Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This afternoon, blogger told me
European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies.

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed.

Permit me to register some confusion: I am not in any way a resident or citizen of the European Union, I do not receive or transmit funds with anyone "in" the EU, and I don't run a proxy server located within an ISP hosted in the EU either. What the EU may have to do with me, I can't imagine. If you are in the EU and visiting this website in the ordinary way, caveat utor.

That said, You are probably reading this using a web-browser pointed at some website. Probably, that website is hosted on a server owned and operated by Google. I can't control who plagiarizes my text, so I can't guarantee that, but I don't own any webservers. Google's, or the borowers', web servers may ask your browser to record or report on particular cookies — I can't say for sure, but even if they do, I definitely won't ever see those, and it is up to them to abide with whatever laws actually apply to them.

Furthermore, if your browser actually runs ECMAScript — "javascript", informally —
  • there may be cookies stored on your computer by MathJax, for the purpose of remembering how you might have fine-tuned MathJax's rendering of maths on this page (if you're seeing it on this page),
  • and there may be a cookie stored on your computer by sitemeter, perhaps noting the IP address that told sitemeter it was visiting, perhaps when the same browser visited before, and perhaps what link got you here. Some of that information I might see; I definitely don't see all of it. None of it is information that Google can't obtain by closer means and never show me. I have discontinued my use of sitemeter; your browser may still have those cookies in it, untill you ask your browser to forget everything. I don't know who else can see those cookies
  • If you mail a post-card overseas, the franking on the stamps will contain information about where it came from and how it got to its addressee.

As someone has said “There Is No Privacy in the Web, unless you are tunneling your own unpublished encrypted protocol through a steganographied unpublished onion router. And even then.

“I cannot guarantee the safety or security of any data transmitted via the servers hosting this blog or its elsewhere-hosted components, or protect them from global adversaries, closed circuit video cameras, or strangers reading over your shoulder.”

Here is a Reasonable Referrence.

Friday, July 24, 2015

All ye heights of Heav'n adore

It says "a mere 2.5 Million light-years away"; this means that light has echoed between us roughly fifty times since Tyranosaurus Rex last stalked ... whatever it was they were after (they were found in layers of rock officially characterized in Crete, rather than those in the Jura), though we've only gone 'round our orbit of our own galaxy a bit more than one turn. For comparision, we record echoes between Earth and Pluto in about nine hours. The Andromeda galaxy spans a wider part of our sky than the moon does (unless you're on the Moon...) and is visible from most of both hemispheres, but it appears much fainter in the spectrum we humans see. It seems to be getting closer to us, too!

Most of the very-round spots in this picture are individual stars of the Milky Way, a thousand times closer to us than Andromeda; the fuzzier blobs include mini satelite galaxies orbiting Andromeda and huger galaxies much further away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dipping into the book of Job

6 Now on a certain day when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them. 7 And the Lord said to him: Whence comest thou? And he answered and said: I have gone round about the earth, and walked through it. 8 And the Lord said to him: Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, and fearing God, and avoiding evil? 9 And Satan answering, said: Doth Job fear God in vain? 10 Hast not thou made a fence for him, and his house, and all his substance round about, blessed the works of his hands, and his possession hath increased on the earth ? 11 But stretch forth thy hand a little, and touch all that he hath, and see if he blesseth thee not to thy face. 12 Then the Lord said to Satan: Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand: only put not forth thy hand upon his person. And Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

The conversation presented in Job between God and Satan is sometimes described as God "making a bet" with the fallen angel: God speaks, as it seems, only well of Job, and Satan speaks only to cast doubt on Job's character. Here, however, is the Thing: God knows Job and Satan perfectly, and Satan knows God and Job (and himself) only imperfectly. Given that God knows Satan perfectly, what is the purpose of His asking: "Hast thou considered my servant Job ... ?"? Here in the beginning of the book, as when the whirlwind blows in Hus, God asks questions to cause an effect. So here, at the beginning, let us consider this question carefully:
You have walked round about the earth and walked through it, so you know my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, et.c.; but say now: what do you think of him?
and the answer Satan gives — he must twist it, but he cannot deceive God — Satan says: "outwardly he may seem all right, but how can he show what he's made of if he has never endured trial?" Satan puts the answer upside-down, of course, accusing God of molly-coddling this "simple and upright man" — as if any inner failings Job might have and their hidden-ness are the result of some fault or unfair dealing on God's part.

Some folks, of course, decide they agree with Satan's insinuation on this point. If that were the intent of the Author, then we should probably excise the book; some folks, as it happens, find a middle ground of believing that the Author intends otherwise, but nonetheless is too realist for his own good, and that the text ends up arguing against the Author more than for. Myself, I rather think something else is going on.

Let us consider Job ("have you considered Job?"): he is wealthy, which suggests he has some practical capability; and he certainly acts in public "simple and upright" and avoids evil, and he even offers sacrifice on his children's behalf just in case they have sinned. Is he a good man? Well Aristotle and [Batman Begins'] Rachel Dawes would suggest "it's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you" ... (who am I lifting this parallel from? I read it in a blog quite recently... sources would be credited! I'm a sloppy and reluctant thief!) or, less poetically as that other film imagined C. S. Lewis would paraphrase the Poetics, "plot is character". Unto his neighbours, Job is a good man. So far so good. Here's a harder question: is he God's friend? Is he fit for heaven? Or, put it another way: why does Job avoid evil? It is good to avoid evil, but even a good thing can be done for poor motives! And why does he offer sacrifice against his children's potential sins? It might be that he truly loves them and sincerely petitions God's forgiveness and grace for them; but it is also possible that Job does these works superstitiously, from scrupulosity, rather than for love.

And, even if we agree with Aristotle and Ms Dawes, let us not imagine that what one speaks in his heart is part of who and not what one does: an act of the inner will is no less an act than is walking.

Well, if Plot is Character, Job endures material hardships, looses his family, and sins not, then is subject to sickness in his body and sins not, and then falls prey to Good Intentions... note that God speaks to Job direct, but Satan does not: rather, Job's friends come and speak with him a while. And then does Job cry out and curse the day he was born.

It would be foolish, vicious, to say that all sufferings are earned. It would even be foolish to say that Job's sufferings are earned, or that his weakness caused his wife and children to die. It would be misunderstanding the book even to think that all suffer for the same reasons in the same way as Job — the same is not even true of all who suffer in this book. The book, Job, is not about why sufferings come. It seems rather about how there are worse things than pain.

And it also contains a promise, that God does not wish us to ultimately end in pain.

Monday, July 20, 2015

"In the Name of..."

This is more in the category of "not perspicuous".

I think it must have been the feast of the Holy Name, which admittedly was some time ago... Father's homily on the occasion began with the observation: It is a condemned superstition to hold or teach that the phonetic sounds "/ˈdʒiːzəs/" or "/ˈjeː.sus/" or the letters themselves j-e-s-u-s or even the spoken phrase "In J—s' name" have supernatural power. Counterbalance the superstition's idea with the scripture "Not all who cry 'Lord, Lord' will be saved", for instance.

And Father went on to explain that "ask in His name" means the person asking has to be, in a suitable way, in His name, and the asking itself (down to the object of petition) has to be fitting to be in His name. Perhaps a less-supernatural parallel is in order?

It is well and easily within the scope of ordinary human power to approach a stranger's door, knock, and demand entrance "in the name of the King" (or "in the name of the Law" in such places where Kings have been outthrown). But that doesn't mean the approach, knocking, or demanding actually are done in the King's name, or according to the demands of civil law. On the contrary, it is quite easy to run around doing so and causing trouble and bringing trouble on oneself. (heck, it can be trouble even when done rightly!)

The promise, then, "Whatever you ask in my name...", is something more precise and also more alarming than what the superstition understands: on the one hand (more precise), to ask in His name we must abide ourselves, somehow, in His name; and (more alarming) either the promise is empty (in which case, alack and anathema) or The Father wants to give us this abiding.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Trying to get at the Intended Audience

The First Five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, are traditionally held to have been composed by the same person, and specifically to have been written by Moses, but whether the prophet himself put style to scroll is not my interest today. Rather, since what theologians traditionally call the "literal" meaning of scripture is what the Author first intended his audience to understand, it might help to have also some idea of who the intended audience is and how they understood things.

Particularly, I want to get at the point that, even if written by Moses the Prophet in Exodus, the books of Moses are not principally written for the specific Children of Israel who followed him out of Egypt. According to Exodus, a great many of these died in the Desert, before the books could logically have been finished. Rather, the earliest reasonable intended audience for the Books of Moses (which we might almost call the Books of the Desert) would be those Children of Israel who followed Joshua without Moses out of the Desert over the river Jordan. To them, in particular, the literalistic history would be as fresh in oral teaching as anyone thought important enough to recall, but the theological meaning of it would need to be revealed.

And that is why we are not primarily interested in the question of how literalistic'ly the events of Exodus are described (how much poetically and how much prose) (or whether they happened at all — for in some way they surely did happen) because This Is Not Why These Books Were Written, and it is not why they were written because historians are not who they were written for. Neither is it why, once having been written, they come to be Canon. One can form similar considerations of the Flood, vs. "older" instances of the Flood trope, e.g. Gilgamesh — yes, other people wrote about such things, and real floods have happened, but that is not why it is scripture.

The reason the books were written, and the reason they are Canon, is to proclaim — to reveal — that God's Chosen people got lost among the pagans, and yet in the fullness of time He called them out of their exile; that in coming out of exile, they would have trusted to their own wisdom and so became lost in the Desert, and yet God taught them how (this is the Law) to get through the Desert, and still more, fed and watered them more than mere justice; that when they were opposed beyond their strength, still He protected them, so long as they kept to his commands. So much is certainly true in plain history, but more: the same is true in every ordinary human soul.