"We degrade Providence too much by attributing our ideas to it out of annoyance at being unable to understand it."

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Misunderstood Lines

Confession time:

What sayings/phrases/cliches/song lines etc... did you misunderstand and even repeat?

Here are some examples given in a blog I saw today:

"Don't Lick A Gimp Horse In the Mouth"

"It's a Doggie Dog World"

"Devil Make Hair"

"A Wayne In A Manger

Me first you say? Okay, here goes...

I used to attend a Baptist church that sang "The family of God" at the end of every service. We would join hands and sing it as our closing song. The words were never printed anywhere. So I thought it went, "Join hands with Jesus as we travel this side". (It's actually "joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod"). I felt like an idiot when I figured out I'd actually been singing the wrong words all those years...LOUD.

What about you?

More on Climate Models and Peer Reviews

Chicago Boyz write more on those climate-predicting computer models and the practicality of "peer review":

Thirty years ago, most scientific software was no more complicated than your average household spreadsheet is today. Software was mostly just a numerical summation tool that merely accelerated the processing of data. If a scientist had a computer, great, but if not it didn’t change the actual conclusions of their experiments. As a result of software’s relatively trivial nature, peer reviewers, journal editorial boards and other scientist paid little attention to the software that experimenters used to produce their results.

Unfortunately, that attitude has persisted even as software has grown from a minor accessory into the tool that actually performs the experiment. Today many papers are nothing but reports of what a unique piece of software spit out after processing this or that great glob of data. These software programs are so huge, so complex and so unique that no one who wasn’t directly involved in their creation could hope to understand them without months of study.

. . .

The practical inability of peer reviewers to verify scientific software doesn’t mean much in reality, because scientific institutions never even developed the standard that experimenters had to make the code for their software available to reviewers in the first place!

This raises a troubling question: When scientists tell the public that a scientific study that used a large, custom-written piece of software has been “peer reviewed” does that mean the study faced the same level of peer scrutiny as did a study that used more traditional hardware instruments and procedures?

Clearly not.
I'm banging on this a bit because I'm kind of ashamed that I never thought of it. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've long been skeptical of computer-based climate models, mainly because I know what computers are good at and what they're bad at, and one thing they're bad at is predicting the future.

But I've never really put two and two together when it comes to the oft and confidently stated "AGW is settled science. Our findings are peer reviewed".

I never asked what was meant by "peer reviewed". Is that an appeal to authority that isn't as strong in reality as it sounds in rhetoric?

And just how good are those computer climate models? Seems that, at least in the example of the East Anglia CRU models . . . not so great.

Star Trek: It Is Logical

I saw Star Trek (the new one) for the first time a couple of nights ago (spoilers to follow). As a serious "Trek" enthusiast -- well, at least as far as the original series goes -- I must say I thought the new film captured the magic of the original motion pictures quite splendidly, and, despite an implausible storyline (what sci-fi doesn't have an implausible storyline?) the film was a nice expansion to the Star Trek canon.

(On a side note, it's unfortunate that the new film had to succumb to the whims of an oversexed society by throwing in a "benign" sexual escapade between Kirk and some green alien chick. While Kirk was always known as a playboy of sorts in the original series, the forerunners of the series wisely chose to leave out screen-played sexual antics. I only wish J.J. Abrams and the new boys could have been so, well, logical.)

Speaking of logic, the part of the movie I enjoyed the most was seeing Leonard Nimoy back in action as Mr. Spock. I hadn't read any reviews or recaps before screening the film, therefore seeing the original Spock was a pleasant surprise. Spock has always been my favorite Star Trek character, and I was glad to see Nimoy pass the baton to the new Spock, Zachary Quinto. Certainly Quinto looks like he can develop a believable Spock character, and, perhaps 40 years from now he'll be passing the Spock legacy on to another newcomer.

While Star Trek is not a great film (like, perhaps, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), it was entertaining, intriguing, and a good, logical resurrection of Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek idea.

On Chicken Little, Global Warming, And 2012 Hysteria

Any lie, repeatedly told, eventually gains acceptance.

-- Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Chief under Adolf Hitler

An Interesting Perspective on Climategate

This post is in reference to the leaked CRU emails.

A few notes before I launch into this: first, I am, like you probably are, a huge fan of clean air and clean water. I'm also geeking on new forms of energy, and I'm pretty much "all of the above"; let's develop our domestic supplies, lower (or eliminate) our reliance on foreign oil, develop hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas transportation fleets, wind, solar, geo-thermal, orbital solar arrays, etc. I think that stuff's cool and can only be good.

I also think it's good if we lower our emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere.

We as Christians should be good stewards of this good earth.

And . . . I don't for a moment think that we're heading for a climate disaster. I've been chicken-littled to death during my lifetime. As P.J. O'Rourke once observed, "have you ever wondered if Chicken Little had an agenda?"

One reason for my skepticism has been the reliance of AGW scientists on computer models. I am a computer scientist, and I've seen a lot of bad code in my time. And I've never seen a computer program that can predict the future.

So I was very interested to read this from Michael Williams. This is a view of the issue we're not seeing out there much, but I think it's very important. Question: just how good is the code behind those vaunted climate models?

Up to this point, it was difficult to challenge the conclusions of AGW-believing climate scientists because most geeks don't have much expertise in climatology. We tend to consider ourselves scientists and to give other scientists in other areas of expertise the benefit of the doubt. Without a great deal of experience in climatology, it's hard for a geek to justify spending much time questioning the modes and methods of professional climate researchers.

However, the email leak has changed all this. Along with a hoard of emails, some source code for the computer climate models was also hacked and released to the public -- and the source code is an unusable mess. It doesn't take expertise in climatology to look at source code and determine that the code is garbage. There are many more geeks with software expertise than with climate expertise, and the geek community will go through every line of code and likely conclude that the computer models are so flawed that any conclusions drawn on them are without merit.

Despite the liberal tendencies of many geeks, I believe that the source code evidence will be insurmountable for most. Some will continue to cling to AGW because of a devotion to left-wing politics, but the majority of geeks will abandon their belief, and that abandonment by geeks will truly spell the end for AGW.
Emphasis mine.

Thank Goodness

Thank goodness.

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (AP) - Crowd control at all Walmart stores in New York appears to be smooth a year after a security guard was crushed to death by a stampede of shoppers.
Update Well, OK, tramplings are still occurring on the stupidest day of the year, but at least no one got killed this time.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thousands of holiday shoppers are hitting stores throughout middle Tennessee on Black Friday.

Thursday night, shoppers went to Lebanon's Prime Outlet in their pajamas. The first 500 people who arrived received a free gift bag. One store offered 6 percent off some items.

In Clarksville, one woman fractured her knee while shopping at Toys R Us. Police spokesman Jim Knoll said that Amy Serna was trampled. She was taken to the hospital.

Serna told the Leaf Chronicle shoppers got unruly after the store delayed the midnight opening because it wanted police to get there before it let people inside.

Toys R Us was unavailable for comment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sorry if I bummed you out or irked you with my Glenn Beck thing. Here's something to take the edge off.

Can't Say I Care For It

I am currently getting my first exposure to Glenn Beck.

He reminds me of the guy in classes at high school that we all didn't necessarily disagree with but we rolled our eyes when he started talking anyway. I think the word insufferable comes to mind.

I sort of want to punch him. (In the love of Jesus, of course.)

He's apparently about to tell us where god is. (Lower-case because his god used to be a man, and my God -- the real one -- did not.)

He's now talking about putting God back into whatever, and is saying that God told the Israelites if they'd only follow the Ten Commandments, they'd be free.

This is not only wrong, it leads to damnation.

But I'm willing to bet, that as he's appealing to the concerns about the Ten Commandments being taken out of national monuments, etc., that a lot of his evangelical viewers agree with him.

Congratulations Titans

Last night the Tennessee Titans beat my Texans on Monday Night Football. It was a great game. Some observations:

- Just like the Titans season, the career of Vince Young has been resurrected. It's hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago the prevailing wisdom, even among Titan fans, was that Vince Young was done. "He's not an NFL quarterback". "He's a quitter", etc. Vince Young has proven what he really is: a winner. There's no stat-sheet for that.

- Passing over Vince Young for Mario Williams in 2006 is once again looking like a stupid decision. Again, the Titans can point to a lot of reasons they won the game last night, but from this Texans fan's perspective, without VY, the Titans don't win that game. He made plays when he needed to.

- Maybe teams will once again crack the VY code. I don't know. The Texans defense seemed surprised, somehow, that VY used his legs to get easy first downs. It's almost as if our defensive coordinator planned for Kerry Collins.

- There's something disturbing about the Texans sideline in the fourth quarter in close games. I remember thinking this last night as MNF cut to shots of Gary Kubiac and the players on the sidelines when the game was tied 17-17 with a few minutes left: they know they are going to lose. Shots of the Titans sideline told a different story. They were loose, and confident. They knew they were going to win. I think that's the difference in the game.

- This was a huge game for the Texans, and hence the disappointment is palpable in Houston. This is the second game in a row that we've lost in the last seconds with a missed field goal. It doesn't take much to separate 7-3 from 5-5. This game, for all intents and purposes, took the Texans out of the playoff picture. Their season now has devolved into an effort to finally have a winning record (the best the Texans have ever done is 8-8). Unfortunately, even a winning season won't be enough for this star-crossed franchise.

- I think this game also was the end of Gary Kubiak's career here as head coach, which is sad. I like Koobs. But he hasn't been able to turn this team into a winner. He's gotten tantalizingly close. But the calls for his removal are going to get loud, now.

- A win next week against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts (another team that always pulls out a win against the Texans, no matter how close the game is) could possibly save the season. But the Texans pretty much have to be perfect from now on.

- For Titans fans, what a season this is turning into! It's hard to believe they were 0-6 just a few weeks ago. Though the Texans have a better record, the Titans seem to have a better chance of making the Wild Card this year. I'm glad for their players and for Jeff Fisher, who is a class act. I'll do my best to ignore the classless, bird-flipping octogenarian up in the luxury box.

- For entertaining football, the Texans/Titans games are hard to beat. These teams really hate each other, and that makes the game fun to watch. As Monday Night Football goes, that was one of the best games of the season. I wish the result had been different, but hats off to the Titans. They are the better team, and they showed it last night.

- Quaid, who never gave up on Vince Young in conversations in this space, should be feeling a satisfying sense of vindication this morning. :-)

Cheers to Jack

Most people know today as the day (46 years ago) that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But most people don't know that on the exact same day as Kennedy's untimely death -- November 22, 1963 -- across the pond in merry ol' England, an unassuming Oxford don passed on to his heavenly reward. His name was C.S. Lewis. (Philosopher Aldous Huxley also died the same day.)

I guess it's easy to overlook Lewis in this time. He wasn't a man who enjoyed the spotlight anyway, and he probably would think it just fine that the day of his passing be obscured by the Death of Camelot. But I say with complete confidence that the legacy Lewis left us is far greater than that of JFK.

Lewis was a poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, professor, and "amateur" theologian-philosopher. His fiction manages to capture the mythic grandeur and eloquence he so loved as a child and the attention-grabbing wonder every lover of good stories covets. His non-fiction sparkled with an easy-going style. Lewis's illustrative method was remarkable. He was able to take difficult and complex concepts and somehow explain them in ways that made sense. He always favored simplicity even when discussing "big things." He never used a big word when a small one would have worked just as well.

C.S. Lewis's influence on modern Christianity is unmatched to this day. No other Christian has come close to rivaling his place at the summit of Christian literature. No other Christian has come close to influencing Christian thought in the 20th and 21st centuries more than he. That is why I believe Lewis has been the single most influential Christian of the 20th century. No one -- not even Billy Graham -- has left such a indelible mark on Christian culture. Graham may win the souls, but Lewis builds them up. You might not be able to get an atheist to read Graham's How to be Born Again, but I bet you could get him to read Lewis's The Abolition of Man. And he'd be better off for it.

It might be hyperbole, but the Thinklings may not have ever started were it not for Lewis. When high school Rod met high school Bird in high school gym class, we had little in common at first but our faith and an interest in Lewis. Most of my fondest early Thinkling moments involve Lewis. Before the Thinklings were the Thinklings, Bird and I used to go over to another friend's house to shoot hoops, shoot pool, and shoot the breeze. Theological debates were the order of the day. And many a theological debate or discussion was settled with "Well, what does Lewis say about it?"
I recall visiting Bird in college at Baylor one time. I remember it clear as day even though it was night, but Bird and I sat out by his apartment complex's pool, smoked stogies, and discussed C.S. Lewis. I remember a bunch of bats flying overhead. The romantic spirit of Inklings-esque camaraderie was in the air.

When I met Bill in the mid-90s on that fateful bus trip back from summer camp, we were both delighted to discover a mutual affection for Lewis.

I myself have a poor "reading memory." But for some reason, I seem to recall much of the C.S. Lewis I've read. His way with words sticks in my brain like no other writer. I have an odd ability to recall certain Lewis quotes and phrases, and he's really the only author for whom I can do this.
It was my father's dust-eaten copy of Mere Christianity that inspired my love of theological pursuit and passion for doctrine. It was the Chronicles of Narnia and the first book in the Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet) that inspired by particular approach to writing fiction.

Indeed, were Lewis writing his fiction today, he might not even make it on to the shelves of Christian bookstores. Not enough explicit Jesusness. Yet no Christian fiction has baptized childhood imaginations for future embrace of the Gospel more than Lewis's (except perhaps Tolkien's).

Lewis has been my influence and my inspiration. He's been my teacher.

Professor Lewis, if you can hear me, I am a better Christian because of you. When I get where you are, I'd love to shake your hand and share a pint.

This is a slightly edited rerun of the Thinklings' annual Lewis Memoriam post.

Phrases That Bug

Jared's previous post, plus some recent conversations, inspired this post (although this concept may have been posted on before).

Are there any phrases that bother you? Here are a few of mine:

"At the end of the day"

"It is what it is"

"leverage" - OK when used to describe the physical phenomenon, not so much when used in place of "use to our advantage", as in "Let's leverage our synergies to enhance our core competencies".

Can you tell that I've been exposed to lots of corporate-speak in my time? Thankfully, the leaders at the company I work at now eschew it.

I've got lots more, but they escape me at the moment. I'll put them in the comments when I think of them.

On a side note, Eldest daughter is particularly sensitive to certain one or two-word phrases, such as:




She can't really explain why.

What about you? Are there any phrases that bug you?

Word Up

A public service announcement.

"Mmm" is when you are tantalized by or hungry for something.
"Hmm" is when you are thinking about or contemplating something.
"Umm" is when you are hesitant or unsure.

Mixing them up can be, ummm, amusing.


"Yea" is when you're celebrating ("Yea, team!") or assenting to a vote ("I vote yea.").
"Yeah" is when you are answering in the affirmative.


A "desert" is a dry environment.
A "dessert" is something sweet you eat after dinner.


"Whoa" is when you're taken aback or stopping a horse.
"Woe" is a portend of something ominous.
"Whoah" and "Woa" are nothing. Seriously, don't use them.


It is "Whoomp! There it is!", not "Womp" or "Oomp" and certainly never "Unhh."

That is all.

Andy Serkis as Screwtape

Note: I believe this is being put on by Focus on the Family. I realize that will horrify some of you. I can't help you.

[H/T The Oxford Inklings]

"Napoleon Dynamite" an Anomaly in More Ways Than One

I found this really interesting. According to TechDirt, Napoleon Dynamite is algorithm proof. Wikipedia puts it this way:

It is surprisingly difficult to predict how viewers will react to Napoleon Dynamite as it tends to polarize audiences in a "love it or hate it" fashion. Researchers and algorithm workers at Netflix have found that they are unable to predict whether or not a particular viewer will like Napoleon Dynamite based on their ratings of previously viewed films, making it one of only a select few movies that pose this problem.

How about you? Answer two questions:

1. If you've seen Napoleon Dynamite, did you like it?
2. What's your favorite movie?

Maybe we can sort out Dynamite-liking tendencies based on common ground in favorite movies among the commenters. :-)

Accept No Substitutes

It's a cold and rainy one today. We stayed in. On a lark, I popped in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring extended cut this morning. I'm now 20 minutes into The Two Towers. Inspired me to go over to my old solo blog and re-read my thoughts on the three films and the comments under them. Good times.

The three movies as one epic are a masterpiece.

Let's Talk Harry Potter And the Sorceror's Stone

I admit it. I'm late to the party. Really, really late. But I just finished "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and now I'm halfway through "Chamber of Secrets." Now I'm starting to see what all the kerfluffle is about. It's good!

As I cruise through every book in the series, I wonder if anyone would be interested in discussing them as I go, one at a time. Discussion will be carried on under comments.

This thread is about the Sorcerer's Stone only. I'll do another separate post for each of the subsequent books. Spoiling any of the other Potter books for me will result in severe punishment for you...like having to do detention in the magic forest. Please don't!

I'll get us started.

One thing I never expected about Harry Potter was the humor. It's funny. Peeves the poltergeist cracks me up. The images of Quirrel, professor of "Defence against the Dark Arts" stumbling, and stuttering, afraid of his own shadow was hilarious. This was supposed to be the guy who fights werewolves and vampires. Oh and then there was Professor Dumbledore's welcome speech.

"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!
Thank you!"


Another thing that impressed me was the friendship between Ron, Harry and Hermione.
"From that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them."


I never saw Quirrell coming. Never. I even saw the movie several years ago, but all I could remember was Alan Rickman, the bad guy's bad guy, as Professor Snape. (For the record, that's the only Harry Potter movie I've seen. I will go through the rest of the books before I see anymore movies.) I was just so sure that Snape would be the bad guy. Rowling fooled me too.

And finally I really liked Hogwarts. The whole atmosphere was amazing. Rowling has created a magical world. And like Narnia, Xanth, and Middle Earth, I found myself wishing I could go there.

Please put your thoughts about the first Harry Potter book under comments. Any thoughts at all.

"Objectively, Ayn Rand Was a Nut"

Author Ayn Rand has had a resurgence in recent days. As a reaction to the obnoxious, creeping statism of our government, people are talking about the libertarian icon more and more, inspired by the idea of "going Galt", etc.

My knowledge of Rand was, for many years, limited to a dusty copy of Atlas Shrugged in my parent's house that looked far to thick to read, and a reference to "the genius of Ayn Rand" in the liner notes of Rush's album 2112. But in the past year Eldest Daughter saw a reading of The Fountainhead take two of her close friends down a path from Christianity to some form of self-serve Deism, and Eldest Son has also expressed frustration with the growing Rand cult amongst conservatives (and had a mini run-in with an atheistic Objectivism fan at an evening lecture last week).

On this subject, Peter Wehner weighs in: Objectively, Ayn Rand Was a Nut:

Ayn Rand was, of course, the founder of Objectivism – whose ethic, she said in a 1964 interview, holds that “man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.” She has argued that “friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man’s life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite; whereas, if he places his work first, there is no conflict between his work and his enjoyment of human relationships.” And about Jesus she said:
I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. Isn’t that what it does mean? Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.
. . .

Yet there are some strands within conservatism that still veer toward Rand and her views of government (“The government should be concerned only with those issues which involve the use of force,” she argued. “This means: the police, the armed services, and the law courts to settle disputes among men. Nothing else.”), and many conservatives identify with her novelistic hero John Galt, who declared, “I swear — by my life and my love of it — that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

But this attitude has very little to do with authentic conservatism, at least the kind embodied by Edmund Burke, Adam Smith (chair of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow), and James Madison, to name just a few. What Rand was peddling is a brittle, arid, mean, and ultimately hollow philosophy. No society could thrive if its tenets were taken seriously and widely accepted. Ayn Rand may have been an interesting figure and a good (if extremely long-winded) novelist; but her views were pernicious, the antithesis of a humane and proper worldview. And conservatives should say so.

"They Brought Back a Big Bag of Rocks. Only Cost $240 Million. Must Be Some Nice Rocks."

The late Larry Norman being brilliant accompanied by the great Mike Roe (of classic Christian rockers The 77's).

Um, Never Mind :-)

From Andrew:

Sarah Palin on monetary policy (almost):
Noting that there had been a lot of “change” of late, Palin recalled a recent conversation with a friend about how the phrase “In God We Trust” had been moved to the edge of the new coins.

“Who calls a shot like that?” she demanded. “Who makes a decision like that?”

She added: “It’s a disturbing trend.”

So, who made that decision? George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.


Messages for the Would-Be Messengers

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church outside Dallas, gave a powerful message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's chapel service this morning. You can watch it here or listen to it here, and I encourage you to do so. It's worth anyone's time, but is especially good for anyone in church leadership or anyone aspiring to be in church leadership.

In his sermon, Chandler quotes from Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity:

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)

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