Friday, November 29, 2019

The Travelers' Report Part 17 - Road Trip 7: Home

Part 20 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.  This continues the Hamrick family road trip, covering the way home.

"The long drive back home. It wasn’t really long, a little over 5 hours without stops, but little kids have small bladders so this seemed like infinity.

Now that this road trip is over it’s time to reflect on all the fun times and memories we created. One thing that stands out above all is how much I love my family. As crazy, loud and goofy as we are we love each other, warts and all. I hope everyone has had as much fun with their families as Mitch and I’ve had with ours this summer.

Now it’s time to catch up on some sleep.😂"

And sleep we did, sort of.  We slept in and then headed down to Hutto for the weekend.

It's funny to look back on this now.   After losing my job in June, we had these trips planned.  The cruise was already paid for, so that was definitely happening.  This is the trip that might have been sacrificed if I went back to work.  I'm so glad it wasn't.  This was a great trip to take and a good time to be with family.

Knowing what we know now, we see how God had all things worked out.  There was a contract job waiting to start the day we got back.  The move worked out perfectly before it.  God had a plan all along.

I'm starting to see that more and more.  I just have to keep remembering it.

Not from this trip, but just a little before.  Still one of my favorite pictures of us all.
Until the next voyage...

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."

President Abraham Lincoln: Proclamation of Thanksgiving

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!  I want you all to know that I am greatly appreciative of all of you that are reading.  I pray you have many things to be thankful for and that the list only grows over the coming days, months, and years.  I hope you are able to take the time to be with family today, whether it be the one you are born into or the one you choose, and are able to take the time to reflect on the blessings in your life and to express that gratitude.

Give thanks.

This holiday may can be easily overshadowed by those around it, but it remains an important day for us to stop all the craziness and remember the blessings great and small in our lives.  It's a day of refreshing, a reminder, it refocuses us.

I pray we never lose sight of that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankful

In this season more than others, we take time to remember what we are thankful for.  It's really something we should be doing all year long, but it is also important to have touchstone moments that really make us step back and reflect.  Birthdays, New Years, and Thanksgiving.

It's funny; going over my list this year is very different than last years.  To others it may look like a list of regrets or things that upset me this year.  But this list of blessings means more to me than others have in even the recent past.  I've learned and grown more through these in so many different ways.

  1. I'm thankful I lost my job - It really was one of the best things that could have happened to me.  I'm happier.  I'm healthier.  I've gotten more time with my family.  It's something I should have walked away from a long time ago.  And while I'm still searching for that next permanent job, I've seen God provide in ways that I did not know before.  It's been humbling, but it's been good.
  2. I'm thankful that I have had to confess some sins - Doing so privately and publicly here.  It means God is still working on me.  That He still speaks, and I'm not so hardened as to not listen.  It's deepened mine and Jamie's relationship.  And it's getting us closer to goals we have as a couple.
  3. I'm thankful that we're staying with my in-laws - And that there are others that have offered.  Because it means we have family that loves us and that we love to be with.  It means they have room.  I'm grateful that we get along well with both my family and Jamie's and want to spend time with them.  That's not always the case.
  4. I'm thankful I have stubborn children - Because while it may not be easy now, it can pay off in the future.  Stubborn, head strong children can be more likely to resist peer pressure and more likely to be leaders.  To know where their worth comes from.  It's challenging now, no doubt, but it will be worth it.
I'm thankful for my family.  I'm thankful for my friends.  I'm thankful for you readers, more than you can imagine.

I have so much to be thankful for, even for those unlikely blessings.

What are you thankful for?  What things in your life caused anxiety and heartache at the time, but now should be counted as blessings?

If at no other time, why not take a few moments to remember them today and tomorrow. 

Be thankful, always.


Monday, November 25, 2019

A Personal Liturgy

"Do you feel the world is broken?
We do.

Do you feel the shadows deepen?
We do.
But do you know that all the dark won't stop the light from getting through?
We do.
Do you wish that you could see it all made new?
We do."

Yesterday in church we did something very odd for a Baptist church.  We talked about liturgy.  That formulary of public religious worship.  Structured, communal worship.  Call and response.  The formalized ritual of worship.

Now, it's a bit of a misnomer to say that Baptist churches aren't liturgical.  They still have their structure, despite eschewing the books of liturgy.  The four hymns, offertory, and a message plan.  Knowing when to stand up, sit down, greet the person next to you.  What we have given up largely are the common prayers, the call and response, the repeated specific hymns, like the Doxology.

We like to believe forgoing these traditional orders of worship allow us to respond to the Spirit.  To go where the Lord leads us.

But what are we missing in moving away from these traditions?  What have we forsaken?

We looked at Psalm 146.  "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my god while I have my being."  We see in Psalm 146 that the writer then lists the reasons to praise God.  It's a recitation of His wondrous works.  A remembrance.  An ebeneezer.

And that's why liturgy is important.

It lets us praise when our feelings betray us.  It reminds us of the wondrous works of the Lord when our memories fail.  It speaks for us when we cannot.

"Does the Father truly love us?
He does.
Does the Spirit move among us?
He does.
And does Jesus, our Messiah, hold forever those He loves?
He does.

Does our God intend to dwell again with us?
He does."

Through the sermon, Brother Paul referred to a song by Andrew Peterson, Is He Worthy?  In describing his writing process, Peterson talked about how he would hum the melody and then sing "We do" in answer.  He realized he had been talking about a Kenyan liturgy they used in church.

Celebrant: Is the Father with us?
People: He is.
Celebrant: Is Christ among us?
People: He is.
Celebrant: Is the Spirit here?
People: He is.
Celebrant: This is our God!
People: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Celebrant: We are his people;
People: We are redeemed.

He wrote in the similar call and response fashion because he finds himself edified in those situations in a liturgical service.  "I need to join my voice to a group of people reminding each other what is true, not just listening to a sermon, but partaking in one."

And that's what we need.  How often do we think of worship as something we can observe and not participate in?  How many people come to church, never sing, only listen, and then go home, unfulfilled?  In that situation, how easy is it for the service to be something seen and not lived?

For worship to be a scheduled time, not a way of life.

We need to be edified this way.  We need to be part of a group of people reminding each other of who God is.  Why He is worthy.  What is true.

From there we can personalize it to our situation.

Were I to write the verse I need to be singing, the liturgy I need reminding now, it would go something like this.

"Has my God always provided?
He has.
Does the Father truly love me?
He does.
Will He guide the path before me for the glory of His name?
He will.
And is He alone who's worthy of my praise?
He is.
"

What would your liturgy be?  What are you needing to remind yourself of?

Perhaps you simply need the reminder that He is worthy.  And all the rest will fall into place.

"Is anyone worthy?  Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave

He is David's root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue

He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the son


Is He worthy? Is He worthy

Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?

He is
"

I then encourage you, when your feeling leaves you, when words fail, when the Spirit seems distant, when praise seems impossible, find your liturgy.  Find the pattern, the structure that you can remind yourself of.  Find your ebeneezer, your token of remembrance that keeps faith alive.  Find what reminds you that the Lord is He who "made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watched over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the father-less."

"Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?
It is."

Is He Worthy? Songwriters: Andrew Peterson, Ben Shive, The Bicycle Music Company, Music Services, Inc.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighboorhood

I don't often do reviews, but I'll make an exception for this one.  We saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood this afternoon and cannot recommend it enough.

Go see it.  Bring tissues.  Bring a box.

It won't be the story you're expecting.  It's better.  It's needed.

It's the story of what happens when we collide with unrelenting kindness.  Told through the eyes of a cynical, investigative journalist.  The article that this film is based on is an amazing text piece.  The way it has been adapted into film is remarkable.  The framing structure alone is excellent.

The film shares a lot with its catalyst.  It is unassuming.  It isn't showy.  It takes it's time.  There's a point in the film where you experience with the characters a moment of complete silence.  If you know Mr. Roger's story, you probably know why.

I guarantee it will stick with you long after you leave the theater.

If you need to feel a little better about the world, go enjoy the afternoon or evening.  It's worth it.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Travelers' Report Part 19 - Road Trip 6: Memphis

Part 19 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.  This continues the Hamrick family road trip, covering the start of the journey home, stopping in Memphis.  And a couple of fun side adventures.

"Our last hotel took us to Memphis, TN but we took a few pit stops along the way. Our first stop was in Louisville to visit the Kentucky Derby. I have to go back Church Hill Downs, watch the race and wear the gaudiest hat while sipping a mint julep."




Agreed. Derby is on my list of things to experience in America. The Museum and the shop were neat, but I think to really experience this I need to see a race. Or to watch a movie in the in field. We just missed one such event. Were there more time. I also need to get back to Louisville to go to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum.

We also stopped at Lincoln's birthplace in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  A nice little memorial to the President, with a very interesting structure built on the foundation of his birth home.


"Afterwards we went to the Dino World where they had several life sizes dinosaurs you walked around. Jude had to go up to every single dinosaur and growled."




Jude is at a stage where he loves dinosaurs, so this was particularly fun. He was running ahead of us to get to each one and growl.
"The final stop brought us to the Big Cypress Lodge in the Bass Pro shop inside the pyramid. This was one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in with a walk out ledge over looking downtown Memphis with its only access up the worlds largest free standing elevator."






This was a very nice hotel, set up a lot like a Gaylord hotel, but with fewer rooms. All rooms facing inward to a very decorated store in the middle on the bottom two floors. Each had a balcony so you could sit out and look over all the store and restaurant. Free cookies and other snacks in the room.

The kids had a blast getting on the ATVs and looking at the fish and taxidermy in the store. The also are daredevils and loved the elevator to the top and the glass ledge lookout over Memphis. I'm not normally afraid of heights, but have to admit, the glass floors are a little disorienting. Felt the same way in Chicago.

Next in the series, the road trip comes to an end.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

MGM Loews Theaters Once More?

The Justice Department has signaled that it will wipe out the Paramount consent decrees, orders from the United States v. Paramount Pictures case designed to end monopolies in the motion picture industry.  Prior to the decrees, movie studios also owned the movie theaters their pictures were shown in.  In so doing, they were completely vertically integrated - they owned the means of production, with writers, actors, directors, etc. all on contract and tied to the studio, and they owned the ultimate channel of distribution - they owned the movie theater the picture would be shown in.  They might own the only theater in a market, meaning one town might only get to see Paramount Pictures and not 20th Century Fox, Universal, and the like.  Because they owned the theater, they had complete control over what it would show.  They programmed the shorts, the news reel, and the feature.  They made sure B-pictures got shown an appropriate time, so that the major A-pictures would be carried.

In short the studio was king.

By removing Paramount decrees, it looks like we are going to move back to that time.  The studio believes that with streaming and the new technologies, the decrees are not as relevant.  I would counter that they are more relevant than ever.  Particularly when it comes to vertical integration.

Currently, AMC, Regal (Cineworld), and Cinemark account for half of the American movie theater market.  Meaning, if you are seeing a movie in the theater in America, chances are you are seeing it at one of these three theaters.  What happens when Disney, who now accounts for 1/3 of gross ticket sales, purchases one of these theaters?  If Disney buys the biggest, AMC?

Does Disney make AMC show only Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Pictures?

Does it allow other studios films to be shown at the AMC at a much higher percent of the ticket sales?

Or does it just guarantee its own studios a longer release window?

What happens to a place like Forney where there is just a AMC theater?  Do you only get to see Disney films in that case, having to drive much further to see other studios?

Can smaller, independent theaters actually survive in this market?  Or would studios make bigger demands like Disney did with The Last Jedi, with Disney requiring 65% of ticket sales from each theater, with a four week guarantee window (and an extra 5% penalty for anything less)?

Movie theaters and streaming services are not equivalent.  A streaming service is more equivalent to a broadcast channel, which we've allowed studios to have for a while.  Generally because studios don't control distribution of the channel.  And they don't have distribution of the streaming service either (at least in most cases - that's what makes AT&T/Warner so troubling).  The internet access is independent of the streaming service.  Having Disney+ does not prevent you from having access to Peacock,  Universal's streaming offering, or HBO Max, Warner Bros.' steaming offering.

Disney (or any other studio) owning AMC might make all the difference in other studios films being shown in certain areas.  That's the problem.

Our Justice Department is getting more and more comfortable with monopolies.

That should trouble everyone.

Not just film buffs and historians like me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Soapbox - Being Right

"These brief, random thoughts are being written just a short time after the Attica State Prison tragedy.  Now I've no intention of imposing my own opinions upon you about which side, which party or parties might have been right or wrong.  Instead, I'd like to discuss the theory of 'right or wrong' itself.  Is it possible that too much harm, too much injustice has been caused in the name of 'right' - in the pursuit of combating 'wrong?'  In every human conflict, isn't each disputant completely convinced that his particular cause is wholly 'right' while the opposing viewpoint is totally 'wrong?'  And, armed with the sense of being 'in the right,' don't we dogmatically attempt to impose our own will upon those who hold different convictions?  But, what if we had no such hang-ups about right and wrong?  What if we were to remember that what's right for here may be wrong for there?  In fact, what's right for you may be wrong for me - and what's right for today may be wrong for some other time.  'Right' to a liberal is politically 'wrong' to a conservative, just as 'right' to a labor leader can be 'wrong' to an industrialist, or 'right' to a child can seem 'wrong' to a parent.  Yet, I wonder what life would be like if we weren't so preoccupied with proving ourselves right and the other guy wrong.  I wonder if we might not find the peace, the understanding we all seek by striving to relate to each other, to sympathize with each other's problems, to reach out to those who may differ from ourselves and to realize that they too may be 'right' in their own way, from their own point of reference.  I wonder - mightn't it be worth a try?

Excelsior!"
Stan Lee, Stan's Soapbox, 1972


 A little primer for an upcoming blog today.  While it gets a little to close to relativism, the sentiment remains true.  The part in bold in particular.  We are all far too concerned with being right.  For believers, there are too many of us more concerned with being "right" than being righteous.  And it's time for change.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

OK, Boomer

As a part of the very end of Generation X, I feel a little odd to comment on this, as I'm not part of the new generational fight, but it's interesting nonetheless.  For those not in the know, "OK Boomer" is a retort used to dismiss or mock perceived narrow-minded, outdated, negatively-judgmental, or condescending attitudes of older people, particularly those of the baby boomer generation.  The phrase has been particularly latched on to by the Millennials and Generation Z that followed them.

It started as a reaction to all the negative stigma the older generations have associated with the millennial generation.  Millennials are all entitled snowflakes, millennials are killing this, millennials never grow up, they don't leave the house, etc.  Millennials in response came up with a two word retort, "OK Boomer."

It is believed to have been first used in April 2018, but took off in January 2019, spreading like wildfire throughout the year.  To the point where media articles about the phrase started to surface.  It's spread has been largely through social media, with the platform TikTok playing a large part in its usage.

Of particular notoriety, 25-year-old New Zealand MP Chloe Swarbrick, while giving a speech supporting a climate change bill in Parliament, was heckled by an older member of parliament interjecting disbelief to her claim that the average age of parliament was 49 years old.  She responded "OK Boomer" and continued with her speech.

The response to "OK Boomer" would be hilarious, if it weren't so sad.  The same generations who were comfortable labelling millennials and generation z, portraying them as lazy, as worthless, as unmotivated, as snowflakes, have had a meltdown with regard to "OK Boomer.

Many consider it highly ageist.  Conservative radio host Bob Lonsberry went as far as labelling the word as "the n-word of ageism."  Even Dictionary.com had to shut this down, responding to his now deleted tweet with a simple "No."  Chloe Swarbrick revealed the response she received from her retort in Parliament.



It's easy to point out that we should all just get along.  That such a simple dismissive retort is not productive in helping us all move forward.  But it's also easy to understand the frustration.  If millennials are entitled snowflakes, you have to look at the generation that made them.  The ones that raised them, that determined what their educational curriculum would look like, that invented the participation trophies in the first place.

If anything, OK Boomer may be a little timid for millennials anger at being blamed for everything.  It really is just a joke retort literally using the name of the generation.  Why not let it be taken that way?

Maybe the problem is that Millennials and Generation Z are more like the Greatest Generation than they are Baby Boomers.  The majority grew up in a continual time of war.  After an economic collapse.  There are many who's idea of success is just to be able to afford to eat out whenever they want.  That are struggling to pay off enormous student loans, to afford a house or even a car, to find just one job that will pay their bills.

But, what do I know?  I'm just a late Gen-Xer.

Perhaps, then I should just respond with the motto of my generation:

Whatever.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Bonfire

It's hard to believe it was 20 years ago today.

With the UT-A&M game a thing of the past, it's easy for these things to start slipping to the edges of memory.  The third longest rivalry in college football and all the preparations for the game.  The Hex Rally at the University of Texas where students lit red candles to ward off an A&M Victory.  The Aggie Bonfire, a Guinness World Record holder.

The UT-A&M games from all other years of my college career are just blips in my memory.  But the UT-A&M game in 1999 and the events surrounding it are forever etched in my memory.

In the early hours of the morning on November 18, 1999, the Aggie Bonfire, a 59-foot high stack of around 5,000 logs, collapsed during construction.  Of the 58 students and former students working on the stack, 12 were killed and 27 were injured.  It was a week before the bonfire was to be lit.

I was a sophomore at UT at the time.  I had friends at A&M, but none that would be working on the bonfire.  What I remember more than anything, is the parents at the church I was attending, who had children who were attending and who were working on the bonfire, thanking God that their children were not working that morning.  The fear in their voices as they relayed waiting for that call, that their child was ok.

The rivalry between UT and A&M may have run deep, but it was never ugly.  It was for the most part, good-natured.  There were teams we each disliked more (OU), fans we each didn't get along with more (Tech).  We were rivals from tradition, and we could each pull up a dozen jokes about the other.  But there was always something special about that relationship.

I've never been prouder of either school than I was that year in response to such a tragedy.

The Aggie Bonfire became a vigil and remembrance ceremony.  Over 40,000 people lit candles and observed two hours of silence at the site of the collapse, before departing for yell practice.

UT for our part changed our Hex Rally to a Unity Gathering.  We lit white candles for remembrance instead of our usual red.  We invited the Aggies to be a part of this unifying event.

The tone of the game was even different.  I was glad to be a part of those petitioning the networks to show the half-time performances.  Each band honored the fallen in their own fashion.  UT played Amazing Grace and Silver Taps in tribute, removing their white hats as they left the field.  The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band never looked sharper, performing their traditional routine more precision than I had ever seen, with a silent cadence to march off the field.

If there was ever a good day to lose, this was the game.

The events revealed the underlying truth to the rivalry.  We were all Texans, we were human.  That is what mattered.  Not a football game.  Not a hundred years of tradition.  One human caring for another.

I may miss the rivalry.  I miss the tradition.  There seems to be a hole in Thanksgiving week now and I would love to see some form of it revived.  If it's even possible.

But I will always remain impacted by the events of November 1999 and proud of the grace and humanity exhibited across Texas at that time.

Hook'em Horns.  Gig'em Aggies.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Good

“It’s so good,
I’ve got more than I ever thought I would. 
I can finally see how all the wrong turns and the heartaches,
The lessons in the mistakes
Help me count my blessings like I should. 
And it’s so good.”

I needed this reminder this morning.  Particularly in this season of Thanksgiving, I needed a reminder to be thankful.  That I have been so richly blessed.  That this is where my focus should be.

It’s not that I forget these things.  I remember them, but I allow other things to take the focus away.  I start to focus on the fact that I don’t have a a permanent job yet.  We’ve not started our new adventure yet.  That the contract job has not had as many hours as I would have liked this week.

And focusing on these things makes me frustrated.  A little depressed.  It becomes easier to be negative.  To question.  To doubt.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians addressed this problem.

”The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:5b-8

The outline is there to focus on the good.  That’s the way to stay in the peace of good.  For focusing on the negative robs us of peace.  Focusing on the things above, focusing on the good puts us in the right perspective. 

It reminds me that I have a wonderful family.  This includes the family that I was born into, the family I chose, and the family I have married into.  To be able to stay with Jamie’s family in this transition is a blessing that many people are not afforded. 

It reminds me that I have a job.  It is providing my needs.  The Lord is looking over us.  He is directing our paths.  And He has plan.  Things are unfolding to His plan and I never would have imagined for this to have happened this way.   I would never have imagined that I would have gotten new certifications, new experience that will be useful in rounding out my resume in this time.  But that is what is happening.

It reminds me that I can choose to view this all as a blessing or as a struggle. 

I’m going to chose the former

Because the truth is, it’s so good.  I do have more than I ever thought I would.  I have been blessed by his hand far more than I could ever imagine.

So, I will count my blessings. 

Particularly in this season, but always. 

It is so good. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

I Stand With Andrew Smith

I debated about writing this entry.  It's politics in a county that I do not live, personal to others where I'm not directly involved, and a potential landmine.  But one of those involved is a close friend and his story has now been printed in the Houston Chronicle.  Plus what's the point of having a soapbox, a bully pulpit, if you're not going to use it to speak truth to power.  To use it for good.

I've known Andrew Smith for around sixteen and a half years now.  We met in law school at Baylor.  Part of the spring 2003 starting class.

Andrew is instantly likable.  Funny, with a contagious laugh.  Warm, smart, deeply passionate about the law and justice.  His convictions run deep.

Andrew and Kristina Joseph were the two people I could study with well.  We had similar habits, needing to talk, to laugh, to break the monotony of silent reading and absorption.  Periods of intense quiet study followed by near extreme silliness.  Plus we were the group that knew to take breaks to go eat well.

Andrew, along with Tim Reidy and Danny Noteware, would be one of the strongest friendships emerging from law school.  Fellow road tripper.  Groomsman in my wedding.

He's family.

That's why I feel the need to show my support.

After law school, Andrew started work at the Harris County District Attorney's office.  For the past fourteen years and two and a half months, he has served there admirably.  He has served through six different district attorneys.  Under district attorneys on both sides of the political spectrum.  Which makes this weeks events all the more astounding and infuriating.

On Monday, November 11th, Andrew was informed that his employment was no longer desired by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, after he declined the "option" of resigning.  Ogg is accusing Andrew of lying in court regarding a statement he attributed to Ogg more than a year ago during an appeal in a double-murder case.

The debate centers around a statement regarding the firing of the original prosecutor in the double-murder case.  In the 2018 appeal, in a courtroom conversation before the hearing, the defense lawyer, Randy Schaffer, questioned why Gretchen Flader, the original prosecutor in the original 2014 double-murder trial, had been let go, suggesting that it might be because she was "untrustworthy" or "sneaky," which could be relevant to the prosecutor's credibility and the underlying trial.

"If she [Ogg] fired her [Flader] because she found information indicating that Flader is not a credible person or Flader has engaged in misconduct or Flader's untrustworthy or whatever, that's absolutely relevant because it shows that the office that is now defending this capital murder conviction threw out the prosecutor that got the conviction, and so why they didn't rehire her well could be material in this case."

Andrew pushed back with what he had heard in a personal conversation with Ogg from January 2017, his first one-on-one meeting with the new District Attorney.  "If we're getting into personal conversations with Ms. Ogg, Ms. Ogg told me the reason why she let go of Ms. Flader is because she was sleeping with the man who was dealing with the Jenny case."  The "Jenny" case was a heated political issue during the 2016 election season where prosecutors under then-District Attorney Devon Anderson jailed a rape victim, "Jenny," to ensure she'd appear in court.  Flader's boyfriend, Nick Socias, handled the case.  As you can imagine, that was a political firebomb of a case, that damaged Devon Anderson re-election and contributed to Ogg's election.

Ogg filed a seven-page filing on Wednesday following the termination to correct the record in the appeal.  Ogg wrote that she only learned this month of Andrew's statements regarding the reason for Flader's firing.  "On or about November 6, 2019, during an internal conference with other prosecutors reviewing the procedural status of this case, District Attorney Kim Ogg became aware for the first time of writ prosecutor Andrew Smith's false statement to the trial court when she read a partial transcript."  Ogg wrote that she actually let Flader go for failing to turn over evidence in a different case and not because of her relationship with Socias.  This was the same basis provided in opposition to Flader's unemployment claim with the Texas Workforce Commission.  "The reason is because of prosecutorial misconduct.  I did not invite her back to the office for any other reason other than her own misconduct."

Beyond the truth of the statements made, Ogg's filing is inaccurate for independent reason.  Though she wrote she had only learned of Andrew's statement this month, she actually learned of it at least three months earlier, in mid-August, when defense attorney Schaffer says he notified her both in person and by email.  According to Schaffer, "I don't know why she made this misrepresentation to the court, but it's not true.  It's all politics, it's not justice."  Ogg plans to file a second correction, clarifying she learned about it in August, but only confirmed it in November.

I don't know Kim Ogg at all, but something isn't right here.

I don't know anything about her.  I don't know her character.  What I'm seeing now of Ogg is that she is impugning the character of my friend, has terminated his employment, and is doing so in a way that could threaten his license.

She's done so in way that already has a major misstatement in it that has already been proven untrue by an unrelated party.  All while her office has hemorrhaged prosecutors, with more than 140 lawyers leaving the office in her 35 months in office.

I know Andrew's character, and there is no way he would make a false statement in court.  That would not happen.

I can see the outpouring of support that he has received and the near hundred comments that he has gotten online that vouch for his character.  I can only imagine the support in person has dwarfed that online.

It's A Wonderful Life closes with Clarence the angel putting an inscription to George Bailey in his copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  "Remember no man is a failure who has friends."  Andrew's friends have risen up to show their support, and their voices speak loudly.  I will remain one of them.

I stand with Andrew Smith.




Friday, November 15, 2019

The Travelers' Report Part 18 - Road Trip Day 5 Indiana

Part 18 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.  This continues the Hamrick family road trip, covering a detour into Indiana, with a couple of fun side adventures.


"Day five, another detour to a great side adventure. We started the day with a stop in Franklin, Indiana, a quaint little town right outside of Indianapolis. They had a historical museum where the kids could dress up, play with trains and see what life was like living in a log cabin. Us grown ups were impressed by the fact they had Ray Stevens “The Streak” on the jukebox. Jude found a coonskin cap he apparently couldn’t live without."


I love Jude's face here.  I think their expressions really sum up the trip in a lot of ways.




"After this little stop we headed to Indianapolis to the giant indoor trampoline park where we bounced an hour’s worth of energy off and gained bragging rights for climbing the warped wall. (I made the 10 footer, though graceful is not a word I’d use to describe my climb🤣)


Our next destination was Books and Brews, a brewery where you can grab a beer, check out a book or play a game. Our time here was short lived as the kids couldn’t be quite long enough to enjoy a game."



"We finished the day in Indianapolis with a drive to The Children’s Museum. This is a place we have to come back to again, it was so impressive. The dinosaurs bursting through the walls and trying to climb through was so cool."




"All in the we had a great time in Indiana and want to come back, especially to visit Santa Claus, Indiana and go Holiday Park."

There's a lot for us still to see in Indiana and a connection to Keeler family history. We will definitely be going back.

Next up in the series, the start of the trip back.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Yet Another...

Three students dead and two others wounded in the latest mass school shooting, this time at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California.  In this latest incident, a student at the high school decided to celebrate his 16th birthday by walking into school this morning, pulling at .45 caliber handgun from his backpack, open fire on the students in the quad, and then turning the gun on himself.   He survived the gunshot to the head and fled the scene.  He was apprehended by authorities within an hour.

Because we know what would actually work and refuse to do anything about it, I'm repeating an article that I've had to post multiple times now in the near-year-and-a-half that the blog has been running.  I'll continue to do so, until maybe we start to listen.

-------------------- 

Because there have been 20 school shootings so far in 2019...
Because there are five students and one school employee dead from school shootings this year...
Because there have been thirty-seven other people wounded in school shootings this year...
Because active shooter drills are now common place in elementary schools...
Because we're teaching kids to run at shooters and then praise them as heroes, but are forgetting to mourn that necessity...
Because we have a generation of kids who view school shootings as just the way things have always been...
Because we still haven't done anything of substance to stop them...
Because chances are, we will still do nothing about this one...
Because I'm tired...

It bears repeating - From a post over a year ago:

--------------------

I'm tired.  I'm tired of this topic continuing to come up.  I'm tired of us continuing to have the same response - thoughts and prayers, then talking at each other, then a whole lot of nothing, and it's forgotten until we move on to the next one.

When I started this blog, my second post was a repost of a Facebook message on the Second Amendment in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting.  There have only been 54 days in between these posts.  And here we are again, with a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  And I haven't even touched on all of the school shootings that have occurred.  There have been 5 other school shootings in the interim, just not to the same scope.

We have an addiction to guns in this country that causes us to look at anything else except gun control as a possible solution.  It's far past time we put everything on the table.  We should be looking at mental health care.  We should be looking at bullying.  We should be looking at the family structure.  We should be looking at socio-economic status and mobility.  AND we should be looking at sensible gun control.  We're a big country and pretty good at multi-tasking.  We're more than capable of looking at it all.

But I'm too tired to write anymore on this.  Who knows what good it does at this point.  In lieu of further debate, I'm just going to post facts and let them speak for themselves.
  • On an average day, 96 Americans are killed with guns.
  • On average, there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides a year in the United States.
  • For every one person killed with guns, two more are injured.
  • 62% of firearm deaths in the United States are suicides.
  • Seven children and teens are killed with guns in the United States on an average day.
  • In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • America's gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries.
  • The United States accounts for 46% of the population, but 82% of the gun deaths.
  • Background checks have blocked over 3 million gun sales to prohibited people.
  • Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of the woman being killed by five times.
https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

--------------------

Until it's heard...
Until we stop pretending like it will go away...
Until we do something, anything...
Until we care more about people than things...
Until we listen more to constituents than to special interest groups...

Until the next time...hopefully with a much longer gap in between

--------------------

This marked the 385th mass shooting in America in the 318 days so far in this year. 

We're definitely over the shooting a day mark, aren't we?  I guess it really is common place...

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On With The Show

"This is a moment in American history where the arc of justice will either be bent forward or it will be bent backward.  So everyone who wants to see it should have the chance to see the whole story."
Bill Moyers, former PBS journalist and commentator

Public impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump begin today.  The major news outlets are airing it, as well as all of the major networks.  If you are able, take the time to watch or listen.  Don't listen to the propaganda from Fox News that the proceedings aren't legitimate.  Impeachments by nature are a political proceeding, not a legal one.  They are a political mechanism to remove a president for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.  That has always been vague.

And there has been clear evidence of at least high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of President Trump.  This particular inciting incident involves a clear abuse of power in pressuring a foreign power to investigate a political rival.  I firmly believe there is as much, if not more basis for the impeachment of Donald Trump than there was for Richard Nixon.

Look at past impeachment proceedings.   President Johnson was impeach for trying to abruptly and improperly replace a high ranking executive member in violation of the Tenure of Office Act.  President Nixon was investigated for impeachment because of obstruction of justice and abuse of power in trying to get dirt on political rivals.  President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in trying to cover up an affair.  Of that entire list, the allegations against Trump are only missing perjury, though given his record on truth telling, that may not be hard to establish.  After all, one reason given for him not testifying before Mueller was that his handlers did not believe he could testify without perjuring himself.

The public proceedings will hopefully lay out the full case for the America people.  I realize that even these public proceedings will not do anything to change the minds of those loyal supporters.  But they demand to be observed.  They demand our attention, just as the previous impeachment proceedings did.

I, too, join Moyer in hoping that PBS reverses course and re-airs the impeachment proceedings in prime time.  While they are airing them live, they are being aired at a time when most Americans are at work.  Or at school.  At a time when few will be able to take in the full proceedings and instead will rely on filtered clips from the news program of their choice.  If they pay attention at all, it will likely be through the same wind tunnel news program that affirms their own current political beliefs.  It will not be the actual source material.

During Watergate, PBS did re-air the broadcasts in prime time, so that the base of the American public could watch the proceedings as they unfolded, just a little delayed.  These re-broadcasts helped shape PBS and the national discourse on the proceedings.  It allowed America to come to its own conclusions.

"Over the course of 51 days and nights, millions of viewers watched as the story of the Watergate break-in, the cover-up, payoffs, and dirty tricks unfolded before their eyes. The evidence was undeniable: Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, had abused the power of his office, corrupted the rule of law, lied persistently, and obstructed justice.

Other networks carried the hearings, too, but what set public broadcasting apart was the decision to air them twice a day: live, in real time as they happened, and then via videotape in prime time every evening, when people who had spent all day working could come home, watch the drama play out without intrusive commentary, and become a part of the process of judgement. One viewer wrote: 'I arrive red-eyed and sleepy to work and I don’t care.' "


PBS is dumping the re-broadcast on a digital sub-channel, PBS World.  Something most of us have never heard of.  One has to wonder why.   Is it pressure from the Trump administration?  Is fear of the executive branch finally too much?  Nixon threatened to pull funding, but PBS at the time did not back down.  Is the current leadership of PBS too timid for our times?

Or perhaps its a different problem.  Tonight PBS is airing Nature, Nova, and Life From Above.  Are ratings to blame?  Is PBS too concerned with keeping their viewers on these programs that they won't interrupt?  Too concerned with keeping us entertained instead of truly informed?

Maybe we really are in Postman's nightmare - entertaining ourselves to death.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

"Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause -- honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle."
Abraham Lincoln, December 2, 1863 letter to George Opdyke and others


Today is a day that the world remembers and honors those who serve their countries.

Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day.

The world remembers and celebrates the end of what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.  Oh, but were that true.

As Americans, we remember and honor those who serve and sacrifice for our country.  Who sacrifice for our freedoms as the wars rage ever on.

Thank you. We owe you more than we can say.  May we never forget.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Digital Immortality

If you've ever wanted to see Jimmy Stewart in a new movie with Tom Hanks, or John Wayne and Tommy Lee Jones side by side in a war movie, you may soon get the opportunity.    In fact, whatever odd combination of movie stars you could imagine may soon be a reality.

Today, Magic City films announced that it would be adding James Dean to the cast of its upcoming Vietnam War era drama "Finding Jack."  The company had worked with Dean's family and estate to secure the rights to digitally insert the actor as a new cast member into the film.  In reports, Dean's family is even referring to this as his "fourth film," the one he never got to make.

This idea has long been a dream for Hollywood.  In 2010, it was reported that George Lucas was buying up the likeness and film rights to dead actors, looking to "resurrect" them in new films.  You can even look back as far as 1997, where Fred Astaire dances with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner to see its genesis.

Technology has finally caught up with the ambition.  Just look at the danger posed by deepfakes, where artificial intelligence is used to superimpose existing images, like one person's face, onto other source images, like another person's body.  This type of superimposition can be very convincing, even with little source material to work with.  Imagine what could be accomplished with actors that have a body of work like Betty Davis or John Wayne.

We've even seen tests of this type of work in film, in the standalone Star Wars film Rogue One.  In that film, Peter Cushing and a young Carrie Fisher were added to the cast, with Cushing in particular playing a significant role.  Their likenesses were superimposed on the bodies of stand-in actors, and in Fisher's case, archival audio was used for her lines.  And to many, the effect came off very well.

However, just because we can do something, should we?

Put another away, just because a computer can reconstruct James Dean, should we?  Do we really want to see another film with James Dean where his actions and lines are delivered by a computer?

I think this gets to one of the fundamental questions we will be asking in the future - what constitutes art?  Can artificial intelligence create art?  Or is there something intrinsically human about art?  Is it something so connected to our souls, our essence, that it requires human input?

I know this upcoming film with James Dean's likeness will be more akin to animation.  It will require a computer animator moving Dean's image through the seen, inserting it in appropriate places, making sure it has the appropriate expression, selecting the right audio clips for lines, etc.   But does that actually make it a performance?  Or is it just the equivalent of a sound board?

Further, is this story one that needs to be told with James Dean?  Why not give another voice a chance?  There are so many stories out there to be told and so many storytellers that can tell them, why James Dean - beyond the obvious crass commercial value?

Martin Scorsese in his op-ed in the New York Times continued to explain his views on the current franchise features by calling them essentially soulless.  Mass produced perfect products for immediate consumption.  And while I may quibble with him on the level of degree, there is no doubt that those type of films can become soulless if the creators are not careful.  They can become rote, predictable, and safe.

Digital resurrection seems just that next step in soulless cinema.  You can say that it is just a limitation of our current technology.  That the characters in Rogue One have dead eyes and mouths because our technology is just not there yet.  I would counter that it seems more a function of the cognitive dissonance of the audience.  Us knowing that this person should not be there.  Beyond our suspension of disbelief for the genre, fantasy, sci-fi, or what have you, the audience knows James Dean should not be in a new film, for example.  The performance then becomes one of novelty, not character.  We comment on how realistic the effect was, not how well the performance was acted.

And all for something that isn't necessary.  Peter Cushing's role in Rogue One could have easily been acted by an actor of pedigree who looked similar enough and it still would have carried the same weight.  Actor's replacing one another is as old as the theater.  Carrie Fisher's role would have been even more easy to do, especially given the glorified cameo status it had.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I still see no reason why this role need be played by James Dean.  That I think will be its biggest downfall.

For when technology doesn't service the story, it all too often just gets in the way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

November 5, 2019

Remember, remember! 
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason 
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive, 
To blow the King and Parliament 
All up alive. 
Threescore barrels, laid below, 
To prove old England's overthrow. 
But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
A stick and a stake 
For King James's sake! 
If you won't give me one, 
I'll take two, 
The better for me, 
And the worse for you. 
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
A pint of beer to wash it down, 
And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Now a celebration of an oddly appropriate reminder on election eve, Guy Fawkes Day/Night.  The celebration of the foiled plot by Guy Fawkes and his compatriots to assassinate the protestant King James I via explosives underneath the Parliament House of Lords.  It was a symptom of the growing Catholic and Protestant divide in England, an attempt to install a Catholic head of state through regicide. The failed attempt lead to the execution of the conspirators and the introduction of more anti-Catholic legislation in England.

An annual celebration through the lighting of bonfires and burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes complete with grotesque mask to celebrate the survival of King James I.  Members of the celebration would often wear Guy Fawkes masks as well.

And it's this part of the celebration that I would like to focus on.  For while the masks may have been initially used to remember the infamy of Guy Fawkes, over recent years the mask has taken on new meaning.  Partially thanks to a comic book.

The now official Guy Fawkes mask
Written by one of the greatest authors in the art form, Alan Moore, V for Vendetta followed V an anarchist revolutionary in a near-future dystopian England who set out to bring down the fascist state and convince people to abandon democracy in favor of anarchy, all while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.  Under author Moore and artist David Lloyd, Guy Fawkes was seen as the anarchist hero of his story not the villain.  According to Lloyd, "We shouldn't burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!"

From the comic and the 2006 film adaptation, the Guy Fawkes mask has become a well known symbol for anonymous protest.  Hundreds of thousands of the official mask sell a year and it has become the official image of the hacktivist group Anonymous.  The mask has further appeared in Occupy movements, and in protests in England, Poland, India, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, and Venezuela.  It has been banned in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

This pleases the creators of V.  David Lloyd has said, "This Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny - and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.  My feeling is the Anonymous group needed an all-purpose image to hide their identity and also to symbolise that they stand for individualism - V for Vendetta is a story about one person against the system."

So, if you see a Guy Fawkes mask, recognize what it is for.  It's a modern symbol of the fight against tyranny, against government oppression.

As V would say, "People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people."

Or how about Thomas Jefferson, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

Let's terrify the government and vote in record numbers.  Let's remind them where the true power lies - with the people.  A government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fall Back

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

That day we get an extra hour of sleep.

I hope you remembered to set your clocks back an hour, otherwise you are getting where you are going an hour early today.

At some point, I do hope we can get rid of all this spring forward/fall back nonsense, but for now, I'm grateful for the extra hour of sleep.

I hope you were all able to enjoy it and hope you have a wonderful day of rest.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Tale of Two Scientists

Once upon a time there were two scientists who each discovered the same thing independently, but came to wildly different results.  Both are professing believers in Jesus Christ.  Both believe their findings affirm their faith.  To one scientist, it was merely a confirmation of his existing beliefs on the origins of the universe.  To the other, it taught new lessons about the universe.  The comparison of the two highlight the supposed conflict between science and religion and my issues with the Ark and Answers in Genesis.

Both discoveries center on soft tissue found in dinosaur bones.

First, Mark Armitage.  In May 2012, Armitage, a scientist at California State University at Northridge, went on a dinosaur dig at the famous fossil site of Hell Creek in Montana, where he unearthed the largest triceratops horn ever found there. Back at the university, he put the fossil under the microscope and discovered unfossilized, undecayed tissue in the horn. If the dinosaur were 65 million years old, supposedly the soft tissue could not have possibly remained. “Soft tissue in dinosaur bones destroys ‘deep time.’ Dinosaur bones cannot be old if they’re full of soft tissue. Deep time is the linchpin of evolution. If you don’t have deep time, you don’t have evolution. The whole discussion of evolution ends if you show that the earth is young. You can just erase evolution off the whiteboard because of soft tissue in dinosaur bones.” Armitage has since published a paper on his findings, which is the subject of an employment dispute lawsuit withe the University. He claims he was fired for his religious beliefs on display in the publishing of the paper.   He and the University have since settled.

Then we have Mary Schweitzer. Schweitzer, a scientist at North Carolina State University, found collagen fibers in the fossilized leg bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex in 2005. The find was controversial, because scientists had thought that proteins that make up soft tissue should degrade in less than 1 million years in the best of conditions. No one had ever thought to look for it before. “The problem is, for 300 years, we thought, ‘Well, the organics are all gone, so why should we look for something that is not going to be there?’ and nobody looks,” Schweitzer argued.

This wasn’t her first experiment seeing soft tissue. In 1990, volunteering with Jack Horner, a retired professor and paleontologist, the model for the paleontologist in Jurassic Park, she discovered what appeared to be red blood cells in thin slices of Tyrannosaurus rex bones under the microscope. Schweitzer kept asserting they cannot be red blood cells, but Horner urged her to prove to him that they’re not. “That’s the way science should work. You can’t prove something is true. But you can disprove it. I’ve been trying ever since to disprove it. I still haven’t.

Schweitzer took her discovery to show we still have a lot to learn about fossilization and decay. It was an opportunity to learn something new. “Finding soft tissues that responded to our tests like modern materials in many ways, suggested that after three hundred years of looking at this stuff, we don’t know as much as we thought.”  That “leaves us with two alternatives for interpretation: either dinosaurs aren’t as old as we think they are, or maybe we don’t know exactly how these things get preserved.

And while Schweitzer used to be a young earth creationist, her work in paleontology has caused to her reverse her position.  "I think the thing that surprised me most about that class was that I had no idea, coming from a conservative Christian background, that scientists are not all trying to disprove God in whatever way they can.  What we were not told growing up is that there's a lot of very rigorous, hard science that allows us to interpret the lives of organisms we've never seen - and knowing this made me rethink a few things, because I know God and God is not a deceiver.  If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don't think there's any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature.  He is under no obligation to meet our expectations.  He is bigger than that."

Therein lies my problem with the Ark and Answers in Genesis.  The structure of the Ark is very impressive.  To be on the outside and finally have a way to visualize the size of the structure God instructed Noah to build can take your breath away.  Likewise, the interpretation of the interior and and being able to walk through the various levels puts the years of building into perspective.  Everything else though in the Ark is subject to interpretation.  And it's presented with a very specific interpretation.  Presented as fact and incontrovertible.

Ken Ham uses the Ark to present young earth creationism as if it was the only valid interpretation of the Bible.  As if there is no other rational conclusion that believers could come to.  This means dinosaurs on the ark.  This Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens existed at the same time.  This means the ice age followed the global flood.  All presented as scientific fact.  If you don't subscribe to young earth creationism, you will find yourself rolling your eyes in disbelief at several of the exhibits within the ark.  Like the image of the Carnotaur versus gladiators.  When we walked by that diorama, we remarked that we would all like to see that film, but that it's hard to take it seriously in the Ark.

There's also the issue with the amount of license taken from the text of the Biblical account of the flood.  The flood account is very specific on the measurements of the Ark, but is very light on other details.  The Ark has taken great license to give names to Noah and his sons' wives, decor and occupations to their families, and even to create a great backstory for how Noah got boat building experience.  It becomes hard to sort out what is supposition and what is supported, even though they admit to their license.

It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of science and religion.

Science is supposed to help us understand the how.  Religion, faith, helps us understand why.  We get into all kinds of trouble when we mix the purposes of the two.

Answers in Genesis likes to use the image below to explain why their version of science is the most correct for the Bible believing Christian.  To them, everything is tainted by a worldview, so it is important to make sure that a Christian worldview must be applied to science first and then and only then should experiments and results be interpreted.  To do otherwise would be to leave important findings to flawed "man's theories."


This is an inherent misunderstanding of how science is supposed to work.  Science presents data.  That's it.  Interpretations can be offered, but it's why they are labeled theories.  Best guesses, most likely outcomes based on the existing data.  When new data is received, it changes the theory.  This is important because it is the data that is supposed to lead to the outcome, not the other way around.  Ham's version presupposes an outcome before the experiment.  If you start your scientific experiments looking to prove the Bible correct, that is what you will find.  When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It's why Armitage's conclusion is so flawed.  He looks at the soft tissue in dinosaur bones, expects to find evidence of young earth creationism, and declares it so.  Soft tissue in dinosaur bones reveals nothing about the age of the dinosaur bone.  Finding soft tissue in the bone just reveals that soft tissue exists.  As Schweitzer said, it can point us to reconsider the age of fossils.  But that is a separate study, that requires more experiments, that requires more data.  It is the start of a new theory, not the conclusion.  And with something like the age of fossils, we have had continued studies that further develop our understanding of the ages and dates of matter.  It keeps point to an older earth.

The finding of soft tissue in fossilized bone should then cause us to do more study and experimentation into our understanding of how decay works.  Again, the start of a new hypothesis, not the conclusion.

This is how science works.  New data begets new study begets new hypothesis begets new data, and so on, and so on.

The interpretation for faith, the intersection with faith, what it means for our understanding of the world, our worldview, our philosophy - that is up to us.  Those are the deeper questions.  The why.  It's what can expand our understanding of the world and of God, if we let it.

"If God is who He says He is, He doesn't need us to twist and contort scientific data.  The thing that's most important to God is our faith.  Therefore, He's not going to allow Himself to be proven by scientific methodologies."  After all, faith is the essence of things not seen.

What was most disappointing about the Ark is that it had the opportunity to be a wonderful tool of outreach, a wonderful tool of Christian unity to speak to outsiders and to reveal something about God and His creation.  And there were glimpses of this.  The size and structure of the ark itself.  Signs that explicitly stated how particular decisions were potential visions of how feeding, cultivating, caring for the animals could have been accomplished.  The section on comparative mythology regarding the various flood myths across religions - this was very impactful.  When that many cultures have a version of the same story, it would seem to increase the likelihood that it has truth in it.

The Ark instead is meant to cater to a very specific Christian, evangelical, conservative view.  It consistently reaffirms this point of view throughout every exhibit.  It preaches to the choir.  Whether it intends to be or not, it is divisive.  And it's a shame.

Hopefully one day, there will be a presentation on this magnitude that isn't hostile to science.  That recognizes that faith and science serve two different purposes.  That they can be complimentary, and not in a way that dilutes one in favor of the other.

This just was not it.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Travelers' Report Part 17 - Road Trip Day 4 The Ark

Part 16 in the series of our ongoing travels, both as a family and individually.  This continues the Hamrick family road trip, covering our day at the Ark.  Jamie's thoughts are below.  Mine will be coming tomorrow.

"It has taken me awhile to know what I precisely wanted to say about this day. The main event, the reason we planned this trip, a visit to the Ark Encounter. This was a stunning view to see the magnitude of the ark. It’s length, it’s height and it’s width were something to behold."






"It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting when I walked in. I have to forewarn you, though this was an impressive structure, I have a lot of questions. There is a John Wesley quote that I’ve heard used all my life when talking about beliefs, “In the essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” I will be using it in my encounter with the ark.

I have mixed emotions about this visit. The Ark’s founder, Ken Ham, has stated that he wanted a “Christian” exhibit that would rival Disney World with future plans to build a Tower of Babel and a ride featuring the ten plagues of Egypt. Do we really want to make our faith a theme park? It was presented as a great ministry tool to point others to the gospel but I don’t know who else would visit the museum but Christians. For it to be viewed as a ministry it’s pretty expensive one at $48 a ticket plus $10 parking.

There were challenges to my own beliefs with regard to how it was presented. Many of the theories were presented from a very narrow Christian viewpoint. It didn’t take long to get inside when I thought I would hear the voice of John Hammond say, “Welcome to Jurassic Ark,” as the exhibits are replete with the reptilian beasts we affectionately call dinosaurs. Answers in Genesis took the approach that dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark and survived after the flood, a theory that was entirely new to me. This made for some interesting conversations afterwards."




"There were many instances where instead of providing a unifying Christian message it catered to a specific niche group. Turn the corner to the second level to see “The Descent into Darkness” section and apparently music is a gateway to sin, listing the harp as one of the instruments used to lure your poor unfortunate soul. Kids books and ark depictions are deceptive and discrediting the biblical account instead of giving liberty to the fact they are toys used to teach truth to little minds.

Once we saw the Carnotaur vs the gladiators in the arena as a part of the violence that was so prevalent in the world it became hard for me to take seriously. (We couldn’t help but want to see that made into a movie, though.)"




The above mentions are ones where I have to show a some liberality and charity too. They are non-essentials. Whether or not Rexy made it on the ark or was used to kill gladiators for a profit has no bearing on God’s Sovereignty or salvation. We can discuss it but it’s not something I’m willing to debate over and draw a line in the sand. The Ark encounter itself is still very impressive and the staff is amazingly helpful and kind. Though I may not agree with the presentation it can spark conversations on different belief systems and ways of interpreting scripture. I guess at the end of the day I have to wonder if its guests will leave with the overwhelming love of the savior or the pinch in their pocketbook?
"

Tomorrow, I'll share my thoughts on our experience at the Ark and Answers in Genesis more broadly, in a post entitled A Tale of Two Scientists.