April 2, 2019

A pattern in the Answer and Covenant

Perhaps I’m late to the party, but this morning I noticed an interesting pattern in a portion of the answer to the prayer for covenant (the pattern begins at paragraph 2 of T&C 157). It looks to be somewhat chiastic in form, and recites A) the beginning/a new beginning; B) breaking the original covenant and continued work necessary to reobtain the original; C) the Lord’s effort to reestablish the covenant; D) the requirement to love one another as brothers and sisters rather than to be angry and harshly criticize; E) the Lord’s desire to provide his people with light and truth/understanding; F) the Lord’s admonishment and reproof of his people; G) contentions and disputes among the Lord’s people; H) the need for those who love the Lord and have well-intentioned hearts to do better/follow Wisdom in aligning their behavior with their hearts; I) a commendation for diligent labor; and J) a covenant offered for the Last days: the Book of Mormon.

I wonder what the purpose of this pattern is. I assume it’s not a mere show of rhetorical skills, but rather suggests a deeper meaning that can be extracted from the text with study, prayer, and pondering. It’s certainly something to think about.

A. I covenanted with Adam at the beginning,
B. which covenant was broken by mankind.
C. Since the days of Adam I have always sought to reestablish covenant people among the living,
D. and therefore have desired that man should love one another, not begrudgingly, but as brothers and sisters indeed,
E. that I may establish my covenant and provide them with light and truth.
F. For you to unite I must admonish and instruct you, for my will is to have you love one another.
G. As people you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another. You are as Paul and Peter whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions.
H. Nevertheless they both loved me and I loved them. You must do better.
I. I commend your diligent labor and your desire to repent and recover the scriptures
J. containing the covenant I offer for the last days.
J. For this purpose I caused the Book of Mormon to come forth.
I. I commend those who have participated, as well as those who have offered words of caution,
H. for I weigh the hearts of men and many have intended well, although they have spoken poorly. Wisdom counsels mankind to align their words with their hearts, but mankind refuses to take counsel from Wisdom.
G. Nevertheless, there have been sharp disputes between you that should have been avoided.
F. I speak these words to reprove you that you may learn, not to upbraid you so that you mourn.
E. I want my people to have understanding. There is great reason to rejoice because of the work that has been done.
D. There is little reason for any to be angry or to harshly criticize the labor to recover the scriptures,
C. and so my answer to you concerning the scriptures is to guide you in other work to be done hereafter;
B. for recovering the scriptures does not conclude the work to be accomplished by those who will be my people:
A. it is but a beginning.

March 29, 2019

Unpopular opinions

I hold two unpopular opinions on current events.

First, I think the prosecutor did the right thing in the Jussie Smollett case. I would like to see prosecutors dropping charges more frequently when the accused does not likely pose any future threat. We ought to be slower to accuse and quicker to forgive.

Second, I think Theresa May has done an admirable job. She has had to deal with two intractable beasts: the European Union and the U.K. Parliament, and her efforts to serve the U.K. are commendable. Her failure is more attributable to the foolish pride of self-centered, bickering politicians more interested in being right than in acting in the best interest of their constituency, than to any fault of her own.

I don’t know if I could convince anyone else that my opinions are right. I’m not really interested in pushing them onto others who disagree with me, and I certainly can’t persuade the majority to prefer mercy to condemnation and compromise to partisanship. So, in reality, the fact that I hold these two opinions doesn’t mean much in the world. But here they are, for whatever they’re worth.

March 28, 2019

Baghdad, continued

Continuing my discussion on the Baghdad sections of the Restoration scriptures, I want to continue looking at the statements under the assumption that Baghdad is a symbol representing the world, including the society in which we live. It has been written that a symbol is a “this” pointing to “that,” and we lose its value of we assume that “this” is in issue instead of “that.” Thus, if my understanding that Baghdad is a symbol in these texts, then we’re missing the point if we think that they mean a terrorist group taking over a city in Iraq will be the catalyst for the end of the world. On the other hand, there must be some relationship between the symbol and its meaning, and understanding that relationship would likely aid in understanding the text. Thus, there is value in thinking about the city in Iraq if we keep it in proper perspective.

It is worth considering again the latter part of the “Lamentation for Baghdad,” which reads: “Distress shall overtake them, for those who come shall have no pity.” Keeping in mind that Baghdad is a symbol, this suggests to the mind a comparison with Nephi’s reworded version of Malachi’s prophecy:

“For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall burn as stubble; for they that cometh shall burn them, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” T&C 1, JSH 3:4.

Could “those who come” in the lamentation be the same as “they that cometh” in Nephi’s version of Malachi’s prophecy? In the one, “those who come shall have no pity,” and in the other, “they that cometh shall burn them… that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Could the latter be properly described as having no pity? If they that come shall, by their nature, burn the proud and the wicked, and – even if they don’t desire to cause that suffering – they come anyway because the salvation of their family takes priority over the comfort of those whom they know not, would it not be accurate to say that they “have no pity” on the proud and the wicked? This certainly looks like a prophecy about a side effect of the establishment of Zion on the wicked in the last days.

With this in mind, I would suggest that it now becomes appropriate to consider the “this” part of the symbol. Could terrorist attacks on a city in Iraq be illustrative of the fear and danger on the proud and the wicked of the last days? Imagine the terror that a group like ISIS inflicts on the inhabitants of a city under siege. The suffering when the inhabitants are subjected to strict new laws that they are unaccustomed to following. Although ISIS is wholly evil, there is likely some analogy between the suffering under that kind of terror organization, and the suffering experienced by the proud and the wicked in the presence of holy beings. Of course, terrorists “have no pity” because they delight in cruelty, while the visitors to Zion “have no pity” because they are performing a mission and can’t help the fact that the proud and the wicked are unable to bear their presence. “This” is a symbol for “that” fit for a limited analogy, but they aren’t the same thing.

“Flee to Zion” indeed. These texts are admittedly somewhat frightening to me, who fits the description of “proud” and “wicked.” I find in them an urgent call to repentance.

The Baghdad texts in the Restoration Scriptures are certainly interesting. They seem like prophetic literature akin to what we find in the scriptures, with symbols and depth of meaning that can be extracted through study, prayer, and pondering. I hope Denver Snuffer won’t take offense at the fact that I am not inclined to credit him for this. I find his own writings helpful and clarifying most of the time, and at other times obtuse (perhaps because of excessive care in choosing his words), but not necessarily having the same qualities or fruitfulness upon continued examination as these or other texts that appear to be revelations. I consider this to be a sign of God’s work in the present day. Its existence should give hope to those who wish to commune with God in this life.

March 28, 2019

México y Venezuela

Un líder acepta responsabilidad por el bienestar de los que están debajo de su autoridad. Un gerente, particularmente un gerente incompetente, culpa a los demás por sus problemas. Gerentes no pueden mantener viva una organización. El mejor que un gerente hábil puede hacer es prolongar la marcha de la organización hacia su muerte, posponiéndola. La organización requiere verdaderas líderes para mantenerse viva.

Nicolas Maduro es un gerente incompetente y Venezuela está sufriendo las consecuencias. Maduro muestra sus atributos de gerente y no líder cuando culpa a los Estados Unidos por todos los problemas que Venezuela tiene. Es cierto que los Estados Unidos ha puesto sanciones económicas sobre Venezuela, y éstas no han ayudado a la economia venezolana. Pero eso no releve Maduro de su responsabilidad; con un gerente como él, el país tarde o temprano habría colapsado con o sin la ayuda de los Estados Unidos. (Por ejemplo, ha puesto sus amigos no cualificados en control de la extracción del petroleo y otras actividades importantes en el país. Como resultado, la producción de petroleo ha bajado muchísimo, y Venezuela ha quedado endeudado. Si no puede aceptar la responsabilidad que le corresponde, no es capaz de mejorar la situación de su país.)

Cuando vemos a Andrés Manuel López Obrador exigiendo que el resto del mundo pida disculpas a México, debemos preguntarnos si él no está mostrando los mismos atributos de gerente como Maduro. Por caracterizar las acciones pasadas de otros países como el fuente de los problemas actuales de México, está tratando de excusarse de la responsabilidad de proveer soluciones eficaces a aquellos problemas. Si no puede entregar lo que ha prometido a México – y comentadores han sugerido que es imposible, porque ha prometido proyectos costosos y a la vez bajar los impuestos – ya vemos que él se está preparando para echar la culpa a todos los demás.

México parece adorar a AMLO. Se ha entregado como nación a una idolatría. Tarde o temprano, cosecharán los resultados de su idolatría. Desafortunadamente, el futuro de México parece a Venezuela.

March 25, 2019

On Babylon, Baghdad, and Lamentations

The following entry is in the context of an interesting movement occurring within Mormonism, and for outsiders – including Latter-day Saints – it may appear confusing or nonsensical. If you stumble across it accidentally, please accept my apologies for bothering you with these strange curiosities. For those curious souls, I don’t have a link to a good background and summary of the movement, except perhaps the Prayer for Covenant and the Answer and Covenant in the movement’s scriptures (identified as “Restoration Scriptures” herein).

The Restoration Scriptures include two items that were originally short blog posts entitled “Babylon” and “Lamentation for Baghdad” on Denver Snuffer’s blog. Due to the brevity of these posts, I hope that Mr. Snuffer will not object to my inclusion of them in there entirety below, for ease of discussion.

The blog entry entitled “Babylon” was published on February 18, 2015, and recites: “The God of Heaven tells me all the world should pray that Baghdad does not fall.” It is also found as Section 168 of “Teachings and Commandments” in the Restoration Scriptures.

The entry entitled “Lamentation for Baghdad” was published on May 28, 2015, and recites: “Days of distress are upon Baghdad and the days of their troubles are begun. Distress shall overtake them, for those who come shall have no pity.” It is also found as Section 170 of “Teachings and Commandments.”

The covenant community seems to have taken interest in these two blog posts, as evidenced by their inclusion in the Restoration Scriptures. I, too, find them interesting, although I must admit that I also find them rather cryptic and wonder about their meaning. The only detailed discussion of which I am aware is an excellent analysis by Adrian Larsen, in which he discusses Baghdad and the region’s historic role, the terror group ISIS’s interest in it, and ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate.

Notwithstanding the excellence of Adrian’s analysis, my own consideration of the blog entries leaves me wondering if a fixation on Baghdad and ISIS tends to misleading conclusions about the meaning of these statements. I would certainly tend to look at the matter in the same literal fashion, but the title of the first post, connecting Baghdad with Babylon, suggests to me that the matter ought to be looked at a little differently. Admittedly, this raises more questions than answers, but the questions are what I wanted to raise in this post anyway.

Where I perhaps differ from Adrian is that without that title, I would have placed little emphasis on Baghdad’s proximity to Babylon. I have tended to consider them as separate, and thus never associated the two in any way other than geographic proximity. However, with the title “Babylon” appearing to equate the two, I am no longer inclined to think simply of “Baghdad” the city, or “Babylon” the city, but in terms of Babylon as used as a representation of the world in the scriptures. Such a perspective suggests it is not the fall, distress, and troubles of an Iraqi city that are at issue, but the fall, distress, and troubles of our own society. Our own “days of distress” are upon us, “and the days of [our] troubles are begun.” The ultimate message would seem to be: “flee to Zion.”

This raises several questions:

What does “Baghdad” mean in the statements? Is it the Iraqi city? Is it Babylon (the world)? Is it something else entirely?

Are the statements about us, rather than terror groups and inhabitants of Iraq?

What would it mean to pray that we, or the society in which we live, “does not fall?” What does this “fall” that we’re at risk of constitute, or look like? What, if anything beyond prayer, can be done to prevent or postpone it?

What are the distresses and troubles that are upon us?

Who is coming, who “shall have no pity?”

Why is “Baghdad” used, instead of some other city that we might better associate with modern-day Babylon, such as “Washington, D.C.,” “New York,” “London,” or “Brussels,” etc.?

I certainly wish I had answers. I am a terrible student of scripture, incompetent even to ask intelligent questions. The above are much more than I’d normally think to ask.

On the other hand, a Foreign Policy magazine article suggests that some remnants of ISIS are hanging out around Baghdad these days.

January 17, 2019

Mondmilito estas evitinda

La plejparte de la generacio kiu spertis la dua mondmilito kaj tre suferis dum ĝi nun estas mortinta, kaj do la nuntempa homoj de Usono, Eŭropo, kaj eĉ Azio ne komprenas la graveco de tia milito kaj la teruran suferon kion ĝi okazigas. Mi scias, ke miaj pensoj pri ĉi tio ne estas tre originalaj, sed ili nepre estas tre bezonataj nuntempe, kaj devas esti laŭte proklamataj per ĉiuj, kiuj amas la pacon. Ni memoru la antaŭajn mondmilitojn kaj neniam ripetu ilin!

Ĉiu, kiun interesas internaciaj rilatoj, bone scias la danĝeron, kion ni nuntempe alfrontas. Ekzemple, Rusio lastatempe aneksis parton de Ukrainio kaj la usona prezidanto retiriĝis el la akordo kun Irano kontraŭ ĝia akiro de nukleaj armiloj dum la Unuiĝinta Reĝlando pretiĝas – aŭ nepretiĝante disputas – eliri el la Eŭropa Unio. Eĉ en multaj ŝtatoj de la Eŭropa Unio, kaj ankaŭ Usono kaj aliaj landoj, naskiĝas naciismo batalante kontraŭ la institucioj kiujn oni fondis pro evito de militoj post la dua mondmilito. Dume, Ĉinio minacadas Tajvanon, kaj Ĉinio kaj Rusio ambaŭ fabrikas pli malgrandajn nukleajn armilojn, farante ke estus pli facile decidi uzi ilin dum milito.

Verŝajne ni ne bone komprenas la riskon de alia mondmilito, nek kiom ni suferus dum tia milito. Se ni pli bone scius la historian de la unua kaj dua mondmilitoj, kaj la motivoj pro kiuj ni faris instituciojn kiel la Unuiĝintaj Nacioj, ni nepre skuiĝus kaj timus la estontecon! Mi kredas, ke paco en la mondo estas neevitebla, sed mi ne scias, kiom da fojoj ni devos denove lerni la teruran lecionon pri la milito. Se ni rifuzas lerni ĝin de la historio, ni devos lerni ĝin per la sperto. Laŭ mi, estus pli saĝe lerni de la historio.

Kie estas la pacifistoj en nia tempo? Ili bezonas pli fortan voĉon. Ni bezonas, ke ili havu pli fortan voĉon! Mi ŝatus vidi pli grandan kaj laŭtan pacmovadon en Esperantujo, kaj ne nur en Esperantujo, sed inter ĉiuj popoloj. Mi estus tre feliĉa se Esperantistoj estus grava parto de nova aŭ pli granda tutmonda pacmovado. Paco ja estas en la DNA de Esperanto.

Saĝa homo – eĉ profeto, laŭ mi – iam diris: “Kiel ĉarmaj estas sur la montoj la piedoj de anoncanto, kiu proklamas pacon….” Proklamu ni pacon, kaj estu ĉarmaj kaj belaj niaj piedoj sur la montoj. Tiu Dio, kiu kreis la homaron, benu nin per ĉarmaj piedoj; mi ne kredas, ke li kreis la homaron, por ke ili estu eterne batalantaj.

Mi timas, ke ni ne estas konscia de kiel proksime ni estas de tria mondmilito. Ŝajnas, ke tio ne gravas al ni, ĉar ni nur konas la militon pere de la televidilo. Ni tuj devas vekiĝi; alimaniere ni lernos ami la pacon per la teruraj konsekvencoj de la malamo, kaj nur restaĵo de ni aŭ nia ido restos post la dolora leciono por vidi la neeviteblan pacon. Ne devas esti tiel. Ni povas ŝanĝi. Ni povas elekti la pacon. Ni povas trovi, ke fremlandanoj estas niaj fratoj, kaj ne devas esti malamikoj.

Sed mi supozas, ke la esperantistoj jam scias tion.

November 5, 2018

Mi legis verkon de Seneko kun latinistoj

Hieraŭ mi ĉeestis la kunvenon de GLADIVS, la klubo de latinistoj ĉe San Diego. Ni legis kune parton de la tragedio “Medea” de Seneko. Mi devas konfesi, ke mi trovis ĝin tre malfacila, kaj la aliaj latinistoj klarigis al mi multajn aferojn, kiujn mi ne komprenis. Mi ne estas komencanta latinisto, do mi estis surprizita, ke la verko estis tiel malfacila!

Laŭ la tragedio, Medea estis la edzino de Jazono, la heroo de la helena mitologio, sed Jazono forlasis ŝin por edzinigi al si Kreusan, la filino de la reĝo Kreono. Medea kompreneble koleregis pri tio, kaj (eble ne tiel kompreneble) mortigis kaj Kreonon kaj lian filinon. Poste, Medea serĉas pli da venĝado kontraŭ Jazono. Mi pensas, ke ŝi mortigis ankaŭ ilian filon—t.e. la filo de Medea mem kaj Jazono—sed mi bezonas legi la tutan verkon.

Mi ŝategis legi malgrandan parton de la verko kun la latinistoj, kaj nun mi volas skribi iomete en Esperanto pri la klasika literaturo, kaj eble fari (sendube malbonajn) tradukojn de iuj verkoj. Mi esperas, ke tio plibonigos mian fluecon kaj en latino kaj en Esperanto.

March 19, 2018

Black and White Photography

Boats at Chula Vista Bayfront Park with Otay Mountain in the Background

Looking toward Otay Mountain from the Chula Vista Bayfront Park, overexposed two stops.

Recently upon shooting the last frame of a roll of Kodak Ektar 100, I put a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus — my second roll of HP5 Plus, and my third roll of black and white film — into my Pentax K1000 and began shooting. After about five shots, I realized that I hadn’t adjusted the camera’s ASA setting, so I had overexposed those five shots by about two stops. When I received the prints back after processing, the subject matter of those first five shots was distinct and clear despite the overexposure. They had noticeably more grain than the other shots, but that was their primary deficiency.

I underexposed another shot in the roll by about two stops. A boat was going by, carrying passengers from downtown San Diego to Coronado. A marker post and a dock were nearby, and I thought it would be an interesting composition if I could line them up to point at the boat. Time was short, however, since the boat continued moving along as I tried to sort out the scene. In my rush, I screwed up both the metering and the composition. I needed about two stops more light in the camera, and I needed to be up a little higher. Nonetheless, the film did its job, and despite a little extra grain, the scene came out clear. You can count the windows in the buildings across the bay, if you so desire. Apparently, Ilford’s HP5 Plus is pretty generous about exposure. I don’t know yet whether — or to what degree — other black and white films are so generous.

San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay, underexposed.

As for the properly exposed shots, what can I say? I have been very pleased with the results. Upon receipt of the first set of prints, I was sold on black and white photography. I won’t be shooting black and white exclusively, but I’ll generally keep a roll of black and white on hand.

I grew up in a world of color. Between color film, color TV, and color computers, color was the norm. Even old black and white movies were occasionally colorized, though I realized early on that the colorization rarely added much, if anything, to the enjoyment of the movie. As I was growing up, I was exposed to monochrome computers, which were still in use in schools. I enjoyed the green and black screens of the old Apple IIe computers. I also enjoyed some old black and white TV programs. I even enjoyed the occasional black and white photograph. But color was the standard, and I never took black and white too seriously. That attitude was changing slowly, but my interest in film photography was a catalyst that made an abrupt and immediate difference.

Statue at Embarcadero Park

A statue at Embarcadero Park: “Morning” by Donal Hord, framed by two trees.

Color adds a lot to certain photographs. But color can also be a distraction. It can influence where your attention is directed in a photograph, and it sometimes does so in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways. Occasionally it’s nice to take away that distraction and force the viewer to consider other attributes of the elements in the photograph. And sometimes it’s good for the photographer to take a moment and compose a photograph with the different considerations that black and white imposes. You might benefit by asking yourself, upon seeing a black and white photograph, what color would add to it. Maybe the photograph would benefit from being in color. I think the conclusion will often be that color wouldn’t add anything substantial, and, in fact, that the photograph would lose some of its charm if it were in color. I confess that I have a photograph or two that I wish I had taken in black and white. Sure, I could convert it to monochrome in Photoshop (or the Gimp), but it wouldn’t be the same. Besides, I generally avoid making material changes to my photographs on the computer.

I like color. As I stated above, I will continue photographing in color. But black and white will also be part of my repertoire from now on.

March 8, 2018

Film Photography

“Do I believe in the objective existence of beauty?” was the question that persuaded me to purchase an old manual SLR camera (a Pentax K1000, to be precise) and start learning film photography. Curiously enough, law school is what drove me to the question. But that’s a long and boring story. The answer, of course, is yes. Not a hasty “yes;” but indeed a “yes.” After all, I spent much of this last year of law school in books on jurisprudence, with a particular emphasis on natural law. The question of whether beauty has an objective existence seems to have some relation to the question of whether there is a natural law. But I digress…

Given that beauty has an objective existence, and with the added premise that it exists in the world around us, I set out to capture it on the medium of silver halide crystals in a gelatin emulsion on a strip of plastic. Or, more to the point: 35mm film. Admittedly, I have enjoyed taking some Polaroid pictures also — both with my old OneStep Express and with the new OneStep 2 — but in somewhat fewer numbers because Polaroid film is expensive!

I chose film as my medium in order to slow myself down and teach myself patience. I also chose it because my early experiences with film, all of which took place with cheap consumer cameras, failed to result in clear pictures. It would have been easy and, in a sense, liberating to buy and use a DSLR camera. I chose constraints, limitations. This project had to be a challenge if it was going to be worth anything.

The choice has certainly paid off. From the time I purchased my first digital camera (probably around the year 2003 or 2004), I was able to effortlessly take clear photos and see the results immediately. I have captured some memorable moments, but I’ve never taken digital files to the store to get prints, and I’ve rarely gone back to look at the photos. I’ve spent more time looking through my old blurry film photographs than my digital ones. The ease of taking the photographs seems to have diminished their value to me. On the other hand, I experience a real feeling of excitement opening up the prints from my latest roll and a real sense of joy when at least some of the photos come out well. Those photos are accomplishments, and I value them so much more for what went into them.

Some have stated that the medium is meaningless; only the results matter. That’s a sensible position to take in a culture of consumerism. The photographer is just another sort of factory worker. Just as we don’t care about the overworked Chinese person who attached the screen to your iPhone before jumping to his death from the roof of the Foxconn building, the photographer doesn’t matter to us, nor the experiences that went into making the photograph. Luckily, I’m not taking photos for consumers. I take photographs for the experience as well as the results. Those experiences, including the choice of film as my medium, are meaningful to me.

I’m posting daily to Instagram, but I plan to put the occasional wordier post up here with thoughts related to a photo, or the story behind it.

November 16, 2017

Lisp Adventures 4: Drawing in McCLIM (and a Snake Game)

The making of a snake game in McCLIM…