Those annoying car stickers

(Spam)

2007-04-28 16:07
Comments [8]

So, every so often, someone plasters my car with little stickers advertising some kind of “earn $$$” thing. “If you have an extra 8-12 hours per week and desire to earn an extra $8000-1,000 a month”.

I got one of them to call me back. Melissa (at 651-636-6628) works for “Maverick Applied Concepts”. They may or may not be registered with the secretary of state; I show a “MAC international”, but I don’t think that’s the same one. (There could be more than one.) Their web site (which is mostly defunct) is at the most obvious name.

What do they sell?

Fake drugs. Here’s the core of their pitch:

“60,000 – 140,000 Americans will die this year from adverse reactions to FDA-approved over-the-counter and prescription drugs?”

You get the idea.

Anyway, Melissa got sort of snippy about how I was wasting her time, but apparently she has enough time to put little stickers on everybody’s cars. Poor baby. I gotta find out whether that’s actually illegal, or just really annoying. (I’d file a BBB complaint for grins and giggles, but contrary to their claim, they are not discernably registered.)

Peter Seebach

Comments [8]

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Why didn't they make us sing this in school?

(Personal)

2007-04-27 18:55
Comments

The F├║fumal is an epic tale of magic and heroes.

Oddly, we sang a sort of simplified version of this in school. But why not this version? It’s much better.

Peter Seebach

Comments

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Instant review: Ruby

(GeekStuff)

2007-04-27 13:05
Comments [1]

I like to learn new programming languages from time to time. Some, I like better than others; I put in a few years on the ISO C committee (and I’d still be there if I had funding). Others, I don’t like so much; my first gut response to PHP was “I think this language may be uglier than perl”, and the impression has stuck with me.

One of my friends recommended that I look at Ruby. I was not initially well-disposed towards Ruby; the first time someone pointed me at some material about it, the tone was practically cultish; I felt more like an onlooker in an old Dr. Pepper commercial than like an engineer, and the page I was linked to would have been only marginally creepier with background audio of voices whispering “one… of… us…”.

But I got a recommendation that I might like it from my friend Dave, whose judgement on computer technology is often quite good. So I took a look. I’m glad I did.

Ruby is an object-oriented scripting language. It feels more designed than accreted; the philosophy of the language seems both well-considered and consistent. It tends to gently encourage reasonable coding practices, without being dogmatic about questions of style. There’s a fair amount of convenience and syntactic sugar, but that’s not always a bad thing; when it’s not done at the expense of clarity and sanity, syntactic sugar shows respect for the programmer.

If you enjoy programming, you will probably enjoy Ruby. If you program for need, but have never seen why people enjoy it, Ruby might be a good starting place for finding out that it can be fun to tell a computer what to do.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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ChristianForums: AM I NOT MERCIFUL?

(Religion)

2007-04-25 08:36
Comments [5]

There’s been some discussion at CF. Any time someone’s signature or avatar or other “bling” mentioned pro-choice positions, drama ensued, so a policy was reached where only pro-life things could be said, but drama ensued, so the policy was that no one could put comments like this in signatures or avatars; you can talk about these things in posts in certain forums, but not in others, and the ruling was that putting such things in signatures was “discussing” them in other forums. This has been changed! Read on.

Pro-Life Ribbon/Signature Policy

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There has been quite a controversy lately over the topic of Pro-life and Pro-choice signatures.

As is well known, CF has long had a policy of not allowing mention of either position in signatures and avatars, although we do allow for discussion of the topic within certain forums. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

And while that policy has served its initial intended purpose at CF, it is also true that CF is like a living thing that grows and matures over time. Sometimes circumstances dictate that we revisit certain policies. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

In this case the voice of many members has been heard that they would like to express their pro-life views within the context of their signatures, avatars, and profiles.

This has been a difficult decision for us to make. That is not because we don’t all have strong opinions on the matter – because we do. The difficulty comes in finding a way to accomodate those who want to express their pro-life stance, while at the same time respect others who either have a contrarian view, or those who may be hurting due to past decisions or actions. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

The fact is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of CF members whose lives have been directly touched by abortion. And while not everyone has the same experience, the truth is that many people struggle with deep pain and trauma for many years because of it. This is especially so for those women who have come to regret having had an abortion. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Even those who have become active participants in the pro-life movement because of having experienced this trauma are subject to renewed pain and anguish through the careless or thoughtless words of those who may mean well, but do not always express themselves in a sensitive or compassionate manner. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

So should we permit free speech in the name of a good thing (i.e., defending life) become an occasion of sin by being insensitive to those who are hurting? Is our need to express our pro-life beliefs so great that we can trample on the sensitivites of the very people we most need to minister to? ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

And yet, it is, objectively speaking, a good thing to promote life-affirming ideals. In this day and age when there are so many other alternatives to abortion, there is no reason why a Christian website should not allow the pro-life message to be expressed in some form. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

There are many aspects of the pro-life movement that can be expressed in a positive way. After all, there are messages pertaining to alternatives to abortion, such as adoption. And there are also messages that can be focused more on love and healing than they are on the conflict between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Another consideration we struggled with is that this is a ministry with a mission toward “Uniting All Christians As One Body” – it is NOT supposed to be a mission to exclude those Christians we may personally disagree with. And the fact of the matter is that there are some pro-choice Christians who are happy to promote life affirming goals such as adoption and the healing power of those organizations that minister to women’s emotional health issues. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

While pro-choice is not a stance that I can personally agree with, the truth is that CF has hundreds of members who take this view. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

And so are we Executives to send the message that CF is really only interested in Uniting All Pro-life Christians As One Body – or – do we really mean it when we claim to offer a welcoming environment for ALL Christians – period? ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

That is a very serious question.

Before the pro-life advocates reading this statement just dismiss the pro-choice members as immaterial to the question at hand, I invite them to think in terms of the WITNESS that their pro-life message is supposed to reach. For if the very people you seek to witness to feel unwelcome at CF in the first place, and leave this website because of it, then to whom are you witnessing? To put it bluntly, if all CF members are pro-life because the pro-choice members have left, then you will be preaching your pro-life message to the choir. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

The only way for a pro-life member to effectively engage in a discussion with a pro-choice member (within certain restricted forums of course) is to make the pro-choice members feel just as much a part of the CF community as the pro-life members are. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Therefore, the Executives want to LOUDLY affirm our commitment to the mission of uniting ALL Christians as one body – even those Christians whose worldview may differ from ours. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

There is also another affirmation we want to state clearly and without equivocation: we advocate the pro-life position. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

We are not, as a site, neutral on this question even though we do not want to stifle the free exchange of dialog on this topic in certain forums. We are not neutral on life even though we will be neutral in how we moderate our forums. We will be fair and balanced and will hold to the standard of mutual respect for the opinions of others. We demand this of all forum participants as well as of our own staff. We will remind members that we have people on staff who fall on either side of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. We include Christians from all sides on our staff, and hence this ministry really does embrace its stated mission. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Our position is that life will be affirmed at this website whenever possible, while remaining sensitive to the needs of those who are either hurting or those who wish to hold to a pro-choice position. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Brothers and sisters, this has not been an easy challenge to perfectly overcome. We are well aware that no matter what decision we make, there will be some who disagree. We may lose some members over this, and this does distress us. There is no such thing as a perfect win-win situation when some aspects of the question are mutually exclusive. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Therefore we have come up with the following decision in an effort to speak to the needs of all of our members while still remaining faithful to the gospel message of life, the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, and the mission statement of this website. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

We have decided to permit PRE-APPROVED pro-life ribbons and/or other pre-approved CF images in members’ signatures, avatars, and profiles. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

We will offer a selection to choose from (please be patient as we gear up – we will make them available as soon as possible). We will offer a variety of tasteful and non-offensive images and ribbons that will inspire hope, healing, love, and life to those members who choose to sport one. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

For example, we will have a standard simple pro-life ribbon that many people already seem to be pushing for. We will also carry a pro-adoption ribbon. We will try to have a tasteful image of Jesus holding a hurting woman and a baby: a message of love and healing. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Many of the choices will be something that even pro-choice members might want to have. Most pro-life and most pro-choice members are in favor of pro-adoption and pro-healing to those in need. We need to seek out common beliefs where possible without denying the sanctity of life. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

We have just begun working on this, and if you have a suggestion of things you would like to have, please give us your ideas. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

But, beloved in Christ, there are two things that we cannot and will not permit.

The first is that we will not allow any member to put additional text or commentary alongside these pre-approved images. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

This is not because we want to stifle people’s right to express themselves. Rather it is in an effort to avoid unintended hurt to those who may be pained by possibly aggresive messages. It is also an effort to keep the website peaceful from potential flame wars breaking out between those on both sides of the divide. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

The second thing we cannot permit at this time is a pro-choice ribbon or any other image promoting a pro-choice view. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

As I explained, this is not an easy decision to come to because we truly do not want to make our pro-choice members feel unwelcome or not a part of the CF community. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

So we tried to come up with a decision that would come up with some life-affirming ribbons and images that even pro-choice people can agree with. By keeping these ribbons, etc. simple and tasteful and not allowing extra commentary, the pro-choice people should not feel attacked for their views. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

And we will remind all members that if they desire to dialog and discuss abortion-related issues with other members, CF has long offered places where members are permitted to do so in a respectful manner. That policy and those places remain unchanged. Please ask a staff member if you are not sure where they can be found. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

Brothers and sisters – if you are a prayerful person – please remember this ministry and our members in your prayers. Please remember the hurting in your thoughts. Pray for those you disagree with. Do not attack them with righteousness – but rather love them into the Truth. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

If you are pro-choice, please know that you are welcome here and that your dignity will be respected and protected. While you may be disappointed about not having a ribbon, please remember all the other ways you can share your views in our forums, and also consider wearing some other life-affirming ribbon that you can embrace. ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?

With much prayer, respectfully submitted,

Christian Forums Executive Committee

ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL?


Boy, that sure is welcoming. (I added the “ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL” lines; I felt they made it more welcoming.)

The problem here is that there’s a small but very vocal group of people who are not only anti-abortion, but absolutely opposed to any recognition or respect for people who are not absolutely opposed to all abortions in all circumstances. I have seen people at ChristianForums told that they should have died in screaming agony from a ruptured fallopian tube, because the alternative (aborting an ectopic pregnancy) condemns them to eternal damnation. That’s okay. CF staff supports and endorses telling people you wish they’d died painfully.

We’ve decided to try to be welcoming to members of the “Executive Committee”. Obviously, we want them to know that we are ABSOLUTELY committed to welcoming them. To make this clear, we’re saying so, once, here, in this post. There will be no other signs, ever. We are encouraging people to design and wear buttons that say “all members of the Executive Committee will burn in hell forever”. We are also encouraging people to design and wear buttons that say “The executive committee is a hellspawned lie.” We regret that, at this time, we cannot allow people to wear buttons that express any condoning of the existence or wellbeing of the Executive Committee. We will allow people to make individual posts in which they condone the Executive Committee under restricted circumstances, or conditionally, but we reserve the right to edit or delete these posts, or ban posters, in the event that such posts are reported by people who hate the CF executive committee.

AM I NOT MERCIFUL?

Peter Seebach

Comments [5]

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Fanboyism

(Religion, GeekStuff)

2007-04-16 15:46
Comments [4]

Engadget has a poll up, for “best console of 2006”. I first saw this through a link on a Playstation fan forum, where someone had cheerfully commented that “second place isn’t bad, with all the negative press”. Now, consider that, of the other three contenders, one is the Nintendo DS, which was released before 2006, and one is the “GP2X MK2”, a specialized hobbyist console. Obviously, the third is the Wii. The numbers were pretty solid last I checked; the Wii was at 63% of the vote, and the PS3 at 24%. Second place is, in this case, quite bad.

In fact, right now, a lot of PS3 owners are pretty touchy, and inclined to say some pretty mean things about people who like the Wii. It’s pretty easy and casual to dismiss them as “fanboys” — people too devoted to a thing to appreciate its faults, or to see the merits in its competition.

What seems to be hard for people to understand is that, at some level, fanboyism is the default state of humans. Fanboyism is the root of “religious violence”, and it is the root of football hooligans. It’s the basis of “partisan politics”. When we divide people into groups, powerful instincts kick in. We not only side with the people in our own group; we filter our experiences, giving them the benefit of the doubt, while denying it to members of competing groups. We remember others as stupider and less competent than they are, while playing up the skills and attributes of those who are like us.

Fanboyism is dangerous and powerful, and easily manipulated. One of the first things a good scammer will do is mention religion; in America, generally Christianity. Trying to get someone to participate in a scheme wherein you send them fraudulent checks and they send you real checks for some of the money? Start by talking about your strong Christian values. (Russell Seehafer wrote an excellent article on a related note, exploring why GodTube is stupid.) When people talk about the importance of “Christian values”, they’re relying on fanboyism to make people who identify as Christian rubber-stamp a policy which is, more likely than not, anything but.

This is a hard thing to overcome, because it’s a powerful instinct, bred in the bone for many generations. A few things to try:

1. Make a point of associating with people you don’t agree with, or don’t identify with.
2. Don’t get into tit-for-tat games. The fact that someone in “their” political party was also corrupt does not make it a non-issue that someone in “our” party was corrupt.
3. Reject privileges that come from groups. If special privileges are being extended to you because of your religion, or your color, or even just because of your favorite football team, reject them. Accepting these privileges leaves you even more emotionally invested in the distinctiveness of your group.
4. Include, rather than exclude. Don’t define policies in terms of the people you can remove or exclude; define them in terms of the people you are actively seeking. Don’t kick people out for not fitting the mold; welcome them for broadening your horizons.

Good luck.

Peter Seebach

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Comments [4]

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Integris Mortgage followup

(Spam)

2007-03-23 21:27
Comments [1]

Integris Mortgage finally got around to hiring lawyers. I suspect they’re paying a lot of money, because these guys sure love to write stuff.

Not that it’s always good stuff, mind. But there’s a fair bit of it. Consider the following from the definitions section of their recently-provided Interrogatories:

“Communication” means any transfer of information, ideas, opinions, or thoughts by any means at any time or place or under any circumstance.

So, say, gravity. Gravity is a transfer of information, yes?

But it gets funnier. Here’s one that made me laugh out loud:

The words concern or concerning include referring to, eluding to, responding to, relating to, connected with, commenting on, with respect, about, regarding, discussing, showing, recording, describing, mentioning, reflecting, analyzing, constituting, evidencing, or pertaining to.

I am pretty sure the only typo in there is theirs. Certainly, there is an obvious typo. But wait, typo’s the wrong word. That’s just a plain spelling error, and a funny one. Guys, if you’ve never seen a word written, you should probably look it up before using it. Just a thought.

Some of the writing covers a broad range of topics. For instance, consider the scope of Interrogatory 9:

9. Identify what purpose the facsimile machine identified in Paragraph 2 of the Complaint is used for and whether it is personal or business use. Also, provide the date of purchase and all numbers that are or have been associated with your fax machine.

Contrast this with the much narrower focus of Interrogatory 12:

12. Describe for what purposes the facsimile machine identified in Paragraph 2 is used.

Now, generally, when you see shoddy work like this, with insanely burdensome demands for documents or information, the conclusion is simple; the attorneys want to make money. A lot of money. Since defense attorneys don’t get awards in court, the way they make money is to spend time. Their goal is to rack up the billable hours. That’s why, rather than asking for, say, faxes in some way related to the case, they want every junk fax I’ve gotten. You know, all 1,392 of them (as of last count, not including any that were tossed before I started saving them up in the late 90s).

Do they need those faxes? No. Are they related to the case? No. Can they charge a fairly hefty chunk of pocket change per hour to have some gormless intern grovel over them hoping to find proof … oh, wait. That’s not the point; it’s not to look for evidence, it’s to get billable hours. He’s not looking for anything; he’s just “examing evidence”. $150/hour, please. Company check only.

The funny thing is, we’re only talking about 11 faxes. Even given the clear admission that they knew that they were using fax advertising, that only gets us $1,500 per fax plus attorney’s fees. At $16,500 plus fees, the whole case would be settled, and we’d be done… I don’t know if they’ve spent that much on defense yet, but if they keep going, they will. Ironically, the defense counsel in this case and I have common interest here, albeit for different reasons. We both want Integris to pay as much as possible. Me, because I don’t think they’ll stop faxing if they can get away with it. (The seven or more faxes I got from them after my first call to them suggest this, certainly.) The defense counsel, because sharkskin briefcases don’t buy themselves.

But hey, common cause is common cause.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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Yet another Christian message board

(Religion)

2007-03-22 01:56
Comments

One of the frustrations of online communities is that it’s hard to make a good one. I last ran a BBS back in the early 90s; it was called “Schrodinger’s Cathouse”, and many people assumed my last name was Schrodinger.

Anyway, our new one is up; it’s called UberChristians. I was gonna have a webcomic called that, and/or an apologetics wiki, but I never got around to it.

We is me and a friend of mine, Flesh99. (It’s an online nickname, I don’t think it has to make sense.) We’ve been hanging around on some of the same boards for a while, and this is our attempt to resolve some of the issues that always face a new board. We’ll see how it goes. The site is intended to be a Christian site. That doesn’t mean something like a Christian bookstore, where everything is aimed at making people who self-identify as Christians feel safe and comfy. It’s run by Christians, according to our beliefs.

I can already see people cringing. You know what that’s code for; it’s code for a site where gay people get kicked in the teeth at every opportunity, and where people who ask questions like “well, who made God then?” find themselves banned. We’re not doing that. Hell no. I’ve seen too many sites distinguish between the “real” Christian members and everyone else, and we aren’t doing it. We might add a thing where you can put something in your profile about your religion, but we are not going to make special forums for Christians-only or anything like that. That would be contrary to the [b]practice[/b] of the faith, and sitting around talking about creeds never fed no hungry people.

If you wanna hang around and yammer about theology, or just hang around with people who enjoy this, feel free to pop on over. We’re still exploring forum policy questions; obviously, that discussion is open to everyone to participate in.

Peter Seebach

Comments

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The man knew how to throw a party.

(Personal)

2007-03-17 17:09
Comments [1]

I went to a funeral today.

Funerals like to say things like “in celebration of the life of…”, but this is the first time I’ve felt they really meant it.

Corbin Kidder was this guy. He was one of my customers when I was running an internet service. He was my spouse’s former spouse’s father. He was the guy who used to run an annual party for the local BBS community in pre-internet days. (It was called “Pascettifest”, because he served pascetti.)

His address labels called him “Corbin Kidder, Transit Advocate”, and they were not kidding. The funeral was accessible by bus. His ashes will be scattered someplace accessible by bus.

I met someone from my church there. Given that I only know about ten people at my church, you might think that odd, but it’s not. After all, the place was packed. I don’t just mean standing-room only. I mean that, after it got to be standing room only in the main room of the church, they opened up another room so people could at least listen to the PA system, and that filled up too, so they added folding chairs for the people who couldn’t just stand. The walls were lined with people.

Trying to assign demographics to such a crowd is ridiculous. Old and young, every skin color, every hair color. I saw someone with fire-engine red dreadlocks. It was just all these people who knew Corbin one way or another, and with all the activities he threw himself into, there were a lot of such people.

The service was interpreted in sign language for the hearing impaired. Not something you see every day, but something that you would expect for the memory of a tireless advocate of the oppressed. It was, of course, accessible by public transit. The stories were beautiful. I was particularly fond of the story one of his sons told, of asking his father once “Is that the hotel where the bums stay?” The response was utterly typical of Corbin: “Don’t you EVER call them bums. They are human beings.”

The recessional hymn was Solidarity Forever, a hymn you rarely hear sung in churches. But then, Corbin wasn’t one of those people whose devotion to Jesus was best expressed by telling people who they should sleep with; it was expressed in eighty-some years of constant efforts on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much laughter or joy at a funeral. The man knew how to throw a party. And now that he’s gone, I think it’s safe to say that Heaven will be installing light rail. If not, he’ll start writing letters until they do. Thanks, Corbin, for all the memories.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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Why I'm getting sorta sick of Sam Harris

(Religion)

2007-03-16 06:34
Comments [2]

There’s this guy, Sam Harris, who has made quite a name for himself in the evangelistic atheist community. I first became aware of him through some ads he took out on the Internet Infidels discussion site. They had the text “The End of Faith” superimposed on a mushroom cloud.

My impression hasn’t changed much since then.

Harris talks a lot about how “moderates” enable “extremists”. He recently gave an analogy of a set of concentric circles, with more extreme people in the middle.

Like a number of American atheists, Harris appears to be willing to completely concede the definition of Christianity to the Christians he dislikes most. Does he trust their judgement when it comes to the age of the Earth? No. Does he share their moral evaluation of gay marriage? No. In fact, it is fairly hard to find any topic at all related to Christianity on which he agrees with these people. This makes it all the more mysterious that, the moment we come to the question of what Christianity is, he is their #1 biggest fan, absolutely convinced that they have precisely and accurately captured it.

In fact, Christianity is a pretty broad group. There is more than one set of beliefs which are “Christian”. The “liberals” out there are not just “fundamentalists who are less committed”. One of my friends is a member of a Christian group called “Jesus People USA“. They don’t fit in the simplistic view Harris promotes. They are obviously zealous to a level that very few modern Christians are; for instance, they take the injunction to “sell all you have, and give the money to the poor” as an unambiguous statement of direction. On the other hand, they define their mission and goals in terms of, well, service to the poor. Not exactly the first image that comes to mind when you think of Jerry “blow ‘em up in the name of the Lord” Falwell, is it?

Ultimately, I am obliged to agree with Harris on one thing; there is a real threat to our society that comes in large part from its Christian members. There are a lot of people who are convinced that it is not enough for them to be Christian; it is required that everyone else be Christian, or at least act according to their church’s view of what Christianity is like. These people have done a lot of things that the rest of us are stuck making up for.

However, I do not think this is a question of zealousness about “Christianity”. The belief that other people must comply with your beliefs is not necessarily a question of zealousness vs. apathy; it is a separate belief, which must be considered on its own. It is closely tied to the way in which people build a sense of identity, and one of the things humans love to do is demand agreement and similarity, and demonize those who don’t comply. It’s not enough for Dr. Dobson to marry a girl; no, he has to tell everyone else that for two men to get it on is an attack on marriage. The people who are different are not just maybe wrong, or something; they are so desperately, terrifyingly, wrong that it is obligatory to use any means at our disposal, including horrible abuse of a variety of research results (and a cherry-picked variety at that) to make other people shun them or punish them.

Even within fundamentalism, this is not always there in zealous believers. Another of my friends is a very zealous fundamentalist. I don’t just mean “thinks gay sex is a sin”. I’ve seen him argue, convincingly and seriously, that speeding is a sin. (I’ve even conceeded that I think he has a point.) So you’d expect him to be an authoritarian, maybe? Nope. I’ve seen him argue just as persuasively that, while he has powerful personal objections to the practice of prostitution, he can’t understand why we outlaw it, since prostitution laws not only don’t stop prostitution, but they make it harder for prostitutes to get legal protections that might help them get away from abusive pimps. That’s not exactly the authoritarian pseudo-Puritan view we’ve been told to expect.

So what’s going on? Where does Harris get this stuff?

Nietzsche once said (paraphrased, obviously) “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Harris has become the thing he hates. When we hate a group, it becomes necessary to demonize the group; to dismiss their humanity, their individuality, and to compress them into a single well-understood group whose attributes can be unambiguously loathed. Just as some modern Christians believe ludicrous and horrible things about “Arabs” or “gays”, Harris has come to believe ludicrous and horrible things about “Christians”. Are any of these things ever true of anyone? Of course they are. Not six years ago, “some Arabs” destroyed the World Trade Center. I’ve even met one of the gay guys who’s had sex with over a thousand people. But these remain anomalies; most people aren’t like that, and indeed, most Christians aren’t much like Harris’s bogeyman. The so-called “moderates” aren’t just watered-down versions of the militant and hostile Christians; often, they are zealous and committed opponents of the people Harris has justifiable gripes about.

Harris and Falwell are ultimately in the same line of work; peddling fear of another group, to build interest and swell the ranks, to get people comfortable dismissing that group as a threat. Someone like Harris is the best thing that could happen to a pundit like Falwell; after all these years of claiming that “atheists” want to destroy Christianity, we’ve finally got one that really does, and says it openly. Every time he writes an article, you can bet that the people in the treasuries of the big institutionalized Christian lobbies warm up their cash registers. And, likewise, people like Falwell give Harris material to work with.

They need each other. They deserve each other. I wish the two of them would leave the rest of us alone.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]

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UPS gets innovative with the concept of "history"

(Personal)

2007-02-15 23:10
Comments [7]

So, I ordered a thing. And, because it is a thing I need for work, I paid extra money for “next-day delivery”. It was shipped yesterday.

Needless to say, it is not here today.

This morning, around 11:30AM, my package showed in the UPS tracking system as “OUT FOR DELIVERY” as of 10:37 AM.

By about 1PM, this had changed; it was now retroactively the case that it had been “OUT FOR DELIVERY” as of 9:38 AM.

Obviously, the package did not arrive. According to the UPS web site, deliveries are made until 7. At around 7:50, I called UPS to enquire. I was assured that, while it was possible that my package had been delayed, it would most certainly arrive tonight. It is showing as on-time, after all, and is “out for delivery”. I was a little tired, but armed with this assurance, I figured I’d wait up.

At around 9:45, I called again. Were they quite sure? Why, yes, they were. Definitely today! Absolutely, the package is on a truck and will reach you before 11:59PM.

Around 11PM, while idly refreshing the page, I noticed a new entry. It read:

02/15/2007 19:26:00 DESTINATION SCAN[I] MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US

Now, a “destination scan” is normally the scan BEFORE something goes out for delivery. In this case, it seems to mean that the package never quite made it anywhere, so they’ll try again tomorrow, and indeed, they show a “rescheduled” delivery date of tomorrow.

Now, here’s the mystery: If this scan occurred at 7:26PM, then why on earth, at 9:45, could they not tell me that, more than two hours ago, the package had returned undelivered for whatever reason, there was no chance that they would deliver it as promised, and I should just expect to see it in the morning? I have no idea.

We’ll see whether the vendor is willing to give me back some of the shipping money, considering that I have not, in fact, received same-day shipping, and I assume UPS makes some kind of promise about that. This is looking surreally similar to the elaborate problems I had filing a claim with them a while back; I think UPS is really going downhill.

Peter Seebach

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