Archive for April, 2009

Note to Self

April 30, 2009

Now this is the kind of supervillain I could really be afraid of.

All of you poor planners out there need not apply.
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Video Kills the Loneliness Star

April 28, 2009

I’ve been curious, visiting different people in their homes over the years, at the of television.  Some folks have televisions in every room of their house, and are literally never out of earshot or line of sight from a screen.  Many of these folks are not simply staring at the screen incessantly, but it’s often always on as background.  

Research has filled in a few gaps about why that might be, though these particular reports are more focused on intentional viewing of favorite programs.  It’s not surprising to find out that television fulfills this role.  The concept of television taking the place of traditional social interaction is not exactly groundbreaking.  I think back to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 – which predicted that a more interactive television format would keep people mesmerized in their homes instead of out interacting with their world and their neighbors.  
Sometimes watching people interacting can make us feel as though we’re part of the interaction, as though we’re really sitting there with them, listening in.  It can lessen our feelings of isolation and help our lives seem fuller – at least according to some of these studies.  
Obviously there’s a need that television helps fill, but which television is not the best solution for.  If anything, television, while helping to fill a need, is actually making the need greater by increasing the amount of time we aren’t interacting with others in meaningful ways.  It feels better than being alone, and is easier than not being alone.  A dangerous – and difficult to change – trend.

More Money Spent to Study the Obvious

April 28, 2009

Yet another scientific study touting what ought to be obvious, yet apparently isn’t.  

Kids need sleep.  Lots of it.  And if they don’t get it, their behavior (and concentration, and lots of other stuff) suffers.
Get your kids to bed early.  

The (De)Evolution of Chat

April 28, 2009

The young woman I’m speaking to at the moment is apparently high on prescription drugs.  I have yet to ascertain whether they are hers or someone, but at this point it’s hardly a salient point.  After a brief rant about narwhals, she has now abruptly ended the conversation.  It was my longest in the last day – probably 5 minutes at least.  Before that, I chatted with someone for about 3 minutes earlier in the day.  In between, I had several 10-second conversations that ranged from immediate requests for virtual sex to offers to play Pokemon.  I’ve spoken – albeit briefly – to people from Israel, the Netherlands, and the Eastern Coast of the US.  

This is Omegle – which takes instant messaging into a new realm by connecting you instantly to a completely random and unidentifiable stranger.  You’re now chatting with a random stranger.  Say hi!  the system prompts after clicking on the large, blue Start a Chat button.  And true enough, while many people prefer an alternative start to a simple ‘Hi’, you are indeed chatting with a random stranger.  
Conversational skills vary widely, as do grammar skills and basic social decency levels.  While I find the concept interesting, as usual, application is usually more disappointing.   While the prospect of talking with people from all over the world is interesting, the subsection of the population that is likely to know about this site and use it is decidedly narrow, and you’re apt to run into a lot of bored guys, many of whom are school kids.  I’ll leave it to your imagination to decide how those conversations go, and their relative intellectual level.  
The site creator is young himself, and says that chatting with people you already know – or who you know are going to be like you – is boring.  Omegle is an attempt to create truly random interaction.  The difficulty is that people have a difficult enough time maintaining contact and communicating well with the people they know – starting conversations from scratch with a complete stranger is a challenging task for most people.  As such, many conversations wander blindly to an early end, or have predetermined purposes which lead to their early termination.  
So, give it a try, or don’t.  Either way, you’re probably not missing a whole lot, but you’ll never know until you try.

The Dating Game

April 27, 2009

In case you weren’t aware, just because you’re happy dating someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be happy married to them

I’m not sure whether I should be rolling on the floor laughing because of the utter obviousness of this ‘study’, or weeping because it undoubtedly received some amount of my tax dollars.  I think I’m leaning towards weeping.  
Not that I’d consider myself a genius about women or relationships.  My wife will vouch for the humorousness of any such assumption, so I won’t even attempt to make it.  
I wasn’t able to review the actual article or abstract (without purchasing a subscription to the journal), so I don’t know the specifics of the study.   While I think it highlights our essentially selfish nature, I think it’s probably too narrow in focus as well.  As though somebody had a hunch and crafted a study around that hunch.  It would seem that there are a lot of factors that differentiate dating from marriage.  Also, I’m curious as to how they define dating – whether they consider one or a few dates as eligible for survey purposes, or whether they’re focusing only on longer term, exclusive dating relationships.
For anyone who has dated, it probably became obvious, if it wasn’t initially obvious, that what made a person enjoyable/intriguing to date did not necessarily mean they were prime spousal material.  There are plenty of reasons for being interested in dating someone – social prestige, convenience, loneliness, curiosity, convenience, just to name a few.  Some people don’t know this going into the dating game, and find out the hard way once they’re in it.  
A major reason why it shouldn’t take a scientific study to determine that happy dating doesn’t necessarily equal happy marriage, is that the premise of dating is no longer finding a spouse.  Dating has taken on a life and dimension all it’s own – with different rules and different goals.  What works in a dating relationship is not what works in a marriage relationship.  The two don’t have to be separate, but  I tend to think that our culture encourages them to be separate.  Plenty of people – from teenagers to folks in their late 20’s and 30’s – see dating as an end in itself, and are stunned if they find someone that they actually want to marry.  Dating is premised as a ‘me’ sort of undertaking.  It’s all about fun.   Do you make me happy?  To you make me feel good?  Do you help me actualize myself – or whatever the study language was/is?  
But marriage is a different animal, and while plenty of folks might be surprised by this, Biblical Christians shouldn’t be.  The Bible consistently treats marriage as a unique and very different relationship from any other human relationship.  Assuming that the Genesis bit about ‘one flesh’ is only a cute euphemism for sexuality is missing the depth of the portrait the Bible paints of marriage.  Two people agree that they are both better together, not simply that the other person is good for me.  The individual is bettered in part because the focus of the relationship is not on the individual – but on the betterment and health of both partners.  There is a give and take which dating does not encourage beyond the most superficial of levels. Marriage is a new game, and the dating rules not only don’t apply, they train people to lose at the marriage game. 
Maybe a few tax dollars are worth it, if it helps people think a little more seriously about what they’re doing – or what they’re encouraging their children to do – in terms of dating and marriage.  

A Better Bite

April 27, 2009

Since my wife turned me on to the benefits of healthy eating over a decade ago, we’ve enjoyed a lot of fun times together cooking.  I’ve grown in awareness not merely of determining the best value from a monetary perspective at the grocery store, but now factoring that together for a larger picture of the best value for health.  I found this article very interesting, as I’ve worried as well that healthy eating – particularly organic and locavore eating habits – are at this point still a luxury for the well-heeled, as opposed to a reasonable expectation for someone on a tighter budget.  

We inherited the tradition of More With Less from Gena’s folks, and while we haven’t used it as often as we should, we’ve tried to incorporate some of the basic philosophies.  I wasn’t familiar before with the referenced book, How to Cook a Wolf, but it’s on my Amazon list out of morbid curiosity.  
Investments we’ve made to eat more healthily – and more economically in the long run – include the purchase of a good bread machine, and most recently, the purchase of an industrial-strength blender/food processor.  We no longer purchase bread (except for specialty stuff, like pita bread – which we could make for ourselves but haven’t yet), and routinely make it both for ourselves as well as gifts for friends.  For an all-natural loaf of bread, we’re spending a third less in ingredients (and electricity), as opposed to the $3.00+ that we’d pay per loaf in the store.  Additionally, we no longer purchase pizzas, but rather make our own using the dough cycle on the bread machine.  We blend up whole tomatoes (which we recently started growing, so soon we won’t have to buy those, either!) for fresh tomato sauce.  We spend half as much as we did on ordering pizza out, know that the toppings are fresh, and can put on as many as we want.  Plus, it’s a fun family activity with the kids to prepare the pizza together.
Gena blends up fruit smoothies from frozen & fresh fruit to send with me to work each morning, and the kids enjoy them as well.  The blender is powerful enough to even pulverize the seeds in blackberries, raspberries, etc. which I tend to find personally more annoying to deal with than the fruit is fun to eat.  She also incorporates raw spinach and carrots into the blend to make it healthier. 
Granted, we’ve spent some good money on some good equipment to help us do these things.  It will take a while to come out ahead on our investment, but then again, we’ve got (God willing) plenty of time ahead of us.  Plus, we like that we’re hopefully helping our kids develop some healthy eating habits and ideas, as well as an understanding that food doesn’t just magically appear on the table – it requires effort.  Whether you’re paying someone else to make that effort for you (whether in take-out, dine-in, or heavily processed & pre-prepared food items), or doing it yourself, this effort is what keeps us alive.  Why not take greater ownership?
As this article points out, making the choice to cook more and healthier is one that takes time and practice.  And it involves trade-offs when you get really serious.  While it may be economically possible to eat more organically and locally, it still requires an investment of time that may be more formidable to many folks than the expense.  But like anything, the more you do it, the less of a hassle it becomes.  And it does provide a great opportunity to spend time together as a couple or a family.  
I tend to think more and more that this will be the new measure of wealth in the future – time, rather than money.  

The Devil You Don’t Acknowledge?

April 25, 2009

Right behavior or right belief?  Or can you separate the two?  

Voters in Berlin are getting the chance to once again address this issue at the ballot box.  
Much has been made of ethics, and the assumption that a right behavior can be arrived at separate from a proper context or understanding of the nature of the Universe.  Aristotle probably wasn’t the first to address the issue of secular ethics, but he’s one of the better known ancients to do so.  
The struggle will always remain as to whether you attempt to teach a code of behavior that has no basis or permanence outside of a basic ‘this is what we feel is right – right now’, or teach behavior within a more comprehensive understanding of the world.  And if you’re going to do that, which one do you choose?  Or more precisely, which one does a representative democracy choose on behalf of it’s people?  
I disagree with the idea of state sponsored religious education in a public school system.  Not because religious education is wrong, but because I believe it is right – and therefore it is possible to do it wrong.  It is possible (and likely) for the State to teach the wrong religion, in the name of equality and fairness – which have very little to do with Truth.  In any government outside of a theocracy, teaching religion should not be done by the State, even if it might be teaching the right religion.  Because at some point in time, if public opinion happens to change, or population demographics alter, a different and incorrect religion might be taught instead.
Religion is not simply a definition of ethical behavior, (except perhaps for Confucianism), and attempting to treat it as such is problematic.  Religion grounds behavioral expectations in a larger framework that lends permanency and relevancy to those behaviors.  Assuming that simply teaching religious regulations will result in proper behavior is erroneous.  It might lead to a greater understanding of different cultures and belief systems, but it isn’t likely to affect behavior.  Teaching straight ethics might have a better chance of that – though setting up dangerous groundwork for future abuses by whomever happens to be in charge.

Chauncey Gardner

April 25, 2009

Somebody else beat me to the punch, so I can only concur that the similarities are frighteningly similar to Being There.  

Low Energy No More

April 24, 2009

Bonus points for originality and practicality, but no information on what this little doo-dad is going to cost.  If it really works as they say it will, I think this is a great item for throwing in with the camping gear.  So long as you don’t forget to pack your phone, or your GPS unit.

And your iPod, of course.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

April 24, 2009

Pictures!

This first picture is facing West.  To the right is a portable building, and straight ahead behind the trees is our Fellowship Hall.  The building in the upper left corner is our school building, the bottom floor of which is being leased out to an agency that provides programs & training for special needs adults.

The overall size of the plot is about 40′ x 50′.  We have two such plots that have had soil amendment & top soil added prior to being rototilled.  A third area the same size has not been improved yet, but could be perhaps the next go around.  
The next photo looks across over the two readied plots.  Our preschoolers are going to plan some pumpkins & watermelon in the second patch.  The light strip between the two plots and on the far side of the second prepared plot are concrete sidewalks.  They had been poured to reach the portable buildings that the charter school that was leasing our grounds for a year installed.  They didn’t take out the sidewalks when they left, but we’re making the best of them.
We’ve planted string beans, snap peas, sweet corn, bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, carrots, a lavendar bush, some cilantro, rosemary, mint, and thyme.  We’ll also be planting some onions, and then there will be some pumpkins & watermelon in the second patch.  We’ll also plant some bordering flower beds including sunflowers to make the area look a little nicer.  I’m sure glad we have some gardening experts excited about this project, because I don’t know nearly enough about gardening!