A Little More about the Trails

This was the view from the White Trail on the way down to the creek. It’s a little tough to shoot pictures while zipping around out there. However, this view was a high spot above the initial open field near the trail head and parking lot. The other side of the White loop is out there near the trees. Because it’s rather close to a flood plain for Crutcho Creek, the trail is mostly built up a few inches above the surrounding elevation, plus a few drain pipes covered with dirt to facilitate run-off. Trust me; this place is pretty muddy after just a little bit of rain. Now if only we could get just a little bit of rain, I’d gladly find some other form of exercise.

I apologize for the glare, but this is the best shot of the official map that I could get. Today I decided to see the Black Trail. This branches off the Blue Trail, and both are marked one-way. That means I got to repeat part of the Blue Trail because the Black runs back down toward the creek bed. It offers much deeper gullies and the man-made obstacles are mostly squared-off dirt humps that you can by-pass if you want. The idea is to pretty much force you to have one or more wheels leave the ground if you take the harder track. Still, I found it easy enough to make it a regular feature of future rides.

On my way back, I was held up by a train. Not just a passing train, but one that went back and forth several times because they were pushing parts of the train off on multiple siding tracks at the automotive depot a couple of miles down the track. That place is packed; the plants are still pumping out the new autos but no one is buying. All the dealers are making outrageous offers with credit terms that guarantee they’ll have to repossess most of them. Speaking of that: The repo wreckers have been cruising our area pretty regularly. You can always spot them easily — single color paint job, shorter than usual frame, a quick-pick lift on the rear and usually nothing but “Not for hire” on the side next to the state wrecker operator’s license number.

At any rate, I found a shady spot alongside the tracks where I could wait the quarter-hour or so that it took for this train to finish and clear the tracks. The only problem was keeping the aggressive giant red ants from climbing on my shoes.

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Conspiracy Theory: the Illuminati

Reminder: All human government is a conspiracy to rule. That there are genuine conspiracies is painfully obvious to anyone with basic awareness. That there are also a boatload of crazy wild tales to distract us from the real conspiracies is perhaps a little less obvious, but certainly it stands to reason. A real conspiracy would naturally protect itself by sponsoring all kinds of conspiracy theories.

The biggest conspiracy of all is the deception that we are not fallen. In our Western cultural mythology, we have a veneer of doctrine that says we are fallen, but the underlying assumptions about our human existence run counter to that doctrine. So when a scholar suggests that Western culture says we are fallen, he’s believing yet another lie. Everything we do from within Western cultural assumptions says that, whatever we might be now, we are perfectible. In other words, everyone can see we have problems, but the entire ground on which the West stands presumes that it can all be fixed.

And that presumption turns to human reason for the path to perfection. To the degree there ever was a historical entity that went by the name “Illuminati,” it rested firmly on the doctrine of perfectibility. I realize that we all tend to use that label — Illuminati — in a highly variable and popular sense that makes it something it never was. There is a vast lore of bogus literature and fake research on just what the Illuminati was (it no longer exists), but there is also a rather quiet solid basis in historical study that reveals they were sinister enough in their own right. It starts with that awful doctrine that men can morally perfect themselves.

Notice a clear distinction here: I am utterly certain that we can grasp enough divine moral truth to see clearly the nature of our sins and sinful constitution. We can catch a vision of leaving behind our fallen natural self and rising into a different realm of existence. We can see that Creation around us is not fallen and we can come face to face with God’s Person. But we cannot encounter Him in our fallen faculties. It has to be done on a different level with a different faculty. That fallen nature cannot be perfected; our fleshly existence cannot be redeemed fully. We can be blessed and made more otherworldly and more holy, but our clear vision of revelation makes it painfully obvious that we must first rid ourselves of this fallen nature. That means dying.

The founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt doggedly asserted that this fallen fleshly nature itself could be morally perfected. He denied the existence of a higher nature. In other words, he was a sucker for the Aristotelian notion that this universe is all there is.

We also know Weishaupt taught that men striving toward moral perfection didn’t need government or religion. To him, religion and government had conspired to keep men from discovering their own perfectibility. Now again, we grant that the religion and government of his day was deeply morally flawed, but that was no excuse for taking a fundamentally anti-government and anti-religion stance. From the ancient Hebrew mystical approach that served as the foundation of Jesus’ teaching, we know that there is no hope for this world as we experience it. And all the holiness in the world does not exempt us from having to deal with government and religion. They will always be with us because it’s part of fallen human existence. Christ taught that the natural world was held captive by the fallen nature of mankind, so it could not be released until there was no one left in a fallen state. Weishaupt was so blind as to believe Jesus taught quite the opposite, and he believed that his wild theories were consistent with Christ.

It was anti-Christian, but in the sense of secularism. Weishaupt was not consciously Luciferian; that was a wild tale told by someone named Taxil. And the Freemasons were already in existence, so that group didn’t come from the Illuminati. I don’t have space here to explain the relationship between the Illuminati and Freemasons, but they did overlap a lot back in those days. You can do your own research, but don’t believe the Freemasons. Your average Mason is pretty harmless, but the organization has always spawned crime and political corruption.

A worthwhile point here is that Weishaupt’s doctrine had consequences. After being exiled from Bavaria, he and his buds moved to France and helped to provoke the French Revolution. However, not long after that the label “Illuminati” became rather meaningless, in the sense that it entered the English lexicon adorned with a lot baggage that Weishaupt did not carry. It would be exceedingly difficult to point to any group today that can claim descent from the original, but it’s quite easy to see their influence.

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Psalm 137

Western Christianity, with its odd mixture of pagan and secular moral values, struggles to understand the moral content of this psalm. This psalm is a good test of whether one can grasp the Ancient Hebrew outlook that is at the core of Christ’s teachings. This psalm is very much like a brief skit or play.

The Judean exiles would have gathered along the riverbanks as part of their normal grieving rituals. It would include baptism, a symbolic washing away of sins. They were there because of God’s wrath and they understood all too clearly that they had sinned against Jehovah. It’s not that any particular patch of dirt on this planet is so much better than another, but that God had removed their status as a sovereign nation. They were now dependent on the tolerance of their hosts. They could grow fine crops and keep large herds, do business and even engage in banking, but it wasn’t their homeland where God had allowed them to build the Temple to bear His name proudly.

So as a symbol of their sorrows, they hung their musical instruments on the willow trees growing there along the river’s edge. It’s hard to be certain of the exact symbolism, but from where we stand today, it’s obvious they had no intention of using those instruments to celebrate anything. Mourning and lament was properly a capella in their culture.

When the local rulers came to visit, seeing the instruments in the trees, they would have naturally asked for some of the worship songs for which Judeans were famous. We cannot ignore the likelihood that those local masters knew it would have been sacrilege; Babylonians had cataloged the world’s religions and knew plenty about the worship of Jehovah. So there was a bit of mocking here, along with genuine curiosity to hear an authentic rendition of such music, since such music was always passed on by tradition, never in any written notation.

The depth of lament is moving even for us today. There is only one purpose for such music, and without the Temple, it was simply impossible to perform. It’s not a mere matter of nostalgia for the homeland, but the symbol of Zion as the Holy City of God. Thus, this was a sense of sorrow and loss writ across the land and sky for the Hebrews. They would rather cease knowing who they were and die where they stood, than to make a game out of working through their repentance at this point. They knew God was merciful; they knew the captivity had a time limit.

They also knew that God promised He would not treat them the same as He did the rest of the world. It was already well established in Hebrew theology that the Devil was a figure for the demonic adversary that served as God’s punishing hand. There were some people in this world who were fully the property of Satan; if one is going to hate Satan, one must hate his children. If the Nation of Israel was going to be a political entity on this earth, then there had to be political outcomes to their moral battles. Real politics meant real bloodshed. Israel was the literal reality expressing a very deeply mystical truth.

Israel had a mission to give life to the revelation of God. For reasons Israel well understood, He had unleashed the Adversary on Israel until recompense was made, and it was time to restore His witness on the earth. His witness included His wrath against sin. Wrath on His witnesses — His own adopted family — was one thing. Wrath on those who rejected His witness was another thing.

So the psalmist makes mention of their cousins, the Edomites, children of Esau. He understates the case; Edom did more than just celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem. They actively supported the Babylonian siege, helped plunder Judah, and generally did everything possible to offend Jehovah personally by attacking His people. Even when Babylon later turned on Edom and plundered them, as well, the Edomites were still crowing about the removal of Judah. They were a living manifestation of deep and ceaseless violence against God’s moral character written into Creation itself, and they were very proud of it.

The psalmist also prays a blessing on whomever God was preparing to raise up against Babylon. Judeans had no doubt an enemy of Babylon was out there, that God was at work on that future day of conquest. His prophets made clear that His favor on Babylon was rather like a man for any good tool that would same day wear out. He had never planned on making them family. Given the Babylonian troops dashed Judean children against stones and sliced open pregnant women, it was mere justice that something similar would happen to them when the day of recompense came.

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Testing Mint 18.2

I’m not a professional reviewer; I know exactly what I want for myself and know generally what most clueless home users will tolerate. I have some vague ideas about what business users like.

Mostly this is a matter of testing it on my Dell Precision M4400 laptop, which has been a little cranky up to now. It runs Vista okay, for which it was designed; it does Win7 less tolerably as some of the drivers are wonky. In terms of what an OS is supposed to do, Windows has been the most troublesome that I’ve tested. The suspend and hibernate work well enough, but the touchpad was an abomination no matter which of a half-dozen drivers I tried. It’s behavior is inconsistent and somewhat unpredictable. There were other issues, but that’s a sample.

Under Linux the touchpad is at least consistent. However, up to now, nothing I’ve tested works properly with suspend and hibernate. The fans are less active under Linux and the instructions for tuning are not easy to follow. Everyone expects you to know what you need in the first place, and that is highly unlikely with most users. However, I believe it tends to run cooler with Linux in the first place, so it may be working better than I know. It has never overheated on me, but it runs pretty hot compared to other laptops I’ve owned, so it requires bottom space for good ventilation, drawing fresh air through the bottom of the case.

With Mint 18.2 XFCE edition, we now have a fully functioning suspend and hibernate out-of-the-box. For the first time it has needed no tweaking to work properly. That’s a real plus for me. Little else has changed in terms of the hardware interaction. The nicest part was that Mint was very smart about default options, including good driver support without interaction; it was all installed by default. This is actually easier than installing Windows.

Side note: As part the user setup, Mint asks you if you would like to test other software repository mirrors to see if they are faster than the default. Once you click on the repository name, another window opens and tests each of the mirrors for response rate. I suggest that, if at any time, you see it offering the servers connected with Oklahoma University, you might want to bypass because that has been by far the most unreliable source I’ve used. Not only is it down too often, but it’s response can make the updater act a little nutty. I live geographically close to OU and it gives me trouble.

Mint also shines with things like WINE. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a backup copy of MS Office 2003, my favorite version. It didn’t install on Debian 9, but works just dandy with Mint 18.2. And I can now use the latest version of Notepad++ without any problems, aside from spiking the CPU just a little. Still, I use it for writing and editing posts and all my other stuff. The only problem is that you have to install Notepad++ plugins manually, but I’ve not had any real trouble finding the source for those and simply installing them by moving the file into the right folder.

It would be very easy to add a VM for more complicated needs. And for those who sense a need for network security, the firewall is very easy to setup and use. For now, I can’t see any reason a user would balk at choosing Mint if migrating to Linux seems like a good idea. Overall, I’m quite pleased with Mint and I can recommend this to Linux newbies with very little hand-holding.

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Neither Technology nor Magic

I think I managed to save my laptop.

Folks, nobody has to tell me I’m not the greatest tech support guy ever. However, I’ve done it long enough to realize that if you have one kind of failure, you can usually figure it out. If you have two overlapping failures, you may never figure it out.

So while testing Debian 9 on the laptop, I suddenly found that Opera refused to run because I no longer had proper access to my own profile. This came after using it several times. Something changing permissions inside your own Home directory is virtually always a matter above my head. That is, I know that it happens, and I’ve tried to understand why, but I admit that it involves stuff over my head. At any rate, I had enough complaints with other issues to feel that Debian 9 wasn’t ready for prime time.

I note in passing that the release managers found some issues with the ISO files and have already pushed out another set, so I was justified in my assessment.

I tried to reinstall Xubuntu, but it failed to write some files to the disk. That smells like a hard drive failure, so I swapped out the drive with the old one. Same error again. That caused me to believe that either the RAM was bad or something else that controls how the installer writes to the disk. I gave up at that point, and posted it on the blog.

Over the next 24 hours or so, it began to trickle into my consciousness that I should at least run the onboard diagnostics and see if it tells me anything. Last night I did that, to include that hour-long RAM testing. It found no problems; even the hard drive was found healthy.

Maybe I should test Linux Mint? Then I remembered that my USB disk burner had fallen on the floor at least once in the past and decided not to trust it again. I burned the latest ISO on another machine and decided to give it one last shot. Lo and behold it installed just fine. So I’m running it through the paces and trying to see if this will work.

My point here is that you can’t fail trusting your heart. I’ve already admitted that I couldn’t be half so useful at tech support if I didn’t first test with my convictions what I should or shouldn’t do. Computers, like anything else in Creation, will talk to us on the heart’s wavelength, though it won’t be the same as natural wild life. At least, they talk to me. At the very minimum, we should test our convictions to see if it’s worth the trouble in the first place. This time, it seems it was.

Granted, your calling from God may not have anything to do with computers. However, everyone whose heart is awakened does have a mission, and your heart knows that mission. You’ll be the heart-led servant of God in that calling.

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Damned Acquisitiveness

We need a different culture altogether.

During my time in the military, I labored under several conflicting moral influences. I knew I was bound to Christ and high moral standards. But I was falsely led to believe that such high morals should lead to concrete advantages, when the system insured they would not.

Do you understand what drove the Puritans to leave England, first to live in the Netherlands, and then to colonize America? They held to a powerful belief that their high moral purity must result in worldly prosperity. But it didn’t work in England because of the feudal corruption, so they rejected their home country as hopelessly damned. Finding some refuge in the Netherlands, they were harassed for trying to keep their kids out of the secularized education system. So when the chance came to start from scratch as “Pilgrims,” it seemed like the only way out for them. But of course, any prosperity they gained once settled in America was at the cost of disease and abuse against the natives.

It was a common Western cultural flaw going all the way back to the Judaizers and their attack on the otherworldly mindset of the first generation of Christians. The Puritans were a powerful influence on the ensuing birth of America. I grew up under a religious worldview that took much from the Puritan influence. And when it failed me in the the US Army, that was in spite of the promises from leaders who insisted it was all true.

Those were the very same leaders who frustrated me by giving the exact same rewards to me (leading to promotions) that they gave to the useless slugs who did all they could simply staying out of trouble. It’s not that there were no advantages in high moral standards, but no one was able to verbalize to me what those advantages were.

I didn’t leave the military broken in spirit, but in body. Still, it was frustrating and it took some years to explore the realms of moral truth more carefully and with a teachable spirit before I realized it: Walking by conviction is its own reward.

I can’t recall anyone in my youth who represented that idea. That’s because it is fundamentally foreign to the whole range of Western thinking. There were times it was hinted at by the religious teaching I received, but it was never fully explored.

You cannot convince me that children are inherently materialistic. Too often I’ve seen evidence quite the opposite in dealing with children myself. A primary need of childhood is security. Children taught to seek security from caring kinfolks typically evince a lack of selfishness with material objects. Those who grow up in a materialistic environment rarely go that way. It’s very hard to break that grasping mindset. I can recall weeping bitterly when someone took my favorite pencil and the teacher refused to make them give it back. My deep sense of loss meant I gained far too much security from a cheap object that just happened to be unique in the class. I didn’t have much internal security.

We have to break that bondage. It’s a part of our mission in heart-led faith. I know how hard it is in a lustful world that hates true faith, but this is our calling from God. We have to build that dominion that stakes out a different approach to reality.

Teach your kids how to be secure in something above this world.

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Catching up on Cycling

I need to catch up on some random shots worth sharing. This first is a prayer chapel I adopted on my last ride along the Oklahoma River. It was a cool shady spot with a strong breeze that day, perched above the middle dam on the Oklahoma River. Notice the bike is still decked out in commuter gear.

The last trip I took out to Draper, I spotted these sand plums. They are about the size of the end of my thumb, which is typical for this wild fruit. The crop is really very sparse this year; it’s the same with the blackberries. That bright red one is very nearly ripe — you look for translucence after it turns red. I found one that had dropped off and caught between two limbs, quite tasty but poor quality of flesh.

At the little park on the very south end of Draper I stopped and noticed that the large flat sandstone area is completely under water. All you can see of it is the faint coloration under the surface. The shelf runs way out and off to the right. That was my last ride out to Draper.

I noted the other day about riding around the new Trails Park up on NE 23rd, just east of Air Depot Boulevard. This is what the parking lot looks like. Notice that my bike is now stripped down. I had just finished taking all but the “black trail” because I wasn’t in the mood to explore it yet. The trail head is just to the left of the kiosk where you can look at a map of the trails. They run off to the right, but part of it is hidden by the tall grass in the background.

On this areal image, I outlined the parking area with a colored rectangle, and that curvy red loop shows the approximate area of where the trails run. It’s all single-track, just a few small and fairly shallow sand pits. The “white loop” is the easiest, running mostly through the grassy area on the north side. There’s a “green loop” which is all out-n-back that runs along the banks of Soldier Creek. The link between the green and back loops takes you across the creek on the bridge built for the oil well access road in the center of the image. The “blue loop” is mostly a long and wide one on the southern end. What makes it slightly more challenging is a lot of artificial humps and a few banked turns. I was able to ride the whole thing at a fairly quick pace, keeping it in the same B-4 gear the whole way except a brief shallow climb on as the back loop runs southward upslope toward the railroad tracks.

My whole point in riding is simply playing. It’s the joy of being in the midst of natural foliage and hearing the greetings and chatter of the trees. I want to get my workout without noticing, because I’m too busy focused on having a fun ride. It works quite well for that. It’s only 2.5 miles north from where I live, and after the ride I was pumped enough to ride across the empty grassy fields west of Crutcho Creek as I worked my way back to Air Depot Boulevard. I’m doing my best to shift over to shorter and more intense rides, and this was a great way to do it.

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