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Kevin Christensen

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  • Birthday 04/28/1954

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  1. I read Hiyakawa's Language in Thought and Action for fun back when I was at San Jose State. It made an impact on my thinking. And later, Kuhn, and still later, I ran across Ian Barbour's Myths, Models, and Paradigms. Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which has implications beyond art. Symbols are right brain language. Logic is left brain. We need both, thinking and feeling, working to suppliment and compliment one another. And as a consequence, I was very impressed with a passage in the Gospel of Philip. How much of our learning involves figuring out the meanings of sounds, of letters, of mathematical symbols, of expressions, body language, smells, social cues, rituals, etc? And this: From another translation of Philip When Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi whether the images in Lehi's vision were temporal or spiritual, the answer was "both." And we are told in the LDS scriptures "all things which have been given of God are the typifying of Christ", and that he "gives us a pattern in all things". In An Egyptian Endowment, Nibley talked about how the best, most meaningful, religious symbols actually do the things they symbolize. They are not "mere" symbols, but essential tools for comprehension. It is essential to think about where we get our controlling metaphors and how they both guide and limit and expand our perceptions. That is, I think, one of the important aspects of checking our own eye for beams, and considering whether our we ought to try new wine bottles for new wine. But there is no question about getting rid of metaphor and symbol. As though strict literism will do. Any attempt to do without fails. From my Light and Perspective essay At the right moment, a parable can open a person's eyes. As Samuel did in telling a parable of the violent theft of a lamb, to King David, and so opened David's eyes to a sense of his own guilt in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba. A paradigm can blind a person, as Othello's paradigm and interpretation of evidence demonstrates. He was not objectively following the facts to the murder of Desdemona, but following a logic that was saddled to his own fears and passions. A metaphor can demonstrate just how blind a person is, as when the Captain Moroni metaphor was once applied to a politician who much more closely resembles King Noah. Every metaphor has both positive and negative analogies. Every metaphor or parable is focused on likeness and pattern, and therefore, limited by definition. Every metaphor, parable and symbol offers infinite comparisons, and is also, unlimited in important ways. (Ian Barbour is good on that.) So maps are not the territory, symbols are not the things symbolized, but they are essentials towards gaining understanding. As Alma's parable in his chapter 32 demonstrates. Symbols point beyond themselves to something real. And the way to measure just how real, how well any particular symbol guides us to the territory it purports to map, is spelled out by Alma 32 and Thomas Kuhn. Testability, accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, fruitfulness, simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  2. The authorship is easy to miss because it attribution is in the previous chapter 8:1 "Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father. OGHoosier mentioned Lindsay earlier, though without links. Lindsay's two part work is here: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-book-of-mormon-versus-the-consensus-of-scholars-surprises-from-the-disputed-longer-ending-of-mark-part-1/ And here: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-book-of-mormon-versus-the-consensus-of-scholars-surprises-from-the-disputed-longer-ending-of-mark-part-2/ Lindsay is always worth reading. He delves into interesting questions and sources. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  3. So the original question remains, continuing to ignore the implications of Jeff Lindsay's detailed work. And there is this problem too. It wasn't Mormon. Moroni wrote chapter 9 of Moroni. Moroni says of himself. And 3 Nephi has this story of something that happened when the resurrected Jesus came: The Jesus in the Book of Mormon is quite capable of encouraging scribes to add important messages that had not been properly recorded. And Moroni, like his father, did not just have records, but occasional personal encounters. The Gospel of John ends like this: Despite some reasonable evidence Linsday provides, that the long ending to Mark was legitmate, you act as though you can safely assume that the longer ending was the work of some "random scribe" acting entirely on his own. What evidence do you actually have that this is the case, the only and proven by direct, unambiguous, uncontested evidence that such was the case? All paradigm choice involves "which problems are more significant to have solved." When a person constantly focuses on unsolved problems, or constantly looks away from potential solutions for existing problems, and ignores much that offers not coercive proof, but as "cause to believe" invites faith and further experiements upon the word, that does imply something about what is really happening. Which door are you trying to open here? FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  4. This essay by Louis Midgley has some very good information on how the RLDS moved from the Book of Mormon to their Community of Christ identity. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol2/iss2/10/ FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  5. Incidentally, one of the Virtural Reality Views at Korh Khafot in Oman viewable through Wander (which uses Google Earth) on the Oculus Quest 2, happens to be of an archeological site, for which there interesting information from the Proctor's here: https://ldsmag.com/day-2-was-there-a-holy-place-of-worship-at-nephis-bountiful/ Worth considering. Best, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  6. Regarding the excerpts, why not actually carefully read and understand the whole of Tim Barker's important presentation, rather than superficially scan to dismiss? You are more likely to learn something that way. Regarding " Joseph and the embarrassing egyptian alphabet and grammar project where characters would be written in a column on the left and sentences and paragraphs would be shown adjacent on the right." It not quite that simple, as Will Schryver observed in 2010: And one crucial issue in assessing the Alphabet and Grammer in relation to the Book of Abraham translation is the presence of texts which are not part of the Book of Abraham. After discussing more evidence, Schryer went on to observe: https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/august-2010/the-meaning-of-the-kirtland-egyptian-papers-part-i I notice that Don Bradley's 2011 FAIR presentation on Joseph Smith in 1843 Nauvoo apparently comparing one character from the Kinderhook plates with an explantion of one character in the 1835 GAEL does not account for any of the details that Schryver mentioned here. Bradley did conclude that "A larger conclusion, then, that we can draw is that Joseph Smith translated from the Kinderhook plates not by revelation, but by non-revelatory means." Wheresas Schryver concluded that "The evidence also strongly suggests that the text of the Book of Abraham must have been translated by Joseph Smith in the same way he had produced the text of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, and the translated parchment of John known as D&C 7: by revelation." The only near contemporary first hand eye-witness account of the Book of Abraham translation is Warren Parrish, who in 1838 stated "I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglphicks as he claimed to recieve it by direct inspiration." And we know from Tim Barker that in Joseph Smith's published comments on Facsimile 2, Joseph states that he did not translate the characters from the Hor Book of Breathings, which characters are included in the Alphabet and Grammar, as Schryver reports "most of the characters in the left-hand column (as John Gee has just shown us) correspond to bona fide Egyptian characters that can be found on the portion of the Joseph Smith Papyri known as the Book of Breathings." And Joseph Smith's direct comments on the Book of Breathings characters included in the gaps in Facimile 2 is "If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be." FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  7. Jeff Lindsay mentioned that the site had Google Earth images, and since Wander on Oculus Quest 2 uses Google Earth, I decided to take a look. There are two or three VR locations on the beach, and one overlooking the beach, and another at the archeological site... very cool. Several more at various location up the wadi. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  8. In skimming you missed the key observations which justified the article, something directly noted in the title, "Translating the Book of Abraham: The Answer Under Our Heads", the "under our heads" being both an reference to the traditional Egyptian placement of the hypocephus under the head of a mummy, and the evidence in Facsimile 2 in the the published Book of Abraham. Back in January, I started a thread on his talk, making this summary: As Tim Barker puts it in the talk leaving out his figures: Odd that you missed that, since that is the foundational observation that justified the talk. But then, Barker's point is that everyone missed it. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  9. "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees believed on him?" (John 7:48) There is an important difference between appealing to authority, and, more specifically to authories who just happen to be ideologically committed to unbelief and skepticism, and exploring the evidence at hand, and watching the ongoing conversations over the years. Choosing referees for Journals means choosing which community's assumptions, rules, methods, and standards of solution are used, in service of which community. If you were being taken to court, would you want to be tried by a group of people who had no interest in seriously exploring or defending your position, because, "Why bother? Everyone knows there is nothing to see here." Would you call that objectivity? Or would you think, perhaps, it would not be such a bad thing to have someone with not only good credentials, but also inclined to believe you, arguing your case? Journals exist to serve communities who share the basic assumptions that define that community that publishes them. There are now several LDS scholars who have the credentials to make reasonable assessments for the LDS community, and they have been published for those who wish to be informed. John Gee, for instance is widely published in the journals, and occassionally publishes on the Joseph Smith papyrus and the Book of Abraham. And every now and then, we have informed amateurs making interesting observations that generations of credentialed scholars have overlooked. See Tim Barker's "Under the Head" presentation at FAIR in 2020 for an important example of this. Did Ritner, (or any other critic of Joseph Smith) in his comments on Facsimile 2 and the interpretations thereon, and the significance for claims that Joseph Smith thought that the Hor Book of Breathings was an Abraham autograph and mistakenly or fraudulently translated it, anywhere notice what Tim Barker noticed? Does that make a difference in whether we approach outside scholars and skeptics as the only trusted and true judges of the validity of our faith? https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/2020-fairmormon-conference/the-answer-under-our-heads And for the record, I have been published in peer reviewed publications many times. One from Oxford University Press. Getting published in a journal is only the first part of peer review. The next part continues in discussion of what appears in the journals. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  10. Then there was this Joseph Smith fellow, who at a young age had an important insight that: Jesus himself said of the Parable of the Sower, which was about the fact that the same seeds (that is "words") could produce radically different harvests depending on soil, nuture, treatment, and time, that "know ye not this parable? How then will ye know all parables?" (Mark 4:13) Many years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." I was struck at the similarity to the logic of positivism, as summarized by Ian Barbour in Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion: https://www.religion-online.org/book-chapter/chapter-1-introduction-3/ The problem is, of course, interpretation. Just as the young Joseph Smith realized. Data, in science and in scripture reading, inescapably requires interpretation. Facts do not and cannot speak for themselves. Ian Barbour's book is very good on this. I recommend it often. Written Hebrew is actually a fascinating demonstration of this. It has no consonants, so in reading, meaning, interpretation has to be literally breathed into the letters by human readers adding vowels. And Barker has been very good at showing how often the same constants can have a different meaning by trying out different vowels, breathing in a different reading to the same passages. So all interpretation is limited based on the theories and ideologies we bring to the data. As N. R. Hanson famously put it, "All data are theory-laden." For example, reading Genesis 1 as a history may lead a reader in one direction. Another reader, Margaret Barker, observes that Genesis 1 and Exodus on the erection of the Tabernacle are closely paralleled, suggesting that Genesis ought to be read as a ritual text, describing the creation of the world symbolically through the erection of a tabernacle, a portable temple, realizing that Temples are models of the cosmos, and ritual erection the tabernacle is, by implication, represents the whole creation. (See Temple Theology: An Introduction, p 18) Day 1: Holy of Holies, the throne of God 2 the Veil, the web of matter that separates the throne of God from human perception 3, the table for the bread, the vegetation of the earth 4, the seven branched lamp, the sun the moon and the five known planets 5, the altar for the burnt offering, representing non-human creatures 6, The High Priest, the human as high priest of creation. So Genesis was a Temple Drama, a ritual to be performed, with actors and sets and props, all representing something not present. Hugh Nibley's last major essay was titled Abraham's Creation drama, pointing out that our Book of Abraham even includes stage directions. Much of the problem comes from seeing relative objects as absolutes, for instance, where the Hebrew words for land and earth are the same, reading them as always absolute, rather than relative, rather than noting, as our Book of Moses does, there were many lands, and each land was called earth. I've occasionally mentioned that I have worked for decades as a technical writer in Computer Aided Engineering, simulation, defining tools for building things spiritually before building them physically, a field where "hierarchy is a strategy for dealing with complexity." A good example of that stategy is "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?" The argument turns away from the phenomena at hand, in that case, the words and acts of Jesus, with all the messy controversies that the Gospel writers report and generate, to interpreters who presumably know. In response to various opinions and differing authorities, we are urged to "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom: seek learning even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118) It does not say, "Seek ye a Big Book of What to Think and Camp There Permanently," nor "Seek ye out of approved books words of orthodoxy," because, given D&C 1 pointing out regarding "the authority of my servants: that "Inasmuch as they erred, it shall be made manifest." I occasionally mention the Perry Scheme for Cognitive and Ethical Growth; And that by precept and example, Joseph Smith tries to lead us to Position 9 Notice especially that at this point a person "can affirm the inseparable nature of the knower and the known--meaning he knows he as knower contributes to what he calls known." That is, we all interpret. We all place the wine of experience in the most suitable bottles at hand, but must occasionally be ready, when confronted by new wine, with the need to change bottles. And after all this, I recall that Joseph Smith also affirmed that "If don't prove that a man is not a good man because he believes false doctrine," which is nice, considering that at present none of us knows everything, or even very much at all. So it's best to understand one another and have patience and tolerance, and a healthy dose of checking our own eyes for beams first, FWIW Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  11. By me, a skeptical brush off of the Book of Mormon, a plea for a coercieve demonstration, that is, "First you must compell my unwilling submission because why should anyone have faith in the absence of absolute proof?" misses the point both of faith and of the dependence of science on faith. And if you are holding out for a God who will compell your unwilling submission, think about what that means for your potential relationship. That sounds more like slavery than love, conquest rather than invitation. All paradigm choice involves deciding "Which problems are more significant to have solved." Raising the Isaiah question is legitimate, but the just raising the Isaiah question itself does not provide a comprehensive and coherent explanation of the Book of Mormon. And the Isaiah question itself is more complex than you convey here. We don't have first editions and copyright dates for each of the proposed divisions, but theories to account for what we have. Some theories, no matter how popular in certain academic circles, do not actually account for all that we have. For instance, read this on Isaiah 53 as directly inspired by Hezekiah's bout with the plague, which makes it pre-exilic and supported not just by literary questions, but archeology related to details otherwise unaddressed or explained. http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/FourthServantSong.pdf I have never seen this Barker essay mentioned by those critical of Abinadi's quotation of Isaiah 53. Of course, I did not mention it either, when I wrote the "Open Questions and Suggestions Regarding Isaiah in the Book of Mormon" section of Paradigms Regained. There I sketched out a several intriguing aspects of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Barker's essay improves the case for that chapter, and her work in The Older Testament raises questions yet to be addressed by skeptics relying on "everyone knows Second Isaiah post dates Lehi's departure." I point out some interesting implications in my chapter here, where I also draw on the big FARMS volume on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/paradigms-regained-survey-margaret-barkers-scholarship-and-its-significance-mormon-studies So it is one thing to raise a question, but quite another thing to completely ignore a great many existing answers. Should I use a question as an excuse to stop looking, rather than as a place to both investigate further, and to weigh on a balance compared to many other issues? Ask Othello how that worked for him on the question of Desdemona's guilt or innocence. It is one thing to say, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?" (John 7:47), and quite another to consider carefully "Why do some people believe on him?" In the absence of absolute "knowing", what do we offer as mind explanding and soul enlarging, fruitful and promising "cause to believe" (Alma 32) worth considering and explaining? As Kuhn puts it: It is important to be aware that people operating under different paradigms tend to use their own paradigms in decision making, which means, operating under self-referential standards. We cannot escape that, but we can learn to be self critical, to consider the implications of our own basic approach, to be comparative rather than just self-referential, and to deliberately appeal to criteria that are not completely paradigm-dependent. Some of my favorite "entirely unsuspected" arguments in favor of the Book of Mormon include Nibley on Lehi's qasida, First Temple Judiasm in the Book of Mormon (that is, Margaret Barker's unexpected work, first beginning to appear in 1987), the whole Arabian Journey to the Valley of Lemuel, Nahom, and Bountiful, as depicted in the Aston's work, Larry Poulson's FAIR presentation on the descriptions of the New World, Brant Gardner's work, Nibley on the Forty Day Ministry compared to 3 Nephi, Welch on the Temple setting of 3 Nephi, Eliade's The Myth of Eternal Return: Cosmos and History compared to 3 Nephi, Daniel Peterson on modern theorists of guerilla warfare compared to the Book of Mormon, NDE research compared to the Book of Mormon, Alan Goff applying Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative to the Book of Mormon, Richard L. Anderson contrasting other modern Gospels to the Book of Mormon, Brian Stubb's work on linguistics, Matt Bowen's Name as Key Word on hidden Hebrew word play, and of course, much much more that I have never seen so much as mentioned, let alone explained, by appeals to "stone in hat is weird" and "What about Second Isaiah?" claimants. Kuhn points out that one of the most important criteria for paradigm choice is "puzzle definition and solution." Puzzle dismissal without bothering with detailed solution is not at all the same thing. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  12. I do not discount Lucy's account because it was from 1844, but because specific claims it makes about how Joseph lectured the family,“their dress[,] their maner [sic] of traveling[,] the animals which they rode[,]" do not appear in the Book of Mormon, nor in any reported account by Joseph Smith for rest of his life. Is that not a legitimate question to raise? If Joseph could inform the family on such issues before the publication of the Book of Mormon, why did not not do the same for his followers ever again? When a writer like Taves (or anyone else) takes the view that Joseph could report all sorts of domestic details of the lives of Book of Mormon people "as particularly as though he had spent his life with them", it seems reasonable to ask why do those details not appear in the Book of Mormon, and why did Joseph never demonstrate that same intimate knowledge for any followers ever again? Even the detaiIs of war and worship, that do appear in the Book of Mormon, we have no accounts of Joseph lecturing on them "as particularly as though he has spent his life with them." I don't think those questions should be ignored by those who place so much paradigmatic emphasis on the Lucy account. If Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, that meant that he was learning as he read, and would not necessarily be an expert on its contents. He might, for instance, be surprised that Jerusalem has walls. If he composed it, that is another matter. Hales has this: In my response to Taves, I emphasized that Lucy's account as we have it is late, that, Sharalynn D. Howcroft (an editor of Oxford University Press’ forthcoming Foundational Texts of Mormonism) stated “For example, Lucy Mack Smith reportedly dictated her history to Martha Jane Coray; however, the extant manuscript doesn’t show evidence of dictation and there are other clues in the manuscript that suggest what we have is a few generations removed from a dictated text." That is important alongside the dissonance between the details that the Lucy account reports and the actual contents of the Book of Mormon (for example, no animal riding is described) because Taves wants to use Lucy's account as a window into Joseph Smith's capacity to create the Book of Mormon. It was Taves who raised the issue of the 1838 account being late, and preferring early first hand accounts as more likely to offer a window into the past. She makes this point about real-time access: My point is that that particular window may not be clear enough view on the past to be relied to support the paradigm she wants. It may be a glass darkly, a bit distorted and misleading. Taves raised the issue of real time access as significant, and then ignores those "real time access" issues in the way she uncritically builds on the Lucy account. And William's account, though late, is first hand. Sure, it is late, but he does raise serious points. He was not a first hand witness of Joseph's visions, and he himself turns his readers to Joseph's accounts for more reliable reports. The family, who knew Joseph best, believed him. Those who knew him best, who had actually listened to Joseph Smith's reports as they happened, who had been in the room during Joseph's actual recitals, and did not see evidence of a storyteller spinning yarns out of his imagination. And they, like Joseph himself, put their lives on the line. The only source Taves quotes on Joseph's storytelling is Lucy and that account raises important issues that she simply does not notice. She never quotes the rest of the family. Instead she goes to the reflexively skeptical neighbors from the times when Joseph's stories of visions and angels and books were a scandal to explain away. I quoted William's account from Kirkham because it I own his two useful books with many early sources. I got them at Sam Weller's in Salt Lake many years ago. For me, access is easy. I just turn around and grab it from the bookshelf. If access is a problem, there is this: https://lib.byu.edu/collections/19th-century-publications-about-the-book-of-mormon/about/ FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  13. Regarding Joseph's story telling skills and the quote from his mother, I wrote about this in my response to Taves's book. My footnote for the background of the famous Lucy Smith quote is this: So the best evidence we have for the Lucy Smith quote about Joseph entertaining the family with amusing stories is not early, first hand, and well supported by other evidence, but late, "a few generations removed form a dictated text", and has no parallel to any other account from Joseph Smith. Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about Joseph Smith's relationship to the Book of Mormon is how little he quoted from it in later years. He studied and quoted from the Bible extensively, but not the Book of Mormon. Also from my essay on Taves's book, the difference between what the family thought of Joseph and what the neighbors thought: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/playing-to-an-audience-a-review-of-revelatory-events/#sdfootnote12sym Conveniently, Brian Hales has a lengthy and detailed article in the most recent Interpreter on the notion of Joseph as Storyteller. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/joseph-smith-as-a-book-of-mormon-storyteller/ A table in Hale's essay shows the word count for the Book of Mormon as 269,320 as compared to the Iliad, at 148,045. Those who dismiss the dictation of the Book of Mormon as nothing special remind me a scene in one of the Naked Gun movies, with Leslie Neilson as Frank Drebin in front of an exploding gas station saying, "Nothing to see here folks." Earlier, Robert Rees looked as Joseph Smith in comparison to other American writers, such as Emerson and Melville. https://www.dialoguejournal.com/articles/joseph-smith-the-book-of-mormon-and-the-american-renaissance/ And an update here: https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/joseph-smith-book-mormon-and-american-renaissance-update If there the Book of Mormon was nothing but a commonplace manifestion of local themes that just about anyone could do, given the time, why the scandal of Mormonism? Nibley's "Just Another Book" looks at the reception across a hundred years. And if the Book of Mormon is easy to explain if we just postulate notecards in the hat, where is a comprehensive accounting of the details? Stuff like Mormon and Moroni as survivor witnessess comparable in detail to survivors of Nazi and Soviet death camps? Stuff like First Temple Judiasm. The details of the journey across the Arabian desert? The kinds of details of the rituals and the poetic forms in Benjamin's discourse? The insights and the detail of the War accounts compared to Clauswitz on War (Nibley), and the theory and practice of guerilla warfare as articulated by Mao, Che Guevarra and others (Daniel Peterson). What about the monetary system compared to the ancient world (Robert S. Smith)? What about the geographic details of the Sidon and details that account for the report of Limhi's explorers in a real Grijalva setting, including an abandoned city that could have been mistaken for Zarehemla by the lost explorers? (See Larry Porter). What about comparisons to the Forty Day literature, and volanic erruptions in real locations at the right time, Matt Bowen's research on the indications of hidden word play based on the Hebrew meanings of the names? What about Mosiah 1-6 as ancient coronation, as well as Feast of the Tabernacles, Day of Atonement, Sabbath year, and Jubilee, all woven in a chiastic framework? And literally hundreds more complex details uncovered by well trained specialists in a wide variety of intellectual fields? In Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, Bushman had this observation: That remains true of every critique of the Book of Mormon I have encountered. And I have taken some very close looks at several of them over the years. I spent five months, 12 hours a day doing my review of one of the most ambitious, Metcalfe's New Approaches, when I wrote Paradigms Crossed. It's much easier to dismiss the Book of Mormon with the wave of some high level, superficial detail, and airy speculation, that to account for it's actual contents in meaningful detail. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
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