Friday, September 26, 2008

Here I Am

In case it hasn't become obvious to everybody that reads my blog (it's only become obvious to me recently), I am putting more focus on my storytelling practice blog, The World On The Bus, than I am on Convert Man right now.

I will be putting a new post on the bus blog five times a week - one for each day I ride the bus - so if you're simply hungry for some Doogie-script, there's your meal ticket. I don't know for how long I'll have my focus on that blog, but I hope to return soon to a simpler rhythm of life that gives me time to do both blogs more regularly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caption Contest - Election Edition

Here's the latest installment in my caption contests!

I won't even use up the obvious ones. Drop your captions in the comments.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Politics 101

I shook my head when I read this Canwest news article on the acceptance of the four major Canadian political parties of a fifth to the pre-election debates on Oct 1 & 2. Initially the Conservatives and the NDP opposed the Greens' presence in the debates.

Personally, I'm a fan of the idea. I hope the Greens get a lot of votes, but not enough to win any seats. They should help split up the enviro-left vote a bit, and our united Conservatives will be able to slide up the right side into a majority government.

But this snippet contains a sparkling gem of the truth of politics - your opponents will find something bad to say about you, no matter what you do:

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who has maintained he never objected to [Green Party leader Elizabeth] May's participation, pounced on the reversal by accusing Harper of being a flip-flopper.

"It's not the first time he's changed his mind," said Duceppe. "We said very clearly we had no problem being there if Madame May was there but we wanted Mr. Harper to be there also."

Let's try to understand the reasoning here.

  1. The Conservatives oppose the Greens coming to the debate.
  2. The Bloc thinks the Greens should come to the debate.
  3. It's safe to presume the Bloc regards those as wrong who disagree with their position. Otherwise, why have a debate, if not to expose the error of the other party and the accuracy of your own party's position?
  4. Therefore, the Bloc thought it was wrong for the Conservatives to object to the Greens' presence.
  5. Also therefore, when the Conservatives agreed to let the Greens come, the Bloc should have responded with thankfulness that the Tories had come to their senses.
  6. Instead, the Bloc accuses the Tories of changing their mind.
You just can't win in politics. "You're wrong!" "OK, I change my mind. Now we agree on the issue." "You're a flip-flopper!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Go To Confession

The Large Hadron Collider is the most expensive civil scientific experiment ever conducted. Its purpose is to learn more about the elemental properties of matter through close observation of the conditions that scientists believe existed right after the Big Bang. The machine covers 27 kilometers in France.

It's way too technical for me, but what I understand of it is that two beams of protons will be whipped at each other at near light-speed. When they collide, it's supposed to create what everybody is referring to as "mini black holes" which will have amazing physical properties.

It was turned on today, and the basic initial tests went well (which means they know the protons move in the right directions). The first actual collisions will probably occur early next week.

Some people are saying that creating a gravity well, even a "mini" one, is a bad thing. There's a slight chance that the planet will get schlorped into oblivion, like a mosquito next to a shop-vac hose. Or, thanks to the quirks of Einstein's theory of relativity, we might survive it just fine from our own perspective, even though to the rest of the universe it will have looked like we vanished. Or maybe nothing will happen and some cool new scientific discoveries will be made. Who knows?

But I do plan on going for confession this week.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Um... Nancy...

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a self-styled Catholic. Note my choice of words: "self-styled." For she has done what I consider repulsive as one who was drawn to the whole truth of the Catholic Church: she has picked up a cafeteria tray and selected from the Church the factoids she finds appealing, and ignored the items she finds hard to swallow.

Most recently, she has made a statement during an interview on MSNBC's Meet The Press that displayed either her appalling lack of knowledge of Church teaching, or else a bold, smoothed-over intent to deceive the uninformed voter. Here's an excerpt which details her response to the question Tom Brokaw posed of when life begins:

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.

Naturally, this has Catholic bloggers, myself included, up in arms. Thanks to my anonymous tipster who sent me this response from Fr. Jonathan Morris. Fr. Morris makes some good points, but I think he missed a crucial point when he argued against Pelosi's reference to St. Augustine by way of antiquity (emphasis added):

Nancy Pelosi... has now come to agree with a 4th century theologian’s take on human embryology, that pre-born things aren’t human babies (with the right to continue living) because of their supposed incapacity for sensation (St. Augustine’s antiquated argument).... Pelosi has decided to accept the view of an African theologian who lived 1,600 years ago.

This is a flawed argument because the distance of a statement from the present time is immaterial to its degree of truth. G.K. Chesterton famously quipped, "I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday. " There is no expiration date on truth. Progress is not measured by time, but by proximity to a destination or a goal. It would be more accurate to say that St. Augustine's view, assuming we take Pelosi's word for its authenticity, is inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

The American bishops have also picked up on her statement, and they are responding en masse to clarify that the Church has taught since the first century that abortion is evil, which was a position contrary to that promulgated by the Roman Empire at the time. Ms. Pelosi's own bishop, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, is the most recent one to respond, by inviting her "into a conversation with me about these matters. It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent."

Good for you, Your Grace. It's about time. I pray she accepts your invitation.

Jean Sizes

I bought a new pair of Wranglers the other day.

I love Wrangler blue jeans. They're comfortable, inexpensive, and durable. I used to buy them at Wal-Mart, but they stopped selling them a while ago, so on my last trip to Wal-Mart when I happened to need jeans at the same time, I bought some Levis.

Ugh. They are terrible. They are simultaneously too loose and too tight. The belt loop placement is completely illogical - a single loop in the middle at the back, instead of two or three at even intervals to keep the belt from buckling (BA DA boom) over the lip of the waist.

I was a Zellers when I found my beloved Wranglers again, and I'm wearing them as I type this. Mmmmm. Sweet comfort.

But in looking at the selections at both stores, I can't figure out for the life of me why jean makers have the different fits in all different sizes. Specifically, I can't figure out why they think that a guy with a 52" waist wants a tight fit jean. I know exactly why a 30" waist might appreciate a tight fit - if you've got it, flaunt it. But I think they would save themselves some cash if they made all men's jeans 40" and above as relaxed or loose fits. And it would be a service to the public too; among the last things I want to see is an obese man in tight denim.

At least that would be somewhat better than spandex.

But only barely.

Killing Christ

Every now and again we hear that so-and-so is a racist bigot because he accuses the Jews of killing Christ. I was thinking about this today while on the bus [shameless plug!] and it occurred to me that were somebody to make that argument from a Christian perspective, it would probably be the single most hypocritical - not to mention inaccurate - thing a Christian could do.

There are three reasons why.

  1. Jesus was killed by the Romans. It's true that the Jewish authorities who were afraid of what he might do to their positions of esteem cajoled, manipulated, and persuaded the Romans to enact a death penalty, as they had no legal right to do so themselves under the terms of the Roman occupation of ancient Palestine. But the Romans ultimately bear this accusation upon themselves; our very own creed says "He was crucified under Pontius Pilate" who was the Roman authority at that time and place. From a strictly legal perspective, the buck stops there.
  2. I killed Jesus. The single fact that I must accept before coming to peace with God is that Jesus took upon himself the punishment for my sins. Scripture tells us that the price of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life. The only way for me to win eternal life is to accept this amazing gift of God, and to allow him to take my sin and shame and die with it on the cross. God transfers my guilt to his unguiltable spirit, and in dying he eradicates it from existence.
  3. This leads to the third point: if Jesus did not come to eradicate my sin by paying the price that only he could afford, I would be forever damned. So I say thank you to whomever is responsible for causing the literal, physical death of Jesus, be he Roman, Jew, or my old self - for without that divine death I could never know immortal life.