Drinking Wine

On the Subject of Islamic Extremism

Has it really been over a year? I use Facebook.com for low-content posts, but always intended to use my LiveJournal for posts with more substance. Maybe it's time to do so.

I've had discussions with people on the subject of Islam, which I have done slight reading on. A lot of people (well, my Dad) have made statements "of fact" to me that I disagreed with; generally, they have said something along the lines of, "You're wrong, Islam is a religion of hate, unlike the rest." I always point to the Quran 109:1-6 "Say: 'O unbelievers, I serve not what you serve and you are not serving what I serve, nor am I serving what you have served, neither are you serving what I serve to you your religion, and to me my religion!"

On Reddit.com, there was a post which talked about this subject with more desire to inform and educate than I've managed to muster, and I thought I'd try to annotate it here:
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First; you need to understand the extremist mentality. This is simultaneously independent of any single, and inclusive of any and all religious (Christian/Muslim/Jew), socioeconomic (Communist/Capitalist) and political beliefs (White Supremacist Conservative/Eco-terror Liberal). The extremist believes that their way of life, the circumstances in which they grew up, are the only righteous/fair/proper way to live and believes this with such fervor that they are offended merely by the existence of other lifestyles and points of view.

Now (thank God), most religious, socioeconomic and political beliefs do not claim this extremist view, and in fact preach against extremism in favor of tolerance of - if polite disagreement with - other points of view. The extremist must therefore seek twist the belief system in order to make it seem as though its original intent was to promote the destruction of other points of view.

Extremists in Islam, admittedly, perhaps have an easier time with corruption this than other groups, because Islam itself was born in a rebellion of sorts against the ruling pagans of the city of Mecca - the Qurayish. In an effort to liberate themselves from Qurayish rule, and to guarantee their right to freedom of religion and speech, the early muslims fought a revolution against the Meccans for many years; and both the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Qu'ran give lessons on the rules of war to guarantee that the Muslims did not lose their humanity whilst fighting for freedom.

The Islamic rules of warfare are as follows:Explicitly forbidden is:CLEARLY - Terrorist attacks of any kind, including the atrocious massacre in Kenya, go directly against all muslim teachings; including and especially laws governing war because the terrorists:

  • Killed innocent men, women, the old and children and

  • Did so in an unprovoked sneak attack that

  • Disturbed free passage of the streets for the purpose of

  • Attacking people for not being muslims to make non-muslims fear for their lives because

  • They were filled with hate so strong it prevented them from being just and righteous human beings

Obviously, many religions do not have any rules regarding warfare, so as stated above the arguments made by other extremists are intellectual, rather than having the ability to point to scriptural mentions of war. However, these laws regarding warfare lead to many lives being saved and the reputation of the Muslim army as good and honorable in its time. For example, when the Christian armies took Jerusalem during the Crusades, they murdered every muslim or jewish man, woman and child in the city. Despite this fact, when the Muslims came to re-conquer the city, Saladin allowed even the surrendered soldiers to leave peacfully with their families, despite the earlier massacre, and allowed christians and jews to visit the city for pilgrimage. Despite their claims to the contrary - today's Mujihadeen are nothing like the early Islamic warriors.

Finally; The Qur’an assures Christians and Jews of paradise if they believe and do good works, and commends Christians as the best friends of Muslims. I wrote elsewhere, “Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians."

Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.” [5:69]

In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell – quite the opposite.

When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and some Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

5:82. . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.” [5:82]

So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.

The actions of the extremists on rampage killings in Kenya are no more loved by us Muslims than any of the school, temple, workplace, mall, parking lot, or movie theater mass shootings are loved by Americans, and we condemn and despise them for their actions every bit as much as you do.

Asalaamu Alaykum!
Drinking Wine

Galactic Map 2.0 - Large Star Maps Project Rho Productions

This is my favorite starmap ever. As a devoted science fiction enthusiast, I love starmaps, but accuracy is always a problem. Winchell Chung has delved way deep into the subject on his Project Rho website, and the result is a number of nice starmaps, of which several have been made into CafePress posters. This one is my favorite.

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    Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Make You Love Me
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Edward from Cowboy Bebop

In Priase of the Female Geek

The Huffington Post ran an article about female geeks. I went through the slideshow and was sorely disappointed. None of these girls are geeks! I won't deny that they may be successful business people or dedicated bloggers, but that's not enough anymore to identify someone as a geek! Practically everyone's got a blog nowadays, and uses social media tools to expand their social interactions. That doesn't make them geeks! This shows a startling ignorance of what true female geekery looks like. For shame, Huffington Post!

So, it would seem a list of actual female geeks is in order. Some of my favorites, in no particular order:

And just to finish up, female geeks are not a new thing. When I was newly into computers, I learned about Lore Harp and Carole Ely who made the Vector 1 computer. While they were "only" the business-savvy people in the company, they were only the latest in a long line of female geeks involved with computers, starting with Lady Ada Lovelace herself.

Cartoon Me

How Engineers Think

I was at a golf outing for charity recently. In my group were also Father Steve (who used to give sermons at Christian Brothers Academy when I went there) and my former classmate Joe M., who became a doctor after high school; we called him "Dr. Joe," since there were six Joes at the outing and it would have otherwise been confusing. I'm not good at golf, so we were the "slow" trio.

Anyway, there were a lot of people at the golf course, and we got stuck behind a really slow group of guys. I mean, I think I'm a patient man, but these guys were agonizingly slow. Eventually Dr. Joe called over the groundskeeper and asked him what the holdup was.

"They're firefighters," said the groundskeeper. "They're legally blind. They lost most of their sight when they helped put out a fire a few years ago that almost took out the clubhouse here. We always let them play for free." Then he went away.

We were pretty quiet for a while, until Father Steve said, "That's so sad. I'm going to pray for them when we get back the chapel later."

Dr. Joe said, "Those men are heroes. I know an optometrist; maybe he knows someone who can help them out."

I said, "Why can't they play at night?"
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Edward from Cowboy Bebop

Uses for an Altoids Tin

This article made it to the Fark Geek page, where I eagerly read through expecting to see some of my classic favorites as well as new possibilities. I love Altoids tins, more than I like the mints themselves, and hate to throw them away.

I was surprised not to see some of the projects I'm familiar with on the list, though. Here are some of my favorite uses:

  • Minty MP3: An MP3 player that includes an FM transmitter, and a boost regulator for running off of rechargeable batteries. Haven't made this one yet, as I am not that skilled with circuit construction, but it's been on my list of "Things To Do When I Get Around To It" for a while now. All for about $50.
  • How to Build the CMoy Pocket Amplifier: A good high-power amplifier for under $20, this is apparently a great beginner DIY electronics project. Admittedly, the photo is for Penguin Caffeinated Mints instead of Altoids, but the tins are about the same size.

Anybody else with any good ideas?

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    creative creative
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Cartoon Me

Diabetic Eating

So, since being diagnosed as being diabetic earlier this year, I've come to terms with the fact that I need to relearn the art of cooking. I used to make my own food all the time, but long work hours and stress killed off my enthusiasm for cooking when I get home from work. Instead, I have a tendency to pick up some food on the way.

But that's not going to work well anymore. Sometimes you get caught with no diabetic-friendly food on the menu.

So, among the literature they give you when you are diagnosed (it's like you're joining a club!) are a number of offers from companies. Many of these follow the pattern of "send us your information and we'll send you an info packet with a free cookbook," as if my personal information is worth so little. Nevertheless, I scoured the Internet and found several free cookbook offers that I could stomach. I should detail the results of this here, since I know several people on my f-list like to cook.
Edward from Cowboy Bebop

S#!t My Dad Says

My Dad: "So, I left [REDACTED] a message on his wall (Ed: on Facebook) if he wants to meet for golf."
Me: "Why did you put it on his wall? You could just send him a message."
My Dad: "I did! I wrote it on his Wall!"
Me: "No, I mean, you can send him a message on Facebook. It's like email..."
My Dad: "I don't see that."
Me: "Are you on Facebook now?"
My Dad: "Yes, I'm on my profile, and I don't see anything about messages."
Me: "Look at the top, next to where it says 'Facebook' -- there're three icons and the second one is for messages."
My Dad: "At the top? All I see is my name, and under it 'Edit My Profile'."
Me: "No, at the top..."
My Dad: "Now I see it! Okay."
Me: "And if you want to send a message, just click where it says 'Send a New Message'."
My Dad: "Uh huh, uh huh."

Some time later in the conversation.

My Dad: "So, then, how do you actually send a message?"
Me: *groan* "You know how I know you don't listen?"
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Cthulhu Silhouette

AM 1200

So, I had mitch37 over for some movies on Saturday. Among the three that played was an interesting little one called AM 1200, a little film that first drew my attention when it won the Best Lovecraft Film title at the 2009 A Night of Horror International Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. Now, H. P. Lovecraft (HPL to his buds) is one of my Top 5 or 6 favorite authors of all time, so I had to check it out. And then I had to share.

AM 1200 is a tiny, little film. It's all of 40 minutes long, including credits, and doesn't waste a single moment of that time, yet doesn't feel rushed. It also has only three actors with any significant screen time: Eric Lange (Stuart Radzinsky on Lost, and a ton of memorable characters on TV), Ray Wise (the devil from the CW TV series Reaper, and the devil hunter from the otherwise-crappy Jeepers Creepers 2, and a ton of memorable characters in movies), and John Billingsley (Doctor Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise, and a ton of memorable characters on TV). These are three great character actors, and they fill their screen time with all of the nuances you need to make the film work.

And it works very well indeed. When it starts, you think you're going to be watching a moral drama story. Halfway through, you think it's become a thriller. And then at the end you realize you were watching a true Lovecraftian horror picture all along. Sheer genius storytelling, combined with top-notch acting talent, and a director who wasted no time with unnecessary filler. Compared to the vast miasma of ultraterrene detritus that comprises the vast majority of "Lovecraft" movies nowadays (Cthulhu starring Tori Spelling, or H P Lovecraft The Tomb which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with any HPL story ever written), it's like a diamond sitting in a pile of very stinky coal. You have to watch it a second time to catch nuances you missed in the first go-around, and it's still entertaining.

Which brings me to the in-development big-screen adaptation of HPL's At the Mountains of Madness. Mountains is possibly one of HPL's finest later stories. On the one hand, the thought of somebody hashing it up for the horror movie market fills me with a nameless dread the like of which I haven't felt since I heard M. Night Shyamalan was doing The Last Airbender. On the other hand, Guillermo del Toro (GDT to his buds) did bring us the moody Pan's Labyrinth, so it might not be all bad. On the third hand (this being a Lovecraftian rant and all), the interviews have GDT talking about the technical challenges of depicting the monsters, when the original story had all of one monster sighting.

Look Hollywood, when it comes to Lovecraftian movies, I want you to think AM 1200, not Bride of Re-Animator. Okay?