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Friday, July 11, 2014

Not Enough Pottery Shards - Why the Bible Is Fiction

Eli Shukron walks through remains of the Citadel of David
An Associated Press story reports that Israeli Biblical archaeologist, Eli Shukron has found, what he believes is David's Citadel at Jerusalem - the one David captured in his conquest of Jerusalem. It fits the Biblical description perfectly, but other archaeologists say it can't be David's Citadel. The claim rekindles the debate again about using the Bible as a field guide for finding archaeological sites. First off the Biblical account is fiction, as all "true" archaeologists know, and besides there aren't a bunch of pottery shards dating back to David's time lying about the place.

Archaeologists do love their pottery shards and in the absence of centuries of ceramic debris, they inevitably conclude that, whatever it is, isn't as old as unreliable witnesses (like the Bible) say it is. I mean do these guys really base their belief in the infallibility of pottery shards on the idea that everybody in olden days just left the pieces of their broken pots lying around on the floor or in the yard? Were there no ancient trash men to take junk to the town dump?  

Apparently some professors
do leave an archaeological record.
One wonders what these guys' homes and offices must look like. Do they leave beer cans and broken wine glasses around on the floor for the enlightenment of future archaeologists? Do they pitch their old socks and juice boxes out the window to create a nice orderly progression of crap on the lawn so that later generations of archaeologists can accurately the site where the famous Dr. Illinois Smith once took his historically significant naps?

Eli Shukron, who found the place (and the water shaft David and his men crawled through) points out that the Israelis weren't in the habit of leaving broken pottery fragments lying around for centuries in places they lived for the convenience of Ph.D.'s doing archaeological dating. Even the historically inconsequential Hebrews had brooms and wives who disapprove of untidiness.

The site fits the Biblical account to a "T". This is troublesome for so many archaeologists who have refused to believe David was any big historical deal, although they did have to admit he existed when someone found an old inscription near some really old potter shards that mentioned King David by name.  They still resist the idea that he actually was anything more than a minor warlord.  After all, it would threaten the premise that the Bible was not at all historically accurate, but a fictional account written many centuries after the supposed events.

And besides, if the guy who found it is Jewish, it must be a fraudulent discovery meant to extend Israeli control over the poor mistreated Palestinians of East Jerusalem.~ That's what all the cool guys, liberals and propeller-headed Ron Paul conspiracy theorists say anyway, because we all know how trustworthy they are and what liars Jews are.~
The First Doctor of Thinkology

I'm utterly fed up with the smug self-proclaimed intellectuals and their super-cool self-worship. It's a shame we can't just get the whole war for human hearts right out into the open.  Actually, I expect the war is already heating up. Certainly the anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-conservative faction is growing ever more brazen and irrationally angry at anyone who disagrees with the progressive socialist agenda for making us all the same by making us all equally miserable (while making themselves our rulers by virtue of their great brains).

Really, I think we should get some university to issue all of these progressive geniuses a Th.D. (Doctor of Thinkology).~ Maybe brand them with some sort of mark so we, the ignorant masses, could identify them for the towering intellects they think they are.~

Come Lord Jesus. I'm ready to go home.

© 2014 by Tom King

* You will notice a sprinkling of an odd bit of punctuation throughout this article that looks like this:  .~    It is called a snark mark and is used to indicate sarcasm. I use this mark so that I clearly indicate when I'm not serious, lest I get another round of "Congratulations on finally seeing the light" emails from my propeller-head readers. I hate having to burst their bubbles after they have worked so hard cutting and pasting and sending me all those Youtube links about the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Conference and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


Friday, June 20, 2014

I Discover My Indian Name

As a person who is a bit more than one quarter Cherokee if you add up all my ancestors, I consider myself part Native American. My Indian ancestry comes from two sides of my family and I am married to a Scots-Irish-Ouachita woman (which is a whole other blog by itself). As a result, I've always kind of felt like I should have an Indian name. Trouble was, I could never figured out what it should be. Traditionally, in many of the tribes your name is given to you by the tribe.

I was thinking about this today and I suddenly realized that I had already been given my Indian name and by people I still remember fondly as my "tribe".

It was back in the 80s, when I was working at Odyssey Harbor. I ran the equestrian program and was in the saddle all day long, leading strings of troubled kids with mental and physical disabilities out onto the trails on horseback every day. We were like hunting parties or something - me and my string of mounted Wahoos!

One day one of the kids told me that the boys had a nickname for me. I asked what it was. His answer made me laugh.

Buffalo Butt".

 I suppose, riding along behind me for all those hours, the name had sort of jumped out at them. We Kings are, admittedly, a bit haunchy. We're built with long torsos and short thick legs and well established gluteals. We're like Weebles. We may wobble, but with our low centers of gravity, we don't fall down. I kind of grinned. My middle son, who was also amply haunched, they called Little Buffalo. 

For a long time I used to stamp my letters with a rubber stamp of a buffalo. I think I may resume the practice. I kind of like the name they gave me. Oddly enough, it was an expression of respect and affection I think. I loved those boys and I think they understood that.

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bony Fingers and the Suppression of Happiness

Iranian "Happy" dancers arrested and forced to apologize publicly.
Six Iranian young people were arrested and forced to humiliate themselves on Iranian TV for the seditious act of creating a video of Pharrel Williams' breakout hit "Happy" and posting it on Youtube. The video "Happy in Tehran" went viral on Youtube almost immediately and within hours the culprits were identified and arrested. Of course, world opinion went promptly against the Tehran cops - particularly the police chief - and Twitter broke out in a rash of calls for the kids' release.

A lot of folks on the left expressed dismay that any government agency could be so anti-happiness and decided that Republicans must be responsible somehow.~

It is to laugh.

Except, of course, in Tehran.

Look. None of this surprises me. There are always going to be people out there, who can't stand to see others happy. I think it's because they are so busy clawing their way to the top they don't have time to be happy themselves. Lets face it, in order to achieve a state where you have so much money and power that you are financially, socially and politically secure takes a lot of work. Happiness suppressors work so hard to climb their way up into the privileged classes, because they think this will provide them with great security and that this high level of security will, somehow, make them happy.

When it does not, it makes them grouchy old curmudgeons (look it up). So when these would-be rich and powerful people see, to their horror, people with little money, no power and no social standing cavorting about being "Happy", it offends their sense of rightness. This is not how they thought the world should be. Their world works on a simple formula:

  • Rich and powerful = Happy
  • Poor and powerless = Sad

Any other formula deprives these guys of their joy at having achieved superiority to other mere mortals. So, of course the would believe that people cavorting around being happy without having had to suffer, compromise, lie, cheat and steal their way to their own elevated status must be doing something evil. This evil is by definition, a threat to their own exalted status,therefore it must be stopped.

It's hard for people who depend on external things to make them happy to tolerate happiness in people who lack money, power and influence. It throws their whole worldview out of kilter.

We used to get that a lot with the bony-fingered old people in church who though our kid songs were just way too bouncy to be religious. Tehran doesn't have a monopoly on people with the strong desire to rain on someone else's parade, particularly if their own parade going badly. There's always one in every crowd who appoints him or herself the official party pooper.

Such people should be arrested and thrown into a bouncy castle with a box of Oreos. Perhaps it would do them some good.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King © 2014

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Will Our Children Be Able to Pass the Turing Test?

Back in 1950, computing pioneer Alan Turing said that a computer could be understood to be thinking if it was able to dupe 30 per cent of human interrogators in five-minute text conversations. In his 1950 paper, 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' he posed the idea that imitating a real human being successfully was the real test of sentience - at least sentience at the level of human beings.

For the first time, a Russian computer program has successfully convinced 33% of the members of a panel of judges at the Royal Society in London that it was, in fact, a 13 year-old Ukrainian boy named  Eugene Goostman. The event is hailed as a groundbreaking milestone in the development of artificial intelligence.

I think not!

All it really proves is that the programmers were able to program a computer specifically to past the Turing test. The program did, in fact, bamboozle at least a third of a panel of self-important old fuddy duddies and convince them that there was a human kid on the other end who wasn't smart enough to be a real computer. The programmers admit they shorted the program's knowledge base in order to simulate the gaps in knowledge that a typical 13 year-old might have. So the success of the test was more about how the programmers anticipated the panelists than it was about the sentience of their computer program. Actually, it's not surprising that they chose a 13 year old boy for their persona. Everybody knows 13 year-old boys run primarily on their hormones rather than their intelligence. The abject servitude of pubescent males to 13 year-old females looks a great deal like the abject servitude of a machine to its human masters.

The successful attempt to design a computer to imitate a person is, to me, frighteningly like a mirror image to the way our own public school system's diligent efforts to teaching (program really) our kids to pass minimum skills tests like Texas' controversial STAAR* exams which every student must pass in order to graduate from high school. Like the Russian code-makers, we may be reverse engineering our kids, not toward sentience, but away from it. Instead of teaching our kids to think, we're increasingly teaching them to remember the "right" answers to test questions selected for them by a self-appointed group of people who consider themselves qualified to know what kids ought to think.

If our school system keeps this up long enough, we may find that our children soon won't be able to pass a Turing Test themselves. At least they won't be able to pass the test for a generation or so - not until they, themselves, programmed to be intellectual machines in their youth, start administering the Turing Test themselves. At that point, sounding like a machine will sound "human" to the judges, who themselves were programmed to think that way as kids.

I met a Chinese exchange student, recently, who fled China to finish high school in America because she feared what this type of teaching was doing to her. She told me she left China as a high school freshman, when she realized  all they were doing was teaching students to parrot back rote answers. The system, she said, discourages independent thought at any level.

One frightening thing occurs to me as our education system continues to re-invent itself in service to computers and databases. If we train up our children to think and act like computers now, then, when they are old, will our world be run by people who think like machines?  If that happens, are we headed toward the Orwellian world portrayed in the famous 1984 Apple Macintosh Superbowl commercial - the world of service to the machines that the Mac was supposed to save us from?

Don't get me wrong. I love computers. They are lovely tools - like a library in your pocket. I just don't want to be one.

Just one man's opinion.

© 2014 by Tom King

*The original TAAS test, the predecessor of the TAKS test and the current STAAR test, by the way, was the brain child of Texas computer data tycoon, H. Ross Perot, a man who made his fortune stuffing things into computer managed databases. Which could explain a lot of things.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's Easy to Tell When You Meet Dog People

It's easy to tell dog people from regular people. Two dog people can meet along the road, walk together for a half hour and have a pleasant conversation and part not knowing each others' names - although they will know the names of each others' dogs, their ages, breed, general health and what tricks they can do. There are also a few odd things that they do:

  • They talk baby talk to their dogs
  • They tell you what their dogs are saying
  • They will walk their dog 3 miles a day when, given the choice, they'd prefer to take a nap.
  • They sleep curled up at an odd angle and take muscle relaxants for their back pain so the dogs have room at the foot of the bed. 
  • They will spend 20 minutes washing and fixing their face and primping their clothes in the morning and then let the dog jump up on them and lick their faces on the way out the door because they feel so guilty leaving him behind.
  • They will eat carnival hot dogs and taco truck burritos but will only buy the high protein, corn free, hypo-allergenic dog chow the vet sells for $48 a bag for their "babies".
  • They post 20-30 pictures and videos of their pups on the Internet in a single week.
We dog people believe we understand dog language and that they understand baby talk. We are unable to resist sad puppy eyes and if we're elderly, we spend more on the dog than we used to spend on our kids.

Just something I've observed. I have to go sit in my chair now, though. Miss Daisy wants a cuddle. She weighs 80 pounds and thinks she's a chihuahua. Oh, well, who can resist those sad puppy eyes?

© 2014 by Tom King

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Betting Your Life

I just removed a militant atheist from my Google circles. It's a relief. Like saying goodbye to a particularly determined Jehovah's Witness. I have no ill will toward atheists, but the constant "I hate religion and I'm smarter than you" rain of hatred gets old quickly.  I think we can all coexist on the whole God/no God issue if we simply respect each other. 

Ultimately, you're betting your life one way or the other. I personally believe in God, but not some of the add-ons that the political church has installed (ever-burning hell, immortal souls, guilt, etc.). Jesus came to relieve guilt, to teach us to forgive, be better people and to prepare us to live forever.  I think it's worth the bet. Certainly my life is better because of my walk with Christ. And I promise I won't burn anyone at the stake, blow up the local farmer's market or call you names because you don't believe the same things I do.

It's a huge universe and we don't know much about it yet and God may actually be the multi-dimensional intelligence that we Christians believe He is. If so, He would not be required to reveal Himself in some kind of fire and thunder display for the amusement of atheists. There might actually be a reason for Him not to do so. If God exists, it's likely He has to be very careful tampering with things here today in order not to have bad things happen farther down the timeline.  I trust a pan-dimensional intelligence has more information than me. As a matter of fact I've seen some pretty amazing things that support my belief that He does exists and knows more than I do.

If I'm wrong, what does it matter to the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins? Really. Are these guys the summit of human intelligence? Are they clairvoyant that they can look into the universe and see that there is not anything that is beyond their understanding. Religion of the sort that has not been corrupted, looks at the universe and says, "Whoa, that's a lot bigger than I can get my brain around." And we stand in awe of that, knowing we're not such big bugs in the vasty universe after all.

For some reason we are designed to wonder after the infinite - to search for something or some being who exists beyond food-gathering and sex. We look for meaning.

God, while we cannot begin to explain Him, does help us to make sense of it all and human beings so badly want to make sense of it all. Perhaps that's in our design for a reason. I find in that evidence of God. I do not demand that anyone believe or do anything as a result of my belief. Believe. Don't believe.

God, I believe, gave us free will - took a chance that all the trouble that would cause would be worth it in the long run.
It would take a God who lives outside the stream of time to appreciate what sacrifices might need to be made to safely turn loose a creature with free will in the universe. Otherwise you'd get Klingons, the Borg and all manner of evil guys running around from planet to planet murdering and enslaving others just like in the sci-fi novels.

What kind of crappy universe would that be?

Just one man's opinion.

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back Seat Solutions and the End of America

©  by Tom King

The Apartheid Solution to the Back Seat Unrest Dilemma
Remember when you were a kid and you went on one of those long rides with your parents. You were stuck for hours in the back seat with your brother or sister (or both in my case). Remember what happened when you ran out of things to do back there? Inevitably, one of you began to do the favorite thing that bored kids in the back seat of a 1963 Rambler do. One child always starts poking the others because it is vastly entertaining to hear them squawk. Next comes your sister going, "Mama, he's touching me!"And as the unrest in the back seat escalates, one of several things happen.

In one response scenario, the wise mother and seasoned-traveler-with-children pulls out her magic bag, tells the back seat bully to cut it out if he knows what's good for him and gives each child his or her choice of new somethings-to-do from the bag. With something new to keep their attention, soon everybody is busy and quiet again. The wise Mom smiles and settles back to enjoy the ride, knowing she's got more stuff in her bag and can keep the youngsters entertained for the whole trip. Notice that she gave each child a choice from the bag rather than arbitrarily assigned them a toy of her choice. Remember this. It will be on the quiz.

In the alternative response scenario, the ill-prepared mother turns around and tells the children, "Stop it!" The ensuing quietness lasts maybe 30 seconds if she looks sufficiently stern. Then, because sitting still is not a natural state for a human child, someone starts poking someone again. Invariably, the persecuted child demands, "Mama make him stop!"

The first response to the alternative response scenario is an escalation of the mother shouting tactic. "Do you want me to stop this car?" She asks. This is a stupid question because if she did stop the car, at least that would be something new. When this response fails to elicit a terrified spate of obedience, she issues alternative response scenario first response, part 2, "Don't make me turn this car around!" When this doesn't work, because this tells the children they have the ability to make mom do something and what child can resist that power, we quickly move on to...

The final response scenario: Mom actually stops the car (hey, it works). She gets out, drags the kids out alongside the road and commences to whip them till they squeal, or, more likely, she gets Dad to do it because his arm is stronger. Then everyone gets back in the car and drives on with much snuffling coming from the back seat. The snuffling continues until someone gets bored again, stops snuffling and begins poking someone else and then the cycle repeats.

"Now, of course," you say, secure in the knowledge that Doctor Spock has taught us better parenting skills than that, "Nobody these days would do anything that barbaric."  Yeah? Well I bet I'd win a lot of money on that wager.

What an angry mama looks like!
Now lets look at the progress of civilization juxtaposed against the back seat scenario. The country grows, reaches the limits of its borders and settles down to become more and more crowded. As the frontiers disappear and there are ever fewer new horizons to explore and conquer, the natives settle down and get restless as natives are wont to do when they're all piled cheek by jowl in the back seats that are modern cities.

Someone starts poking someone else. Maybe someone's not being "fair". Someone's picking on or exploiting someone else.  Inevitably, these restless souls appeal to the one entity they perceive as everybody's "Mama" - the bureaucrat-soaked, unimaginative, busy-driving-the-country-into-the-ground-for-its-own-purposes, government.

The government generally reacts in one of two ways just as the Mom driving the car does. Like Mom, the government is busy driving the car or telling the people who are driving the car how to drive it. She does not want to be bothered by the noisy children in the back seat (who are not driving the car).

Rarely, a wise government reacts by finding something for people to do. Whether you liked FDR or not, his Civilian Conservation Corps and Rural Electrification Project at least gave restless unhappy people something to do. President Kennedy, at the beginning of the restless 60s gave us the collective goal of going to the moon which took at least some of the edge off the back seat tantrums that would characterize the next decade. JFK also implemented another keep-them-busy project that at least served to keep people working and to thin out the number of restless young men - the Vietnam conflict. FDR had WWII, Woodrow Wilson had WWI, there was the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War and the War of 1812 to valve off a little steam. The Civil War was an example of what can happen when you delay dealing with problems in the back seat too long. The Great Westward Expansion of the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution kept people busy and relatively quiet back there in the back seat despite the fact that the back seat was often a pretty uncomfortable place to be while it was going on.

Typically, governments react by telling the people to stop being brats (going straight for the alternative response scenario). When ordering folk to stop misbehaving fails as it surely will, they move right along to making empty threats and from there straight on to paddling the miscreants in the grader ditch alongside the car (or in a nice gulag or concentration camp).

Often, the children in the backseat will help insure their own forthcoming flagellation by demanding that the government "do something".  By demanding that the government fix the problem and to do it NOW, the children give tacit assent to the government's assumption of even greater power over them (in the name of doing something about the problem, of course). Government, which firmly believes that you should never let a good crisis go to waste without using it to increase the power of those who hold the reins, passes laws ostensibly to protect the kids in the backseat from themselves. In the process, wherever possible, the folks in power will use the opportunity of creating laws to "protect" us ll, to also make sure that the folks, who are in charge at the moment, remain in charge. After all, who loves you more than your Mama. Certainly not those nasty Republicans. 

When it get's to the "Don't make me turn this car around" stage, you know you're in trouble. In turning the car around, the government takes you out of the public eye and takes you where nobody can see what's being done to you to shut you up and make you behave. Isolation is the prelude to particularly nasty things happening to the kids in the back seat. Examples of these nasty things that happen to naughty children include China's great cultural revolution that resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths, purges of "enemies of the state" under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler and ethnic cleansing under Slobodan Milosovic, Hitler and Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Every dictator in history came to power believing their job was to bring order to their beloved nation and that order was best achieved by making people compliant. Most of them believed or at least said they believed that they were making things fair for everyone. The started out to make people stop poking each other and ended up in that grader ditch flailing away with the nearest switch they could find because they would not. If the United States winds up a police state in the name of hope and change, remember.....

YOU asked for this!

Disturbing image from a law firm's advertisement

If your government ever comes to believe it's purpose is to make sure the people in the back seat comply with all its orders, we are well and truly in trouble. There is a bit of advice that the old sailing ship captains used to give to their helmsmen (these guys who actually steered the ship).  It applies to how we ought to empower our governments to steer the ship of state. The captain's advice?

"Steer small."

It's not big changes we need, but small course corrections.
We don't need to bring out the lash and start lashing any sailor who complains. We need to choose a course and keep to it. A straight well-plotted course is far more inspiring than one that wanders aimlessly whichever the way the wind blows. Useful work for the sailors to do (or for that matter, the kids in the back seat) keeps both the quarterdeck and the back seat a happy place. You get there by having a government that meddles as little as possible, sets a clear course and allows the children plenty of stuff to keep them busy and content.

Not a terribly progressive idea, I admit.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Galileo Flippeth the Byrd!

Galileo's finger immortalized!
Galileo Galilei, the developer of the modern telescope, the man who proved by observation that the Earth moved around the sun, that Jupiter had moons that orbited around it, that the moon wasn't a smooth sphere and that the sun sometimes got spots on it, spent the last years of his life under house arrest for "vehement heresy" under orders from the Holy Inquisition. He was forced to publicly disavow his own research, promise not to believe what he believed anymore and then to add insult to injury, was even refused burial next to his father in the Basilica of St. Croi, but was instead shunted off to a box in a small room next to the novices' chapel because the Pope didn't want a condemned heretic buried with the decent folk.  

Later after overwhelming corroborative evidence forced the Church to back off it's persecution of Galileo, his body was moved back to the Basilica where a monument was erected in his honor.Now here's where it gets interesting. While moving his body, three fingers of his right hand and a tooth were removed. One of his fingers, ironically the middle finger from Galileo's right hand, wound up on exhibition at the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy where the venerable scientist's middle finger is displayed raised in what some would say was an appropriate gesture directed at those who persecuted him.

© 2014 by Tom King