Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Spirit" -> It's About Real Events And Real People

The Christian religion is unique in its heritage.

The Protestant faith so much the more, because of its tie back to the Jewish roots. Not in the fact that the Protestant faith is derived from the old Testament, for many branches of Christianity do the same thing. It is different in the idea of the sanctity of the communication medium.

This is different and strange from the myths of many cultures.

For example, let us look at the Greek mythology. Uranus was the chief god of his time, in as much as Jupiter or Zeus was to reign later in the Greek mythos. His father feared his children, thus he would imprison his children on a regular basis.

His wife Gaia began to resent her husband. Thus she called on her children to stop the father. His son Cronus (to the Romans he was Saturn) finally decided that his father had reigned too long. Taking a sickle that his mother provided him, he cut off his father’s genitals and threw them into the sea. He then took his place and reign with his Titans.

Oddly enough, Cronus had the same problem as his father, and began to fear his own children. (Here he is in a famous picture by Goya.) Thus devouring or destroying them became the norm. This was his downfall, as he was fed a stone instead of on of his offspring, and thus stopped the eating habit.

Zeus, his son, was able to replace his Father Cronus. While Zeus was not quite as crazy as his father or grandfather, he still was a vengeful and worrisome god.

The Greeks had these ages named: the Golden age, the Silver age, the Bronze age, and the iron age. In each of these ages, men and the earth was found in a different form. Thus from these myths of the gods came the stories of men. The story of Oedipus, the story of Antigone, and the other Greek myths. Theses stories were well known and retold in stories and plays.

Any decent Classical literature major will tell you, faithful adherence to all the details of the story under communication was not required. Indeed, each area often would have a substantially different version. In some sense, this really made the story more interesting. You never knew exactly what you were getting.

For example, in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, Euripides has Medea slaughtering her children. Yet in another version of this story, when it is retold, Medea saves her children. As Mary Beard, a professor of classics at Cambridge University, recently said, "Looking in from the outside, you may ask why they didn't they think of their own plot."

However, she goes on to state, "The point is that people know one version of the story and they want to make people see that story substantially differently to bring out different truths."

"We come away with the vision that their is a quasi-orthodox reading of the Greek myth like the Biblical narrative," she further states. Not the Greeks. They never saw that there couldn't be many telling of the stories, and they all could bring out truth.

Perhaps you never knew this. (And for most of us, the canon of the Greek myth was made by the Roman poet Ovid makes the myths sound like canon. However, Ovid only came to represent the standard version after many, many years.)

While it is difficult to truly understand the mindset of the common person 2000 years ago, I personally believe that these stories were told in great fun. These stories were told as a means of diversion. These stories were told much as the modern stories that we see on television. They were interesting, and full of impact. However, I don't believe that most or many people believed these stories as a description of facts. How could they? The facts changed every story time.

We will do the same in our entertainment.

We have done the story of Starsky and Hutch as the TV drama and as the comedy movie. We have Battle Star Galactica as the cornball SciFi in the 80s to the gritty and dark drama of the 2000s. They are often called remakes, but the more popular term is re-imagining. The term is used so that you know that there are common elements to the original, but much of the orignal has been changed. For example, in Battle Star Galactica example, one the main characters was called Starbuck and he was male. In the new series re-imagined series, the main character is very different, and is a female.

About the only thing that is consistent on Battlestar Galactica is that ships look pretty much the same.

To us, the slight changes in the stories are more than fine, they become very interesting. We are simply doing today, what the Greeks and the Romans would have done thousands of years ago.

Their stories were told in tales and in plays. Many times these stories were widely divergent.

I don’t dismiss that there are many stories that we enjoy hearing over and over again, with a few differences. This makes a story enjoyable, but this isn’t Christianity.

The common thread between the Jewish Orthodox faith and the Christian protestant faith was that the words almost have a transcend property that cannot and should not be altered in any way. The story as it was told is perfect, and without flaws. You cannot change the sex of one of the disciples without having Orthodox Christian decrying the effect.

In the Christian faith, we believe that what we read in our Bible is substantially the same thing as what happened.

The Story of Jesus the Christ is considered wholly accurate and true to the facts. We do not allow anybody to touch the sacred scriptures. We live the life of the story as if it happened just yesterday. The people of our Easter are real people with real stories.

As Paul calls out in I Cor 15

[14] And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

See Paul calls out that the is not just calling out a "true" story, where truth was a thing that sat between the facts. Paul was an educated man, with a very good idea of the culture. He understood that the Roman considered things to be truth regardless if the facts quite lines up. We tend to believe that only modern man can conceived of this. Yet, the fables of Greek and then Roman was clear. Truth sat in the cracks between different versions of the facts.

The call of Scripture is found in 2 Peter

[16] We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,* but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The whole of the Protestant faith and the faith of our Jewish forerunners is one of facts. There are no fables, there is only the Bible that is the inspired word of God. The Bible was written by men who were eye witnesses to the events.

As the early Christians saw each other, there was a tradition that would happen.

"He has risen," the first would say.

Then in what was a confirmation of the fact of the bodily resurrection of the Christ, the second would smile and answer back, "He has risen indeed."

You see, there was no clever retelling. There was only one telling, and we all celebrated the core of this truth. Jesus has risen.

I was sitting next to an older woman on the plane that was talking about her beliefs as I flew to San Jose the other week. She was telling me that we as individuals were all connected. It wasn't so important if a virgin birth happened or not. What was important was our connections.

I told her that I rejected all fideism, and while I did not want to insult her, I tried to probe about what she meant. The only knowledge we could have was that knowledge that was tested for.

As we got into it, I queried her on how we were all connected. For if she said that we were connected in a spiritual sense, and then I would have asked her why God would not have one theme. However, she was unwilling to say that that we were spiritually connected. I tried to probe on the idea that all religion was just as good as the other. I tried to take her down some of the specific paths of some different religions and what this really meant. However, she wouldn't go there.

At the end, she believed nothing other than "we should be tolerant." This is a good viewpoint for peace, but certainly doesn't derive truth.

Truth may take you in a variety of uncomfortable positions. If Christianity is true, then sacrifices must be made. People must argue. If Christ was not born of a virgin, if he was not the maker of miracles, and if he did not raise from the dead, then our faith is in vain.

Our Holy Book declares it so.

So the next time you see me, please call out, "He is risen."

I will call back, "He is risen indeed."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Mind" -> The Perfect Traveler; Part I Camera and PDA

Here is my old beat up camera. It is with me every where, and I'm going to tell you why.

I believe that I have a highly functional travel kit. I'll describe what I have, and perhaps you also will want to some of my ideas into your own collection of things that you take when you travel.

First item you should alway have is a camera.

When flying international or domestic, a trip is something to remember. I think back to when I was a young man at IBM San Jose. John S, one of my managers, would carry around a camera on our trips. I thought this a little uncool, so I never had one. In retrospect, I wish I had. There so many places that I went that I forgot many of them.

However, I have changed my habits over the last 6 years. I now take a good number of pictures, which will serve as memory joggers some day.

For instance, here is a picture of the Amsterdam airport. Just one shot, and I am instantly transported back to my layover. Airports are fun, and fun to remember.

The camera that I carry around is a Sony Clie DSC-U30. It has to be one of the smallest cameras ever created, and it has the benefit of being powered by two AAA batteries. Unfortunately, it is discontinued, with a rabid fan base that keeps the resell value very high on ebay. I will eventually replace this once it fails in the next year or two. Until that time, I have snapped over 6000 pictures with it.

Secondly, if you are taking pictures, you should also be taking notes. The best tool for this a PDA. As explained recently in my personal blog, I think that a PDA is by far the best way of taking notes, (and I would encourage to take these notes and blog them).

Now, there are two ways of going with a PDA. A thrasher that you won't mind if you lose, or a nicer one that may have more function. I tend toward the thrasher if I had only one. However, I ended up with both, until recently when I lost the expensive one.

However, taking notes isn't the only thing. You also want to be able to store them in a logical consistent fashion. For me, the best way of doing this is with an application called "Daynotez" by Natura software.

This is an application that runs on either Windows Pocket PC or Palm OS. The main reason for Daynotez is one of time stamping. You simply open the application, and start writing. A new note is automatically generated, and the new note is attached to a little calendar that stamps the day and the time that you started writing. Then you can simply flip through the calendar to find your note date. In a nice addition, your writing database is backed up to your computer every time that you sync the PDA to the computer.

Now, why use a PDA? Why not just use a notebook computer. Or why not use a pen and paper. Let's look at both in turn.

The computer has four major issues:

1. It is too big to stick into your pocket.

2. You cannot write on it with a pen when you don't have an area big enough to type in.

3. For the most part, a low battery will put you out of business.

4. Most computers are not "time to ready" in 4 to 5 seconds.

The pen and paper also has some massive short comings:

1. You cannot type on it with a keyboard. Now, perhaps you can't type quickly. Then shame at you. There is no reason that you shouldn't learn how to touch type. There are few skills as important as this. As soon as you learn, you'll stop with the pen and paper.

2. Once you have writen something, it is now locked on a page, which can't be electronically searched. If you went through all those great places and wrote something, wouldn't it be nice to actually be able to do a search on a word or phrase and pull up that note?

A PDA can solve all the objections for either paper or a computer. The one thing to make this a complete package is a foldable keyboard for your PDA. You can type or write. I actually wrote this whole posting on my PDA while I was flying from Amsterdam back to LAX in business class. As you can see by the picture to the side, I can easily set up my PDA on my airplane tray and I'm in business. This is very fast, and the PDA comes on instantly. It is as fast as getting out a pen and a pad of paper. The keyboard in this case is slightly cut down from the normal size keyboards that are on a portable computer, but I have no problems with typing on it. It is really quite fast.

The PDA in the Sony system sits in the middle of the keyboard, although some systems will have the PDA setting by the side. It really doesn't matter all that much because you rarely will be looking closely at the typing, if you touch type. You are just trying to get some thoughts down so you can transfer them later.

In the following picture, you can see that they PDA is the normal small PDA that was sold for so many years. This particular version runs on AAA batteries. This makes the PDA unbelievable useful.

The PDA runs approximately 8 hours or so on a pair of batteries. I carry anoter set of AAA batteries so I can get at least 16 hours of run time.

The great thing about a PDA is that you can use it for multiple things. I am a constant reader, and a PDA is a perfectly acceptable reading device.

As written before, I keep 8 translations of the Bible on my PDA. I also carry books, and most of the classic books have already gone to the public domain. While I have many classic books that I bought years ago, I would not buy another. I would simply download them to my PDA.

Finally, now that I have my PDA, keyboard, and camera I simple place this entire ensemble into my fanny pack that I carry with me everywhere. I admit that the fanny pack makes me geek beyond geek. However, it is the great invention in the world. I can go pretty much anywhere and have a world of entertainment at my finger tips.

However, this is a very unique system because you will not be able to buy it. The system was made by Sony, and the keyboard used to be $100. However, when Sony out of the PDA business, I bought four keyboards for $80. I then bought 4 PDAs for around $110. So for around $200, and had multiple PDAs.

I knew that I had a killer system, and I knew that carrying around PDAs as much as I do would kill them, so I bought these. I had already destroyed one PDA and one keyboard. I gave one keyboard to our Japanese sales person, so I have 3 PDAs and two keyboard left. That'll last me for another 5 years.

If I had to start over again, I'd probably get a high end windows phone using Windows PPC version 6. You can buy a bluetooth keyboard similar to the Sony one. This should give you the same package. Regardless of the exact form factor, the principle stays the same.

There are even some stronger advantages to the PDA/Phone combo. If you get an upper end phone, you will also get a camera, MP3 player, and a multifunction tool that can also be used as an alarm clock while traveling.

[Come to think of it, this makes so much sense to me that I'll be looking at maybe moving to this system in the future.]

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Spirit and Mind" -> All Choices, All At Once

Here is a picture that would like to give us just a little fraction of the Universe. Even in this picture the Universe just seems so very....Large.

However, as big as the Universe used to seem, we now have one bigger.

Have you heard of the Mulitverse?

The Universe is everything that we have have. It is very, very large. It is some 15 billion lights years long. This means that if you shine a light from one end of the universe to the other end of the universe, it will take 15 billion years for the light to make it across the Universe.

The Multiverse is much bigger, and therefore, we need to look at what this is and why people are thinking about it. However, since I am a Christian, the thoughts of a Multiverse leads me to reflections on God.

Now, when we start to talk about the multiverse, you need to realize that there are many reasons for talking about a multiverse. One of the first reasons to create a multiverse was to take care of the problem of Quantum Mechanics and the mechanism of how you collapse a wave function. When you get to really tiny pieces of matter, you find out that they don't really exist at all. They only exist when you see these little particles. This is pretty disturbing. So, instead of saying that these little particles only collapsed into reality, Hugh Everett simple suggest that all possible states happened at once, and what we were seeing was Quantum Decoherence. Although it looked like particles were popping out of nothing, in reality, the were nicely falling out of a Quantum state as they went decoherent.

Much of the above is just a side comment, however, because what we are really are interested in is the idea of multiple Universes that are highly different.

I simply don't believe that anything in nature contradicts the scriptures. So, when we can see the Universe is 15 billion light year long, this means that must be at least 15 billion years old, other wise we wouldn't be able to see these far galaxies. I don't see this as threatening to the scriptures, and I believe that the scriptures speaks of the creation of the world with a story that is fully compatible with science.

Now, I tend to believe in evolution, but I also believe in a first mover. I also have written that I consider evolution highly unlikely, therefore, the creation of life is almost vanishingly small. If you had a mass of quarters, the size of the sun, and if you had only one chance at selecting any coin at random, you have a better chance finding this unique coin out of a sun sized mass than randomly creating life.

However, it turns out that while creating life is infinitesimally small, the chance of the universe having the right fundamental constants are even smaller.

When you dig into the nature of what we are made of, we have a several forces that dominate the make up of all matter.

For example, we have the electromagnetic force. This is the building block of all electicity and magneticism. Because of atom are made up o positive charges, the atom should fly apart because like charges repell. However, it doesn't because there is another force, the strong interaction force, holding the atom together. The interaction force is extremely weak at distance, but it is strong enough to keep the atom together.

However, there is no "autoset" of these forces that is created right after the Big Bang. In other words, there is almost a zero chance that the strong force would perfectly hold atoms together. Too strong, and the atom could not properly form molecules. Too weak, and the atom would fly apart.

This is called "the fine tuned universe" principle. For a good reason. A little mistuning, and we'd be toast.

Because the math leads us to the conclusion that the chance of a stable Universe is vanishingly small, we must roll the dice an almost infinite amount of times before we get a Universe that stick around.

Therefore, we must assume that the Universe has been recreated multiple times.

For many years, the scientists simply said that the Universe was oscillation. If you remember the Big Bang story, the Universe appeared from a singularity. This means that out of something smaller than a head of the pin, all that is in the universe popped out and expanded. This explosive force is driving all the galaxies apart.

The thought is eventually the Universe stops expanding, and then reverses and falls back on itself. It is as if you saw a cosmic atom bomb go off, then the film was played in reverse and it all got sucked back together. Commonly, this is called "The Big Crunch."

What happens next?

It explodes again.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

One is going to stick.

This is called "The Big Bounce." (Who says that physicists can't give catchy phrases. These are good.)

While this sounds great, but the data is pointing out that our universe doesn't appear to be slowing at all. There is not enough mass to cause the entire universe to fall back into itself.

Since we might not expand and collapse an infinite amount of times, the other answers is that there is an infinite amount of Universes.

If this is true, perhaps other Universes are being created all time, and we are just in one of the very, very, very lucky universes. This place of many Universes is call the "multiverse."

Now one of the challenges of the multiverse is that we will never be able to see it. As one professor described it, "It is as if many different layers of paper are all separated by small gaps, and ants are running on these sheets. The ants only see there sheet of paper, although many layers of ants are just a single paper away.

Iam highly, highly attracted to this viewpoint with a minor exception. The scientist has to believe that every univese is created. I believe that God was able to conceive of ever Universe at once, then only allowed the "best end" Universe to be created.

I am violently attracted to free will. Most people dislike a God that allows pain and suffering. How could God allow a child to be killed, raped, or starve to death.

However, in my mind, the answer is obvious:

1. You can have freewill, but the consequences that come with this. God will seek to minimize the pain and suffering to result in the best of a situation.

2. You can have no freewill, but a world without pain.

You might state, "I don't understand why this is true." The truth is that you will never understand. I will never understand. However, God never asks you to understand. This is simple a need to have faith that God is faithful and true. He seeks to create and save first, and reject those that reject him.

The whole of the Bible is about freewill, and the pain that this brings.

When you look at Genesis, it says that God hovered over the waters. There are some that says that the metaverse is like a bubbly sea. At this point, God saw all possibilities. He saw all alternatives. He saw everything at once.

Out of this, he allowed the one to happen that would bring him the most glory. God hasn't created an infinitive possibilities, but he saw each one. In the world that he allowed to happen, each creature has perfect free will. The Universe was created to bring God glory. God does not force it, but he allowed it.

This allows for man to have free will, and allows God to have infinite power.