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Do you have any confidence in ATL to beat NO?

15 December 2014 - 11:59 PM

I have zero confidence in Tampa Bay to take care of business, even at home. The Saints* took care of business on the road against the Bears, who may suck, but it's still hard to dominate any team for four quarters, and the Saints* did. This means our season (assuming we win out) is going to be on the line next Sunday. The Falcons absolutely HAVE to win.


Julio Jones should be back, and the Falcons are still technically alive (if they win out and the Saints lose out they make the playoffs, right?)


Anybody think it's gonna happen?

a journey from theism - ideas, sources, commentary, questions, and a whole host of othe...

13 December 2014 - 03:39 AM

The other day a poster PMed me asking for source material that's been influential on my opinions here (thanks, Dexterity, for swallowing your pride and asking.) Since I came all the way up to the DMZ and it's been raining for the past three days and it looks like I won't be able to get boots on the Khe Sanh perimeter ( :( ) I sat down and typed up a response that was much more lengthy than I had intended. There's fug all else to do here in a monsoon. Once I sent it I decided to paste my response in here. I'm under no illusion that anyone cares about my personal journey of skepticism for my sake, but I think it's a journey relatable in a lot of ways to many of us, and it may provide some perspective to those searching for answers, no matter how uncomfortable they are.
There's a lot of material here and I haven't edited any of it, so be forewarned. There's a Calvin and Hobbes comic and a couple of illustrative charts to break up the monotony that'll reward your attentiveness towards the bottom of the post. Since I was asked about sources, they're sprinkled throughout, and catalogued at the end (which is largely the purpose of the post to begin with.) Maybe some people can get answers by reading this, whether they be doubters looking for solid ground or Christians looking to better understand agnostics and the journey of the skeptic.
compiling a list is difficult because honestly it hasn't really been books in particular that've led to my understanding of various themes like religion or historical ideas. maybe a bit of background will help. i grew up in a very conservative, fundamentalist evangelical christian household. my family was very anti-intellectual, and i was socialized in that manner. i devoured all the conservative political doctrines on talk radio, media, you name it, and as i hit my late teens i was heavily involved in evangelical churches in north carolina, and i hit secular college as the first real contact with secular education ideas (i was homeschooled all 12 years.) still that didn't deter me and i spent my first year being "that guy" in all my classes, bringing up loud conservative talking points and generally getting on everybody's nerves. i joined the USMC (later aborted due to fuging up both knees in officer candidate school) and was involved in the college republicans, where i blogged about "towelheads" and got in endless debates with libtards (transcripts which now embarrass me when i look back on them.)
around 2006, the year after i blew my knees out, i got booted from the USMC, and saw my life fall to poo before my eyes. i ended stopped caring about school (i'd never really done well in the first place) and then bombed out towards the end. i dropped out, worked odd jobs, and then had a series of calamitous events take place where my martial arts instructor and personal mentor passed away of a heart attack, among other things, and that threw my whole world upside down. it made me start questioning everything (though not really religiously) and i embarked on life with a new vigor and desire to know my place in the universe. i spent roughly a year in libraries at different universities doing nothing but researching what i believed (though i later realized this was a farce.) i started with epistemological stuff like descartes, trying to come up with a founding point for knowledge, and then went into existentialism (which i today carry a deep appreciating for) in the works of guys like blaise pascal (he's dark as fug but he's been a major influence on me) and even schopenhauer (though he's generally just a giant rainy-day pessimist.) for the former, read penees, it's his seminal work, i think still deeply relevant as a personal philosophical approach even though pascal's wager, which he is generally best known for, can adequately be dismissed.


from there i jumped directly into apologetics, which is the defense of the christian faith, since through existentialism i had determined that god's existence was, indeed, a fact. i got into lee strobel really heavily, absorbing anti-evolution creation "science" and all the proofs offered that the earth is indeed young. i read john polkinghorne's "Belief in God in an Age of Science" which was influential because even though i was generally looking to just confirm what i already believed, he noted that he (as a british philosopher and christian) couldn't understand why "certain north american apologeticists" insisted upon arguing for young earth creationism as the fulcrum of their beliefs. plenty of other apologetics, i learned, believed in god and creation but also accepted evolution as a fact. this was interesting to me, and was perhaps hit that cracked the nut. all the existentialism caught up to me around this time (almost six years ago, fug) and i decided everything was meaningless but god and i sold almost everything i owned and bought a one-way ticket to australia and launched off on an adventure with a backpack and a bicycle. i spent the next couple of months backpacking around australia (the bike trip failed) and ended up in southeast asia, where i encountered non-western culture for the first time. it was a profoundly altering experience, although i didn't really realize it at the time. it gave me something of a spark intellectually, and raised a number of questions about people and experience, and when i returned home i re-enrolled in my university to finish my degree in history.


around this time (actually right before the beginning of the 2008 season, but i wasn't really active until early 2009) i signed up for the carolinahuddle.com.


back in college, the first class i took was a course on evolution. i still clung to young earth creationism, but i decided it was possible that evolution was legit, and on the coattails of polkinghorne i launched into studies, with the admirable goal of blending science and faith, which i decided were not mutually exclusive things. it lent me a vigor and a strength and i devoured texts. i learned evolution's background and the history of the question of speciation, all the foundational leading-ups to it, biologically and zoologically and geologically and geographically that i think most people never really get a grasp of, even though it's deeply important. it was a history course on evolution though, not a biological one, so we never really jumped too heavily into theory, and my knowledge of it was still incomplete (to that point, the only information i had on evolutionary biology was a sophomore-year high school homeschool biology course through an abekabook program entitled "biology: studying's god's creation" which presented a straw-man version of evolution and made in-depth, compelling arguments such as "look at all these monkeys pounding a keyboard! the chances of them accidentally writing a book are 1 in 1^10 999999999999 which means evolutionists are crazy to think the universe just happened!" which totally made sense to me at the time.)

i came out of that semester convinced god created the earth, but also much less certain about its age. i took the middle point of "it doesn't really matter" because theologically it doesn't really have anything to do with salvation (a point heralded by some in my circle as forward-thinking, but by most as crossing the doctrine of scriptural infallibility; if the bible was not to be taken literally, how could we be sure our salvation was correct?) i was posting pretty heavily in the tinderbox around this time, too, iirc. i remember debating cat really heavily and getting lots of pstall positive rep (my how the times have changed. lol) in particular i remember snatching lee strobel books off the shelf to show cat that jesus WAS TOO referenced by tacitus. take that, cat.
the next couple of years are kind of a blur as far as what i began to believe and the sources that i began to read and absorb. i finished my history degree in spring of 2011. my GPA was bombed because of my prior lack of caring about my grades and i couldn't get into grad school, which at that point i wanted to do, so i started tossing around ideas for continuing education. i went to peru on a backpacking trip with a couple of buddies and met an awesome-ass archaeologist there, and we hung out with her for a week or so and when i got back i decided anthropology and archaeology would be a great way to integrate my desire to travel with a new-found pursuit of intellectualism. around this time a church in greensboro that i'd been attending for a long time became much less attractive to me when the head pastor left, and my wife and i decided to bounce to a new church with founding members that i'd known from early college days. it was a church plant and i jumped on board and became heavily involved in leading worship, a relationship that would last several years. during this time i was constantly absorbing new information and reading new books. i applied to an anthropology program and got accepted and started in fall 2012.
this is where the cracked nut split open. at the time, i was a committed christian, but i was also turning into a liberal christian. my theology was increasingly rejecting certain absolutes; like, for instance, the very absoluteness theology could even offer, since i began to recognize that its changes over time made it unlikely that it wouldn't change again. i was allowing myself to question some very basic tenets of christianity, though i still clung to them. epistemologically, i began to realize that there were certain things i would never know until i explored them myself; the age of the earth, for instance, required me to have some kind of faith one way or another to truly know the answer. i realized that i was currently having faith that lee strobel and the apologetics crew was right about the age of the earth, since i didn't have any firsthand experience with the evidence myself; to get an answer for sure i'd have to actually get my hands dirty and not just look at the evidence as presented through a certain lens, but get involved in the process of mining that data and assembling it myself. this was part of my motivation for getting into archaeology.
needless to say, when i hit the program my head exploded. i realized it was fuging impossible to argue against veritable mountains of evidence that the world isn't 6000 fuging years old. even though i was ok with that already, within the first couple of weeks i realized the folly of arguing otherwise. it was simply impossible to throw out all the evidence i encountered without just burying my head in the sand or decrying it as satan's deceit. further, when i discussed these things among my friends at my church, the responses i got rubbed me the wrong way for the first time. "why don't you just have faith?" they'd ask.
have faith in what? that i'm right? that you're right? have faith that everything i'm seeing is evidence that i shouldn't just have faith? of course these are all things i'd said a million times myself to those other evolution-beliving lost souls, but now for the first i was beginning to see the flaws in that line of thinking. moreover, i was getting constantly exposed to the scientific process, and learning how to think scientifically for the first time. i also had my first-ever biological anthropology class, where i encountered for the first time in my life actual theory of evolution. around this time i solidified a fundamental problem that i'd been tossing around in my mind with unnamed terms for a while: arguing from predetermined conclusion is bad. it had been a long, slow push on a rudder rather than a quick flip of a steering wheel, but i had subtly changed direction, changed lenses in how i viewed the world (or, more importantly, how i gathered information about the world around me and what i did with it.) instead of accepting or rejecting data (information, ideas, etc.) based on whether or not they fit my predetermined conclusions, i began to use that data to build my worldview and draw my conclusions based on the available data. it was a major change, and in that same semester i began to encounter previously unheard of (to me) information about north american archaeology that i had never before considered in theological equations. i was beginning to realize that to accept a good and loving god - and the salvation he offered - was to allow for that same good, loving god to damn indians born before contact with europeans to hell for the accident of their place and time of birth, or (as most of my friends did) to simply deny that native american history lasted that long in north america. bringing that up made them very uncomfortable. most of them didn't want to think about it or talk about it. "why don't you just have faith?" they asked.
faith in what? that i'm right no matter what the evidence says? that you're right? that your theology is right? what if you lived five hundred years ago and had faith that shem, ham, and japheth had gone to europe, africa, and asia and that therefore native americans must be spawns of the devil? don't doubt god! just kill them all, they're spawns of the devil! that's what people did until pope paul II i think authored a papal bull that declared them as human beings (how progressive of him.) any other number of faith-demands can be cited since then that prisoners of those times were bludgeoned with when questioning the dogmatic principles of the day. just have faith!
this is where my beliefs began to take a serious nosedive. it was giving me serious personal problems; i'd taken for granted just how nice it was to be sure of exactly what you believed. "if you don't believe in something you'll believe in anything," the popular christian truism went. i recognized the tremendous folly of that statement, but also realized it came from the secure positioning of being unassailably right, and that was something i missed. it was much easier to go about your daily routines embodying something unquestionable, some way of life that's just how things were, then to constantly walk the tightwire of knowledge and the questions that attaining it spawned. i mean damn, once you know things it just complicates your world and leads to shades of gray. who the fug wants that? i'm reminded of this calvin and hobbes cartoon

the thing about a faith is that you don't just change your mind overnight. say your faith is composed of 50 different parts, composed like a grid. i made one below. let's say the green dots represent the accepted parts of your faith that you follow. here is what a committed, conservative christian generally looks like:
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
pretend each one of those dots represents something you believe. maybe the first dot is the agency of prayer. maybe the second dot is that jesus rose from the dead. maybe the third dot is that homosexuality is a sin… etc. anyway that's a good christian right there, a normal christian. now let's say you change your mind on some things:
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
in that above case, suddenly you have a christian who's basically taken secular, or theologically incorrect or deviant positions on some issues. maybe that above christian doesn't believe the earth is 6,000 years old. maybe that christian thinks that dispensationalism (the idea that god acts differently in different times) is legit. toss in a few more changes and you've got that guy above. he's become something of a deviant, a loose cannon. he's definitely still a christian (look how green he is) but he's a more liberal christian.
now take this next guy:
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
holy fuging poo! this guy still believes in the existence of god, believes in spirituality, and believes that the teachings of jesus christ are transcendent, but damn, he doesn't believe in pretty much anything else at all! he doesn't believe the bible is literally true, nor the word of god in any meaningful sense, and he denies the doctrine of heaven and hell, doesn't believe in salvation in any literal sense, thinks doing the gay is ok, etc. can he even call himself a christian anymore?
^ that was me. i'd changed my mind on countless viewpoints as the world opened up before me. as my cosmology shifted to one that was modern and not mosaic, i realized that certain views were simply the product of ancient understandings about how the world worked, how it was ordered, and how fortunes, good or bad, were effects of a deity's tinkering. that framework hasn't really changed in several thousand years, and it is embodied in the fundamental beliefs of today's evangelical christian church. instrumental in this understanding was the much-decried episcopalian bishop john shelby spong, whose works have been foundational for the modern christian in the past two decades. in particular, his "jesus for the non-religious" and "why christianity much change or die" are absolute must-reads for the christian (or spiritual) person who is seeking actual answers to challenges to his or her faith.
jumping on spong's ideas allowed me to take the position of a post-theist, which is an idea with roots in hinduism actually iirc, which rejects theism as an adequate framework for understanding the world in modernity. in addition it suggests that an understanding of god is limited by cultural frameworks, and thus that there is no such thing as a-theism, since the god you disbelieve is framed by those cultural conceptions. in truth, it's functionally a form of agnosticism; i have largely adopted it for political reasons (imagine spending your entire life in the christian tradition, all your family and best friends committed evangelical christians, and then imagine one day telling them you're a damned atheist. "post-theist" sounds so much fuging better.)
in the time since then, free of theological constraints that confound so much thought, i have burgeoned in my attempts to understand the world around me. interesting, i have also found it much easier to love other people unconditionally and accept them for who they are, since i'm not looking at them through a paradigm of saved or not-saved. in the past two years, since reaching this point, i have embarked on advanced studies in anthropology, solidifying ideas that've heavily influenced my thoughts on social issues like government, race, politics, etc. studying the formation of human societies from the ground up provides incredibly insightful pieces of information on such issues. histories of thought in the past three hundred years have also been foundational; essentialism, for instance, is a thought that can be found embedded in countless texts pre-1900s (and post-1900s, unfortunately, and in fact in the tinderbox disguised as terms like "their culture.")
so with all that said, as i compose a list of sources that have guided me along this path, there are two things to make a note of: (1) i can't just point out books because each book has come in a particular context. some books are narrowly focused, on a specific subject, but come in the context of a wider understanding. for instance, the only source i am familiar with regarding essentialism comes from reading excerpts from german philosopher johann herder and then a history of anthropology's use and misuse during WWII by david price. those are great sources, but if you're trying to feel these topics out, they're not really appropriate. i have never read a book specifically that dealt with essentialism as a subject, but i'm sure they're out there. (2) it's important to note that almost everything i've encountered as an idea has been tested rigorously by constant dialogue about it. from facebook posts to brain dumping into threads and topics on the huddle, i've constantly subjected all these thoughts to review from my peers. such input has been invaluable in refining these ideas and offering other perspectives and sources. in other words, books alone are not enough. they are the core, probably, of what you are looking for, but you must integrate other modes of learning with them to truly round yourself on the issues present.
now that i've exhausted you (and me actually) here's a final list of books that i have found deeply influential (and this isn't including very important academic journal articles, of which there are countless) :
Why christianity must change or die - J.S. Spong
Jesus for the non-religious - J.S. Spong
Penseés - Blaise Pascal
Anti-intellectualism in american life - Richard Hoffstadter
The Age of american unreason - susan jacoby
Frauds, myths, and mysteries in archaeology - kenneth feder
The Dark side of archaeology - actually it got posted by salon, read it here
All quiet on the western front - erich remarque
Blood, germs, and steel - jared diamond (though i reject biological determinism, i think)
Misquoting jesus - bart ehrmann
Belief in god in an age of science - john polkinghorne (though i haven't read it since i still believe teh gayz were bad)
this is an appallingly short list, possibly due to the fact that i don't have my bookshelf in front of me, but they jump out as sources that are both influential to me and also easily accessible to the general audience (in the sense of not being focused elsewhere. as i said, price's work on WWII anthropology was useful to discussing essentialism for me, but i'm sure there are other, more directly-focused works on it.)
books i recommend based on what i've heard cited and reviewed:
The Mismeasure of man - steven j gould (supposedly great read on essentialist ideas, refutes them by responded to noted racist asshat charles murray, who i believe has been cited multiple times on this forum, prob by twylight)
Zealot: the life and times of jesus christ - reza aslan
Freethinkers: a history of american skepticism - susan jacoby
Breaking the spell - daniel dennett
again, these are great starting points, but hardly a replacement for also constantly asking questions and seeking answers. not arguing from conclusion, but actively seeking out new information free of the constraints of cherry-picking answers. i don't know if you're in position to do so, but you might also explore these questions through a university; either by taking classes (or auditing them, some places let you do it for free) in a humanities program, either in religious studies or anthropology (i recommend the latter for obvious reasons, and it generally includes religious studies anyway.) and jump into the tinderbox. obviously you read it if you came across those posts; jump in with your opinions and questions. it's been foundational to me, a formative part of my experience in understanding the world around me because of the collective knowledge of the people who contribute to it.
good luck and i hope this helps.

finding an offline mobile device

08 December 2014 - 07:58 PM

so despite this being my fifth time to southeast asia i fell for the oldest trick in the book. a few days ago my credit card info was stolen and i had to have a new ATM card mailed to me, but it didn't get here in time for my departure, so the cash i have with me is going to have to last me the whole trip, which means i'm cutting every cost i can. i like walking, so taxis are expendable, and after landing at the airport i decided to walk the four miles to my hotel.


three blocks from my destination a couple of girls zip up on a motorbike, flag me down. the lead one is acting all friendly… my first thought was prostitutes, since it's 3am in vietnam. she pulled up and asked me a couple of questions, and i was eager to use the vietnamese i've been studying for the past month, and started answering them and conversing in vietnamese… then suddenly before i know what's happening the other one slides a hand into my pocket and they take the fug off and leave me standing in the dust wondering what the hell just happened… and then i realized it was gone.


anyway i was in rage mode all night, hostel i made reservations at wouldn't answer the door, i had to find another place, and the wifi wouldn't work there, so i couldn't use find my iphone until the morning when they reset the router, and by then the damn thing had been turned off. it's listed now as an offline device… any of you tech-savvy guys have any ideas on how to track it down? i thought you couldn't turn GPS off of the phones so you could track it even if it was turned off. If someone wipes the phone, does that kill the GPS signal when they do turn it back on?

All these threads (and national dialogue) about race are fundamentally misguided.

06 December 2014 - 12:00 AM

Simply put, specific highlighted cases of police brutality have become nothing more than proxy wars for two competing frameworks of understanding the nature of race and class in America. One narrative says that America is free and everyone has an equal shot and racism is the thing of the past, and anyone's shortcoming is his own fault; the other says that racism is deeply ingrained in social structure and institutionalized in the police force. When battles ensue over Michael Brown, the decision is appropriated in a specific way that has little to do with the truth of that specific situation. If Michael Brown did attack that cop and try to take his gun, it's a victory for the "racism is dead and everyone is equal" crowd.


And that's where national dialogue is misguided. When I see things like hashtag white crime, I see a war of anecdotes: black people recounting times they were pulled over and white people countering with times they were pulled over. Neither provide quantitative data and cannot count for anything in isolation.


What we ought to be doing is not acting like the Brown case's decision decides whether or not American social structure is racist. We ought to be gathering hard evidence of social inequalities and demanding an answer: are we saying black people just can't handle this poo or are we going to admit that larger society has produced conditions where they're falling short? There's no middle ground. Provide the data as a backbone and then the anecdotes are given the flavor of qualitative data rather than… well… anecdotes.


Here is some qualitative data that may prove enlightening:





It's really not much more than a remake of this classic:





As these videos illustrate, unconscious perceptions of blackness exist in the mind of otherwise good, caring, everyday all-American citizens. No one in these videos would have described themselves as racist, but they cast judgement on skin color all the same. How hard is it to believe that law enforcement officers are subject to the same unconscious biases? Could it be that we're flawed in trying to tick off dead white people for every black person killed by a cop? Could it be that we ought to be examining how these unconscious biases select black people unevenly for doing the same things white people do?


While you're pondering this, read an article about the skewed perception of black humanity by brittney cooper, who argues that different epistemological frameworks (fancy terms for how you know what you know) of white people versus black people, who grow up in quite different environments, lead to a deep disconnect. A good example of how conceptual frameworks are disconnected from one another is the "the black community is making advances!" trope which actually means "finally blacks don't suck as bad." Chris Rock (of all people) explains it best



When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it's all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they're not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before…


So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship's improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, "Oh, he stopped punching her in the face."


It's not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn't. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let's hope America keeps producing nicer white people.




It sounds so obvious when he says it like that. In fact, hearing it comes as a surprise: you never meant anything racist by saying something as innocent as "black community is advancing!" when in fact your intended niceness was actually steeped in unconscious perceptions of blackness that positions it as something to be fixed in relation to whiteness, the norm.


Perhaps we can use these examples as a lens into how good intentions do not mean racism doesn't exist, and use the identification of a clear and present problem serve as a catalyst for a solution.

help me figure out how to watch this shitty team play on sunday

03 December 2014 - 01:59 PM

I am a businessmen's best friend: buying a shitty, inferior product because I'm addicted enough to it that I'll keep dumping my time and resources into it no matter how bad it is. I wish I had more control, but I can't not watch it.


Anyway, I'm flying to Vietnam this weekend. I deliberately scheduled my flights so I wouldn't be in the air during the game, but now I've got to figure out the best way to watch it. I land in San Francisco on layover at 12:30 EST, which gives me a half an hour to check into my international flight before kickoff. Does anyone have recommendations about the best way to watch this? I've never been to the airport in San Fran before… are there sports bars there that'll be showing all the games? Has anybody ever used the NFL instant access or whatever it is to watch games on mobile devices? If so how did it work?


Worst case I'll sit there with NFL game center pulled up on my laptop, but I'd rather watch the ass-kicking on an actual broadcast. Much like the 2013 season was sweeter after having watched every poo-ass game of the 2010 season, I expect next year's superbowl run will be that much sweeter for having watched the Saints drop ninety on us in the fuging airport.


Thanks and god bless

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