Friday, January 26, 2007

christ, death, and creation

I guess I've been being lazy lately and spending too much time blogging about personal stuff. That's easier because I can ramble on and type my own thoughts without doing any research or otherwise educating myself first. Not that I never think about theology and politics and such, it's just that it takes much more effort to blog about because there's prep work involved. But I guess I'd better focus a bit more on real ideas and not my own pet problems or everyone else's or whatever.

Anyway, the topic of the hour happens to be the doctrine of creation. I don't know a lot about any of the various biblical views, but I generally think of three major ones -- young earth, old earth, and formation theory (I think) -- that I've heard of and have at least a small level of familiarity with. I don't claim to subscribe wholeheartedly to any of them, mainly due to lack of knowledge on the subject. But I'd say I tend to be less on the young earth side, and if pressed I'd describe my beliefs as somewhere between old earth and formation theory. I seem to share more in common with what I know of those two and less in common with what I've seen of the usual suspects of young earth creationism.

Well, I've been going to a Thursday morning Bible study with co-workers for a few weeks now,* and we've been watching and discussing a DVD series about the scientific evidence behind creation and against other views. One of the co-leaders told me about it recently and invited me to start coming again since he and I are both interested in that whole debate and have discussed the issue before. (We've talked enough that I know he's a staunch young earth guy and he knows I tend to distance myself from that view. But unlike a lot of people, he's very smart and is well-versed enough to give solid arguments in support of his side.) The presenter in the videos, Mike Riddle, has recently joined Answers in Genesis and is basically an apologist for young-earth creationism. He has come out against ideas like evolution, old-earth creationism, and especially the "narrative view", which as far as I can tell is formation theory by another name. This of course makes the material all the more interesting to me.

In a recent presentation on creationism vs. evolution, he made a good point that I hadn't heard before. Consider how death entered the world. According to the Bible, it was through the Fall. Moses said so (Gen 3:19,22), as did Paul (Rom. 5:12, Rom. 6:23, 1 Cor. 15:21). The Bible does not speak of any death before this point, nor does it speak of any animosity of any beings (i.e., animals) toward one another. So, from this we conclude that death did not exist before the Fall.

But if death did not exist before the Fall, then how do we explain any death of creatures that occurred before Adam and Eve existed? Is that even possible? And if death was in the world before the Fall, then death was not simply the result of Adam's sin. In that case the whole "Christ paying the penalty for Adam's sin" argument falls apart, because death wasn't the result of Adam's action. This last bit is clearly heresy, but I'm just putting it in there to show where we must logically end up if we decide death existed before Adam.

So...ouch. That's a tough one to explain away. Any plausible old earth or formation theory explanation would hold that there was life and death before man came into being, and thus any such theory must fall apart in the face of this theological argument. Right?

Well, there is one big loophole that I can think of off the top of my head. If those verses refer to spiritual death instead of physical death (which I believe to be the case), then one could argue that spiritual death entered the world through Adam and was defeated by Christ. This would remove physical death from the argument. It also lends itself to a lot of other rabbit trails that would be fun to pursue but not with the limited amount of sleep and thinking ability I'm working with right now.

So that's that. An interesting point, though I'm not so sure it holds much water. I'm not at all doing it justice here, though, as I've talked about and learned more that I can't remember or can't think of how to include. Oh well, perhaps the discussion will continue on another day.

* I had attended for a while maybe a year or so ago, then slowly faded off and stopped going altogether. Why? Because it meets at the ungodly hour of 6 am near where I work, forcing me to get up at the even more ungodly hour of 5 am to be able to stumble in. But the new topic piqued my interest enough for me to start getting up early enough to attend every week so far this year.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

the meeting from work

[This was moved to its own post from footnote [3] in the one about southern Maryland's harmful effects on the psyche of young single adults like myself due to it getting too long and so I could work with the paragraphs. If you haven't read that post yet then go read it first.]

Consider the following example as proof of my earlier point regarding the disparity in numbers of young men and young women around here. Judging from discussions with people I hang with, it has been roughly duplicated at other places of work in the area. So it's apparently an area-wide concern with enough impact to have drawn the attention of employers who otherwise shouldn't care about such things.

About 8-10 months ago I was one of maybe a dozen people at a focus meeting on engineering morale and retention. The goal was for some off-site people in attendance to hear from some of us what our concerns were and what we thought could be changed to decrease the restlessness in the engineering population. Since there has been an alarmingly high exodus of young engineers leaving within their first few years at the site, this sub-issue was bound to come up here and there throughout the discussion.

At one point during this meeting, a supervisor in my department made the observation that many in the younger crowd who currently work or have worked for the company recently have, after moving here, started dating women who live elsewhere or been interested in dating and looked elsewhere to meet that need. (When you hire engineering grads you usually hire men, so our "up-and-coming" workforce is predominantly male.) He didn't say this was an issue within the company's control, but he did point out how it has drawn away past new hires and could continue to cause attrition, and thus ought to at least be acknowledged and looked at. It was actually amusing in a way because he went so far as to imply that there are almost no "available" women in the area, then stuttered some and tried to backtrack on his phrasing, as if he felt like he needed to be more politically correct in how he addressed the issue. But by then he had stated the obvious and I chalked it up to him saying what he really meant before he could catch himself and filter his words.

Being the only young, unmarried fellow in the room, I of course felt a little awkward being there, and I wasn't even thinking about contributing to that discussion. But during this I did meet eyes with another supervisor I know better and am on a slightly more casual level with, and he had this smirk on his face that seemed to reflect something between pity and understanding of the situation I must find myself in. I couldn't tell whether he was laughing or empathizing, but he clearly knew who in the room was being indirectly referred to. I returned his look with the best "yeah, no $&%#" face I could come up with. That was the end of that, but I'm confident he understood my "unofficial" agreement with what was being said.

So here you have older guys who have families and could care less about the whole social side of things in the area, and who seemingly would not be up on any details, saying they could see a problem. I repeat, no personal interest, brought families to this area, still recognizing a problem. When people that far removed from the issue can point it out, it's real and concrete, and not just a bunch of hard-luck guys (and gals) complaining about their lack of a social life.

At work, the issue hasn't since come up so formally and directly as that, at least not in my presence. And it would of course be wrong to say that’s the only reason or even the biggest reason for young folks leaving. I'm sure, though, that with retention and hiring issues currently getting a lot of attention at my workplace, it's on minds and being discussed behind closed doors.

hating southern maryland

Finally had our first "new" Crossroads Bible Study meeting Thursday night. It went quite well I thought, which was nice to see given the effort and prayer some of us have poured into it over the past several weeks to retool and rework some aspects. Yeah, the study did grind to a halt a couple of times with people going into too much detail (I thought) about their personal lives and drifting away from the passage at hand, but that's a consequence of having large numbers of people in one discussion. Given our rough past with trying to have large group discussions without the inevitable dominant talkers who never shut up and the unwillingness of many to hear others out before cutting them off, I was surprised Thursday's discussion went so well.

But what struck me most, and hence is the topic of this post, was the prayer requests. One person started in about how the crappy situation and surroundings and such down on the end of this peninsula we find ourselves stuck on are getting to her a lot and causing her to be discontent in all areas of life. That's very easy for me to understand since I suffer from the same affliction most of the time I'm awake these days. It's just that hard to keep one's head up and be happy in anything when so many things seem to be going wrong. It certainly leads to a sense of despair and a tendency to basically "give up" on most things that might otherwise be cool.

At one point she said something to the effect of, "those who agree with me or feel the same way can just say 'amen'," and of course I was right there. But that's just me being me. With the amount of times I've asked for prayer in that area, it surely surprised no one that I was the first to take that up. I've always had an amazing ability to see the bad side of anything, and I'm more pessimistic than almost anyone I've ever met, so I tend to assume that others are generally doing better than I am. Plus, from where I sit, they are usually in much better situations overall and so I just figure they are happy with where they are compared to where they could be.

But what shocked me was the amount of people who agreed. Again, I've assumed in the past that I was the token pessimistic, discouraged fellow in any group. But it actually seems that I have lots of company here. I shared a little about myself but kept it very short and even mentioned that I must sound like a broken record by now and so I really had little to share there that people didn't already know about. But after me, another woman voiced her agreement and even said she was beyond the point of putting up with it and had hauled carloads of stuff back to her parents' place (near D.C.) over the past couple of weekends. (She's said stuff before, but this was the first most of us had heard of the extent of her dissatisfaction.) And after that, a guy I know well spoke up about how he regretted buying a house several years back because he now feels rooted in an area he doesn't like. [1] Yet another talked about how unhappy he is with his job and has wondered for a while what he's out here for and struggled with whether or not to ditch what he has and move elsewhere. [2] Our resident enlisted Navy guy shared about how he's been tapped to go to Iraq later this year, and he's already put in for orders to be a drill instructor at Great Lakes after that because he can't see returning here. From the way he phrased it, it's basically a done deal and he's waiting on the official word.

After the dust finally cleared and we moved on to other topics, more than half of the people in the room had expressed some major dissatisfaction with the digs around here. (It's worth mentioning that one guy did say he felt like he must be the only one who liked his job and didn't mind the area so much. But he was the obvious black sheep in what had almost become a bitch session by that point.) There were probably more in the room who felt the same way (one for sure), at least to a lesser extent, and just didn't speak up. And I know from other conversations that all three folks who didn't show up but notified us they intend to participate this spring are on the edge like I am.

I was pretty much in shock for the rest of the evening, and two days later it's still weighing on me. I knew I wasn't the only unhappy one around here, but I didn't realize so many people were fed up to the extent I am and even beyond. I can't help but wonder what the group might look like in just a year or two, or if there will even be enough people left to try to keep things going. It's hard to tell how serious folks are but I'm guessing they're like I am and just waiting for a good chance to jump. Might this be a contributor to a lot of the interpersonal problems and lack of commitment and such that we've been trying to address in the group for some time? Of course. As I said earlier, discontentment on that level spills over into all areas of life.

But, this of course begs the question, what is it about this area that is so depressing to young single folks like myself? Why are so many young professionals -- people who, on paper, have good jobs, free time, spending money, friends, you name it -- who should probably be living some of the best years of their lives so miserable and frustrated? Throw in the fact that we're Christians, or at least we all profess to be, and thus we should have a hope that defies all despair the world can throw at us, and the plot thickens. There's clearly something at work here that isn't confined to one person's life or people from a certain background. Whatever it is, it's much greater than any one of us and great enough to upset most of us.

The living expenses are an obvious huge factor and the first one that comes to mind. You could have split the room by house ownership (or local family house ownership for those who grew up here) vs. renters and have the "I agree, amen" prayer requests coming almost entirely from one side. Lack of things to do could be another, as coming from a city or college town to here is a tough adjustment to make. But there is actually a lot within a reasonable driving distance, so I think people would be doing more to alleviate their boredom if that was a bigger factor. But I'm sure it also plays a role.

Another big one I think is the demographics and general lack of people around here to hang out with. It's easy to feel like we're on the corner of the map out here -- and if you're looking at a Maryland state map, we pretty much are -- and out of touch with everybody and everything. For people who like to get out and socialize, and generally be where the crowds and buzz are, it must get old just doing the same things with the same people over and over. Not that hanging out with friends is bad, but we all crave excitement and experiences. This is a tough place to find much of either.

There's more to this whole demographics thing than that, though. It's most disheartening for people my age, especially men, who are interested in dating and marriage. There's just not a lot to work with around here, and the huge population of technical workers skews the population heavily such that young guys with engineering jobs are a dime a dozen and young women interested in such dudes seem scarce. [3] I guess people deal with this in different ways. I think all of us care and are bothered at least some by it, but it's a matter of how upsetting it is.

Thankfully, for me marriage has never been a front-and-center issue and has only in recent years become a big enough question in my life that I've bothered to think about it, so I don't (yet?) feel so pressed for action. I've more or less accepted that meeting "someone" around here is a long shot at best and not something with a high enough probability to justify spending lots of effort and emotional energy on, for a multitude of reasons I won't address here. Not that I particularly like that lack of options, but it is what it is. [4] And don't get me wrong, I haven't totally written marriage off for my life or anything, and overall I think it's even something I'd prefer, but if that's going to happen it'll be by means I can't see or fathom now -- which is often how romance works, I guess, so that's not so out of line. I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to try to force the issue and rake myself over the coals in the process. Sure, there's a difference between being open-minded and being desperate or obsessive, but too much focus on something that one lacks much control over isn't a good thing. I'm still confident I can get a lot out of my life and make my time on this planet worth something without taking the usual marriage-family route. I know there are some people in the group who share my general outlook in that regard.

However, others in my predicament clearly don't see things the same way. We've had considerable attrition in our group due to guys and girls showing up, surveying and even testing the goods, not liking what they see or not being able to get what they want, and moving on to other markets. The sense of desperation and lack of standards (as in, they'll take whatever they can get) hasn't been hard to notice. I hate this about our group, that tendency of some to start coming and seem to be really into it and contributing, then fade away almost as quickly as they came when they start dating or conclude that their efforts are better spent elsewhere. I mean, we're a Bible study! Do people misread our name and think it says "Christian Dating Service of St. Mary's County"? Not that dating should be off limits, and it should even be encouraged I think. But I don't like the idea of folks coming and putting up some facade for the purpose of using the group to get what they want out of it. This tends to undermine the trust and intimacy that are necessary for a solid Bible study group. It'd be far better I think if people would just come to learn about God and discuss the Bible with fellow believers rather than try to impress folks in the room, hoping to gain some benefit from their presentation down the road.

But I guess that's a lot to ask of folks my age who really want to marry and are having so much trouble finding any leads in an area that doesn't lend itself to that. As I said, we all see it differently and we all want some things in life so much we'll meddle with the rest of our lives to get them. Heck, I can't say I never do the facade thing myself -- not often for the same reasons, mind you, but it's hard to be "real" and not slip into the niche of "caring, loving person" or "theology expert" or whatever it is you fashion yourself as or have a reputation for. So we all have our struggles there.

Anyway, it's easy for me to see how some things contribute significantly to the general unhappiness of myself and others around me. It's not so easy to see what to do about it. Moving is one option, of course, but what until then? One must be content somehow. It's very hard to not just shut down and shift into "counting down the days" mode, as if God made a mistake by putting us here and we just need to wait for him to correct the error by calling us to somewhere else. There's got to be good reasons for being here, and intellectually I bet we can all see that, but it's yet another one of those things that's much harder to keep in perspective and put into practice.


[1] That guy actually has options but won't exercise them. He knows full well he could sell that house and make a killing, and then move to another area of the country with a lower cost of living and plenty of government work to keep his job changing relatively simple. But he doesn't want to move away from his family in the Northern Virginia area -- a crazy reason to refuse to better one's life, in my opinion -- and he even said he doesn't like change. Hey man, life requires compromises. Either accept your current state of life or do what's necessary to change it.

[2] This guy also owns a house he bought back in the days when one didn't have to give up too many body parts to actually own a home around here, so he can afford to be patient and wait things out as long as he wants. A lot of us don't have that luxury.

[3] Lest people think I'm exaggerating this disparity or chalk it up to yet another disgruntled twenty-something who isn't getting what he wants out of life, consider that this issue of demographics and lack of any speakable social scene has attracted the attention of employers in the area, including my own, due to the high turnover rate of young professionals. See this example for one source of proof.

[4] What a great chance to insert one of my favorite quotes of all time: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had or could have had or should have had." You confront reality as it is, not as you wish it was or as it could have been... Such a simple concept, yet so real and applicable.

Monday, January 15, 2007

technical difficulties

For some reason Blogger has decided to be slower than...well, just plain slow lately. Dunno what its deal is, but every now and then the site will go through a day or two of excruciating slothness. And yesterday and today are two of those days. So forget trying to post much of anything. Between Firefox's forever-infamous (to me) choke job and now Blogger's laziness, it's been a BAD week for blogging troubles.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

da bears' road ahead

After today's wild action I don't know what to think of da Bears' chances. It's at least nice to see them snap out of their 13-year playoff funk even if it was ugly and unimpressive. But I still don't have much confidence in Rex Grossman despite his good performance today. And the Bears barely managed to slip by a mediocre Squawks team with a depleted secondary. However, the better news is that the two biggest obstacles between da Bears and their second Stupid Bowl win were eliminated this weekend.

First off, what the heck is up with the Bears' defense? Have they just gone home for the season already? Grossman is supposed to be the only choker in Chicago this time of year. It's the playoffs, you idiots. Championship teams don't let the "What the heck are we doing in the postseason?" Seattle Seahawks run up 24 points. When your own offense breaks out and scores 24 points, that should be enough for a win -- especially when you're supposed to have one of the league's best defenses and are playing a playoff game against a middle-of-the-pack team. It's a very good thing "Good Rex" decided to show up today and they have a Pro Bowler kicking long field goals in overtime, otherwise the Bears would be watching the 'Aints host the NFC championship next weekend. But when you're the Bears and Rex Grossman is your quarterback, relying on offense to pull you through isn't going to get you far in the playoffs and sure as heck isn't going to win a championship.

I guess those injuries on defense have hurt more than us Bears fans would like. Somebody had better call up the rest of the defensive unit and remind them the season isn't over yet (but soon will be if they don't show up next week). And it wouldn't hurt to make sure Tank Johnson doesn't get thrown behind bars before next week too. That defensive unit needs all the help it can get these days.

As for the AFC, it's nice to see what appeared to be the two biggest threats get KO'd before the championship game. Not that Indy and New England are cupcakes, but I like the Bears' chances against either of those two a heck of a lot more than against the Chargers or Ravens. Those two looked like the most solid teams in the playoffs until this weekend. But their weaknesses, lack of playoff experience combined with Schottenheimer for the Bolts and lack of an offense for the Birds, ended up killing them sooner than I expected.

I'm having a hard time thinking Indy can go all the way. That'd require the Colts playing like champs for four games straight. Okay, so they've done it for half that stretch so far. But they're similar to the Bears in that they could be the greatest team in the league or one of the worst teams in the league on any given day. The championship-caliber Colts have taken the field in both playoff games, but how long until the doormat Colts reappear? That kind of consistency might win some games but it rarely wins championships. I say rarely instead of never only because last year's Steelers (a.k.a., The Luckiest Super Bowl Winners Of All Time) sucked going into the playoffs and put together four straight improbable wins to steal the Lombardi Trophy away from several more deserving teams. There's no way they were the best team, but they played their best football when they had to and pulled it off. So, hey, anything can happen. But at least the Bears match up well with the Colts. I like Chicago's chances if they meet Indy in Miami.

I don't know what to think of New England. They're not as talented or as experienced as they have been in previous Stupid Bowl runs, but they're just plain scary. That franchise seems to have a thing with winning when it counts. And they closed the regular season on a very strong note. I was actually kinda hoping San Diego would beat them since that would have matched the inconsistent Colts and the inexperienced Chargers against each other for the AFC championship and thus the AFC's Stupid Bowl team would have a major flaw. (Throw in the anemic playoff records of Dungy and Schottenheimer and neither team is too intimidating come January.) But I don't think the Pats have any such flaws to exploit and I'm not sure the Colts can keep them out of it. The Patriots are the kind of team that can bring out the inconsistency in anybody, including the Colts. And, um, the Bears too.

On top of that, the 'Aints played well yesterday against the resurgent Eagles. Their offense wasn't slowed down at all it didn't seem, though the defense did allow the Eagles to push them around a bit. But I don't think the 'Aints are good enough to beat the real Bears. But if the crappy Bears show up then it'll probably be a long and disappointing winter in Chicago.

So...predictions. The NFC is impossible to predict due to the wildly inconsistent Bears. But the game will be at Soldier Field so hopefully the weather will be terrible. That would favor the defense and the running game, and thus such conditions would favor Chicago. (I think the Bears' first-string defense is better than the Saints' rushing offense.) Throw in the fact that the visitor is a dome team from the South and bad weather is all good for Bears fans. So, since I have to choose somebody, I'll take the Bears and keep my fingers crossed.

The AFC also looks impossible. If the same Colts come to play that have been in the last two games then they should win handily. But if they leave any holes for the Pats to work with then they're in trouble. New England isn't good enough to beat the Colts at their best, but, like the Saints against the Bears, they're good enough to take advantage of their opponents' mistakes. They could turn a subpar Colts game into a New England victory. Once again I must side with the home team -- and I'm partial to Tony Dungy anyway -- so I'll take the Colts.

See there, my projected matchup is the same one I had very early in the season. I could look like a genius here. Just to increase my chances of being a football prophet, I'm going to stick with my midseason prediction for the score, too. Bears 30, Colts 20. Grossman tosses a touchdown pass to the Colts, but Manning does him one better and throws two to the Bears. That'll be the difference.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

#%&$ mozilla

I just made the mistake of using Mozilla's Firefox web browser for the first time in a long while, and it conveniently crashed for no known reason while I was adding a lot to that last post about wonders. It ate probably close to an hour of work. I suddenly remember why I had caved in to Internet Explorer so long ago. Firefox was already loading pages much slower than I'm used to and I was trying to give it a chance to prove itself, but this does it. From now on I will never, never, never, NEVER, E-V-E-R use that God-forsaken POS program on any computer that I own. Maybe if those bastards at Mozilla can learn how to create a program that can even remotely compete with IE then I'll consider it. On second thought, scratch that. They badly blew their chance. So $&%# Mozilla and #&%@ Firefox.

I've been frustrated with computers more times than any human in history but I can't remember being as upset and full of rage as I was just now. I must have lost at least six months off the end of my life. I'm actually quite surprised I didn't put (another) hole in one or more of the walls. It's probably a good thing I broke out my bottle of Kijafa earlier tonight, as it likely took off barely enough edge to keep me from destroying my living space. Maybe I ought to double my alcohol budget and figure on keeping plenty of that stuff around. Then again, even that has its limits probably.

new seven wonders

Some Swiss rich guy had a great idea. Well, not so great, given that it'll become a popularity contest in which most of the participants are idiots, homers, or both. But a novel attempt nonetheless. His idea is here -- the home of a web-based campaign to elect Seven (New) Wonders of the World.

I of course think it will come down to which regions get out the vote the best and which finalists are more reknown and visited, which are both crappy ways to select wonders of the world. People naturally know more about some than others or will tend to be more partial toward some aspects of the finalists than other aspects. For example, there are several on the list, some that'd I've even heard a bit about, that I just don't know enough about to judge the merits of. They could be great, or they could be beneath the others. Unfortunately, I haven't been to all of the sites and I'm not very well versed in world history so I'm stuck working with the limited set of knowledge and experience I have. Despite its inherent flaws and injustices, though, the contest is still a neat idea that combines wonders throughout history and will result in seven sites selected through a worldwide vote. I'm very curious as to which will be the final seven. But we'll all have to wait until July to find out.

So, of course, the next step is to select the sites to vote for. In my selection I focused primarily at how awesome and innovative sites were for their time and still are today, and how much of a mark they've made on history. Being there should make you feel like you're on hallowed ground. It should not just be cool and unforgettable but indescribable. Simply put, it should be an experience of a lifetime. In my book, qualities like beauty and impact within a region or culture aren't so important since they're hard to quantify and compare. Beauty, for example, often represents the best of a very wide selection. There are lots of beautiful sites and buildings and such in the world, so simply being similar but better than the rest doesn't cut it. It needs to be not only beautiful but advanced for its time and radically unique. (I guess that's my engineer side speaking.) And a real wonder needs to have, and have had, a profound worldwide impact beyond its immediate region or culture.

On those grounds, some finalists are easy to eliminate up front. A Japanese temple that's been destroyed and rebuilt several times? Uh, no. A big statue of Jesus? The Statue of Liberty? A modern opera house? No, no, and hell no. Unique and cool, but not breathtakingly awesome on the level of a true world wonder. The site of a middle-ages university? Sorry. A fantasy-esque castle built centuries after castles went out of style and created with tourism and popularity in mind? Gimme a break. As you can see, a lot of finalists must be surviving on popularity and home crowd vote-mongering alone, because they sure didn't earn a spot here.

Anyway, on to my vote-getters. If you haven't already clicked over to the website, do so now so you'll understand the process. There are 21 finalists out of 77 (I think) original contestants and we -- the internet-connected world -- must select seven of those to be the New Seven Wonders. With that, I proudly present my long-awaited selections, not necessarily in any particular order...

Roman Colosseum. This one is obvious, and not just because it's one of the few I've actually been to. Not only is so much of it still standing almost two millenia later, but it was an engineering and architectural feat that still ranks as one of the greatest ever. The site clip puts it well: "Its design concept still stands to this very day, and virtually every modern sports stadium some 2,000 years later still bears the irresistible imprint of the Colosseum's original design." Roman architecture at its best. It's way, way up there on my "hallowed ground" list.

Stonehenge. If centuries and centuries later people still can't explain how those ancients built that contraption then it qualifies as radical for its day. This is one of those sites that perhaps lacks the beauty and intricacy of others but has a wonder to it that few, if any, others do. It has to be one of the greatest engineering marvels of all time.

Pyramids of Giza. A combination of the above two. The manhours and decades of effort that went into building them are unbelievable. Ditto for the intricacy and creativity behind the inner tunnels and traps. This is another one that one must actually visit and take the inside tour of to fully appreciate. How the Egyptians could build passageways and rigging systems so perfectly accurate and to scale with crude instruments defies the imagination.

Great Wall of China. Another marvel of effort and dedication that is still standing. The fact that it's the largest monument ever built by man, and probably by a very large margin, speaks for itself. I think of this in the same vein as the Pyramids in that the kind of dedication needed to actually build this thing, especially well enough that it's still standing strong today, is too hard to grasp.

Machu Picchu. A city on top of a mountain? Built over 500 years ago with rudimentary technology? Whose layout is still intact? Definitely put this one on the list. It still looks as if it's out of a dream or something. I can't imagine what it would have been like back in the day. No wonder this is on the short list of stuff I need to visit.

Easter Island Statues. These are in the Stonehenge category of "How'd they do that?" A collection of huge stone statues on an island otherwise almost entirely devoid of rocks is just freakish. We still don't have many clues as to how, why, and by whom they were built. As the description says, the statues have "long fascinated the entire world and endowed this island with a mythical atmosphere." Well said. This is perhaps the most mysterious of all the finalists.

Athens Acropolis. This one is similar to the Colosseum in that it was built at a time when architecture and buildings of that grandness were pretty much unheard of. It represents another leap forward in civilization. Not only the site itself but the history and story behind it have continued to influence societies across the globe. Another one that's on the short list of places I need to visit.

There you go. So what are you waiting for? Sift through the travel memories, history books, photo albums, Civilization progress charts, and the rest, and go vote!

god and numbers

Interesting. Very interesting.

I've never heard that take before, but I really like it. What a great point. It's one of the simplest but best apologetics for theism I've seen in a long time. Off the top of my head I'd throw in the laws of physics too. They can't actually be seen and documented outside of the mind, yet their effects are very obvious and measurable. And so we don't question their authority over all aspects of the physical world. Come to think of it, the same is true of any law of nature. And yet when it comes to God, whose creation passes the same test, his existence is often thrown out as irrational. Smells like blatant inconsistency to me.

I'd love to flesh out this argument much more, but it won't happen tonight. Hopefully sometime...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

the iverson trade

I don't know why everybody is so high on Denver's supposed steal of Allen Iverson from Philly. When I first saw that my reaction was shock that Denver got swindled so badly. They coughed up a decent point guard and two first-round draft picks for a guy with an ego problem who's nearing the twilight of his career. What were they thinking? He's always been an out-of-this-world basketball player but he lacks the leadership and solid attitude to make the whole team better. And not only is AI a chemistry risk, to say the least, but poor George Karl must somehow figure out how to make sure both he and 'Melo get enough touches to both stay happy and not let their heads get bigger than their game. Good luck with that one, Mr. Karl.

I think the 76ers definitely sold high on Iverson, and they'll have a better team in the long run for it. Miller is a better fit on a team with some solid players who will now get more chances to shine, and they should at least get some good role players out of the draft. The Nuggets? Well, they have all kinds of offensive firepower now, but can that team work together? It has two alpha superstars who somehow must learn to share the court with one another. On paper the Knicks too should have been an offensive juggernaut over the past couple of years and look how well they've done. Too many egos on one court is not a good thing.

Consider the immediate aftermath of the swap. Beforehand, Philly was pretty much left for dead as a strong contender for the top pick in the 2007 draft and Denver was riding high on an early course for the playoffs. After the trade, Philly has gone 4-4 and Denver has gone 2-4. Sure, it's too early to tell much and Denver has been without the players it lost to brawl suspensions. But still, they've had a losing record and their partner in the deal has improved. Worse yet, the 76ers just thumped them at their own place. You tell me, which team has benefitted more from the trade so far?

Mark my words, that trade will go down as a bust for Denver. Foolish, foolish move. I may be one of the only ones who thinks so now, but he who laughs last laughs longest.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

not having cable tv sucks sometimes

Sat down here to watch the last minute of the Fiesta Bowl. I was about to leave, assuming it was over, when Boise State had 4th & 18 on the 50 with 18 seconds to go. Lo and behold, they pull the old hook and lateral trick and cover 50 yards in 11 seconds to tie it up. And now it's in overtime. That has to be the wildest last few seconds of regulation in a football game in recent memory. It's a shame I can't be watching this madness on TV.

CBS Sportsline's Glog (in-game blog) guy on Boise's 4th & 1 from Oklahoma's 5 yard line in OT: "This is the biggest yard in Idaho football history." No question. So, say Boise's coaches, if a trick play worked to perfection last time, let's stick with what works. A back takes the snap and passes for a TD on 4th down.* That's one of those plays that always ends up being either ingenious or incredibly stupid depending on what happens. And as if that weren't enough, they go all-in and go for the two-point conversion instead of the tie and get it. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, F-OT.

That's one of the most insane endings in bowl history for sure. We need a lot more football teams like Boise State with enough guts to go for it all with total disregard for risk or the second-guessing of others. I usually like the little guy in David-Goliath matchups anyway, but I just became a pretty big Boise State fan.

* Maybe they've been watching some Hogs games this year. Arkansas ran the McFadden-under-center set several times a game when I watched.