Daily Archives: October 9, 2010

Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic

Anyone driving the twists of Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles recently may have glimpsed a Toyota Prius with a curious funnel-like cylinder on the roof. Harder to notice was that the person at the wheel was not actually driving.

The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.

Autonomous cars are years from mass production, but technologists who have long dreamed of them believe that they can transform society as profoundly as the Internet has.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology, Travel

A joint statement by the New Jersey Episcopal Bishops on Tyler Clementi's suicide

(Found here).

We write as Christian pastors who are privileged to serve as bishops of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark and in the Diocese of New Jersey in order to express our grief, alarm, compassion and outrage over the suicide of Tyler Clementi. We join our voices with the voices of all those concerned in Ridgewood, where Tyler grew up, at Rutgers University, where he was a freshman and across our nation. Another gay young person has died by suicide. This tragic loss of a promising life would appear to be directly related to an invasion of Tyler’s privacy and a violation of his personal life. Much remains to be considered by law enforcement authorities and the courts in order to determine whether this is also a case of bullying, a felony or a hate crime ”“ or a combination of the three. Whatever that legal determination may be, we join with other Christian and religious leaders, with the LGBT community and with all people of good will who take their stand against hatred, bigotry and bullying; against every expression of physical and verbal violence; and against any violation of the dignity of LGBT persons. When the rights of any ”“ especially the members of vulnerable groups who have so often been scapegoated ”“ are threatened, the rights of all are endangered.

We want to call attention to another, potentially deeper, issue here. It is the invasion of intimacy. Intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments. No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space. It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul.
Technology, however, now provides tools to record, seize and disclose the most intimate matters of our lives without our consent. Identities can be stolen, hearts broken and lives shattered. Technology has placed powerful tools in human hands. Will they be used for building-up or for breaking down our neighbor? Tyler Clementi’s death certainly poses some important legal issues, but it also raises some critical moral concerns. Hubris has outstripped humility. And that is a serious problem. We can do better. We must do better, with God’s help.

In our Episcopal tradition, whenever we reaffirm our faith in worship, we are given a challenging question: “will you respect the dignity of every human being?” And we answer, “I will, with God’s help.” It is an important commitment. Whatever our religious tradition, we can agree on the need to respect one another’s dignity. With God’s help, we can stand together and stand up against bullies who would damage and destroy the lives of LGBT persons, their partners and families and friends. With God’s help, we can offer safety, support and sanctuary to all LGBT persons who are at risk. With God’s help, we can remind our society that every LGBT person is made in the image of God. The world needs our witness.

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of Newark
The Rt. Rev. George E. Councell, Bishop of New Jersey

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, TEC Bishops, Theology

Finding the Funny Amid the Sacred and the Professed

The four-hour [Union Theological Seminary] session, “Humor in Ministry,” was a kind of seminar in how to do stand-up for God.

The workshop’s leader, the Rev. Susan Sparks, pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church on East 31st Street, moonlights as a nightclub comedian. Her adjunct for the day was another stand-up comic with whom she sometimes works, Rabbi Bob A. Alper, who bills himself as “the only practicing rabbi in the world doing stand-up comedy intentionally.”

Ms. Sparks and Rabbi Alper, invited as part of the seminary’s “field-based” program to teach some of the intangibles of ministry not covered in the divinity curriculum, surveyed the arc of potentially humorous situations ”” including weddings, funerals and long, hot summer days when even the sermonizer can lose the thread of a sermon.

They discussed the often-overlooked humor in some passages of the Bible, including Jesus’ use of irony and exaggeration, and the ribaldry in the Book of Esther.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Humor / Trivia, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(RNS) Report finds strong growth in U.S. Orthodox churches

America’s Eastern Orthodox parishes have grown 16 percent in the past decade, in part because of a settled immigrant community, according to new research.

Alexei Krindatch, research consultant for the Standing Conferences of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, said the 16 percent growth in the number of Orthodox parishes is “a fairly high ratio for religious groups in the United States.”

The number of Orthodox parishes has reached 2,370, and the Orthodox community in America consists of more than 1 million adherents across 20 different church bodies, according to the 2010 U.S. Orthodox Census.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(Daily Bail) Is Foreclosure Fraud The New Black Swan For Banks?

(This post begins with a video interview (length just under 4 1/2 minutes) with Ex-Ginnie Mae CEO Joseph Murin on housing and illegal foreclosures which is well worth the time.)

[The interview continues an] Excellent [level of] detail. Murin says he expects foreclosure delays of between 6-18 months due to the moratorium, which is much longer than most current estimates of 30-90 days.

Here’s the nightmare scenario for banks — more homeowners start to challenge the ownership of their mortgage, and choose to stop paying in the interim, destroying bank profits and balance sheets while they wait for resolution from Congress or the courts. Could get ugly. Quickly.

Both Janet Tavakoli and Chris Whalen said Thursday it could necessitate a 2nd-round of bank bailouts. The outcry from taxpayers would be deafening….

Read it all and please follow the links to the Tavakoli and Whalen comments.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Saturday Mental Health Break–Ottorino Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances: Villanella

Do take the time to listen to it all–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Music

10/10/10: They Love Just Thinking About It

Sunday is the big day for saying “I do.”

More than 39,000 couples chose 10/10/10 as their wedding day ”” a nearly tenfold increase over the number of nuptials on Oct. 11, 2009, the comparable Sunday last year, according to figures gathered by David’s Bridal, the wedding superstore chain.

The reason for the surge is a blend of superstition and symbolism, said Maria McBride, the wedding style director at Brides Magazine. “You cross your fingers and hope it lasts a lifetime,” she said, and so “a perfect 10, times 3” suggests good luck.

Besides, Ms. McBride said, “You’ll never forget your anniversary.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Victor Austin on Richard Hooker–Authority in Scripture and the Believer

What, in the end, does it mean to have authority? Using a spatial metaphor, we could say that the Scriptures have been internalized. The individual with authority is able to rise from the community, which remains present within her, and speak and do what needs to be done ”” whatever we expect to see among Christian people ”” in the particulars of the situation at hand.

She may be praising God, giving a personal account of what God has done for her; or be performing evangelism: the proclamation in word or deed of what God has done in creating and redeeming the world, offering promise for the ultimate meaningfulness of human life. She may serve as a corporate executive, creating opportunities for the increase of wealth and goods in society; or in some other mini-society: medical, educational, cultural, familial, and so forth. We will not expect to see her as an “authority” within any of these societies (although she may be one), and in particular we will not expect to see her as an “authority” in the Church. For what we have learned from the Church is that the necessary structures of authority, and the necessary persons who exercise authority, ultimately serve the authorization of the individual believer who bears the society within her.

Scripture read in public, in sequence, with twice-daily frequency, without accompanying interpretation, presents us with a plain fact: that the truly authorized person (and since authority is personal, the true authority) can only be the one who is listening. She is now but a member of the chorus who, following the recitation of Scripture, will stand to join in the Benedictus or Magnificat or other prescribed canticle. But the hope of the universe is that she is being prepared to sing her aria. And when she does, we will rejoice in her authority.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Halt in Foreclosures a New Blow to Home Sales

(Please note the above title is from the print edition–KSH).

A snapshot of the problems can be seen at the real estate agency that sold Ms. [Amanda] Ducksworth her home, Marc Joseph Realty, based in Fort Myers.

The agency had 35 deals that were supposed to close this month. As of Thursday, Fannie [Mae] had postponed 11 of them. Another handful of homes that did not have offers or were being prepared for market had also been withdrawn.

“If this wipes out half my inventory, that’s a scary thing,” said Bill Mitchell, the agency’s closing coordinator.

As he spoke, his computer pinged and another message from Fannie [Mae] came through about withdrawing a house. It had the subject line, “Unable to Market Notice.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Philip the Deacon

Holy God, no one is excluded from thy love; and thy truth transformeth the minds of all who seek thee: As thy servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of thy salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so grant unto us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming thy love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life for us, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

–Luke 8:16-18

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Robert Reich: Smoot-Hawley here we come

Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot, you may recall, sponsored the Tariff Act of 1930 that raised tariffs to record levels on more than 20,000 imported goods. The duo said this would protect American jobs and revive the economy. It did the reverse, plunging the nation into an even deeper depression. Other nations retaliated. Global trade plummeted. Americans got poorer, as did millions of others around the world.

Why do I think we’re on the way back to Smoot-Hawley? Because with Republicans and blue-dog deficit hawks gaining ground after November 2, the chance of boosting the economy with an “infrastructure bank,” another big spending package, or even a big round of middle-class tax cuts is roughly nil. This means a lousy economy ”” possibly for years.

And that leaves trade as a sitting duck.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Asia, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Europe, Globalization, History, Politics in General, Wales

Bishop Christopher Epting: To “Covenant” or Not to “Covenant”

Obviously, the most problemmatic portion of the proposed Anglican Covenant is Section Four which deals with processes and procedures should one Province or “instrument” of the Communion feel that another Province has failed to live into the implications of the Covenant and caused serious stress and strain for sisters and brothers elsewhere, stretching or even breaking the bond of Communion the Covenant is supposed to enhance.

This is obviously a new development for the Anglican Communion. We have always seen ourselves as interdependent but autonomous Provinces bound together primarily by our approaches to the Bible and the Liturgy and by our historic ties to the See of Canterbury and the Church of England. This relationship has served us well in the past but, with globalization and worldwide communication and our now-decades-old developing self-understanding as a global Communion (“the third largest communion of Christians after the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox”) do we not need something more now as a kind of skeletal structure to bind us together.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, TEC Bishops, Theology