Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Joys of Coffee

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I had an incredibly lousy weekend. First, a moment of silence to remember “The Joy’s of Coffee”. Joy’s not only the greatest coffee shop on the Gulf Coast (which is sort of like being the smartest kid on the short bus) it was the greatest coffee shop of all time. Ever. I have drunk expensive coffee in San Fransisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Monterey, and Minneapolis. Joy’s served a cup of Americano for which you would sell your mortal soul. My wife hates coffee. She doesn’t even like the limp wristed so-called coffee beverages that Starbucks sells for such unholy amounts of money. But Joy’s americano? She smelled it and said “That smells amazing.” She tasted it and said “I think I could learn to like coffee if it was always served like this.” But Joy’s is closed and some ignorant baboon bought it. The woman who bought it doesn’t know how to make americano. In fact, I really doubt she knows how to make anything but Foldgers instant crystals. In the world of real coffee, Foldgers instant crystals (FIC) occupies a position of legendary evil, not totally unlike the Antichrist in Christianity. To those who truly love coffee, FIC isn’t just whats wrong with coffee. Its whats wrong with the Establishment. Its whats wrong with this country. It is, in fact, tangible proof of evil. And this lady had Foldger’s Instant Crystals carved into her tiny, bourgeois skull with Dollar Store never-needs-sharpening steak knife.

Second, I got a nasty case of the intestinal flu. I don’t know if you have ever had the intestinal flu, it is to paraphrase Douglas Adams, rather unpleasantly like being drunk. Whats so bad about being drunk you ask? Ask a glass of water…

Third, since I had nothing else to do than lie on the floor near my toilet, I finished reading the Bible this weekend. This should have been a fairly spiritual experience but there is just something about spraying pure liquid poo while having horrible, horrible cramps that sort of robs it of the majesty. Reading the Bible cover to cover instead of building my faith largely demolished it. This is actually a good thing, its happened before, and every time I develop a much deeper understanding as part of the process, but it feels like getting hit with a train.

So, no more good coffee, intestines in revolt, Christianity on the skids. All in all, a really lousy weekend.

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February 27, 2008 Posted by | Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s the freakin’ deal, God?

Once, many years ago, I fell head-over-heals, stupidly, destructively in love. I thought that the object of my love was the young woman with the thin, silver glasses and blue eyes, but alas, it was the idea that she represented to me and not the girl that I loved. I’d sold my life to get that girl and then found that it was the idea of the girl that I had wanted, not the hard work of loving a fellow human being. I didn’t have enough emotional stability to love and care for myself, let alone creature as fragile as I.

I tell that to illustrate this: my whole life I wanted to really understand scripture, to truly know it and have a ready answer for any question. Now, I am almost there. I am no theologian, but I am beginning to have a functional understanding of the Holy Bible. And like that college freshman I once was, I again find that it was the idea that I loved. The reality of knowing scripture with a holistic understanding of the whole thing is really quite awful.

Scripture, you see, is chock full of enormous contradictions, which you never notice as long as it is spoon fed to you by someone who has pre-chewed it for you. I thought that this little project would close the remaining holes in my patchy faith, instead it is pulling it apart. All I want is truth, and truth doesn’t contradict itself does it?

Perhaps a quick explanation is in order. I grew up fundamentalist. From the fundies I inherited a somewhat critical mindset particularly of that dastardly rebel sect, the Pentecostals. Despite this redeeming feature, the Fundamentalist approach to the business of living is pure crap. No one ever obeyed themselves joyful. No one ever learned so much scripture that he spontaneously started actually doing what Christ said. Despite my misgivings, I stuck with Christianity, so I wouldn’t burn in hell. At college, I met a very charismatic young speaker, and resolved to set him straight on his absurd Pentecostal belief, that his charisma might be used to bring people to the true way and not seduce them down the road of non-critical thinking, rampant emotionalism, and constant fear of demons that stereotypically characterizes the Pentecostal realization of faith. A proud graduate of an uppity Christian high school I knew the Word like the back of my hand, and would soon have him straightened out. But since pride goes before the fall, I made sure to do my research before I spoke to him.

Imagine my chagrin! There is no evidence whatsoever that the gifts have stopped! Abandoning all pride to believe truth, I delved into scripture by topical analysis, finding that all the wacky crazy things that are required in the New Testament are never said to have stopped! I had a new answer to the question of “If my religion brings peace and love why am I so full of strife and hate?” I wasn’t obeying scripture! I joined a carpet-chewing, roll on the floor, speaking in tongues, vision receiving church. For 2 years, this church was my family. For 2 years I heard people speak in tongues, prophesy, roar like lions, laugh in the spirit, etc. I’d seen people slain in the spirit, manifesting demons, seen them flop like fish on the floor, and cry with wild abandon. You know the one thing I never saw?

Change. The holy kept wailing and lost kept dying. Once upon a time I had possessed a pretty sharp mind and I began to apply it to what was happening around me. I saw every trick in the book. The speaking in tongues was never translated (which is NOT in accordance with the teachings on tongues in Scripture). The prophecies were nothing more than standard cold readings, the radical method of giving we were supposed to have ended up looking a lot like the leadership putting money where they saw fit. Apostle in the scripture is an advisory position, but it just seemed to gradually turn into a command position. We seemed to have a revolving door of broken people coming in desperately hoping to get better, not getting better, and leaving. They didn’t try enough, faith enough, weren’t vulnerable enough etc. Never was the system at fault, always the people the system hurt were at fault. Always there was a revival in some distant land that none of us could verify. I knew my Orwell and it was high time to get out, so I did.

It left me lost, dazed and confused. So I quit everything. Quite doing whatever it is that Christians do to be Christians. After about a year I made right with some old Christian friends. If felt so good to be loved again that I decided I would not rest until I read the scriptures! And thus brings you up to speed.

In a nutshell: Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism are the right and left of Christianity, and are nearly totally alike in their total disregard for scriptures that don’t suit them. Both are crap. The first offers a religion so devoid of anything that feels anything at all you wonder what could possible induce anyone to stay in it. Pentecostalism on the other hand offers a cornucopia of religions experiences! Of course they don’t really listen to the teachings of Jesus, so if that is what defines “Christianity” (you’d sure hope so) then both missed the boat.

But, really, if the Apostle Paul doesn’t have to obey Jesus (I can site evidence if that interests you) why the hell should anyone else? I get to the point where I wonder, REALLY wonder, if this is what we are supposed to be doing at all?

February 22, 2008 Posted by | Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , | 6 Comments

Reading the Bible isn’t making it more clear, its confusing me more.

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I make this clear sometimes in my blog. I don’t hate Christ, I just hate the multimedia politico-religious for profit enterprise that predominately Christianity. I am reading through the Bible right now, cover to cover and I have made it as far as the Gospel of John. Now no person who reads the Bible can logically argue that physics is something that really concerns God much. Consider…

God made light and darkness on the first day, but the sun and stars on the 4th, or that he made plants before he made the sun. How did the plants survive in absolute zero?

God makes the sun stand still for Joshua

I could go on, but I don’t really need too. Any believer will tell you one of the things that makes the miraculous just that, is that it doesn’t make sense, it defies what we know about physics. And since God is the author of physics its his to rewrite on the spot as he sees fit.

I’m not stating the above as any kind of “proof” against God, I’m just saying thats God doesn’t really care for physics and any attempt to explain God in a way that puts more “rationally” is going to rob truth from both God and physics, satisfying the intrinsic demands of neither.

The problem that I am running into in the New Testament is God not following his own moral code. Condsider:

Jesus says that anyone who calls another man “Fool” is in danger of hellfire. He then calls the Pharisees fools.

He says to love your enemy and promises eternal damnation for God’s enemies.

If John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and say “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” why did he have to send disciples to ask if Jesus was the Christ?

A lot of the things that Jesus says are in direct contradiction with the Law of the Torah. In the Torah a woman was commanded to fight a rapist (or die, actually). In the New Testament Jesus says to “turn the other cheek”.

I’m really confused by all this, and I just keep finding more things that confuse me. I’m not going to stop reading, but I am getting more disappointed by the day.

February 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A recipe for mass murder

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(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking) For Wikipedia’s excellent article.

To quote Wikipedia (the compendium of all human knowledge) “Like science, magic is concerned with causal relations, but unlike science, it does not distinguish correlation from causation.” Magical thinking is an import step in the process to having a vibrant and mature mind. Sadly, most people never move on to logical thinking, but continue to add and subtract from magical thinking attempting to make a suitable world view.

A wise man once said to me, “You will have a world view, whether you chose one or not.” It’s true. There is no such thing as person without world view, there are only people with logical and systematic paradigms and people with illogical and asystematic paradigms, but every person operates from some paradigm. Our world view is the product of our method of thinking about our thinking, our meta-thinking, if you will. If one never puts a thought into how one thinks, one will think poorly. Thinking poorly, one will produce an haphazard world view. Owning a inconstant world view produces an inability to perceive others consistently, which in turn, will cause an inability to relate to others consistently. This (finally) is the definition of hypocrisy, so the magical thinker will always fail by the standards of his or her own flawed value system.

Substituting correlation for cause isn’t just bad science, it’s dangerous to the human spirit, and here’s why: When a person consistently substitutes correlation for cause they will come to believe that their thoughts have the power to effect reality. Virtually everyone in the US will be in a car accident at some point in their lives, some will be in many. Use the example to a logical thinker and a magical thinker, both whom have had the statistically unlikely situation of being in 3 accidents in 3 months.

The logical thinker asks why is this phenomenon happening? He gets online and studies accident statistics. He has his tires and brakes checked, he talks to his insurance company. He is unhappy with all these accidents and and investigates the way his actions effect him.

The magical thinker asks himself why this phenomenon happening to me? Instead of searching for cause he searches for correlation. He asks what was he was thinking or doing all 3 times. Finally finding a correlating fact, he then believes that this fact is the cause. He also is unhappy with all these accidents but having reached a false cause, he solves it with a false solution.

Now, the logical thinker has removed himself from the probability of another accident, but the magical thinker, not knowing the true cause, has not. We can see here that magical thinking is endangering his life. When he gets in another accident, however, magical thinking will endanger his spirit. Since, in his own mind, he removed the cause of the accidents, this 4th accident must have a cause not bound by normal cause. In short, the magical thinker now believes that this 4th accident is not a natural act, but a supernatural act. He is now making up his own religion as he goes.

But the magic thinker only thinks about his thinking when he is looking for a correlation in his own mind. He doesn’t think about the nature of this thinking. We know this because the magic thinker is an man of average inteligence and not a imbecile. If you asked him outright “Do you believe that you have the ability to determine the whether an even is natural or supernatural by how you feel about it?” He would say no, but regardless, that is what he is doing.

It is far too simple a step from believing that the things that happen around you happen with a supernatural cause to believe that you ARE the supernatural cause. From there comes the idea that what you believe is more important than what you do, and finally, the last step down the slippery slope: that you can change reality by the belief rather than action.

Further, since he doesn’t realize that he is his own god, he has no problem belonging to an established religion. And thats when the horrors start. Take one man that has been convinced that he has unique insight into the supernatural which outweighs and overpowers logic. Add a large and powerful organization which gives legitimacy to this belief by its size and also uses its organization to provide positive and negative reinforcements to certain key behaviors . Mix vigorously with social instability and suffering. Viola! A recipe for mass murder.

But how do we stop these people? It would seem that building a large and powerful organization with a rigid belief system is not the answer. (How well has Protestantism, originally gathered around protesting the the very real abuses of the Catholic Church faired? It has become that which it hated. The Church had her pogroms, the Protestants their massacres.) If logical thinkers built a church style organization I guarantee church like results: a beautiful teaching hidden inside a holy book which the followers are encouraged to read only when it properly sanitized and commentaried, and decades of apathy interrupted by occasional movements of inspiring love and frequent movements of hate, murder, and suffering.

We can’t reason with them, because they can’t reason. Believing their thoughts to be logical, they perceive logical thinkers to be not magical thinkers, but magical practitioners. Their organization and all of their friends tell them that their thoughts reflect reality. Thus when a logical thinker presents them with reality, they have but two possible paths to take. (1.) Turn their back on their entire world view or (2.) believe that the logical thinker is somehow twisting reality, making it appear to disagree with their organization. Of course, they take the second. The logical thinker is seen as a practitioner of a foul truth magic. As human beings, we have logic hardwired in from the womb. If you show someone the logical path, they can’t help but see it. Since the typical magical thinker/cult member/religious zealot (if you are a zealot and offended by that, perhaps you should examine your zeal) has been told by everyone they know that their path is logical, this sudden attraction to the “wrong” (logical) way can only be seen supernatural influence, ie, evil.

The only way I know out of this mess is by personal example. I be seek to be the very best that I can be and wait for people to notice how much I enjoy life. I hold my beliefs up to public discussion on this blog (and in other places) not for people to notice, for if I had to tell people how happy I am for them to notice, I must not really be that happy, but for constant review and evaluation, so that I can hold on to this little toehold of joy and freedom I have bought with my skepticism and my faith. The natural state of man seems to be to surrender his freedoms to a mob so he can be one of them. I don’t want to surrender the freedom of my mind, and I won’t, so I stand in public and say “Doubt me, please! Question everything I believe! Find the holes and the gaps that I am content with till I’ve nothing less than pure truth.” That is the plan of my life. The only way I know to fight the madness mentioned above is to follow that plan.

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Paranormal, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

telekinesis me

I ‘ve been writing a lot of serious blogs lately, about the divine and things like that. I enjoy doing that, but its been a while since I sat down and just sort of puked out the detritus that floats through my skull on any given day. My brilliant and beautiful wife said something about telekinesis (TK) today, which normally would have merely been funny, but I took a semester’s worth of algebra in 90 minutes today and my brain was still in analyze mode. So here’s the facts about normal energy:

An average very fit person (not a professional athlete, but someone is in peak physical condition for an amateur) can produce a continuous 300 – 400 watts. Lance Armstrong outputs 900W s (about 1.2 HP!) continuously, and the average employee is good for about 70 continuous watts before they feel like they are working hard. I am in good, but not excellent shape, so lets say I can produce about 200 W without getting blown out.

Assume telekinesis works as a field, and follows the approximately the same rules as electromagnetic fields. If I recall, EMF strength decreases in power the farther one is from the source in a manner something like this: If field strength at source = x, that the strength decreases as reciprocal of the exponent of the radius. Basically, if the strength is 200 W at 1 m, then at two meters (2 squared being 4) it will be 1/4 of that or 50W. At 3 m it would be 200/9 or 22 W. At 4 meters it would be 1/16 or 200 W or 12.5 W, and at 5 m it would be 200/25, which is 8 Ws.

So, if my TK abilities are roughly comparable to my athletic prowess, then I should be able to do anything with my mind that I can do with my body, making 200 W a good baseline. If TK dissipates over distance (like radio) then I run out of steam fairly quickly just by pure radial dissipation. 1 W equals 1 Joule which is the energy needed to lift about 100 grams 1 meter. My glass of water weighs about 550 grams and has to be lifted about an 4 cm to fall over, so it takes about a 1/5 watt to knock it over. So using the data in the previous paragraph, I lack the TK field strength to knock over a glass of water at around 32 m which is about 104 feet.

Compared to what you see in movies, that really sucks. At 100 feet, I can’t even pick up a loaf of bread, let alone a nemesis. Still, nothing in my apartment is more than about 14 m away so, I can still exert about 1 watt on anything. And from 2 meters away I can still exert 50 watts, so I should be able to make the bed witout bending over.
Still, you always see people in movies running one thing with their mind and another with their hands, like, mixing an omelet with their mind while flipping eggs with a spatula. I think there is a definite practical limit to that sort of thing. Unless TK gives you some greater multitasking ability, I think the number is actually going to be pretty low. When a human being plays an organ for instance, there are 10 fingers, 2 arms, and two feet being used as input/out put devices, for a total of 14 channels, plus the eyes are reading the music and the ears are hearing it. 16 channels. But its not really 16 separate tasks. It is one task that uses 16 separate I/O channels. If a race car could be made with a totally foot based driver input, a keyboard in place of the steering wheel, and HUD that projected sheet music onto the windshield, it seems very unlikely that the driver would win many races, or many recitals. Each task simply requires too much processing power from the brain. The 16 I/O channels are working, but brain is cannot observe and execute all the data it is receiving. Much of multitasking in the fact that so many of the tasks we do are unconscious. To take a single step requires the use of about 15 muscle movements, but we don’t think “Fire 13, Fire 6, release 12, Fire 7, release 13” etc. It like a program, we think “I want to go over there.” and the “walk program” executes.

Since TK is a act of conscious effort, I don’t think it would be that simple. I don’t think you could just look at a pan, turn your back and execute the “put a pan on the stove” program. Unless you’re blind, you need a lot of visual feed back to do things like, pour the milk for instance. Even blind people still need feed back on that task, they put their finger in the edge of the glass and stop pouring when it gets wet. TK is probably an I/O stream, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its accurate enough to no longer need visual or audio feedback. When I pour milk, I can feel the the container get lighter as I pour it, but the main input I have for that is the pressure sensing nerves of my fingers, and the pressure sensing nerves registering the lock condition of my forearm and bicep muscles. The muscle pressure sensing in only good for judgments like “almost weightless”, “very heavy”, and “heavier than light, but lighter than heavy”. The nerves in my finger tips are extremely sensitive, they can differentiate the pressure variable caused by single hair laying on soft cloth. But anything over about a pound and they simply report “heavy” to “painful” Why would TK be any better?

So, here’s the breakdown. If I had TK, it is too weak to much more than flick a switch at more than about 50 ft. Due to the likely lack of feedback acuity, it will function pretty much line of site within that 50 ft. Since I have to either see what I am doing or “TK fumble” till I find it, it seems it would be difficult to use the power surreptitiously. It also seems like if I am the only one who can do it, that I would not want to display the power particularly obviously.

So what could I do for a living? Well, the most obvious is Illusionist, but thats a really lousy idea. 99% of being a magician isn’t the workmanship, its the showmanship. Despite that what I was doing was really magic, a good showman could always show me up with cheap parlor tricks and better presentation. Besides, normal people are not the only ones who go to magic shows. If I was a fantastic showman, then I would be doing big shows. If I did big shows then some of the people in the audience would be other Illusionists, who with a professional eye would spot immediately that I was not using the same methods they were. This would either get me trouble or killed, if they take their business seriously enough.

I could become a pool shark, but again the same basic problem rears up. A good pool player knows exactly what the physics of a pool table is supposed to be. If when he plays me these laws of physics are broken, the result will probably be at the very least, a punch in the face. Since gambling on pool is technically illegal, I am already functioning in the underworld and the result good be significantly more than a punch in the face.

Since roulette is based on random movement, it seems that it would be a good way to go. However, casinos are NOT in the business of losing money, they are in the business of making money. Casinos are largest patron of of the software of face recognition. Any person caught “cheating” and by cheating I mean winning more than they put in, will be asked to leave. Their face is recorded and sold to the other casinos to put in their face recognition software. The casinos are actually very professional and courteous about this. The first time. The second time they scare you. The third time they tend to function barely within the law as regarding property protection.

So, realistically, there is probably no way to make income from it, unless you practice, a physical skill so much (say ping pong) that the minor adjustments you make with TK disappear into your overall skill. If that is the case, you don’t really need the TK. It would be a skill with no (legal) way to make money. Now, as far as illegal ways, there aren’t as many as you might think. Perhaps the first that springs to mind is cat burglar. Well, the difficulty there is, since you have to be at least 50 feet from what you are stealing, you have to already be a good cat burglar. You also have to stand at the scene of the crime, making it pretty difficult in court to say “I have no idea why that painting ripped off the wall and following me out of the museum I was lost in after closing time.” Hitman doesn’t really work either. If the police find a person shot and you were the last person seen with them and have no alibi for where you were, they are going to find you guilty regardless of whether you pulled the trigger with TK or not. The only way to get away with it would to again, be so good at your job that the TK didn’t really matter.

You can’t really use it as an athlete either. Say you could ride a bike outputting 200 Watts. Add your 200 Watts of TK and now you are really cruising. But since TK energy has to metabolized from the same food energy as normal physical exertion, you would blow out just as fast as if you were peddling with 400 W

So what CAN you do? Well you can fly, if by fly you mean raise with elevator like speed until you are tired. (How many flights of stairs can you climb without getting tired. Its the same thing, mass X distance X time) You could lock you house very securely when you left. (You could drop a bar accros the door from the inside.) You could amaze you friends with bar tricks. You could get chips, drinks, etc without leaving your spot on the couch. You could hang up peoples cellphones when they are being needlessly loud and stupid. You could trip uppity, attractive people. Women could zip dress backs without help. Men could unzip them without consent. You could change hard to reach light bulbs without getting a ladder. You could “haunt” a house. You could disturb and annoy pets and small children.

Pretty much, if TK was real it would serve as temptation to be petty and cruel but have few real applications to life. We know its not real because if it was, it seems that it would replace TV.

February 8, 2008 Posted by | Paranormal | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments