Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pacific Rim Is Not A Dumb Movie...

...and if you say otherwise I will rocket punch you!

Yeah, so, ever since I saw Pacific Rim when it first came out I've been pretty much obsessed with this movie. Unfortunately it seems that there is a lot of people out there who think that Pacific Rim is merely an awesome dumb movie. Or a well done dumb movie. Or a dumb movie that knows its dumb and doesn't take itself too seriously.

These people are all idiots.


Because dumb movies have dumb characters and dumb plots and dumb themes. Pacific Rim has none of these. It has strong (if simple) characters, a simple plot, and the most beautiful theme I have seen in a summer block buster to date.

Let's look at these in order, eh?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Audacity of Catholicism

*Update: Yeah, the main argument here doesn't quite work. But my sleep deprived haze of bad logic still brings up some good points and has spawned some interesting discussion in the comments, so I will leave this here unedited. Do yourself a favor though and read the exchange between Irked and Kevin.*

The Catholic Church makes a rather audacious truth claim that, to my knowledge, no other Christian sect makes. That is she claims to have the "fullness of truth." Quite the claim, and a rather foolish one at that is it not? The Church is, after all, a merely human institution, and humans being the fallible critters that they are cannot possibly hope to arrive at the "fullness of truth." I mean, we can probably arrive at some approximation of the truth. A set of beliefs that we hold to be true with the understanding that while they paint a pretty good picture of reality, there may be a few that deviate ever so slightly.

This was the case for just about every Protestant church I had been in. They laid out their beliefs, perhaps even ranked in order of importance or confidence, but there was always room left for error. We were told we had super high confidence in the basics, Jesus died on the cross for our sins, God exists as three persons in the Trinity, Heaven and Hell are real places, etc. And perhaps not as much confidence in the obscure things such as how old the earth is, what the order of the end times will be, is baptism by immersion or is sprinkling cool? To be sure everyone had their opinions on these less important issues, and it was these less important issue that made clear the distinctions between various denominations, but it was generally held that one can be Christian and disagree on such things.

The attitude was generally that of, "those other Christians are wrong, but our differences aren't too important so its best to live and let live." This is what I experienced growing up. Maybe your experience was different, but from what I've seen of Protestant writing those that aren't noisy attention whores tend to have some sort of "We can agree to disagree" attitude.

Except Catholics.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Texas Abortion Bill and Birth Defects

Darshak Sanghavi over at Slate recently wrote a post titled Who Has an Abortion After 20 Weeks? In it he claims that many women choose abortions half way through their pregnancy because it is around that time that technology can determine the likelihood that their unborn children (he uses the word fetus) will have a severe birth defect. He argues that since the Texas bill bans abortions after just about the time its possible to detect defects, women will either choose to abort a possibly healthy baby, or they will have to carry a disabled child to term. While I appreciate his concerns, along with those of the women he works with, birth defects are never a valid reason for abortion.

The primary question in the abortion debate is this, does a human being have a right to life?

Friday, July 12, 2013

PC Gaming Thoughts

While the Steam Summer Sale is doing its best to ravish the wallets of PC gamers everywhere I talked my roomate into buying the Counterstrike Complete pack (CS1.6, Condition Zero, CS:Source and CS:Global Offensive) because it came on sale for $7.50 and I'm always looking for new people to own in Counterstrike!

After he bought it we both noticed that Left 4 Dead 2 had also gone on sale for $5, and he lamented that he had already spent money that he hadn't planned on spending on Counterstrike when he probably would have liked L4D2 better but couldn't spend more. I can understand that frustration, and so didn't push that it. It was then that we decided to go to Freebirds and get 8 dollar burritos for lunch.

Which got me thinking.

One of the common complaints about PC gaming is that it is very expensive. Computers are typically more expensive than consoles and gaming computers are more expensive still! Or are they?

For as long as I can remember, Tom's Hardware's quarterly system builder marathons have always included a $500 or $600 budget gaming PC that has to compete against $1,000 and $2,000 machines. While the low end machine never wins in terms of frame rates, it typically does very well in the price/performance segment, and it is almost always capable of running all the test games at playable settings.

That is to say, a $500 gaming PC is within the realm of possibility. The PlayStation 3 launched at $500. The Xbox 360 launched between $300 and $450 depending on the configuration. Now a gaming PC will still require a monitor, peripherals, and operating system (though Steam is now on Linux so that may change), but console gamers still typically own a PC of some kind anyway. Even the cheapest systems from an OEM start at around $400. In the case of my roommate he owns a Macbook, which is far more expensive.

Now a common counter-argument is that PC gaming technology advances too quickly and that PC gamers have to constantly upgrade their hardware. Well, yes and no. If you want the fastest frame rates in the newest titles, then yeah, you'll be buying a new video card every year or two. However, PC game writers are very careful to include as many configurations as possible so they don't shrink their potential market. And some older game engines are still in constant use. Heck, the Source engine has been around since 04 and they are *still* new games being built on it! I don't think its unreasonable to expect console longevity from a gaming PC these days.

In the end, a lower end PC that is fully capable of gaming is, hardware wise, cheaper than a console and a PC. So far PC gaming is looking cheaper, but what about software?

Well, this posted started with Steam and necessarily returns to Steam. While Console games tend to start at around 60 dollars and do not have consistent sales, Steam has turned all of use PC gamers into Pavlov's dogs waiting for weekend sales or the summer and winter Steam sales. Most my friends tend to buy a lot of games at these sales, and then slowly play through them the rest of the year. While a Console gamer may be doing well to pick up a game for thirty bucks, we'll be buying four or five games for five dollars each. So, I think PC gaming is cheaper here as well.

Now I'm not making fun of console gamers, consoles are better for some things. Guitar Hero and Mario Party are two styles of games that I don't think would work well on the PC. I'm also not making fun of my roommate for spending more on a burrito than on a video game.

What I am saying is that it seems to me that this whole idea that PC gaming is more expensive should be put to rest.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love, Debates, and People Being Wrong On The Internet

You can't change anyone. You can't get anyone to abandon their position and take up yours. Its not because they are stupid, its not because they need to "wake up" and its not because you just aren't persuasive enough. People just don't change.

Unless they want to.

See it doesn't matter how great your blog post is, or how awesome that captioned image of Obama you just posted to Facebook is, you aren't going to change anyone's mind (let alone their heart) with it. People are stubborn. We're subject to such things as confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and cognitive inertia. We are defensive and reactionary, and there's not much that other people can do about it.

You can make your opponent look stupid by lampooning their position, that just makes them defensive. You can make your opponent look evil by claiming the moral high ground, that just makes them angry. You can can debate your opponent and counter every point they offer, that just makes them determined to do better next time. No change of mind or heart will occur.

So what do we do?

You love them. The best way to get someone to pay attention to your ideas is to love that person. Its easy to ignore someone who is attacking you, its much harder to ignore the person bandaging your wounds. Its hard to deny the goodness of the worldview held by a saint.

When Proverbs 25:21 says to feed your enemies, and verse 22 follows by saying that by doing so you'll "heap burning coals upon his head" that's not to say that you'll be getting some sort of strange revenge over your enemies. Fire purifies, and the coals will purify your enemy's head, i.e., your kindness, your love, will win him over.

Admittedly it feels much better to ridicule or win a debate, but if that's the path you take you already have your reward. If you love your opponent you may win yourself a new brother. It takes time, and consistency, and turning the other cheek, but it is the only way to effect real change in another person. You can't debate someone into seeing the light! You can't ridicule a sinner into a saint!

So show people love. You may not win them over now, or ever depending on the hardness of their heart, but its the only way to even have a shot.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thank you NRA?

A criminal in prison recently wrote a letter thanking the NRA for "protecting my ability to easily obtain [guns] through its opposition to universal background checks." Quite predictably, this has caused quite the reaction. He goes on to say how he intends to buy a gun at a gun show once he is released.

If we want to think critically about this we need to point out a few things:

1) Under current law it is illegal for a felon to even possess a firearm. This mean that even without "universal" background checks Mr. Bornman cannot buy or even touch a firearm legally!

2) FFLs at gun shows MUST submit NICS checks. Bornman cannot legally purchase a firearm from a FFL holder, regardless of whether or not the FFL holder in question is selling at a gun show or a store front.

3) It is already illegal to sell a firearm to a felon privately. Remember point one? This is related but a little different. While private sales are currently legal (in most, but not all states) it is still illegal to sell a firearm to a felon.

4) Laws do not enforce themselves. With the above three points taken into account, we can clearly see that It is already illegal for Bornman to buy a firearm. Adding a "universal" background check law to this list would only make an illegal activity "more illegal." It would not prevent Bornman, whom clearly has no regard for the law, from obtaining a firearm illegally. It would however prevent law abiding Americans from exercising an essential civil liberty.

5) If Bornman is writing so openly about his plans to break the law and possibly hurt people, why ever let him out of prison? His letter may have more to say about our criminal justice system than it does about gun control.

So what do we make of Bornman's letter? A few things. I think its clear he's the type of individual who likes poking the hornet's nest. He has a history of writing such letters. And though I suspect that's all this is, disarmed victims are easier to deal with from his perspective so it makes sense for him to villainize the NRA.

To summarize, the argument implicit in Bornman's letter is that universal background checks would prevent criminals from getting guns. This is clearly false, no law can enforce itself. Background checks are only as good as the information in them, and even the complete ban of certain products has not prevented their sale on the black market. To blame crime on the lack of a universal background check law, and thus place responsibility on the NRA for opposing it, is disingenuous.

It does, however, stir up the hornet's nest.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Family Feud

I recently came across the following on a forum and liked it so much I got the author's permission to post it here! The author and his family have been having a back and forth debate on Protestantism and Catholicism and when he finally decided to speak his mind this was the result:

Dear [redacted]

Please don’t take anything I say personally. When I heard you two fell away from the Church I was sad and disappointed, but at the same time I was also glad you were taking the life’s journey so seriously. I respect a bold decision, even if I feel it’s the wrong one. The worst thing a person could do is treat the question of God\heaven\hell with indifference (God spits out the lukewarm). Furthermore, I don’t know the crosses you bare, so what right do I have to approach you with a condescending tone? St. Francis once said if anyone else was given the same graces he received they would be a greater man; I feel the same way about myself and so I am more worried about my own failures then looking for yours. I also remind myself that Paul murdered Christians and St. Augustine was committing sexual sins IN Churches late in their 20s and in the end they both became saints. So who really knows the path God has for you? I sure as heck don’t know! But I do want to express my thoughts on all that has been said so far. Take what good you can find in it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where Reason Fears To Tread

Saturday night I joined the Catholic Church and partook of the Blessed Sacrament for the first time. It was... amazing. I hesitate to use the word because we overuse it so much, but I can think of no better description. Jesus is present in the Eucharist, there is no doubt in my mind about that. Not only because of the things I have learned from RCIA and from Sacred Scripture, but from my experience Saturday night. I ate God. It was the most tangible He has ever been in my life. I can't describe it and I don't know that I could ever explain it. Honestly, it doesn't make much sense.

And that's okay.

One error that I am often prone to, and that my series of posts on RCIA attests to, is that I tend to put logic and reason first to the exclusion of all else. Things have to make sense to me before I believe them. I have to wrestle with ideas before I can accept them. This is good, it is far better than blind faith, but it can be taken too far. Reason is not the end all be all of human knowledge. It is vital, it is necessary, but it is ultimately insufficient.

There is, after all, a supernatural element to all of this. If we ignore that we do God great injustice. For how can we bind the creator of the universe to the merely natural? Reason can take you quite far, but it stops at the realm of the supernatural. Being a good scientifically minded westerner, I am often afraid to leave my reason behind and cross that threshold. Saturday night the Catholic Church compelled me to do so. I cannot deny that there is more to God than systematic theologies and arguments over Sola Scriptura when I am ingesting Him. I ate Him. I felt Him in a way I've never felt before.

Systematic Theologies didn't die on the cross for my sins. Doctrine didn't die on the cross for my sins. Christ did.
"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles"
And why the creator of the universe chose to redeem his creation through such folly I'll probably never understand in this lifetime. However, the point I am trying to make here is that if we focus solely on reason we neglect the power of Christ to our own peril. We become like the pharisees, too busy arguing over the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath to stop and consider the miracle of the healing!

And perhaps this is why until I was in college I had developed the assumption that God had stopped doing miracles. It was never a conscious belief. I never saw one and and my church never talked about them so they just didn't figure into my worldview. For all I knew miracles ended when the twelve died. Then I went to college and heard stories of logistical miracles mostly from people who went on short term mission trips. Those stories were never very compelling as the consisted mostly of getting from point A to point B in a time no one thought possible. There wasn't any unmistakable divine intervention there!

But, dear reader, there are honest to God miracles taking place in this world. Even today. But for some reason we never talk about them! So why do I favor arguing over the translations of individual Greek and Hebrew words when I could mention the miracles of St. Padre Pio? Why do I dwell on the role the magisterium when I can talk about the Incorruptibles?

Reason is great until it blinds you, and I suppose to some extent I have been blinded to the supernatural side of the Church. We set our sights too low. We ask God for a textbook when we could be asking miracles. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"I believe and profess...

 ...all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Catholicism 101: Intro

You all ask too much from my last post, methinks. The title was "Problems with Protestantism," not "Problems with Protestantism and how they are answered by a concise and accurate Catholic Systematic Theology."

Taken together, the comments seem to indicate a demand for a more detailed look at Catholic doctrine, and while I would love to meet that demand, it is something I feel neither prepared nor qualified to write at this time. However, I would loathe to leave these questions unanswered, and so I have arrived at the following solution: I will serve as an aggregator.

It is my intention to pick a doctrine and compile a list of sources that you can read to learn more about it, along with a brief summary of the sources, each week. Whether or not I will stick to that schedule is a different matter entirely, but I'll try.

For now I offer you this, leave me a comment with ONE question on ONE topic and I will do my best to answer it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Problems with Protestantism

So the question remains, what is my problem with the Protestant church? Well, there are several, one of which is illustrated by the problem with the question. There is no such thing as the "Protestant Church." There are Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, and Pentecostal churches, to name merely a few. All of these are real things. You can walk into their buildings on a Sunday (or Saturday) and discuss their beliefs with a pastor, but you cannot do that with a Protestant. You cannot talk to a Protestant. You can only talk to a Baptist, or a Methodist, etc. Protestantism is an idea that encompasses many different churches, but there is no "Protestant Church" the way there is a Baptist church. The Protestant Church is a non-thing, and I cannot be satisfied with a non-thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gun Control is Dead

Defense Distributed has been working on a 3d printed AR-15 lower for some time now. Their early attempts saw the lower fall apart under the stress of firing. Today this video was brought to my attention:

This is huge, and in my opinion is the first nail in the coffin of gun control. This is probably the most significant development in firearms technology since the invention of gas operation.

To give you a little bit of background, the AR-15 consists of two main parts. These are the upper and lower receivers. The upper contains the bolt group and the barrel, and the lower contains the stock and the trigger. Legally speaking only the lower is the firearm. This is one reason ARs are so popular, its really easy to buy an upper, have it shipped to your door, slap it on your lower (with the push of two pins) and change the caliber, barrel length, or even gas operating system of the firearm. ARs are very versatile and very modular.

In the video above, the white part of the firearm is the lower. That is the part that is legally the gun. While I can buy an upper and have it shipped to my door, to buy a lower I'd have to go to a gun store, fill out an ATF form 4473, pass a background check and depending on the state, register the lower. Defense Distributed has figured out how to print this part using a 3D printer.

It has always been legal for a citizen to build their own firearm for their own use. You just could not sell it unless you were an FFL. While legal this practice has been limited to a select few with the necessary skills. But now we can download a simple file and print off a firearm. This is the death of gun control. Gun control depends on distribution control. If you cannot control distribution, then you cannot control firearms.

I will probably discuss this more later, but for now I just wanted to share this extremely exciting development!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I just want to be left alone

A quick note on gun control:

You know, I didn't ask for this. I didn't want to be as vocal about this stuff as I have been. I'm a quiet guy and I like to live a quiet life. I'd like to be left alone and don't like drawing attention to myself. But I don't seem to have a choice anymore. There are people who think I shouldn't enjoy the things I enjoy and that I shouldn't own the property I own. For whatever reason they believe they need to intervene in my life and deprive me of these things.

I don't understand this. I never hurt anyone. I've never bothered anyone. I keep to myself. Why do they have to stick their noses in my business? Just leave me alone! Let me be!

But that's the reality of the gun control "debate" today. You have one side that thinks mere things are evil and need to be removed from society. And the rest of use like our mere things and would like to keep them please and thank you. I don't think there's a single one of us who enjoys this discussion, but we're stuck with it.

Its like the worst kind of homeowner's association. Dictating to you what you can and cannot do with your property. Only you never joined the HOA, and they have no right to tell you what to do, but they are anyway. That's how I feel. And I'm tired of it and I really just want it to go away.

But the people who want to take away my rights and my property won't go away. So I can't be silent. That's where I stand.