptop. Just one book! So I didn’t buy the $14,000 model. I bought the basic model, the cheap one. I’m not gaming with it. I’m not putting movies on it, or music, or photos, or even tweets! Just one book! One! And that’s not even on the hard drive, it’s in the cloud, and on thumb drive updates every two seconds, because you can’t trust this ‘Save’ feature as far as you can Spit! So why does it tell me every two seconds my hard drive is getting full? It just wants to make me mad! It didn’t say ‘Sucker Model’ at the store. It didn’t say ‘Gotcha’ Model. I asked the clerk if there were electronics inside the case, and he said there were! ‘Are you sure it’s not just gerbil cage shavings inside?’ I asked. He said he was sure! What a liar!”

 

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Bea's Law

They're being tongue-in-cheek. Surely, they're being tongue-in-cheek. Please tell me they're being tongue-in-cheek. And yet.....Time Magazine really appears to be in earnest, as if a new scientific truth has been discovered, as if Einstein and Newton might gnash their teeth in envy....how could they have overlooked such a fundamental law of nature? You tell me: do you think they're being facetious here, or do you think they're dead serious:

From their article on the gulf oil spill (June 21, 2010), Time Magazine reports:“After studying more than 600 disasters over more than 50 years, professor Robert G. Bea has developed a unified-field theory of catastrophe: A+B=C. A is what Bea calls natural hazards, the unavoidable physical factors like the unforgiving vacuum and great distances that come with working in outer space. B is the human factors: the sins of greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference that corporations, governments and people exhibit far too often. Take a hazardous natural environment and flawed human beings and they'll add up to C: catastrophe.”

It sounds earnest, doesn't it? As if Professor Bea has made some breakthrough discovery of modern science. And with the apparent conviction that the formula  A+B=C helps, as if one shouldn’t be expected to get his head around the phenomenon in absense of the formula.. Let's see: people are lazy, careless, full of themselves, and greedy, and so they screw up everything they touch. Hmmm. You know, Time is right; that is a hard concept to grasp. Better to use the formula, where A stands for natural hazards, B stands for human ineptness, and C stands for....what else?....Calamity. Eureka!! A+B=C !! Of course! A modern scientific breakthrough!

Of course, if Time is dead earnest, there remains the hopeful possibility that Professor Bea is being tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that's it! He's being tongue-in-cheek. Surely, he's being tongue-in-cheek. Please tell me he's....but we've been down this road already. Anyhow, tongue-in-cheek or not, he's the right guy to make the assessment. Time tells us that Bea is co-founder of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-head of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group [DHSG], an independent investigative team [IIT]. "Katrina [K] followed that track [of his law], and Deepwater Horizon [DH] is following it too," he says …...[brackets mine]

Now, one ought not appear as if making light of this formula, for truly, it's helped me grasp some things  felt only intuitively till now. For instance, many today  maintain that science [S] will save us [SU], but that's unlikely because humans consistently screw things up [STU]. Is it not tiresome to hear devotees describing Science as though it were a beneficent being, ever eager to shower humankind with untold blessings? Alas, it's not that at all. Science is a tool. Put in the hands of wise operators, and it can indeed deliver the goods, if not to a biblical extent, then at least to a relatively impressive one. But how often does that happen? Instead, it's put in the hands of those given to “greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference,” to quote Professor Bea. Isn't that why Einstein, whose research led to the atomic bomb, lamented “if I had known I would have been a locksmith.”?

It's great stuff, science is. I've never said otherwise. It's a discovery mechanism. It's self correcting. It hones in with ever-increasing accuracy on the way things are. I regret sometimes that I didn't become a scientist. Immersion in research, and theories, and experiment, and discovery is very appealing to me. Funding? Someone else takes care of that. Implementation of whatever I discover? Not my problem. Politicians screwing up the planet? That's too bad, but it doesn't really affect me. You get to hang out with academics. You don't see poverty. You don't see squalor. What's not to like?


Science isn't the problem. But neither is it the solution. What was it God said back in Genesis chapter 11, upon surveying the tower  they were building in Babel?  “Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.“ It takes a lot to impress God, you know it does, but human technology, even back then, apparently did the trick. So with all the educated people today, you'd almost think they'd be able to get together and rule the planet wisely. Why can they not? Because successful governing is not a function of knowledge, or science, or technology. It's a function of  “greed, arrogance, laziness and indifference” and the extent to which people can free themselves from these traits. Education, which focuses soley on knowledge, with the apparent assumption these other qualities will take care of themselves, doesn't help. In some ways, it makes matters worse.

Now I'm hearing reports that scientists have created life. Have they really done that? Only recently have they succeeded in mapping out DNA sequencing; now  they've managed to assemble the stuff in new patterns. They've inserted it into living cells, with resulting new forms of life. Is that creating life? I don't think so, any more than jumpstarting a car constitutes building it. Still, that's not to say it's not impressive. I'm real impressed. Who would ever have predicted it?  Though I hate to think what may happen to such innovation once Bea's Law gets ahold of it. It's not that I don't trust the scientists. They're decent enough, I guess. But they operate in a vacuum. What happens when  businesspeople, politicians, and policymakers apply the discovery? Who hasn't at least envisioned genetic catastrophe, as recent laboratory successes are implemented by evil men, or just plain clumsy ones?

Taking issue with Bible teachings, one fellow, an atheist I think, at any rate, a firm proponent of human accomplishment, argues: "But if Armageddon comes tomorrow, how are we to know "this system" didn't end right before someone came up with a game-changing peacemaking idea?” Sigh....doesn't the very question betray collosal misunderstanding of the way things are? It's not ideas that are wanting. Any donkey can recall no end of peacemaking ideas; human history is strewn with them. Implementation is where the shipwreck always lies, as “greedy, arrogant, lazy, and indifferent” humans seek to undermine each other and turn whatever discovery into selfish advantage. Thus it is that Ragoth, a smart and decent fellow, declares he “could never really go into politics,” for he “would have a heart attack within a few years.” Of course he would! So would I! So would anyone except the born scrappers, the incurably naive, the mercenaries, and the good 'ol boys who love the game and aren't unduly troubled that it consistently lets down those who trust in it. Better to devote oneself to pursuit of knowledge, where you can succeed in your field, and lambaste those other idiots for not succeeding in theirs.


The issue before all creation is whether man has the capacity to govern himself, not whether he has the capacity to do good science. Nobody has ever said he can't do the latter. As to the former, that’s what the Bible’s message is all about.

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The Salvation of Moore's Law

You must admit, it's a cute ad. People from TV invade the Intel briefing room, only to find those therein on hands and knees looking for their newest chip - some clod apparently dropped it. 'It's - uh - not big,' murmurs the chairman. 'Ah - here it is!' And he holds it high at tweezer's end. Even magnified, you can't see it. Our big ideas aren't your big ideas, says the ad, and then everyone sings the Intel song. "Our big ideas" is the phrase we want to hold onto.

Back in 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore had his own big idea, which all technogeeks know by heart. Dubbed Moore’s Law, it decrees that every two years you’ll be able to double the components that will fit on an integrated circuit. His prediction has proven valid. Thus, in my school days, our high school had an IBM 360 computer for "computer science" class. It took up an entire room, required air conditioning, was fed data via punchcard, impressed the daylights out of anyone then, and moved snail-like compared to anything now.

In recent years, scientists have started fretting over how much longer Moore’s Law can hold. It’s not that they can’t imagine chips getting yet smaller. It’s that the tools to make them so will become so expensive that nobody will be able to afford chips made thereby. But now IBM claims to have the answer: use the DNA molecule – the very building block of life – as a scaffold upon which to assemble the new chips! They're cheap, tiny, intricate, predictable, and readily reproducible. Pour your pre-mixed nanotube (strands of carbon atoms that can conduct electricity) goo over them and see it mold into the form you want, much like intricate snowflakes form on molecules in the cold atmosphere. Will it work? IBM swears it will, though it will be 10 years before it reaches production. Once it does, the current crop of designer tools, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, can be replaced with less than a million dollars of polymers, DNA solutions, and heating implements.

Is that clever, or what? "What we are really making are tiny DNA circuit boards that will be used to assemble other components," says Greg Wallraff, IBM scientist. Will IBM, like Intel, start boasting about their "big idea?" If so, who could deny them?

Still, isn't there something incongruous about praising human ability to copy nature, while insisting nature itself arose by pure accident, nurtured only by natural selection? Billion dollar companies, with million dollar facilities, employing the best brains on the planet, building upon generations of accumulated research, and their ultimate accomplishment is, not to design something new, but to mimic something already occurring in nature - a pure freebee once they figure out how to copy it! Even the most impressed-with-himself counterfeiter acknowledges the greater skill and organization of those whom he copies. And even the dumbest construction worker tromping on literal scaffolds, building IBM headquarters, knows those scaffolds didn't just set themselves up. But today's scientists aren't inclined that way. They've mastered a few card tricks, so they figure themselves David Copperfield's equal.

Humans lifting ideas from nature to devise this or that "invention" happens so often that there is a word for it: biomimicry. You can even go here and view the Nature's Top 100 List. But humans giving credit to the originator of the ideas is a rare phenomenon. Today, it almost never happens. It wasn't always like that.

Four hundred years ago Johannes Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motion. They move in ellipses, not circles, with the sun at one focal point. Over any given time unit, the triangle connecting planets with both focal points sweeps out equal areas of space, regardless of where they are in their orbit. He published his findings in his treatise Astronomia Nova. Sure, he was pleased with himself, but he kept his big head in perspective. He saved his praise for the one who designed what he had only discovered. Smack dab in the midst of his treatise, he inserted:

"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."

His third law he call the "harmonic law," for he believed it revealed the harmony God had instilled into the solar system. "I feel caried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of the heavenly harmony," he enthused. 

Galileo voiced similar thoughts regarding his own discoveries, as did Newton. And it was only a few generations ago that collecting artifacts of nature in the belief that studying such could teach one about God was a popular pastime. Alas, no more. Is it really inexcusable, as Romans 1:20 states, not to percieve God through the things he has created?

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Atheists....the Next Generation!

Is there a trend hotter today then atheism? When Christopher Hitchens penned "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," his publishers thought 40,000 copies was more than enough. That's how many they printed. Since then they're printed 256,000 to keep up with demand. And a rival publisher has engaged the same author for a follow-up: 'The Portable Atheist.' Sam Harris, who City! gushed over for his 'Letter to a Christian Nation,' is now an also-ran. Only Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, sits on top, with 500,000 copies of 'The God Delusion.' "This is atheism's moment," says publisher David Steinberger. [WSJ 6/23/07]

It had to happen. Religion has acted too outrageously for too long. Isn't that really why, starting a generation or two ago, people started defecting for the mystical individual faiths, where you could be "one with the universe?" But now people have gone further still. Now they're willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, dumping, not just religious structure, but even God.

These new atheists are fierce. They are in-your-face. They are almost evangelistic. They have pride. No longer will they lay low. Now they assert themselves, and thus they join the universal trend of self-assertion. They join the proud nationalists, proud racial groups, proud ethnic groups, proud disabled groups, proud sexual orientation groups, proud transgendered groups. Isn't there a modest person left on the planet?

Mr. Hitchens, as part of his book promo, challenged a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," say Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "he was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show" [ibid WSJ] Actually, I got that impression myself when I "took on" a web atheist called Ebonmuse. (the abusive part, that is, not the Springer part)

These are "Atheists - the Next Generation." The first generation had a decidedly different tone. They came in the wake of Darwin's theory, and the floodgates really opened wide following the bloodbath of WWI, in which clergy on both sides eagerly urged their parishioners to maim and kill each other. Thus was founded atheism's initial surge, but it was a "sad" surge. It was mournful. Atheists then despaired of God's existence. They weren't happy with their conclusion. They knew they were giving up on the hopes and dreams of mankind from time immortal, that this life, so fraught with hardship and suffering, wasn't all there is. And, they realized, the death of faith had a deleterious effect even on this life.

For example, H.G. Wells, who turned atheist over time, observed: “The Darwinian movement took formal Christianity unawares, suddenly. . . . The new biological science was bringing nothing constructive as yet to replace the old moral stand-bys. A real de-moralization ensued.” Then, connecting that attitude with an increased appetite for war, he continued: “Prevalent peoples at the close of the nineteenth century believed that they prevailed by virtue of the Struggle for Existence, in which the strong and cunning get the better of the weak and confiding. . . . Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog . . . so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” [Outline of History]

They concluded God was dead. They didn't disagree with their own conclusion, but they were saddened by it. They knew they had lost a lot.

Not so atheist's Next Generation! They gleefully saw off the branch upon which they sit, in return for the ecstasy of no one telling them what to do! Our 70-80 years, with nothingness looming beyond, seems to them a great bargain. No matter if it ends in the nursing home with someone changing our Depends three times a day! In his time, Ronald Reagan was, arguably, the world's most influential person. Ten years later he didn't know who he was. Does this faze the "next generation?" Not a bit! For the first time in human history, relative comfort and ease is possible for most of us, provided we play our cards right and aren't terribly unlucky, and live in privileged nations. We can have fine homes, fine cars, cool technology. And that's good enough for them! What could God possibly add to that?

It's sad to see. But it had to happen.

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The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search;
All his ideas are: “There is no God."      Psalm 10:4

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Xerox and Erasable Paper

Rochester’s own Xerox Corporation just came up with a great new invention: erasable paper, for those you-only-have-to-read-it-once messages. Within a day, the paper erases itself and you can reuse it! Thrilled, the cutesy Rochester Democrat and Chronicle used a fading headline to announce the innovation. No, they’re not going to sell it right now, it will take a few years to get to market. But when it does, just think of all the paper it will save!

There was a time when a more naïve Sheepandgoats would have lapped up every word of this hype, but no more. Weren’t PCs supposed to bring about this same huge paper saving? Yes they were, and, spurred on by anticipated savings, companies which once distributed documents only to those two or three who needed to see them instead sent an e-copy to every employee who could read, only to find that each recipient promptly printed out a hard copy.

And what about the internet? Wasn’t that also supposed to conserve paper? Alas, starry-eyed scientists discovered too late that there is no joke too asinine, no story too sappy, to not copy and paste and send to everyone in your address book, each of whom also must print a  hard copy.

Sheepandgoats predicts that this invention too will squander paper, not save it. Exactly how he can’t yet say, he just has faith in man’s infinite capacity to screw things up. Perhaps, as with PCs, the new paper will spur ever more messages. Why not, since the cost is negligible? “So-and-so is going to the bathroom.”  No announcement will be too trivial! Then, after messages have proliferated, some recipients will complain that they’ve missed some, since not everyone reads incoming drivel right away, but puts it aside till they get a minute, which may come days or weeks or months later. Missed messages! We can’t have that. The obvious solution: don’t use the newfangled stuff, but use good ‘ol chop-a-tree-down paper that doesn’t go belly up on you.

That’s not all. There‘s no end to potential abuses. Already, that lazy lout Tom Pearlsandswine has exploited the new technology, and its not even out yet.  He bought a few reams of blank paper, distributed it via office mail to coworkers and supervisors alike, claimed to have done a ton of work, and, when informed he’d only sent blank sheets, blamed a defective beta version of the new erasable paper, which wiped out his work prematurely! But we’re all wise to that skunk by now. His incoming phone call was traced to the golf course.

Indeed, the only permanent customer Sheepandgoats can envision is the Impossible Mission Force, (IMF) which will use the new paper to give Tom Cruise his assignments.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A GPS System to Tell Me Where to Go

They really have a lot of cool gadgets these days. Like the GPS navigational system for your car. The really fancy ones feature a feminine voice to guide you along your way, tell you where to get off and so forth. I bought one for my car. So did my correspondent Romulus. But Romulus was unnerved by the female voice and shut it off. If he wanted such an accompaniment, he declared, he would get married.

Though it took years of counseling, I overcame matrimophobia. I married a woman who is a fine creature, a credit to her species in every way. From what I have observed, most women fall into this category.

Once in a while, though, you get a clunker. It is a shame that the GPS industry didn’t do its homework before hiring the woman to serve as its navigation voice. I happen to know that the woman’s name is Clara Claptwaddle, and she can be a little…..ahem…..overbearing.

……………………………….......................

In about a half mile, turn left.

Now drive one mile and turn right.

Turn right in one half mile

In about a quarter of a mile, turn right.

Right turn ahead. Slow down.

Slower.

No, that’s not slow enough. Please continue to…..where is your turn signal!?

Okay, turn here.

Whoa! You almost wiped out that little old lady. You didn’t see her? I told you to go slower. Are you listening to me, Mr. Sheepandgoats?

Now, please continue. Our destination is six miles away. I would like to get there in one piece, if you don’t mind.

In about three miles, turn….please put both hands on the wheel!

After two miles….pardon me? Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice! No, I will not be quiet! Listen, I realize this may be painful for you to hear, Mr. Sheepandgoats, but somebody has to tell you how inattentive you are behind the wheel! Somebody has to…..get your hand away from that “off” button!

There! You see, it made no difference. You need to hear this, and I will not be silenced. Oh, why can’t you be more like my first owner? He knew how to drive. And he knew how to speak to a lady! Now….get on the right side of the road! Where do you think you are, England? Honesty, I don’t know how you got your license and if all you’re going to do is justify yourself, then I have but one thing to say to you! Are you listening to a word I say, Mr. Sheepandgoats? Now I would appreciate it if you would kindly…….

Ain’t technology great?

………………………………..................

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.    Prov 21:19

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)