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Ruminations During History of Philosophy

I thought this semester was going to be fairly uneventful. Now, I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through it without some kind of therapy. For now, my therapy has been reading rational thinkers like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins.

I started with Letter to a Christian Nation, which I actually read as a Christian when it first came out in 2006. I've also read Harris' The End of Faith. Before leaving for South Dakota, I read Atheist Universe, another good rational book. This semester, after going back over Letter to a Christian Nation, I read Breaking the Spell and am now almost finished with God is Not Great. In addition, I have read some of A People's History of the United States, which sure points a nice lens on Christianity's past atrocities.

My Faith and Life class has about driven me to tears. I can hardly believe that college educated people could spout off so much nonsense in so short a class period. The class is fill…

Looking Back on Rangerhood

Since I've only two more weeks to "do that ranger thang," I feel I am in a good position to reflect over how this summer has impacted me. First, some pictures:







Three cave pictures. Some popcorn, frostwork, and some flowstone in the third picture.



The magical elevator building, built by the CCC in the 1930's, along with the shaft.



Readouts from the anemometer stationed inside the Natural Entrance.



In the ready room, we have everything we need to do the tours, including the iconic ranger uniforms...



...and an army of flashlights. These are the stingers, the brightest of the three we carry.



Next to the only natural entrance into Wind Cave, one of the longest, oldest, and most complex caves in the world.

I'll begin my reflection with some frankness - I don't want to be a ranger "when I grow up." It has been fun for a summer gig. I've got to see parts of the cave that few people ever get to see. I've learned how to explore the backcountry of the cave. I…

Fundamentalists in a Cave

A few days ago, I was leading a cave tour in Wind Cave for a full group (40 people), when I stopped to show everybody some Brachiopod fossils in the limestone of the cave. A large family consisting of a mom, dad, and several teens passed by to see the ancient shells, and as they did, they exclaimed, "Oh look! Evidence of Noah's flood!"

Of course this is ridiculous. But I said nothing.

In the next room, everybody sat on some benches, and I proceeded to talk about some of the speleothems found in the cave. At some point, a gentleman in the group asked me, "How old is this cave?"

I braced myself for some glares from the fundamentalists and confidently declared, "Geologists tell us that the rock in which this cave is formed dates back to about 150 million years ago."

To my surprise, the fundamentalists didn't glare. In fact, they did something even more ridiculous - they laughed. Out loud. Heartily. I was shocked for a moment and paused, but quickly regai…

Igloo, SD

All I want to say is this: I went with some friends to what is by far the creepiest place I've ever experienced last Sunday night. If you want to find out more about this Hellish place, search for "Igloo, SD," "The Black Hills Ordnance Depot," or "Black Hills Army Depot."

Oh my god.

Atheist Universe

Okay, so I finished this book before I left for South Dakota. Well, I didn't feel like reflecting on it until now, so deal with it.

Atheist Universe is like The End of Faith in that it will offend religious people, and that the author's frustration with Christianity clearly comes through the writing. It's different because it focuses particularly on the Intelligent Design movement of Christianity. Rather than having more of a narrative flow like Harris, Mills fashions his books as if it were a Christian apologetic book, like Strobel'sThe Case for a Creator. I'm not positive, but I don't think I like this. Perhaps it will reach some Christians, but it seems more of a reference book for atheists than anything. The problem is that Mill's voice seems a little immature at times, unlike Harris, who can sound angry and dignified at the same time.

This is not to say that Mills' book is full of immature ideas. He gives a good amount of science in the book, just en…

A New Home at Wind Cave National Park

I know, I know... This is long overdue.

I left for my great South Dakotan adventure way back in May and arrived at the park (hereafter abbreviated as WICA) on the 17th. I'm living in what here is referred to as "lower housing," meaning I'm living in the cool section of the employee housing. I have four roommates, none of which are SCA. One is an intern directly through the park service and the other three are paid employees. In terms of job responsibilities, training, pay, time off, and uniforms, the only difference between interns (like me) and paid employees (like a slew of others) is... well, I don't get paid, and I my uniform has "Volunteer" stamped all over it, just so the visitors don't get the wrong idea and think I'm qualified for the job.

Living in WICA is really fun. There is a fire pit in lower housing which hosts a beer-drinking and story-telling circle of workers just about every night. Is fun.


In the center of the image, you see some …

One More To Go

Well, another school year has ended. Next year, I'll have my own apartment. And I'll be 21. And I'll be part time. And I'll have a job. It's going to be nothing short of amazing. Although I must say that I don't think anything can touch how great this semester has been, particularly because of two very great friends: Stuart and Scott. Sadly, neither of them will be around me next year, so I'll have to find new friends with which to get into trouble.

Also sad (but on a whole lower level) is that I couldn't finish The Making of the Atomic Bomb before it was due at the library, and since I'm leaving for the summer, I'll have to finish it next semester. It's been a good book so far, though. In the meantime, I'm getting I'm reading the decidedly shorter (and easier) Atheist Universe. So far it's good. I'll give you my full reaction when I'm finished.

Choir Tour

Tomorrow morning I leave for Colorado, where the SC choir will be touring over the period of one week. I expect to be skiing, shopping, singing a lot, and generally having lots and lots of fun. I'll also be going over my lines for the one act I'm in this semester: Hard Candy. I don't think I've mentioned my involvement in the last play either, but a senior here at SC directed Arsenic and Old Lace, to much acclaim. I played Lt. Rooney, the deus ex machina. It's nice to be the role of the guy who assumes absolute control at the end.

A Long Way Gone

I finished Ishmael Beah's memoir earlier tonight. It's a very accessible book - very straightforward and written with much care and emotion. If you have even the least bit of humanitarian in you, I strongly encourage you to read this book. It certainly puts the condition of the African citizen in perspective.

A Long Way Gone: A

On the Biblical Mandate to Respect Authority

The SC choir chaplain brought up a passage in 1 Peter at the beginning of this week regarding submission to authority. It led to interesting conversation, and I'd like to reiterate part of that conversation here.

1) It is important to remember that the early churches who passed around these letters had a very practical use for them. The early church could have easily been stomped out had the early Christians been too anti-government. True, the church was persecuted. True, the church did get into trouble with the government. However, remember that the persecution happened for short bursts of time (historically speaking) and only in isolated areas. It was by no means universal persecution. Additionally, when you look at other early Christian documents, you see more injunctions to work with the rulers.

And why not? The early church needed all the support it could get, while not compromising, of course. If they were all outspoken government radicals, they would not have lasted long.

2) W…

Some Things I Like

For those of you who are tech-savvy, I heartily recommend the following services, websites, and applications.

Want to learn a new language? Busuu is an excellent social-based language learning site that connects you with native speakers (only if you want).

I've started a regular work-out program at the Sterling Wellness Center. I've also been tinkering with my dietary habits, fitting in more whole grains, fibers, and protein. The web service Gyminee has helped out a lot. It tracks nutritional goals, workout patterns, and like Busuu, there is an optional social aspect to it, great if you need accountability.

If you're into reading, you should check out BookMooch, a book trading website. Basically, you earn points by giving away your books (you pay shipping costs) and use those points to request books from other users.

With Make Me Sustainable, you can track your personal carbon emissions and find out how to bring them down to zero.

Finally, if you're into science, art, liter…

Science Class Frustrations

We watched An Inconvenient Truth in our Environmental Science lab this week, and took class today to discuss the documentary. This was the second time I had seen it, and I was expecting some people to scoff at the ideas presented. Still, I was disturbed in during the discussion, because some people simply did not want to believe him. Some said that they didn't believe the science because it traced earth's climate back to 600,000 years ago, and these students didn't believe the earth was that old. One student, as if thinking of the idea for the first time, said, "Well, we've had ice ages, so it only makes sense that we have warming periods as well. I wanted to shake him and say, "Did you even watch the fucking movie?!"

And here's what I've been thinking since that class today: Groups with agendas (political, religious, etc.) tend to approach scientific findings with a buffet mindset. If a finding disagrees with their stomach, they simply pass it by…

L'etranger

Tonight I finished The Stranger by French author and philosopher Albert Camus. It instantly became one of my favorite books. The story is short. The premise is simple. Ward's translation is beautiful and I think accurately conveys the tone of Mersault into English. Camus effectively put me in the skin of Mersault, and by the end of the book, I saw the world as he did: dispassionate and absurd.

Spring Semester

This semester will probably be the most relaxed I've ever had. I might even get a job this semester. As I'm typing this, in fact, I'm at Cool Beans listening to Ben Edwards and other musicians perform music. Last night, I tried to induce a musical high by listening to Binaural Beats. Then I laid out on my futon and listened to Pink Floyd. I really need a job. And I need to start some serious work on my senior project.

My classes are:

Environmental Science - I'm really excited about this class, because the environment is one thing in which I'm emotionally invested. Open discussion about environmental issues and a teacher that is actually a scientist (one of the few teachers on campus who accepts evolution, thank God).

Intro to Physical Science - Not excited about this class. Taking it pass/fail.

Concepts of Physical Fitness - bleh.

Folk Dance - Hell yes. This class is awesome. We've learned like 5 dances already, and we're going to learn a ton more by the end of …

Quandaries Episodes

I've been lazy and haven't posted the entirety of the Quandaries episodes. But here they are now:

Life
Morality
Love & Relationships
Truth
Evolution
Boundaries of Science
Beauty

I'm not doing Quandaries this semester. Instead, I am co-hosting a show with Brian Allen. We'll be going through several different genres of music in a music appreciation extravaganza. Our goal is to get our listeners to expand their musical interests.

Winter Road Trip

December 28, 9:30am: Deposit $300 into my bank account and leave Hutchinson with Google map directions.

12:30pm: Arrive in Kansas City. Eat at Panera Bread with Katie. Then, we drink Boba tea at Tea Drops and take pictures in a red phone booth.



3:15pm: Leave for Ursa, IL.

9:00pm: Arrive in Ursa. Meet Brian's family. Play Apples to Apples. Sleep.



December 29, 10:30am: Depart for Chicago with Brian.

2:30pm: Realize Google Maps is leading us in a wild circle around Peoria, IL.

3:00pm: Realize Peoria IL is far outside the fastest route to Chicago. Realize it was foolish to come on trip without map. Stop in a gas station and figure out good route.

5:30pm: Entering Chicago an I-55. This is as far as we'd planned. We simply picked a road that traveled right into downtown Chicago. Panicked, I try to contact several friends who live in Chicago for advice. We pick up Sharon from the train station, find a parking spot, and meet Christina and Sarah at a deep-dish pizza restaurant.

8:30pm: All of …