Open Source Lapboard

Wednesday 1 October 2014 Leave a comment



So far as I am concerned, this design is public domain. That’s because the objective of this exercise is not the specific construction, nor the design, but the process of designing. I’ve built a couple of these and everybody loves them. The other one has metal stringers on top, made from those slotted wall-mount shelf brackets (essentially a metal “C” rail with various holes and slots cut into it). I applied duct tape to the rails to prevent scratching anything. Wooden rails as depicted here remove the need for that.

Here’s what I was thinking: It has to sit stable in my lap, fit between the arms of the office chair, yet be wide enough at the knees for a relaxed posture. It needs to keep the heat of laptop away from my body, and room to breath is a good thing. Not too heavy would be nice, but the surfaces have to be smooth to the touch and not catch on things.

So you can see the planks are a decent grade of plywood, which is simply a matter of what I had on hand. Thicker would be a bit much to handle, but if you have lighter material that you don’t mind in your lap, use what makes you happy. The near plank is narrow enough to fit between chair arms, while the far plank allows my to relax my legs.

To smooth the edges, I took the wood out to a concrete sidewalk and dragged the pieces across the surface under pressure so that the concrete sanded down the edges. If you are using slender wood stringers, I recommend you pre-drill the screw holes to prevent splitting. I also glued them down to create a solid feel. The whole thing was measured by holding the pieces of wood in place where I intended to use them. The placement of the stringers was a matter of matching more-or-less the width of the laptop in question.

You can paint it, coat it with other materials, use whatever types of fastening suits you. The trick in stuff like this is having a good feel for what a piece of material can and cannot do, and being aware of how things can go wrong if you don’t prevent trouble.

Oh, and if you really need a mousepad on one side, I recommend you learn how to cut and fold corrugated cardboard. The brown side is perfect for most optical pointers. I made one that simply fit snugly on the extended end of the outer plank. It extended it out and toward me a bit larger than the end of the plank. A resulting 4″ square should do. Most mobile pointers are more accelerated than desktop models, so it takes less space to operate. I folded the cardboard around the back edge, then brought it up around the plank and folded to meet the extended underside on the edge closest to me. Then I stapled it down so that it was solid. Adding one more layer of cardboard on top hid the staples and added some much needed stiffness. It’s basically a rectangular hollow tube of cardboard with a stiff top.


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Otherworldly Messiah

Tuesday 30 September 2014 1 comment

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NET)

The context is Paul describing how he convinced Peter to cease clinging to his Jewish instincts. That is, Peter was so highly conditioned by the corrupted Hellenized Pharisaism of his day that he struggled to shed the false view of God. Peter still suffered that aversion to mixing with Gentile Christians. It was not what Moses taught, so the emphasis here is on the Talmudic “Law” of men. In that sense, it is not possible to please God by simple ritual observance. Jesus reinforced Moses, but dismissed the Talmud and all it represented.

Paul’s contention here does not negate the message of Moses. The Gentile Christians under the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood were, in effect, more truly Israel than Peter had been before his conversion to following Jesus. The issue was Peter’s lifelong conditioning at the hands of men who had drifted far, far away from God’s revelation. In answering this problem, Paul states a fundamental principle — quoted above — that travels well outside of the immediate context.

It’s not that Paul ceases to be Paul, but that he has become the Paul that God intended he should be. He is not dissolved into some mystical union, as some would caricature Christian Mysticism, but that he dissolved his broken and fallen humanity in the Blood. If Christ lives in you, then your existence is dominated by a driving commitment to please the Creator. You forfeit your previous human allegiances, concerns and needs, and move into a different level of awareness. You have nothing to fear from all this sacrifice, because One has gone before to open the path with His own sacrifice.

The hardest thing to hammer home to Western Christians is that your children and your dreams of domestic future were all dissolved in the Blood, too. You cannot tacitly demand by instinctive reasoning that God meet your expectations. Yet what we see all day long spewing from the mouths and keyboards of supposed Christians is that God would not dare transgress their Anglo-Saxon cultural mythology. You can get them to disparage that “it’s for the children” type of Nanny-State shaming language, but even the most vociferously “conservative” Christians still act on that very same value system. And that value system is uniquely Anglo-Saxon, totally foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures.

When you assume God cannot ask you to sacrifice your children on the Cross, you blaspheme. When you assume some predetermined channel of allowable outcomes, such that you feel compelled to engage in politics and all the human ugliness of fear and war, you surrender to Satan’s realm and his foul power.

It’s not that any particular choice in front of you is inherently evil in God’s eyes, but that any choice outside His revelation is evil because it’s outside. Whatever it is you might want to imagine about the lineage in our society, it’s the same lying spirit that compelled the Talmud of Jesus’ day (and all of Judaism since then) and drives us to pull away from the mystical life and engage in human politics.

I do not fear political outcomes. I have no need to dirty my hands in any part of that mess, trying to steer it in some preferred direction. I cannot, because God is in control in the first place. You may not like the outcomes, but it’s largely because you do not understand the Ancient Hebrew way of thinking that God prescribed for those who serve Him.

Our nation is not under any covenant offered by God because it rejects them all. Therefore, there is no particle of what see in US law and politics that is blessed in any particular way. (There is a large lore of mythology that our nation was founded on a call from God, but it was formed by people who worshiped an Anglo-Saxon perversion of God.) Every bit of our national politics is outside of His revelation; some of it vociferously rejects His ways. Therefore, our proper understanding is that American political and social affairs are entirely random, in the sense that every thread of it is steered by Satan. While it’s possible that you can detect elements of the bigger picture that seem to align with God’s Word, it’s totally an accident — the essence remains utterly damned. To imagine you can make it better by direct involvement is a delusion from Satan.

And our Lord tells Satan what he can and cannot do with all this power he exerts in American political and social life. God is the ultimate Master of what you see happening. We who follow Christ consciously choose to obey His calling within this chaotic context. If, in the process of our obedience, something in that random ebb and flow of human behavior threatens our human sense of shalom, it cannot justify trying to engage the system. We have no expectation of God sponsoring and empowering a political-social agenda anywhere on the chart. You have from God your calling in faithful commitment to do what He gives you power to do, but He does not give you power to mend or affect the system in any way. That doesn’t mean you don’t interact, as if you could cut yourself off from the reach of human laws and politics. It means you don’t take seriously the claims of the system and don’t operate within those lies.

Instead, you face the system as a resident alien, a citizen and agent of Heaven. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot pretend your citizenship on earth has any meaning when you are called to follow Christ. If you do not understand the inherent conflict between the two, you are morally blind. You have set yourself up for a whole raft of “blessings” from Satan. The Devil owns human politics because our Father has granted it to him. Remember what Satan told Jesus on that high mountain during the Wilderness Temptations? It wasn’t a lie and Jesus didn’t dispute Satan’s authority to make the offer of human political dominion. Jesus opted for a higher allegiance and tossed aside the political Messianic Expectations of the Hellenized and worldly Jewish scholars. Jesus was determined to be an otherworldly Messiah.

If your focus isn’t otherworldly, then you don’t have a Messiah.

The Character of God

Monday 29 September 2014 Leave a comment

He’s not a perfectionist; He’s a very real Person.

It is peculiar to the West to assert absolutes. Other cultures might figure out what we mean by the term “perfect” regardless of language, but ours is the only one that imputes absolutism to God. It’s not that those other cultures have a lower view of God, but their views are more consistent with His revelation. Our view is wickedly perverse in conjuring up this nonsense. Our concept of perfection itself is foreign to Creation; it is the sick imagination of our evil culture.

It has always been deeply personal. When translators render some word or idea “perfect” in English, it doesn’t mean what it does in our world. It typically implies “mature” in the sense of someone who has spent enough time in the Lord’s service to have squelched their own whims in favor of what makes Him smile. They’ve watched carefully and observed how He responds and what brings Him joy, and strive to make that happen in their own delegated responsibilities.

This is not some impersonal bureaucracy. It’s family. All serve, but we have been granted adoption into His royal household. It’s more like blood kin; we favor our divine family over all others in this world. But it’s an Ancient Near Eastern household, not a modern version. We are under a sovereign dominion; we are property as well as kin. The ideal is not a nuclear family household in separate locations, but all in one big happy tent. When God says, “Come, let us reason” (Isaiah 1:18) it’s not two more-or-less equals dickering over specifics of exchange or contracts. It’s an image of God helping you understand what reality is, because He’s the Creator who best knows how you can harmonize with what He put into place before there was dirt.

So when the Bible talks about a perfect servant of God, it could not possibly be farther from the truth to imagine a static condition. Perfection is the tendency to keep coming back to God and making adjustments all the way through. It implies you have figured out how it works. You have an instinct to first go face down at His feet because there is never sufficient purity to overcome your own damnation. All of it is a gift from Him. By the same token, you would have to assertively change so radically that you bear no resemblance at all to Him, before any hint of alienation comes into the picture.

Once inside, it’s as if there is no option to leave the family, but you surely won’t be happy and useful to His plans if you insist on avoiding those long, personal conversations. But you’ll notice this has nothing to do with some mythical objective facts. God revealed Himself in terms of narrative, characterization and indications. That is how God deals with human minds; that’s how the human mind is wired to work.

It’s entirely possible to come at this from outside of any culture. I’ve shown some of that in my writing with quantum this-n-that. However, you still have to honor what God has done. The earliest human existence just outside the entrance to Eden has always been somewhat like the Ancient Near East. It’s not as if God picked that as some cultural background He could tolerate; it’s as close as humans can come to His ideal for us. And the Hebrew culture that so closely echoes it was made by God directly. He didn’t just choose it; He built it as His own design. So we don’t replicate that, but we discern it and learn it well enough to find out what it looks like in our own context — “rightly dividing” the Old Covenant.

God is not surprised when we wander all over the map away from His ideal. He sees us with compassion and knows we suffer because we reject His model for human existence. But He knows how we are wired and what it should take to bring us closer. If we don’t accept that coaxing and nudging for what it is, it’s our problem, not His. He has granted everything necessary, and a very generous helping of extras, to make us see Him clearly. That is, to see Him as clearly as we could at our stage of development. A couple of folks were so personally close to Him that they didn’t have to die. They weren’t “objectively perfect,” just so in tune with His ways that there was no point in dying. It is within human reach.

By the same token, His own Son died about as horribly and painfully as is possible for a human. Go beyond certain thresholds and people quit feeling anything, so Jesus suffered as much as human wiring could process, and in ways that cannot be measured. He did that for you. He did that so you and I could seize that high placement in the household and then study to find the implications with the full spiritual awareness already fired up. It’s never been easier to live without dying, yet we know of no one who went out that way since Christ. Notice that He came back from the dead and then levitated off into the sky without dying again.

Don’t be a fool — the Bible defines folly as moral insensitivity. If you haven’t rejected your Western heritage, you can’t walk very close to Christ. If you don’t endeavor to cast aside the Anglo-Saxon mythology about our world and what is good and right, you can’t claim to follow Jesus. You can’t turn God into a Westernized deity; He won’t go there. You have to come to Him through the gate He made, and that includes a radical change in cultural views.

God is not an exacting taskmaster, but Our Father — an ANE father in a feudal household. He is our Divine Sheikh.

Go Forth

Sunday 28 September 2014 Leave a comment

On the one hand, I hesitate.

Having been through the meatgrinder on religion and the vast ocean of misunderstanding I had to swim through to find peace on the gentle shores, I don’t want others to face that. Every step of the way I saw where things were wrong-headed, even when lovingly intended. It was wrong because it was built on the wrong foundation. Ripping out all the badly placed assumptions was gut-wrenching and painful. It was enough to bring me to suicide’s door repeatedly. Isn’t there a better way?

On the other hand, I cannot keep silence. Just as the folks who dealt with me had no control over the results of their efforts, I cannot pretend to know how it will turn out for you. I guarantee you that most of the people who produced this music had entirely different ideas about what it means in terms of real-world implementation.

The tone of the song itself implies holding a much stronger grip on the results than what God actually grants. They try to define how God will work, as if they could know. So much confidence and enthusiasm, but making little room for Him to do things they don’t expect. The language is correct and the images proper, but flavored with the wrong assumptions. It’s an entirely different dialect of the same language because the underlying cultural background is entirely different.

Never mind the radical differences between a meat-space ministry and online ministry; the real difference is a whole world of different assumptions about reality itself. It comes from a wholly different assumption about God and His character, and how He operates in this world. Sure, I think my version is better, but that’s not what I bring to you today. Rather, I call upon you to hear His voice for yourself.

You may well be called to some evangelistic mission; go forth. You may also be called to hold steady in place and simply be a rock of faith for others to see or not see; go forth. Don’t hide your faith, but also don’t pretend you can buttonhole folks and demand an emotional psychological conversion. We are all different and one size does not fit all. Maybe you don’t have a lot of natural empathy where you instinctively feel what others feel, particularly in the sense that you can assess how your words and actions impact others. Guess what? God can give you a functional empathy through the Divine Presence in your soul — that’s His nature. Eventually you’ll understand the unique audience He has made for your message.

This sense of unique divine calling flavors everything you because it gives room to the you God made you to be.

Psalm 17

Saturday 27 September 2014 Leave a comment

In Ancient Near Eastern feudalism, one would present before the sovereign emperor a petition against injustice. The natural assumption is not that the Lord doesn’t know, but that He won’t necessarily act if you think you can handle it. Delegation is a necessity of life, but when someone else interferes with your assigned domain, it may be necessary to seek enforcement. The question presented here is not asking God to judge on some question, but to enforce His own declared Laws.

In that culture, stating the obvious is simply a matter of offering context. David cries out for justice, not simply revenge. The issue is God’s reputation. Unlike an earthly sovereign given to human boredom, God doesn’t play head games, though it might seem like it by our Western standards. David is wholly unafraid to come before God because his life is an open book. David’s heart was committed to God’s moral character. The biblical concept of violence is using unjustified force for unjustified gain, and David was careful to understand and avoid that mistake.

At God’s whim, He may elect to restore justice in some spectacular fashion. When a situation becomes truly unjust, that may be what’s coming. David doesn’t complain if God takes His time responding, because it can only signal His intent to do something glorious and unmistakably the work of His hand. David has seen such things with his own eyes before. He compares God’s miraculous care to a man’s instinct to protect his eyes. David suffers no arrogance about being so highly favored of God, but is awestruck.

And he is no fool about how God allows some folks enough rope to hang themselves. So it’s not a panic-stricken call that he feels surrounded at times. The cold winds of his own demise seem to blow often in his life. The threats are all too real, but so is God’s protection. Thus, he calls on the Lord to humble the enemies and restore His own divine justice. While some seem to profit from injustice and it appears all is well for them, David has no quarrel with their earthly prosperity. Such is not the real measure of God’s favor. What David wants is divine favor as expressed in something far more subtle and eternal. He wants a clear vision of what pleases his Creator, because the moral truth is more valuable than all the world.

Song of Solomon 7

Saturday 27 September 2014 Leave a comment

Sometimes it’s all a matter of taste. This chapter is by far the most risqué language in the Bible, but it’s obscured by euphemisms and symbolic references.

The groom describes his bride, starting from her feet. Some of the references are less than obvious to us these many centuries and miles removed. Peasants typically went barefoot, so the mere presence of sandals is more typical of nobility. It kept them from appearing dirty and calloused; she’s refined and high-class despite her rural background. Her legs are very well formed by his standards. Then he offers a euphemism for her vagina and refers to the delights of cunnilingus as lapping up wine. While it’s true that the feminine ideal was a bit less slender than today, the image of her abdomen as a wheat mound has more to do with satisfying him sexually — feeding his hunger — than anything else.

The reference to breasts are obvious to us today; men have always obsessed over them. He describes them in terms of graceful animals associated with sex. A long elegant neck would be opposed to something short and muscular, as seen on men. The whole point is radiant femininity. He refers to an architectural wonder unknown today except for this reference alone. The City of Heshbon was the gateway to conquest of the Promised Land. The commonly accepted archaeological site does feature the remains of deep fish pools, but we have no other evidence of a tower of ivory at the gates. Still, that would be quite a sight. The Tower of Lebanon is widely considered a reference to Mount Hermon, a truly majestic height that does allow one to see almost forever. This would be an aristocratic nose much favored in that part of the world.

Her luxurious, wavy hair was likened to royal tapestries, the extravagant hand-woven wall hangings in Solomon’s palace. Even the king could get lost in hair like that. Having described her from the bottom up, he then speaks of the joy of making that climb with his own hands. It would be hard to make a more obvious reference to sex.

The bride is, of course, delighted with his delight in her. Any sane wife revels in her husband’s attention. She offers her own mix of images and euphemisms for sex, romping in the open country where she’s from, in hedged and private vineyards, and so forth. The reference to mandrakes notes the very ancient idea that these plants had aphrodisiac qualities. In essence, she’s been saving herself for him alone.

Playing with VMs

Friday 26 September 2014 Leave a comment

I had already been planning to install Debian 7 and CentOS 6 VMs on my Winbox again, when I got a strange email. Some print publisher wanted to grab my two Linux books and publish them. I told them they would have to palaver with Smashwords because I wasn’t going to withdraw the books. As an after thought, I told them I might consider writing a different edition of each book for them, if they could give me a few days.

So now I had all the more reason to restore those VMs, but I felt it was important to share some results here.

If your Host OS is Windows, use VMWare. Oracle does make a version of Virtual Box to run on Windows, but you will not like it. The defaults for installing a Linux Guest OS aren’t just kinda bad, they are egregiously hatefully evil. You get no clues and you will have a very bad experience unless you know a whole lot about it already. On top of that, the Windows version if missing some critical features. I honestly believe the Oracle folks intend to make you cry.

VMWare is still a bit of work if you are installing Linux guests, but if you read someone’s review of it, you might learn a few tips. Also, you can read the exhaustive documentation here; it’s all PDFs.

If your Host OS is Linux, use Virtual Box. It’s much easier and works every time. It has features apparently not offered on their Windows version. However, you will have to figure out how to get the DKMS module for your Linux kernel, often by adding some repository that provides it, if it’s not included in the base. Details on installing to Linux are here, just scroll down a bit. At any rate, that’s my recommendations.


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