My Life and Times

An Engineer Poet explores the world

Will the United Methodist Church Split?

Posted by macengr on August 1, 2014

I am a United Methodist. Lately I have seen a lot of talk about schism, or the separation of the church into two distinct polities. The primary cause of this is the UM Church’s stance on gay marriage. There are other reasons, but this is the elephant in the room – much as before the civil war, when everyone said the argument was over state’s rights, but in reality, everyone knew that it was about slavery.

I am not writing this to argue for one side or the other, however. What I am noticing is a large number of Methodist bloggers – for the most part clergy and / or bishops, who should both know better – saying that Jesus, the Lord, Yahweh, and various other names of members of the Trinity – would not want the church to splt, that above all, God desires unity.

I disagree.

I have been a member of the United Methodist Church all my life. I am proud to call myself a methodist, and it grieves my heart that things have reached this pass. But still, when I read the Bible – and here I am talking about the words of Jesus – He specifically said:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
In the Tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. So Jesus knew that there would be strife because of Him and division is not necessarily against the will of God. He would want his People to separate from those that are not in line with His teachings.

So which side is not in line with his teachings? Well…many others have written on this, and I’ll leave you to look that up. Instead, I’d like to explore a few other things.

I noted above that this situation grieves me – I love the United Methodist Church, and I understand that if she splits, she will cease to exist as the United Methodist Church. But I don’t see how this situation will be resolved. Neither side is going to win. One side will continue to push for change, the other will continue to resist. For that reason, I believe a split is inevitable, and all that remains is to see what form that will take.

Also, regardless of which side is right, I see a lot of anger and hate on both sides. Those who feel that they are in the right may want to reconsider whether Jesus would approve of their behavior towards fellow believers. Taking a stand is one thing, but ad hominem attacks are quite another.

Finally, John Wesley was a product of his times. Had he been asked, he would have been strongly against homosexuality. To claim otherwise is ignoring the facts. I do not know what he would have said had he been alive today, and I don’t presume to speak for him. But I do believe this: Wesley would have chosen a side. And I believe that those in the UM Church will do the same – because in this situation, there is no middle.

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Busy Week & Currently Reading

Posted by macengr on April 25, 2014

Things have been hectic this week and so I haven’t had a chance to write a proper post.  But I promised myself that I would put up a post each week, so here it is.

This week I’ve been reading N.T. Wright, who I’ve seen referenced as the greatest living theologian – book Simply Christian.  I have a summary Aquinas did of his Summa Theologica and several books on St. Francis to read also.

I’ve also been working my way through Java data structures; it’s interesting to see how much more I can understand things with that background.  Tree searches, for example, are a key component in Artificial Intelligence.  I have six chapters in this book, which is more of an introduction; then, I have books dedicated to data structures and algorithms to work through.

I’ve also been keeping up on my reading in international affairs.  I just got a book from the library on counterinsurgency called Hearts and Minds: A People’s History of Counterinsurgency.  I also have been going through a survey book on strategy and I have Louis Freedman’s Strategy: A History waiting for me as well.

So lots of work and reading; tonight, though, is date night at the symphony and Mozart!

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U.S. Strategy and the New Medievalism

Posted by macengr on April 16, 2014

I’ve noted before that I’ve done some work with the Matthew Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Phil Williams, a noted scholar on transnational security threats, was the director, and was also a visiting scholar at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, and for them he wrote several monographs.  One in particular that caught my eye was “From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: The Decline of the State and U.S. Strategy“.  At the time (two years ago) I toyed around with the possibility of a book-length expansion on this, going as far as working up a table of contents and listing some extra things that the book could cover that the monograph did not.
Real life intervened, as it often does, and I found myself back at work as an engineer, so I never got much further with the book.  Still, I think Dr. Williams’ paper deserves more consideration, and I’d still like to explore some of the ideas in the monograph in further detail.  Given the Arab Spring, Ukraine, and Syria, as well as the situation in the South China Sea, I think Dr. Williams foresaw a lot of things in this publication.  At the end of it, he gives some recommendations which are interesting in light of the cutbacks to the U.S. military that we are seeing.
I’ll explore different areas over the next few weeks – I’m aiming for one blog post per week.  For today, here is a synopsis of the monograph taken from the SSI website.  I encourage you to download and read it.
From the New Middle Ages to a ... Cover Image
“Security and stability in the 21st century have little to do with traditional power politics, military conflict between states, and issues of grand strategy. Instead they revolve around the disruptive consequences of globalization, declining governance, inequality, urbanization, and nonstate violent actors. The author explores the implications of these issues for the United States. He proposes a rejection of “stateocentric” assumptions and an embrace of the notion of the New Middle Ages characterized, among other things, by competing structures, fragmented authority, and the rise of “no-go” zones. He also suggests that the world could tip into a New Dark Age. He identifies three major options for the United States in responding to such a development. The author argues that for interventions to have any chance of success the United States will have to move to a trans-agency approach. But even this might not be sufficient to stanch the chaos and prevent the continuing decline of the Westphalian state.”

Posted in 4GW, counterinsurgency, future, history, Open Source Warfare, security, strategy, tactics, Uncategorized, war | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Integrating Belief and Calling into My Career Journey

Posted by macengr on April 8, 2014

So I left off last time with computer programming and while I will come back to that, first, a digression of sorts.

Being a Christian has been a part of my life for a long time.  I’ve spent a number of years figuring out what that means – as well as trying (and often failing) to live up to my own standards.  I’ve spent a lot of time on personal stuff, working on trying to become a better person.  I’ve read a number of books on prayer, Bible study, and so on.

Lately, however, I’ve been bothered by this: I haven’t spent much time…on others:

James 2:17, NIV: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Also, Matthew 25:30 – 46  (The separating of the sheep and the goats, by their service to others).

I don’t feel like I’ve put this into action.  And as i look to the future, I ponder how I need this to become a part of my life.  I read an excellent book in the fall by Ken Wytsma called Pursuing Justice, and it touched on this.  For Lent, I’ve been involved in praying for those caught in the web of modern day slavery (see the book Not for Sale for more).  I am also currently reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns, and whatever your feelings on the World Vision situation, it is well worth reading.  Serving others, mercy, and so on, are not subjects that are popular today in America, especially from certain sides of the aisle.

But that brings up another point, in that I don’t have a real theology of God.  This is ironic, considering that I’ve been reading the Bible and Christian books for most of my life – the Bible alone three times.  A lot of what I’ve read, though, has been either polemic – from both sides – or baby food.  In a world where Christianity is under attack that’s not very helpful.  I don’t worry about whether or not we’re “winning the culture war” – Christianity was never about that anyway.  Win believers, make disciples, and you win the culture war.  Even if you’re driven underground, there is always a remnant.  forcing others to follow your beliefs never works.  But having a solid foundation to stand on, that’s important.  Especially when talking to those on the fence.

So I’ve starting reading Theology.  At the moment, I’m reading a little introduction to Thomas Aquinas in the Armchair Theologians Series.  I want to be able to build a foundation on reason, as well as what I’ve already learned and experienced.

The above books are informing my journey as I seek my calling, which I think will involve computer programming, data analysis, development, and so on.  I think Computational Social Science and complexity are a part of that as well.  I don’t know, at this point, where the journey will lead.  But hopefully I am following God’s lead.

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A Change in Direction? Or Picking One?

Posted by macengr on February 18, 2014

I have struggled with this blog over the years.  In order to have a really good blog, you need a focus area, and I didn’t really have one.  I started just blogging general stuff about my life here in Pittsburgh, did some fiction, then switched to book reviews.  Lately, it’s been pretty much lists of books I have read.
I did the reviews as part of my being associated with the Matthew Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  I would love to blog on International Security, but there are already so many good bloggers in that space (that’s not even half of them) and I didn’t feel I had anything to add.  Coming from an engineering background, I also suffer from a lack of credentials.
In any case, my friend has been blogging about her experiences in training her horse (and herself) for international dressage and eventing competitions.  It’s giving me the itch to blog again.
But that brings me right back to the first point – what to blog about?
Lately I’ve been working on picking up an associate’s degree in software development (to add to my already over-degreed self with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and my MBA).  I’m doing this to make myself more employable, but also because…it interests me and I enjoy it.
I recently read David Kilcullen’s book Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.  It’s a fascinating book.  Kilcullen basically notes that the future will be urban, coastal, and networked.  Urbanization continues apace with more than half of the world’s population living in cities, and most of those cities on the coasts.  With technology – especially mobile phones – more and more of them are becoming connected.  This has huge implications for the future – and Kilcullen notes the effect it will have on warfare.  We got a taste of this in Somalia back in the 90s (See: Black Hawk Down) and with the raid on Mumbai in the 00s.
So what, you ask, does that have to do with computer programming?  Well, the short answer is, Smart Cities and Big Data.  And the long answer will have to wait for the next blog post…


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My Books Read in the Last Year

Posted by macengr on January 13, 2014

Another year, another book list.  I read less book this year than last, but over two thousand more pages!  Here’s the list:

2.) Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
4.) Debt: The First 5000 Years – Peter Graeber
5.) Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat – Hans Christian von Baeyer
7.) Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography – Hew Strachan
8.) Tanks in the Cities: Breaking the Mold – Kendall D. Gott
13.) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – Eliezer Yudkowsky
15.) A Magic Broken – Vox Day (Novella)
17.) Shadow of the Hegemon (Ender Wiggin Saga) – Orson Scott Card
18.) Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology – Rosemary Radford Ruether
19.) Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale – Ian Morgan Cron
24.) The Last Stand of Fox Company – Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
27.) Liberation Theologies: The Global Pursuit of Justice – Alfred T. Hennelly, S.J.
28.) Human Security in a Borderless World – Derek S. Reveron and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris
31.) The Mathematics of Life – Ian Stewart
40.) Worm: The First Digital World War – Mark Bowden
44.) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
45.) Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War – Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss
46.) How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
51.) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty – Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
54.) Beginning Programming – Adrian and Kathie Kingsley-Hughes
55.) Sure Fire (Rich & Jade #1) – Jack Higgins with Justin Richards
56.) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – Simon Garfield
60.) Head First HTML and CSS – Elisabeth Robson and Eric Freeman
63.) Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn
66.) Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think – Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
67.) The Tao of Programming – Geoffrey James
68.) The Myriad: Tour of the Merrimack #1 – R. M. Meluch
69.) Caliphate – Tom Kratman
70.) Kris Longknife: Mutineer (Kris Longknife #1) – Mike Shepherd
71.) Shadow Puppets (Ender’s Shadow series) – Orson Scott Card
72.) Starting Out With Visual Basic 2012 – Tony Gaddis and Kip Irvine
73.) Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things – Ken Wytsma with D. R. Jacobsen
74.) The City: A Global History – Joel Kotkin
79.) Theology: A Very Short Introduction – David F. Ford

Posted in Book reviews, Business, Christian, counterinsurgency, future, history, iraq, linguistics, new media, Open Source Warfare, security, Spirituality & Religion, strategy, tactics, Uncategorized, war | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quote of the week

Posted by macengr on March 27, 2013

“Clausewitz’s claim to contemporary relevance has more than the prevalence of civil wars and of conflicts between non-state actors with which to contend…those who now reject Clausewitz, like all those who have done so in the past, do so on the basis of a selective reading of a vast body of material. On War is itself unfinished: the text which we have is a work in progress and its judgments are not consistent. That is the very source of its enduring strength.”

—Hew Strachan

Posted in 4GW, counterinsurgency, history, Uncategorized, war | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Tweets of the Week

Posted by macengr on March 22, 2013

I’m starting to filter these so they’re not so long, and hopefully of more value to you.

Rosa Brooks ‏@brooks_rosa :  A Drone of One’s Own – By Rosa Brooks | Foreign Policy

 J. Scott Shipman ‏@jscottshipman :  Thus far; excellent: Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King

Text Message Retention Policies

What a novel concept: What’s Missing from the Iraq Debate? Iraqis – By Marc Lynch

*headdesk* x 100 : Are Urban Explorers Really a Threat to Our National Security?

When Technology Overtakes Security

Global Cities of the Super-Rich

Booming Asian Cities Are Tugging The World’s Center of Light East

Ebay style feedback could secure military networks

Rachel Held Evans ‏@rachelheldevans :  Christianity Today Gleanings: International Justice Mission Wins ‘Landmark’ Sex Trafficking Conviction in India

Calestous Juma ‏@calestous :  Global Evolution of Biomanufacturing

Small Wars Journal ‏@smallwars :  The Trajectory of Intelligence Practice from DESERT SHIELD to IRAQI FREEDOM to Today  #Iraq #Intelligence

On Modern-Day Slavery: Today We’ve Disappeared by April Yamasaki

Daniel Solomon ‏@Dan_E_Solo :  All politics are local, gendered edition: what role for women in northern #Mali’s insurgency? . (via @sahelblog)

After the Aircraft Carrier: 3 Alternatives to the Navy’s Vulnerable Flattops

5 Trends That Will Drive The Future of Technology

Three wars that will define America’s future: Silicon, Iron, and Shadow – By David W. Barno

Tyrannicide and the Lost Republic via @zenpundit

Pitt professor lands $3.4M NIH grant for wearable artificial lung

FinSpy surveillance software package:

A consumer’s guide to 3D printers: See:…

Summary article on the state-sponsored Gauss malware: Gauss

China’s BGI to Sequence 2,200 Geniuses In Search For “Smart” Genes

Marissa Mayer and Einheit:   Desperate measures

China replaces Britain in world’s top five arms exporters: report  via @reuters

10 Years After the Iraq War, How Has Baghdad Changed?

This is VERY cool:  Turning a Persian Rug Into a City

How Many Steps Do You Really Look Ahead?

To COIN or Not? – An FP Roundtable

Argo  @zenpundit gives it a thumbs up.

Potential drought resilience strategies for the Horn of Africa

Everyday Leaks From Sewer Systems Lead to Alarming Amounts of Sewage in Our Waterways

Lessons in Self-Defense for Women, From Tahrir Square

Big Data and You

Ummm…YES!  Should We Set Up Drone Guidelines?

Guess who’s coming to dinner…Bruno Maisonnier: Dancing, tiny robots!

Scary stuff:  How Drones Can Live off the Land for Years

Biomedicine Update: Progress on the AIDS/HIV Front

The Rise of the Cossacks Amidst Russia’s Decline

Agriculture and Husbandry: The Slow-Motion Singularity

Washington “Cancels” Fourth Stage of European Phased Adaptive Approach

Science of Digital Fabrication – Materials and Mechanisms: 3D Printing 

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Quote of the week

Posted by macengr on March 20, 2013

“The history of war represents fully half the tale of mankind’s social interactions, and one cannot understand war without understanding its political and social underpinnings (Conversely, one cannot understand political history or cultural development without understanding war.”

Caleb Carr, Introduction to the Modern Library War Series

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Tweets of the week ending March 14

Posted by macengr on March 15, 2013

A Brief History of Suburbia’s Rise and Fall

News: Why Pope Francis Excites (Most) Evangelical Leaders

There’s always a catch:

Carbon nanotubes as a potent cancer promoter – new data from NIOSH

Space junk is a major problem:

FYI, We’ve at least 500,000 objects moving around 18,000…

On Secrecy

Saddam a tyrant, but war was wrong

Stuxnet is Much Older than We Thought

Mission Creep in the War on Terror – By Rosa Brooks

Hacked credit agencies info all over P2P networks

Curious as to @davidgraeber ‘s thoughts on this:

In Defense of Homo Economicus

‏@RobertDKaplan RT @stratfor: George Friedman and Robert D. Kaplan discuss how realism and morality both affect politics

Will be interesting to see what blowback they get:

Moscow Says ‘No’ To New Mosques

Nationalism on the Internet

The Future Of E-Commerce For Small Businesses

Are We Ready for an Internet Cold War? via bigthink

connected-marketing by Chris Anderson:

Peer production, open source,…

 Pope Francis I, economic crusader

Starring Pittsburgh’s own @woycheck :

SXSW, Pittsburgh-style: Guest blog

Energy Update: Japan First to Extract Natural Gas from Ice

Beyond 3D Printing: Self Assembly – Even as 3D is just slowly…

Security Theater on the Wells Fargo Website

South Africa’s economic outlook in 2013

Why and how to map the new economy in your city

Reflections on “The Future of Evangelicalism”

Interested in #foodsecurity ?  You should probably see this movie:

What ‘food industry’ actually means

Why Big Data Marketing Can’t Do It All

The Outsized Role of Britain in the Modern World

Excellent infographic on tomorrow’s world:

 “Iraq In The Year 2023″ Simulation Executive Summary

And so it begins: China plans first commercial trip through Arctic shortcut in 2013:

5 big problems of big data

Why It’s Nearly Impossible to Make GPS Work for India

Hacking Best-seller Lists

Window Cleaning Robots Making Their Way To Skyscraper Happy United Arab Emirates

Cisco IP Phone Hack

Cool concept:

Can Floating Architecture Save This Nigerian Slum?

I’d say very much.

Iraq 10 Years Later (1): How Culpable is Academic International Relations?

Energy Update: New Molten-Salt Reactor Company a Spinoff from MIT

Never thought this was realistic:

The SysAdmin was meant to be “light”

Whither China-US relations?

The Good Ol’ Cold War

“The Logic of Surveillance”

CMU unveils CHIMP designed to help in a disaster

Links – AI & Robots

Technological trends in agriculture

SpaceX’s Grasshopper Rocket Launches, Hovers, and Lands [Video]

By the author of the excellent Wired for War, @peterwsinger

The Global Swarm – By P.W. Singer

Environment Update: New Study Indicates Northern Vegetation is Changing with Rising Temperatures

Why the Afghan ‘peace conference’ idea keeps bombing

Gizmos & Gadgets: 3D Desktop Scanning Makes Replicating 3D in Print a Lot Easier

Peter Ellyard – Rapid Prototying the Future

What do STEM employers want?

The elder entitlement conundrum: raising retirement age doesn’t get you what you want

James Bridle on the Canon Drone

If We Want Competitive Economies, We Must Manage Our Water Better

WWF plans to use drones to protect wildlife | Environment | The Guardian

Iranian leader brings the crazy, via @hipbonegamer on @zenpundit :

Chavez and the Second Coming?

Is Software Security a Waste of Money?

Embracing the Autocatalytic City

Infinity Journal is always worth a read:

Strategic Theory Monday Twofer

Fearsome UK Robot Aircraft Is Semi-Autonomous and Will Fly in 2013



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