The order of the apostle’s argument deserves careful examination… . First, he teaches that the one God is the originator of the world and of all things … Next, he disposes of the opinion which is the explicit reason for idols … Now if he had chosen to begin by destroying the idolatrous rites, the ears of the gentiles would have rejected [him].
… Perfected things are not sought at the start, but from beginnings one comes to the things which are perfect.—
—commentary of the Venerable Bede on St. Paul’s speech in Athens
I think there’s an important lesson here for how we choose to talk about other faiths.
equal time to Windows
Well, I started complaining about the Mac—may as well continue with Windows. The other day Ian asked about installing a game that he found online. Of course, there was no Linux version, and it being a somewhat obscure piece of software, I couldn’t get it to run in Wine (Windows emulator). I figured, now that we have another partially broken laptop for me to play around with, it would be safe to reduce the kids’ computer to whatever meets their needs. Since Puppy Linux, which Ian has been using for quite some time now, can exist happily in just about any environment, there was nothing preventing me from restoring Windows and moving Puppy inside the Windows partition. It was a simple matter of copying the Puppy files temporarily to a flash drive, re-installing Windows, then copying them back and installing grub4dos, which provides a boot menu that will take you to Windows or Linux at start-up. I say “simple,” because of the steps involved with Puppy Linux. It was the re-installing Windows part that was more challenging.
It’s been ages since you actually got installation discs with a new computer. Instead, they typically provide recovery images on the hard drive, which you can copy to disc. I’ve never had to use them, but thankfully I kept them. Or not so thankfully, because it turned out to be a fairly agonizing process. The recovery process was fairly opaque, so I can only guess at what it was doing. simply transferring a hard disk image back onto the drive, erasing and formatting the existing partitions in the process. It was a long, slow journey, and you would think that once it was done you’d have a computer set up the same way it was when it came from the factory. But no—even though that was the end of using the recovery discs, and even though a bare-bones version of Windows started up, it then proceeded to install several applications—I don’t know what, because the HP installation software didn’t specify; but it took a rather long time and required several automatic reboots along the way.
After that, I finally had a working system, but of course it was only current several years ago. Windows Vista still needed 120 updates downloaded and applied. It also came with things like Acrobat 8, which I either removed or updated individually. One reason I bothered to go through this process was that a friend had suggested previously that there might be a BIOS update to address some of the issues we’d had with the fan running constantly, and of course HP did not issue updates that could be installed without Windows. So I had to run that too. When all was said and done, it took about nine hours to get Windows ready for action (compared with maybe an hour for Puppy the next morning, and most of that was figuring out the new boot loader).
But that’s not quite the end of it. One of the problems that you come to expect with Linux is that you’ll have some troubles with hardware drivers. It’s improved a great deal over time, but usually there’s at least one oddball video card or modem that gives you a lot of grief. In my recent experience I’ve been pretty fortunate. I did put some hours into setting up Gentoo, which involves a lot more direct tweaking with hardware than other Linux distributions. But Ubuntu was generally quite good, and Puppy has been positively phenomenal. I can rotate my Slacko Puppy system on a flash drive between three different laptops without any more adjustment than switching wifi cards.
Now, when you do run into problems, the last ditch effort is usually to find some way to import the Windows driver—Linux users hate doing it, but sometimes there’s just not enough to work with for the hardware you have. So you learn to live with the assumption that what’s hard to set up in Linux should be easy in Windows. But in this case what came easy in Linux was apparently quite difficult in Windows. I could get the wifi card to connect to our home network, but it would not access the Internet, no matter what I tried. I found discussion of the problem online, but mostly it showed that there were several possible solutions to try, and no one seemed to have a sense of what actually worked in any particular case. Honestly, I’m not sure what did work in the end. I installed several driver upgrades, uninstalled some software that came with the computer, played around with settings, and nothing seemed to work. But after I finally handed the computer back to the kids so they could at least use what worked on it, I later discovered it sitting downstairs, quite happily connected to the Internet.
But my favorite part of the whole business was when Ian asked what I was doing (sometime during the marathon install, when I told him that I would need to work on his computer for the foreseeable future), and he asked apprehensively if he was still going to have Puppy Linux. Yes, that’s right—it’s OK if that’s what it takes to play a game, but please don’t replace my Linux OS that fits on a CD with something as foreign and unwieldy as Windows!
I came into this transition believing that Apple led the way with a user-friendly, dummy-proof interface. I’m sure some of my frustration is simply due to changing what I’ve been used to over my entire adult life, but some of it certainly goes beyond that. I may keep updating this list as I discover more issues:
The vanishing scroll bar
Maybe there’s some trick or logic to this, but it seems like scroll bars in the Mac environment come and go completely at will and mostly disappear when you’re specifically trying to use them. Yes, I realize you can scroll with the touchpad, but if you’re going to have scroll bars, such erratic behavior is just frustrating.
Where did my program go?
One of the first things I did was download and install LibreOffice and Firefox. In Windows, you download the installation file, double-click it to run, and follow the instructions. When it’s done, you have a program installed on your hard drive. It can’t get much simpler than that, right? So I figured installing software on a Mac would be a no-brainer.
At first, it seemed that I was right. What I took to be the installation file showed up in the downloads container, and when I selected it, it did something, showed me an icon that opened and ran the program, and everything seemed to be as I expected. Well, almost everything. I was a little puzzled by the window it opened that showed the program icon, an arrow, and the Applications folder, but I assumed that was just showing me where it had installed the program. Then there was the drive icon that appeared on the desktop with the name of the application. I couldn’t quite figure out what that was about, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on running the program, so I didn’t worry about it.
Then, after I finished with the program, closed it, and deleted the installation file, I tried to go back later and discovered that it was nowhere to be found on the computer. When I looked online for information about installing programs, I finally understood what was happening. What I took to be an installation file was actually a disc image. I was opening it and running the program from within the image. The window with the arrow was not telling me what it had done; it was recommending what I should do—drag the program icon to the Applications folder, which would effect the installation. Because I didn’t do that, it simply ran the program from within the disc image and then removed it when I deleted the image.
Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem like a very intuitive process. I suppose there are good reasons for why it works the way it does, but some more descriptive pop-up instructions would be very helpful.
BEWARE: This will eat your hard drive
I wanted to use one external hard drive to expand the storage on our DVR and to hold our various backups (Mac, Android smartphone and tablets, kids’ Linux box, etc.). After allowing the DVR to have its way with the drive, I shrunk the main partition in gparted and added a new 20GB partition to use for backing up the Mac. Then I attached the drive to the Mac, formatted the partition, tested adding some files and re-attaching to the DVR.
Everything was working OK, so I fired up Time Machine (Mac’s backup utility), selected the drive I wanted, and told it to encrypt. I figured it wasn’t a bad idea, since we’re talking about a multi-tasking external hard drive. What it never told me was that the encryption process would entail wiping *everything* on the drive—all partitions, including those that Mac couldn’t access to begin with. It did warn that I’d lose any content from the drive, but it calls partitions drives anyway. It even calls disc images drives. It seems like it should be able to encrypt one partition and leave the others alone, especially when it doesn’t even mount the other partitions. So how was I to know that it really meant the entire drive? Fortunately, I discovered this problem right after we got the hard drive; so we only lost two recorded programs, and now I’ll know not to try encrypting the backup again. But that sort of thing could have been catastrophic.
Yes, we finally took the plunge and bought an Apple laptop. This may seem like hypocrisy, but I think there are some good reasons:
- We were tired of buying cheap laptops that break within a couple of years. And I’m talking major breakdowns—overheating, frying motherboards, crashing hard drives, botched BIOS updates. After the most recent death of a laptop monitor, it seemed like something needed to change.
- Our intention was to buy a used laptop that we knew was made well and would likely hold up for several more years. Apple has led the way with light, durable laptops. Competitors are too new and too expensive, and generally can’t beat it in all around ratings.
- When buying a used laptop, it’s very helpful to have some prior experience. She’d played around a bit with a friend’s MacBook Air, so we already knew she liked it. In particular, we knew that the speakers worked well, which was a major criterion and one that’s hard to track down.
- I’m not a fan of Windows anyway. If I can’t get her to use Linux, I don’t see much point quibbling between the two. If anything, Windows has been trying to catch up with the Mac OS over the years, so one might conclude that Mac is doing the better job.
- My original thought was actually to run Windows on the MacBook, so she wouldn’t have to learn a new system or change programs. But SSD capacity tends to run smaller than a regular hard drive, and I think it would be too much to set up a dual boot. Plus, I have no idea how well Windows would work with the non-standard peripheral ports on a Mac.
So far, it’s proved to be an easy transition. But there are several annoyances cropping up, which I’ll start to list in my next post.
Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews recounts a fascinating version of the struggle between Joseph and his brothers when he frames Benjamin with theft as a pretext to recall them to Egypt:
Even the angels descended from heaven to earth to be spectators of the combat between Joseph the bull and Judah the lion …
[Judah’s] outcry reached to a distance of four hundred parasangs, and when Hushim the son of Dan heard it in Canaan, he jumped into Egypt with a single leap and joined his voice with Judah’s, and the whole land was on the point of collapsing from the great noise they produced. Joseph’s valiant men lost their teeth, and the cities of Pithom and Raamses were destroyed, and they remained in ruins until the Israelites built them up again under taskmasters. Also Judah’s brethren, who had kept quiet up to that moment, fell into a rage, and stamped on the ground with their feet until it looked as though deep furrows had been torn in it by a ploughshare. And Judah addressed his brethren, “Be brave, demean yourselves as men, and let each one of you show his heroism, for the circumstances demand that we do our best.”
Then they resolved to destroy Mizraim, the city of Egypt, and Judah said, “I will raise my voice, and with it destroy Egypt.”
Reuben: “I will raise my arm, and crush it out of existence.”
Simon: “I will raise my hand, and lay waste its palaces.”
Levi: “I will draw my sword, and slay the inhabitants of Egypt.”
Issachar: “I will make the land like unto Sodom.”
Zebulon: “Like unto Gomorrah will I render it.”
Dan: “I will reduce it to a desert.”
Then Judah’s towering rage began to show signs of breaking out: his right eye shed tears of blood; the hair above his heart grew so stiff that it pierced and rent the five garments in which he was clothed; and he took brass rods, bit them with his teeth, and spat them out as fine powder. When Joseph observed these signs, fear befell him, and in order to show that he, too, was a man of extraordinary strength, he pushed with his foot against the marble pedestal upon which he sat, and it broke into splinters. Judah exclaimed, “This one is a hero equal to myself!” Then he tried to draw his sword from its scabbard in order to slay Joseph, but the weapon could not be made to budge, and Judah was convinced thereby that his adversary was a God-fearing man, and he addressed himself to the task of begging him to let Benjamin go free, but he remained inexorable… .
When Judah heard this, he was exceedingly wroth, and he took a stone weighing four hundred shekels that was before him, cast it toward heaven with one hand, caught it with his left hand, then sat upon it, and the stone turned into dust. At the command of Joseph, Manasseh did likewise with another stone, and Joseph said to Judah: “Strength hath not been given to you alone, we also are powerful men. Why, then, will ye all boast before us?” Then Judah sent Naphtali forth, saying, “Go and count all the streets of the city of Egypt and come and tell me the number,” but Simon interposed, saying, “Let not this thing trouble you, I will go to the mount, and take up one huge stone from the mount, throw it over the whole of Mizraim, the city of Egypt, and kill all therein.”
Hearing all these words, which they spake aloud, because they did not know that he understood Hebrew, Joseph bade his son Manasseh make haste and gather together all the inhabitants of Egypt, and all the valiant men, and let them come to him on horseback and afoot. Meantime Naphtali had gone quickly to execute Judah’s bidding, for he was as swift as the nimble hart, he could run across a field of corn without breaking an ear. And he returned and reported that the city of Egypt was divided into twelve quarters. Judah bade his brethren destroy the city; he himself undertook to raze three quarters, and he assigned the nine remaining quarters to the others, one quarter to each.
In the meantime Manasseh had assembled a great army, five hundred mounted men and ten thousand on foot, among them four hundred valiant heroes, who could fight without spear or sword, using only their strong, unarmed hands. To inspire his brethren with more terror, Joseph ordered them to make a loud noise with all sorts of instruments, and their appearance and the hubbub they produced did, indeed, cause fear to fall upon some of the brethren of Joseph. Judah, however, called to them, “Why are you terrified, seeing that God grants us His mercy?” He drew his sword, and uttered a wild cry, which threw all the people into consternation, and in their disordered flight many fell over each other and perished, and Judah and his brethren followed after the fleeing people as far as the house of Pharaoh. Returning to Joseph, Judah again broke out in loud roars, and the reverberations caused by his cries were so mighty that all the city walls in Egypt and in Goshen fell in ruins, the pregnant women brought forth untimely births, and Pharaoh was flung from his throne. Judah’s cries were heard at a great distance, as far off as Succoth.
When Pharaoh learnt the reason of the mighty uproar, he sent word to Joseph that he would have to concede the demands of the Hebrews, else the land would suffer destruction. “Thou canst take thy choice,” were the words of Pharaoh, “between me and the Hebrews, between Egypt and the land of the Hebrews. If thou wilt not heed my command, then leave me and go with them into their land.”
I had in mind when I got up this morning to write a review of “my first comic book.” I was going to explain that it wasn’t actually my first comic book:
- OK, a year or two ago we took the kids to free comic book day at a local store, and when they couldn’t come up with enough books to pick out for themselves, I got one Firefly issue. I read it once, and I suppose it’s somewhere in Ian’s room.
- Then there was that distant memory of a time when I was a kid—fourth or fifth grade, maybe—when my parents took us somewhere (a regular bookstore? a comic book store?) and let us pick out a couple of books. Maybe they did free comic book day back then, too. Anyway, I ended up with an issue of Fantastic Four and a Star Wars story that I think was set sometime between the first three movies.
- Oh, and the Chick comics. Around sixth grade I started collecting those like they were made of gold. As a married adult, I dug them out and gave them away to a friend …
- And then, somewhere out of the blue, I remembered. Archie. No, not that Archie—the Christian one. Published by Spire Christian Comics. They also did modernized Bible stories—I had at least a couple of those. Biographies, of people like Chuck Colson, Corrie ten Boom, David Wilkerson, Brother Andrew, someone named Hansi? Johnny Cash, Jim Elliott, Tom Landry, Tom Skinner—I had all of these. I don’t remember when I accumulated them, or where, or for how long, but I must have read them all repeatedly, and the memories came flooding back.
A while back I was pondering my Geek Cred, wondering why I never got into the social things that geeks do. I didn’t visit comic book stores, I didn’t play Dungeons & Dragons, I didn’t go to sci-fi conventions. But I did read the major works of Tolkien a dozen times by the time I finished high school. I did watch original Stark Trek reruns and the original Star Wars movies. I played Dragon Raid, which was a short-lived Christian knock-off of D&D, complete with 10-sided dice and Scripture memorization. And apparently I had a rather extensive comic book collection, just nothing you’ve ever heard of.
It’s not that I wasn’t a proper geek—I just lived at the odd intersection of geek and Christian subculture, where I mostly played by myself, because there was no one else to play with.
badass babies before the Flood
From a traditional Jewish story about ideal conditions before the flood:
The raising of children gave them no trouble. They were born after a few days’ pregnancy, and immediately after birth they could walk and talk; they themselves aided the mother in severing the navel string. Not even demons could do them harm. Once a new-born babe, running to fetch a light whereby his mother might cut the navel string, met the chief of the demons, and a combat ensued between the two. Suddenly the crowing of a cock was heard, and the demon made off, crying out to the child, “Go and report unto thy mother, if it had not been for the crowing of the cock, I had killed thee!” Whereupon the child retorted, “Go and report unto thy mother, if it had not been for my uncut navel string, I had killed thee!”
When I went looking for an edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I thought for some reason the name Philip Pullman sounded familiar. I never read his books, but I thought the Golden Compass was kind of lame as movies go. Anyway, the stories themselves don’t seem to suffer, but his commentaries are sometimes more enlightening about the editor than the content.
I’d never read or heard the story of the Girl with No Hands. It’s about a pious young girl whose father makes a deal with the Devil and ends up cutting off her hands but sparing her soul when the Enemy comes to claim his prize. Throughout the story she prays often and is protected by angels. There is misunderstanding, and deception, and a good king, and pursuit of his bride, and a happy ending. It’s much like any other fairy tale, except that instead of witches and magical tasks we have the Devil and angels, simple faith and prayer. I suppose one might argue, if anything, that it portrays a too-magical understanding of spiritual things, but Pullman has a different take:
The tone of never-shaken piety is nauseating, and the restoration of the poor woman’s hands simply preposterous.
"But aren’t fairy tales supposed to be full of preposterous things?"
No. The resurrection of the little boy in “The Juniper Tree,” for example, feels truthful and right. This feels merely silly: instead of being struck by wonder, here we laugh. It’s ridiculous. This tale and others like it must have spoken very deeply to many audiences, though, for it to spread so widely, or perhaps a great many people like stories of maiming, cruelty and sentimental piety.
A boy with never-shaken confidence in his own abilities, or who unquestioningly follows the magical advice of an elf and finds his true love raised from the dead “feels truthful and right”; but never-shaken confidence in God, protecting angels, prayer, and physical restoration are just silly. Apparently, Christian faith is not just superstition and fairy tales—it’s something far inferior wherever it appears in the popular imaginings of backward people.
Thank you, Mr. Pullman. Your feelings about fairyland leave us much wiser than we were before.
It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, “Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?” he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, “Why, there is that bookcase … and the coals in the coal-scuttle … and pianos … and policemen.” The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.
There is, therefore, about all complete conviction a kind of huge helplessness. The belief is so big that it takes a long time to get it into action. And this hesitation chiefly arises, oddly enough, from an indifference about where one should begin. All roads lead to Rome; which is one reason why many people never get there. In the case of this defence of the Christian conviction I confess that I would as soon begin the argument with one thing as another; I would begin it with a turnip or a taximeter cab.— I think this quote from G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, but not that kind) addresses at least in part why I find it more difficult to explain my conversion to Orthodoxy, the further I get from my chrismation. It’s become home—a place to be lived, not a proposition to be defended.