First Video Posted on Love Returns

I spent the weekend producing my first video out at Love Returns (Doors to Love). The experience was a little humbling. My face is complicated, and I haven’t had to pay attention to my diction given that I spend most of my time teaching computers with my fingers. But I decided to push it out so that I could gauge the effort required to do a weekly video.

In the end, I’m surprised how easy it was to make a high-quality product, limited only by the qualities of the presenter (i.e. – myself). Vegas Movie Studio is a great tool, my greatest frustration being addressed once I learned to put a marker in every time I wanted to switch video clips. The titler also has an odd quirk, in that the time length of the animation must be set before entering the setup screen.

What surprised me most was the intensity of the emotions that came up as I did the first of the two recordings (the one with me seated). I didn’t use many of those moments in the final cut, preferring the less agitated demeanor of the close-up. I didn’t think to turn the Handycam viewer around, so the framing of the close-up is a little odd, but I hope that there’s some charm in that.

For those that can’t bear to watch the whole thing, I’ve also posted the transcript.

To be Trolled, or Not to be Trolled

Trolling – posting a comment on a discussion forum for the sole purpose of creating hostility among the participants – is the most dangerous threat to the exchange of ideas on the web. The tech community is seeking to moderate the damage. Some new artificial intelligence engines profile accounts, others monitor for certain logical constructs (for example, any statements starting “You think…”).

Engadget reports that a site in Norway disallows a comment until the poster demonstrates knowledge of the main article. A script engine presents a multi-choice question generated from the article, and disallows comments until it is answered correctly.

What would be even better is if they would verify comment relevance against the original post and the previous comments in the thread. Given that a script is generating the questions, and a script is able to answer them, it seems that should be possible. Maybe that could be verified by a question posed to the poster?

Unfortunately, all of these solutions play into the hands of state-run trolls, such as the Russian “fake media” mills. By generating scripts that determine the correct answer, they can post far more efficiently than others, and thus come to dominate forum contents.

Here’s another option: build an AI engine that ranks the relevance of comments against the article and discussion, and allow readers to filter content against that ranking. That would enable those seeking serious discussion not just to be protected from trolls, but also to skip past comments that are just socializing. Offering “Good point!” is nice, but posted enough times and more substantial commentary falls off the bottom of the page.

AMPed

I went out to San Dimas this weekend for the AMP (Apologetics-Mission-Partnership) Conference. Four speakers presented on Friday night, with six more on Saturday. For an Evangelical gathering, the speakers were surprisingly diverse. Several were unapologetic in their religious chauvinism, targeting Islam as well as “marginal” Christians. Others were surprisingly liberal, most markedly the scholar who asserted that between Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22, the Bible was a testimony to human error. This struck me because the organizing agency, Reasons to Believe, upholds the purpose of proving the inerrancy of the Bible.

The most stimulating talk was Dr. Ross on the geological processes that stabilized the climate long enough to allow homo sapiens to cover the earth. One chart in particular was mind-boggling: it turns out that prior to the Laurentian, temperatures oscillated in a 24 F range around the mean. The oscillation is driven by the gravitational dynamics of the solar system and the wobbles of Earth’s rotation, and is large enough that large-scale agriculture is impossible. But when the last Ice Age ended, temperatures settled into a 3 F band. No scientific explanation is known, but that stability allowed humanity to cover the planet and then turn its attention to religious and scientific inquiry.

Given my intentions out at Love Returns Ministry, the most valuable part of the event was the opportunities that I had to talk with young adults. A young man in high school walked up on Saturday morning to ask me whether I understood Dr. Ross’s reference to “large and small dimensions.” I don’t know why he imagined that I would be able to answer the question, but he got a survey of the problems in the reigning model of fundamental physics. He chased me down during the morning break, eager for my opinions. As the conversation unfolded, he revealed that he had taken the evolution side of the creation debate in class. When I suggested that Genesis was evolution, he was taken aback until I made the connection between photosynthesis and “Let there be light.”

Then there were three young adults, two caught up in conversation during breaks and one that I searched out to supplement the response she had been given by the presenter of a talk on how as a Christian to talk to youth about sex and relationships. I focused on two messages: first, that Islam was merely a compression of the Hebrew tutelage to faith, with a shift from history to psychological analysis of the Old Testament heroes. Secondly, I emphasized that the presence of love in the heart was the best guide to our relationships, with the ultimate goal of becoming “spiritual engineers.” I found myself doing most of the talking, but when I stopped to apologize, they all responded with variations of “No, thanks for sharing.”

Far better to receive that than the attentions of the scholars at RTB. They are all so terribly certain of the truths they propagate. What’s important to me, however, is that the future manifest new possibilities – the possibilities allowed by hearts and minds that commit themselves in service to Unconditional Love. A positive reception by the participants in that future (our young adults) tells me that I’m doing the right thing.

Laming the Swamp

At the CPAC conference, Stephen Bannon announced a bold new strategy for taming the federal bureaucracy. Given that:

  1.  “swamp monster” appears to be a qualification necessary to obtain a security clearance; and
  2. the federal bureaucracy is hypocritically feeding public prosecutors evidence of criminal wrong-doing by administration officials,

the President’s “Chief Tragedist” is calling upon Academia to “deconstruct” the administrative state. In layman’s terms: the mission of the press-ganged philosophers will be to discover the contradictions inherent in the laws and regulations that legitimate the operation of the executive branch.

The prior exemplar of this approach to governmental process was Justice Antonin Scalia, whose approach to constitutional law was “strict deconstructionist.” Under this policy, it was possible to argue both that gun rights are absolute and that corporations have the rights of citizens. Such positions are reconciled in deconstruction by allowing that every law reflects the attempt by society to solve problems that it cannot articulate due to the biases of its language. In application, deconstruction has allowed analysts to justify every policy and action.

This blogger offers an aphorism: “The Ends Justify the Meanings.” There was a book by Nabokov on this subject: something about a poet’s elegy for his daughter, dead of a suicide, and an attempt by a political hack to interpret it as a call to restore a Scandinavian monarchy. Bannon’s substitution of “deconstruction” for “destruction” is a masterful application of the principle.

Love Returns Ministry

I’ve engaged LegalZoom to set up a DBA in California as “Love Returns Ministry.” The logo is in the final stages of jewelry design, which I’ll be taking around the gift shops to raise funds. I’ve reserved the love-returns.org domain through WordPress, but have to figure out how to get it transferred to a new blog (currently it will redirect to this home page).

This has been building for a while. Through my writing, I haven’t been able to engage intellectual or religious leaders, which means that they aren’t the people that need me. I encounter those that do while dancing or getting my hair cut or at the lunch counter. They are people hanging on to love by their fingernails, just doing the best that they can. They are courageous and determined, and they need reason to hope.

So I threw this together a couple of Saturdays ago:

MEN

Jesus proved that we have the power and strength to create a world ruled by

LOVE

Each of us has a part to play, but teams don’t win games unless they know the rules and their opponent, and share a strategy. Without that, we score two points and give up four. If you are a good man, you know that struggle.

THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Describes the love and strength that God has invested in preparing us to win the game. Now is the time to

UNITE FOR VICTORY OVER SORROW

And to create a safe place for

WOMEN TO HEAL US

Then last Saturday, I went out to the pier and my new friend Harold asked me “Are you a Christian?” I stopped, having considered this moment, and coyly replied “Well, I’m about as Christian a man as can be.” We started discussing points of theology, and I realized that everybody was listening to me speak. Struggling with hubris, I knelt on the boards, testified that “I need to humble myself.” Harold reached up to the sky and started offering praise to the Father for the teaching that I had brought to them that day.

I’m struggling with logistics still. The DBA will take a week or so. The announcement needs some graphic design to attract the right people. My color laser printer is on the fritz. I need to get the new blog up, and figure out how to organize the material logically, rather than by date.

But in between I’ve outlined some of the discussions, focusing on the nature of love and sin; the nature of the heavenly realm; the reconciliation of Darwin and the Bible. I have this vision of an open Socratic discussion, myself doodling on a flip chart to explain the science and philosophy and history of the Human journey, and realizing that people seeking answers have every reason to trust what I have to say.

In those visions, I feel their brokenness reaching out to me, and responsive power moving through my heart from the Father.

He loves us. We are strong enough. Come to Him.