Saturday, July 30, 2011

"The Shifting Definition of Tolerance"

The nuclear family under attack
I was recently reading an essay adapted from an address given by Bruce D. Porter at Brigham Young University. The subject was on defending the traditional family, which has often caused controversy for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As pointed out by Porter, the Church and its members are often accused of intolerance when they advocate the traditional definition of the family. In the excerpt below, Porter discusses how the definition of tolerance has shifted in recent decades:
Until recently in our national history, tolerance referred to racial and religious non-discrimination. It meant civility in the political arena; in other words, respecting the right of others to express their views, even if we do not agree with them. It meant treating all people with decency and respect. Such tolerance is an important and vital part of our American heritage.

Today, however, the world is in danger of abandoning all sense of absolute right or wrong, all morality and virtue, replacing them with an all-encompassing “tolerance” that no longer means what it once meant. An extreme definition of tolerance is now widespread that implicitly or explicitly endorses the right of every person to choose their own morality, even their own “truth,” as though morality and truth were mere matters of personal preference. This extreme tolerance culminates in a refusal to recognize any fixed standards or draw moral distinctions of any kind. Few dare say no to the “almighty self” or suggest that some so-called “lifestyles” may be destructive, contrary to higher law, or simply wrong.

When tolerance is so inflated out of all proportions, it means the death of virtue, for the essence of morality is to draw clear distinctions between right and wrong. All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.

Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street. Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality. Indeed, their intolerance is often most barbed toward those of religious conviction. But let there be no misunderstanding or deception: the First Amendment right of free speech applies to religious speech as well as to other kinds of speech. Believers of all faiths have every right to participate in and share their convictions in the public arena.
I agree wholeheartedly with Porter's statement.

The last paragraph of the excerpt reminds me of the experience of Californian Mormons a few years ago. In 2008 I mentioned that Mormons in California were facing a lot of resistance based on the Church's support of Proposition 8 [here and here]. Gay marriage supporters were even going as far as using California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to attack the Church. Apparently they like the idea of 'free speech for me, but not for thee'. From what I've heard from my parents, who live in Southern California, although Proposition 8 may have been passed three years ago and been overturned by a Federal District Court last year (although the ruling has been stayed), Church members in California are still being harassed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Reviews

[These reviews originally appeared on]

The World's Worst Weapons: From Exploding Guns to Malfunctioning MissilesThe World's Worst Weapons: From Exploding Guns to Malfunctioning Missiles by Martin J. Dougherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exactly as the title says, this book is about the world's worst weapons. Each weapon gets its own two page spread with photos and/or drawings, a description of what made the weapon bad, information on its country of origin, and the year(s) in which it was developed or used. Several of the weapons are definitely worse than others, with some actually rising to the level of simple mediocrity. But the bad ones are truly bad (how could anyone have thought that a tank with only a few inches of ground clearance could possibly be adequate?). A wide variety of weapons are covered, ranging from ancient and medieval melee weapons to the Davy Crockett atomic recoilless gun with its suicidally short range.

Although a lot of good information is presented, the book has several typos and formatting errors. Each weapon has a data box which lists several categories such as date of use, weight, etc. On several pages the category header doesn't line up with the relevant data (e.g., the header says "weight" but instead gives you the weapon's range). A few times the flag used to show the nation of origin doesn't match the nation of origin as written in the text.

As an inexpensive book meant to provide entertainment for military history buffs, The World's Worst Weapons is a worthwhile read. It's unfortunate that an embarrassing number of obvious errors distract from the book's overall value.

View all my reviews

Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on AmericaGuilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America by Ann Coulter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's good be be a victim in America, argues Ann Coulter. Using a variety of media sources, polls, etc., Coulter shows that liberals have carefully created special classes that they claim to be victims of whites, capitalism, the wealthy, males, or any other politically unpopular class, race, philosophy, etc. (Coulter emphasizes that what she is talking about is above and beyond the real racism or prejudice that rational people acknowledge has actually happened.) However, in the process of trying to right the "wrongs" that these classes have supposedly suffered, liberals actually create real victims by extorting apologies, money, status, or favors out of less favored groups.

The best description of Guilty is that it's an Ann Coulter book. Coulter is excellent at preaching to the choir. If you already agree with her, as I often do, you will find her remarks funny, witty, and spot-on. Those who don't agree with her will find the book grating and her humor irritating and insulting. Coulter's style is simply too confrontational to actually convert anyone to her point of view.

I liked Guilty quite a bit, but I didn't find it as eye-opening as her earlier Treason. The evidence Coulter uses to prove her thesis will be familiar to anyone who pays attention to American politics; there's not a whole lot of new information here. The end of the book also seems to come abruptly, as if Coulter simply ran out of things to say and didn't feel like providing a satisfactory summary or conclusion. However, Coulter's wit makes Guilty an entertaining and worthwhile read.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Miscellanea, Part II

Warhammer 40K
B. and I played two scenarios last weekend between his Grey Knights and my Space Marines. In the first I attempted to defend one quarter of the board while he set up on the opposite corner. I was allowed 30% more troops while he was allowed to set up after I did while also making the first move (usually the one who sets up first is the one who goes first). I made the mistake of setting up too close to his position, which allowed his Knights to charge directly into my forces. The Grey Knights are good in a shooting fight but are excellent in close combat. Since my forces outnumbered his Grey Knights, I had the advantage of having significantly more guns on the board. Unfortunately, I couldn't benefit from this because he was able to charge into close combat almost immediately.

In the second scenario we played a quick 400 point game B. called a "soul grinder". This time I was smarter and used my scouts to their fullest extent while taking advantage of the number of guns I had. This game turned out a lot different.

Dear Neighbor...
Late last Sunday night you apparently liked your music so much that you thought that the entire neighborhood should hear it. And I do mean the entire neighborhood; from the short walk I took to try to find your house I realized that you must live at least a block or two away. Please remember that a) a lot of your neighbors have to get up before 5 AM to catch the bus for work and b) nobody wants to hear your music no matter what time of day it is. When I finally get my telekinetic powers I intend to use them to explode your speakers... and your head.

On Debt Reduction
So President Obama seems to be willing to reduce the deficit only if he can raise taxes. Why is it that he's only willing to talk about debt reduction if he is also allowed to raise taxes? I can only guess that he intends to use the increased revenue to justify even greater spending down the road. Well, the theoretically increased revenue; raising taxes often damages the economy and can be absolutely devastating during a recession. Is Obama even capable of making a decision that isn't utterly inept?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This Day In History: The Apollo 11 Moon Landing

On this day in 1969 Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon in the Lunar Module Eagle. Mission pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module Columbia.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on the lunar surface before returning to Columbia. Although Collins' contribution is overshadowed by that of his compatriots, he played a vital role in the success of the mission. Later astronauts would spend over three days on the surface.

I don't think mankind has done anything quite as cool since then.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Parents Laughed at Me

Saturday night we made a video call to my parents. As usual they asked how things were going with each of us. When they asked how I was doing, I showed off my recently completed 40K squad. I guess I was a little too enthusiastic about them because it didn't take long for my mother to start laughing. She said that it was the cutest I'd been since I was 12.

My parents are great people (saintly, actually, since they tolerated me for 18+ years). Unfortunately, they're also fairly normal. You know the kind: they watch sports, they read popular novels, they watch a wide variety of movies, my dad likes to work in the yard, they enjoy going to the beach, etc. My mother's only deviation is that she likes to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 with me. Although my general personality and physical features indicate that I wasn't switched at birth, my parents still can't figure out where I came from.

My squad understands me

My parents know me pretty well, and they know I have a tendency to obsess about things. Of course my wife has been telling them about my latest hobby/unhealthy fixation, so my parents couldn't help but to tease me about it. They asked me how I liked the game, how it's played, how I do against my friend, etc. And every time I said that I needed to add an assault squad, or a tank, or any other model to my army they would emphasize the word "need". "Oh, so you need a tactical squad," or "you need a Land Raider," they would say.

I know that Fate will play a cruel joke on me and make my children normal too. Then both my parents and my kids will look at me with a mix of amusement and perplexity.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Warhammer 40K Figures

Obviously I've been neglecting my blogging recently. Under other circumstances I would have blogged extensively since my wife and kids met with my parents in St. George a few weeks ago while I had a b-movie and Mythbusters marathon at home. And the seven hours of Warhammer 40,000 that I played with my friend (6:30 PM to 1:30 AM) while the wife and kids were on vacation would normally have merited at least a few words (as it happened, B. absolutely killed me in the first game; I won the second game by a small margin). However, I've simply not been online a whole lot ever since I started working on my 40K army in earnest.

Up until recently all my hobbies were computer related (e.g., blogging). However, as I've mentioned before, I've recently gotten into 40K and have been playing it almost weekly. Until now I've been playing with B.'s space marine figures while intending to build up my own army. For someone whose longest-lasting hobby was building model airplanes and the occasional ship, much of the appeal of 40K is the fact that you build and paint your own playing pieces. Most of these pieces are about an inch tall, although monsters like the Tyranid Hive Tyrant can be several inches tall. The models are highly customizable and the game's "fluff" (i.e., the extra background story that helps to make the game so much fun) says that the space marines' power armor is highly customized and personalized such that no suit of armor is identical to another. Thus, a squad of ten marines will have ten figures that are all somewhat unique, making them particularly fun to build.

Last Sunday, after weeks of preparation and practice, I finished my first space marine figure. This particular figure was part of a five man squad that came in a 40K beginner's paint set. While it's not nearly as impressive as the professionally painted figures in Games Workshop's catalogs, I'm still fairly proud of it. I was bound and determined to have the rest of the squad finished in time for Friday night's game so I had a marathon painting session from 6:30 PM Thursday evening to 2:00 AM Friday morning with an additional few hours of work before lunchtime. That night I faced my friend's Tyranid army in a four hour slog (our longest game yet). Of course my new squad was wiped out during the game, which I lost. However, it was one of our best yet and I managed to kill all but about 200 points of his 1250 point army. The fact that my newly finished figures were wiped out in their first game reminds me of this comic.

The first of five

My poor marine was dismembered by a Tyranid Hormagaunt

I keep all my painting materials in a single box that I can put out of reach of little hands. This box has since come to be known as the "Warhammer Happy Fun Box".

The Warhammer Happy Fun Box


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