Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sitting in church this morning...

We haven't participated in worship since we left the fundamentalist church. We were both raised on traditional worship with hymns, a piano, and possibly an organ. So for all of the fundamentalists that say people just go to contemporary churches to be entertained, that is bunk. It isn't that we think the worship is bad, but we just don't "get" with it. We deal with it because the only places you can find traditional worship anymore are fundamentalist and mainline churches. Neither of us want to go back to fundamentalism and my wife won't go to mainline.
Evangelicalism and fundamentalism are starting to meet in the middle these days however, so I don't know how long it will be until we start seeing some of the same tendencies crop up. The emerging American church of the second decade of the 21st century is not leftist but a coalition of moderate fundies and rightward evangelicals into what could best be described as a conservative evangelicalism (CE). The fundies are being decimated demographically and have no other option. The evangelical Christian Right is becoming ever more right-wing, tracking with the right-ward drift of the Republican party. (This is what happens when you join church and politics.) Perhaps there is also a little residual reaction to the late "emergent" movement but that would be a secondary influence.
Ultimately the polarization of America is being reflected in the polarization of the church. I wish the government would revoke the 501(c)(3) status of every church tomorrow. Let the evangelicals, at least the conservative majority) bellow the Republican, Tea-Party, Obama is an alien Muslim nonsense straight into oblivion. They already do it but they hide behind the neutral facade they are required by the IRS to put up.
Michael Spencer wrote an article some time back about the demise of evangelicalism, pointing out that what remains of evangelicalism will be charismatic in nature. The conservative evangelicals are committed to cessationism, leaving no room for evangelicals such as the Assembly of God or Pentecostals, who will be left to occupy the spectrum that used to be known as solidly evangelical, at least in cultural terms.
The church we have been attending uses the NIV2011 in services which has been roundly condemned by conservative evangelicals for gender inclusivity (although it is tame in comparison to other inclusive versions). So the church seems at least for now still in the classic mainstream of evangelicalism. At least until I chat with the assistant pastor afterwards and see the ESV tucked under his arm, a translation whose whole purpose for existance was to strike back at the little-known, gender inclusive NIVI (1997) with a text that was intentionally non-inclusive and deliberately conservative. *facepalm* The ESV does not just represent a non-gender-inclusive translation philosophy, it represents an anti-gender-inclusive translation philosophy, having a dangerous polarizing effect.
Well I suppose there is no point into reading too much into any single thing. Don't count your chickens till they hatch. I just keep finding eggs...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Problems with Line Drying Clothes

To save money but mostly because we still needed to run a 240v electric circuit or a gas line to our laundry room for a dryer, we line dried our clothes for a while. I was very excited at first to be doing something so green!
We still don't have a dryer, although the 240v circuit is in (along with a vent) and we will be buying later this week. But we haven't line dried our clothes in months for many good reasons which I will lay out in this post. I schlep three large hampers to the laundromat once a week. I don't take issue with those who line dry, but I would take issue with those who make it a cause.
First major problem: the STIFFNESS of the clothes after line drying. Regardless of how much water is spun out of the clothes, water remains in the clothes after washing, and that is why clothes must be dried. This remaining water contains minerals from the water supply, plus any soap that did not rinse out. When clothes are hung out to dry, there is nothing to prevent the minerals and soap residue from drying in place, acting like starch.
We tried to solve the problem by reducing the amount of soap that went into the laundry, to no avail. We have hard water in our area, which only contributed to the problem. Ultimately, the only thing that worked (partially) was using cleaning strength (6%) white vinegar and filling the washer's softener compartment to the max line with it, but the clothes still came out fairly stiff.
Second major problem: the above mentioned stiffness led to an increase in PILLING. Pilling occurs when fabrics experience friction, and over time this friction results in the fabric piling up and creating little balls or tags all over the garment. Line dried clothes cause much more friction because of their stiffness, and this occurs as fabrics rub against each other while being worn, but mostly when you shove all of your stiff clothes back in the washer to be agitated or tumbled together.
I blamed our washer at first. However, the rapid pilling problem persisted even when used the delicate cycle with low spin speed and took care not to over load the washer.
Third major problem: over time, parts of our clothes experienced FADING. The hot California sun was unforgiving even when we limited the amount of time our clothes stayed on the line.
We tried putting a tablecloth or blanket over the clothes to block the sun, but that would often blow off or just cause our clothes to take too long to dry. Indoor line dry was not an option because the increased indoor humidity that would have resulted would have created conditions for mold, which leads to my next major problem.
Fourth major problem: line drying aggravated my wife's sensitive ALLERGIES. All of the allergens in the surrounding air permeated our clothes and were thus brought into our house, which was otherwise kept pretty allergen-free. It was really bad with the sheets and blankets because now she was breathing in these allergens every night, all night.
All four of these problems went away completely when we went back to using dryers. How do tumble dryers solve the stiffness and pilling problems, you may ask? The tumble action combined with the rapidly moving air breaks up and pulls away deposits left behind in the water, along with other debris on the clothes, and deposits it in the lint filter. The result is that there are little to no deposits left on your clothes to act as starch and make them stiff. This lack of stiffness, in turn, reduces the friction that causes pilling. I also theorize that this removal of deposits plus the tossing of the clothes in the dryer gives the fabric a chance to settle into proper lay and shape as it dries, helping to maintain the condition of fabric. Indeed, after a few times of drying the clothes in a dryer, the condition of the fabric was visibly improved.
One problem a regular dryer can cause is static, but we easily solve this with some unscented dryer sheets.
I wanted to write this post because there are tons of websites that will advise you to line dry to save energy and go green without indicating any of the serious downsides to it. Modern technology exists for a good reason.
We still use vinegar as a softener though. It works great, making the clothes just a little bit softer than they would be otherwise, without all of the chemicals.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ice Cube - Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It (Official Video)

The social commentary here is powerful.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Oil as Lifeblood

Technology is driven by energy. The economy is driven by energy. Life is driven by energy. With enough energy, you can do just about anything. When I was a bit younger, it thoroughly amazed me how much technological progress mankind had made over the last 100 years or so. I often wondered how that was. Here I am many years later and I know: it is energy.
The Industrial Revolution began with coal and steam engines. Internal combustion engines were demonstrated in the early 1800s but were of little practical widespread use until the onset of industrial oil production in the 1850s, which breathed new life into the Industrial Revolution.
The availability of energy is directly linked to the well-being and development of capitalist economies, and to the continued development and production of technology. If you are reading this, this is the most important point.
In my mind, the high point of the dominance of modernist, industrialized Western culture was in the 1960s. The US was the biggest producer of petroleum in the world. The Railroad Commission of Texas was the OPEC of that era, controlling production and thus pricing. The Western world, through the US, was in control of the lifeblood of modern society.
The US peaked in March of 1971, when the Railroad Commission lifted all production caps in the face of declining production. Economic power passed to a group of Middle Eastern nations through OPEC. Our assistance to Israel provoked them to use this power to choke off this petroleum lifeblood to the US, resulting a decade of economic hardship and stagflation.
The Western nations embarked upon an emergency course of efficiency initiatives and alternative oil production. With new production from the North Sea, the Western nations were able to drive demand for OPEC oil down far enough to break their economic power over the West. The oil glut of 1980s ensued, allowing America to pick itself back up and charge into the 1990s.
The North Sea oil was the great new savior that would fuel the economic growth of the Western advanced economies. The recession of 1991 correlates to lowered North Sea production as a result of economic forces. The recession of the early 2000s correlates to the peaking of North Sea oil production.
Increasing production from Mexico’s Cantarell field and rampant financialization of mortgages resolved the recession of the early 2000s, until the world oil production peak of 2005 (Cantarell peaked at the same time). It evidently took about three years for the underlying economic damage of diminishing cheap oil to break the bubble in 2008- after a summer of record-breaking oil prices.
We then turn our gaze to next great savior: shale oil. To the extent that our economy has recovered, it is recovering because of continued FORCED financialization (US federal quantitative easing) and shale oil. The pathetic nature of the US economic recovery is matched by the small bump in production shale oil provides—barely taking us to 2005 peak levels.
Shale oil is hyped to make the US a world leader in oil production for a generation. First of all, that’s not saying much. Secondly, increases in shale oil production are requiring an exponentially higher number of new wells as time goes on, because the production of each well drops off considerably after a year or so. It is taking the majority of oil generated from shale oil just to keep up the amount of new drilling necessary to increase production. The public consensus is looking at shale oil plays as if they were conventional oilfields, and NOTHING could be further from the truth. Conventional oilfields are like a soda fountain machine; shale oil is like a shaken-up bottle of Coke that spurts its contents in a few moments.
Another growing source of post-peak oil is the Canadian tar sands, although this is more of a minor contributor than even shale oil. Let me put it this way—if there was plenty of oil to be had, why are we drilling through shale rock and power-washing sand?
The shale oil boom will not last more than a few more years. By 2016, this will be obvious, and the economy will yet again head south because of it. It may be even worse because there is evidence to suggest that much of shale boom is being financed with all of the loose money and low interest rates that have come out of the US fed over the last few years. The decline of shale oil will not only deprive us of an energy source, but will pop another bubble!
Can we find, develop, and ramp up production on another new mega field in time for this? Why should we assume that this is even possible?
And so we return to our understanding that modern industrialized society and its technology are dependent on energy—lots of abundant, cheap energy. We’ve been dodging bullets since 1971. The best we have right now is an exotic extraction technique that will not last more than few years. We have not truly invested our energy resources into finding a replacement for oil, only into finding new ways to get more oil. The 1970s should have been a wakeup call, but the 1980s made us think it didn’t matter.
If we don’t find more oil, we are in for economic boom-bust cycles that will:
1.       Increase in frequency
2.       Increase in intensity
3.       Increase inequality
What is going to happen, is that we will turn to gas-to-liquids or coal-to-liquids, but not before our economy hits the skids again.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Error occurred while trying to sysprep the machine

To resolve this error:

Go to an elevated command prompt and enter the following commands:

msdtc -uninstall
msdtc -install

Then go into the registry at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup\Status\SysprepStatus and change the value of CleanupState to 2 and the value of GeneralizationState to 7.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Clean Install of Windows XP will not run Windows Update

I have run across this issue on a number of clean Windows XP installs lately, where Windows Update keeps thinking and thinking and not doing anything. The solution is twofold:

1. Install IE8, but DO NOT select the option to download updates. DOWNLOAD HERE
2. Install the .NET 3.5 Redistributable package. DOWNLOAD HERE

Then try Windows Update again, and it should work.

AS400 / iSeries Printer keeps saying "Operator action required" in QSYSOPR for no reason

We recently replaced an HP Laserjet 4100 with an HP Laserjet P3015 that is on an AS400 / iSeries print writer. After installation, the staff was getting frustrated because the AS400 writer kept stopping saying that operator action was required, as if there was a jam, the paper was out, etc. However, there was nothing wrong with the printer.
The fix was to do a "wrkdevd writername" and choose option 2 to change, then change the "Printer error message" setting to "*INFO".

More info from IBM here:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Taxonomy of Popular Bible Versions

Mainstream Evangelical
Conservative Evangelical
Liberal Alternative
Mainstream Version
Conservative Alternative

I have written before that even though there are a multitude of translations on the market today, that one a handful are in established use. The above chart attempts to lay them out on a spectrum of fundamentalist to mainline, with the mainstream version, and the liberal and conservative alternatives. A chart of this nature invites many criticisms, but take of it what you will.

A few comments are in order, I suppose. The choice of the KJV as the mainstream version for fundamentalists could be controversial, as well as the implication that the NKJV is a conservative alternative. The reasons for this are many. First and foremost, the traditionalism inherent in fundamentalism has resulted in the KJV retaining its place at most fundamentalist institutions. The NKJV functions as a conservative alternative with the emphasis on "alternative." But since there is little to no desire to replace the KJV within fundamentalism, the NKJV has not seen that much uptake. The NASB is much more prevalent as an alternative translation within fundamentalism, but it also suffers from being more often relegated to study.

Another reason that the choice of KJV as the mainstream fundamentalist version might be argued against is the significant number of conservative church leaders and teachers using the ESV. But this is just confusing the conservative evangelicals with the fundamentalists. In fact, fundamentalists are melding and combining with conservative evangelicals at a great rate. This is due to the general rise of conservative evangelicals themselves and the reduction of the fundamentalist population, both in terms of laymen and institutions.

Little Kid Salvation

A very popular age for fundagelical children to “get saved” is five to seven. It is unlikely that they would make a profession of faith without the urging of adults, so the question is, why these childrens’ parents want them to be saved? The simple answer is that they don’t want them to go to hell. They actually believe that their five, six, or seven year old will die and go to hell without a profession of faith.
The fundagelical believes in something called the age of accountability. The age of accountability exempts children before a certain age from accountability for sin, and therefore hell, on the basis that before this age, they don’t know right from wrong. The age of accountability is whenever a child becomes conscious of the difference between wrong and right.
For anyone who has raised children, children most definitely have this understanding prior to age five, often much sooner. So then you have the basis for trying to get a child saved at such an early age.
There is really no other motive that makes sense for encouraging a child to early salvation. A child between five and seven isn’t going to have “sweet communion and fellowship” with God. The mental framework for relating to an unseen deity on a real, personal level is just not there. With a five through seven year old, the concept of God is literally competing on the same level as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and imaginary friends. I’ve told fundamentalist family more than once, if your kid believes in Santa Claus, they aren’t ready for Christian conversion—because even in the case where the child believes in God and not Santa Claus, there is no qualitative difference in their minds.
Some of these fundagelical parents may claim that God works in mysterious ways, and is fully capable of manifesting Himself to anyone he chooses. There are two incisive replies to be made to this.
The first relates to the age of accountability. The lack of the knowledge of right and wrong implies an inability to receive salvation. Evangelistically speaking, you can’t get a person saved unless you get them lost first. However, the Scriptures do not condition a relationship with God on the basis of the need for salvation. In the Garden, Adam and Eve were created to have a relationship with God in their state of innocence. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that the broken relationship with God is the beginning of all sin.
Given these things, why don’t children get saved before the age of accountability? It makes no sense for God to withhold Himself from a human until the human can be judged guilty of sin, any more than it makes sense that parent begins a relationship with their child at the first disciplinary action. This objection strikes at the core of the “wretched worm” theology of most of fundagelicalism. Conversely, this means that if fundagelical parents are to be successful at the early conversion of their children, they must ingrain in them from a young age that they are wicked and lost and not worth much on their own without God. These parents MUST of necessity esteem their children as “wretched worms” in the sight of God and teach their children this.
The second relates to the decisional nature of fundagelical conversion. A true conversion is measured by mental assent to several propositions, and this assent is understood to have its genesis in Holy Spirit conviction, without which no one can truly understand their need for salvation. It can be argued that children of the ages five through seven simply do not have the appropriate mental categories to process these propositions. If salvation occurs at this age, it is more likely to be the pure result of an encounter with God rather than mental assent to certain gospel truths. Children are impressionistic and irrational, so it makes no sense for God to communicate in rational, abstract concepts such as the four spiritual laws. Rather, the child is better served through a profoundly felt experience where their whole hearted acceptance of God’s presence is sufficient for salvation until such a time as they come to a fuller knowledge of the Christian gospel.
Fundagelicals will naturally revolt at this because it is too charismatic. Reformed fundagelicals might be able to connect with the covenantal aspect of this line of thinking, but that makes it anathema to the non-reformed.
When it comes to fundagelical parents getting their kids saved at an early age, there is quite a bit of PK syndrome. A PK is a preacher’s kid or pastor’s kid, a child who is supposed to be a model of good parenting and spirituality (cue the laughing pastors here!) But PK syndrome, or needing your kids to be properly spiritually situated, is a widespread issue within the church. Being able to say that one’s child was saved early has some importance amongst fundagelicals: the parent must have done something right. Conversely, an unsaved child is a sure sign of lax parenting or God’s judgment. The PK syndrome goes far further than this, but that’s a discussion for another post!
By the pre-teen years, children have developed enough mental capacity for most of this to not be an issue. And to be fair, the full teaching of “wretched worm” theology is usually reserved for after conversion; evangelistic depictions of guilt focus on breaking commandments or being imperfect. Nonetheless, applying a fundagelical salvation focused on sin and hell to children at a young age is fraught with problems.
I was briefly involved for a time in child evangelism (neighborhood clubs, and also traditional Sunday School bus routes). Fundagelical child evangelism by definition requires one to tell children they are sinners deserving of hell should they die this very moment. That’s the bottom line, really. And I miserably participated in it for too many years. It was made worse by the fact that a lot of it was driven by the desire for numbers. It has been many years (about a decade) and I fully repent of that here and now in the most strident Biblical sense of the word.