Monday, February 28, 2011

In which I don't care how preachy I sound.

All I can say is argh. Argh argh argh argh argh.

If there's one thing that cheeses me off, it's the "historical Jesus" meme, particularly of the "great teacher but not God/great teacher but not supernatural" bent. In a way, I find it more bothersome than the "didn't exist at all" line of thinking, and here's why: The whole idea is that man cannot achieve a state of grace by his own efforts, yeah? So if you do away with the belief in Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God, where does that leave you?

The gentleman profiled in the linked article, one John Dominic Crossan, repeats the oft-sounded claim he wants to make Jesus more "accessible". Basically, he's doing away with all that troublesome stuff about absolute sin and salvation. Why not focus on the more, I dunno, realistic applications of Jesus' teachings? Break that down and what he really means by "accessible" is "easy".

Nothing about following Jesus is supposed to be "easy".

Following Christ means admitting, in the deepest, darkest, most hidden part of yourself, that you can't save yourself on your own. It means giving up all ideas of ever being adequate on your own merits. It means letting go of ever being good enough, of ever being in charge of your ultimate destiny. It means giving up your right to yourself. That is the hardest thing a human being can ever, ever do. Anyone who thinks it would be easy is fooling himself, full stop.

The second step in the process, after admitting that you can't make yourself acceptable, is to accept the idea that God already did it for you, and did so through the death and resurrection of Jesus as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.* There is no other way around it. "Being a good person" simply will not cut it.**

Once that's over with, though, the rest is gravy. Not easy gravy -- it's definitely a life-long process that requires rethinking everything you ever knew about everything -- but gravy nonetheless. That's what sets Christianity, at its core, apart from other religion, which is why I was chewing the walls at the beginning of this post. Either you try to make it on your own merits, or you admit that you can't -- there is no in-between. Claiming salvation via "Oh, Jesus had some good points, didn't he" simply will not cut it. That's not Christianity. That's wine that's been turned into water.

On a similar note, for a man who claims to love the Bible, Crossan seems to have missed the "God or madman" lecture when he was in school. Either Jesus was the Son of God, or he wasn't -- and if he wasn't, he was either a fantastic liar or completely off his gourd. Given that his core followers died horrible, screaming and/or lonely deaths without ever recanting, the latter two options seem highly unlikely. For someone who wants to get down to "reality" in religion, Crossan has to ignore an awful lot of questions to reach that point. Handwaving of that magnitude has no place in serious scholarship, although how much serious scholarship truly exists in the post-modern marketplace is a subject for another day. But my main point remains that to paint Jesus as "a good teacher" or "a great man" is to completely miss the point of the whole endeavor.

This universe does, in fact, function in black and white. They're called "hard truths" for a reason. Watering them down to make them more palatable and easier to swallow is like cooking all the vitamins out of vegetables to make them taste better. If you want to make something more accessible, you make it easier to sign up for the entrance exam. You don't dumb down the choices people have to make once they start the test. That does no one any favors.

*I absolutely believe in the historical veracity of these documents. Short version: Acts predates Paul's execution ca. 62 AD; Acts is Luke, part II; Luke and Matthew borrow heavily from Mark, with all three sharing text that points to an even earlier lost document; ergo, at least three of the four gospels were written within 30 years of the events depicted. Luke, in particular, makes a point of having sought out eyewitnesses. John, meanwhile, was written by the apostle himself. QED.

**What about people who have never heard the gospel? Frankly, like everything else, that's between them and whatever understanding of God they have. (And I don't mean that all religions are the same, either, because they're not. Again, it's a topic that deserves its own post.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

"It's not fair" means "it's someone else's responsibility".

Victor Davis Hanson is a very intelligent and well-reasoned man. Go, read and be like him.

Notes for Friday because it's FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY

-- I'm not a terrifically unlucky person, and I do my best to stay above it/bull through it when my turn comes around. That said, when it comes to my status as a part-time cripple, I could stand to work on my timing. At least it's supposed to warm up this weekend.

-- Got some extra time this weekend? Here are some people (currently in Illinois) who would love to hear from their fellow Hoosiers. I recommend calling between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. this weekend. Everybody knows those are the fun time to get a phone call!

-- The kitty I mentioned yesterday (who just needed some love and pet and attention and got it in spades last night and now she's behaving herself again) has cheap tastes in cat food. I can buy a 10 lb. bag of cat chow for $10 and it'll last for, I dunno, four or five months. Except I bought a bag on my most recent trip to the store, and the price had gone up by almost $1.60. I wasn't surprised. This whole week has had kind of an apocalyptic feel to it, but not in the "zombies are coming" sense. More in the "everything's changing and all we can do is change with it" sense. Do I think everything will completely fall apart tomorrow and we'll all be scrabbling for food in the wilderness? No, no I don't. Am I going to start buying a few bulk staples, just in case? Yes, yes I am. The "system" isn't going to go away overnight, but it can fall apart alarmingly fast. I want to be able to hold out until things are up and running again (whatever that looks like).

-- OMG kittehs! Maru loves boxes, but here's a box that stumps him! Whatever will Maru do?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Anybody want an insane cat?

Today I had to drop $50 for a new phone because my old one broke. Why did it break? My cat knocked over a cup of water and soaked it, which shorted the screen. It's a touch-screen phone, so I can't do anything with it. I know the phone itself still works because it beeps and chirps and warbles when I turn it on, but the screen is just a big blank nothing and if I tried to use it, I'd probably pocket-dial the president or something. So I went on Sprint, spent $50 that I really can't spare and picked up a phone with an actual number pad (it's really a pretty nice phone; it's refurbished, which is why it was cheap(er than the other options). Normally I go the "upgrade your account and get the phone for cheap as free" route, but I did that less than a year ago to get the phone that's currently broken.

To add insult to injury, my cat didn't knock over the cup because she brushed past it, or because she jumped up on the side table and didn't know it was there. Oh no. No, she wanted attention, so she stood on her cute little hind legs so she could see up on the table, reached across with her cute little front paw, and deliberately batted the cup to knock it over. It spilled on my phone, on the carpet, on the recliner and on me before I caught it and set it back up. There was maybe half a cup of water left. She knew what she was doing; she immediately scurried off to the bathroom and peeked out at me from behind the doorframe. I managed to get up and dump the rest of the water on her.

Unfortunately, in the fuss of the initial spill, I didn't notice that my phone was sitting in a pool of water until it rang about 20 minutes later and the screen went from "dark" to "Tango Uniform" on me. I took out the battery and stuck the whole thing in rice overnight, but it was too late. It was dead, Jim. So I bit the bullet and dropped the cash and now I'm without a phone until the new one gets here in the mail. Ironically, I kept my old-old phone for a while in case something like this happened, but then said to myself "Nah, I'll be fine with just the one" and sent it off to be recycled scavenged for rare-earth elements in some hellish factory in China. It still worked; I could have just switched back for freesies and been back in business within 24 hours. *headdesk headdesk headdesk*

Also: I'm (half) serious about the title to this post. Anybody want a cat? She's very cute and affectionate when she's not being crazy. She'd make a good mouser, and would be happiest if she had access to the outdoors. (You'll have to update her shots; I keep her inside now because we've got 'coons.) I just bought a giant bag of cat food (she likes the cheap stuff; that's a plus), so I'll throw that in if you want her. Plus she likes the "World's Best Cat Litter" stuff that's made from corn. (It's great stuff: sure, it's $30 for the big bag, but that bag will last you most of the year. Very economical, and absolutely no odor at all.) She likes to chase the plastic rings you get when you open a jug of milk; she likes tuna, but doesn't eat table scraps or raw meat. She will get into your food if you're not careful, so watch her while you're cooking. I'd put up a picture of her but they were all on my phone. I'll keep her (for now) if nobody wants her, but criminy if she's not getting hard to put up with.

(I should probably point out that she bites. Why, it's almost like I'm just annoyed and don't really want to part with her yet. Sheesh.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crud crud crud crud crud.

Two Saturdays ago a certain someone took me to Fogo de Chao (which was aMAZing) for Valentine's Day. I gots myself all dolled up in my red dress and some Little Black Flats that I bought for the occasion. I could walk in them without ankle pain, so after dinner we went strolling around downtown for a little bit. (We had an early reservation and wound up with most of the evening to kill.) At the time, I felt fine, and I rested my feet the rest of the weekend. Things should have been dandy.

They weren't.

Unfortunately, a couple days of not walking much doesn't seem to have been enough. Something's gone funny on the sliced-and-diced side, and as much as I hate to admit it, I can no longer walk without a noticeable limp. Righty needs full rest for several days -- probably a week. Which means I get fun time on the Crutchinator 3000s, starting as soon as I get home from work today.

The weirdest part is having to remind myself that this is not a personal failure. I'm still learning my limits, and hard experience is how that happens. I was fooling myself about what I could safely do, and now I'm paying the price for that. The upside is that I won't have to worry about that particular bug-a-boo again -- it hurts like hell and crutches are a major pain, both of which make quite an impression on the long-term memory. I simply cannot walk any distance without ankle support of some kind. Indoors, outdoors, it doesn't matter -- I can go about a block, and that's it. At the very least, I need a simple wrap to help keep things in line; otherwise, it's just too much stress on the repair. I'm pretty much stuck with cute little boots from here on out.

Oh darn.

P.S. Fogo? Seriously: It is the Mecca of All Things Meat.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I really, really hope I'm overthinking this.

I like The Plain White Tees. They're a happy little band that sings happy little songs, and they make me smile. However, their latest song, "Rhythm of Love", raises some disturbing questions. (You can listen to it and read the lyrics here.)

Now then: The song is written as an address to the person in front of the singer -- "We may only have tonight, but 'til the morning sun you're mine", etc. BUT: The first two verses speak of a third party -- "She says 'Boy, quit fooling around'"; "She's got blue eyes deep like the sea"; etc. Only the third verse addresses the person spoken to in the chorus, and it ties back to said chorus in a weird way: "And long after I'm gone/you'll still be humming along/And I will keep you in my mind/The way you make love so fine". This leads to an obvious (and disheartening) conclusion: The singer is about to leave his current girl for greener pastures, but they're having one last fling before he goes. The only other explanation is that the songwriter failed to grasp the idea of voice continuity, and that's depressing in an entirely different way. Stupid poppy pop songs.

The worst part: This would never have occurred to me if I wasn't such a massive grammar nerd. *facepalm*

Monday, February 21, 2011

IANAFC: Waffles (and a note on the weekend)

It was finally warm enough to hang around outside, so The Jack fired up the grill on Saturday for making smoky meaty noms. Let it be known that he makes the best dang grillburger I've ever had, bar none. They didn't need anything but a bun, a dab of yellow mustard and some thick-cut Clausen pickles. Sadly, I don't have the recipe for that, so you get the waffles I made on Sunday, instead.

Waffles, a la JoC64: Sift together 1.75 cups flour, 1 t. cream o tartar, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt and 3T. sugar. Next, plug in the waffle iron to heat. In a separate bowl, beat together 1.5 c. 2% milk, 3 egg yolks and 4 T. melted butter. WAIT TO MIX. In a third bowl, take the three egg whites you wound up with in the last round and whip them to stiff peaks. NOW, make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and whisk thoroughly, but do not overbeat. Fold in the egg whites, grease the waffle iron with a touch of olive oil and [I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how to use a waffle iron.] I find that a six-minute cook time works well with this recipe; however, appliances vary, and so will your mileage. To store until serving, place on a cooling rack in the center of a warm oven. They'll get soggy if you put them on a plate; if that's what you want, more power to you. Eat with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The white, fluffy doom is gone! Finally!

So it took, what, two? three? weeks for all the ice and snow to melt off my driveway, which means I no longer take my life (and ankles) into my hands when I go out to the car in the morning. My prediction: This will last about a week, and then we'll get socked with another blizzard and everyone will be all OMG SNOWMAGGEDON again (or all OMG SNOWwhatever, I got stuff to do; it's pretty much a coin-toss by this point in the season).

That said: This comic had me cracking up all over, mostly due to the guy's expression in the first panel in the right-hand column. The artist managed to capture that mix of irritation and irrational, seething hatred of all things weather-related that comes to all most adults when waking up to an unexpected snowfall. I used to say winter was my favorite season, but I think I'm revising that to autumn. And I don't even have a long commute. Things will get interesting when I eventually move.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"Innocent bystander" doesn't mean "idly standing by"

Brazen jewelry heist pro tip of the day: 1) Do it at night, for heaven's sake; 2) Watch out for Granny. Those big old-lady handbags can really pack a wallop.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday Morning Hot Cup of DOOOOOOOOOOOM

Via the headlines at Ace of Spades, here's a link to a chart that plots U.S. unemployment/job loss in the recessions after WWII.

The thick red line is the right-now line. Everybody say "Wheeeeeeeeee!"*

*I would also have accepted "Geronimo", "O captain, my captain", a complete recitation of "The Wreck of the Hesperus" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or your best impression of Bender saying "Welp, we're boned."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I Am Not A Fast Cook: Blueberry Coffee Cake

I adapted this recipe from, what else, Joy of Cooking '64. (I would walk through fire to save that book. It is definitely included in my bug-out bag.)

Sift together 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 t. kosher salt, 1 t. cream of tartar and 1/2 t. baking soda. Cream 1/4 c. softened butter and beat in 1/2 c. sifted sugar, 1 egg (room temperature), 2/3 c. 2% milk and 1/2 t. vanilla extract. Beat until smooth, mix thoroughly with dry ingredients (do not overstir) and fold in 1 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen, makes no difference). Pour into a greased 8x8x2" pan, scraping the bowl, and cover the top with a streusel (2 T. flour, 2 T. cold butter and 5 T. sugar, cut together with a fork or in a food processor). Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 35 minutes (test with a toothpick at the 25-minute mark). Cut into squares and serve warm. Enjoy!