November 22, 2005

Outsourcing Overseas…and to the Midwest?

Outsourcing computer jobs to the Midwest sounds like a great idea to me. I can imagine few better ways to revitalize the little farm towns that seem to be dying away.

I guess I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next time I shift my career around a bit.

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November 20, 2005

Need Your Fairy Story Today?

I ran across an article in The New Yorker about C.S. Lewis. It was an interesting read, even though it seemed pretty obvious to this Christian that the author did not understand the depths of Christianity, despite his apparent fairness. What interested me most—despite the author’s factual problems—was the concluding two paragraphs:

For poetry and fantasy aren’t stimulants to a deeper spiritual appetite; they are what we have to fill the appetite. The experience of magic conveyed by poetry, landscape, light, and ritual, is…an experience of magic conveyed by poetry, landscape, light, and ritual. To hope that the conveyance will turn out to bring another message, beyond itself, is the futile hope of the mystic. Fairy stories are not rich because they are true, and they lose none of their light because someone lit the candle. It is here that the atheist and the believer meet, exactly in the realm of made-up magic. Atheists need ghosts and kings and magical uncles and strange coincidences, living fairies and thriving Lilliputians, just as much as the believers do, to register their understanding that a narrow material world, unlit by imagination, is inadequate to our experience, much less to our hopes.

The religious believer finds consolation, and relief, too, in the world of magic exactly because it is at odds with the necessarily straitened and punitive morality of organized worship, even if the believer is, like Lewis, reluctant to admit it. The irrational images—the street lamp in the snow and the silver chair and the speaking horse—are as much an escape for the Christian imagination as for the rationalist, and we sense a deeper joy in Lewis’s prose as it escapes from the demands of Christian belief into the darker realm of magic. As for faith, well, a handful of images is as good as an armful of arguments, as the old apostles always knew.

How existential is that? It seems that the author implies that the specifics of our beliefs are rather meaningless—provided we have an escape in our fairy-tale lands. Don’t get me wrong—I adore a good fantasy. But isn’t the fantasy that this author proposes simply a sham used to cover up the nitty-gritty of our life? It seems to me, though, that good fantasy rather exposes the grittiness of our lives—and helps us make sense of it, helps us to aspire to greater things. Ultimately, I think the very best fantasies—often indirectly—point us toward Truth, a Truth that doesn’t try cover up the messiness in our life and yet a Truth that doesn’t leave us hopeless.

Any thoughts?

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November 17, 2005

Bubbles. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Colored bubbles are definitely one of the most unique things I’ve heard of in quite some time. Even more fascinating to me, however, is that most of the work was done by an inventor in his kitchen.

It seemed so certain that all the possible great inventions that could be invented in one’s home, or garage, backyard, or kitchen must have already been invented. Anything new, except perhaps computer software, would be done with big budgets in expensive labs. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for renegade inventors. Still, it’s really cool to think that there might be something really worthwhile yet to be invented in my backyard.

(Of course, he just took the bubble idea. Darn.)

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November 13, 2005

Thinking Coolly About Global Warming

I’m certainly not a climactic scientist, but, from a layperson’s perspective, I’ve been rather disappointed with much of the thought regarding global warming. So often, it seems that we simply do enough science to support our pet conclusions, without really trying to do a thorough job.

(For instance, so often I’ve heard that we started global warming since the industrial revolution. That makes sense if we assume that it was greenhouse gases, from all the factories we built, that caused warming. But simply since a measurable temperature rise and factories apparently started at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. There could be any number of other things that could be causing global warming: orbital changes, a receding ice age, cows farting, etc. Now, I know that scientists generally have tried to take this into account. Yet, it seems that it is very difficult to really take into account all the possible factors.)

A news report I saw the other day, however, seems to have done a much more thorough job (in my mind) than most. (Okay, okay, I know I haven’t studied these things for years like some folks have—but I know full well that people are fallible, no matter how much studying they’ve done.)

A quote from the article:

William Ruddiman, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is behind a controversial theory suggesting that humans had a hand in warming the planet nearly 8,000 years ago, and in doing so, might have prevented another ice age.

This certainly doesn’t give us reason to avoid trying to clean up our act. I drive a small car and bike when I can for a reason—and not just because I need exercise or because I’m cheap. (Although, now that you mention it, those are probably good reasons, too) There are a ton of resources that we could make much better use of, and a lot of work we can do to make sure we don’t spoil God’s good creation. Alarmism, however, doesn’t help anything—and, if accurate, this report seems to indicate that it might be a lot less appropriate that we have been led to believe.

[Update: I added a few links and fixed a grammatical error. ~ DAH 11/14/2005]

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November 11, 2005

A Week In My life

Hi all! Yeah, updating isn’t something that I’ve been taking a lot of time for lately. God has blessed me with more things to do that I really enjoy and that keep me from being restless. I thought it was about time to share those things with you. I’m not super busy, but enough to give my week structure and purpose.

Starting with Monday. It’s a pretty quiet day. I usually end up getting some errands done and cleaning and things like that.

Tuesdays I plan for Story Hour at Covenant CRC in town. It’s sort of like a sunday school for 4 and 5 year olds while their mothers are in Bible study. I usual put off getting ready for it, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but God has been using it in my life.

Tuesday afternoons I have a girl friend that comes over for a visit. It keeps me sane! If I have story hour stuff to do, she will help me with that, which is a huge help!! Sometimes we walk or just sit and talk. It’s great to have someone female to connect with once a week!

Wednesday Mornings is Story hour. It’s also a bit of crunch time to make sure I am ready for it. It’s funny because it’s during this time that God really uses to touch my heart too. It’s during this time that I really think seriously about how these stories of Jesus are not just stories but something that REALLY happened. Some mornings it blows me away, others it causes me to be humble and repentant at my lack of faith. It is so easy to just read the bible as a bunch of stories and forget that it really truly happened. We are trying to read the bible in a year right now, but I struggle with it, both in doing it every day and then because I am so far behind I want to catch up but I am not able to take the time to really meditate on what I am reading. Story hour has been good for me that way. I hope I can not just leave it for story hour either.

I get home just before noon after Story hour. Usually I am quite tired when that is all done, so I take it easy in the afternoon. Or it is a good time to schedule other random thing that come up in my week.

Wed. Nights I go to church with David and get the music binders ready for the music teams practice later in the evening. We go around 6:30 and then at 8 David stays to practice with the team if he is able. It’s a good time for him to practice his trumpet.

My job is just simple, but I love it! It just gives me what I need for feel worth while in all my little projects I do. And when I get my green card I can even be paid for it! What a joy to be paid for something I love to do anyways!! That is great!

Thursday mornings I go to the Nursing wing and help out in the activity department. Every other week we paint nails and the opposite weeks we sing hymns and some in Dutch. The Residents love it! At first I wasn’t excited about it, but now I enjoy it very much. I’m glad to help and meet with the residents. I don’t ever want to work as an aide again, but I do enjoy the volunteering!

Fridays I get ready for Bible study. Usually that includes cleaning and meal planning and shopping etc. It’s fun and usually busy. I often get sidetracked as I am today! :) But I did my cleaning yesterday because I didn’t go to the nursing wing. (they are moving to a new building!)

Bible Study lasts from 5-9 ish. Some people come at 5 to help me make supper and then the rest come at 6 ish for supper. Dessert and then either Bible study or praying and singing, depending on the week.

Saturdays are slower some weeks than others. David and I try to spend time together on this day. Often David is working on Sunday school because he/we lead a class for people our age. We are studying issues relevant to our world today. Either current events or philosophy that is relevant. It can be a lot of work some weeks.

Saturday is sort of a catch up day or a relaxing day, it depends what we have to do or how much time we have.

Sunday we have church and sunday school. Sometimes we have guests for lunch and then we relax as much as possible the rest of the day. Sundays are a wonderful day! I’m glad God told us to relax one day a week. We need it. And in todays world two days is almost needed.

Well, that is our/my week! Hopefully I can find more time to update on the little fun things that happen too.

Love you! in Christ Rita

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A fishy update!

I just wanted to let you all know what has been happening with our fish. They seem to be stabilized and doing well, although I am still a bit worried about the rest of the guppies.

After TV died, we got another fish friend for Fanny right away but unfortunately it got hung in a tree in the aquarium a few days latter :-/ Oops! We waited a few days before getting more fish, because we were not sure of the cause of death has been.

Now we have a total of 7 fish. Three fan tail goldfish like Fanny. Three Guppies and one Beta. The Beta is in a bowl on my computer desk not in the fish tank with the rest.

We have renamed our aquarium TV, in honour of our first fish. And it’s much more appropriate to call the whole thing a TV rather than just one fish.

Starring in our TV:

Fanny, renamed Ester (but I tend to forget and still call her Fanny) A pure gold fish in colour, appropriate for royalty.

Amos. Named from the farmer of Tekoa in the Bible. He is a orange and white fish and makes me think of a cow. :)

Hosea. Named because he came the same day asa Amos and Hosea in the Bible was a prophet close to the time as when Amos was. Mostly gold in colour, but has a touch of white at the base of the tail to make him easy to identify.

Disclaimer!- If the sex of the fish proves to be other than they are named, they will be renamed as appropriate

Also starring “the Guppies” as the expendable crewmen. or a rock group, take your pick.

The Beta, not part of the show, is a bright red which looks nice with the bright blue shovel that is also in the bowl for decoration. (I hope to take a picture so you can see it along with my computer desk.) The beta is yet to be named, but Edom and Petra are two names that have been bouncing around for a while.

That’s all for now! love you all! In Christ Rita

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November 08, 2005

A New Piece of Writing

I also recently posted a new short story (is it even long enough to be called that?) under the “Writings” section. Let me know what you think. :-)

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It appears that my previous post on capitalism triggered a few responses—including a plea from a fellow blogger that I continue my thoughts. The comments did cause me to do some serious thinking on the subject, and I hope that I can provide some further thoughts for discussion.

First, as has been pointed out, the freedom that I discussed earlier with regards to capitalism and democracy is not the same as the freedom Christians have in Christ. (See Galatians 5:1 for an example of this.) Again, as was pointed out, this freedom is only found in a new life in Christ. Rather, I am talking about a freedom that is much more limited in scope but that would be understood by many more people. It is the freedom to follow one’s own conscience, to accept or reject God between oneself and Himself rather than between oneself and man, to be wise or foolish, to be greedy or generous, to to what is right or to sin. Freedom in Christ, of course, is the only way to escape our bondage to the law and our bondage to sin (discussed more in Romans). Freedom in capitalism and democracy, on the other hand, can only externally allow us to do what God’s freedom internally empowers us to do. It’s like a driver’s license. It will allow me to go all sorts of places—but only a good car actually empowers me to travel across the continent. (Or any number of other forms of transportation…)

With that established, the next question is: so what about capitalism? Is it really the Christian way to run an economy?

(As an important side note, for the purposes of this discussion, I am taking capitalism and democracy largely as a single unit. I don’t suspect that they must be taken together in such a way—but I do think they are often found joined because their philosophies and ideals are similar. It is those philosophies and ideals that I most want to discuss.)

Back to the question at hand. The short answer: no, of course not. I have no intention of saying that capitalism is the one true economic system that will exist for all eternity, glorifying God in its monetary exchanges from now forevermore. That’s just silly. What I do say, though, is that capitalism is about the best there is in our world today. I realize that this is a rather contested statement—especially by concerned Christians who see so many being taken advantage of in our culture and in our economy today. Before I try make any defense, however, I’d like to talk about a few of the items that I see as problems with this idea of capitalism.

First, the market only rewards that which it sees as valuable. For instance, a capitalist society is a poor society for a philosopher to make a living in. Since the philosopher (unless he starts participating in the daytime soap-opera talk show circuit) has little to produce that people are willing to pay for, most philosophers seem to end up as service experts at fine grease-food establishments. “Now,” you might be thinking, “there are a few philosophic types that I learned about in college that really should have been selling fast food rather than philosophizing.” And you’d be right. But I also suspect that our society could do with a greatly increased amount of good, practical philosophic training. Yes, to some degree, it happens, in the non-profit thinktanks and other organizations. It is still terribly far from the common person, though, and I would argue that the common person is often the one who would make the best use of solid training in how to think. Capitalism cannot solve this problem—unless the people in it decide to value philosophy in a way that they never have before.

I suspect this also applies to valuing marriages and families. Both are much more important than employment—but they have little economic benefit. And fewer and fewer people are willing to pay the costs of raising a family).

Second, I’m quite cognizant of the fact that capitalism can be both a boon and a curse to those who strike upon rough times. Just as in almost every other society one can think of, those who have a stroke of “bad luck” (most often bad decisions, but not always) at some point in their lives may never have a chance to recover. This is, for instance, the whole point of the Old Testament’s Years of Jubilee. (See Leviticus 25.) As far as I can tell, the whole point of the Jubilee was to make sure that no one got stuck for generation after generation. Bad decisions (or bad luck) would hopefully only affect on generation, with a family’s land being restored after fifty years so that they could have a shot at making a living again. Sure, chances are that the rich man next door bought them out again—but they had a chance, and I think that’s the point. Our society does address this problem some, I think, in public education—we give everyone a chance to make of their lives what they want. Unfortunately, however, poverty still runs in families from generation to generation, and I’m not sure that capitalism has, in and of itself, a good solution for that problem.

As a combination of both the first and second points, how often are the suddenly disadvantaged (disabled or otherwise) taken proper care of in our society? Especially those without families?

Third, and I’m not sure that this is a problem insomuch as an observation, our economy is designed to be pluralistic. We do not discriminate on belief—at least, we try not to. On one hand, this limits us. I don’t think that it would be right for us to try weave too much morality into our economic system. Hear me out here: I am not saying that we try design a culture or an economy on the principle of separation of church and state. Morality needs a foundation, and I’m quite convinced that a Christian foundation works best. However, I also have no desire to require non-Christians to act like Christians, beyond what is necessary for a good society and for my well-being. That’s a terribly difficult line, and I’m not sure that I have any answers yet. But, let’s just take one issue as a case study: generosity. My primary beef with a socialist idea is that it both forces those who would otherwise be greedy to be giving and those who would otherwise be generous to be stingy. The first one may sound like a great thing—but do I really think that, in general, people ought to be forced to give? It seems that the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) shows, indirectly, that this isn’t the way to go. Also, I appreciate the freedom to give to those I deem worthy—and perhaps no one else does. If I was forced to give for government distribution (in whatever form that happened), I wouldn’t be able to give like I would have otherwise.

Could a better system be designed if one was guaranteed that all were Christ-following believers? Perhaps. I suspect that, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, we might find one. But, then again, wouldn’t all of capitalism’s faults be solved if God’s Law was truly written on our hearts?

Finally, and Nate alluded to this in his comment in the previous post, capitalism’s goodness (like all other economic systems), is terribly dependent on the people in it. Just like Israel in the Old Testament: if you have a good king, things are great; but, if you have a bad king, things are very, very bad. I suspect that capitalism has been prosperous largely because the people in it had a basic understanding of right and wrong, and decided to live by it. I would surmise, along the lines of Francis Schaeffer, that capitalism would not help at all in a society formed of people whose sole goal is evil.

With all of those negatives, does capitalism really hold promise? I say that it does. The most important reason in my mind is freedom, as I discussed earlier. I am given the freedom to be an agent of grace in my society—or to not be, if I so choose. Additionally, I find justice to be an idea that capitalism espouses quite nicely: those who work hard are rewarded, and those who don’t, aren’t. Nothing in capitalism promotes one to treat the poor unjustly—but, I will admit, I am quite sure it happens nonetheless. Justice, of course, is a very separate idea from grace. I think we often confuse those terms when we speak of “social justice.” I suspect what we truly want is “social grace.” But I digress…

Finally, I think there is a common misconception about “looking out for Number One,” as Nate mentioned in his comments earlier. As Christians, we tend to insist on complete selflessness. Why is this? Ironically, it is because that is how we are supposed to be as Christians—and because we believe that we will be better off for it. We are being selfless for entirely selfish reasons. (You may think that is just word games—and, in that example, you might be right. But listen for just a bit longer…) Isn’t every decision we make intended to be good for us in the long run? We may torture ourselves with exercise—because we know that being fit will make it all worthwhile in the end. (At least, if you are a lot more disciplined than I…) We may give of our time to disadvantaged children—because we are rewarded by it and believe that it makes us better people. Maybe it will even store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. I’m hard pressed to think of examples that don’t eventually (when looking at the long-term) boil down to some form of self-interest. Christ seems to acknowledge this idea as He speaks of storing one’s treasure in Heaven (Luke 12:33, etc.). Rather than condemning us serving others for our own rewards, He simply tells us that the rewards will be in eternity, not in this life. I would argue that even His own crucifixion was not so much an act of selflessness, but rather an act designed to show the world how great and awesome of a God He is.

Of course, the rub is that most of the time we need to convince ourselves that we aren’t thinking of ourselves—otherwise, we find ourselves being selfish in the very short term, thinking only of what we can gain in this moment. I think this is where the idea of Christian selflessness comes from—but, if pushed too far, I think it leads to some rather damaging ideas. Why, if you really want to be selfless, why don’t you stop using up our resources and do away with yourself? That, of course, isn’t right at all—but it seems to be the logical conclusion of many people’s thoughts.

So, back (again) to the question at hand. What of this capitalism? I certainly don’t say that it is Christian. But I do say that I deeply appreciate the freedom that it allows. I’m glad to see those who work hard rewarded in this life. I’m happy to know that those who desire to help the poor and disadvantaged can without any restriction but their conscience (and, well, taxes). And, although it is painful, I’m glad that those who are not willing to work don’t receive the same rewards.

Ultimately, I am convinced that Christians in a capitalist society have a deep duty: we must be the exceptions to the rule. We are to be the ones who do not live lives focused on gaining affluence, but rather give of what we have to those in need. Capitalism gives us a unique opportunity to do this. And I am intensely thankful for that—and I pray that, by God’s grace, He will allow Rita and I to truly take advantage of the opportunities we’ve been given.

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