I Live For This!

I’m likely not alone in this, but from time to time I get emails claiming something that just doesn’t sound right. We all get the ones who promise riches if we’ll only help a Nigerian Prince get his money, but I also get ones that other people seem to believe.

I’ve gotten emails from family and friends claiming that President Obama is a secret Muslim, that he really was born in Kenya, that the 2010 census demanded that we list the number of guns we own, etc. What has always amazed me is that a quick search on Google or Snopes would show these banal claims to be false. My attempts to hit the “reply all” button with these suggestions has been a waste of time.

Today I read a CNN story that a blogger named Nate St.Pierre wrote a post claiming Abraham Lincoln filed a patent claim in 1845 for what we now know as Facebook.

Here is an excerpt from the blog post:

Lincoln was requesting a patent for “The Gazette,” a system to “keep People aware of Others in the Town.” He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as his Visual Appendix, an example of the system he was talking about. Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where “every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors.”

He went on to propose that “each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship.” Evidently there was to be someone overseeing this collection of documents, and he would somehow know which pages anyone could look at, and which ones only certain people could see (it wasn’t quite clear in the application). Lincoln stated that these documents could be updated “at any time deemed Fit or Necessary,” so that anyone in town could know what was going on in their friends’ lives “without being Present in Body.”

That was it. Pretty much just a simple one-page overview of how his system would work. After we read it, we both sat there quiet for a long time. It was so obvious what this was, guys.

A patent request for Facebook, filed by Abraham Lincoln in 1845.

The funny thing is that the whole thing was a complete fabrication, existing only in the mind of Mr. St. Pierre. My gripe with these hoaxes is the not the stupidity of the people who make them up, but in the stupidity in those who pass them along or publish them. It was published on the web page of Forbes magazine and ZNET.

This never ceases to amaze me. In the 1980s I heard about a hoax that (then) Vice President Dan Quayle was eager to go to Latin America so he could practice his Latin. I got a laugh but then asked if it was true (it wasn’t). Since then the question “Is it true?” is the question nobody else seems to ask.

Maybe this story will help give credibility to this question.

Is This What St. Patrick Had in Mind?

Nancy and I were blessed to be in Chicago this past weekend. It was a fun weekend as the celebration of St. Patrick happened while we were there.

My grandfather, Thomas J. Cazeault (1902-1995) was born of Irish parents and that gives me claim to 25% Irish heritage, even though he was orphaned and raised by a French family.

I’ve always knows that Chicago was a city that knows how to party, but this was beyond all expectations. I’m sure this will be known as the best St. Pat’s celebration in a long time because it was on a Saturday (allowing for all day partying that can go deep into the night). It was also amazingly warm, in the mid 80s F. We started seeing the streets filling with drunk people in green about early afternoon; a few hours after that the sidewalks were so crowded it was hard to manage. Our hotel was only 2 blocks from the Chicago River (that is dyed green for the day) and by evening the hotel needed security to make sure only registered guests came into the hotel. There is an Irish bar next door and I’m assuming their restrooms were overwhelmed. They actually had portable toilets (called, interestingly enough, “LepriCANS”).

Rapture Update: Looks Like the World is Going to Keep On Going

Well, I guess we can all stop hoping for a one way ticket to Heaven and the pleasure of watching the world end. I wrote posts in April, May, and June about Harold Camping and Family Radio. Harold has a program on Family Radio and last winter he proclaimed that on May 21st everyone who is right with God will be taken up to Heaven. From May 21st to October 21st the world will be populated by those left behind and on October 21st God will destroy the world and everyone on it.

This was bad news for everyone, but mostly for Harold Camping: May 21st came and went and nobody disappeared (at least nobody we noticed). Mr. Camping went into hiding for a few days and emerged to say that he was still right. His explanation of this was posted here. Frankly I have a hard time following the article, but here’s what it sounds like to me: May 21st was a “spiritual rapture” where God decides who will be saved and who will not. On October 21st (presumably at the same time) the righteous will be raptured and everyone else will be destroyed.

Unfortunately he did not give a time. On May 21st Mr. Camping claimed the rapture would be at 6PM but did not specify a time zone. He lives in Oakland, California and I took it to be 6PM local time. But here I am, in the same time zone as Mr. Camping, looking at the clock and it’s now a little after 8:30PM. That means it’s 11:30PM in New York, 5:30AM (October 22nd) in Paris, and 12:30PM (October 22nd) in Tokyo. If you’re going to specify a time for the Rapture, please be specific about your time zone.

In any case, Mr. Camping said the May 21st event would leave the world intact, but less populated. But the October 21st event would destroy the world and to the extent that any of us are still here, it appears Mr. Camping is running out of justification. There is a donations button on Family Radio’s web page. I suggest that nobody click on it.

By the way, if you’re looking for another chuckle, here’s where you can buy a rapture survival kit.

And Now We Have Two (Cats)

Scully In a previous post I talked about the frustration with dealing with the local Department of Animal Services.

As you can see from the picture, it did have a happy ending. I returned on Thursday, September 1st and was actually able to take him home. Now I can be fully honest. When I went to pick him up and they told me he had to be neutered, they also told me that they would have to test him for feline leukemia. If he came back positive I could “pick another cat.” In other words, they would euthanize him. It wasn’t a great ride home.

When I brought him home we had to come up with a name. When Craig and Alison found him they suggested “Slugger” since he was found on a baseball field. Nancy at first suggested “Patches” due to his coat but I found that too common. My suggestion was “Trouvé” which is French for “Found” but Nancy thought that was too obscure. We liked the idea of a baseball theme, and Nancy suggested “Scully” after now famous Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.

Scully came to us with a large measure of enthusiasm and purring, but also with an upper respiratory infection (ie, a cold). A kitten who sneezes constantly is always a cause for concern, but our veterinarian (Dr. John Hetzler) at Ark Animal Hospital believes it will take care of itself in a matter of days. It’s getting better, but still hard to take at 2AM.

You may ask how Scully is relating to our other cat, Missy. It hasn’t been the easiest of introductions but it seems to be working. Missy is playing the role of the older sister who is not happy about having a little brother, but she’s coping. They may end up as pals, but for the time being Missy is giving Scully a wide berth.

More later.

I'm on YouTube: Does This Mean I Should Get an Agent?

I’ve been working as a chaplain for San Diego Hospice for 6 1/2 years now and I continue to find it a rich and rewarding experience. We at hospice constantly battle misconceptions about the care we provide, and one of the most tenacious is the belief that we only come in for the last few days or hours of life. Always the innovator, we’ve produced a short 7 minute video called “5 Lives” that is currently on You Tube.

Rapture Update

On a previous post I talked about Harold Camping who has a program on Family Radio. While having no formal education in Scripture (his background is in civil engineering), he presents himself as an expert on the Bible, and particularly in predicting the Rapture (this is the belief that at a fixed point in time God will take the righteous directly into Heaven and leave Earth in the hands of Satan who will have his way with those remaining before God destroys the world). Mr. Camping predicted that the Rapture would be May 21, 2011 at 6PM.

This should surprise nobody but his deadline came and went without anything happening. For what it’s worth I texted a few of my chaplain colleagues at 6:15PM to make sure we were all still here (and we were). We were amused but not surprised.

Harold was surprised and definitely not amused. After hiding from his followers and the press for a few days, he announced that May 21st was a “spiritual” judgement day and the world will definitely end on October 21st. Since he predicted that he and his followers would be in Heaven by now, watching the rest of us dealing with earthquakes and other disasters, you have to figure it sucks to be him. I can only imagine what he will say on October 22nd.

Finally, here’s my question: before May 21st we were all warned that the Rapture could happen at any time. The message was clear: don’t sin because the Rapture could happen right after your worst sin. That won’t look good to God who decides who goes and who stays. But now we know that the Rapture won’t happen until October. Doesn’t that give us a free summer? Sin with abandon in June, July, August, September, and the first two weeks of October. Then repent by October 21st and be among the saved.

If I were the Las Vegas Visitor’s Bureau I’d be all over this.

By the way, Family Radio still has a web page announcing the end of the world on May 21st.

Am I sinning by laughing at this?

Left Behind

OK, I’m writing this on May 21, 2011 at 6:17 PM. I have to admit a certain amount of disappointment as I was hoping to be raptured by now. According to Family Radio today was supposed to be the day that all those who were “with God” were supposed to be taken to Heaven. The rest, and I guess I am included here, are supposed to endure earthquakes, unreturned phone calls and other natural disasters. I’m kind of OK with that as long as I find someone who was raptured who left their car keys on the front seat.

It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Apologies to R.E.M. but it’s always a great story. In the Christian Bible (Matthew 24:36-42) Jesus says this (New American Bible translation):

“As for the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father only. The coming of the Son of Man will repeat what happened in Noah’s time. In the days before the flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and being married, right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They were totally unconcerned until the flood came and destroyed them. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal; one will be taken and one will be left. Stay awake, therefore! You cannot know the day your Lord is coming.”

There are countless ways to understand this passage, but there has always been Christians who interpret this in this way:

  • At a time of God’s choosing the world will end.
  • Those who are saved will be taken directly to heaven.
  • Those left behind will face untold tribulations.
  • While the Bible insists that no one knows when this will happen except the Father, there are clues that we can interpret and predict when this will happen

Virtually from the earliest days of the Christian Church there have been those who have predicted that this date is soon. The latest is the folk at Family Radio. They predict the end of the world (or the “Rapture”) will be May 21, 2011. If you click on their web page they give a formula to show how the date is relevant. Just for amusement I looked at their rationale, and here’s what I came up with:

They claim that in God’s mercy He has given us the information we need to predict. In 2 Peter 3:8 it states that for God “a day is as a thousand years.” Therefore we can use this as a calculator. Two days is 2,000 years, etc. They claim that the Noah’s Ark flood was in 4990 BC, and this year, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years later. St. Peter states in 2 Peter 2:5: “Nor did he spare the ancient world – even though he preserved Noah as a preacher of holiness, with seven others, when he brought down the flood on that godless earth.” If you’re wondering how they find Noah’s Ark in the year 4990 BC, they do this through a series of calculations in the Book of Genesis. You can look at a thread in Catholic Answers for more background, but Genesis 7:11 states that the flood started on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the 600th year of Noah’s life. Translating from the ancient Hebrew Calendar to ours makes the 17th day of the 2nd month May 21st.

OK, here’s where it gets fun for me. If they claim that Noah’s Ark was 4990 BC, then 7000 years later would be 2010, not 2011. Why didn’t this happen last year?

OK, maybe it gets fun for me now. They have another proof that begins with the statement that Jesus was crucified on April 1, 33. They don’t give the rational but claim this is the only date that fits when the Bible states Jesus was crucified (let’s put on hold the fact that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the Last Supper as Passover and John’s gospel has the Last Supper as the night before the Passover meal).

From April 1, 33 to May 21, 2011 there are 722,500 days. What is the significance of 722,500? Glad you asked. If you multiply 5 X 10 X 17 X 5 X 10 X 17 you get 722,500. For simplicity’s sake it’s really 2 X (5 X 10 X 17). The order of the numbers doesn’t matter, we just need to see the significance of the numbers 2, 5, 10, and 17.

According to these folk, the number 2 signifies doubling and they say: “Remarkably this number sequence is doubled, to indicate it has been established by God and will shortly come to pass.” Proof of this is Genesis 41:32: “That Pharaoh had the same dream twice means that the matter has been reaffirmed by God and that God will soon bring it about.”

The number 5 signifies atonement or redemption. You can see this from Exodus 30:15 where the rich are commanded to give more (money) and the poor shall not give less than one half a shekel (1/2 equals 0.5) in atonement for souls. Also in Numbers 3:47-48:

The Lord said to Moses: “Take the Levites in place of all the first-born of the Israelites, and the Levites’ cattle in place of their cattle, that the Levites may belong to me. I am the LORD. As ransom for the two hundred and seventy-three first-born of the Israelites who outnumber the Levites, you shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel. Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” So Moses took the silver as ransom from those who were left when the rest had been redeemed by the Levites. From the first-born of the Israelites he received in silver one thousand three hundred and sixty-five shekels according to the sanctuary standard. He then gave this ransom silver to Aaron and his sons, as the LORD had commanded him.

Still following? OK, the number 10 (or 100 or 1,000) signifies completeness. We find this because the Bible often speaks of 10 coins or 100 sheep or 1,000 years. Also Satan is bound for 1,000 years in Revelation 20:2-3.

Lastly, the number 17 frequently signifies Heaven. This is from Jeremiah 32 where God tells him to purchase a field for 17 silver shekels. You can read this in Jeremiah 32:7-17.

This gives us the formula 2 X (5 X 10 X 17) = 722,500. Therefore since 722,500 days from the crucifixion of Jesus is May 21, 2011, this will be the end of the world.

If you think like me, you’re thinking that this stuff is awfully arbitrary and that these numbers came about because they shopped for numbers to back up their prediction. If God did indeed plant these hints so we could predict, I know I would never have come up with this. I can only assume this means I’ll be left behind. In that case can someone who is being raptured leave his car for me?

Let the Presidential Race Begin

Sometime later this year I’ll begin tracking candidates for the 2012 Presidential election. If you remember from the 2008 election, I did two things: I kept track of the delegate count in the Democratic and Republican primaries and I had links to the web pages of 3rd party and independent candidates. I didn’t keep delegate counts for the 3rd party candidates because most of them weren’t really races.

We’re 22 months from the next election but already some Americans are announcing that they’re running. While we were on our trip to Yosemite I read an article in USA Today about people who have already announced their candidacy. What can I say? We stayed at a hotel that dropped a copy of McPaper out our door.

It’s actually pretty easy to run for President. According to the U.S. Constitution, you only need be born in the United States and be 35 years old. For the next election you have to have been born here before January 20, 1978. Federal law says candidates are not official until they raise $5,000 but anyone can file a “statement of candidacy” at any time.

I don’t normally count someone as a candidate unless he or she has a web page, but USA Today claims 76 people have filed paperwork to start raising money, but they list only these candidates:

  • Rutherford B. Hayes (no relation to the 19th President)
  • Randy Crow of North Carolina
  • Dennis Crill of Arizona, who actually has a web page

Keep posted, I’ll find more candidates.