Pageviews last month

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Day That Has No Name

Ah, it's that maddening time of the year again, when people start to talk about The Day That Has No Name. I'm referring, of course, to the Holiday that everyone has to talk about but no one seems allowed to specify. Take, for instance, the following email received from the United States Postal Service (I can't seem to find any of this information on their website):

2009 Holiday Shipping Cut Off Dates
Class/Product Cut Off Date
First Class Mail Dec-21
Priority Mail Dec-21
Express Mail* Dec-23
Parcel Post Dec-16
DBMC Drop Ship Dec-19
DDU Drop Ship Dec-23
International Mail**
Express Mail Military APO/FPO**
* Some Express Mail destinations may have extended service commitments
** See additional information

and so on. Notice how all the dates converge at a point about a week before the end of December. As everyone knows, mail cannot be delivered on Dec. 25th, because this date is a federal holiday. But which federal holiday, you may ask? Well, the USPS is not about to tell you, even though they sell a whole series of "holiday" stamps, many with the word "Christmas" printed right on them.

I am more determined that ever, this year, every time someone wishes me "Happy Holidays," to respond with a quizzical look and the question, "Which Holidays do you have in mind?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Great Mind That Didn't Go to Waste: A Lesson from History

Growing up, The White Man never considered the possibility that he would not attend college. It was, after all, what people in his social class did after graduating from high school. And he certainly would never have dreamed of stopping his education short of a high school diploma--especially with his level of intellect. In fact, he early on set his sights on that pinnacle of academic achievement, a doctoral degree.

But while he was in college, getting to know the woman was soon to become his wife and the mother of their large brood of children, he began to reconsider the whole idea of a formal education. After all, neither of his parents had graduated from a four-year college. And none of his grandparents even had high school diplomas--not even the schoolteacher who considered 11 years of formal schooling quite sufficient preparation for enrolling in summer courses at the state college that eventually granted her a degree in elementary education.

So it is that none of the White Man's children have attended college--nor even matriculated into high school. And it's unlikely that any of them will, with the way public education has gone in the past half century.

Let's step back just three generations, to when my children's four great-grandfathers reached school age. They were farmers, all of them, which meant that by age six or seven they were already participating in the daily and seasonal chores that were vital to their families' livelihood. School was a building usually no more than a mile or two away, taught by a young person, usually single, who boarded with one of the local families. Fellow scholars were neighbors of varying social strata and educational ambition, but a good education could be had by those with the time and determination to receive it.

Time could be a problem. One boy was repeatedly needed on the farm, even during those few months every year when school was in session, and as a result it usually took him around two calendar years to advance one school year. By age fourteen, when he left the schoolhouse for good, he had not yet attained the fourth grade. This lack of education was a disappointment to him for the rest of his life, as he was never able to attain to the profession of his choice, but was doomed to a live of drudgery in the factory or on the farm. Another boy, however, never aspired to anything higher, and was glad to be free of the schoolroom once he reached the upper limit for compulsory education. The others got somewhat farther, one of them even making it through high school by riding his horse every day into the nearest city.

But what all these boys had in common was the expectation that they would leave their home on a more or less daily basis to get their educational needs met by, and with, their neighbors. And this arrangement did not extend beyond eighth grade, at least for country folk. There were no school buses; one ancestor boarded in town, only eight miles away, in order to attend high school; she being a girl, a daily horseback ride of that length was out of the question. And those who did attend high school only did so in order to reach a specific career objective, like teaching in a modern big-city school.

Fast forward a hundred years to the present day. The neighborhood schools have all been closed, the buildings themselves now fallen into ruins or housing farm machinery. Now gigantic school buses, each one containing several times the number of children formerly enrolled in a country school, lumber down country roads, blocking traffic in all directions while they pick up children as young as five years old. These they disgorge at a spacious campus to be educated with and by people unknown to their parents. But in order to even get in the door, the tots will need a birth certificate, a shot record, proof of guardianship, and, within a few more years, a state-issued photo ID linked to a federal registry. These barriers to entry are enough to keep out any children who don't see public school as their best route to the career of their choice--and whose parents support their independent mindset.

And such is the case with my family. My children would far rather spend their time learning at home and on the job than be cooped up in a classroom, and, as one who spent eighteen years as a full-time student, I can't say I blame them. Within the lifetimes of the older ones, school has stretched out from the 9 months it was when my parents were children to the current 10 months of the year. The 3 R's are still taught--after a fashion--but more time is devoted to social engineering of malleable young minds. Rather than being something temporary a young person does to get started in the workforce, schoolteaching has become a profession with certification, continuing education, and union membership. School has become so expensive that, were I to pay for enrolling even half my school-aged children, it would cost more than I make. And alas, with all this, children graduating from high school--and often, even college--are no better prepared to make it in life than my grandfathers were, working sixty or more hours a week by the age of fourteen.

If there were a community school within walking distance, charging perhaps one fortieth of my income per child, without any of the modern barriers to entry, I'm sure that some of my children would attend it. And it would no doubt be of considerable educational benefit to those who took advantage of it. But alas, that era is gone and unlikely to ever return. My children are still receiving an education--and a considerably good one--but not the sort of education they will ever be able to pass on to anyone but their own children and grandchildren; even though, with modern technology, they won't ever have to work nearly as long or hard to make a living as their great-grandfathers did, leaving plenty of time for self-study and self-improvement for as long as they live. But let's step back and look at one man, contemporary with my children's great-grandfathers, who grew up in that environment and, as such, was able to share the fruits of his learning with the entire world.

Linus Pauling (1901-1994) did not grow up in the country, but moved from city to city with his parents while his father was settling on a career. His father died only a few years after Linus began school, but lived long enough to see that his son was destined for greatness; he advertised in The Oregonian for suggestions of reading material for young Linus, who devoured every book he could get his hands on.

Without the drudgery of farm chores, Linus was able to learn as much or more outside the classroom as in it. He wandered over to a shuttered steel mill and helped himself to enough chemicals to set up a basement laboratory, and mastered the art of testing milk for butterfat content when barely a teenager.

By age 16, Linus had learned everything the city high school would teach him--even then, he was frustrated by the administration's refusal to let him take the classes of his choosing--and he dropped out of high school to enroll in college. I love this part: the high school that wouldn't cater to his educational plan granted him a diploma forty-five years later, after he had become the first (and still the only) person to win two separate Nobel prizes, in different fields, all in his own right. I'm sure he didn't think much of the oft-repeated mantra that high school dropouts are doomed to the lowest strata of society.

Linus showed such ability that he began teaching college courses while still a student--sometimes a course that he himself had only just completed. And he was able to earn enough while a student to completely pay for his college education--another norm that has essentially been lost forever. I barely earn enough, even working a full-time job with seniority and benefits, to pay for just the tuition costs of one student--with nothing left over for living expenses.

Linus Pauling was a groundbreaking researcher in three scientific fields--chemistry, biology, and physics--in addition to being a forerunner in the field of grass-roots politics. He first conceptualized the helical structure of DNA, being barely beaten out by colleagues Watson and Crick in determining that it was a double rather than triple helix. He was even involved in the development of the atomic bomb, but later led the drive to end above-ground nuclear testing when he realised the danger that it posed to the public health.

In 1941, at the height of his scientific career, he developed a then-incurable kidney disorder and turned his attention to the role of diet in preventing disease: specifically vitamins, which were unknown when he began studying chemistry in the first decade of the 1900's. His research and experiments on his own body were so successful that he was able, at age 86, to write How to Live Longer and Feel Better. He actually lived longer after the diagnosis of fatal renal malfunction than he had prior to it.

By living when he did, Linus Pauling was able to become one of The Twenty Greatest Scientists of All Time. He grew up in an age where a teen was free to experiment, innovate, and even teach college as a high school dropout. That age, like the man himself, has now passed into history.

What if a child today, with the same gifts Linus Pauling enjoyed, were to try to succeed under the current barriers to education and scholastic employment?

What if, but for those barriers, one of my children might be the next Linus Pauling?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Let's pick on somebody else today!

This blog has been described as my own personal rant. I must say, that does hurt my feelings, but as much as I may have desired for it to become an online discussion, it hasn't turned out that way. I do join in other discussions, yes--but at least this is a place where I can share my uncensored views on a number of topics. My regular readers may be interested to know that over the past year, the top five searches that drive people to this blog have been along the lines of:

Corey has money scam / Travis made cash
Obama chronology / Habiba Akumu
Michael Pearl / Gap fact
Arthur Blessitt divorce Sherry
Several others take turns in fifth place, but overall it has most often been Ussher's Chronology.

The second and third have consistently been the top two from week to week, but I got hundreds of hits on the first the week I put it up and it continues to draw readers in--somewhat sporadically, I've noticed.

Well, although this blog has attracted the attention of Biblica and Zondervan, I actually get relatively few hits on the New International Version--mostly from links to my comments on other blogs. Yet this topic has drawn the ire of commenters more than any other. Not content to direct my batteries all to one side of the debate, I now turn them upon the other. This post is going to be a critique of the supporters of the King James Version.

I came across a website today that I can best describe as pitiful. As someone who has read through the entire King James Version in the original language (1611 London edition), I can hardly understand how someone could claim this version as the only true Bible. It is obvious that those who make this claim typically have never so much as seen it, much less read it. For example, the following gems from the aforementioned website:

Just give us the text that has established itself as the standard text of the Holy Bible, an old fashioned, Christ exalting, devil kicking, Authorized King James Bible. To the best of my understanding this is the 1769 edition of the 1611 King James Bible with a few minor printing errors and spellings corrected along the way in the 1800's.

The eyes of his understanding indeed need to be enlightened. For one thing, minor printing errors are a feature of any given printing, not any particular edition. And one can hardly say that spellings were corrected during the 17th century, when spelling in the English language had not yet been standardised. In fact, it has not been standardized yet, as evidenced by the two different, yet correct, ways I have spelled the word itself.

For another thing, there was nothing particularly special about the 1769 edition, except that it pretty much became the standard for subsequent printings by the Oxford University Press, and subsequently for early printings in the United States. The previous edition continued to be printed by Cambridge University Press from 1762 up until the waning years of the last century. Mr. Kizziah was quite put out to find that Cambridge had gone back to doing what it had done for the first century and a half of printing the KJV, which was to "correct the spelling."

Now, it may come as a great shock to Mr. Kizziah, but these spelling changes are nothing new in the history of the KJV. I have before me a KJV Bible published in the 19th century by the International Bible Agency in New York, and it contains many of the same "spelling corrections" that caused him so much consternation in a 1993 Cambridge edition. Indeed, some of these changes go back to the middle of the century before last, and have been standard features in American KJV Bibles for much longer than Mr. Kezziah or his grandmother have been alive.

Mr. Kezziah writes,
The seven-letter Saviour is the only begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The six-letter Savior is the son of perdition, the anti christ. He wants to be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14,) but not in a good way, but in an evil way. He is not a follower. He's a counterfeiter. Therefore his final destination is the lake of fire. The new versions, along with the new age movement, and some of the King James Bible counterfeits are preparing the way for this six-letter so called Savior. That's the way he will spell his name, S-a-v-i-o-r not S-a-v-i-o-u-r. No thank you Satan. I'm sticking with the seven-letter Saviour as portrayed in the old black Book that I inherited from my forefathers.

Oh boy. This is the sort of pseudoscience that one would expect from a pagan--not a christian. Didn't he read on the cover that this was a Holy Bible? That feature at least impresses the people who use it as a talisman.

He goes on,
The rules of English grammar may change but the King James Bible is fixed in a moment of time (the 1800's, the 1900's and for ever more) and is unchangeable. This is the standard text and there is no other. This is the Book that spread the gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. This is the Book my grandmother had and her grandmother had and her grandmother had without any alterations (editing) whatsoever. It is basically the same Book that rolled off the printing press in 1611. The only differences being it was changed from Gothic type to Roman type, printer's errors were corrected and spelling was stabilized. The King James Bible is a very old Book.

The KJV has never been fixed. The first two printings in 1611 differed from each other in hundreds, if not thousands, of places. Before the end of movable type, every printing was unique. And if something that came out in the 1600's and was standardised in the 1700's could be "fixed" in the 1800's, what's wrong with even more changes in the 1900's? He seems to be shooting himself in the foot with his contradictory speech.

And finally,
Now consider this: the scriptures have been translated into over 1,200 languages. Of all these over 800 languages had it translated straight from the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible. Not from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Not from the Latin, not from the German, but straight from the Authorized King James.

This is all hogwash. He must have pulled these numbers out of thin air. I know of only a couple of Bibles at most that were translated straight from the KJV entire, without reference to the original languages. That is only about 1% of the number of languages with full Bibles in print.

Well, if it's any consolation to those who welcomed the TNIV as the best and most accurate translation ever, I have to admit that I have far more in common with them than I do with those who believe the same, and more--far more--about the KJV. If that were all they believed about the KJV, I could enjoy sweet fellowship with them around the Word. But given their absolute frowardness over what can only with twisted logic even be considered to be God's Word in the English language, I can't even carry on an intelligent conversation with them about it. And believe me, I've tried.

I really do hope for better than that with the supporters of the now-defunct TNIV.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Keep the schools, close the prisons

Michigan is probably not as safe a place to be as it used to, now that the goverment has decided to close prisons in order to open more schools. Closing schools, of course, would mean releasing former students into the general population. Michigan's governor Granholm sees that as a greater risk to public safety than releasing former prisoners--many of them sex offenders--into the general population. But hey--maybe they'll go back to school--as high school Health & Human Reproduction teachers, maybe?

They will be monitored by the State, of course. Just like the State of California "monitored" regular sex offender Phillip Garrido.

Parents in Michigan, I suggest you keep a close eye on your children. And whatever you do, don't assume that they'll be safe in a public school.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The NIV and the King of Sheba

The Washington Post
reports that a secretary in D.C. is now the king of a village in Ghana.

There's a problem with this; she's a woman. Not a problem for the people who allegedly elected her, but a problem for the English language, which has never referred to a woman as king before.

The word queen has always had an exclusively female connotation, even before it took on specific reference to royalty. In recent centuries it has been used both for the consort of a male monarch and for a female monarch; queen mother is now used for the mother of the monarch (a distinction already made in the NIV). But the editors of the Washington Post now want to call a female monarch king--without bothering to mention what they will call her husband. Or, actually, husbands; kings in Ghana are always polygamous.

The Committee for Bible Translation believes that literary English changes measurably every generation; certainly this is a new English term for female monarch, and they had better take it into consideration for their upcoming revision of the NIV: "Queen of Sheba" is sexist, outmoded, and discriminatory. Time to start getting used to calling her "The King of Sheba," or the New and Improved NIV will be obsolete before the ink has finished drying on its pages.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Parenthood is not a civil right

An American-born baby has been taken away from his mother because she doesn't understand English well enough to call 911. The only bright spot in the story is that the child is guaranteed American citizenship, but only by virtue of having been born in an American hospital.

There's a problem here. Being able to call 911 is not a fundamental right, but parenthood is. In America, where the woman has been liberated from being under the control of the father of her children, she is now under bondage to the State instead--a State that grants her custody of her own child only if it deems her a suitable parent. And the list of disqualifiers for that role is apparently infinite.

I, for one, do not consider this an improvement.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Updated, Newly Revised, Politically Correct, Cutting Edge Version of the Bible--for the next three to five years anyway.

Oh boy. I'm not surprised to hear that Biblica (fka the International Bible Society of New York, about 3 name changes ago) will cease publishing the TNIV. It just hasn't been selling. The good news is that they are admitting that they went too far in the translation itself. The bad news is that they aren't admitting how stupid it was to push the TNIV as the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. It was that, more than anything else, that turned me so much against it. Of course, in the same breath they were admitting that no translation is perfect, especially one over 30 years old, so it was a foregone conclusion that the TNIV would go out of print later if not sooner.

But what really twists my shorts is the admission that it was a mistake to promise not to ever change the NIV again (this announcement made shortly before the original release of the TNIV). They already bombed changing the NIV last time, and they're already planning to do it again? This is not going to help Zondervan's market share at all.

Douglas Moo, a professor at Wheaton College and chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation, said the group is committed to "a complete review of every gender related change."

"I am not sure how it's going to come out," Moo said. "We have a genuine, authentic review process ... Everything is on the table." Most changes will have nothing to do with gender inclusivity, Moo said.

Yeah, right. That's pretty much what they said last time.

Well, the market will decide which version is best. But if they really take the 1984 NIV out of print, I don't think we'll ever see a Biblica edition of the Bible at the top of the sales charts again. There are just too many other options that weren't there in 1984.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Citizens are getting involved in Government--whether They like it or not!

Note to Government officials: If you open a meeting to the public to discuss a controversial legal proposal, you'd better count on at least 500 people showing up to oppose it.

Last night the city of Goshen, Indiana had to move the venue of their city council meeting to the local high school in order to accommodate the crowd that showed up to oppose an ordinance forbidding Goshen businesses from keeping female impersonators out of the ladies' restrooms. And even then, police were already turning people away at the door by the time the meeting was to begin. Most of the attendees weren't Goshen residents, but that should come as no surprise: most of the people who patronize Goshen businesses aren't either. Since these customers can't vote for Goshen City Council, this was their only chance to make their voice heard, before having to vote with their gas pedals and pocketbooks should the ordinance pass. The meeting went on for over six hours, with over 100 people speaking out against the ordinance, before the Council finally voted on it.

And it would have passed, had not the council members received from a pastor in a neighboring town a book exposing the likely legal consequences of such a law. Upon reading it, one of the ordinance's co-sponsors, Chic Lanz, reversed his vote and the motion failed, 3 to 4.

Voting is both a right and a privilege, but an even more powerful right, enshrined in the First Amendment, is to communicate one's concerns to government officials without fear of reprisal. Barack Obama has made that a little more difficult--his campaign once sent the Secret Service after a woman who voiced her reasons for refusing to donate to it--but this is one case where the pen, skillfully wielded, was more powerful than the ballot card-punch.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Fuel burns

Southern California is aflame with several massive wildfires eating through thousands of acres of federal land.

That last phrase is the key to the problem. LA suburbanites have built their homes right up to the wooded foothills that house, among others, the Los Padres National Forest. Now, there are two things about this that make the fire so devastating.

One, since the federal land is rugged, fire crews have a hard time getting out on it to put out the fires.

Two, since the federal land is protected, no one has been allowed to clear out the dead brush that is currently feeding the flames. Some of that fuel has been accumulating for fifty years.

The combination of suburbia bordering a massive fuel dump has naturally resulted in the loss of dozens of homes, with many more to come before the fire can be contained. Ironically, the best news for these homeowners is that the remnants of Hurricane Jimena are on their way with far more water than has been thrown at the fire to date.

The other good news is that the burned-over areas are not going to be susceptible to wildfires for at least another few years.