Dracil’s BlogJournal

May 26, 2008

Clinton’s New Math

For people who are wondering how Clinton could possibly be ahead on the popular vote, here’s how it works (summed up by a guy on Penny Arcade):

The explanation given to me is that you:
A) Include Florida and Michigan.
B) Michigan’s “uncommitted” stay that way. Obama gets nothing.
C) Exclude caucuses in Iowa, Maine, Washington and Nevada.

So, let’s not count only 48 states. Let’s count all 46.

Smooth, real smooth.  I think the saddest thing is that some people actually buy into this crap.

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May 24, 2008

The Holy Land Experience and other religious theme parks

Yeah, that’s as weird as it sounds.  It’s in Florida.  Why am I not surprised?  :P

I first read about it in the article The Crucifixion and Ice Cream.  Some interesting stuff there, like how The Holy Land Experience was originally meant to be a tool to convert Jews.  But it’s part of the Trinity Broadcasting Network now.

Amid cell phones ringing, video cams rolling and ice cream melting under the Florida sun, a blood-spattered Jesus stumbles through the crowd on his way to Golgotha, where nasty Roman soldiers strip him, nail him to the cross and crucify him—while perspiring tourists look on in Bermuda shorts. After the resurrection sequence, visitors applaud and line up for a photo op, not with Mickey or Minnie, but a disciple or bloody-handed yet friendly centurion. Welcome to Orlando’s most unusual theme park, the Holy Land Experience.

At first, I was thinking, only in America.  But that seemed unlikely, so I decided to check out some other major world religions.  Sure enough, they all have their own theme parks.

In Vietnam, for Buddhism, there’s the Suoi Tien Theme Park.  There’s also a Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Gardens) in Singapore.

In India, of course there is a Hindu Theme Park.

Finally, you can’t leave out the Muslims, and there’s an Islamic Theme Park in Malaysia.

May 17, 2008

Transformation Seminar with Ed Silvoso

The Transformation Seminar

I was one of the first one there since I’d arrived 30 minutes early (I would’ve gone later but the next Muni would’ve been 25 minutes later had I not gone on the one I did, and that was catching it close). It was really warm when I first arrived, but over the course of the seminar, it got cooler as there was a pretty nice breeze, which surprised me.

I like the fact that I recognized the opening song, We Are Hungry, which was a staple back when I went to IVCF. Joyce arrived sometime during the song. I didn’t recognize the second song though.

The two main speakers today were Ed Silvoso and Bishop Mclaughlin. While there was a video by Ed Silvoso at the beginning, I’ll begin with Bishop Mclaughlin since he was up for the majority of the morning segment.

Bishop Mclaughlin talked about the stuff he did in Jacksonville, Florida. Specifically, they bought this mall for $4 million and then put a lot of work renovating it and it’s now a $30 million mall called Kingdom Plaza. The main thing here is the huge church inside, but it also has a lot of mall staples like bowling alleys, gyms, restaurants, offices, etc. I think he mentioned how they employed some of the formerly homeless/drug addict types in the area too so it helped make the area better, not just financially, but from a social justice point of view. The theme here is that we need to build churches that the community would miss. By becoming part of the marketplace, you are able to actually outreach to other people.

This lead into Ed Silvoso’s talk for the second half of the seminar. It was material from his books, and was mainly about prayer evangelism, doing prayer walks, and basically transforming the marketplace. He has slides and videos on the Harvest Evangelical website if you want to look at them as they’re pretty much the same. But to summarize, simply being religious and preaching from the pulpit (clergy) will lead to failure. Instead, you need to actually go into the marketplace, but there can be nothing without religion either. You must have both. During Jesus’s time, this actually meant going to people’s homes, since a lot of homes back then were also shops. In modern times, it doesn’t necessarily require going out and being obnoxious at work. Simply praying and giving blessings to the people around you is incredibly helpful. One of the things they did was get everyone at a church to do prayer walks in their neighborhood. Basically go around blessing 5 houses to the left and 5 houses to the right of your own house every day. It’s very easy to do so anyone can do it. He shared a lot of stories about this, either in his talk, or from the videos he showed. Most of these were miracles-to-conversion stories (or coincidences if you’re a skeptic). One of the stories was how they prayed for a waitress at a restaurant which completely moved her because nobody had ever prayed for her before. She told the other waiters and they had like 8 conversions that night. Another story was how there was this gay parade in Argentina and at first they were discouraged, but they realized that they did ask for God for sinners. They basically asked the people at the parade for stuff Christians had done to them, which surprised people. They were tested and asked if the parade could go through them, and they said yes, and they used the opportunity to bless everyone that went through. One of the things he mentioned around this time is that Jesus never told sinners to repent in the Bible. The difference is that while Jesus did not approve of sin, he was reconciled with the sinners. Anyway, it was generally stuff like that.

After the event, Joyce met up with some people from her church and she got her book autographed by Ed. After we left, we went around blessing everything around us while in the car. Prayer driving. It was actually kinda fun. :)

My thoughts

To be honest, I was actually kinda critical for most of it. Both Ed and Bishop hold standard conservative Christian views. i.e. their example of Hawaii being a liberal state was that it had the first abortion clinic, and they referenced the recent same-sex marriage ruling in California as bad, along with the obvious asking for sinners and being caught in the gay parade. He was also a McCain supporter as he talked about how it was great that Pawlenty would probably be his VP. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’d know I generally have a more liberal view on these issues. :P

But I really liked his point about about being reconciled with sinners. It showed a different mindset than the standard fire-and-brimstone “Repent or you are going to hell” type stuff I would’ve expected from people who held those views. The thing about Jesus never asking sinners to repent was useful info too.

I also noticed a contradiction about what he said. He divided the chapters in Luke into a hostile spiritual climate phase, and a favorable spiritual climate phase, with chapter 10 telling us to go out to the field and harvest people. One of his points was that Jesus was casting out demons in the first half, but no longer needed to do so in the second half. But one of the lines he did not quote from the second half mentioned that Jesus was actually still casting out demons. Not a big deal, just something I noticed.

Bishop Mclaughlin was the standard charismatic preacher type. Kinda like Jeremiah Wright, but more sane. :P That means they speak faster and faster and louder and louder until they reached a climax. This also means that it tended to get a little long-winded. Much of the audience really got into it, with lots of approving shouts and mutters, people raising their hands up spontaneously and shaking their hands or head, and some crying. Yeah… that kinda stuff just doesn’t work for me. :P I did participate most of the time when asked to raise my hand or say something, but if it took too long, I started to feel a little silly. But sometimes it worked, like when we blessed the people around us, which I saw as a friendly, communal thing to do. I think it’s because my approach to faith is mainly intellectual rather than emotional, though I’ve certainly had a few emotional experiences.

There were a few things that the speakers said that I found rather odd. In one example, Ed talked about bringing a Mormon to the kingdom of God, essentially implying that Mormons aren’t Christians, which is certainly debatable. Bishop had an eyebrow-raising moment when he talked about genocide. By that, he meant the high incarceration rates of black men which leads to children being raised without their fathers which causes problems for them. I’m not convinced genocide is the proper word to use there. I can believe that racism has a lot to do with it, but I think it’s more of a self-perpetuating cycle now. Also, the video they showed with people going on prayer walks to help transform a crime-ridden neighborhood was done pretty much entirely by men. Where were the women? In one of their examples of success, they talked about how a small town was getting, among other things, national chains. Err… having lived in the liberal centers of the Bay Area for so long, I’ve generally seen people regard national chains as a bad thing. :P

Other happenings

For lunch, Joyce and I went to ZUNI Cafe as it had been recommended by the pastor of the church where the seminar was held, and Joyce had heard about it too. We got lucky and didn’t have to wait for a table. The group of 4 that came after us was told they’d need to wait 45 minutes. However, we did have to quite a while for our food, and they even came out to apologize to us twice, which we thought was a nice touch. It certainly contributed to their tip. :P The complimentary bread wasn’t that special. The rabbit salad was good, but I think Joyce didn’t like the onions on it. The pizza special was very good, probably because of the thin crust. The only bad thing was part of it was kinda burnt on one side. Finally, the shoestring potatoes I really enjoyed. Kinda expensive at $6 though. Our total including tip was $44, which wasn’t too bad. We ended up taking half an hour longer than we were supposed to, but I don’t think we really missed anything.

After the event, we went to Japantown to catch the last of the Asian Heritage Street Celebration. It’s too bad that a lot of the people were already packing up, but we did catch quite a few interesting things. The first thing we noticed were all the cars there, a few of which looked kinda cool (and expensive. We also got a free taste of Starbuck’s new Mint Moca Chip Frappuccino, as well as a sample of an incredibly expensive fruit blend health drink ($45 for non-members, $23 for members?! I’d rather get Jamba Juice). There were a couple live bands, including Random Ninjas, who I saw at my first real anime convention. :P I think I’d be more willing to get their CD if they just put more tracks on one CD. 4 song albums feel kinda meh to me. We had some bbq chicken and pork skewers for dinner from one of the stalls there. There was a registration drive by some Obama supporters.  When I told the girl I couldn’t vote when she asked if I could register, she just gave me a blank stare.  I guess that’s not a common answer.  :P  Though I did tell her that I’d vote for him if I could, and she thanked me for the support.  After that we explored the inside of Japantown. So Manga Cafe Mika is finally open. I think they reduced the price a little but the drinks aren’t free after all. Joyce was able to get one of her missing Detective Conan books from Kinokuniya. :)

May 7, 2008

Florida = Fundieland

Filed under: News, Politics, religion — Tags: , , , , — dracil @ 9:16 pm

They’ve already screwed up the politics there.  Now they want to screw up with religion too.

First, Florida just wanted Christian license plates.

Next, Florida tried to insert God (oh I’m sorry, an “Intelligent Designer” (oh I’m sorry, “academic freedom“)) into public school science classes.

Now, they fired a substitute teacher for… wizardry.

All he did was perform a 30-second toothpick vanishing act.  Oh, sure, they say he wasn’t a good teacher anyway, but the fact that wizardry is even mentioned is just crazy.

As Dave Barry (who happens to live in Florida) would say, I’m not making this up.

May 3, 2008

Florida anti-evolution bill dies

Evolution bills die in Legislature as session ends

But it’s like the evil dead.  We all know it’s going to crawl back from the grave, so keep those shotguns and chainsaws ready.  :)

It’s funny though.  John West of the Discovery Institute actually thinks there’s some massive conspiracy and the House intentionally voted on the version with “critical analysis” so that it would be rejected by the Senate.  He even called “critical analysis” a “poison pill“.  Now hold on a minute.  “Critical analysis” is one of Discovery Institute’s favorite terms that they gladly trumpet when it suits their purpose, such as when gloating about which states now require it in their classes when teaching evolution.  In other words, he’s advocating lying to Congress about the true motives of the Intelligent Design movement just so he can sneak some bills in.

But as we have learned from the people arguing for the bill during the proceedings, none of the people there truly believe in “academic freedom”.  Otherwise they should be all too happy to extend “academic freedom” to sex education so that alternatives to abstinence are taught.  It’s also telling that they only talk about “academic freedom” and “critical analysis” in the context of evolution.  What about the rest of science?  Don’t we deserve the “academic freedom” to teach alchemy in chemistry classes, astrology in astronomy classes, phrenology in neurology classes, and Intelligent Falling in physics class?  Shouldn’t we be “critically analyzing” all these fields as well?

Nah.  That’s because all these politically loaded terms, including “Intelligent Design”, are nothing more than a trojan horse for Creationism, which the Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional in 1987.

April 30, 2008

Florida’s anti-evolution bill

Update: The bill has died

The NCSE has some news on Florida’s anti-evolution bill. It’s clear to anyone who’s looking at this that the proponents of the bill have ulterior motives. This isn’t about academic freedom at all. They claim that the bill will not allow the teaching of intelligent design, but their words betray them.

To begin with, their wording is rather suspicious:

“As passed by the council, the bill would require teachers to provide a ‘critical analysis’ of evolution, a phrase that the Associated Press (April 28, 2008) recognized as ‘one used by intelligent design advocates,’ although noting that its sponsor claimed that it would neither require nor allow teaching ‘intelligent design.'”

Also, as the Florida Citizens for Science put it:

“What are some examples of critical analysis of evolution that have no religious connotations and are based on legitimate, up-to-date scientific ideas?”

I would certainly love to see the answers to that. But continuing with the original discussion, Representative Alan Hays also said this:

“Too many people are afraid to even mention the theory of intelligent design.”

Wait. What? Didn’t you guys just say this bill wouldn’t allow teaching intelligent design? Then why does that even matter? Also, intelligent design is not even a scientific theory. Finally, their silence to some questions is simply deafening:

“Opponents have voiced concerns that Storms’ bill will open the door to teaching religious-based theories, like intelligent design, in public school classrooms. But Storms, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, repeatedly refused to answer questions on whether that could happen.”

This whole thing stinks of “cdesign proponentsists“. But kudos to Senators Ted Deutch and Nan Rich for speaking out against the bill, in particular Deutch for the following:

“We’re talking about academic freedom … In an abstinence-only sex education program, a teacher may wish to answer a student’s question and provide additional information that may protect a life or stop an unwanted pregnancy.”

Not surprisingly, Senator Ronda Storms slippery sloped the argument:

“I’m concerned about prematurely deflowering kindergartners and first and second graders.”

Interesting, I had no idea Storms was interested in educating kindergartners, first, and second graders about sex! That certainly says a lot about her. ;)

But I think Deutch’s argument is a good one, and I’ll start employing it against the conservatives who still naively think this issue is really about “academic freedom”.

That said, all this may end up being a non-issue since they only have two more days to pass this (Senate and House versions of the bill must agree).

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