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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

What's in a name?

CounterI have a friend whose legal name happens to be Mohammed. Although he's a citizen of Great Britain and isn't even a Muslim, this alone, perhaps combined with the fact that he was born in Iran, adds an hour or two to his transit of US Customs.

This shouldn't be. The myopic preoccupation with given names displayed by US officials is simply unforgivable. As anyone who has tried to look himself up on Google already knows, most people share their first and last names with dozens of other people. To stop someone at the airport simply because his name is the same as that of a suspected criminal is rather sophomoric; as if no criminal ever travels under an assumed name.

What's really dangerous, in this Global War on Terror that is really the Crusades revisited, is to have an Islamic name. Not only because the pool of people is so huge and the pool of names they share so relatively tiny, but because just having an Islamic name makes one automatically suspect of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Just ask Khalid el-Masri* of Ulm, Germany, who on the sole bases of his name and hometown was imprisoned at the Macedonian border and handed over to the CIA for transport to Afghanistan and months of torture.

Just what sorts of activities Khalid el-Masri was involved in prior to moving to Germany in 1985, aren't known. But one thing is for sure: he's not the Khalid al-Masri of Al Qaeda fame that the CIA was looking for.

In this day of RFD passports, biometric identifiers, and Google Images, one would think that such a case of mistaken identity could no longer happen. But it does. Repeatedly.

If you have an Islamic name but you don't live in an Islamic country, you might want to consider doing what John Forbes Kerry's grandfather did, and change it. In fact, make it sound as much like a highly placed US official's name as you can--it couldn't hurt, and it might come in handy some day.

How about George W. Clinton?

*I should add that this isn't even an Islamic name--it just sounds like one. Khalid means "glorious" or "immortal" in Arabic, and Masri means "Egyptian" (el and al are just two different ways of transcribing the article). I have a friend named Gloria England; substitute a different country, change the gender, and her name would be the same as his.

Marriage Resources

There are two prevailing views on marriage among believers today:
1) Marriage is for life, unless one of the partners abandons the marriage and initiates another one.
2) Marriage is for life, even if one or both of the partners are living in adultery with someone else.

A problem with both views is that they don't often address the "I blew it--now what can I do to make it right" question.

Sincere Christians are divided on this topic, and many are uninformed on important facts basic to a right understanding of the issues.

Here are the best websites I could find, respectively, giving Scriptural and historical support for the two views, along with a "then what" site:

1)Marriage can end in remarriage
2) Marriage can only end in death
3) What to do if you feel you should end a marriage

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

It is possible to make money over the internet: just ask Google!

Counter The White Male has been away from his post for a while, having ideas about what to post but not the dedicated time to make them presentable.

So for your entertainment in the mean while, here is the transcript of a chat between a customer trying not to sign up for a Google "internet money-making package" that is guaranteed to make money for Google over the internet. The following conversation ensued when he pushed the 'back' button to see what kind of monetary arrangement he had just started to agree to, and was told to "stand by to chat with a live agent:"

[dialog box opens]

Jenny Says: Hey wait! We hate to see you go. So we would like to sweeten the deal! If you signup for the Google Automated Income Kit, we will reduce the shipping price to only $0.99 (Normally $1.97). A 50% savings!

Jenny Says: Please type 'HI' or 'HELLO' in the space below to let me know you are there...

Jenny Says: This is a limited time offer available through this chat only. CLICK HERE to get back to the signup page with the cost of shipping reduced.

Jenny Says: Just let me know you are there...

Jenny Says: Whenever you are ready, just type 'HI' or 'HELLO' and we can get started...

Jenny Says: This will only take a few moments.

You: bye

Jenny Says: Remember, this 50% OFF on your SHIPPING offer is only available through this chat and for a limited time. What do you say; would you like to take advantage of this last-minute offer? :-)

You: no

Jenny Says: OK, Thank you for your time. To end the CHAT simply CLICK on the "X" in upper right.

You: ok

Jenny Says: Okay great. CLICK HERE and fill out the page in order to take advantage of this great offer.

You: no

Jenny Says: This 50% OFF on your SHIPPING offer is only available through this chat and for a limited time. CLICK HERE to take advantage of this deal.

You: are you really alive, Jenny?

Jenny Says: I'm a live virtual agent.

You: What a joke!

Jenny Says: Don't you want your own Automated Google money-making machine, ready to launch and 100% Google compatible? This is proven to make you money, don't let this opportunity pass you by.

You: not!

Jenny Says: Giving you HALF OFF on SHIPPING for your entire order is just our way of thanking you for shopping with us!

You: What other kind of tricks can you do, Jen?

Jenny Says: Can I provide you a link back to the order page with the cost of shipping reduced?

You: You tell me.

[the line goes dead]

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Why did Mary Winkler kill her husband?

Counter The murder trial of Mary Winkler is scheduled to start soon, and I'm going to predict that she will be acquitted. If there is any evidence that she premeditated shooting him in the back with his own shotgun, it hasn't come up yet.

The short answer to the above question seems pretty simple: Because she had access to his gun. Being as much smaller than him as she was, it's unlikely she would have been physically capable of inflicting mortal harm on him without it, given her professed mental state at the time of the killing.

This is one more good reason not to keep a loaded firearm readily available. An unloaded one will be practically as effective at scaring away intruders, but totally ineffective at being turned on the owner in a fit of fury.

Personally, I'd rather not keep a gun in the house at all, but for those who do, I suggest keeping the gun in plain view and the ammunition hidden away where no one else can access it.

It may prolong your life enough to give you the chance to work out your marriage problems.

Just a thought.

ETA: Here's my answer, based on the trial report (she was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter): She didn't mean to, but because he was in the habit of pointing a loaded shotgun at her during arguments, she did the same and, not having any training in the safe handling of firearms, wound up pulling the trigger in the process. Except that the argument hadn't quite got going again yet, as he was asleep at the time.

My moral stands.

Update September 16, 2011:

Here's another case in which a person was used to ordering family members around with a pointed, loaded gun--and somebody died; Only in this case, it was his 6-year-old brother.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Will the burkini actually help prevent lust?

CounterThe blogosphere is abuzz with discussion of the Islamically legal swimwear collection categorized under the heading 'burqini' (usually spelled 'burkini').

The item, if not the word for it, has its origins in the Australian Muslim beach community. Apparently wet suits didn't quite cut the mustard, and a form of swimwear that was both modest and practical emerged (concealing all the Islamicly shameful areas of the female form), along with the interesting name for it, which is an English combination of 'burka' (from 'burqua', an Arabic word for a garment which is 'draped' over the entire body) and 'bikini' (a French word based on the native name for an atoll in the Tropical Pacific). So far they are available in black, dark black, and off black; more fashionable versions to follow.

In this report, it turns out that the burkini was developed as a way to integrate more Muslims into the Lifeguard community; there were plenty enough of them on the beach already, but in numbers disproportionate to their representation on the lifeguard chairs. The solution was to recruit 10 male and 10 female Muslims, but is the burkini really a solution to the problem of lust? Sure, none of the beachgoers will be turned on by their 10 muslima lifeguards this way, but what's to keep the 10 muslim men from being turned on by the thong-clad topless beach babes they are charged to watch?

Well, now that both Muslim lifeguards and Muslim swimwear are available, how about a Sharia beach for all the Muslims to enjoy together in mixed company--along with anyone else willing to dress by the rules? Uncovered-only beaches may be officially sanctioned in Australia, but I have a feeling that a Covered-only Beach may be asking too much of today's legislators.

Monday, 8 January 2007

The Ineffable Name

Lately I've been poring over computer images of ancient New Testament manuscripts in a study of Nomina Sacra (NS)--the use of abbreviated spellings for certain words that spans the 14 centuries of copying the Greek Scriptures in manuscript. The lists of such words vary by scribe and manuscript, but every list includes the proper and other nouns directly related to the Triune Diety (which are typically spelled out, but capitalized, in English translation). Indeed, it is almost a wonder we even know how to spell some of these words, they were so routinely abbreviated.

It is a shame, in this reviewer's opinion, that printed editions of the Greek text have discarded this convention and nearly always print out the Divine Names in full, thus obscuring an important element in the transmission of the Inspired Text. For instance, no discussion of the authenticity of the inclusion of "G-d" in 1 Timothy 3:16 is anywhere near complete without an excursion into the topic of NS.

Now, a longtime reader of this blog will note that I have departed from my usual practice and used the English equivalent of NS in this post. I do this not because of any theolgical revolution on my part, but only to illustrate the practice. I can still spell out words like godhood, godly, ungodly, godlike, and even God-lover, gods, and godess--as is the scribal practice of the Greek Scriptures. In fact, one such example will show the King James Version to use paraphrase in a very important passage, the opening words of 2 Timothy 3:16.

The KJV reads that all scripture is "given by inspiration of G-d." "Divinely
inspired" would actually be the most literal translation; "given by inspiration
of G-d" is a paraphrase. There are no corresponding Greek words for 'given' or 'G-d', and the Greek word 'theopneustos' is spelled out in the manuscripts.

I refer the reader back to the conclusion stated in my post of 11/14/2005.

An interesting fruit of the Al-Aqsa Intifada

Over twenty years ago, I became aware of an organization calling itself "Baptists for Israel." It was indeed founded and funded by Baptists, but was actually organized under this name in order to give a little "getaway time" to members who were asked by inquiring Israelis, "What is a Baptist?" Had they named their organization "Christians for Israel," the same inquirers would probably have been turned off by the association that name brings to the mind of a typical Jewish person, and never inquired further.

In an interesting report from Israel, a friend of a friend reports that "Evangelical Christians" are now persona grata in Israel due to their steadfast support for the Jewish State throughout the most recent Intifada. The term 'Christian' has finally started to shed some of its historical baggage in Israel.

And it has also been reported that more Jews have "become Christians" in the past 30 years than in the previous 20 centuries.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Who is my husband?

CounterBhopal: In yet another bizarre tale of its kind, a man who went missing years ago has returned to his village to find his wife has re-married thinking he was dead. She now wants to go back to him. Husband No. 2 has no objection.
But Purshottam Kushwaha, who strayed into Pakistan in 2003 and was jailed there, has yet to make up his mind after finding his wife Sheela Bai married to his cousin Ajab in Dongra Prayu village in Madhya Pradesh.
Ashok Nagar district collector Mukesh Gupta said Purshottam, who used to remain mentally upset, left his village for a nearby village three years ago but boarded the wrong train and ended up in far away Jammu instead.
At Jammu, the police mistook him for a Pakistani, thrashed him, and then let him go.
"In confusion, he crossed the border and Pakistani authorities arrested him," Gupta added.
When all attempts to trace the man proved futile and it was presumed that he was dead, Sheela Bai, with the consent of all family members, married her husband's cousin Ajab in 2005.
She now has one girl child each from both husbands.
While Sheela Bai was living happily with the second husband, she received a letter written by Purshottam from a jail in Lahore in December 2004, upsetting her world. He was released in the last week of December 2006.

Latter-Day Sabbatarianism

CounterAs a historian, I've sometimes wondered how the Jews could observe the new week, new moon, and new year for thousands of years, without managing to keep track of how many had been already celebrated. But I was convinced that every Sunday is, to the exact multiple of seven days, an anniversary of the first day of Creation. It now appears that I may have been wrong.

Troy Wilson advocates what amounts to a Latter-Day Sabbatarianism by claiming to have recovered the ancient Israelite calendar after millennia of Jews everywhere drifting farther and farther from it in their adherence to a rigid seven-day week. I have a lot more puzzling to do over this theory and its implications, but here is how I understand it at present:

Some 17 hours after waning into near invisibility, the Moon crosses the plane between the Earth and Sun, thus beginning the Month. Some 90 degrees to the East, this moment is commemorated at sunset by the commencement of the New Moon celebration, a day of rest but not counted as a Sabbath per se. Seven days later, the moon is now approximately at First Quarter, thus initiating the first Sabbath of the month. Another seven days brings on the Full Moon and the second Sabbath of the month. Almost exactly a week later, the moon moves into the Third Quarter, and the third Sabbath commences. The final Sabbath of the month begins when the moon is no longer visible at sunset. Thus the Sabbaths always fall on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th days of the month. If a month happens to have 30 days, the 30th day is still celebrated as the New Moon, which in such cases lasts for two days (30th and 1st)--thus throwing off the 7-day week once every blue moon.

As odd and unsubstantiated as this theory my seem to be, it perfectly explains a particular passage of Scripture which would otherwise remain a puzzlement: 1 Samuel chapter 20.

This chapter raises the following questions:

1) How did David and Jonathan know more than 24 hours ahead of time exactly when the New Moon would begin? Pharisees, who marked the New Moon by the appearance of the visible crescent, could only be accurate to within a day in predicting a New Moon.

2) Did every New Moon necessitate two days of feasting, and if so, how would this correlate with observance of the Sabbath and the ban on preparing food during it?

These questions are answered by the theory in question:

1) The New Moon was mathematically calculated from the appearance of previous crescent moons, and was not dependent on visual observation.

2) This particular New Moon turned out to be a two-day event, which could also have been mathematically calculated in advance, and inasmuch as the New Moon celebration always took the place of that week's Sabbath, it would never conflict.

Now, this theory has numerous implications (thus the hard work ahead on the part of this poster's Puzzler), among which are:

1) Creation Week. Was the Moon created at the beginning of its first Phase? If so, the Sabbath would have started off out of sync. The Moon must have been created five days old, so the first Sabbath could commence on the "8th" day of its First Phase.

2)Lunar Recession. Since the moon is gradually lengthening its orbit, it is taking longer and longer to make up a full month. If the months were originally exactly 4 weeks long, how does this square with the Noaic month of 30 days (in which every month would have a two-day New Moon)? Physicists are directed here for a formula that may be useful in back-dating a month in 1100 and 2245 BCE.

3) Continuity. What are the theological implications of God having allowed His Calendar to have fallen out of use by the time of Christ? Or does this perhaps explain why Christ and the Sanhedrin members celebrated Passover on succeeding days?

These questions must be answered, and the biblical evidence for an elongated week must be proferred, before this theory can hope to overthrow the ruling regimen.