Last Trumpet

Yet more bad news: The resplendently named Norris McWhirter, co-founder of the Guinness Book of World Records, has died. Another face from childhood – I wonder if I’ve reached the age where I’ve known (of) enough people that their deaths will become a constant.

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I’ve long thought, without particular reason, that the Dutch are the coolest nation on earth. Well, courtesy of NPR I now know for sure. This morning they were talking about the launch over the weekend of a Russian rocket taking a new crew to the International Space Station. The crew was described as

“…an American astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut, and a Dutch spaceman.”

The Dutch have spacemen – how cool is that?

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Nacreous Portals

I found this blog entry rather interesting. It reflects some of the feelings I have over religion and the religious, and reminds me of a poor joke:

A Baptist, Protestant and Catholic (please feel free to insert any religions here, that’s not the point) are discussing their relative faiths. The Baptist states his particular beliefs, and the Protestant replies “Well, that’s not what I believe, but I’m so happy that you have an anchor in faith.” The Protestant in turn explains his beliefs, and the Baptist replies “Well, that’s not what I believe, but it’s great that you’ve found a way to God.” Then the Catholic explains his beliefs, and the others respond with “Well, that’s not what we believe, but if that’s how you find comfort in God that’s great.” So the Catholic says “No it isn’t, it’s the word of God and you’re both going to burn in hell.”

I guess I’m too literal, perhaps. I find faith in a supreme being (insert capital letters if so inclined) an odd notion, but ultimately understandable because it can bring comfort to what is for many people a harsh world. (I should add to that the very real possibility that they are right, and I’m missing something; I don’t think that’s the case, of course, but I have no evidence to prove otherwise). Holding to that faith in the light of events that people like me might use to refute God(s) is still odd to me, but is in its own way admirable. But to staunchly proclaim one’s faith, and to be unshakeable and resolute that your faith is the one faith, the undoubted path to God(s) grace, is where I lose the plot. If I have two choices, both equally wholesome (such as two flavours of Christianity, or Christianity and Judaism), both equally without concrete proof of their correctness, choosing one instead of the other (or indeed neither) is fair. But to then declare that the other is perhaps well intentioned, but fundamentally wrong, is a gigantic step too far for me.

A closely related Gedankenexperiment that I play with is that I am a more forgiving person than if I were a Christian (or a devotee of many other religions). Stay with me on this. I believe that my Christian friends (good people all) are wrong. Their wrongness is, however, no biggie. But my (flawed? – I hereby invite corrections) understanding is that from a Christian point of view I’m wrong. I may be given the chance to repent when stood at whatever passes for the Pearly Gates, and if presented with said nacreous portals rest assured that I’ll be convinced in short order. But failing that opportunity, my non-belief will condemn me to an eternity outside of God’s love (there may be flames and pitchforks involved as well, but lets keep this simple). That’s easy to joke about, but again it’s my understanding that this is, quite literally, the worst thing that could possibly happen to anyone.

So to summarize the thought: I’m a nicer person because if you (a ‘believer’) are wrong you’re fine, but if I’m wrong the worst thing imaginable will happen to me. Just a thought.

Anyway, go and read the blog entry, for I fear I have strayed far from its intent, and it deserves better.

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Tax, and Spend the Day

Just read an article in the local paper (registration required, so I’ll summarize here anyway) talking about the amount of time Americans are expected to take to fill in tax forms each year. The absolute minimum required is 3 hours and 43 minutes. A normal return such as we’re required to file (and it’s not like we own an apartment block or our own business) is estimated at 28 hours and 30 minutes. I did a quick bit of calculating and assuming something like 10 hours as an average, the US gives up the equivalent output of half a million workers each year, just to take our money off us. I’d like to make a smart comment about that, and perhaps in a later post I will, but for now I’m just staggered so will let it stand on its own.


Bush was on the telly last night. I lack the energy to ridicule the man, so I’ll let others do it for me.

Wait, that’s unfair. I’ll let him do it himself:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you’d made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa.

You’ve looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?

President Bush: I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.

John, I’m sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could’ve done it better this way or that way. You know, I just — I’m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn’t yet.

I hope — I don’t want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t — you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

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