Saturday, March 08, 2008

Paula Berg -- the great divider

Paula Berg, the Southwest Airlines representative who impressed me so much seems to have both fans and enemies.

You can count me on the fan side because I'm a sucker for girls who flatter me.

the power of detecting mango pickle

The mango pickle incident seems to have given me the power to identify the scent of mango pickle from a crowded lunchroom of many different foods. I walked into the lunchroom today and asked Shreya if she had brought in some of that extra-spicy mango pickle she promised. She said she handn't, but I insisted that I smelled mango pickle. It turned out that Mallik from two tables away had some mango pickle. He gave me a small portion (I discussed the importance of using small portions in the previous post) and I put it on my chicken sandwich because I didn't have any rice or any of those Indian cracker thingies.

I really like mango pickle. It's annoying that you can only have a small amount, but it's really, really important to show self-control in this area.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The world of Ethshar

A few days ago I talked about Ethshar in my book review of "The Spriggan Mirror" (yes, I know it wasn't really a book review, that's a sporadic running gag of mine). I found out that the author has a web site dedicated to the world of Ethshar. There is even a free Ethshar book, The Vondish Ambassador.

If you are a fan of intelligent fantasy, I highly recommend both the site and the book.


Well, since I'm blogging again, I guess I don't have an excuse not to write a short post linking to the Storyblogging Carnival. It's at this week (via Back of the Envelope).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

the theory of hamburgers: introduction

Only an uneducated rube would would expect to throw the components of a hamburger onto a bun any old way and get a proper sandwich. The design and construction of a proper hamburger requires finesse and forethought and the careful balancing of flavors and textures. In addition it requires the engineering of structural stability. Nothing is more melancholy than the features of man as he gazes despondently downward at his erstwhile burger, lying ruined in the dust, accidentally squeezed from between the buns of an unstable sandwich. The goal of hamburger theory is to prevent such tragedies, while at the same time providing a foundation of knowledge that leads to an optimal taste experience.

A hamburger, at its most basic consists of four components: the Burger, the Bun, the Condiments, and the Garnishes. The Burger is a flattened meat product formed of ground beef. The Bun is a bread product consisting of two relatively flat and broad bread segments, the upper or top Bun and the lower or bottom Bun. The lower Bun should be flat on both sides to give a firm platform for the rest of the sandwich. The Burger, the Condiments, and the Garnishes, are arranged upon this platform, and the whole is finally covered with the top Bun, which should be flat on the lower side to provide stability to the structure.

This treatise will not dwell at length on the Bun and the Burger because there are readily-available commercial solutions that are more than adequate to the task. Simply visit your local grocer and purchase high- or mid-quality packaged hamburger buns and hamburger meat. For the Bun, sliced bread, while it can be used effectively in the drier designs, is prone to losing its tensile strength in the presence of hamburger fluids which will lead to catastrophic failure of the hamburger structure. It is therefore not recommended for the beginner.

The three basic Condiments are Mayonnaise, Ketchup, and Mustard. Advanced condiment theory deals with more exotic ointments including barbeque sauce, Buffalo sauce, and hot sauce, but such advanced condiments are beyond the scope of this introduction.

The four basic Garnishes are Lettuce, Onion, Tomato, and Pickle. The Pickle here is the sliced dill, which is sliced along the short dimension in order to produce a nearly circular pickle product. The longitudinally-sliced sandwich dill may be substituted (with certain caveats about the difference in overall pickle area) but the dill spear is an advanced topic due to the difficulties that it causes with structural stability. Onions and tomatoes are to be thin-sliced but the direction is less critical because of the spherical nature of the source product. They can be used in diced form but this is much less desirable for both structural and culinary reasons. Other advanced Garnishes not to be covered here include Cheese, Jalepeno, Bacon, and Fried Egg.

In the next installment, I shall discuss the stridency and condimentation properties of the condiments.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

anti-Christian propoganda on the History Channel

I'm sitting here watching "Banned from the Bible II" on the History Channel. You know right away from the tendentious title that the show is going to be slanted against Christianity. What sense does it make to say that some ancient manuscript was "banned" from the Bible? If you make an anthology of Science Fiction and don't include anything by Asimov, does that mean that Asimov was "banned" from the anthology?

It's a ridiculous term, chosen to imply dogmatic and intolerant rigidity. The show also uses the word "suppressed" to mean "didn't include a book in the cannon" and the combination is clearly intended to give a flavor of forcing religion on other people. But didn't the compilers of the Bible have the right to chose which books were consistent with their faith and which weren't? And what sort of sanctimonious prig thinks that he can tell people of another faith what books should be part of their religion?

So, I wasn't surprised when the speakers in the show gave unflattering speculations about why the particular books weren't included in the cannon. But there is no need to speculate, since the arguments around the Christian cannon are well-documented. And for the Jewish cannon (the show is also anti-Jewish) the unflattering speculation is not supported by anything except negative stereotypes.

Some of the unflattering speculation was even self-refuting. There is a story of Lilith, who was supposedly the first woman created. But she defied both God and Adam and became a demon who causes still births and molests young men in their sleep. One speculation given for why Lilith was not included in the canon is that she was an independent woman who refused to submit to her husband. But does that makes sense? If their purpose was to make sure that women remain submissive to men, what better way than to say that defying your husband makes you like an evil demon that causes still births?

But how about a simpler reason for leaving the story of Lilith out? How about that it was clearly more gentile than Jewish in content? The Jewish religion doesn't have the sorts of gods and demons that Lilith represents. They didn't have demonic explanations for natural phenomena such as still birth and wet dreams. That was gentile religion. Why ever would the Jews include such an obviously gentile-like story in their religious cannon?

The church fathers supposedly left out a couple of books because those books endorsed celibacy, but not simply because the fathers wanted to exclude books that taught wrong doctrine. No, that would not be unflattering enough. The reason that the church fathers "suppressed" these books was because so many Christians of the time believed in them and the church fathers wanted to ... ah ... I'm not sure why they wanted to deliberately anger half of Christendom and make it less likely that the cannon would be universally accepted. There must be some reason, though, because there has to be some mean-spirited motivation behind their decision.

Right at the end of the show, one guy gives a speech about how Christianity was never one religion and how the Catholic Church won the war and then "rewrote history" to make it look as if their beliefs were always the main beliefs. But this is silly. A large part of what we know about the early heresies are because they were recorded by the church fathers. If the church fathers wanted to write these heresies out of history, shouldn't they have, like, not recorded them for history? And if their purpose in creating the cannon had no other purpose than to prop up their own splinter cult of Christianity, why doesn't the cannon contain any support for the contentious and flaky parts of Catholicism? I'm thinking of things like saint-worship, Mary-worship, idolatry, the priesthood, the church hierarchy, confessions and rosaries among other things. Surely they could have dug up a few fraudulent writings to support these things. But the church fathers were (for the most part) too honest to include anything that didn't have a clear historical connection to Christ.

This could have been an interesting show. They could have talked about the Jewish belief in prophets and their inspired writing, and the similar Christian belief about the apostles and other disciples of Christ. They could have explained how early Christianity was influenced by Greek mystery cults and how the church fathers argued against the cults. They could have been more honest about the dates of the various canonical and non-canonical texts. In general the canonical texts are much earlier.

But it clearly isn't the purpose of this show to enlighten us about the history of the Bible. Their purpose is to discredit the Bible.

why does the media hate Israel so much?

This is a very personal account of Palestinians bombing civilian Israeli neighborhoods and the media making Israel look like the bad guys for trying to stop it.