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Showing posts from 2008

A Poem

Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed
others leaning forward i…
"I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?"
Ronnie Shakes

Christmas Break

First, allow me to say that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the funniest book I've ever read, and anyone with a sense of humor should read it.

***Disclaimer - Frequent drug abuse and language

Now, onto my Christmas break plans. I'm heading off to Virginia to see an old friend. On the way, I'm shooting up to Chicago to see a number of people. Then, I'm picking up a college friend in southern Illinois. Together, we will travel to Virginia to meet up with Daniel. From there, we'll probably go to D.C. We'll also probably hit some slopes. I'd like to check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park and do a little back-country hiking, but that depends on our equipment.

I'll leave for this trip sometime after Christmas and return on the 6th of January.


I just joined a yoga class here in Sterling. This comic cracks me up.

Meeting Jesus Again... or not.

I finished Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg today. Don't get me wrong - I think that Borg's position is much more intellectually honest, morally pure, and well-intentioned than traditional Christians. And for all of my Christian friends, I encourage you to read either this book or another one written by Marcus Borg. He's written many books advocating a progressive Christianity, and I'm sure they're just as good as this one.

But it's still just not convincing for me. If I had to pick though, I'd pick a faith like his (or John Shelby Spong, another Jesus Seminar guy).

Try Downloading Some Past Episodes of Quandaries

As many of you know, I have been doing my own radio program on the school's radio station every Wednesday. Usually, you had to tune in at 11pm to be able to hear the show, but I'm beginning to collect the archived material. Here is Episode 4: Evolution and Episode 5: The Boundaries of Science. I'll have all of them on soon, but download these and let me know what you think!
Everything you've learned in school as "obvious" becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.
- R. Buckminster Fuller

The End of Faith

I just finished Sam Harris' fine book, The End of Faith. I wish all of my friends would read books like this. I have a friend here at Sterling College who has read not only this, but books by such authors as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett, all outspoken atheists, and together with Harris known as "The Four Horseman."

Disclaimer: You have to have to have an open mind to read this book. Be prepared to change some foundational beliefs.

Sad is Good

I just finished reading a book by Frederick Buechner: Speak What We Feel, Not What We Ought To Say. It talked about the life and works of Hopkins, Twain, Chesterton, and Shakespeare, and how the sadness and tragedy in their lives enabled them to write some of their most sincere work.

I was thinking about how tragedy and sadness drive persons to contemplation. In fact, some of my deepest insights took place during a period of melancholy. Why is it that sadness stimulates the mind? Why do we consider tragedy more important than comedy? In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if the reason sadness feels "bad" is related to the fact that people who are sad aren't particularly productive. Perhaps it's another trick of evolution.

Some Thoughts on Religion and Science

The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails. - H L Mencken

In Galileo, Bertolt Brecht underlines the tension between religious authority and scientific inquiry. This struggle has existed for nearly the entirety of Christianity. Christians today like to pretend that the hands of contemporary religion are clean from the blood of scientific martyrs. Despite their delusions, religions like Christianity are doing just as much damage today as they did in the time of Copernicus and Galileo.

Rather than doubting the veracity of the heliocentric model of falling bodies, today's religious autocrats handle scientific research which they feel is of much more moral weight. Studies in stem cells and bioengineering have been halted because the faithful feel as if man is tampering with and destr…
off golden gate bridge
en route to Greeb Lake
before leaving for Greeb Lake
night on the town - after listening to music at local coffee shop
trying on hats at Courtney's place
me and my buddy jimmy nops
at KC to see Les Miserables at Starlight
bingo night!
nerdy group at the KC Ren Fest
The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
- Steven Weinberg
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
- Bertrand Russell


The most exciting part of this semester so far has been the establishment of my radio program called Quandaries. I'm trying to get SC students to think differently about difficult issues (like morality and the nature of life) by introducing various viewpoints on the subject. Join the Facebook group (called Quandaries) or the Diigo group.

I'm also learning a special effects program in video lab, which should be useful for when I want to experiment with video documentary. I'm also a writer for the school paper this semester. And if you're around next month, come check out my sweet Jew skills in Fiddler on the Roof.

An Experiment In Honesty

This last week has been emotionally unsettling, and since I've been unoccupied all day (I'm at my dad's place until I leave for San Francisco), I'm feeling it in a strong sort of way. To sort it all out, I thought the best thing to do would be to start writing about it, so here it goes.

This summer has been very influential in my development - I suspect more influential than I can really understand at present. I had to leave many new-found friends and watch as friends left me. The people at Yellowstone helped me to see what I want socially. There were few Christians (besides the anomalous Campus Crusaders) who were more than nominally religious (and I mean religious in the way that we see American Evangelicals or Catholics - there were many 'mystics'). I could talk honestly about questions of death or a god without fearing that evangelical backlash I'd get at Sterling College or The Master's College. In fact, I just enjoyed being able to hang out with an…

Moved Into Campbell

I'm registered, official, legal - whatever - I'm a student again. The dorm is MUCH better this year all-around: location, furniture, size, neighbors. Now to San Francisco. I'm pretty excited about a music festival we are going to attend: Power to the Peaceful - in the park. Should be pretty big.

Home Again

As I promised -- more pictures:

The last two require a bit of explanation. These are taken next to the Firehole River, near the hot spring Ojo Caliente where some thermal features dump into the river, heating some of the water. We came to this spot many times to swim and sunbathe.

I already miss my friends at Yellowstone and hope that I can continue these relationships for many more years.

15 Days Left

The realization that my time here is almost through has finally hit. Yesterday, Anniina, Elina, Ryan, and I went to Jackson for the day. We saw the Tetons and had a good time shopping and seeing the town. Today, I'm just relaxing in my room, doing laundry, reading, and smoking with Ryan and James.

I'm reconsidering my trip to San Francisco. Janne suggested that if Ryan and I were willing to get a job in Helsinki next summer, we could all share an apartment. I may do that in place of going to San Francisco for a week. Besides, none of my teachers have gotten back to me about my schoolwork, and I have the feeling that they won't for a while.

I really have only one real weekend left, and I think I am going to spend it going to a secret place here in Yellowstone. My roommate caught wind of a place called "Fairyland," which is a place no trail leads to and only four expeditions are recorded to have gone out there. Because of the difficulty, not many private groups have …

From July 26

I had a long workday today (6:30am—7:00pm), so I came to the Snow Lodge to see if the rumors about faster internet are true. Well, apparently there is no connection at all over here in the Snow Lodge. So instead of doing internet things, I did some computer upkeep work and listening to Philip Glass. It's hard to believe that I am leaving in less than 3 weeks now. I will miss all of my friends terribly. I will probably never see most of them again, possibly with the exception of those many friends from Finland if I decide to ever study abroad in Helsinki. I would definitely like to see Mircea and Mirella again, and when I take my tour of Europe, I will certainly have to stop by Moldova to pay them a visit.

I'm typing slowly – and rather elementary – because I am learning a different keyboard layout called Dvorak. I began learning it when I attended The Master's College but my classes necessitated that I stick to what I know, which was Qwerty. Hopefully I can have it down wel…

Update from Yellowstone,,, Finally

I managed to get a ride to Bozeman today, so I am updating my blog at the library. Work is going well and I've met lots of great and interesting people. In fact, I'll probably meet some of my Finnish friends again in San Fransisco at the beginning of September. Honestly, it has been refreshing to get away from the overtly Christian atmosphere of Sterling College and live in a more "party-savvy" place. My uncle and aunt came down last weekend, taking me around the park and telling me stories of when they lived here. I've been working longer hours than most of my friends and am earning a little higher wage, so my pay checks have been 100-200 dollars more than theirs. Also, I've joined the 100 mile hike club, finishing my 100 miles a couple of weeks ago.

Settling in at Yellowstone

The first string of pictures out of Yellowstone... will not be shown now. Unfortunately, the internet connectivity at the park is very limited. In fact, I'm not able (at least today) to upload pictures on my blog.

Most of the geysers in the immediate area are all concentrated in a large, barren area, as the photos will (eventually) reveal. Some of the thermal features are more solitary, such as "Solitary Geyser."

Today was the first day in a while that these trails have been open. The park closed off many of them due to dangerous bear activity. The thermal activity here is absolutely astounding. I hiked alone, which isn't wise, but I called a friend and talked loudly to him as I hiked in the forested area in order to scare off nearby bears. There have been many sightings lately. One of my friends here had to abandon a hike because halfway through she witnessed a bear up ahead chasing a bison.

I spent about three hours wandering the geyser trails today. Tomorrow is my fi…

Arrived in Yellowstone

Finally, I'm here at Yellowstone National Park. The Greyhound ride was next to unbearable. If possible, I will try to find an alternative mode of transportation for the ride back. However, I did get to meet James at the Sioux Falls bus station. As it happens, he is working the same position and I. We talked a bit on the bus and decided to room together. There is only one other building between my dorm ("Columbine") and Old Faithful.

The park is as beautiful as I imagined. Yesterday we entered the park, registered, and went through orientation at Gardiner, on the northern border of YNP. The park is basically organized into a figure 8. Old Faithful is located on the South-Western section of the 8, nearer to the bottom than to the middle. It was about a 2-hour drive from the top of the 8 to Old Faithful, and on the way, the bus driver spotted a black wolf. We pulled over and got out to enjoy it, because apparently a sighting of a black wolf is very rare. The driver said that…


First: I finished Moby-dick; it now stands up there with The Great Gatsby - my favorite novels (those are the only two in the worship-worthy category of 'absolute favorites). It's good. If you've not read it, read it. That's all I have to say about that.

I also finished Tracks. It was interesting, but not something I would necessarily recommend to a friend. The next novel we read in History of the Novel in English was Watchmen, the famous graphic novel. It was amazing. Especially exciting was the discussion regarding Veidt's decision at the end, which I will talk about in the body of this post.

Mountains Beyond Mountains was simply inspiring. I'd recommend it to anybody who feels a need to do something big in the world. It is an autobiography of Dr. Paul Farmer, a passionate advocate for the poor. Cry, the Beloved Country was not quite monumental as I expected, but it was still good. It highlights the plight that South Africa experienced leading up to and during …

Visions of Hell

“Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”

This quote, seen over the entrance to Hell in Dante's Inferno, expresses a sentiment that many contemporary evangelicals would share. Dante's Hell is not only familiar to most Christians, but many believe that that is the way it is going to be for unbelievers throughout eternity. Many Christians do not realize that the history behind the Christian doctrine of Hell, and indeed the Bible itself, allows for alternative doctrines of Hell. This essay will attempt to summarize these varying beliefs, comparing them with Dante's vision of the abyss. The predominate views of Hell that exist today include the traditionalist view, the Conditionalist or Annihilationist view, and the Universalist or Apocatastasis view.

The study of these doctrines cannot be divorced from the Old and New Testament descriptions of Hell. In the Old Testament, death indiscriminately took all of its victims to a shady underworld known as Sheol. According to an article…

Reaction to Dante's Hell as Portrayed in Dante's Inferno

Since its Patristic roots, the Church has struggled with two seemingly contradictory aspects of God's nature. One one hand, God is said to be loving and caring towards his creation. At the same time, however, God is seen as a judge, dealing out justice to all according to their actions. Some Christians have argued that God, due to his overabundance of love, can never punish or cause harm. Other Christians have no qualms in maintaining that a loving God sends people to Hell, even against their own will. Most fall in between these two extremes. I would maintain that Dante's view of punishment in Hell errs on the side of the latter extreme, given the assumption of a loving God as described in Christian literature. The God portrayed in Dante's Inferno punishes based on gross oversimplifications. His God ignores the larger picture of human psychology and sociological influences in addition to the rehabilitative capacities of wrongdoers.

Good parents do not punish their children …

Two Papers on Dante

In World Literature II, the class was asked to respond to Dante's Inferno. After reading this response to another class and discussing the topic for a bit, I felt I should write a bit more about the history of Hell. The next two posts are these two papers. I hope they are the finished, edited copies. I'm too lazy to go back and re-edit them if they are not.

*Disclaimer* The second paper cites Wikipedia. I encourage you to visit the Wikipedia articles. While some discount Wikipedia as inaccurate, I made sure only to cite articles which themselves where thoroughly cited. I visited many of the sources of this information via Wikipedia's article.

Well, here is my eternal destiny....

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScorePurgatory (Repenting Believers)Very LowLevel 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very HighLevel 2 (Lustful)ModerateLevel 3 (Gluttonous)ModerateLevel 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)LowLevel 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)ModerateLevel 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)HighLevel 7 (Violent)ModerateLevel 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)ModerateLevel 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low
Take the Dante's Inferno Test

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

Only a few more weeks of school are left. My last final is on the 23rd... And I'm ready for it.

I finished The Crying of Lot 49 before the backpacking trip. It was an excellent book. Since I identify myself more and more with Postmodernism, I was especially fond of what the book had to say about truth and the nature of knowing. A short read, recommended to everyone who isn't easily offended by sex and language (by the way, the book is absolutely hilarious!).

I finished Voltaire's Candide during break as well. It was an interesting contrast to Pascal. Although I do not agree with either Pascal or Voltaire's philosophy (as much as Voltaire was able to express his philosophy in a satire), I tend to find Voltaire's thoughts a little more honest. Another humorous piece of literature, that Candide.

This week's book in my Novel class was Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is not funny at all; in fact, it is very serious - and very excellently written. Morrison won the Nobel pr…

I'm Back!

I've arrived safely back from the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. Six backpackers went total. Let me give you a quick rundown of what went... down.. Ahem, shall I begin?

Sunday: The five from Kansas meet at a predetermined spot to "break the ice" and "talk a little," as well as "do a little packing," and "leaving Kansas about four hours earlier than we planned just because we can."

Monday: We arrive at the park in the early afternoon. Since we planned on meeting our sixth person at a developed campground, we drive down to that area. They are every one of them booked. We slightly panic. We go back up to the visitor's center to see if we can get a back country permit. A large sign displays that there is one spot left for tonight, a few others for tomorrow. Several campers are in line before us. Will we get the one remaining spot?

We do, and not a moment too soon. "That was a close one," our ranger said as she marked off …

Texas, Here I Come

Oh boy! Only a few more days, and the group leaves for Big Bend National Park! We may encounter some black bears, poisonous snakes, or scorpions. Ugh, I hate bugs. I wouldn't mind the bears and snakes so much, but scorpions really freak me out.

Well, I've finished Mrs. Dalloway since my last post, in addition to William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Both are written with stream-of-consciousness style, however Faulkner's is much more difficult to understand. Both are excellent novels, worth reading (you'll have to really concentrate on Faulkner's, though).

We've also read sections of Augustine's Confessions, which, I must admit, I didn't really enjoy. Now in another class we're reading Pascal's Pensees, which I also don't like. I cannot justify Pascal's reasoning. I cannot accept some of his presuppositions.

On the other hand, I'm reading Beowulf (Seamus Heaney's translation), which is even better this time around than the …

I Have a Life Again!

The play is over! That frees up about 15 hours per week for me, so maybe I will start working ahead on homework, or I could think about entering the social sphere again. No matter - the play went well. Friday was by far the best performance. We had a bigger audience, bigger reaction, and more energy.

Since my last post, I've finished Tale of Two Cities. I had a hard time getting through the book (maybe because of my time limit I felt rushed) without considerable pain, but it provided a lot of discussion material, and in retrospect, I enjoyed it immensely. Last week, then, I read Tess, of the D'Urbervilles, which was tragic and deliciously cynical towards society and religion. Both great books. Of course, they are classics, so you already know that they are worth your attention.

For Human Social Context, we finished Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches, a fascinating book about why cultures do weird things (like worship cows). Marvin Harris tries to find a sociological underpinning rea…

Summer Job and College Major

A man from Yellowstone National Park called me a few days ago, letting me know that I have a position there for the summer. I'll be working with the food and beverage department (not the most glamorous job, but it's a start) in the Old Faithful area of the park. I start May 10th!

For my Novel class, we read Frankenstein last week. I really enjoyed the discussion of this book, much more, perhaps, than the reading of the book itself, although Shelley is not a bad writer. I still think I liked Wuthering Heights better, though.

In Human Social Context, we finishedThe Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, an absolutely fantastic book. It does an excellent job of demonstrating the strange things that the brain can do, and raises many questions about ethical decisions, the soul, and happiness of those with cases of autism and other conditions. That class is really reinforcing some of the ideas I've embraced last semester, as I continue to move further away from my Fundamentalist upbr…

Books Abound!

I've completed two more books since my last post - both for my History of the Novel class. Northanger Abbey, as was expected from Jane Austen: a very pleasant read, just about equal to what I imagined it to be. Wuthering Heights proved itself very disturbing, but a disturbing that I enjoyed immensely. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this novel at all, but I was "oh so mistaken."

Allow me to comment on the weather! Woo-hoo! We're seeing sun, and even some warmth!

Play practice is coming along fine. My character is starting to materialize. Corin's been hard for me, because, for the first time, the character that I play isn't over the top. I can't quite decide how to make him shine, but I think I'm getting close.

Finally, expect to see an update concerning a certain camping trip coming up within the next few months.


A New Semester

I know I haven't been too faithful this semester in keeping my blog updated. Mostly it's because nothing exciting is happening - just business as usual. I'll start off by posting the classes I'm taking this semester:

Western Culture and History
World Literature II
Greek II
Intro to the New Testament
Human Social Context
Swing Band
Saxophone Choir
History of the Novel in English
Jazz Combo

In addition to these classes (19 hours), I'm in the Spring Shakespeare play, As You Like It, as Corin, a shepherd. Also, I've been recruited by the debate team here on campus to start practicing debate to see if I want to try out any tournaments.

I must admit, this will probably be the busiest semester I've had since starting college. Many of my classes are reading-intensive. Besides textbooks, I have 24 books to read, 14 Novels for History of the Novel, and the others from classes like World Lit, Western Culture, and Human Social Context. That's almost two books per week!

Oh, for…