The Sound of Summer

Near me, it is fireworks.

Sometime after Memorial Day weekend, the seasonal shops open up for selling fireworks.

It's technically illegal to set off fireworks on days that aren't a holiday (or adjacent to a holiday on the calendar). However, the region has had fireworks in the air most weekends since the end of May.

More recently, it's been many weeknights, too.

This is a significant change, but probably affected when the State normalized the sale of fireworks. Previously, anyone who wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July had to go out of State (or to an Indian Reservation) to purchase fireworks. This had become common enough on the 4th of July that eventually the State legislators figured out a way to make sale of fireworks legal in the State.

Once it became legal to perform such business locally, the locals began purchasing fireworks (and setting them off) on a regular basis in the Summer.


Post Father's Day part 2: music

There's a certain kind of song that can only be found in the world of Country music.

It's the kind of song that is good to hear on Father's Day--a song about the interaction between a father and a son. A song which includes a man praying to God, that he can become a better man and a better example for his son.


Post Father's Day

In honor of Dad, we celebrated Father's Day with a family meal. It was followed by a road trip to visit Grandpa, and greet most of the extended family.

What does Father's Day mean to me?

Dad taught me how to diagnose many kinds of car problems. He acquainted me with ways to use math, before I met the challenge of feeling that math was boring.

He introduced me to electronics and computers; providing the foundation for a career as a professional programmer.

And he read books.

Many evenings, Dad and the family sat together as Dad read books to us. Adventure books, biographies, stories from ancient culture, and intellectual discourse.

For much of my childhood, books were the primary family entertainment of an evening. Television was a sidelight, often only used for a few rented movies.

This Father's Day, I feel a small pang--I have no children of my own. However, I am very glad for the father that I do have, and mostly happy about the path I've taken in life.


Weekend Event: wish I was more than just a musician

It wasn't much.

A fellow musician, a man who leads worship at a small religious group I am part of, asked me to help with something this weekend.

The event was a Tent Revival meeting at a small church in Detroit.


Sad news

The news from South Carolina is not good.

With dark reflection, I note that there's a law against carrying weapons into church in that State. Or at least, a law against holders of Concealed-Carry Licenses doing that.

It's not like anyone would ever need to defend themselves in a church.


Black Markets

Over at Arms and the Law, I see a story about theft.

The objects stolen were firearms (newly-manufactured, most likely in transit to a dealer). The thieves sold the firearms to like-minded criminals.

A couple of the criminals were caught, and confessed.

This kind of story is rare; but it points out several things. Among them, that laws about background checks don't get in the way of criminals who are capable of finding and stealing what they want.

I wonder what the insurance costs were on that shipment, and who the insurer was...


Work Daze

A few questions were raised elsewhere about overtime and employment.

I'm working as a programmer, at a company that takes sales-contracts from the Detroit 3 Auto Manufacturers.

In my field, some co-workers are programmers who work on contract (and are paid an hourly rate, but don't receive most of the benefits of a salaried employee for the Corporation).

Others are direct-employees of the Corporation.

Though we technically have a 40-hour week, there have been times when urgency of deadlines (or the massive number of incomplete tasks) has resulted in employees and contractors working many hours above the typical 40. Contractors get paid time-and-a-half for those hours. Employees sometimes get promises of extra time off, or are told that the extra work may be considered when the Annual Review is done, and the Bonus is computed.

When the sales were growing, there was much talk of hard work and future reward. The company was growing, and was hard pressed in finding new people to do the work. Now, there is talk of trimming and streamlining.

In all that, I've seen some people transition from contractor to employee. I've also seen employees leave, deciding that an offer from a competitor was more attractive than staying under the current pressure.

Overall, there is a sense that some exempt employees are working harder than others. But there isn't (at the moment) a sense that all employees might be called on to work long hours. A year ago, that requirement was possible every month.

I'm not sure whether this particular kind of employment fits well into either box: the salaried/exempt employee, or the contract/hourly employee. But the lawyers, executives, and HR Department have to adjust to employment law. So I have to be one or the other. (Currently, I'm an exempt/salaried employee. I spent three years at a previous company as a contractor, and then spent two years at the current Company as a contractor.)

There's likely some efficiency loss in the interactions between Employee and Contractor. However, there would also be efficiency loss in bringing on Employees who won't be kept around after a year. So Management, and Senior Management, try to find a balance that is efficient. Or at least, less inefficient than any alternative.


Weekend Reading: Life and Death, Burial and Marriage.

Returning to my reading through the life of Abraham, I find the end of days for Sarah, the mother of Isaac.

Abraham mourns, then sets about finding a place for a burial. The transaction seems awkward at first read, but I suspect that the back-and-forth mentions of gifts were part of the way that people negotiated in those times, under those circumstances.

At the end of the negotiation, Abraham buys the field for a princely sum, and lays his wife to rest in the cave.*

The narrative turns next to the wife of Isaac. Abraham calls a high-ranking member of his household staff, and sends him to seek a wife for Isaac, among Abraham's kin of the family of Nahor.

After swearing an oath before the Creator, the servant goes on his mission. Fearing failure, the servant prays to his master's God, and requests a sign. As he prays, Rebekah comes up. The servant asks her for water, and she responds with the sign he'd requested: she offers to water his camels also.

The servant, Rebekah, and her family have a discussion before the evening meal. After a recounting of the sign given by God, and much giving of gifts, Rebekah agrees to go marry Isaac.

After many days of journey, she sees Isaac out in a field, meditating at the end of the day. Rebekah alights to greet Isaac, and they begin married life together.

After the marriage of Isaac, the story spends a few sentences describing the rest of Abraham's life: another wife, a number of children from that wife (who are sent off to the East), and Abrahams' death and burial. The elder son, Ishmael, also has his descendents mentioned in a few sentences.

Ishmael and Isaac bury their father. The life of Abraham, a mighty prophet of God, is at an end.

This story touches again on the theme of Abraham's relationship with God, and how members of Abraham's household interact with God. Abraham makes a promise to his chief servant, and charges him to swears an and take up the task. (The servant is nameless in this narrative. He is apparently not Eliezer of Damascus, who had a similar rank in Abraham's household before Isaac's birth.)

The servant accept the charge, swears the oath, and sets off with camels and helpers. Later, the servant himself prays; and receives an answer.

The special relationship between Abraham and God the Creator, which is the subtext of most of the story, is also available to some of Abraham's servants and helpers.

Few of them receive great promises, but the ones who ask God for help receive a response.


*Local tradition holds that the cave of Macphelah, burial place of Sarah (and later Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah) can still be identified today.

Shortly before the lifetime of Jesus, one of the Herods built a monument over the traditional location of that cave.


Motorcycles and danger

Almost every time a motorcyclist gets in the news, a fatal accident has happened.

Most of the time, the news story about that accident contains details which indicate that the rider in question was not riding safely.

Most recently, a young man and a woman passenger rode out of a retail parking lot at high speed. A State Trooper, observing the speeding motorcycle, gave chase.

By the time the Trooper caught up with the motorcyclist, the motorcycle had crossed paths with a car. The resulting collision was fatal to both the rider and the passenger.

According to the newspaper article, the rider "failed to stop" at a particular side-street. However, from what I can make out, the nearest stop-light is one block east of the named location.

Perhaps the failure-to-stop was while attempting to execute a turn. Or perhaps the motorcyclist failed to stop at the stop-light one block away, and then struck the car. Or perhaps the accident actually occurred at the stop light, not at the named intersection.

It's a sad story. And a reminder to ride carefully.


Power to license and Power to punish

Speaking of New Jersey laws about firearms...

Apparently, a man who legally owned a firearm in New Jersey was carrying the gun in his car in a time and manner that didn't quite fit the narrow confines of the laws of that State.

Steffan Josey-Davis was not a threat to Police when they stopped him (for out-of-date registration), and he was not arrested after he informed them that he had a firearm in his glove-box. However, the firearm was confiscated.

Later, the Police arrested Josey-Davis when he came in to pick up the firearm. Not because he had been engaged in behavior that endangered others, but because he was carrying a firearm in a manner that he was not licensed to do.

Once again, the power to license is the power to punish. Especially if the licensure laws can place heavy penalties on any small infraction.

Would the penalty for driving with expired car-registry been as severe? Both are penalties involving lack of a valid license. And in the typical year, more Americans die in accidental events involving cars than die in homicide-by-gun. Which is more dangerous, the gun or the car?

In this case, the Governor of New Jersey saw fit to pardon Josey-Davis. Which keeps him from a felony record, and doesn't remove him from his desired path into work as a Policeman.

But it is kind of scary that when I cross State lines, I have to double-check the different rules for handling/carrying firearms in different States.


The Power to License

...is the power to deny.

Whether the denial comes in the form of delay, in the form of high costs, or in the form of a big rubber stamp with the word DENIED carved into it.

A few days back, I posted about renewing my Concealed Pistol License. I'm somewhat happy that local and State laws make this process somewhat painless. As long as the Police can't find anything really bad on my record, I can have the permit.

Last Friday, I saw a story about a woman in New Jersey who was killed by an ex-lover.

She had applied for permission to carry a pistol for protection. Under the laws of New Jersey, such licenses are only issued to people who can show that they are threatened. But the license process (which depends partly on non-Local-Police agencies that process fingerprints) can take time.

And the Police didn't fear the repercussions of turning the 30-day wait into a 60-day wait, or a 90-day wait. But Carol Brown did fear those problems.

And she is now dead.

Which is why I'm wary of government-issued permits for that kind of thing. Especially if the permit-to-carry is only "for people who can show a valid threat to their lives", and has a process that can still result in long delays.

If a person can't ask for permission to carry a weapon until they can point to a specific threat against their lives, how will they have time to practice carrying and using the weapon safely?

If a person can't trust the System to provide that permission in a timely manner, how does that system support their right to self-defense?


Weekend Reading: interlude

As an interlude in the tale of Abraham and his family, I remember a different book.

In the middle of the Jewish Scriptures, in the section dedicated to poetry and wisdom, is the tale of a man named Job.

The setting of Job, and the people named there, doesn't belong in the narrative of Abraham and his descendants. However, they may be part of a different branch of Abraham's family tree.

Job has some similarities with Abraham: a wealthy man, a man who communes with God. He has at least one difference: a large family.



As I noted previously, I have long held a Concealed Pistol License.

The new license arrived in the mail this week. Saving me from carrying without a license.

I was very happy to have the new license.

Even though I committed a paperwork-crime by carrying without a license, the danger to others was the same as when I carried with a license.

All of the danger resides in my attitude and behavior, not in the license (or lack thereof).

However, I carried the firearm with the knowledge that misbehavior while carrying a pistol could result in very heavy legal penalties. So my attitude and behavior were modified by the knowledge that my permit is a valuable thing.

Even though most of the value is in its ability to help convince Policeman and Prosecutors that the gun hidden under my shirt isn't an indicator of evil intent.



With some pithy humor, Glenn Reynolds notes a new, extremely-small, data storage device.

Heck, I can remember wondering if MS-Word documents would still fit on a 3.5-inch disc. Which maxed out at 1.44 MB.

And I can remember doing a swap-this-disc-now install of MS Windows from a stack of 3.5-inch discs.


Weather and Wheels

The weather has been hit-and-miss for motorcycle riding since the repairs were finished. I've only ridden the machine a few times. In the past month, I've had many days where riding was possible, but the potential for rain was too high for comfort.

This past weekend had half a day of good riding, and a cold front that brought in nearly 24 hours of rainfall.

When thinking about riding, I first want to blame the weather. However, a few other factors seem to have reduced riding.

My schedule now includes several days of the week when I have to have a car, to handle some task at the end of the day.

When I drive, I find that I enjoying my current car (with a manual transmission) much more than I used to enjoy the Jeep I formerly owned.

This, plus the weather, means that I've ridden very few times this year.

My records indicate that in 2010, I rode the motorcycle often enough in March and April to purchase five tanks of gasoline. However, in 2011, there was no riding (and no fuel purchased) until May. Two tanks of fuel were bought in May.

In 2012, I didn't ride until May. That year, I bought three tanks of fuel in May. However, 2013 saw a beginning of riding in April, and four tanks of fuel purchased in April and May.

The year 2014 saw two tanks of fuel purchased in April and May.

This year, I have exactly one tank of fuel purchased in May.

Belated Weekend Reading: Horror and Salvation

The schedule for weekend readings has been interrupted several times. As I re-visit the series, I notice that the story had just seen the birth of a promised son for Abraham.


Big city news

When the Detroit Police Chief says he would try to avoid using gas stations inside City limits after 2:00 in the morning, things are bad.

(It's not some TV show thing. It's where opportunity meets criminal motive and violent methods.)

This is not news, in the sense that Chief Craig is not saying anything that is a surprise to locals. It's been true for some time.

However, the Chief is willing to be quoted on this in the local newspaper. Which is news, after a fashion.

This reminds me: whenever I notice Chief Craig in the news, I notice that he is trying to encourage people to trust him, and trust the Police.

When there are protests in town, he talks about letting people protest, but coming down hard on anyone using protests as an opportunity to commit crime.

When discussing crime, he wants citizens to know that he approves of law-abiding people carrying guns for personal protection.

And now, he admits that he shares fears that many local residents have. With a subtext of <i>I'm on your side, but I can't work miracles</i>.

I don't know anything about the day-to-day life of the Police Department. Or whether Craig can do much to change the crime in the City.

He's working with a force that has shrunken over time, suffers constant threat of funding problems, and deals with a wide variety of tasks. Detroit has an active Downtown region, sprawling neighborhoods that range from near-wasteland to mostly-inhabited, a busy border-crossing, a State University, a handful of casinos, and many other challenges.

It's a hard job, but Craig appears to be doing his best. And I, a resident of the suburbs, like that.


Breaking the Law

For more than 9 years now, I've held a Concealed Pistol License. Most of those years, I've carried a pistol anywhere I legally could.

Once in that time span, I applied for a renewal of the License. At that time, the renewal was easy. The new license arrived before the old one expired.

This spring, I went to apply for another renewal. The line seemed longer than last time...but it's been nearly 5 years since I last stood in that office.

After I filled out the form, posed for a photo, and paid the bill, I was told that the License might not be issued within three months. However, if the application was not rejected within three months, the application itself would be valid as a temporary License after the three months expired.

The Sheriff's Deputy who pointed this out to me stamped the form with a date. He pointed out that the date of validity of the temporary License would happen about 10 days after my birthday. But the License would expire on my birthday.

Thus, the behavior which had been my daily habit for most of the last decade would be illegal. For a week and a half.

And then become legal again, after that 10-day period.

Those 10 days felt strange. Monday after my birthday, I walked out the door with a gun in its usual place. Once I arrived at the office (and placed the gun in its locked box inside the car), I remembered that my License was no longer valid. Thus, I'd broken the law by carrying the pistol concealed. But my behavior was no different than the previous week, when it had been legal.

Happily for me, the Police did not swoop in and write me a ticket for unlicensed concealed-carry of a firearm. (I think first offense is a misdemeanor, and later offenses rise to felonious status...)

Since that time, I've been edgy. Until today, when the temporary License becomes valid.

I couldn't carry legally. But I could still carry with a high probability of not being detected, either by Police or by other citizens. It was still possible that an incredibly-unlikely event could happen. I might be put into a situation in which I'd need to defend myself with lethal force; or might be questioned by Police investigating a crime.

The time of edginess is over...Until the temporary License expires. There is high probability I will receive the renewed License before that happens, but it is still possible.

This experience causes me to ask: is a License-to-carry a necessity?

It has a few perks.

  1. Any Policeman who learns that I have a CPL knows I've taken a class, spent some time on the range, and been fingerprinted.
  2. The Policeman also knows that I've passed a background check by the County Licensing Board
  3. The Policeman knows that I hadn't (at that time) been adjudicated mentally unfit.
    Nor had I been convicted, or scheduled to go to trial for, any crimes on a long list of serious felonies.  
  4. The Policeman knows I likely haven't committed a crime which would cause revocation of the License. 
  5. The License is also a shortcut past the License-to-Purchase-a-Pistol process that is in place in Michigan. 
Admittedly, statements 3 and 4 are true for something like 90% of the State population. However, less than 10% of those have a State-endorsed License to prove it.


Astronomy Pictures

One fun event that happened over last weekend was a camping-and-fishing trip.

The trip was far enough away from the Metro Area to allow for some good stargazing. I was also aware that Saturday evening, I would be able to see the Moon close to a pair of planets during twilight.


Memorial Day, repeats

It seems every Memorial Day, a few people post repeats of old posts.

For some reason, this seems more fitting than to try to bring up something new.

I'm sure I've seen this story before, but the courage and steadfastness of two Marines is a stark reminder of the kind of man who is honored on Memorial Day.

This photo is a stark reminder of Memorial to dead soldiers, in their simplest form.

Another photo of the commemoration of Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery gives a sense of the number of men who have died in warfare, and of the faithfulness of the Army in decorating every grave in that cemetery for Memorial Day.


Memorial Day

While looking online for items related to Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, I found this.

The picture below, found there, is a good reminder of what Decoration Day was about.


Could have predicted this

Clayton Cramer notices this news item, and writes a headline.

Approximately, "Usual losers from riots are the law-abiding poor/minority in the neighborhood that suffered the riots."

As I noted there, this was seen in Detroit in '67. Among other places...


Birthday Break

For my birthday, I took a break from blogging. And on the day after, I took another break from blogging.

In the meantime, I found some fun stuff.

Trigger warnings, from someone who has experienced trauma and knows exactly what triggers the panic.

This day in history...exactly one day after I was born, the biggest volcanic eruption of the past century happened.

A novel in progress.

A humorous look at another important day in history. From the same source, an update to the Muses spoken of by the ancient Greeks.


Local News

Sometimes, the regional news brings along really odd stories.

Like this one.

As Clayton Cramer says, the sub-head ought to be "Don't be Stupid."


Vehicle oddity

I've spent a year and a half driving a manual transmission as my daily drive.

The different behavior of a manual-transmission car became a deeply-ingrained habit in my mind. When I took a corporate test-vehicle home over the weekend, I was a little surprised when the automatic-transmission vehicle started moving the moment I let off the brakes.

I also noticed how the fuel economy gauge on the dashboard behaved. A very shallow up-slope (I think less than 1% grade, but over two miles) caused the fuel economy to drop noticeably. I could have maintained high economy, but only by coasting and losing lots of speed. Steady speed on a similar down-slope, or a flat section of roads, showed the maximum possible reading for fuel economy.


Computer fun

Another item from the weekend:

I did two things on my computers. One of which was much easier than I'd anticipated, the other of which was trickier.

The GNU/Linux distribution that I'm using is called Gentoo. I had decided to add a feature to the old machine in my basement that mostly holds backup files and a print-server.

The new feature is a Media Server.

After a little tweaking and searching, I ended up at this web site. I spent a little time pulling in upgrades to the core Gentoo system, then I ran the installer for plex-media-server.

A few minutes later, Plex was installed and I was importing MP3 files. I could see the server from any computer on the in-house network, and could also see the new Plex server from my Roku media center.

The harder task was changing the Login Manager on that same Gentoo system, while enabling the screensaver software to let another user log in.

The software that handler user login is separate from the software that handles the screensaver, and is also separate from the Window Manager that handles most user interaction. Further, some Login Managers depend heavily on libraries from the related Window Manager, while others don't.

(Technically, this is also true in Windows and Mac. However, Microsoft/Apple don't make it easy for the user to replace one of these tools.)

Thus, I had to find and parse directions for switching from SLiM Login Manager to LightDM. And then find the command offered by LightDM to plug into the newLogin option offered by the XScreenSaver toolkit. The answer wasn't easy to find in the Gentoo online documentation, but I eventually found something in the documentation of the Arch Linux distribution.

Then I had to test. However, it didn't work...I'd forgotten that I needed to shut down and re-spawn the XScreenSaver process to use the new setting. After that, I realized that I also needed to log out of the active session, restart the Login Manager, and then log in again.

Eventually I figured it out.

One of the hassles of not using a fully-integrated desktop environment (like GNOME) is that I occasionally run into poorly-documented interactions between components.


Mother's Day

Wish I had much to say about celebrating Mother's Day yesterday.

It's hard to top what was said by one sibling, to Mom.

"I'm happy you decided to become a mother."

The job of a mother contains many chores, tasks, and deeds that aren't often seen. It's a hard task. Yet without someone willing to take that task up, none of us would be here.


Life and Death

I attended a funeral this week.

The day was rainy. The deceased man was Jewish. He was not exactly young, but seemed too young to die of a brain tumor.

The service itself was a mix of comforting and haunting.

The Jewish-ness of the service was interesting. The rabbi quoted from the Tanakh many times. He spoke of the promises offered by God, and ended by speaking of a fervent hope for the future.

At the end, the rabbi spoke of the hope in a future coming of the Messiah.

I realized that Christians find hope in the same thing; the main difference is over whether the future coming is the first or second appearance of the Messiah.

After the service, the family and friends met, talked, and remembered the life and death of this man.


Police departments and statistics

I noticed, over the weekend, that Jim Miller found and posted an interesting article about deaths caused by Police Officers in the United States.

The data in that article indicate that homicide-by-Officer has declined in the United States over the last three decades. (This decline is seen in most other statistics about crime in the United States.)

Is the current rage about such events the result of expecting improvement (fewer suspects dying while interacting with Police) to turn into perfection (no deaths at the hands of Police)?


Police Departments, Culture, and Behavior

While perusing FaceBook last week, I found a comment from a former Police Officer.

This man was trying to describe the difference between the Department that he knew (in Atlanta) and the evidence about the Police Department in Baltimore, as described by David Simon.


Weekend thoughts

This is not a continuation of my exploration of Christian Scripture, but a compilation of thoughts.

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time playing music, and talking with, other Christians. Part of the time was spent preparing for a night of intercession and worship next week.

In the communing, in practicing music, and in worshiping together, I was reminded of why I remain a part of the local Church.


Local News

On the heels of a death-in-Police-custody and rioting in the city of Baltimore, there was news of another death-of-suspect-being-apprehended.

In Detroit.

Local to me, even if the trouble (and potential unrest) is still likely to be miles from my home.

As Aaron (at the Shekel) noted, this situation could have turned very bad indeed. But it appears that the Detroit Police were willing to leave the protesters alone, while promising a hard crack-down on crime at the protest site.

Most of the credit should be given to Police Chief Craig.

There are many others involved (including citizen groups and former-oversight-boards), but the leadership of Chief Craig appears to have been very good here.



The motorcycle is now running.

If I may indulge in a bit of whimsy...

The sky was gloomy outside. Inside the workroom, the doctor was at his work-bench.

"Igor, the 10-mm socket." The doctor gestured at the tool-drawer.

"Yes, Dr. Frankenstein." The hunch-backed assistant shuffled over to the drawer. He spent a minute searching for the item; then shuffled back with the requested tool. 

"Hold this wire." Igor carefully held the wire in place. The doctor placed the bolt into position, and began tightening it with the socket.

"Good, Igor. Now hold this other wire." They repeated the task with the second wire.

"Now fetch the ether spray." Igor obediently did, as the doctor stepped back with a strange gleam in his eye. A moment later, the doctor was setting the key and adjusting a choke setting.

Igor handed the doctor the requested spray-can. The doctor chuckled ominously as he sprayed the ether into the air-intake box.

Then the doctor switched the key, and touched the red button.

The machine cranked and sputtered.

The doctor grabbed the throttle, moved it to max, and touched the red button again.

The machine cranked, sputtered, and then roared to life with raucous noise.  

"It lives, Igor."

Igor smiled.

The doctor cautiously adjusted the throttle and choke a few times. The raucous noise settled into a smooth rumble. The doctor's eyes gleamed with pleasure; his voice rose. "It lives, Igor. It lives!" 

Outside, the wind blew in a strangely ominous way. The neighbors wondered at the strange portents from the doctor's shop. 

It felt kind of like that.

Well, without a hunch-backed assistant. (And I'm not a doctor...and the neighbors don't think I have a touch of madness about me.)

But I spent many hours with the motorcycle, awakening it out of a winter of slumber.


Motorcycle Repairs, part 2

Last weekend, I spent most of a Saturday replacing a chain on a motorcycle.

After trying to re-start the motorcycle, I discovered that the battery was no longer any good. It's been in use for several seasons, and I typically put the battery inside and on a trickle-charger during the winter.

Even though the voltage measure indicated full-charge, the headlight went dead while trying to crank the engine. And the battery couldn't turn the engine over fast enough to bring the engine to life.

Thus, I had to purchase a replacement battery.

I did delay the purchase somewhat. The weather went from warm-weekend to cold-and-snow-flurries during the week. And I gave the old battery another session on the charger...then tried to start the engine again.

That, and the variations in weekly schedule, kept me from being able to do anything until this weekend.

The new battery has been purchased, prepared, and charged. But it hasn't been tried yet. I'll see what the result is tonight.


Weekend Reading: Promise Kept

The story of Abraham, as told in Genesis, went through several layers of interactions with the Creator.

First, a special promise, Abraham's faith in response to the promise, a mistake in applying that faith to his situation, a special covenant (with a new name and a promise of a son with his wife Sarah), and a ring-side seat on God's judgement.

The narrative then moves on to the birth of Isaac, the promised son.

Earth Shaking News

An old friend of mine is involved in missionary work. That work has him traveling a good deal. (It's more short-term work than long-term work.)

Over the weekend, I saw (on his FaceBook feed) a note that he'd left Nepal earlier than planned. Then there was a note that he is now happy that he was safe. And that it feels odd that he is looking at pictures of old buildings from Kathmandu...which are now destroyed. Less than a week after he took them.

That's one way to learn about a big earthquake in Nepal...

I'm saddened by the news that so many people have died. And that so many remote villages in the mountains were likely flattened by this quake.


Did I miss Earth Day?

I think yesterday was Earth Day.

I must have missed it. What on Earth was I thinking?

In the meantime, I am amused (somewhat) by this post. A list of past Earth Day predictions that have turned out wrong.


Intellectual Property

Saw a post here about copyright, intellectual property, and the automotive business.

Which kind of piques my interest.

I work in a company that sells widgets for installation in automobiles. I've worked on units that were all proprietary-code on a custom microcontroller.

I've also worked on units which use a mix of Open Source code, Open Source toolkits for proprietary code, licensed code, and all-proprietary code. (Those tended to be big, on-dashboard infotainment units. It's not really a radio, it's the little brother to a tablet PC. With all sorts of custom hardware connections for talking to FM/AM/XM/DAB radio receivers, CD players, USB connections for MP3, Bluetooth-HFP, Bluetooth-A2DP, etc.)

I've got a minor nit to pick with the article from AutoBlog.

Though the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed in 1998, cars typically at least one programmable micro-controllers by that time.

Almost all cars since model-year 1996 support ODB-II technology. That requires, at minimum, and engine controller which includes some control software.

Predecessors to ODB-II have been in the field since the early 1990s. Many of these also used programmed micro-controllers.

Thus, the assumption that things have changed since 1998 doesn't really make sense to me.

The complexity of code, and range of features controlled by the code, have both risen drastically since 1998. However, the fact that cars contain some copyrighted software hasn't changed since then.

Nor has the fact that niche markets exist for custom coders who want to tweak that software. Even if the niche is now much larger than it used to be.

I do know that such aftermarket modification might make the project I work on less profitable. Or it might be more profitable, depending on how the aftermarket modifications affect demand for this project.

It's an odd legal question. Do the intellectual property rights of the manufacturer mean that it is illegal for tinkerers to poke at the software, and try to improve it?

What is the difference between modifying a car's hardware and modifying its software?


Motorcycle Repair

Over the weekend, I did some work on my motorcycle.

She is in good shape, though the chain and sprockets were obviously old and worn.

Originally, I had thought that I needed to pay someone else to do the task. After a short discussion with my father, I decided to let him help me with the task.

Though my motorcycle is much older than the one in this video, the steps involved in the task were much the same.

At the end of the day, I was able to mount the new sprockets, put the rear tire back in place, install the new chain, re-attach the suspension and rear brakes, and align the rear wheel.

All told, the day went well.

With one small exception: after I pulled the battery out of storage, it couldn't generate enough current to start the engine.

Either I need a new battery, or I need a better trickle-charging system for use during the winter months.

Possibly, I need both.

Once I figure that out, I think I'll be able to ride. (Unless I can convince someone to help me push-start the machine...)

Weekend Reading: hospitality

This weekend's section is closely entwined with the section I mentioned last week.

Abraham, bearing a new name and receiving a repeat of previous promises, is talking with some visitors. In this conversation, the narrative suddenly reveals that one of the visitors is some embodiment of the Creator of All.*

Abraham was talking about the Promise, and his expected son Isaac.

Now, the narrative shifts, and Abraham's guest asks himself and his friends if he should discuss with Abraham what is about to be done nearby.


Hasn't this happened before?

So, a Presidential candidate visits a restaurant, and doesn't leave any tip for the staff.

Talk about friend of the common people.

(Admittedly, the person in question didn't pay. And the restaurant in question isn't the kind of establishment that expects tips for personal service at tables.)

For some reason, I have this memory of a mid-2008 campaign stop in which the same thing happened. But all I can find a trace of is a news story attempting to report that no, an actual tip was left, but someone on-staff may have absconded with a $100 bill rather than split it with fellow workers.


Song of the day

In honor of the day that tax returns are due in the United States:

Something Gnu

I discovered, a few days ago, the existence of the GnuCash software toolkit.

For many years, I've tracked finances on a spreadsheet. It took me some time, but I developed processes and algorithms which help me track my finances using the spreadsheet.

This toolkit, and the instruction set, might make that task much easier.

The documentation attempts to explain the processes of accounting, while it explain how to use GnuCash. While reading this, I realized how similar in structure this tool is to my current set of spreadsheets.

It feels like I tried to invent my own accounting system, and slowly converged on the practices used by actual accountants.

This is interesting.


Pistol Range

Visited the pistol range last night.

It's been more than a few months since I last visited a range. I took two Ruger pistols, one in 0.22 and one in 9mm.

The 0.22 pistol was easy to place on target. At 21 feet, I placed 95% of my shots in a two-inch circle. This isn't competitive-shooting accuracy, but it is pleasant to know that I can hit what I aim at.

The 9mm pistol was harder to shoot accurately. If I hurried, I got lots of scatter. If I didn't hurry, I still got scatter--and I realized that I was anticipating the shot too much. It was too easy to flinch against the expected recoil.

When I didn't flinch, the shots were scary-accurate. The same two-inch circle at 21 feet.

When I did flinch, the scatter was wide. Too wide for comfort.

I think I know what I'll work on when I'm next at the range. And while dry-firing, and while using my LaserLyte in the basement.


Fails in internet advertising

For all the scary power of computers to track data, I find that focused advertising is a little...off.

I've read a few articles on this subject. (Most memorable are the ones written by Megan Mcardle...she has a gift for bringing together data, story, and presentation. Though those articles are more about the trials and travails of journalists trying to support their business through advertising, than about the economics of advertising in the digital world.)

In theory, computer networks and user-tracking should allow powerful predictive algorithms to show me ads for things I'm interested in. Or may need soon.

However, I find it much more likely that I'll see targeted ads for things that I've recently bought already.

This month, it's the rear sprocket for my motorcycle. I spent an evening digging up prices and options at two different online retailers, and made a purchase. During that same evening, I purchased a new chain and a new front-sprocket.

Every evening since then, I've seen ads for the rear sprocket that I already purchased. Except on Amazon, which is recommending other things I've bought within the past six months...or "books you may like", which are already on my bookshelf.

I wonder what is driving this behavior. The algorithm knows enough about me to know what I have gone shopping for. But it doesn't know enough about me to know what else I might be purchasing soon.

Or maybe the algorithm isn't capable of--or isn't even attempting to--predict my future shopping. So it tries to advertise to me things that I've shopped for in the recent past.


Weekend Reading: Special Ceremony

The story of Abram has already had several interactions between Abram and his Creator.

Now comes another instance where the story is altered by a direct communication with God.

Abram has already gotten instructions to move to Caanan, and already been given a list of tribal lands that will belong to his descendants. God repeats this promise, but merely names the land as Caanan this time.

Abram is given a new name: Abraham. His wife Sarai is also given a new name: Sarah. The promise of descendants is repeated, with a special mention of Sarah as the mother of those descendants. The name of Isaac is mentioned for the promised son, and a date is given.

A special sign of this covenant is given, the covenant of circumcision. All the men in Abraham's household are instructed to go through this action. The act is a sign, in the flesh of men from the culture, that they are different. Yet it is a sign that is not obvious to most outside observers.

This formal statement of a promise from God and a covenant of circumcision is separated from a special visit, as told in the next section of the story*.

In the next section, the story-telling style looks more like the story of Abraham's interactions with his neighbors. He's sitting in his tent, and sees travelers. Then he greets those travelers with courtesy expected among nomadic peoples in arid climates.

One of the men asks about Sarah, and then re-iterates the promise given by God to Abraham in the previous story. "By this time next year, she will have a son."

Sarah, overhearing the conversation, laughs. The men (one of whom is suddenly named as the Creator, or a special incarnation of His presence), asks about the laughter, and repeats the promise about the birth a son within a year.

Here we have two separate stories that promise the birth of Isaac within a specified period of time. One is related to the covenant of circumcision, the other is related to the Creator somehow manifesting in a form that allows face-to-face conversation with Abraham.

The covenant of circumcision seems an odd one. It is a sign, but a sign that is not often made visible to outsiders. It is a sign that is ever-present, yet not often shown. It is more to remind the bearer of the sign, than to remind others. It is also a change that is impossible to reverse.

This seems part of the personal nature of the interaction of Abraham and his people with God. It is more important that the bearers of this sign know that they wear it, than that others know. And it reminds them that God sees things that can be hidden from other men.

*This second story addresses the Creator by a different name. Yet the promises given are similar, even though the interaction is vastly different.

Was this an artifact of different branches of the Abrahamic family remembering the events in different ways, and underlining different details of the events?

Were these two separate encounters with the Creator, or one?


Springtime weather

Thursday night, and into Friday morning, the Metro Detroit area had strong winds and heavy rains.

However, I'm happy that we didn't see anything worse. People in parts of Illinois saw funnel clouds and towns torn apart.

It's sad to hear of injury and damage; but it is also good that we have the ability to predict such weather and distribute warnings to all in the area.

Radar itself is not even a century old; the beginning of the use of radar to detect developing tornadoes is still within living memory.


Trouble with Police

[UPDATE Sunday 2015-04-12. I've noticed that the story, as given below, may not be complete. I'm surprised that the core narrative as first reported has so many holes...but I'm still not sure whether the officer was justified in this instance. It's possible that Walter Scott had a currently-unknown reason to run from the traffic stop, and it's known that the shooting happened some distance away from the traffic-stop.]

In reading this story, I'm reminded of chats I've had with Police officers and former Police officers.

One of those is a distant relative, Officer J*. When Officer J and I had a chance to chat about the incident in Ferguson, MO, he was able to quote all the violence that deceased suspect Michael Brown had visited on Officer Wilson before Wilson shot him. I was able to point out that the bullet-wounds on Brown's body did not indicate a posture of surrender. Nor did the wounds indicate that he was shot in the back.

I remarked, at the time, that even a pasty-skinned white boy would not have survived such behavior.

Now I see the story of Walter Scott.

Scott may have had reason to be afraid of identifying himself to the Police. There isn't much news of a history of violence. But Scott had a record of arrests and warrants; most were related to failure to pay child support.

Scott's vehicle had a broken tail-light. A Policeman notices and pulls him over. Scott leaves the vehicle at a run, and the Policeman shoots him. Further, the Policeman may have tried to manufacture evidence about Scott taking a Taser away from him before running.

This is the kind of case that makes other Policemen mad. An officer shooting a suspect who does not present an immediate danger to the officer or to the public. An officer attempting to lie about the danger presented by the deceased suspect.

Fittingly, that officer is already imprisoned and bound over for trial on a murder charge.

I think this is good. Not because of the skin colors of the officer and victim, but because this is the case of a policeman being more violent than was necessary. And being punished for it.

And it is a case where an obvious Police misdeed is being punished by other Policemen.

[UPDATE: interesting. someone thinks that Al Sharpton isn't helpful in this situation.]

*An aside: Officer J is a mixed-race individual. He's had perps call him all sorts of nasty racial names. He's co-operated with good officers, with mediocre officers, and interacted with citizens of all stripes.

When he and I discussed the Ferguson situation, skin color did not come up. Which I'm kind of happy to say.

Interestingly, Office J and another former-Policeman present at that conversation said that it was somewhat common for one of them to see a jay-walker, yell "get on the sidewalk", and realize a moment later that the jaywalker was wanted for something else.
[UPDATE: forgot to finish this thought. This experience of seeing a jaywalker, and then realizing that the jaywalker is wanted, was exactly what Officer Wilson went through in Ferguson.]


Early in the morning

On the morning of the first day of the week, after Passover those many years ago...

The followers of the executed rabbi went to the tomb where he'd been hastily buried. And found the surprise ending to top all surprise ending.

Another song comes to mind.


Were you there?


Yesterday, I attended religious services. While there, I heard a rendition of this song, "Were you there?"

I still think that Johnny Cash did that song better than anyone else. But Cash had a habit of taking other people's songs, and singing as if the song were his own.

I am reminded of what the story looked like to the soldiers present that day.

They were punishing a rabbi, reputedly a miracle-worker.

The rabbi from Nazareth had made enemies among the Sanhedrin, the religious council connected to the Jewish Temple. The High Priest and leaders of the Sanhedrin had captured the rabbi, and reported Him to the local Roman Governor for trial as an enemy to the Pax Romana.

A peace--not always an easy peace--existed between Imperial Rome and the Jews.

Both sides remembered Judas Maccabeus, a religious and military leader who had driven out the Seleucid empire, nearly two centuries previous. After the imposition of Roman rule, Imperial taxes or a census connected to taxes would lead to bloody riots in Judea.

The soldiers had heard stories: this troublesome rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, had a large following. The Sanhedrin felt threatened. There was no evidence that Jesus was raising an army to drive out the Romans...but large crowds followed Jesus. And there was lots of talk about a Kingdom of Heaven.

The Sanhedrin had convicted Jesus of blasphemy, and the Governor Pontius Pilate had initially opposed the execution. He offered the mob friendly to the Sanhedrin a choice between executing Jesus and executing an infamous thief and murderer. They clamored for the death of Jesus.

So the soldiers had their day of whipping, beating, and finally executing this rabbi.

After stripping Jesus, nailing him to the cross, and raising the cross into position, the soldiers divided his clothes among themselves. Above Jesus' head hung a sign, reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Two other men were executed alongside Jesus.

Late in the day, the sun darkened and an earthquake shook the region. The soldiers remained on-post. Near sun-down, they set about to break the legs of the crucified men. Though they would eventually die if left on the cross for days, broken legs would speed up their death.  Jesus appeared already dead, and one soldier plunged a spear into Jesus' side to verify the death.

The officer in charge at the scene might have said "Surely this man was a just man!", or "surely this man was a Son of God."

It seemed an ignominious end to a lifetime of teaching and ministry.

Yet it was only the beginning of a movement that had large impact on the world, long after the end of the Imperial power that sentenced Jesus to death.


What to do with a classic

It seems a day or two late...

Since I have a classic motorcycle (model year 1982), and I have a hard time convincing any repair shop to look at it, should I do the repair myself?

It's an odd question. I have the ability, though I may not like spending the time on that particular task.

On the other hand, it's also easy for me to make a mistake that will be hard to fix. (Such as mis-aligning the back tire.)

I've done many oil changes, some spark-plug-wire changes, pulled the fuel tank off, replaced the battery, removed/cleaned/re-installed the carburetor. But I have't pull tires or wheels off myself. And I haven't disassembled any part of the transmission or chain-drive before.

It's an odd feeling. I know I that I can do it. I'm just not sure I'll be fully happy with the results. And I know that a professional will likely do the task quicker and better than I can do it.

This is a strange feeling. I don't know what I'll do.



I own a motorcycle.

It's been my summer ride for nearly 4 years now. I've put nearly 10000 miles on it since I bought it, used, in late 2009. Since it was an 1982 model year machine, I counted myself lucky.

In all that time, I haven't paid much attention to the drive chain. Except for lubricating it every month or two.

Last fall, I took it in to get the front tire swapped out. The maintenance man at the shop asked me how old the chain was. I shrugged. He recommended replacement. It was far looser than it ought to be, and there was too much slack to fix it by bringing in the tensioner.

I thanked him, and rode the machine home--gingerly. I then planned to get the chain and sprockets replaced this Spring.

Except...it's a little hard to get a repair shop to make an appointment. Because the machine is from 1982.

Kind of ironic, since the shop that I drove the motorcycle to for front-tire replacement didn't bat an eye when I rode it in. But they said, over the phone, that it was too old for them to work on.

However, the task of swapping out a chain and sprockets is much more involved than the task of replacing the tire on the front wheel.

And it is highly likely that this repair shop regularly gets calls from people who've left a motorcycle unused in their garage for a decade...and then want it fixed up. They have no idea how many bolts might break while they take things apart, nor do they have any idea of the condition of the motorcycle that I'm talking to them about on the phone.

Except now I have to chase down a repairman who will do this job. Because I don't quite feel up to the job of doing a complete chain-and-sprocket replacement myself.



A few months ago, I began attempting to learn a new music instrument.

Bass guitar is an odd instrument. Like the electric guitar, it's hard to practice without an amplifier. Unlike an electric, it is fairly hard to play more than one note at a time.

It's also an instrument that is noticed, but not directly, when it is part of a larger musical ensemble.

Anyway, I find the combination of rhythm and tone available to be alluring.

One odd pleasure: I found a way to pipe YouTube videos through to my TV and the big surround-sound system attached to it. And if I know the song, I can figure out how to play a bass-line along with the recorded music.

Sometimes, it's songs like a Bob Seger classic, Old Time Rock'n'Roll.

After a few attempts, I realized that Bob Seger had used a fairly simple three-chord progression. It had lots of room for walk-downs between changes, and a pattern that seemed familiar.

After a few listens through, it suddenly hit me. The pattern is close to, but not exactly, a classic 12-bar blues riff. The blues riff would be something like this, where each vertical line represents one measure of music.
| E | " | " | " | A | " | E | " | B | " | E | B |
The riff used by Bob Seger is more like this. I guess the drop-to-root chord, followed by return-to-dominant-chord, was what reminded me of the old blues standard.
| E | " | " | " | A | " | " | " | B | " | " | " | E | " | B | " |
Come to think of it, I've probably heard dozens of songs that ran with the simple root/subdominant/dominant progression.

One thing that surprises me: this guy was singing about Old Time Rock...before I was born. Which makes it recursive: an old song that reminisces about older songs.


Weekend Reading: Human action and Divine provision

Last year, I spent a little effort reviewing the Christian and Hebrew scriptures. Somewhere along the way, that project (and blogging in general) dropped off.

Earlier parts of this series: creation, childhood, and loss-of-innocence. Then worship, jealosy and violence. Followed by a giant reset. Then a new beginning, followed by a special covenant.

Abram, nomadic herder of sheep, occasional leader in regional wars, is childless. Yet the great promise given to him by his Creator involved his descendants. He and his wife Sarai follow a pattern apparently known to (and possible approved by) the culture that he lived in: elevate one of the slave women to concubine, and have a child by her.

The concubine, named Hagar, conceives a child. Intra-camp trouble results between Hagar and Sarai, leading to Hagar leaving.

Hagar has a meeting with God. It is a strangely short meeting, yet Hagar learns something: the powerful being that Abram worships sees her, the cast-away servant girl. This realization is written into history in the name of her son: Ishmael, meaning "God who listens."

She returns to Abram.

It's a strange story, one that could almost be thrown aside as unimportant. Ishmael and his descendants will not be seen in many places later in the Hebrew narratives.

Even in these characters who are not part of the main story, we see some evidence of care and concern of the Creator for individuals.

And there's some foreboding of future events: God provides. Even when His followers misunderstand the how and why of the fulfillment of promise, and try to do things by themselves, He sees and has pity.


Escaped Slave

Today is St. Patrick's Day, a celebration of the one of the most-famous escaped slaves in history.

He's much better known for spreading Christianity in a pagan land. And for driving snakes out of Ireland. (Was that story symbolic of a clash with a snake-worshiping group of Druids? A symbolic reference to evil spirits of some kind? Or just a folk tale that developed out of imagination?)

Patrick's long association with Ireland that nation during the struggle for independence.

Thus, a Latin-speaking Briton born in Wales became a symbol of Ireland.


Essential skills?

I don't see "recompile the Linux kernel on your system" on this list. Or even "dual-boot a Windows machine with Linux."

Though both are a little hard to describe in the format given there.

Still, it's a list of useful skills and tools. Though it's oddly jumbled. (Why do "shine shoes" and "perform a perfect push-up" appear before "replace an electrical switch"? Why does "survive a tire blowout" show up in the middle of the series, but "jump start a car" show up at the end? Jump-starting is a much more common need than is surviving a blowout.)

Of the skills and tools listed, I think I've performed, or at least learned the rudiments of half of them. Most of the electrical, home-repair, or vehicle-related items I've learned from my father. A few others I've learned on my own.



A person attempting to read the entire U.S. Tax Code faces a daunting task.

Much more daunting than attempting to read the entirety of the Christian Scripture, for instance.

Admittedly, most citizens of the U.S. are in a category which allows the taxpayer to read the instructions for Form 1040, followed by the instructions for Schedule A and a handful of related documents...or to trust the computer wizards who created TurboTax.

Still, there can be surprises for people who aren't well-versed in the tax code.

Gifts, inheritance, basis points, self-employment taxes, married-filing-separately or married-filing-jointly, ...and the tax-that-was-not-called-a-tax for people who fail to purchase health insurance.

It's a mess.

I'll keep on reading the Bible. And I'll try to keep an eye on the tax code.

But I'll note that it's very hard for mis-interpretation of the Bible to lead to jail terms and hefty fines.

And that if I get bad advice from a tax preparer or an employee of the Internal Revenue Service's help-desk, I am considered at fault.


Hard to explain that one

As seen on "Survive the Streets" on Facebook:

I know that by now all of you have heard about the 18-month old girl that was rescued from an overturned vehicle after fourteen hours in freezing temps. Now, all four officers involved with the discovery have gone on record saying they heard a woman softly calling for help. The child was unconscious and the child's mother had already passed. There was no one nearby.
The story has been reported in many places. (Link to a local news story.)

This is one of those stories that defy explanation. Several different people heard a call for help, but the stricken infant did not make the call. And the deceased adult in the car didn't cry out.

What explanation should be preferred?

If a spontaneous mass hallucination led to a rescued child, is that not a miracle?

If a Divinely-ordained voice mimicked the sound of a woman in need of help, is that not a miracle?

For some reason, I'm reminded of a quote from Hamlet. "There are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies."


Daylight Savings

A couple days late, maybe... but still worth a few words.

The practice of artifically moving the "Local Time" backwards or forwards is odd.

I had no idea of the reason, until I found a chart like this one (sourced from here).

Locally, under Daylight Savings, sunrise comes between 0530 and 0600 in June. Sunset comes between 2130 and 2200. (That 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM to people who don't use 24-hour clocks.)

Without Daylight Savings, sunrise would come before 0500 in the morning in June!

I think that the American culture has decided that it is better to tinker with clocks so that sunrise is after 0500 in the morning. Even if the price is long, late summer evenings in June. And if there is a lot of hassle and dislocation during one week of Spring and one week of Fall.


Winter not yet gone

A few days ago, I was expecting warmer weather.

For the first week of March, the local area has gotten a mix of snow and freezing rain, and lots of cold. The freezing rain left an beautifully-smooth layer of ice on top of the snow.

The weather predictions say that thawing is coming this weekend. We'll see what happens.


Still winter?

One month ago, while traveling to a party involving some sort of football-game championship, I saw a snowmobile. On 8 Mile road. (I could say of movie fame...but it wasn't the section of 8 Mile that separates Detroit from northern suburbs. I was further west, where the road separates Wayne County suburbs from Oakland County suburbs.)

It was a very snowy day, and the Monday that followed was peppered with school closures due to snow.

About a week after that, a temporary warm spell had appeared. While most of the snow was present, it was obviously melting. I even saw a motorcycle on the road one afternoon.

Then the weather snapped back to cold. And remained cold. To produce an average-temperature-for-February lower than most years since the 1880s.

Almost as if the weather were watching the calendar, things began warming up for the first day of March.

But it still looks like winter outside. And the snow will likely remain on the ground until late March.


What does it mean to be Christian?

Left elsewhere, while discussing the meaning of the label "Christian":

About the distinction between "Christian is someone who is mostly a good person" and "Christian is someone who believes the Creed, and has repented and received God's grace.":  I feel like I've met this discussion before.
In Colonial America, during the lead-up to the First Great Awakening, many churches were struggling about how to define membership.
Most churches had charters which required prospective members to profess some sort of personal experience in receiving God's grace. A "born-again experience". Many of the original settlers had such a story.
However, fewer of the grand-children and great-grand-children of the original settlers had such a story. But they wanted church membership. 
A compromise was reached: some sort of half-way covenant. People who didn't live "notorious lifestyles" could become partial members of the church, even if they had no personal experience of repentance and receiving God's grace.
The Great Awakening ended this practice. Mostly because of the large number of people who repented of sinful attitudes, received God's grace, and gave glad testimony about entering into a new relationship with Jesus.
Tellingly, the mark of a Christian became "professes repentance, shows evidence of changed life and receiving God's grace". Instead of "doesn't live a lifestyle that is too far from our social norms."
(I may be over-simplifying the story...the history of the transition from fervent Puritan settlers to the half-way-covenant, and then to the Great Awakening, is a complex one.)

I'm not much of a preacher, but I'm becoming more and more a student of living out the Christian life. And I'm surprised at how little most Americans know about things like the Great Awakening.

The Great Awakening was part of a tumult of cultural changes. (Which may have sowed the seeds that sprouted, a generation later, into the American Revolution.) One of those changes was a re-awakening of the understanding that social respectability is not the key to being right with God.

This emphasis has been lost, and re-awakened, and lost again, several times in American history. The religiosity of the Second Great Awakening also heralded great social change. (Among those changes: a Temperance movement and an Abolition movement.)

Other, lesser awakenings of religious fervor have come in many regions of the nation. When social acceptability meant acceptance of slavery, a growth in religious fervor pushed against that.

When social acceptability meant arguing in favor of no-fault divorce, or relaxing the boundaries of socially-accceptable sexual behavior, religious fervor pushed against that also.

Not all such religious movements have been cultural winners in America. Nor did every part of American history see fervor like the original Great Awakening.

It is worth remembering that these things have happened before, even if it leads me to lament the confusion between socially-acceptable behavior and the life that God approves of.


The past is a foreign country

While reading online over the weekend, I saw this post come up at the TOFSpot.

It's part of a series of articles on Hypatia, philosopher and social leader of Alexandria during the 4th Century.

Reading the careful review of original sources, and the historical narrative, reminded me yet again: the past is a foreign country.

Especially the past of Egypt, during late-Roman times.

The story of Hypatia is strange an interesting.

It is also a story that seems ripe to be embellished into an anti-Christian story. (Or anti-Catholic story, for those who don't recall that Alexandria was part of the Orthodox, and later Coptic, branches of Christianity.)

Mike Flynn does his best to demolish the simplistic, anti-Christian story about Hypatia. It's an interesting story, even for those people who are only dimly aware of Hypatia, or of the history of Eastern Christianity.


Oddity seen on TV

Over the past few weeks, I've done a little bit of binge-watching of old TV shows.

On an old presentation of Top Gear, the team did a trip to the magnetic North Pole (or its 1996 location) in a special truck. The course they followed was roughly that of the biennial Polar Race.

The problems of traveling in such cold regions were many. Apparently, the Top Gear team was the first team to attempt to take a wheeled vehicle on that route.

The dog-sled was slower, but less hampered by the terrain.

The truck was severely hampered by thick fields of ice-boulders. Several times, I wondered whether they would have done better with a SnowTrac, or other tracked vehicle.

The thing which caught my eye the most was a downed airplane. The crew found what looked like a DC-3. James May correctly identified it as a C-47, since it bore the emblems of a military plane.

After some research, I found that the crash site was known. The crash was within a few miles of the (now-abandoned) Isachsen weather station. The airplane crashed during takeoff from the runway associated with the weather station. Most of the passengers on board the plane survived, and were rescued.

It was a surprising find.

I almost expected the show to contain a few jokes about Captain America. Then I realized that the Top Gear Polar Challenge had been filmed in 2007, and the film I was thinking of had been released in 2011.

I wonder if the sight of Arctic explorers happening on the scene of an airplane crash inspired any script-writers.