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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Texas SBOE Elections

TEA LogoElection Day is soon to be upon us. In fact, early voting has already started. So, I figured it would be worth posting a bit about the school board election. I've written quite a bit about our State Board of Education (SBOE) in the past. For a pretty thorough listing, go to this entry, Texas Primary Results for SBOE, and scroll to the bottom for a list of all the times I've discussed our SBOE. To quote one sentence from that entry to describe the situation in the state, "An extreme right-wing faction has pulled some sleazy and dishonest stunts over the past few years, from last minute back door dealings that not all board members were privy to, to trying to inject creationism into science, to trying to change history standards to some alternative reality." Thankfully, many of those far right members were voted out in the last election, and some more lost in the primaries this year. But, the extremists didn't disappear. Some are still up for reelection, and there are some new ones on the ballot. So those of us in the state that care about our children's education need to turn out at the polls this year to ensure that good board members are elected.

I'll add that this isn't exactly a partisan issue. While all of the extremists are/were Republicans, not all of the Republicans are extremists. So look at the candidate's positions and vote for the ones that look to be the best qualified regardless of what letter appears behind their name.

For more information on the candidates, the best resource is the Texas Freedom Network. Here are links to a few pages on their site that will help inform you for the SBOE election.

I also found a right wing site that sent questionnaires to the candidates and got responses from mostly Republican candidates. If you navigate through that site, you can find their response.

If you're unsure of which district you're in due to the recent redistricting, there's a very hand online tool to help you out with that. You type in your address, and it will tell you your district and representative for U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, State Senators, State Representatives, and SBOE.

I have to admit that I'm already cringing for the expected result for the SBOE representative for my district. Thanks to the redistricting and then a loss in the primaries, I'm no longer represented by Gail Lowe (one of the past extremists). But the candidate that looks poised to win the spot for my district this time around is Marty Rowley, who looks to be just as bad if not worse than Lowe. His website had the following statement that's a big red flag, "I support allowing our Texas teachers and schoolchildren to look at all sides of scientific theories, including evolution, intelligent design and global warming, without fear of recrimination." I've written about this issue before in Strengths and Limitations. It's not an attempt to provide the best information to students, but a type of weasel phrase that creationists/denialists use to try to teach discredited creationist/denialist ideas.

Even worse than his stance on science, when I looked at his answers to that Heritage Alliance questionnaire, I found this. In response to the statement, "It is the government's responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.", he disagreed. That is mind boggling. Out of all the possible roles government could have, this to me is one of the least questionable. A government of, by, and for the people should certainly ensure that the people receive a proper education. Democracy just doesn't work without a well educated citizenry. Our population is already ignorant enough. Does he want to leave education in the hands of the already ignorant?

Here are a few of the other questions/statements from that questionnaire. I'm sure that even without following the link to the Heritage Alliance site that you can guess how Rowley responded. "Biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution should be rejected by the Board." "I support the History and Social Studies curriculum standards approved by the State Board of Education in 2010." "I support school counseling or teaching about homosexuality." "I support displaying the Ten Commandments in public school buildings." "Any teaching to children on sex education in public schools must include all contraceptive methods, and should not show preference to abstinence."

His opponent, the good guy, is Steven Schafersman. I've followed Schafersman's articles on the Texas Observer, and I think he would make a good member of the BOE. Unfortunately, he just doesn't have the support that Rowley has. I can no longer recall where I found it, but I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Rowley had raised significantly more funds for his campaign than Schafersman, and it's really no surprise which way this part of Texas leans.

So like I said already, research the candidates in your district, and make sure to get out there on Election Day and vote for the most qualified one. Our children don't need any more disservice like they've gotten from past extremists.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Reflections on Halloween

I posted this as a comment on Pharyngula earlier this month, and to be honest, it will probably be read by more people there even buried in the comments than it will here as its own entry, but I still wanted to include it here, and maybe expand on it a bit. I have written along similar lines before in Halloween Recap, which also has a few pictures of how we've decorated the house the past few years.

Jack O'LanternI've always liked Halloween. Part of the fun is the costumes. I've always made my own, and some have been pretty involved. One year I was a werewolf, where my parents put a prosthetic nose and ears on me, along with a bunch of extra facial hair (I didn't need a wig thanks to my unruly natural hair). Another year I made a dinosaur, starting with some boxes, plastic grocery bags, and cotton balls, till the final costume was over 6' tall. My daughter has had some pretty good costumes, too. My wife helped her out a lot when she was younger, one year sewing her a mummy costume that had her bandaged from head to foot.

Between the different places I've lived, I've gotten to experience Halloween different ways. In elementary and middle school, we lived out in the country. Not backwoods deep country, but rural enough that walking around my neighborhood wasn't much of an option. So, trick or treating those years consisted mostly of driving around with one of my friends to houses of people we knew and knocking on their doors. (The corllary is that we never got many trick or treaters at our house, so we had left over candy every year.) We always saved a certain house for last. There was an old couple that lived there, and they'd invite us in for hot spiced cider and cookies.

My freshman year of high school, we'd moved to a traditional suburban housing development (Lake Linganore for anyone familiar with Maryland). A girl and I were the only high school students on our street, so we were the chaperones, taking all the smaller kids around the rest of the development. That was the most candy I've ever gotten on Halloween.

The rest of high school and then college and immediately afterwards were understandably devoted more to parties than trick or treating. I do remember though, when they brought underprivileged kids trick or treating in the dorms.

The first few years taking my daughter trick or treating were here in the city of Wichita Falls. It's not a very urban city. Our neighborhood at the time was a lot of nice houses on small lots - pretty much like the setting in most Halloween movies I've seen.

When we moved to a different neighborhood with a reputation as one of the nicer neighborhoods in town, we were completely unprepared for our first Halloween there. We ran out of candy within half an hour, and when my wife ran out to get more, it took her over half an hour to get back in because of the traffic. We were prepared the following years. I weighed our candy once, and we gave out over 40 lbs. A neighbor who was strict about giving out 2 pieces of candy per kid gave out 1600 pieces, and he ran out about half an hour before us. So with the amount of kids going through, it makes it more worth getting into the spirit. For the past several years, we've done up the house pretty good, and I'll stand out there in a costume to scare the older kids. It's scary enough that a few younger kids refuse to even walk up our driveway.

So we're looking forward to Halloween again this year. My daughter already threw a party with one of her friends last weekend, and we're busy planning a party for this weekend. And of course, we're trying to come up with new props for our house for the big night.

And for the cynics, most of the kids do have decent costumes, with a large portion still being homemade. It is irritating, though, to see high school kids walking around without being dressed up at all, but still asking for candy. Damn punks get off my lawn.

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 11 to Genesis 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleToday's entry contains several familiar stories from the Bible, such as the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and God's covenant with Abraham.

Genesis, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 started with the Tower of Babel story. This is another of the odd stories from the beginning of Genesis. First, it starts off by describing all the people of the time as having a single language, when the previous chapter described people having different languages. Then, it described them building a tower that could reach the heavens. Like the first creation story, this seems in line with a view where the world was flat and covered by an actual dome. Verse 5 describes God coming down to see the city. This is in line with a physical god who actually travels from place to place. It's also counter to most Christians current belief in an omniscient god - why would he have to come down to get a closer look if he was already all knowing? And then, in verse 7, there's language indicating that the Lord is one of multiple gods, "Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." And like many of the chapters I've read so far, this has the feel of a just-so story, explaining why there are so many languages in the world.

Most of the rest of the chapter was genealogy. The last few verses introduce Abram and Sarai and a few of their relations.

Genesis, Chapter 12

This is where the story of Abram/Abraham really gets started, where God calls Abram to leave his home country and promises to "make of you a great nation".

When Abram arrived at the land of Canaan, God promised "To your offspring I will give this land." This seemed a little odd, since the Canaanites were already living there. I guess this is just part of the Canaanites' punishment for what Canaan did all those years ago in Chapter 9.

But Abram hasn't been given Canaan, yet. That's a promise for the future. In this chapter, due to a famine, Abram took his family to Egypt. Upon his arrival, out of fear that the Egyptians would kill him to steal his wife, Sarai posed as his sister. The Egyptian pharaoh, impressed by her beauty, took her for a wife. So, after being lied to about her availability, the pharaoh and his house were punished by God with plagues for taking Abram's wife. This seems rather harsh - punishing someone for something he didn't even know he was doing wrong, and then punishing others close to him for a 'sin' they had nothing to do with.

I'll mention here that when I read the notes in the back of The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, I learned of an interesting if somewhat questionable interpretation of this story and of Sarah's barrenness. As put forth by Savina J. Teubal in her book, Sarah The Priestess, these are vestiges of a prior tradition. Sarah was a priestess in a matriarchal tradition. She was childless not because of infertility, but because priestesses were barred from having children. Further, her marriages with the kings they visited with were a type of hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. According to Teubal, these stories were modified as authority was transferred to a patriarchal tradition. You can read more about that theory, along with other interpretations, at My Jewish Learning - Sarah in the Bible.

Genesis, Chapter 13

After leaving Egypt, Lot and Abram went their separate ways. Their flocks and possessions were just so great that "the land could not support both of them living together". Abram stuck to Canaan, while Lot went to the plain of Jordan and settled near Sodom.

I was struck by one verse in this chapter, in how it relates to those people who argue that the creation story of Genesis was dumbed down because primitive people wouldn't have been able to understand the true history of the universe. One of the parts of this argument as I commonly hear it is that primitive people wouldn't have been able to comprehend how ancient the universe is. But just consider verse 16 from this chapter, "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted." If Yahweh could have used a metaphor like that here, why not in describing how old the universe is?

Genesis, Chapter 14

This chapter began with a description of fighting between different kings, leading to Lot being taken prisoner. Once Abram learned of his nephew's predicament, he took 318 of "his trained men, born in his house" to rescue him. The rescue was successful, and they even returned the King of Sodom's possessions to him. This supposedly wicked king then graciously offered for Abram to keep all of the goods and just return the people, but Abram refused "so that you might not say, 'I have made Abram rich.' "

Genesis, Chapter 15

In this chapter, God promised to Abram that his descendants (and not his slave) will inherit the promised land, but not after spending 400 years "in a land that is not theirs". This chapter also had a bit of animal sacrifice, cutting in half a 3 year old heifer, a 3 year old goat, and a 3 year old ram, and also sacrificing a turtle dove and a pigeon. I know I'll get to read much more about animal sacrifice in Leviticus, but these parts just make no sense from most modern Christian perspectives. Of what possible use could animal sacrifice be to an omnipotent, omniscient god? And why would animals be forced to suffer? To me, these parts just make it more clear that the stories come from more primitive sources.

Genesis, Chapter 16

When Sarai couldn't have children, she convinced Abram to take her slave-girl, Hagar, and conceive a child with her. But once Hagar was pregnant, she got a little haughty with Sarai, so Sarai chased her off. In the wilderness, an angle came up to Hagar, told her to return to and submit to Sarai, and prophesized that her son, whom she shall call Ishmael, will have a bit of a rough time, but also that she would have plenty of descendants. Actually, the wording here was, "The angel of the Lord also said to her, 'I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.'" I found that a bit interesting, because it was the angel promising to multiply her offspring, not God himself.

And what does this chapter have to say about traditional marriage? That it's okay to marry more than one woman if the first one can't give you children?

Genesis, Chapter 17

This is where God made the big covenant with Abram and renamed him Abraham (Abram translates as exalted ancestor while Abraham means ancestor of a multitude). God promised that Abraham would be a father of nations and kings, gave Abraham and his offspring the land of Canaan, and demanded that "Every male among you shall be circumcised." God also renamed Sarai as Sarah, and promised that she would have a son who shall be named Isaac. Further, even though God would ensure that Ishmael would be blessed and made a great nation, it was Isaac with whom God was establishing this covenant.

In the discussion of circumcision, the bible made mention of "all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner". I know I've heard of people saying that slaves in the Bible were really servants, but this discussion of buying them as property puts to rest that claim.

Genesis, Chapter 18

At the start of this chapter, God and a couple of his friends (angels, maybe? or maybe other gods from an earlier version of the myth?) came to visit Abraham. This is another of those locations where God was presented in a very physical manner. Not only did Abraham talk of them washing their feet, but he had Sarah and his servants prepare a meal for them, "and he stood by them under the tree while they ate."

Then God promised that Sarah would have a son. Sarah, being an old woman past menopause, was a bit incredulous, but God called her out and insisted that she would have a son.

From there, the chapter moved on to the start of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. There were a few strange aspects of that. First was God discussing with himself whether or not to tell Abraham of what he was about to do. It almost reads like this was originally a conversation between the three gods, but has been massaged to make only the Lord speaking. But when he told Abraham of what he was planning to do, he said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." This certainly doesn't sound like the omniscient God that most Christians believe in. He only heard of what was happening in the cities due to the outcry, and he was going to investigate in person to see if it was really true.

Next comes the somewhat famous exchange where Abraham tries to defend Sodom. He began by saying, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?", to which the Lord replied that he would forgive the city for the sake of fifty. Abraham continued going by lower and lower increments, until he got God to agree not to destroy the city for the sake of ten righteous. This story had the sense of Abraham being clever, getting a god to change its plans (almost like a trickster character). And that shows a god that wasn't sure of himself, since he was able to be persuaded.

Genesis, Chapter 19

When the two angels arrived in Sodom, they were met by Lot, and upon his urging, went to spend the night in his house. Next comes the infamous scene, where "the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man" came to Lot's house and demanded to have the two angels so that they could 'know' them. And what was Lot's heroic response? "Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please..." But since Lot was a foreigner, his interference angered the Sodomites, and things were about to get really ugly when the angels dragged Lot back into the house and afflicted the Sodomites with blindness so that they couldn't find their way in. The angels then told Lot what they were going to destroy Sodom, and for him to get any relatives out the city. This included his sons-in-law who were engaged to his daughters (one wonders if they were a part of the angry mob outside his house), but the sons-in-law didn't believe him.

At daybreak, the angels took Lot, his wife, and his daughters out of the city. The angels told them to flee the plain entirely, but Lot convinced the angels to let them instead escape to the city of Zoar. The angels had also given a warning not to look back. Unfortunately, Lot's wife did look back as the Lord was raining "sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven" onto the plain, at which point she promptly turned into a pillar of salt. It's possible this is a just-so story to explain the creation of Mount Sodom, which is made up almost entirely of rock salt. Otherwise, it's an odd punishment.

After this destruction, Lot settled with his daughters in a cave in the hills. They must have been out in the middle of nowhere, because there were no men for the daughters to marry. So instead, they got Lot drunk and slept with him to become pregnant (each on a different night, because apparently a father daughter threesome would have just been too weird). Their sons were named Moab, "ancestor of the Moabites to this day", and Ben-ammi, "ancestor of the Ammonites to this day".

Genesis, Chapter 20

Chapter 20 gets back to Abraham. In Gerar, Abraham and Sarah pulled the sister stunt again, and King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah as his wife. This time, at least, God used his power to prevent the king from touching Sarah and sinning, and warned him in a dream of the dangers. So Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and when confronted, Abraham defended himself in part by saying that it wasn't a complete lie because Sarah was his step sister. To make amends for his unwitting sin, Amibelech gave "sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves" to Abraham along with 1000 pieces of silver and permission to settle anywhere on his land. And then, in the final two verses, it came out that "the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife", so Abram prayed for Abimelech, his wife, and female slaves to be healed, which God did. Just like in Chapter 12, this seems a harsh punishment for somebody who had no idea that they were doing wrong.


The thing that struck me most reading these chapters was that Yahweh looks to be a very provincial god. From a modern Christian perspective, God is supposedly the creator of the heavens and earth, of all the stars and planets in our galaxy, and the countless other galaxies in the universe, and maybe even entire other universes. Yet here he is in these chapters, walking around to different cities to see for himself with his own eyes how their citizens are behaving. And the whole concept of picking one man to make a covenant with, and then following him around just seems so small. I mean, he's taken this interest in Abraham and his descendents, but seems to show almost no interest in the other peoples. Heck, he basically just ignores the Canaanites when he promises their land to Abraham. But if I try to imagine what the myth might have been like long ago, it would make more sense if Yahweh was one of many gods, and that this particular god chose one person to make an allegiance with. Because in that scenario, there would have been other gods concerned with other peoples. It wouldn't have been the creator of the universe focusing on one guy while ignoring everybody else.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cynicism, Part III

PoliticsI was so disgusted by the lying the in first presidential debate this year that I only made it through 5 minutes of it before having to change the channel. For the second debate, I was a bit more prepared, and made it through 10 minutes. I blogged about both of those previously in the entries, Cynicism and Cynicism, Part II. This time, I watched about 10 minutes of the debate before changing the channel to something less frustrating. Just to continue the trend, here are some links to articles fact checking the debate. Like for the first two, neither candidate was completely honest, but one seems especially prone to lying.

During the few minutes that I did watch the debate, I heard a disheartening discussion. It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I agree with Obama on many more issues than Romney. There are still several issues where I disagree with Obama, though. One of the biggest, which literally infuriates me, is Obama's use of the double tap drone strike (read a sober account of this on The Guardian, or a more colorful account on Pharyngula). This is practically comic book level villainy - attacking a target, waiting for emergency personnel to show up, and then attacking again. To be honest, if I had any belief that presidents would be held accountable, I'd like to see Obama and Bush both taken to the Hague over their actions in the fight against terrorism.

So when Bob Schieffer asked Romney, "What is your position on the use of drones?", Romney had the opportunity to call out Obama on this horrible practice. Instead, he said this (emphasis mine).

Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

So we have a sitting president committing acts that would have been labeled as terrorism just a few years ago, and his opponent enthusiastically agreeing that the President did the right thing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Books, A Year in Review - 2012, Part I

Old Book Bindings, from Wikimedia CommonsIt's October, which is the month where I stop and review my reading habits for the past year. I've been doing this a few years, now (see previous reviews for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011). It all started with an article about an AP-Ipsos poll on people's reading habits. Among other things, it pointed out that around 1 in 4 adults in this country hadn't read any books at all in the previous year, and that among those that had, the average number of books read was 6. (Yes, this is the fourth time I've copied that sentence verbatim).

As has become my habit, I'm breaking this up into two entries. In this, the first, I'll reflect on my reading habits (which means it probably won't interest many people), and in the second, I'll give a brief review of each book.

So, here are all the books I read in the last year, sorted by topic (not the order in which I read them).

Children's & Young Adult Fiction

  1. The Capture (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 1)
  2. The Journey (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 2)
  3. The Rescue (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 3)
  4. Dragon Keeper (Book 1)
  5. Garden of the Purple Dragon (Dragon Keeper, Book 2)
  6. Dragon Moon (Dragon Keeper, Book 3)
  7. Kaimira: The Sky Village: Book One
  8. The Hunger Games (Book 1)
  9. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2)
  10. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)
  11. Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)
  12. The Outsiders

Adult Fiction

  1. Anansi Boys
  2. The Night Circus
  3. Dracula


  1. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
  2. The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb
  3. The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus


  1. The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True
  2. Stealth Fighter: A Year in the Life of an F-117 Pilot
  3. Out Came the Sun: One Family's Triumph over a Rare Genetic Syndrome
  4. City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction

That makes for 22 books altogether, though I haven't yet finished one of them. That's pretty much in line with my reading habits from previous years. I had 24 in my list last year, but two of those were pretty short (one especially so), a third I never actually finished reading, and a fourth I wrote myself (actually, I could have included that one again this year, as I still read it from time to time).

Once again, my list was heavily tilted towards young adult fiction. This is partly due to having a teenage daughter who recommends books to me, and partly due to the fact that a few young adult series are pretty popular right now.

In a bit of a break from tradition, I didn't read any books specifically devoted to evolution, nor any books by Carl Zimmer. The closest I came to reading about evolution was Richard Dawkins' book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True. But have no fear, I have a few evolution related books on the bookshelf just waiting to be read, along with a book by Carl Zimmer, not to mention a few more of his on my wish list.

I started reading Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. I was planning on doing a similar treatment to what I did for Josh McDowell's More Than a Carpenter, but with all the note taking, I couldn't stay motivated to finish it. I think I'll give it another shot, but without taking so many notes while reading.

I did manage to knock out two more books from this list (Anansi Boys and Dracula).

I also read two books from people I know/have known personally - Stealth Fighter: A Year in the Life of an F-117 Pilot and Out Came the Sun: One Family's Triumph over a Rare Genetic Syndrome. One was written by my neighbor, the other by one of my high school teachers. I may not be the most unbiased reviewer given the circumstances, but I thought they were both very good.

I do find it interesting the way my reading pace can change so much over the course of the year. Some times, I'll read several books a month. Other times, it might take a couple months to finish one book. If I kept my higher rates all year long, I'd probably read more than 30 books a year.

So, I think my reading was fairly well balanced this year, though maybe not quite as well balanced as last year. I still need to devote more time to history and philosophy.

Part II, where I'll post my reviews for each book, is probably still a few weeks out, but stay tuned.

Update 2013-01-21: Part II is finally here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 1 to Genesis 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleThis week's entry covers the first ten chapters of Genesis. This includes some of the best known stories from the Bible - the seven day creation story, the Garden of Eden creation story, temptation, Cain and Abel, and Noah's Ark.

Genesis, Chapter 1

This is the famous seven day creation story, the first of two separate creation stories in Genesis. I've already covered it in detail in the essay, Problems With Day-Age Interpretation of Genesis (also available as a blog entry if you want to comment on it). I also discussed it in my review of an old book, God- or Gorilla, in the sections on Chapters 24 & 25 and Appendices, Part I. Of course, a literal interpretation of this story is completely counter to what we have learned of the true history of the universe, and as discussed in the above links, figurative and allegorical interpretations don't do much to save the accuracy of the story.

If you step outside of a modern perspective and read this story on its own, it seems to be describing a much different world than what we know to be the case. This is discussed in detail at ReligiousTolerance.org. It looks as if the ancient Hebrews believed the land was more or less flat, surrounded by an ocean. The sky was an actual discrete physical dome above the Earth. Stars were points of light embedded in the dome. Above the dome was water (hence the blue color, and why rain would fall from the sky). It is an interesting, if incorrect, view.

Genesis, Chapter 2

This was the second creation story in the Bible, the one that took place in the Garden of Eden. This time, God created Adam first (out of clay), and then created all the animals, letting Adam name them. This had a feel of a just-so story, on how all the animals got their names. There's also the line about Eve being made from one of Adam's ribs, giving rise to the false belief that women have one more rib than men.

Genesis, Chapter 3

This is the chapter where the serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the type of fruit is never actually specified). This is one of those stories that is just weird when you think about it too much. A god creates people, and tells them not to do something. But apparently, they don't yet have any conception of right and wrong, as evidenced by the fact that they're unashamed to run around naked. So when they do commit an action that's wrong, not knowing that it was wrong beforehand, they get punished for it, and punished rather severely. And then, in verses 22 and 23, it's shown that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden not because they've eaten the forbidden fruit, but because they might next eat from the tree of life and become like the gods.

This chapter shows a very physical god, that Adam and Eve could hear walking in the garden. This chapter also has a bit of the just-so feel, in explaining why snakes don't have any legs.

Genesis, Chapter 4

This chapter contained the story of Cain and Abel, which I'm sure most people know. As is often pointed out in discussions of this chapter - who was Cain afraid of, when his parents were supposedly the first two people?

There's yet again a just-so aspect, in verses 20 to 22, explaining where different groups of people came from. For example, "Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock." For someone trying to literally accept the Bible as a whole, these three verse do seem a bit odd, since supposedly everybody but Noah's family is going to be killed in just a few more chapters.

Genesis, Chapter 5

This was one of those genealogy sections that I just skimmed through, listing the descendants of Adam and their life spans. The only thing that stood out was Enoch. Every other person mentioned went something like, "Thus all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died." Always ending with, "and he died." But for Enoch, it went, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him." Although nothing else is mentioned of Enoch in the Old Testament, extra-Biblical sources (such as The Book of Enoch) have Enoch being taken directly to heaven without ever dying.

Genesis, Chapter 6

This chapter started with a little hanky panky going on between angels and mortals, "when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them."

Then the chapter jumped into the story of Noah. Of course, this is the Hebrew variation of the Mesopotamian Flood Myth. Earlier versions include Gilgamesh and the even older Sumerian creation myth.

And of course, there is no way that the flood story is plausible. But rather than spending a lot of time critiquing that here, I'll just link to this article on the TalkOrigins Archive, Problems with a Global Flood, Second Edition.

The Noah story in the Bible starts with one of the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition that I consider to be one of the worst, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually." On a whole, people are not bad, and it gives people needless guilt to be constantly told that they are so, especially if they believe that the message is coming from their creator. That's not to say that people never do bad things, but there are lots of examples of benevolent actions to balance the scales, and in my opinion, to actually tip the scales in favor of people being more or less good. We just wouldn't have survived as a social species without cooperation and good deeds.

So far as of this chapter, God has only instructed Noah to take two of every kind of animal.

Genesis, Chapter 7

At the start of this chapter, God instructed Noah to take "seven pairs of all clean animals" and "and a pair of the animals that are not clean", not just the pair of every animal that he'd instructed just a few verses before.

Then the floodwaters came - forty days and forty nights of rain and fountains bursting forth from the deep. "21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died."

Now, I know most people don't stop and think too much about this story. Children's books show Noah, his family, and the elephants and giraffes surviving happily on their boat. But just stop and imagine if something like this had actually happened. Think of all the newborn babies, toddlers, precocious seven year olds, expectant mothers, new mothers, proud fathers, newlyweds. Think of the puppies and kittens and baby koalas and cute cuddly polar bear cubs. Think of the hawks and eagles and their fledgling chicks. Think of the ants, and frogs, and freshwater fish. Think of all the life on the entire planet save one boatload full. And now think of them watching the floodwaters come, the fear they felt as they kept climbing to higher ground, wondering when the rising waters would stop. The terror when they finally realized that the waters were going to swallow them, and there was nothing they could do about it. The desperation of trying to save their children, of looking for something, anything, to keep them afloat and keep them from drowning.

Now, I know this story never actually happened, and a good chunk of the Christians in this country don't take it literally. But it really does present a tyrannical monster who caused suffering on an almost unimaginable scale.

Genesis, Chapter 8

The flood waters finally receded, and when a dove finally came back with an olive leaf in its beak, Noah knew the flood was over. So what was the first thing Noah did when got off the ark? He built an altar and slaughtered "of every clean animal and of every clean bird" (when so many species were already on the verge of extinction). Imagine the rivers of blood. And then he burned them, creating a "pleasing odour" to the Lord, who decided that maybe he wouldn't cause a planet wide massacre again.

Genesis, Chapter 9

This chapter wrapped up the flood story with yet another just-so story, explaining where rainbows come from. They are, apparently, God's promise "that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

This chapter also contains the curse of Canaan (also known as the curse of Ham), which was apparently a justification for how the Hebrews would treat the Canaanites, but it's a bit of a bizarre story. Noah had made himself a vineyard, and went and got drunk off of his wine. He got so drunk he passed out naked in his tent. His son, Ham, noticed that he was naked, and went out to tell his brothers. The two other brothers cover up their father with a blanket, apparently walking into the tent backwards so that they wouldn't see him naked. Now, the Bible is not very detailed in the recounting of this story, but I can just imagine something like this happening. A guy gets too drunk and passes out in an embarrassing manner, and one of his sons finds him and goes off snickering to share it with his brothers. The brothers, being a bit more mature, cover up their father instead of just laughing along. But then the story goes off the rails of what you'd expect for a reasonable reaction. When Noah finally came to, he was furious with Ham for pointing out the situation to his brothers, and called down a curse on Ham's son, "Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers." Not only is it a huge overreaction to make someone a slave for being laughed at drunk and passed out, but he punished the son instead of the father. And Noah was supposed to be "a righteous man, blameless in his generation."

And just for the record, this is the first, though certainly not the last, mention of slaves in the Bible. And note that it's to condemn somebody to slavery, not to condemn of forbid the practice itself.

Genesis, Chapter 10

This was another genealogy section, listing the descendants of Noah. Again, it seems like a just-so story, explaining where all the different peoples came from. For example, "These are the descendants of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations." I found that mention of "with their own language" to be interesting, since this seems to be an attempt to explain where all the different languages of the world came from, but I know that there's another story coming up soon with the Tower of Babel that attempts to explain the same thing.


So, after reading the first ten chapters, I can say that even after this little bit, I definitely have a different impression than when I read the Bible as a believer. I don't see it as a coherent work written by a single author. It seems to be pretty clear that it's an amalgamation of many different stories, sometimes even seeming to be combining different versions of the same story. It reminds me of papers, proposals, and school projects I've seen where someone cuts and pastes from the input of a few people to make the final product, still leaving rough edges between the snippets.

So far, I don't foresee this exercise doing anything to win me back to religion. In fact, reading the Bible with clear eyes is probably doing more to reinforce the fact that it's not a divinely inspired book. I know many of my comments throughout this project are going to be pointing out absurdities and oddities, but I do still find parts of the Bible interesting. It's a bit like reading about the labors of Hercules or the exploits of the Hero Twins in the Popol Vuh. The difference is that I'm not surrounded by a society that believes two young Mayans fed Seven Macaw poisoned meat and then buried him forever. It's because so many people do take the Biblical myths seriously that I'm going to be a bit more critical with it than other mythologies.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cynicism, Part II

PoliticsAfter the first presidential debate a couple weeks ago, I complained that I only watched about 5 minutes of it before getting so fed up with the lies that I had to shut it off. This time, my wife and daughter decided they wanted to watch a little bit of the debate. I think I made it through about 10 minutes this time before I convinced them to let me change it. So, for anyone more concerned with what our politicians have to say than how they say it, here are a few links fact checking the latest debate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Great American Beer Festival

Great American Beer FestivalIf you know me in person, you know that I really like beer. And I'm not too picky, either. I'll drink anything except Miller High Life (including things like Lone Star and Natty Light). But obviously, some beers are better than others, and all the different types add variety, so I was interested to see the results of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

Of course, the first thing I checked was to see how many beers from Texas won prizes. Here's the list:

Medal Beer Name Brewery State Category Year
Bronze Uberbrau Humperdinks Restaurant and Brewery TX American-Style Amber Lager 2012
Gold Shiner Bock Spoetzl Brewery TX American-Style Dark Lager 2012
Gold Royal Scandal Peticolas Brewing Co. TX Classic English-Style Pale Ale 2012
Gold Shiner Oktoberfest Spoetzl Brewery TX German-Style Märzen 2012
Silver Hans' Pils Real Ale Brewing Co. TX German-Style Pilsener 2012
Gold Shiner Bohemian Black Lager Spoetzl Brewery TX German-Style Schwarzbier 2012
Silver Firemans #4 Real Ale Brewing Co. TX Golden or Blonde Ale 2012
Gold Bottle Rocket Uncle Billy's Brew & Que - Lake Travis TX Kellerbier or Zwickelbier 2012
Silver Iron Thistle Rahr & Sons Brewing TX Scotch Ale 2012

Not too bad. I've tried all but three of those (Uberbrau, Royal Scandal, & Bottle Rocket). And I have to admit a soft spot for the Spoetzl Brewery. I've joked that it's one of the best parts about living in Texas, and a few years ago, I actually made the pilgrimage to Shiner to tour the brewery. Here's me inside, right before they shooed us out for separating from the tour group.

Jeff at the Spoetzl Brewery

It's kind of fun browsing through the results state by state, looking to see the good beers from the different regions. I checked Hawaii since we were just there for vacation this summer, and saw that they had three winners (two of which I tried when there).

There are 84 categories total in the Great American Beer Festival, with gold, silver, and bronze medals in each one. I've tried a lot of them, but there are even more that I haven't. So this is a great guide for the next time I'm at the beer store.

Photo © Brewers Association - Source

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Index

BibleI've begun a project to read the entire Bible and blog about my progress every week. This post will act as an index, providing links to all of the blog entries. If you simply want to browse through the entries, go to the category, Friday Bible Blogging.


Non-Review Entries
     • Introduction and Picking a Translation
     • Midway Reflections
     • Friday Bible Blogging - The Book
     • Center Verse of the Bible
The Pentateuch
     • Genesis: 1 to 10  11 to 20  21 to 30  31 to 40  41 to 50 
     • Exodus: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 40
     • Leviticus: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 27
     • Numbers: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 36
     • Deuteronomy: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 34
The Historical Books
     • Joshua: 1 to 10 11 to 24
     • Judges: 1 to 10 11 to 21
     • Ruth: 1 to 4
     • 1 Samuel: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 31
     • 2 Samuel: 1 to 10 11 to 24
     • 1 Kings: 1 to 10 11 to 22
     • 2 Kings: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 25
     • 1 Chronicles: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 29
     • 2 Chronicles: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 36
     • Ezra: 1 to 10
     • Nehemiah: 1 to 13
     • Esther: 1 to 10
The Wisdom Books
     • Job: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 42
     • Psalms: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 40 41 to 50
51 to 60 61 to 70 71 to 80 81 to 90 91 to 100
101 to 110 111 to 120 121 to 130 131 to 140 141 to 150
     • Proverbs: 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 31
     • Ecclesiastes: 1 to 12
     • Song of Songs: 1 to 8


Updated 2013-11-25: Updated index to a table format, rather than a simple list. It makes the index easier to follow, and allows it to be displayed in a shorter space.

Friday Bible Blogging - Introduction and Picking a Translation

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. To browse all entries in the series, go to the category, Friday Bible Blogging.

BibleWhen I was younger and still a committed Christian, I read the entire Bible. I would say cover to cover, but it was actually two different books. The first was a nice leather bound Good News Translation that I'd received as a Christmas present. A few Christmases later and partway through, I received a new Bible as a Christmas present, this time a New Living Translation sold as a TouchPoint Bible. So I switched. At the time, I still accepted the Bible as the inerrant word of God, which I'm sure colored the way I read it. Now that I no longer think of the Bible as a divinely inspired book, I thought it might be interesting to read it again and see what type of impression it makes on me now.

So, I'm starting a new series - Friday Bible Blogging. I'm going to try to read a couple verses a day, and then every Friday I'll write a short blog entry on my impressions. Don't look for deep theological discussions here. I fear that if I try to get too technical, I'll get bogged down in details and stall out on the project. From my first time reading the Bible, and from my recent reading of The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, I know that the Bible can be boring enough. The pressure of writing weekly blog entries should keep me motivated enough to get through the whole thing, but detailed entries might be overwhelming.

I'll note one way I'm going to approach this differently than the first time I read the Bible. Back then, when I believed that the Bible was the divinely inspired word of God, it followed that every word in it must have been important. So when I say I read the whole thing, I mean the whole thing. No skimming over the A begat B begat C... sections. If a person's name was in there, it must have been because God thought that name was important enough to include, so who was I to ignore it? Now, I don't have that kind of devotion, so I admit up front that I'm going to skim through the genealogies and other similarly boring insubstantial sections.

When I read the Bible the first time, I didn't yet appreciate the importance of the translation. Now that I've learned a bit more, I've come to realize that the translation can have a significant effect on the meaning. I've discussed this before on this blog in the entry, Reliance on Bible Translations. It's a pretty complicated issue. Without being able to understand ancient Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, most of us are reliant on translators giving us accurate translations. Unfortunately, not all translations are of the same caliber.

First of all, there's the issue of what to translate to begin with. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that we no longer have any of the original versions of any books of the Bible. In fact, for some books, even if we had a time machine, it would be difficult to pick an original version. For example, just go read the Wikipedia section on the Origins of the Book of Genesis to see how that book developed. And this doesn't even concern the origins of the stories themselves, such as Noah's flood being a variation of the Mesopotamian Flood Myth. For all of the books, there are numerous copies in existence, and none of the copies match exactly. So the translators will have to decide on how to combine all the different copies to come up with a text that most closely resembles the 'original'.

But then, even once a text is agreed upon to translate, there's the question of how to accomplish the translation. Languages are not the same as math. They're imprecise, with ambiguities and nuance, double meanings and puns. And different languages have their own nuances. Anyone who's bilingual has known the difficulty of trying to translate directly from one language to another. Sometimes it's easy enough, but other times it's simply impossible to translate the full meaning of a statement without adding some side explanation*.

And then, unfortunately, there's the motivation of the translators. For something with as much cultural impact as the Bible, people are going to approach it with different preconceptions. And sometimes, people will let those preconceptions cloud their interpretation. A cautionary example is the New International Version (NIV). It was a project of evangelical Christians who had already decided that the Bible was inerrant. The blog entry I linked to above includes an example of that translation changing the meaning of a passage to avoid a contradiction, and it's not the only one. To quote N.T. Wright (source - Wikipedia):

When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses.... Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul's letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said.... [I]f a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about.

I should probably mention the King James Version (KJV) specifically, since it is the most famous of all English translations. Unfortunately, it has many problems. There were not as many early manuscripts available at the time it was translated, so it's not a translation of the current best guess of the 'original' versions of all of the books. Some sections were translated incorrectly. And it's written in an archaic form of English that makes it more difficult for the modern reader to understand. So I decided against reading the KJV.

So, what translation should I choose? It seems as if there are even more opinions on this than there are translations themselves, but there does seem to be one translation recommended more than others by serious biblical scholars**, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I've read and respect Bart Ehrman***, and according to the Endorsements section of the NRSV, he has said, "In my opinion, the New Revised Standard Version is without peer as the best available Bible translation, for both readability and accuracy." Here's a page I found, A Discussion of Bible Translations and Biblical Scholarship, written by a professor of religious studies at Missouri State University, Mark D. Given, which also highly recommends the NRSV. I looked for a recommendation from Hector Avalos, since I've read and respect him as well. I couldn't find a direct recommendation, but I did find this article written by him, Can Science Prove that Prayer Works?, in which all Bible quotes were from the NRSV, a kind of implicit recommendation. And of course, Bruce Metzger, who was intimately involved in the creation of the NRSV, recommended it.

So, I've decided to read the New Revised Standard Version. Unfortunately, it's not included at BibleGateway.com, an otherwise excellent resource for the various Bible translations, but it is available online for those who want to follow along. I recommend the GodWeb link, which provides links to all of the chapters hosted on oremus.

So how long is this going to take? According to a few sources, there are 1189 chapters in the Protestant version of the Bible, or 1334 in the Catholic version. If I go with the longer version for the sake of completeness, and if I can average 10 chapters per week, that's 133 weeks, or a little over 2 ½ years. I think that's manageable. 10 chapters per week is few enough that I'll still be able to read more enjoyable books during that period, and also few enough that my weekly blog entries won't be overwhelming. It does mean 133 blog entries, so I'm going to make a new category for this series, Friday Bible Blogging.

I'm also going to make an index page to provide links to all of the entries in this series, to allow users to jump to reviews of different sections of the Bible.

Stay tuned for my first review entry, starting from the beginning with Genesis, Chapter 1.

*Here's an example of translation issues. One of my favorite corny jokes in Spanish goes like this.

¿Que dijo el agua al pez?


The first sentence is easy enough to translate - 'What did the water say to the fish?' But the answer is a double entendre. 'Nada' can mean either 'nothing' or 'swim'. Yes, it's corny, but it illustrates the difficulty in trying to make a simple translation without a little extra explanatory text. This example was only a small note, but even small notes can add up to a big distraction when there are enough of them.

**Of course, most serious Biblical scholars say that the best way to understand the Bible is to learn the ancient languages and read the various ancient manuscripts, and to basically do all the things that Biblical scholars do.

***Which is not to say that I agree with all of Ehrman's positions. His position on the historicity of Jesus doesn't appear to be very well founded. See Richard Carrier's, Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic. Well, I've found a different article that sways me to think Jesus's existence was more likely than not: Quora: Do credible historians agree that the man named Jesus, who the Christian Bible speaks of, walked the earth and was put to death on a cross by Pilate, Roman governor of Judea?, Tim O'Neill.

Update 2013-03-22: I was double checking the chapter counts for myself instead of relying on other people's counts, and I found that it gets to be a bit complicated once you get to the Apocrypha. It depends on how you're going to do the tally. For example, take a look at this page on Oremus, Additions to Esther 11. How should that be tallied? For the purpose of this series, since I'm going through chapter by chapter in the Oremus Bible Browser, I figure it makes sense to use their divisions to count chapters. For example, that means the link I just provided would be counted as a single chapter. That means 929 chapters in the standard Old Testament, 203 chapters in the Apocrypha, and 260 chapters in the New Testament, for a total of 1392 chapters. So, it will take me about 2 months longer to complete this project than I'd initially anticipated.

Updated 2012-10-18: Fixed a few typos, corrected a few links, and revised a few sections to make them more clear, but nothing that altered the meaning of any of the sections.

Updated 2013-02-11: Fixed a couple more types that I just noticed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Last Chance to Register to Vote in Texas

Politics - Can't We All Just Get Along?Just a quick reminder if you live in Texas - today is the last day to register to vote if you haven't done so yet.

To see if you're already registered, check this link:
Am I Registered?

If you do need to register, go to this link, fill out the form, print it, then make sure you mail it today.
Texas Voter Registration Application

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Exploration Day

Moon PrintToday is traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day, but there's a small movement underway to get the day switched to Exploration Day.

I've written briefly about Columbus a couple times before, Debunking a Columbus Myth and Columbus Day. There are a lot of misconceptions about Columbus and his role in history - misconceptions that are still being taught to my middle school daughter, by the way. In reality, he was a bit of a crank. The concept of the Earth being a globe had been known for thousands of years prior to Columbus. In fact, Eratosthenes had calculated the size of the earth to a very accurate degree back around 240 BC (or BCE). Why Columbus had such a hard time securing funding for his trip was that he was so far off in his estimate of the size of the Earth - 15,700 miles in circumference vs the true 25,000 miles. Educated people knew that in theory, you'd eventually end up in Asia by sailing west, but they didn't think any of the ships of the time would allow someone to carry enough supplies to complete the journey. And they were right. Had there not been two unknown continents, Columbus and his men would have starved to death. And Columbus never did figure out that he'd discovered a new continent. He went to his dying day thinking he'd found islands off the coast of Asia.

And if his technical incompetence weren't enough, Columbus was a pretty ruthless governor. To quote an article from The Guardian:

As governor and viceroy of the Indies, Columbus imposed iron discipline on the first Spanish colony in the Americas, in what is now the Caribbean country of Dominican Republic. Punishments included cutting off people's ears and noses, parading women naked through the streets and selling them into slavery.

His actions were so bad that he was arrested and taken back to Spain in shackles. He later received a pardon from the crown, but only after a new governor was put in charge of the colony.

Granted, Columbus was important historically. His unintended discovery of the New World set off a wave of European exploration that changed the course of history. But why do we have a holiday celebrating this tyrant who only lucked his way into the history books instead of starving at sea?

If what we truly want to celebrate on this day is the spirit of exploration, then why not just come out and make that the focus of the holiday? Make a day that honors those like Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Lindbergh, Armstrong and Aldrin, the Wrights, Amundsen, Hillary, Cousteau, the engineers behind the Mars rover. Make a day that honors all those that push the frontiers of our knowledge.

More Info:

Thursday, October 4, 2012


PoliticsI watched all of about 5 minutes of the presidential debate last night before I got fed up with the lying and turned it off. I checked a few sites this morning, and see that I probably saved my blood pressure a bit by watching as little as I did.

It seems that one of the candidates lied more than the other (hint: the one who's campaign pollster said, "We're not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers" - or read this article), but neither one was completely honest. So, our two choices for president are a guy who lies some, and a guy who lies even more.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kaimira - A Disappointing Way to End a Book

Kaimira Book CoverA few weeks ago, I was up in Maryland visiting my parents. There's a great bookstore up that way called Wonder Book. It's a used bookstore with tons of books at reasonable prices. With my mom's and my passion for books, we almost always manage a trip there every time I visit. This time, a certain book caught my eye, mainly for the cover art, so I grabbed it. The title was Kaimira: The Sky Village: Book One by Monk Ashland (actually Chris Rettstatt) and Nigel Ashland. It was touted as the first in a series of five books. Here's the book description from Amazon:

High over China, the Sky Village, an intricate web of interconnected hot-air balloons, floats above the troubled landscape, where animals battle machines for control. Mei's mother has been kidnapped, and she has been left in this strange place by her father.

Half a world away, thirteen-year-old Rom struggles to survive in the ruins of Las Vegas. When his young sister is taken by a pair of demonic creatures, Rom has no choice but to follow her into a shadowy world below ground. There, he becomes engaged in gladiator-style fighting in an arena where mehanical-beast demons do battle for the entertainment of a chaotic community of gamblers.

Mei and Ron have never met, but they share a common journal, a book that mysteriously allows them to communicate. It also reveals that each of them carries the strange and frightening kaimira gene and that aspects of beast and mek qualities are entwined in their very DNA.

In this thrilling, intricately plotted novel, the first in a five-book series, Mei and Rom must overcome the forces that seek to destroy them and find the courage to balance the powers that lurk within.

It was pretty good. Maybe not the best book I'd ever read, but certainly enjoyable, and far better than some other books that I've read (like a certain series with sparkly vampires). So I was looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Unfortunately, when I got onto Amazon, I couldn't find it. I thought that maybe it just wasn't out yet, so I did a little more searching, and it doesn't look promising.

Chris Rettstatt, who wrote under the pen name of Monk Ashland, has a website, rettstatt.com. He has a blog that was last updated just over a year ago, but that last entry had nothing to do with the Kaimira series. He does have a section devoted to Kaimira, but his last entry for that was from 2010, and most of the entries are from 2008. And in the comments of his last Kaimira entry, a few people asked him specifically about book 2 of Kaimira, and he hasn't responded. It's frustrating because the old stuff looks so promising. He has information about awards it was nominated for (like the Cybils 2008), a possibility of expansion into TV and gaming, a paperback edition being released, an update on the second book, and a mention that he'd turned in the first draft of the second book. The most recent update I could find of Rettstatt was his participation in the 6th annual Digital Kids Conference back in April.

I guess the moral is, before starting on a series, make sure that the series will be completed. If I hear anything about any other Kaimira books being released, I'll update this post.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for September 2012

Top 10 ListSeptember has come and gone, so it's once again time to look at the server logs and make my top 10 list. There was a bit of a surprise. An old blog entry of mine from back in 2006, which was actually a reposting of an essay from the static portion of my site that was originally published in August of 2005, has surged in popularity. The entry is, Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II. It's a rather long rant about religious fundamentalism and mystical thinking, and even includes a mention of the con-artist Kevin Trudeau. It's not bad, but I don't know why it's become so popular so suddenly. It will be interesting to see if it stays popular through October. Other than that, there weren't any big surprises.

I just mentioned the ongoing website facelift last week, but I'll mention it again here. Actually, I do have a correction. I went through the old root directory and removed all of the copies, old files, and other html pages that I am not going to update, and the total in the old root is now down to 226 html files (I'd said 317 before). I'm up to 142 pages updated to the new format (plus photo pages), so I'm more than halfway there.

Anyway, here were the top 10 most popular pages on this site last month.

Top 10 for September 2012

  1. Blog - Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Fed Up with U.S. Public, Part II
  2. Autogyro History & Theory
  3. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  4. Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  5. Factoids Debunked & Verified, Part II
  6. Factoids Debunked & Verified
  7. Blog - Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
  8. Blog - The 2010 Texas Republican Platform
  9. Blog - Casio EX-F1 - First Impression of the High Speed Video
  10. Programming

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