Sunday, January 02, 2022

State of the Me: 2021-2022

This blog is essentially defunct, yet somehow I like to continue using it to keep track of my goals and aspirations from one year to the next...

As usual, I'll divide this into a few major categories: Job, Projects, and Family/Home.

Job

I've passed so many years in which my job has been a constant and massive source of stress that I hardly imagined I would ever get it into a good state. But, amazingly enough, I feel like I've finally settled into the job I want: (1) I'm working of a company that is entirely focused on combating climate change, and (2) I have an expert-level position with a lot of responsibility and corresponding autonomy.

Plus I'm really lucky to be reporting to someone who is great at both tech and management. As I've said before, the #1 factor that distinguishes a fantastic job from a living hell is your immediate supervisor -- and my current supervisor is one of the best (if not the very best) I've had.

I am currently working as a DevOps Engineer and Cloud Administrator with a major focus on Kubernetes. After working in every part of IT, I feel like this is the part of the stack where I most want to be: helping multiple teams get their projects deployed and keeping everything running smoothly.

The Kubernetes certification I worked hard on last year was hugely stressful but it has really paid off: I feel like I know Kubernetes well, I know how to get it to do what I want, and I enjoy working with it. And now in the spring I'll be giving a couple of workshops on it for the women-in-tech club I'm in.

If things continue to go well, I could absolutely see myself staying with this job for the rest of my career. It has been less than a year so far, though, so I don't want to speak too soon.

Family/Home

This has been a pretty good year for my little family. Léo passed the Bac, so we're done with school. Nico and Léo have both moved on to an institute where they're studying video game programming -- which is nice because now they can focus on what they want to do and are good at.

The other bit of good news is that our Swiss citizenship is in the final stages of being secured. Nico has already gotten a letter confirming that he is now Swiss (his application was processed separately as he was already over 18 when we started this process), and the rest of us are almost there.

Personally I have been spending time trying to learn Swiss German, but it's tough going. It is weirdly difficult to find the one simple best thing I've found for learning a language: a series of audio dialogs with a transcription and translation into some other language that I understand.

The boys have their own projects that they're working on: stories, video games (developing as well as playing), and video story series (for private home screening only, so far). Nico even organized a new Halloween tradition for us -- having each person tell a scary story -- and the first iteration of it went great!

All of the isolation surrounding Covid has been a breeze for us -- we've been so happy in our little pod watching films together, playing games, and traveling when possible. I almost worry that we're too comfortable in our isolation, but I think it's better than the alternative in which we're dying to get away from each other.

And, unfortunately, we're still drowning in clutter. I've marked all of the days of the cargo tram and electro tram on my calendar, though (this is the opportunity to dispose of large objects), and I've set a goal to try to dispose of at least a bag or two of the long-term clutter every week this year.

Projects

The third section of book 1of my comic book is still not done!! But it's close. I basically just need to draw some fantasy machinery and wrap up a little more than a page. Then I want to clean everything up and make a proper publisher-pitch-portfolio for it.

I don't want to rush this (as much as it sounds crazy to say that after all of the years this has taken), but I would like to be sure that -- if and when this gets picked up by a publisher -- I would be in a position to focus on this project and get the other two books done.

Regarding other projects, I worked on a mini-project of writing a python program that would generate music in XML format to be played by the linux program lmms. I think it turned out pretty well, but could have been better -- in part because the free instruments that are included with lmms are not that great. I might try to search for more instruments for it online.

Otherwise, I'm leaning towards maybe taking some online courses on using software for drawing, animations, and music. Naturally, I only want to use tools that save projects in a parsable, text-based format (like xml or json) so I can do my own custom manipulations, but it's likely that I can make more progress if I don't always assume that I have to program all of my tools myself from scratch.

Of course the project I'm most excited about is -- a new comic book script! I honed the idea for it during our pleasant family weekend in Scuol, and I finished writing it last week. It's not related to my current comic book, so I lean towards using what I learned from drawing my current comic book to try to start from the beginning with better tools and improve my style. I think this new one might  work better distributed online rather than through a publisher, and I'm really pleased with it, so I'm looking forward to drawing it when I have time.

Also, Main Street Plaza is alive again. We're actually doing the Brodie Awards again, which is cool. I find it increasingly challenging to write about Mormonism, though. This is for two main reasons:

Firstly, while it was great fun working on Main Street Plaza while it was relatively popular, it was also a huge amount of work to build up even a small amount of interest, community, and name recognition. Blogging about Mormonism was basically my main hobby for about a decade, and -- while I did get some traction (I'm pleased with some personal essays I got published in a book and a magazine) -- it never really took off to the point of being properly famous even in the tiny pond of online discussion of Mormonism. It's exhausting just thinking about it.

I feel like I've said essentially all I have to say about Mormonism. I came up with some really good analysis of various aspects of the religion and culture -- and I tossed it into the grand chasm of the Internet where it was read a bit and then forgotten...

Secondly, I've lost patience with Mormonism. And, yes, I will continue to call it "Mormonism" rather than whatever euphemism the current CoJCoL-dS would prefer us to use, because this movement is bigger than and not wholly owned by the corporation of the president. (Also because they didn't even try to provide a workable alternative.)

Anyway, about my patience, or loss thereof. Over the years that I was writing about Mormonism, I actually had a rather upbeat attitude to the whole thing despite being a non-believer. I felt like it was actually kind of cool to have been a part of this unique movement. And, even more, I felt like the church was more of an obstacle that I'd climbed over -- getting stronger in the process. So I saw it as, on balance, something interesting that we learned from and gained wisdom to pass along to our community.

Now, for reasons I can't state on a public blog, I feel like a key part of that progress and good will has been erased, at least for me. And it makes me feel sad and tired. I'm glad there are people still talking about it and helping the people who are currently hurting from their connection to Mormonism, whatever it may be. But one can hardly blame me for feeling more drawn to the positive items on the list above.

Conclusion

On balance, I'm making slow but steady progress in the direction I'd like to go. I hope to have many years ahead in which to accomplish my goals -- and I plan to enjoy those years along the way with my one true love and our two adorable sons.

Friday, December 25, 2020

State of the Me: 2020-2021

Hello 2021! I've got to admit it's getting better... but I'm not quite where I want to be just yet.

Let's start with my career since that's the facet of my life I've focused the most effort on lately. 

In August, I passed my Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam. I'm proud of this accomplishment because I haven't taken a timed exam this difficult since graduate school, so I was stepping outside of my comfort zone a bit. But I worked hard at preparing myself, and it was a lot of stress, but I succeeded.

It turns out that I was absolutely right to prioritize passing this exam. Engineers with this certification are the hottest, most sought-after group in IT at the moment. Kubernetes is already on its way to becoming the industry standard for running software in the cloud -- so every company wants to move in that direction. But it's so new that very few people have any significant experience with it. Hence this certification takes the place of years of experience when finding professionals with real Kubernetes expertise.

Armed with this credential, I finally landed a new job back in the climate change / carbon reduction sector! I'll be starting on the first of February. Everything about it seems to align perfectly with what I've been looking for in a job, in terms of the type of company it is and the types of projects. I'll even be back to working at Zürich's startup central -- Technopark -- which should be fun!

I just hesitate to take a victory lap before I've gotten a chance to see how it will go. When I accepted my current job (the one I'm leaving), I figured it would be less stressful than my last one since the management and business strategy are someone else's problem. Management can do any crazy thing they want -- as long as I can carve out a comfortable little niche for myself, I'm fine. Yet somehow I wasn't quite able to do even that, for various reasons that I will analyze at length once I have the luxury of viewing it in hindsight.

So, yeah, another year, another job. I guess that's the worry -- if I couldn't make things work out the way I wanted in these last two jobs, will I ever succeed? OTOH, I have high hopes that this time I've triangulated in on the job I had wanted from the beginning, one where I can do work that I'm proud of and feel good about. To be really useful, as all the good little engines want to be.

Then, of course, since all of these career challenges have eaten up all of my attention and more over the past few years, I still haven't been able to get where I want to be with my creative projects. My comic book was supposed to be done by the first half of 2020, and it's still not done. I'm happy with the parts I did this year, but the process is just too slow. I think I can speed it up by addressing some technological challenges. (My tablet is too small and has some problems with responsiveness.)

I think if I can just get to the point where I'm not constantly stressing out about my job, then I can finally enjoy working on my comic book and get energized about some fun, new creative projects that I'd really like to get to work on. And if that succeeds, maybe I'll even have some time to declutter my apartment.

Regarding the world at large, I'm happy that Trump will finally be leaving the White House. As I've said before, I don't agree with the people who said that voting him out is the "right" way to get him out -- he should have been impeached and convicted within the first year of his presidency. Whether the president is above the law is not a question that should be up for popular vote (or some weirdly-derived subset of the popular vote). If the US system can't eject a president for constantly and openly breaking the law, then the system is broken. But this band-aid is better than nothing. The bare last line of defense has held firm against the deadly march of fascism -- when there was no guarantee that it would. Hopefully this victory will help turn the tide and encourage the people to make serious changes and fix things for real.

In my own little family, things are basically on track. The four of us are closer than perhaps we've ever been. Now that the kids are adults, or nearly, we can share ideas and have conversations where we're on essentially the same level. Nico is doing well in his game development studies, and Léo is planning to apply to go to the same school as Nico next fall. Hopefully by then they'll be able to attend their classes in person and have more opportunity to meet other people their own age, but I think it has actually been helpful for Nico to start his studies without the extra pressure of socializing.

And we're all on track to become citizens of Switzerland soon!

So I guess I don't have a lot to complain about this time. It's good to take the time to write it all down and remind myself of the big picture while I'm stuck sitting around the house feeing annoyed about getting older (and all that entails) as I approach 50. But I'm far from done with what I plan to do in life -- and if I've succeeded in getting my career back on track and if I can finally dig into my creative projects productively in 2021, I do believe I'll be OK.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched...

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I spontaneously felt like singing that song.

Sure, I've sung the song before, but had never felt any connection with it. It's a war song about fighting for a symbol, and all too often fighting for the symbol itself means fighting against the principles the symbol is supposed to represent.

Like when I was a teenager and people tried to deface the US Constitution with an ironic amendment to ban burning the flag. Or more recently as fascism has come marching in, dripping in stars and stripes.

But after we'd held our collective breath waiting for the results to come in, I felt I could see the last shreds of democracy still waving gallantly in the dawn's early light.

Democracy. It's such an easy thing to lose. When a president can openly line his pockets with foreign contributions and face no consequences. When he can brag about breaking the law, and the government is unable to remove him from office for it. When he can shrug at the murder of a journalist for a US newspaper. And then openly plan to use a stacked court in order to overturn an election. That's all it takes. That's all it takes to go from a government of the people to a government of the people in name only.

Naturally this victory doesn't mark the end of our problems, rather the beginning of a long, hard process of making things better. It's the foot shoved into the door of democracy that a would-be dictator and his cronies were trying to slam shut for good. And now it will take tremendous strength and perseverance to pry the door open.

The Unites States of America is a country built on conflicting foundations. One foundation is made of the enlightenment ideals of liberty, justice, and universal human rights. The other part is built on the polar opposite of those values: slavery and genocide. These two motifs have continued to shape the country throughout its history. Naturally I hope the good will one day defeat the evil. And, although I guess we can't be certain to have defeated the current threat until January 19th, I think we've taken a small but critical step in the right direction.

I'm especially happy for the young Americans coming of age at this moment in history. They might have learned the lesson that there is no hope; that they simply live in a country where the president is above the law and journalists mysteriously disappear -- so they might as well give up and just try to scrape by as best they can as individuals. Instead they learned that they can work together and push back -- and they can keep pushing farther, towards liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

State of the Me: 2019-2020

Since this new year is a nice, round number -- and I'm hitting 20 years of marriage and 20 years of living in Europe at the end of this new year -- I'd like to give a two-decade review this time.

The three main axes are home/family, career, and creative projects.  All three have had some significant ups and downs.

Let's start with career since that's the simplest one.  It's been a mostly upward (if bumpy) trend since I started as a software engineer around twenty years ago.  Overall I think I've done a pretty good job o treating setbacks as "crisitunities" that ultimately led to gaining good experience. 

Some highlights include the time I had the opportunity to take a product from slides to production as the sole engineer in the company, and another where I served as CTO for more than two years.  Plus, I've written three books on Java programming and have given numerous lectures.

From this past year, I'm especially proud of the three lectures I gave for Climate-KIC the Journey -- including one where I was invited to speak at the Community Summit in Hamburg.  This was a great follow-up to the Climathon in 2018, where I had a great time assisting as an invited expert.  I also gave a talk on building a career through startups (at the Impact Hub).  This was a follow-up to some of my earlier writings for The Startup.

I have just started a new job, and so far it looks like it's going to be an exciting challenge.  I'm doing straight-up engineering (no management), and the project is one that's up my alley.  Of course leaving my previous job was something of a disappointment.  I really wanted to make it work, but I learned that -- while I can fix a lot of things -- there are some big factors outside of my control, even as CTO.  Ultimately, I had stop banging my head against the wall and move on.

Maybe at some point I'll be CTO of another tech startup (hopefully something related to addressing climate change!), but I will have to make sure that I'm really on the same page with the others running the company before accepting this level of role again.  I have learned that agreeing on the grand overarching goal just isn't enough to make all of the other components fit into place.

The path of my creative projects has been a bit bumpier.  Through the first decade of the current millennium I built a beautiful dream -- a work I poured my heart into and am still proud of.  But over the years I found that I couldn't make it take off.  I couldn't get it to soar.  It was devastating to watch that dream die.

I took up blogging around the same time.  It was amazingly fun at first because I could write essays on a variety of subjects that I'd been thinking about -- and people would read them.  But over time that became frustrating as well because the amount of time and effort it took to build any kind of audience and community (here and at Main Street Plaza) was so wildly out-of-proportion with the size of the community I could build.  I've found myself slowly giving up.

That said, I've had a great experience working with people and making friends within the Mormon Lit community.  I loved giving talks and panels at Sunstone.  (See this roundup post for links to some of my publications and presentations.)  The Brodie Awards (which I built) are still going, and there's an exciting new project in the pipeline at Mormon Alumni Association Books -- so hopefully in the upcoming year I can rekindle some of the projects I started.

But for my personal creative/artistic work, my biggest breakthrough came in 2015 when a new story came to me.  During a magical 3-week vacation in Paris I wrote wrote it out and figured out how I could actually draw it in my favorite story format :  la bande dessinée (as a comic book).  Now I've drawn more than 2/3 of the first book (of three), and I love the results!  I'd be done already if it weren't for work.  My new goal is to have book one done before the first half of 2020 is up.

Regarding family and home -- well, I'm happy with what I've built.

I started the millennium on a high note by marrying my true love and starting my new "happily ever after" life in France.  (I recounted act one of this romantic adventure in an essay for the book Baring Witness, 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage.) 

It was challenging to start a new life in a new country at the same time as starting a new family -- with two babies who arrived shortly after we installed ourselves in Bordeaux -- and no support network of family and friends there to help us out.  But it was a wonderful, magical time.  I finally felt truly at home living the life I chose for myself.

Moving to Switzerland in early 2008 was hard.  I think that challenge was the main impetus for starting this "state of the me" series, as I explored how I felt about starting over as a foreigner in a new place surrounded by a language I did not speak -- it was as though all of that life I'd built as a person integrated into French culture had been erased.

But, over time, I learned the new language.  I've learned a new city -- Zürich -- which I love now probably as much as I loved Bordeaux.  I became a citizen of France years ago, and we're all on track to become citizens of Switzerland.

My children were so young when we moved that they don't really remember living anywhere except for Zürich -- specifically this one neighborhood of Zürich where we've been living since 2010.  It's a great environment for kids, teens, and young adults because it's so easy to get around on foot, on bike, and especially on public transportation.

I'm glad that my older son passed the Baccalauréat exam this past year and my younger son is on track to pass it as well in a couple of years.  Both boys are very bright, so I had expected them to both be at the top of their respective classes throughout school, but that didn't really happen.  Maybe I should have pushed them harder and run a more disciplined household. 

I think what really stopped them from becoming high-achievers in academics was lack of effort (and lack of motivation to make an effort).  And I think that problem stems in part from each one having a best friend at home and feeling secure and content.  They have all sorts of projects that they collaborate on, and they should be able to build careers in some sort of informatics engineering, so I think they're doing fine the way they are.

My relationship with my husband has grown deeper and more loving over the years.  He is my best friend in the sense that he is the one person I can completely count on to have my best interests at heart -- and vice-versa.  I think that's key to a successful relationship -- each partner cares deeply about the other's happiness and well-being.  Partners, not competitors.

The one home-front area that needs some work at the moment is our home itself.  It's a beautiful apartment that fits our lifestyle well, but the clutter is starting to take over.  One of my goals for the next couple of years will be to sift through all of our junk in the basement storage and in the apartment.  I want to get rid of everything we don't need and organize the rest.  I hate to devote so much of my time to piles of consumer goods, but they're starting to crowd my space, and I don't want to just throw them all in a landfill.

The first part of my organizing-stuff program was to get all of the Legos in order (see this video).  And I made a beautiful Lego city  which has been a super fun project to share with my kids:


Now I'd like to clean up the rest of my stuff.  In particular, I plan to sign up for some online portal to sell or give away anything that's not useful to me but might be useful to someone else.

As for the world at large, it's hard to be really optimistic or hopeful.  The devastation we humans are wreaking upon our environment (that we need to survive) isn't slowing down, yet it needs to turn around and reverse immediately if or species is to survive past the next few generations.

On the bright side, it's encouraging to see worldwide climate strikes -- led by young people who aren't OK with the future that's being passed along to them.  And it's good to see that US democracy has enough breath of life left in it to impeach that criminal.  But US democracy is still on life support and it's not clear it will pull through.  We need to wrench out this kleptocracy and rebuild the civil, democratic institutions and social infrastructure if we are to make the changes necessary to save our world.  Specifically we need to stop the use of fossil fuels pronto, in addition to addressing the related problems of worldwide exploitation of people and resources, and the corresponding wars.  Can we build sustainable, just, and democratic systems to replace our current mess?  I hope so.

I hope Elizabeth Warren will win the US presidency, as I think she really has the skill, passion, and knowledge to take down the current stranglehold that the ultra-rich have on American society.

And I guess my biggest source of hope is the rising generation (from millennials on).  It looks like they recognize the kind of mess we're in, and I hope they are becoming galvanized -- learning down to their cores how dangerous authoritarianism, corruption, and runaway inequality really are.

Here's looking forward to 2020 -- good luck to us all!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Goulash Soup


  • 1.2 liters broth (in a soup pot that holds two liters+)
  • 0.2 liters red wine
  • 600 grams beef or meat substitute (such as Dinki-Gulasch Goulash, 3 packets), in small cubes (1-2 cm diameter)
  • 1 packet (50 grams) "dodatak jelima sa povrcem za Goveđi Gulaš" Vegetable seasoning mixture for beef paprikash
  • 1 large onion sautéd in olive oil
  • 300 grams potatoes, peeled and cubed in 1 cm cubes
  • 1 small knollensellerie (celery root/knob, 200-300 grams) or similar root vegetables, peeled and cubed in 1 cm cubes
  • 2 carrots or similar root vegetables, peeled and chopped
  • 250 grams sweet peppers, red & other colors, chopped in small pieces
  • 1 jar (approximately 300 grams) "Ajvar" (spicy Serbian red pepper sauce)
  • salt, pepper, and paprika powder to taste



    Combine in the logical way:
    1. Boil the broth.
    2. Add the veggies in the order of which ones need to cook longest.
    3. Add everything else (including the olive oil the onions are sautéd in).
    4. Simmer for 1 hour
    5. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

    Monday, April 22, 2019

    Warren vs. Sanders from a purely political strategy perspective.

    I keep reading the claim that we have to support Bernie because he's the only one who can beat Trump in 2020.  But is that really true?

    First of all, if Trump actually makes it to November 2020 (without being impeached and convicted), then the deadly precedent of allowing blatant presidential criminality would essentially turn what's left of rule of law in the US into a smoking crater.  But the USA is too big to fail, and if Trump is still in the race in November of 2020, then -- even though beating him isn't sufficient to fix things -- it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent things from getting an order of magnitude worse.

    So I'd like to discuss the best strategy for getting a real progressive to be the one who goes up against Trump (or, ideally, up against some other Republican contender that they have to throw in at the last moment because Trump is in jail.)

    Once the primary season is over, I will naturally support whomever they pick and encourage others to do the same -- because of the critical importance of this election.  But I would prefer to vote for someone who will fight for economic justice.  I don't want to hold my nose and vote for Biden, who is the candidate of "Trump is just an anomaly -- if we just go back to what it was like under Obama, everything will be fine..."

    But Warren and Sanders are on track to make that happen by splitting the progressive vote.

    We can talk about their differences in policies and trust-busting chops later, but they are close enough that -- for the purpose of this discussion -- I would like to focus on this idea that "only Bernie can beat Trump," which I think is wrong.  Here are my three reasons why Warren is a better candidate from a political strategy perspective:

    1.  The Olive Branch

    One of Hillary Clinton's biggest liabilities going into the 2016 election was how passionately hated she was by a large portion of the country.  Personally, I went into that primary season with Bernie as my top choice, but after Hillary demonstrated cool-headed competence in the debates and acted as the adult in the room during those endless, pointless Benghazi hearings, I was happy to cast a ballot for her in November of 2016.  But regardless of her skills and experience, the people who hated her hated her ten times more than the people who liked her liked her -- so she wasn't able to win by a large enough margin to overcome the unfair vote-weighting system.

    Then, as I recall, there was an avalanche of vitriol from the Bernie camp directed at Clinton and her supporters.  And the women who supported Clinton were not happy about that in the slightest.

    What happened in 2016 (and following up in 2017) is a gaping wound in the Democratic party that hasn't healed yet.  I recall around the midterms watching a comedy sketch where two Democrats call for unity to build the "blue wave" -- and it immediately degenerates into a fight between the Bernie-supporting dude and the woman who supported Hillary.  And it's funny because it's so true...

    So, ironically, Bernie heads into 2020 with the same liability Hillary had in 2016.  Only this time it's maybe worse because the bad feelings and resentment aren't coming from the opposing party, they're coming from inside the house.

    Now, if you're a Bernie-or-bust person, you're probably saying to yourself that if Bernie wins the nomination, then all those Democratic women should just suck it up and get over it and get in line behind Bernie.  And, yes, of course they should.

    But will they?

    In order to really get out the vote, you need more than just a hated opponent -- you need a candidate that people are excited about.  Unfortunately, the leftover vitriol from 2016 is still sticking to Bernie.  It doesn't matter that it's not his fault.  Most of the vitriol against Hillary wasn't her fault either.  Those are the breaks.

    And to pin the tail on it -- that whole "Bernie Bros" thing...  Is it real or just an unfair slur?  Picking Bernie over Hillary was really about ideas and not at all inspired by sexism or misogyny, right...?

    Well, here's a fantastic opportunity for you to demonstrate that!!  Extend an olive branch and start the healing process by switching your support from Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren.

    2.  The Age Thing

    Yes, I know, Elizabeth Warren is also old.  And Bernie is in good health today.  But they are at an age where a decade matters.  (It's not quite a decade, but statistically women live longer than men, so Sanders is a good ten years closer to an unacceptably-high probability of age-related mental deterioration.)  He would be in his 80's for maybe half of his first term.  And of course the Democrats would absolutely run him again for a second term even if.... yikes, so tempted to make a "Weekend at Bernie's" joke here....

    It is completely disingenuous to dismiss this as some sort of "ageist" bigotry.  The country needs and deserves to have a leader who is physically capable of carrying out the job.

    3.  Passing the Baton

    Bernie helped build an amazing left-populist movement in 2015 and 2016.  He forced the issue and made Socialism go mainstream and become hip again.  But is it about ideas or is it about a cult of personality?

    I hope it's about ideas and not just a cult of personality.  But if Bernie himself and his supporters are convinced that only Bernie can do it -- and he can't bring himself to pass the baton and take his place as "elder statesman" given the above two strikes against him -- then it sure doesn't look like a vital ideas-based movement that can outlive him....

    In conclusion, I'd like to apologise for making this more about Bernie's negatives than about Elizabeth's positives.  So let me wrap up with a new video showing Warren leading the way on one of the most critical issues facing US democracy today:



    Guys, when Obama was running against Clinton, I whole-heartedly supported Obama because I felt he was more qualified and had a better stand on a number of important issues.  I was pissed-off at Gloria Steinem for writing an opinion turning the primary into an oppression olympics between blacks and women, which I didn't think that was appropriate or warranted.  And, as I said, in 2105 and early 2016 I supported Bernie over Clinton because of the difference in their ideas and policies.

    But, now that our candidate is the best candidate, we're done waiting.

    Sunday, April 14, 2019

    Top five wrongest parts of the creation story in Genesis

    I should not have to enumerate this. It should be obvious to the most casual reader of the beginning of the Bible that the creation story is a bunch of guesses by some ancient people -- and they got it wrong pretty much from top to bottom.

    Which is fine. It can be read as a charming poem or metaphor or something if you're from a tradition that cherishes this story. The problem arises when modern people doggedly insist -- in the face of all evidence and reason -- that this story gives an accurate description of how life, the universe, and everything began.

    So I will enumerate here the top five wrongest points in the story. They're not the only wrong bits, but these wrong parts are so egregiously wrong that I don't want to cloud the issues by nit-picking the lesser details like whether the two stories contradict each other, etc.

    #1. Day four: God creates the Sun.

    Yes, after having created daylight back on day one, and all of the worlds plants on day three, God finally gets around to creating the Sun.

    This is game over. It is sincerely not possible to get the sequence of events of Earth's formation more wrong than this.

    The only apologetic excuse I've heard for this one is that the Earth's atmosphere was originally so opaque that it wasn't until the Earth was covered with plants that the Sun and Moon and stars became visible, so -- to the observer writing this story -- it looked like the Sun and Moon and stars were created at that point.

    There are several problems with this excuse. The first is that's not what it says.

    There is nothing in the text to indicate that the other uses of "God created" something refer to Him actually creating the thing, but this one refers to the unnamed observer first noticing it. This interpretation comes from the popular Bible-literalist syllogism: 1. The Bible is not wrong, 2. The thing written in this Bible passage is wrong, therefore 3. What's written in the passage is not what's written in the passage.

    This interpretation of this passage is a classic example of the "Who are you going to believe -- me or your lying eyes reading what's written on the page?" school of Bible study.

    But, even if we were to grant that that interpretation is reasonable (which I don't), it's still wrong.

    The Earth's atmosphere was not opaque (or cloud-covered) enough to block the view of the Sun. Probably not at any point in the Earth's formation, but certainly not continuously from the beginning of the Earth's formation to the point where the land was covered with plants.

    And finally, if your own most charitable interpretation of this passage is that the author of the creation story can't tell the difference between God creating something and himself simply noticing the thing, why would you treat this story as accurate?

    #2. Day four: God creates the stars

    Yep, day four, as an afterthought to creating the Sun and Moon, God creates the stars -- which are described as lights that He placed in the expanse/firmament that He created to hold up the water when it's not raining (see below).

    This one is (in an absolute sense) even more wrong than #1 because the stars already existed for several billion years before the formation of the Earth. Also, they are other suns -- they are not little lights embedded in the firmament.

    I put this one after the one about creating the Sun, though, because it's not quite as bad. Ancient people couldn't really be expected to know that the stars are distant suns. Whereas, I would hope that even the most ignorant ancient person could be expected to figure out that daylight comes from the Sun -- it does not exist independently of the Sun. And hopefully they could also figure out that plants rely on the Sun, and hence wouldn't be green and growing before the Sun existed.

    #3. Day two: God creates the "Firmament" or "Expanse"

    At this point God created something that does not exist and never did.

    This one is easy for modern Christians to ignore because there's no modern word for this thing because no modern people believe in its existence. So it's easy to (intentionally or unintentionally) misread this passage as just referring to the atmosphere or something.

    In reality, this is a reference to an ancient belief that there was a solid physical barrier that "separated the water under the expanse from the water above it." In other words, this is supposedly the thing that holds up the rain except for on the occasions when God opens the heavens and makes it rain. It's also where He embedded the stars, as I mentioned earlier.

    If you don't believe me, the footnote in the  "NIV Study Bible" that I am quoting from gives the following cross-references for the term for this thing God created: "Hard as a mirror" (Job 37:18) and "Like a canopy" (Isa 40:22)

    #4. Days three, five, and six: God creates all living things in the wrong order

    The short version is as follows: day three: all plants, (day four: the Sun??!!!??!), day five: all water-dwelling and air-dwelling animals, day six: all land animals.

    The water-then-land part is kind of correct, but birds existing before any land animals is dead wrong. And the text says that each category was created completely in the above sequence -- which isn't true. New species of plants, water-dwelling animals, land-dwelling animals, and air-dwelling animals (along with other types of life forms) have continuously arisen concurrently from essentially the earliest days of complex cells.

    The evidence for this sequence, by the way, does not depend on the theory of Evolution. The evidence comes from the fossil record -- the millions of fossils that are found in consistent strata around the globe. Let me emphasise this point: the evidence shows that the Biblical creation story's account of the formation of life is wrong all by itself -- no reference to evolution is required.

    #5. God creates the first human by making a clay sculpture and then breathing life into it.

    In the earlier segment of the story, the author is really vague about the mechanisms by which God "creates" things. So you can believe it says that He brought these things into existence with a poof of magic or through some mechanisms that roughly correspond to the evidence. This is the first time that we get some specifics about how God makes things.

    And, unsurprisingly, the method described in the story does not bear any resemblance to any natural process that we have any evidence for.

    Again, I would like to emphasise that the creation story here is wrong all by itself -- without any reference to evolution. A lot of Bible-literalists weirdly single out the theory of Evolution as something they don't want to "believe in" -- because it somehow threatens the Bible. But that line of reasoning misses the point entirely:

    Even if we didn't have the weight of scientific evidence showing us that evolution of species by natural selection did occur and continues to occur, it still wouldn't mean that we have any reason or evidence to conclude that "blowing life into an inanimate statue" is even close to the way that human life arose. The Bible author's guess here is just wrong.

    I'm not going to throw in the creation of Eve at this point because I guess that some Bible literalist could claim that God cloned Eve from DNA in Adam's rib -- which (unlike the animating-a-clay-figure idea) is at least in the same universe with something that is possible. Still, with all the incest coming up later in the book, it's a little horrifying to imagine that the parents in the story were actually clones of one another (not to mention the fact that if Adam is biologically male with a functioning male reproductive system, his clone would not be a female with a functioning female reproductive system).

    Anyway, I hope this list is instructive. But I know it won't be because convincing yourself that the creation story in Genesis is literally true requires such a profound level of delusion that there's no hope that the light of reason will ever penetrate it.