25 November 2014 @ 02:59 pm
In the war between diet and chocolate, a giant box of chocolates brought by some your favourite students is a killer move. I've nearly finished the top layer already.
16 November 2014 @ 06:14 pm
Somewhere, I hope, there is a middle ground between #shirtstorm and #gamergate.
10 November 2014 @ 04:44 pm
Happy birthday eve_prime!
09 November 2014 @ 03:14 pm
"We must be careful not to slip toward the path of being pagan Christians, Christians in appearance. The temptation to get used to mediocrity, the mediocrity of Christians, these Christians, it is their undoing because their hearts cool, they become lukewarm. And the Lord had strong words for these lukewarm [Christians]: 'because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth'. These are very strong words! They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name, but do not follow the requirements of Christian life.

"Do I like to brag? Do I like money? Do I like pride, arrogance? Where are my roots, that is, where am I a citizen of? Heaven or earth? ...

"How did this steward in the Gospel arrive at this point of cheating, of stealing from his master? How did he get there, from one day to the next? No! Little by little. One day a tip here, the next day a bribe there, and this is how little by little you arrive at corruption."

Mohammed also railed against the "munafiqun" (hypocrites). If you're only going to read one chapter of the Quran, read Al-Ma'un ("Kindnesses" / "Charity"). Well, considering it's so short, here it is.

Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray [But] who are heedless of their prayer - Those who make show [of their deeds] And withhold [simple] assistance.

The pope's homily also puts me in mind of one of my favourite poems.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have crowned Neaera's curls,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.

~ G.K. Chesterton

Of course, none of this is meant as disrespect to my pagan/heathen friends. In fact it struck me that the pagans of today are in some ways like the Christians of the first century or the Muslims of the seventh century, and Muslims and Christians today are all too often like the pagans of the first century.
05 November 2014 @ 07:10 pm
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought … For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

And compare with the Turkish theologian Yaşar Nuri Öztürk (my rough translation) "To make a religion violent, you need to convert it into an ideology. The imperialists have succeeded in doing this to Islam." (Of course you could counter that Islam was pretty violent way before imperialism, but then Öztürk directs some of his strongest ire at the Ummayads, so fair's fair.)

All of these are interesting thoughts, though I am still unsure as to what exactly constitutes the difference between a religion and an ideology, and to what extent we can really claim that all the world's religions were all rainbows and group hugs at their inception. But still, these are steps in the right direction. My main priorities when dealing with religious believers of any hue are:

They don't want to kill me.

They don't want to kill anyone else.

They aren't pushing views that could lead to ecological disaster (like climate change denial).

They're not trying to justify political, economic or gender oppression.

Theological niceties come way down the list. So I'm down with liberal Muslims, Reform Jews, Unitarians, wishy-washy Anglicans, fluffy bunny pagans and, it seems, the Pope. Never thought that would happen.
25 October 2014 @ 02:04 pm
Since someone recommended reading The 48 Laws of Power, I checked it out on Wikipedia: "Although Greene was unhappy in his current job, he was comfortable and saw the time needed to write a proper book proposal as too risky. However, at the time Greene was rereading his favorite biography about Julius Caesar and took inspiration from Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon River and fight Pompey, thus inciting the Great Roman Civil War. Greene would follow Caesar's example and write the treatment, which later became The 48 Laws of Power."

Hmmm. Crossing the Rubicon may be an iconic example of a momentous decision, but it is also an example of stupid decision. Caesar took an unconstitutional action which plunged the republic into a war that eventually ended it, and which in turn led to his assassination. So, a pretty dumb move, and that coming from someone who had recently killed and enslaved millions of people because it seemed like a good idea at the time, setting up the whole "Let's conquer the whole world" thing that overextended Rome's territory and led to its eventual destruction. Despite widespread condemnation, Caesar thought so well of his murderous rampages that he wrote a book about it, which until recently was forced upon schoolboys learning Latin because its leaden prose was at least easy to parse.

It is not a good advert for the book when the author takes his inspiration from one of history's greatest failures.
19 October 2014 @ 10:18 pm

Interesting that they advertise a meeting of the East Asian Society with a picture of a girl with red hair and big round eyes (with purple irises to boot) and it seems perfectly appropriate. When characters like this first appeared in manga and anime, they were accused of perpetuated racial stereotypes whereby Caucasian features were seen as more desirable, but it's going way beyond that now. It's almost like anime characters are a race unto themselves.
19 October 2014 @ 12:37 pm
Of Jews and Jinns

“The Jew is very practiced in sorcery. Indeed most sorcerers are Jews,” says Prof. Valiollah Naghipourfar, who reckons Israel is using jinns to spy on Iran. This is a new twist on a very old trope, since the Jews had a reputation for magic going way back, regarded with grudging respect by Christian occultists and sheer terror by ordinary folk. I reckon there are two reasons for this supposition. The first is that if you want to oppress a minority over a long period, you need to keep them in subjugation so they have no real power while giving the impression that they have some secret power to justify your fear of them and the measures you use to suppress them. The second is that a group deprived of political power and treated with hostility into the bargain will naturally turn to other forms of power. The stereotype of the Jew as magician is like the stereotype of the Jew as usurer; when you deprive people of the right to own land and bar them from various professions, they get creative.

The funny thing is applying this stereotype to modern Israel. A nation with warplanes has no need of jinn.
15 October 2014 @ 08:49 am
“Treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for that is the law.” ~ Jesus
"Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.” ~ Buddha
“Hurt no one, so that no one may hurt you.” ~ Mohammed

"Kill them all, God will know his own." ~ Arnaud Amalric

I think that's called signal degradation.
14 October 2014 @ 11:11 am
Guys - if you want to feel superior to women, hold a press-up competition or something. Just stay off social media, OK?