Archive for December, 2011

Charlemagne

December 30, 2011

Charlemagne was the single most influential ruler of the early Middle Ages. In his 46-year reign as King of the Franks and later the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, reformed the administration and laws of his realm, encouraged the works of the Catholic Church, and began an all too brief renaissance of learning and education. In a certain sense, Charlemagne could be considered the founder of modern Europe.

J. B. Bury’s Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance is a good history of the great king’s life and times. Bury goes into some detail concerning Charlemagne’s ancestors, rise to power, conquests, his administration of his empire, and his relations with other nations and powers, including the Muslims of Spain. Quite a lot of attention is given to Charlemagne’s often complex relationship with the papacy. For all of that, however, I must confess I was a little disappointed with this book. For one thing, Bury barely mentioned Charlemagne’s attempts at a revival of learning and culture. For another, I would have appreciated his extending his narrative down to Charlemagne’s son and grandsons. I don’t think the story of the Carolingian Renaissance is complete without relating the ultimate failure of his vision by the weakness of Louis the Pious and the contentions among the grandsons of Charlemagne.

Despite the weaknesses mentioned, I do recommend this book to any interested in the so-called Dark Ages.

 

Advertisements

How Secure is Your Password

December 30, 2011

If you want to know how long it would take for a computer to crack your password, find out at How Secure Is My Password. I am not sure just how they determine this, but it seems the more characters you use, the longer it takes. I found out that one of my favorite passwords, six letters, would take a PC just 1 second. On the other hand, another I often use, which includes 13 letters, numbers and symbols would take 122 million years. One of the most commonly used passwords happens to be “password”. Others are things like “1234” or abcd”. You wouldn’t even have to use a computer to guess these, although I wouldn’t have imagined anyone would be foolish enough to have password as their password.

Zombies in the Bible

December 28, 2011

People do not read the Bible as much as they did in times past, and I think that that is unfortunate. I say this not only for the obvious spiritual reasons but also because a good deal of what makes up Western Civilization comes directly from the Bible. This includes much of our art and literature, and many social and political ideas. I also think that anyone who has never read the Bible is missing out on some of the World’s greatest literature. There are some wonderful stories in the Bible.

I think the Bible has something for everyone. There is romance, sex, and violence. There are heroes and villains. Civilizations rise and fall. There are even zombies in the Bible.

Yes, zombies. Read this passage from the book of Zechariah.

12 This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13 On that day people will be stricken by the LORD with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another. 14 Judah too will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected—great quantities of gold and silver and clothing. 15 A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps. (Zech 14:12-15)

Doesn’t that sound like a zombie apocalypse?

Here Ezekiel raises an army of the undead.

1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

And here Jesus resurrects his friend Lazarus as a Zombie.

32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:32-43)

All right, I was actually kidding about the zombies. Still, there are a lot of interesting things in the Bible and it’s worth the trouble to read.

24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, 25Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, 27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. (1 Samuel 18:24-27)

How would you like to be the one who has to count those foreskins?

Titanic Cruise

December 27, 2011
RMS Titanic

Image via Wikipedia

I found this story on Drudge about a cruise in which they are going to recreate the voyage of the Titanic, minus the iceberg I hope. Actually there will be two cruises with some passengers wearing period costumes and the same menus for the passengers. They will even have descendants of some of the people who sailed on the Titanic.

Such is the interest in places on the MS Balmoral, the vessel retracing the journey of the maiden voyage of the Titanic, that a waiting list for cancellations has closed.

Some of those who have booked berths costing up to £5,995 are having costumes made to recreate the appearance of the original passengers, while there have also been requests from musicians to audition for places on the string quartet that played as the flagship of the White Star Line fleet began to list.

Miles Morgan, managing director of Titanic Memorial Cruises, the Bristol-based company organising the events, said places on the cruise from Southampton had sold out weeks after going on sale, with the second cruise likely to sell out by next month and interest in the commemorative journey remaining intense. He said: “We have been approached by news crews all over the world who want to film our recreation of the fateful voyage. We could probably have filled the entire vessel just with journalists wanting to be there. The interest has come from all over the globe – we’ve had people from 24 different countries booking.

The culmination of restaging the Titanic’s voyage – which will see the Balmoral, a chartered vessel belonging to the cruise line Fred Olsen, sail to the point off Newfoundland, Canada, where the ship collided with an iceberg – will be a memorial service at 2.20am on 15 April – the moment when what was then the world’s largest passenger ship sank.

A second vessel chartered by the cruise company to carry 694 people will also meet at the site of the sinking after sailing from New York en route to Southampton. And plans are being made for the wireless radio station at Cape Race in Newfoundland, which received the Titanic’s SOS in morse code, to repeat the message.

Among those on board the Balmoral will be relatives of victims and survivors of the Titanic, including Philip Littlejohn, the grandson of Alexander Littlejohn, who was a steward in the first-class section of the vessel and survived by rowing away one of the 16 lifeboats on board. The small number of lifeboats meant that barely a third of the ship’s complement of passengers and crew could ever have been saved.

The attention to detail for the recreated Titanic voyage means that passengers will dine on the same menus offered to the 1,514 people who died and the 710 who survived when the ship struck an iceberg at 11.40pm. Among the items from the 11-course first-class dinner to be offered will be oysters, roast squab and sautéed chicken Lyonnaise.

If you want to go, it’s too late, as all the spaces have been filled up. There are still limited spaces for a tour of the Titanic wreckage on a Russian submarine.

The booming demand for Titanic-related travel has led to another travel company offering the chance to explore the wreckage of the ill-fated vessel in a Russian-built submarine next summer at a cost of $59,000 (£37,000) per person. Places for that voyage are already “very limited”.

I think I’ll pass on that one.

Personally, I am not sure why there has been such interest in the Titanic. It is a tragic story, to be sure but I just don’t get it. I never even saw the movie by James Cameron. But, to each his own.

A Christmas Story

December 26, 2011
We watched the classic “A Christmas Story” last night. I love that movie. That is one of the few films I laugh all the way through.

A Christmas Story

Here is one of my favorite scenes.

I

Here is where Ralphie makes his appeal to Santa

And I love the Chinese restaurant where they sing Fa ra ra.

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011

Here is what Christmas is about.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14)

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas.

Tracking Santa Claus

December 24, 2011

If you want to see how far along Santa is on his route check out NORAD‘s official Santa tracking website. It looks like he has already lifted off and is busy delivering presents in China. I guess it is already December 25 over there. I hope everyone is on his nice list.

Update 2:00 PM EST Santa is in Uzbekistan.

Update 4:25 PM EST Santa just entered Moldova.

Update 5:10 PM EST He is in central Africa. The old guy sure moves fast.

Update 6:30 PM EST He just left Monaco. Delivered over a billion gifts.

Update 8:00 PM EST Santa is heading to Iceland. It looks like he’s finished with the Eastern Hemisphere.

Update 8:30 PM EST Santa is making his way across the Atlantic Ocean. I had better go to bed soon.

Update 9:00 PM EST Santa is in Argentina. We’re going to bed. Wouldn’t do to be up when Santa arrives.

Watermelons

December 23, 2011

When I am deciding whether or not to buy a book on some contemporary and controversial subject from Amazon.com, the first thing I do is check out the one-starred reviews If there are a number of such reviews from hysterical liberals who obviously haven’t read the book, I know it is worth reading. I have not been disappointed yet.

Watermelons by James Delingpole amply fulfills that criterion. Liberals are hysterical, and it is really, really good. Basically, the premise is that everything you think you know about global warming is simply wrong. Delingpole begins by examining the science and politics of global warming. Although the generally accepted narrative is that of a few brave Greens fighting against the power and money of Big Carbon, the truth, as Delingpole shows, is that there is quite a lot of money and potential power on the warming side. Far from being Davids, the environmental groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund, or the Environmental Defense Fund are Goliaths in their own right with operating budgets as large as any multi-national corporation and CEOs with six-figure salaries.

The science is also far from settled. Along with the inherit uncertainties of modeling a system as complex as the Earth’s atmosphere, Delingpole also exposes the corruption of science and the fraud revealed in the Climate gate e-mails, and other sources.  He also debunks many of the myths that are still being used by Warmists.

Then there is the question of motive. Many Greens are in fact the watermelons of the title, that is to say environmentalists on the outside, but socialists on the inside. These are people who have decided that the only way to save the Earth and provide social justice is to circumvent national sovereignty and democratic institutions to form a sort of world government.  We might think they are all eco-Fascists but they are doing it all for our good.

This sounds a bit like the sort of crazy conspiracy theory promulgated by the sort of people that wear tinfoil hats, as James Delingpole readily admits. He has provided extensive citations to prove his points and as he points out, it is hardly a conspiracy when the people involved publish their plans for all the world to see.

I strongly recommend Watermelons as an enjoyable and informative guide to the science and politics of climate change. I think it would be an excellent gift to any Liberal friends or relatives. Not that it would change any minds, but it is always fun to watch Liberal’s heads explore when they have contact with information that doesn’t fit their worldview.

 

Trading with China

December 23, 2011

Here at Townhall.com is a good column by Walter E. Williams on some of the myths about our trade with China. Unfortunately, this sort of foolishness is a bipartisan affair, which is never a good thing.

Republicans and Democrats, liberals as well as conservatives, have bought into anti-Chinese trade demagoguery. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that tariffs against China are a “key part of our ‘Make It in America’ agenda.” During his 2010 campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called his tea party-backed Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, “a foreign worker’s best friend.” In a recent news conference, President Barack Obama gave his support to the anti-China campaign, declaring that China “has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage,” adding that “we can and should take action against countries that are keeping their currencies undervalued … (and) that, above all, means China.”

Republican 2012 presidential candidates have jumped on the anti-China bandwagon. Mitt Romney wrote: “If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, I will work to fundamentally alter our economic relationship with China. … I will begin on Day One by designating China as the currency manipulator it is.” Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was even more challenging, saying, “I want to go to war with China.”

I don’t want to go to war with China, trade war or real war. I think former Sen. Rick Santorum needs to have his head examined.

Here is the meat of the column.

Hale and Hobijn find that the vast majority of goods and services sold in the United States are produced here. In 2010, total imports were about 16 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and of that, 2.5 percent came from China. A total of 88.5 percent of U.S. consumer spending is on items made in the United States, the bulk of which are domestically produced services — such as medical care, housing, transportation, etc. — which make up about two-thirds of spending. Chinese goods account for 2.7 percent of U.S. personal consumption expenditures, about one-quarter of the 11.5 percent foreign share. Chinese imported goods consist mainly of furniture and household equipment; other durables; and clothing and shoes. In the clothing and shoes category, 35.6 percent of U.S. consumer purchases in 2010 were items with the “Made in China” label.

Much of what China sells us has considerable “local content.” Hale and Hobijn give the example of sneakers that might sell for $70. They point out that most of that price goes for transportation in the U.S., rent for the store where they are sold, profits for shareholders of the U.S. retailer, and marketing costs, which include the salaries, wages and benefits paid to the U.S. workers and managers responsible for getting sneakers to consumers. On average, 55 cents of every dollar spent on goods made in China goes for marketing services produced in the U.S.

You should read it all. In a way, the US and China are leaning against each other holding up the economy of the whole world. It simply doesn’t make much sense for either to work against the interests of the other. I hope both American and Chinese politicians realize that. Being politicians, they probably don’t.

Bah Humbug!

December 23, 2011
Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherd...

It wasn't on December 25.

I wonder how many people who quote Ebenezer Scrooge’s famous comment about Christmas know what a humbug actually is. It’s not a word we commonly use nowadays. According to thefreedictionary.com a humbug is;

1. Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud.
2. A person who claims to be other than what he or she is; an impostor.
3. Nonsense; rubbish.
4. Pretense; deception.
In one sense Scrooge was absolutely right; Christmas is a humbug. Don’t worry! I am not turning into a Grinch. What I mean is that Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a humbug in that he was almost certainly not born on December 25. The general consensus seems to be that a birth in the spring or early summer is far more likely.
The truth is that the early Christians were not greatly concerned with the nativity. Christ’s passion, death and resurrection were far more important to them. Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke provide us with any information at all about Jesus’s life before his public ministy and they only give out scattered anecdotes. It may not be until as late as the fourth century that the birth of Jesus was cerebrated. So how did they decide on December 25th?
If you live in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, you may have noticed that the weather is getting colder. The days are getting shorter and the Sun seems to be growing weaker with each passing day.We are approaching the Winter Solstice, of course.  It wouldn’t take much for primitive people to imagine the Sun growing weaker and weaker and the forces of night and winter defeating the Sun.That had never happened before, but who’s to say that this year wouldn’t be different. It must have been a source of profound relief and celebration as the solstice came and the days started to grow longer. Naturally, nearly every culture has some festival around this time of year. Here is a list of some winter festivals. Notice how many share a theme of the triumph of good over evil.
The Romans, in particular had a solstice holiday, known as Saturnalia which was much like Christmas, including gift giving. In the late Roman Empire the cult of the Unconquered Sun was very popular, and of course, the Winter Solstice was the day on which the Sun was victorious. The  fourth and fifth century Christians did not want to miss out on the fun, nor did they want to participate in pagan ceremonies, so they adapted the winter festivals of many nations into a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Some Christian writers even made an explicit connection between the birth of the Sun and the birth of the Son. Cyprian wrote, “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born…Christ should be born” and John Chrysostom, “They call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .?”
So, is Christmas a humbug? Should Christians celebrate the day? Not all Christians do. The Puritans didn’t, either because it was too “Catholic” or it was too rowdy for them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t either because Christmas is too pagan for them. The churches of Christ have no official celebration on Christmas because it is not in the Bible, and if it isn’t in the Bible, they don’t do it. Individual members do celebrate Christmas. For myself, I don’t think there is any harm in Christmas and it is my favorite day of the year. I have to admit to being a little amused when I see posters demanding we keep “Christ in Christmas”, when I consider that Christ wasn’t originally a part of Christmas. I do wish that people would feel a little more “Christmas Spirit” the other 364 days of the year.

%d bloggers like this: