Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Cat and Sunflower Blogging

Electra, Orestes and the sunflowers are in bloom. It's the last days of summer. Next week classes start, although I'm ready 'cus I got me my Trapper Keeper (a vintage late 1970's one from Ebay.) Also to keep up with all the young kids today, I got my iPhone and I'm now on Facebook.

So Governor Palin is the Repbulican VP choice. I think Tbogg sums it up pretty well, as only he can:

'...The selection of Palin strikes me as a "stunt" nomination and an admission that even in the misty recesses of former prisoner of war John McCain's mind, he knows that he is truly fucked. Therefore the campaign seems to be hunting for the PUMA vote; the PUMA being a mythical creature with the body of a middle-aged woman and the head of an idiot. Palin's main claim to fame is that she doesn't kill babies but instead gives them hippy names like Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig which falls in line with the Christian belief that we must suffer in this world before entering the next...'

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blogging Days

'...Caught a large snake in the herbaceous border beside the drive. About 2’ 6” long, grey colour, black markings on belly but none on back except, on back of neck, a mark resembling an arrow head (ñ) all down the back. Not certain whether an adder, as these I think usually have a sort of broad arrow mark (^) all down the back. Did not care to handle it too recklessly, so only picked it up by extreme tip of tail. Held thus it could nearly turn far enough to bite my hand, but not quite. Marx interested at first, but after smelling it was frightened & ran away. The people here normally kill all snakes. As usual, the tongue referred to as “fangs”...'

Such is the first entry of George Orwell's new blog. From August 9th, 1938. Starting on August 9th of this month, The Orwell Trust is reprinting the entirety of George Orwell's diaries in blogging form, with each entry exactly 70 years after it's original date. Complete with footnotes and such, and it's open for comments as well:

'...Two legs bad, no legs good...'

'...When I see snakes I advise them to be more careful to avoid humans; other people will cut their heads off. From Orwell’s entry it seems he did not kill the snake, although I dislike picking them up because it seems abusive...'

'...Any herpetologists out there? What kind of snake do you think that might’ve been?...'

'...@Joe - would’ve been an adder (vipera berus) I’d imagine...'

'...What’s this “(ñ)” is that just my machines rendering? A drawing of the arrow?...'

'...The hyperlinks don’t show up clearly in the post. I’m using FF3 on a laptop running XP...'

'...Some blogs are more equal than others...'

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Plant Blogging

I've been doing a bit of the Farmer John thing on the front stoop of our brownstone this spring and summer. I started by planting seeds for spinach, lima beans, peas, tomatoes and sunflowers. The results were decidedly mixed.

The seeds did an excellent job of sprouting, but after that many things went downhill. The spinach looked like some kind of refugee from a famine plagued vegetable land. The peas didn't fare much better. In the end I got 16 peas out of the crop. They were damn tasty, but, still. The lima beans were also a complete disaster. They were doing very well, until every last one succumbed to a fungus unique to lima bean plants. Wiped out the whole crop.

This leaves the tomatoes and the sunflowers, which have proven to be relatively successful. There are 16 cherry tomato plants, and they are all doing pretty well, although next year I need to plant them in larger containers and with fewer plants per container. The sunflowers are the big success. They're now over eight feet tall, and are now starting to bloom. I'm going to get a good recipe for toasting the seeds, which look to be plentiful. Of course, I'll have to fight the birds for them.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Last night we went to Rosewater. For desert we had Bacon Ice Cream, sprinkled with pieces of Candied Bacon, served on a waffle cooked with Bacon Fat.

As Jeff Garlin would say, it was a big bowl of evil. But very tasty.

Friday, August 15, 2008


‘…He might be a father, be he sure aint no dad…’

Following on a post I did earlier about complementarianism, I wrote an email to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CMWM), a main complementarian organization, regarding gender definitions. I referred them to an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Jennifer Boylan regarding gender determination in the Olympics, and I asked them for their comments on this issue.

As you recall, complementarians believe in Biblically defined gender roles, with men in leadership positions. Of course, for this to work, logically one must define ‘male’ and ‘female.’ So I asked them if the Bible defines those words, and for their take on intersex issues. And they kindly responded:


Thanks for writing and alerting us to this op/ed piece in the NY Times. Later today we will be posting on our blog about this very issue.

Briefly, the Scriptures speak loudly by what they do not say explicitly. God’s created order: “He made the [sic] male and female…” reveals God’s will as clearly as one could want, namely that He ordained two sexes for the sake of his own glory. Beyond that the Scriptures are clear that in rare cases (castration, intentional eunuchs, etc) reproduction is ended, but sexuality (ie: manhood and womanhood) continues. This is the way in which Galatians 3:28 can be understood as well. When it says, “There is neither male nor female….for all are one in Christ” it means that before the Cross of Christ no one can boast in their gender. It does not mean that sexuality ends as a part of God’s creation and formative for each person’s human identity. In fact, it is not the obliteration of gender distinctives, but the peaceful unity of the two distinct genders that brings glory to God.

Ian, your questions and participation on the blog are highly welcome. Thanks for writing. We look forward to more interaction as God leads.

With Kind Regards,

Brent Nelson

A couple of things to note – first the letter doesn’t answer the question about definitions of male and female (though they address that in their blog post - more on that later). But they do correctly point out two parts of scripture that potentially address intersex issues. The Bible is quite specific through these interpretations on intersex – it doesn’t exist, as the quote from Genesis 1:27 (So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [KJV]) attests. As well, the famous Galatians quote (There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [KJV]) is not about dissolving gender distinctions in today’s context, but through the baptism in Christ. At least according to complementarians; egalitarians interpret that differently as I had mentioned earlier. But the Galatians quote doesn’t specifically allow for intersex situations.

Although definitions were not mentioned in the letter, CMWM did address the issue in the blog post they mentioned. Some relevant quotes:

‘…Amazingly, there is radical disagreement over a methodology for distinguishing a woman from man, and whether or not such differentiation is even possible…She [Boylan] concludes that "gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than be afraid of it." She understands that gender can only be determined by the heart of the individual and how that individual lives in daily life.

Unfortunately, the Bible does not consider a sin-tainted heart to be a reliable guide; rather "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). A male athlete who feels in his heart that he is a woman should not trust his heart. Instead, he should rely on the Word of God and find some male opponents.

Scripture presents gender as a binary condition, not a shifting continuum from male to female. When God created man in his image, the Bible says, "male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). The Bible does not provide an explicit list of characteristics to distinguish a woman from a man, because it was understood to be self-evident (c.f. the reaction of Adam in Genesis 2:23).

Boylan's statistic is consistent with this divine truth and actually argues against her position: if 1 in 20,000 women carry a Y chromosome, then 19.999 in 20,000 do not. Any lab test that can objectively identify a female 99.995% of the time would be considered an extremely reliable guide to a binary understanding of gender. Even among the exceptional .005% of women who carry a Y chromosome, most are feminine in appearance and are able to bear children. Because this is a fallen world, there are birth defects that affect all parts of the human anatomy, but these extremely rare defects do not invalidate the binary nature of God's good design of manhood and womanhood…’

So the Bible doesn’t provide a definition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ as it is ‘self-evident.’ Genesis 2:23 (And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [KJV]) is perhaps odd, as the definition of woman refers to being ‘taken out of man,’ and doesn’t seem to be a good example of ‘self evidence’ of gender definitions. But their point remains – no specific scriptural definitions exist for the definitions; instead it’s obvious what is male and female.

But I find this unsatisfactory, for it’s not obvious to me. And the problem with binaries is that they are by design universal, and must hold for all examples; one exception voids the concept of ‘binary.’ When scripture says that ‘all are male or female’, then there is no allowance for exceptions.

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) has a list of differing intersex conditions and their frequency, which range from ‘Complete gonadal dysgenesis’ at a rate of 1 in 150,000 people to ‘Late Onset Adrenal Hyperplasia’ at a rate of 1 in 66 people. According to the ISNA, the total number of people whose bodies differ from what are standard (‘self-obvious’) male and female patterns is 1 in 100. Now, to paraphrase the CMWM, that small number could be a reliable guide to a binary understanding of gender. Except that 1 in 100 people means that over 65 million people in the world fall into this category, or the equivalent of more than the entire population of France.

The issue of the ‘extremely rare’ defects that result from this being a fallen world ‘not invalidating the binary nature of God’s good design of manhood and womanhood’ fails to address this. For if the binary is to hold, then 65 million people need to be categorized as either male or female. Otherwise they cannot logically be assigned scripturally defined gender roles. So what are the standards? Genitalia? Chromosomes? Capability to give birth? If the Bible doesn’t provide the standards, then someone has to. I look forward to CMWM’s answer to this.

I'm Glad I Became an Architect

This picture has been making the rounds a bit on the political blogs, starting here as best as I can figure it. Apparently it's an abstinence-promoting billboard from the State of Kansas. Some comments:

' could use it in a discussion of public service announcements gone awry. I have a feeling this billboard probably kept more kids from becoming engineers than sex ever did...' Via

'...That’s why you should become scientists, kids! (Because engineers don’t have sex. You want me to spell it out for you?)...' Via

'...It’s funny cuz it’s true. But it’s not funny...' Via

'...If anything, characterizing the sex-engineering link in this manner seems overwhelmingly more likely to reduce interest in engineering than to reduce interest in sex...' Via

This is going to be the 'New Coke' of the abstinence-only movement.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Pressure's On

There is something seriously whacked going on in this country regarding the pressure of peoples’ car tires. First Senator Obama gets criticized for a remark made on tire pressure as part of a speech on the importance of energy conservation. And now a military tribunal has just found Salim Hamdan (better known as Osama Bin Laden’s driver)guilty of ‘supporting terrorism’, although he was cleared of conspiracy charges. What’s the connection? From the July 26th New York Times, in an article on the Hamdan trial:

‘…There has been no testimony about shots fired or bombs detonated by Mr. Hamdan. Instead, the case is a mundane tour of terrorism, as seen from the driver’s seat. One sign that an act of terrorism was coming was that Mr. Hamdan would be told to get the truck ready, said the witnesses, most of whom were federal agents who had interrogated him.

Mr. Hamdan’s offenses are not enumerated anywhere, but appear to include checking the oil and the tire pressure…’

Pretty serious shit.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Back to School

So I'm heading back to school this fall. I'm now registered for classes at both General Theological Seminary, where I'll be taking a class in the Old Testament, and Fordham University, where I'll be studying Classical Greek. The ultimate goal will be a new masters degree, this time a Masters in Arts in Theology. Of course I will need to make certain of a couple of things first, namely if I can still hack it in a classroom environment, and also if I can hack language study at my age. Also I need to make sure that I can do all of this while keeping up with studying the tenor banjo, and, oh, yeah, working.

Of course I'll be organized, as I will be getting my Trapper Keeper, which apparently has now been reissued by Mead.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Welcome to our Country

The above video is from the New York Times, a companion piece to an article published back in May. It follows the sad case of Boubacar Bah, a tailor from Guinea who lived here in Brooklyn, and worked at a West Village boutique. After a Kafkaesque immigration experience, he ended up in a detention center in New Jersey. For unexplained reasons, he received a skull fracture, but was detained afterwords for 15 hours in shackles before an ambulance was called. His lawyer, his family and his friends were never told about any of this until he had already been in the hospital for five days. By that point he was in a coma – he died 4 months later.

The detention center is run by a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a firm ‘set up in 1983 in Nashville by a group of investors that included a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party...’: here's more from an article in the LRB:

‘…CCA describes itself as the ‘nation’s largest provider of outsourced corrections management’, with 70,000 inmates and 16,000 staff. Its website speaks proudly of ‘similarities in mission and structure’ with the US army and makes a special appeal to veterans in search of work: ‘How will you make the transition from military to civilian life? CCA features a paramilitary structure: a highly refined chain of command, and policies and procedures that dictate facility operations.’

Transparency is not one of those policies and procedures. On the contrary: according to Dow, CCA ‘has warned its shareholders of the dangers of public scrutiny’. So it’s no surprise that CCA still hasn’t explained how Bah fell, or why he was shackled and left untreated for 15 hours afterwards. US immigration officials haven’t said anything either. Indeed, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] operates in almost perfect opacity: it’s not obliged even to keep track of deaths among detainees, much less to report them publicly. When an immigrant dies in custody, the recorded cause of death can be as vague and tautological as ‘unresponsiveness’ – something the ICE knows all about.…’

The stock of CCA (NYSE symbol CXW) closed up 32 cents today, at $28.74. It’s a high for the year.