Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's a new kid in town

Well, I am setting up shop a bit down the road. I am opening up a new blog, in coordination with a few other guys. This blog will be posted on much less, if any, and the newer blog should be much better organized and have much more regular content, both because I'll probably write more and because we'll have 4 people + guests writing for it. There's not much content up right now (only an introduction and explanation about what we're about), but there should be soon, so go set your bookmarks or subscribe to the feed or whatever it is you do. Trust me, you won't want to miss this.

Hobson's Buffet


Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as I’m sure most people know. While it’s seen by many as a day to honor the legacy of this great civil rights proponent, some feel otherwise. In a statement to the Dallas Morning News (as covered by United Press International), the Rev. Peter Johnson, who marched with MLK Jr. and now operates the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Texas, said that he feels the date to honor him should not be his birthday, but the day he was assassinated, and even more, says the fact that it is his birthday is an insult to his legacy. He said, “We have ignored the essence of his life and the horror of his death. We’ve allowed white AmericaAmerica to drift back into a coma.” to escape the guilt of his assassination and we've allowed black

This statement to me is offensive and seems to run counter to the very values MLK Jr. wanted to spread. “Allowed white America to escape the guilt of his assassination”? I apologize if this seems insensitive, but I will not feel guilty for an action taken by a small group of people just because I happen to share their skin color. In this statement, Johnson is guilty of the very thing MLK Jr. fought against: judging someone based on the color of their skin. Being born white, or any other color, should not carry some inherent guilt. In this one circumstance, for example, I was not born when MLK Jr. was alive or was assassinated; as far as I know, none of my ancestors or relatives had anything to do with it; there is no blatant racism within the past several generations of my family, which is all I know about in relation to their views on that subject. No matter what atrocities have been carried out by members of my race or in the name of “white supremacy,” I will not feel guilty because I was accidentally born white.

In the same manner, another article I recently read on the UK Times Online described a surge of anger from a large number of Oprah fans directed towards her for endorsing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. The article cites a comment made on her site by a “fan”: “[I] cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprah’s backing of Obama. For the first time in history we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the White House and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over her gender.”

I’m sorry, but when did the race to decide our next president become about race OR gender? As far as I know, the idea was to decide who you thought could best lead the country, and then vote accordingly, not decide which historic first will occur, the first female president or the first black president. In all this discussion over those two possibilities, people tend to miss the point that the presidential race should be about the issues and the candidates’ stance on them, not their race or gender or looks or even really their personality, although that obviously plays into it.

Another issue brought up by the article is radical feminism, or maybe it would be better termed “anti-maleism.” One of the comments for the article said something like the woman who posted it thought that this country has been run by men long enough, and it was time for it to be led by a woman. Once again, this is an example of reverse-sexism. Just as I harbor no guilt over being born white, I will not feel guilty for being born male. Not all men are chauvinists, and not all men think that the country should be only “run” by males. Especially as Christians, I think we are called to look beyond race or gender for virtually everything like that (I will leave religious services and the like out of the discussion for now).

In conclusion, as a white male, I want to say that being white or male is not evil. Not only are both characteristics something I had no control over at all, but saying I am responsible for the actions of others just because I share their color or gender is tantamount to the same racism/sexism those who would say I am guilty by accident of birth accuse me of committing. I will not apologize for my genes, and I will not try to fix the actions of those of my race or gender who came before me for some kind of penance. What I am willing to do is to stand with other like-minded people and repair the damages cause by those actions, not because of guilt or because I am bullied into doing so by the “victims,” but because it is the right thing to do. I don’t think that the way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. is to attack someone for being white, but to embrace the fact that, whatever color, gender or religion we are, we are all humans sharing this planet and deserving of respect.

I found this [CNN readers respond angrily to "race or gender" story] a while after my original post, but it shows that some people feel the way I do. I'm glad that a good portion of America is not as stupid as we're made out to be.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gears and Gadgets

The British Army tested a new tank last week that's straight out of a James Bond film (specifically, Die Another Day): it goes invisible.

The tank uses the same technology that Bond's Aston Martin V12 Vanquish utilizes. It has cameras set up on it, and takes the images they capture of its surroundings and projects them onto the tank, effectively camouflaging it. People who were at the tests said that they were amazed at how good it was. The British military is also working on a jacket that will do the same thing. The tank should be operational by 2012, according to their plan.

Something else that was developed recently, but this time by a guy in Florida, is a bracelet that shoots pepper spray, inspired by Spider-man.

You wear the bracelet around your wrist, obviously, and there is a button that rests in your palm for easy access, which means that if you get attacked, you can easily trigger the spray to shoot in the direction of your attacker. The man who invented it said he thought it up after one of friends was attacked. The bracelet, along with replacement cartridges of pepper spray, will be available latter this year for around $30.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Ashes to ashes and such

Going along with my last post on famous corpses, here's another dismal topic to discuss: funerals.

Apparently there is a new trend that is going around for "green funerals." There is no embalming, and bodies are buried in plain wooden boxes so that they decompose as quickly as possible. There are even about six cemeteries that are specifically "green-only," known as "eco-cemeteries," two of which are in Maine.

Not only is this type of burial friendly to the environment, but it costs a lot less than a traditional burial. From a story in the Portland Post Herald, funerals that use the embalming process and other modern techniques can cost around $10,000, while a green burial can cost around $1,000 to $2,000 or less. The cremation they for one woman's mother they used as an example cost $350.

Some people disagree with "green funerals," citing health concerns that the embalming process takes care of, and saying that some people would prefer their loved ones to be preserved as long as possible. Another practical reason is that in some places the ground freezes in the winter, making it hard to dig graves, and as such the bodies are embalmed and stored to be buried when the ground thaws.

So the question is, how would you like your body to be treated when you kick the bucket? I've never really had a problem with whatever happened to my body, be it burial or cremation, or even being sunk to the bottom of the sea or eaten by wild animals. My view is, I don't need it anymore, so who cares? But I know some people will differ. For example, my mom can't bear the thought of being cremated. As far as funerals go, I like the idea of a New Orleans jazz funeral. But like I said, it won't matter to me. I guess when it comes down to it, if I had to chose something for whatever relatives I had still living to do with my body, I would say do whatever's cheapest. Don't bother with the expensive caskets and other junk; chuck my body in the ground in a plastic bag. Sure, some of the funeral proceedings are for the benefit of those still living, but don't overdo it.

So how about you? What do you want done, and why? Leave an answer in the comments. I'm interested to hear what people say.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dead men sometimes do tell tales

-This was originally written for the opinion section of the Bison, Harding University's student-run newspaper. It was published in the Oct. 26, 2007, issue.-

I subscribe to an interesting magazine called Mental_Floss, and this month they had a feature called the “Golden Lobe Awards,” a series of awards in honor of brains. There are categories such as “Most Obnoxious Prisoner” (Julius Caesar) and the “Craziest Rumor that Turned Out To Be True” (the duckbilled platypus). However, one award specifically caught my eye: the “Most Desirable Corpse.”

This dubious honor went to Abraham Lincoln, whose body was moved to a new location 17 times. Apparently the mausoleum he was placed in started falling apart, which made his family move him around while it was repaired. There were also multiple plots to steal his body (none of which were successful).

After reading about that, my mind started wandering to other famous corpses that have some sort of story behind them. In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I would share a few of those.

Frederick I Barbarossa – Frederick was the Holy Roman Emperor during part of the late 12th century. On his return from a campaign in 1190, he jumped into the Saleph River in full plate armor. While the water was only hip deep, some speculate that his age (he was 64 at the time) and maybe a heart attack, combined with the weight of the armor, caused him to drown. Then comes the strange part. In order to take his body back to Jerusalem to be buried, Barbarossa was basically pickled in a barrel full of vinegar. This didn’t really work, however, and his skin was placed in Antioch, his bones in Tyre and his organs in Tarsus.

Ted Williams – While famous for his outstanding career in baseball, Williams is also sometimes known for something a bit more unique. After his death on July 5, 2002, Ted Williams head was removed from his body and placed in cryonic suspension. Cryonics is based on the idea that humans in the future will be much more advanced than we are now, and as such, able to cure diseases and revive the dead, in whatever form that takes. Some people opt to have their bodies or, as in Williams’ case, just their heads frozen in hopes of waking up sometime in the future to jet packs and robots. Not many famous people have been cryogenically frozen. Although there have been rumors that Robert Heinlein, a prolific science fiction writer from the 20th century, and Walt Disney were, these are not true. They were both cremated, and Disney’s ashes are resting in a cemetery in Los Angeles, while Heinlein’s were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

Vladimir Lenin – Of course, you can’t have a discussion of interesting corpses without mentioning Lenin. Lenin died at the age of 53 on Jan. 21, 1924. His official cause of death was listed as a fourth stroke, but many theories based on documents found after the fall of the U.S.S.R. claim that he had syphilis. Regardless, after his death, his body was embalmed and placed on display for mourners to view. By mid-March, more than 100,000 people had already visited, and there were more than 10 million visitors between 1924 and 1972. Every year, Lenin’s corpse is re-embalmed to keep it looking as fresh as the day he died.

All these weird corpses make me think of how I will want to be treated after I die. Maybe my body should be preserved, covered in concrete and placed as a statue in some garden. Or maybe I’ll just donate my corpse to Body Worlds, the controversial exhibit that displays real bodies preserved through the use of plastics with skin pulled back and organs exposed. And there’s the ever-popular cremation, with oh-so-many different things to do with your ashes, like be turned into diamonds, a painting or a lot of pencils. Well, whatever happens, I guess it won’t really bother me. Dead people don’t say much.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time to ruin a book series for virtually everyone I know ...

So, it is official. J. K. Rowling revealed that in the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore is, in fact, gay.

On a book tour, a kid asked her if Dumbledore ever found "true love," according to the AP story, and she replied that he was gay. He had been in love with the wizard Gellert Grindelwald, who became evil and Dumbledore was forced to battle and defeat.

Apparently, there was a reference in the script of the sixth movie about a girl that Dumbledore had liked in the past, and she told the director to take it out. The article goes on to say that fans pointed out "that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past."

Well, I agree with Rowling: this just gives conservative Christian groups one more reason to dislike the books. While I enjoyed the books, I'm very disappointed in this, and that I heard about it. I guess I'll spread that disappointment to anyone who happens to read this.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Former Pakistani PM attacked in Karachi, more than 100 dead

Late on Thursday, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, was attacked with bombs as she was coming back to Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, after eight years of exile.

She was inside her bullet-proof bus and was not hurt, but recent counts have put the casualties up to 126 killed and between 250 and 300 wounded. Two bombs - a grenade, then a suicide bomb - exploded near Bhutto's vehicle as it was traveling through streets lined with thousands of people celebrating her return.

This is still a developing story, so check news outlets for updated coverage (The Drudge Report's been keeping up to date with it).

Sky News' article.
BBC News' article.
AP Article.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Case of Finger Pointing and Blame Shifting

An article put out by the BBC states that a recent study of obesity, the largest ever in the UK, has shown that obesity is a rampant problem, costing billions of pounds in treatment and benefits or indirect costs. They say the problem is getting worse every year and than by 2050, the majority of people, at least in the UK, will be obese. I imagine that state will become reality even sooner in the U.S. All this I agree with.

What I don't agree with is how the article goes on to say that obesity is no longer the fault of the individual, but of society. They say due to "energy-dense, cheap foods, labour-saving devices, motorised transport and sedentary work," people can not help but to gain weight, and that "the notion of obesity simply being a product of personal over-indulgence [has been] abandoned for good." [Editor's note: sorry for the British spellings. They're quotes.]

While I agree that Western society in general is not very conducive to a healthy lifestyle, the stance taken by the article really pushes my buttons. It is yet another example of modern culture's tendency to shift responsibility off the individual and onto something else, be it other people, genes or society as a whole as seen here. Without doing a ton, people can stay healthy if they choose to. Yes, there are certain diseases and conditions that do make it hard or impossible to not gain weight, but the vast majority of people are not afflicted with anything like that. With a little exercise and being conscious about what you eat, you may not look amazing but you won't be obese, either.

I wish that people would learn to just take responsibility for their situations. I'm not talking about just in matters of obesity or health either. All these frivolous lawsuits are examples of this same attitude, that when something happens it is not my fault, it's the fault of whoever made the product for not idiot-proofing it. The attitude that says the fault lies with anyone but you combined with greed is very repelling to me. Thankfully, there has been litigation within the past few years limiting the amount of damages juries are allowed to award, but these lawsuits continue to happen and will keep happening until society as a whole becomes a whole lot smarter, which I don't anticipate happening.

I don't know; maybe all this is just my natural tendency to get incredibly annoyed at stupidity, but I do think this is a problem that doesn't have a conclusive end in sight.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Book Review: "The Way of the Christian Samurai"

--This review was originally written for the Blogger News Network. The post can be viewed here. Also, for those members of the Harding community, look for this review in the Features section of an upcoming issue of the Bison.--

In a culture becoming more and more obsessed with Eastern mindsets and practices, samurai have achieved a special place in many Western minds after being portrayed in films, books and television shows. But while many people enjoying the romanticized view of these “servant warriors,” few really understand the principles that truly lay behind the actions and discipline of the samurai.

In his new book, “The Way of the Christian Samurai: Reflections for Servant Warriors of Christ,” Paul Nowak seeks to expound upon societies knowledge and interest in samurai to help explain what principles the samurai truly lived by, and in doing so, show how Christians can, even in their ordinary lives, become warriors for God in a way many seldom even think about.

By examining the writings of several of the more prominent samurai and comparing it to scripture, Nowak draws out several principles that samurai held at the forefront of their daily lives and shows how many of the same teachings can be found in the Bible. The book is split into three segments: Service, Self-Sacrifice and the Pursuit of Perfection and Resolve. Each section takes portions of writings from samurai and expounds upon them, and then shows how the principles contained in each relate to a Christian’s daily walk with God.

“I divided the book into three sections for the three aspects of Service, Self-Sacrifice and Resolve as I found that the citations from the samurai writings fell into one of those three categories in relation to similar themes in Christian teachings,” Nowak said.

While many aspects of Bushido, which means “way of the warrior” and was what the samurai followed, can be taken as helpful advice on how to live as a Christian, Nowak is quick to point out in the book that one should not equate Christianity with Bushido, or assume that every teaching that samurai followed lines up with what Christian’s believe.

“It is very important to remember that the way of the samurai … is not a substitute or an equivalent of the Christian Way found through the teaching, example, and life of Jesus Christ,” Nowak said in the book. “However, there are many common teachings, and the Eastern insight can be a refreshing and enlightening look at the Christian faith as we know it.”

Nowak takes these common teachings and develops them through quotations of both samurai writings and Christian scripture. In the “Service” section, he emphasizes the samurai’s role as a retainer, or servant, who put his master above himself in everything he did. He makes the point that even a samurai who was not especially talented could be an outstanding retainer by simply living for his master, and then reinforces this concept and relates it to Christianity by quoting, among other passages, many of Jesus’ teachings on servitude, like his numerous parables that deal with this issue.

In the segment on “Self-Sacrifice,” by quoting the many New Testament passages that encourage a Christian to deny themselves in order to follow Christ, Nowak shows that a servant’s life should not be his own, but should be focused on his master. He then connects it to Bushido by relating a series of stories of samurai who decided that their lives were not their own, and as such were able to do many amazing things in service to their masters. By considering themselves already dead, they were able to proceed without fear in order to better serve.

Nowak discusses “Resolve” in his final section on the principles of the samurai, and compares the single-minded servitude of the samurai to the ideal way of service a Christian should strive for. Many troubles and challenges can be overcome by simply resolving beforehand that whatever comes your way, you will simply take it one step at a time, as it comes.

In this book, Nowak takes a long-mysterious, romanticized group and relates them to contemporary Christians. By looking at the principles of samurai, he says that we can live our lives in a manner to greater serve Christ and be an example in the world.

“The strongest lesson from the way of the samurai regarding evangelism is the importance of example,” Nowak said. “There are several passages in which the samurai are reminded that how they treat others or act in public will reflect on their master - a lesson we Christians must always be mindful of as the world watches how we serve our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“I was struck by the insight into everyday life that these warriors had expressed, and in particular the similarities of some teachings to Biblical truths [when] I was first introduced to Bushido. The book has something for anyone who is looking for a fresh or different presentation of the Christian ideals with which we are already familiar.”

ISBN # - 0-9772234-6-9

The book’s website:

Buy "The Way of the Christian Samurai" at

Also available at other bookstores.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

An Inconvenient Pandering to Public Ignorance

-Editor's note: First of all, let me apologize for the title of this post. It's just to easy to make these sort of puns, and just too hard to resist, even though it is way overplayed.-

While I was disgusted when I heard that Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his activist works to "combat" global warming, I will say that it has caused a reaction that is very encouraging.

Without arguing whether Gore's work should have merited the Peace Prize (assuming it was all correct and true), it is and has been very clear that his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" is littered with inaccuracies and errors throughout, as well as strong political messages. On Oct. 10, a judge in Britain refused to ban the movie from schools, but ruled that a sheet must be distributed before every screening explaining the inaccuracies and that it is a "political work and promotes only one side of the argument." Now, some scientists are being more vocal in their dissent and warning that Gore is just being alarmist.

There have been arguments against a man-caused global warming since the idea first began being put forth in a mainstream manner, but because of the amount of sensationalism many scientists will not speak out about the flaws in this theory for fears of not getting grants. Hopefully this will galvanize a greater response to the issue from other dissenting scientists.

On a side note, I find it laughable that Gore is the champion of the fight against global warming. I'm sure you all remember earlier this year when Gore's electricity bill leaked onto the net. Apparently he believes that it's OK to use as much greenhouse gases as you want, as long as you balance it out with money and activism. Now, in order to help Gore put his actions where his mouth is (quite literally), instead of just money, PETA has challenged him to go vegetarian. Raise your hand if you think this is just one more thing Gore will not do. I bet that instead (if he even pays any attention to this at all), he'll sponsor a lab trying to grow synthetic meat or something.