Thursday, December 30, 2004

Last night, instead of youth group I took everyone over to the Daily Grind for a round on us. We have been hitting things pretty hard for the last couple of months and I promised everyone a little bit of a break. I was going to do a roundtable talk, but it was 7:45 before everyone was served (they only have one person working that late at night) and there was no way I was going to try to talk over ice grinding in the blender and all the other bizarre noises coming from the kitchen area. So we just goofed off. I'm sure I will hear about it. So what's new.

I did something Tuesday I have only done one other time in three years: I completely forgot that there was a deacon's meeting. It didn't occur to me until I was talking to another of the deacons at church last night. He mentioned something about "last night's meeting" and it hit me. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the month off. The amount of effort it takes to show up for these meetings probably has a lot to do with what I posted on Monday. It's hard to meet with a group of people to talk about ministry when you don't really feel any commonality of goals with them.

The debate in my mind obviously continues. I don't know if it is just my typical "5-year itch" (until my current job, I have never stayed with anything for more than five years) or if there is something more going on. I don't want to leave the church we are at, but I am finding it harder and harder to find reasons to stay.

Well, I'm need to get back to work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I think this is the longest I have gone without making an entry since I started this thing. It has just been crazy and if I have five minutes to get on the internet, my connection is down. Wireless has its advantages, but reliability isn't one of them.

Last week was mostly getting ready for our newest addition to the family. Nestina spent her first night in our house on Thursday. She went with my wife and I to my immediate family's Christmas on Friday morning, then the three of us went home for a little Christmas with just the three of us. Debbie and I drove down to her mom's house Friday night and stayed until Sunday morning. It was good to see everyone. Nestina spent Christmas at her mom's place. Her and a friend stayed at our place Saturday night, so of course there were all sorts of strange power problems that I have never had. They were able to get things working well enough to keep the heat going through the night and we left for home early Sunday. I still don't know what started the entire failure cascade, but I changed one setting on the inverter and checked everything out. It all looked good to me and I was able to fire up the generator Monday morning with no problems. I guess the house was just mad we left it alone on Christmas...

This will be a slow, boring week at work. Large chunks of the medical center are off for the week between Christmas and New Years, so any attempts to get anything done results in a voice mail message or a Groupwise auto-reply that states the person you need to contact is out of the office having fun, while you are a lifeless smuck for being at work. So I'm blogging instead of working.

We don't really have any plans for this weekend, other than working on the house. The church is having its annual New Years "bash." We will likely attend, and I'm encouraging the teens to attend as well. We'll leave the old people in the gym and we can go into the youth room and play loud music and act goofy. Besides, I'd like to have someone to talk to. I find I have less and less to say to the majority of the adults in the church. I'm not sure why that is. I feel I've become more of a spectator than a participant.

It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I am not where I belong, church-wise. I have no idea where I do belong, but I am certain of where I don't belong. Even with the deep theological disagreements I have with the Roman Catholic Church, I felt more at home in Christmas Mass (I know, that's redundant) with Debbie's family Saturday that I do at our current church. Maybe it is all just a phase, or maybe it is just me, but this has been building for some time. There is so much I would like to do, yet at every turn I feel constrained and boxed in.

Maybe the New Year is a time to strike out in a new direction; cut ourselves loose from our current congregation and go it alone for a while. I would like to stay where we are while starting something new, but I am sure that would be a no-go with our current church. There is simply no way I would be allowed to stay on in any leadership capacity while doing what would amount to a church plant. Unless that church plant was a GARB church, of course, but then I would be right back in the box that I am currently in.

I guess I don't know what to do at this point. I'm just thinking out loud.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Honda is back in business after a trip into town with it. I don't feel too bad; the shop I bought it from took a good half hour to figure out what was wrong with it. It was nothing major, but it was the sort of workmanship problem that Japanese companies are not supposed to have. The problem was a combination of the extreme cold (5 below zero) and a sticky reset button. I now know what to look for and the fix is pretty simple. I'm leaving the spare generator right where it is, just in case.

I also need to fill up all the gas cans today. We burned through this batch in pretty short order. We are getting just about zero from the solar panels right now. One of the windmills would be doing great things right now, but they don't work well sitting in a box in the garage. I was going to spend the money next summer to buy the other 800 watts of panels, but I might just set up one of our windmills instead. It would be great to do both, but I don't think we can scrounge up enough cash for that.

Well, I have to make some phone calls and check my work e-mail.
Crazy week end and weekend.

I picked up Nestina after school Thursday and we spent the evening in Traverse City. We once again covered a lot of ground and talked through the transition to her living here. The exact timing is still being worked out, but it still looks as if she will be with us before Christmas.

Friday was work and snowplowing at the church. I got home around 11pm. I will certainly be glad when the regular snow plow guy gets back from his vacation in the Caribbean.

Saturday, I picked up a new generator. The one we were using was getting cranky. It was supposed to be for the cabin anyway, so I dropped that one off for a complete mechanical check-out and dropped $4K on a twin-cylinder, water-cooled Honda. Very quiet. In fact you can stand right next to it when it is running and have a conversation at normal volume. Nice. The rest of Saturday was spent getting that set up and running, then working on homework, house stuff, and a lesson for Sunday.

Sunday started at 5am plowing the church parking lot again. I was also the church taxi driver. I picked up four people on the way to church the second time Sunday morning. Afterwards was dropping them all back off, with a brief stop at Burger King for lunch with everyone. Then back to the church for more plowing, to my parents to plow them out, and finally to actually plow my own road and driveways. Then back to church for evening service (only two people to pick up this time). Debbie finally made her way north and met us in the church parking lot. We told her it was all her fault for the below-zero temps because she has spent the last week in 80-plus degree weather. We had Communion and I was serving. I had wanted to sit with Debbie and our "kids," but I ended up being one of the servers. It will be nice when I get off the deacon board and can go back to a semi-normal existence. Afterwards, I dropped people off while Debbie went home to unpack. We sat up late trying to compress the last ten days into a couple hours.

Monday morning started badly. Our brand new $4K, twin-cylinder, water-cooled generator refused to start. I was outside at 4am dragging one of the old generators out of the garage and getting it hooked up and running. I am working from home so I can keep an eye on it and also try to figure out what is wrong with the Honda. I dragged the thing inside thinking that enough moisture had gotten into the fuel system while it was being shipped around the country to freeze up something in the carburetor, but no joy. Now I have to find someone who can help be drag the thing up into the truck and haul it back.

This whole thing brings up something I've been really wondering lately: are there any competent people left in the world? My parents have been fighting with every person that sends them a bill over charges that they never made, double billing, and lost payments. Everybody they know is going through the same thing. I have a virtual junk yard out here full of poorly-designed and poorly-manufactured products. Are we to the point where nothing more complex than a hammer can be purchased with any reasonable assurance that it will work more than once?

Anyway, I need to go off in search of a strong back and a weak mind. Too bad the youth group kids all live in Kalkaska and don't have cars...


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's been a while since I put anything up here, so I thought I had better update everyone. Sunday was the Christmas program at the church, which meant that Saturday morning was the dress rehearsal. Of course, Debbie is on her cruise and I'm on my own this week, so naturally I was late and forgot that it was a real dress rehearsal and showed up in jeans and a polo shirt. At least my shirt was green, so I kinda matched...

Anyway, the dress rehearsal went as most of them do: poorly. I went home for a bit, then left to pick up a truck load of kids for the Mall Crawl. This year, we ended up not having anything special for the teens to do. We usually have them look for things or find the heaviest thing they can buy for $5 or some such. This year, we just let them wander around; all the leaders have a thousand things going on in their personal lives so the youth group has been getting short shrift. Unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Sunday was the Christmas program in the morning. It went pretty well. There were a couple technical glitches and such, but overall it was good. One of our teens had a speaking part that she thinks she did horrible on, and everyone else thought she did great. So it goes. As a fellow perfectionist, I understand where she is coming from. Sunday afternoon was all about snow removal. I had to get the ballast in my truck and put the plow on. The only problem I ran into was that some of my ballast was missing. I use six two-foot cement trailer pads for my weight and there were only four piled next to the garage. The only thing I can figure is that when we had our new porch steps added on and the railing put up on the deck, the crew must have used two of them to set the porch steps. In any case, I headed into Kalkaska to meet with one of our teens and her mom (more on that in a second), then plowed snow all afternoon, right through evening service (with a short break to sneak in and watch one of our former teens and her dad get baptized), then dinner with my parents, and finally home.

Monday was a half day of work, then a quick trip to the hardware to replace my missing ballast, followed by ten hours of snow plowing at my parents and home. I tried to do some homework, but I fell asleep after about an hour. Yesterday was work and homework.

Did I mention that we have some snow? We now have snow. Not too much (less than a foot) and if the weather liars are right most of it will be gone over the next couple of days. But we now have snow.

The big news. I've mentioned a couple times that we were busy with stuff that I didn't want to talk about at the time. Well, now is the time. Sunday, I met with one of our teens and her mom to hammer out some of the details, but the bottom line is that we are guardians of a seventeen-year-old girl. Her name is Nestina and she is a senior at Kalkaska High School. You will hopefully start seeing some posts from her on this site very soon. She will be moving in with us while the Kalkaska schools are out on break for Christmas. I'll try to get a picture of us posted here as soon as I can get her stand still long enough. In the meantime, everyone say "Hi" to the newest addition to the Frost household. I would also ask that you pray for all three of us as we work through the transition. As you all know, Debbie and I have a great deal of child-rearing experience that we are bringing to the table. To make it even more interesting, Nestina has been on her own for some time and will have to get used to the one thing that every teenager loves: Rules. So, again, please pray for all of us. A lot. And often.

In any case, if posts get a little sporadic here, you now know why.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Another day of work, then shopping, home, cleaning, organizing, filing, etc. I can almost see the top of my desk. I still have a pile to work through, plus two more on the floor and one on the foot stool. I don't have any idea where this crap comes from; I think the piles have started mating.

Youth group went ok last night. One new face, but still missing some that should be there. I had a chance yesterday to have some fairly long one-on-one conversations with several people which is always good. I wish I had more time to do that. I also met a parent, which is something else I wish I had more time to do. Ah well.

Tomorrow is just work, then Settlers of Catan night with all the church guys. This is one of the few men-only things we have at the church. I've never been able to go before and I have never played the game either, so this should be interesting.

Nothing much interesting going on in the world, which is most likely the result of inattention on my part.

That's it; it is way past my bedtime.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I am supposed to be working, but this was too good to leave until later.

Where I work, we use GEAC software for HR, GL and AP. Most of their support, for which we pay tens of thousands of dollars a year, is through their web page. Among other things, they post what they call solutions. Sometimes these are updates or bulletins for tax code updates, or they are just tips or ideas that may be useful. Our HR support person was browsing through all the new solutions and came up with this gem (I'd give a direct link, but it requires a user ID and password):

Topic: How to print an attachment [to a solution] without downloading it.

Resolution: " the file to your PC and print from there."

For this, we pay money.

Actually it isn't as bad as I made it out to be. You can print directly from their web if you use IE, if you have ActiveX running (almost no one in the corporate world does; it is nothing but a wide open path for malware), and if your PC recognizes the file extension, then you can print, otherwise, you have to download it to be able to print it. The problem is that with all those caveats, no IT shop sophisticated enough to be using GEAC is going to be able to use their solution.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Another day of work and homework. It poured down rain all day today. Good thing it was rain or we would be up to our necks in snow. On my way home, the rain did change to snow, but I doubt much will stick as the temps are still above freezing. As much as I hate damp weather, as long as it doesn't pile up, I don't have to plow it.

Here are some things you can do to annoy everyone during their Christmas shopping:

  1. Get 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's carts when they aren't looking.
  2. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
  3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the rest rooms.
  4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, "Code 3 in housewares" and see what happens.
  5. Go the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M & M's on layaway.
  6. Move a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to a carpeted area.
  7. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers you'll invite them in if they'll bring pillows from the bedding department.
  8. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"
  9. Look right into the security camera; use it as a mirror, and pick your nose.
  10. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the anti-depressants are.
  11. Dart around the store suspiciously loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.
  12. In the auto department, practice your "Madonna look" using different size funnels.
  13. Hide in a clothing rack and when people browse through, say "PICK ME!"
  14. When an announcement comes over the loud speaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!!"

    (And last, but not least!)

  15. Go into a fitting room and shut the door and wait a while; and then yell very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"
I would advise only doing these in a store you never plan to enter again.

Here is a story that explains why any teacher with enough competence to get a job elsewhere almost always will. You can always tell when a stupid man is doing something he knows is stupid: he will always claim to be "just doing my job." Way to go, Fire Marshal Bill. I'm sure Susanna Robinson will leap right back into teaching at a public school when her 90 days in jail are over.

And while we are on the subject of the miserable prisons we call schools, here is something that I have been saying for 20 years. Computers in the classroom do not magically make every student above average. They are a tool that has a place, but first you have to be able to read to get any educational benefit from them. One would think that would be obvious, but one would be wrong.

This article almost reads like satire in the spirit of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Some of the ideas here can only be described as frightening. I get nervous around tortured logic; this guy has it locked in an iron maiden.

And that ought to be enough. I am off to work on my paper. And to figure out what I am going to do tomorrow for youth group. I need to have something to teach the kiddies.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Another crazy weekend. Friday I had to take my truck into the garage after work to have the snow tires put on. Then I picked up Debbie at her work and drove back into Traverse City to shop for wedding presents. Saturday was the wedding: one of the guys in my college study group was getting married down in Fremont. So we drove down there for the afternoon, then got home late Saturday night. Sunday was the typical Sunday. The church Christmas program is next week, so that is heating up. Debbie was feeling crummy Sunday afternoon, so I did Sunday evening service by myself. I wouldn't have bothered, but I had choir practice.

Today was just work and homework.

And Fred Reed has another column that people should (but won't) pay attention to.

And it's past bed time.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sorry for the lack of posting folks. It seems like every time I have a minute to write something, the phone rings, or Blogger is down, or my internet connection is going wanky, or something. Anyway.

Since my last post, not a whole lot has happened. I've been dealing with a lot of issues that I can't really go into right now (and a lot that I will never go into on a blog...) but it has involved me being places other than home. Tuesday was a Deacons' meeting, which is always fun. We were trying to set the budget for next year, but we had a lot of year left at the end of the money. Non-profits are so much fun. Wednesday night I only had two teens show up, but we got into some good conversations anyway. Tonight, I am supposed to be working on a paper, but I'm blogging instead. So sue me. Anyway.

I thought this article was pretty funny, although I am sure most of the humor-impaired from both of the major parties won't think so. I think part of the process of becoming a party hack is to have any sense of humor surgically removed.

Good news: Day by Day is back!! I find his point of view balances out Doonesbury very nicely. When family issues forced the author of Day by Day to suspend publication for a time, I started feeling rather lopsided.

And this is important and written by someone who is qualified to speak on the issue of intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone in DC is listening. Ah well. With any luck, we will muddle on until I can get into a financial position to disappear some place in the Caribbean and live out my last days in blissful ignorance.

Other than that, not much going on, it seems.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I am supposed to be working on a college paper, but I just noticed that I hadn't posted in a while.

Wednesday night went OK; we only had three people show up, all female. So I was the only guy in the house. We sort of goofed off for a while, then realized that it was 5am. It was snowing and (obviously) dark, so everyone just crashed here for a couple hours. I had to drive one of the girls home, so I led the other two out to the highway so they wouldn't get turned around. Of course that meant that Thursday was spent sleeping, resting, and napping until it was time to go to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner. I ate too much, of course, then fell asleep in a chair. Then we went home and went to bed. It has been a long time since I pulled an all-nighter; they don't work as well when you are 40. Friday was just working around the house. The ground was good and wet from all the snow, so I decided to pack down all the fresh dirt in the driveway. I spent about three hours in my truck driving back and forth over the drive, parking areas, etc. I also trimmed up the trees around the propane cylinders to make it easier to keep the snow cleared from around them. Then I spent about twelve hours buying the latest version of Quicken and loading all our account information into it. It isn't going to work quite like I had hoped, but it will make bill tracking a lot easier.

Today has been another day of chores. We've painted more of the floor on the main floor and the storage area upstairs. Once that dries, we can rearrange and start on the floors in the master suite. Once all the floors are painted, I think we will finally be able to get a handle on the dust problem in here. Right now, just walking across the room raises a cloud of drywall dust. I put the closet organizer up in one of the main floor closets. I messed it up some, as usual, but it will work. You would think after all the closets I've done with this stuff that I would know how the system works. You would think wrong. Every closet I do, it's something. This one was pretty obvious, but didn't have anything to do with how well it will work. It just looks stupid because anyone can see that I used the wrong parts. But it is up and it works.

I was going to start clearing all the debris off our porches, but it is pouring down rain right now. The weather has been crazy: Wednesday we got a lot of snow, then more on Thursday. Yesterday, it started warming up, and today all the snow is gone and it is raining. Not that I'm complaining or anything. I don't have to plow the liquid stuff.

Well, I need to get back to my paper.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I found several interesting things while I blew through my normal morning web browsing. First up is an article on WorldNetDaily about the NBA riot. I haven't said anything about it up to this point because I have a hard time thinking of anything I could care less about than a bunch of spoiled millionaires who play a game for a living mixing it up with a bunch of morally defective fans. I'm not even sure what all the fuss is about. The NHL routinely hires guys specifically to start fights during hockey games, so what is so horrible about the NBA looking for a little of the action? I have no interest in "professional" sports and could care less what happens to anyone involved in this. I do think the point of the article is interesting. The article walks a pretty thin line; we all know what you cannot say and who you cannot say it about.

Next up is another reason why government schools are just a bad idea. It is now considered unconstitutional in California (where else?) to hand out copies of The Declaration of Independence to students because it refers to God. When reading this article, pay attention to the sub-text. The teacher was a Christian and open about her faith. The school has been engaged in an overt campaign of intimidation and harassment directed specifically at her. I've said it a hundred times and I will say it again: the government of the United States (or any other government) is not the friend of Christianity regardless of the religious beliefs of the individuals who happen to be in power today. Government in general, and our government in particular, is the enemy. Wake up, already!!

Here is one that is sure to cheer everyone up. Take your pick: high inflation or high interest rates? And not just slightly higher; way higher. I'll be the ultimate pessimist and guess that inaction and half-measures will give us both. In case anyone wants to argue that can't happen, I have two words for you: Jimmy Carter. Don't tell me it can't happen; I lived through double-digit inflation and double-digit home mortgage interest rates. The difference this time around is that nearly everyone has a variable rate mortgage, so it won't just be new home buyers that get bit. Everyone will get slapped with both higher prices and higher house payments. If you are in a position to pay cash for real estate, I would recommend holding off. I expect to see a lot of really cheap real estate for sale soon.

Yesterday we had a youth leaders meeting after work, so our exciting lives consisted of that and coming home to drag more wood in the house and get it stained. The crew is here this morning working on putting up the porch railing. They won't get done today, but we will have some idea of what the railing will look like by the end of today.

I need to get cleaned up and head over to the high school, then from there to work. We are having some the teens over tonight because there isn't church tonight. We haven't really cleaned anything up in a while, so the place is more or less trashed. I'll probably sneak out of work early so I can put some order in things before everyone shows up.

Well, I got to get going.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Busy weekend as usual. Friday night, Debbie and I went out to a local restaurant for dinner, then just crashed at home. We were just plain lazy Saturday, and did it feel good. I could have sworn that I was supposed to be at the church for something, but I couldn't shake loose what it was. I knew I wasn't on praise team, and I didn't have special music until next week. So I didn't go into Kalkaska. So of course, I was supposed to be there because there had been a switch on the special music schedule and the trio I was singing with was on for this week not next week. But it didn't matter ultimately, because another member of the trio wasn't there either.

What all that bought us was some time to ourselves and some time to work on cleaning, organizing, and staining wood for the porch railings. I didn't get much done because a lot of the wood was still wet from being outside even though it have been in the house for a couple days. I did what I could, took a short break, then cleaned up to go over to my parents house for a small party for my 40th birthday. Or so I thought. There were over 30 people stuffed into my parents place for dinner, gifts, and cake and ice cream. They even got in touch with some of the teens from the youth group who were also there. I tried to look happy and grateful and all, but I just don't do well in those circumstances. I'm not real into a bunch of people and fuss all centered around me. It's not that I don't appreciate it and all, and I truely am grateful for the time and effort that was put into planning and cards and gifts and such. I just have a hard time showing it. But in any case I survived. Some of the teens even got me something that either means they are really getting at least some of the things I'm trying to teach them, or they just got lucky. I'll take option one for the ego boost and not ask any fool questions.

Sunday, we only had morning service followed by Thanksgiving dinner. We went straight home and slept until 7pm, which meant I was up until 2am staining wood and reading before I was tired enough for bed. I managed to drag myself out of the house in reasonable time this morning, so I won't be here at work for half the night. Tonight is more staining and hopefully working on my paper. I also need to call a bunch of people today. We decided that since there wasn't church Wednesday night because of Thanksgiving, we would have a bunch of people over for pizza and stupid movies. Given the weather forcast, we will end up getting hit with an ice storm and we will have 20 people staying the night at our house.

On the internet front, Fred Reed has another column about visiting our nation's capital. We have become a nation afraid of everything. We fear our children, our schools, our streets, our technology, our bosses. Frank Herbert was right: fear is the mind killer.

A bit on Yasser Arafat. The money quote:

But the late PLO chief was more than "a bit of a rogue". He was a monster: a man with the blood of thousands on his hands, who never cared to wash them. A man who led a whole people, the Palestinian Arabs whom he ruled as feudal lord, into a pit of hopeless squalor.

A monster that is now paying for what he did. Hell is never a comfortable topic of conversation, and I am not one of those Bible-thumpers that seem to get some sort of thrill out of condeming endless masses to eternal torment. But I don't think I can deal with a reality that wouldn't have Arafat spending eternity roasting on a spit. That anyone would travel to his funeral for any reason other than spiting on his corpse is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Time to head for home.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Yesterday was my 40th birthday. We celebrated by carting all the cedar for our porch into the house to dry out and warm up in preparation for staining today and tomorrow. Then we watched Elf and Shrek 2. Elf was... not my kind of movie. That's the kindest thing I can say about it. None of it was funny; parts were just painful. Shrek 2 was good. Not as good as the original, but that is probably because the original was so unique at the time that no sequel could measure up. But it was still great, with a lot of laugh-until-you-snort spots. You knew the ending long before the end, but there were still some good twists getting there.

One thing I did notice; I don't know if it was because we have the original on VHS and watched the sequel on DVD, but I could swear the human characters were noticeably more realistic in Shrek 2. I stick by what I said after Shrek came out; within two or three iterations of Moore's law (3 to 5 years), human actors will not be needed, only voice actors. That's not to say that human actors will simply vanish, but they will no longer be necessary, as the audience won't know if they are watching an actor on film or a computer-generated animation. Or some combination, as in The Passion where subtle changes were made to actors' features (eye color being the the most notable; the world has seen enough blue-eyed Jesus's) to make them appear more Semitic. Expect to see more of this. Mark your calendars; by 2010 no one will be able to say for sure if what is on the screen is a film of human actors shot on some location, completely computer-generated animation, or a mix of those two in any imaginable ratio. Just remember, you heard it here first.

I try to not be negative about our public schools mainly because in the past, others have taken what I say as criticism of the students. But things like this just reinforce to me that public education in the United States is doomed. No one in such an environment for eight hours a day, five days a week for twelve years could have any hope of being able to cope in the real world. This is stupidity on stilts. Wearing an earring to school is OK, but putting an earring in while at school gets you a one-year suspension for having a weapon in school. I know our schools are run by emotionally fragile females on Prozac and fag "males," but this is so far over the top I don't think I can imagine myself as part of the same country that allows this crap to go on. Well, in fact, I know that I am not part of same country; I'm not sure I am part of the same planet. The inmates are running the asylum.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I got body-slammed with the flu yesterday. I woke up not feeling too great, but didn't think much of it. I was about half-way to work when it really kicked in. I made it back home in spite of nearly blacking out on M-72, crawled into bed and slept until after 3pm. I was barely able to move the rest of the night. My fever broke around 11pm, so I was able to go to bed and actually sleep. Today I am doing better, but I still skipped out of work. I should be able to do youth group tonight. I only have a slight fever (which is more or less normal for me due to my allergies) and should feel fine once I take a hot shower.

We spent Saturday cleaning out all the junk in the living room so I can set up saw horses and stain the cedar for our deck railing. I have to get that done ASAP as the guys will be here some time in the next week to put up the railing. It will be nice to not have to worry about people falling off our porch.

Sunday was just Sunday; nothing special. Monday I worked on my New Testament Survey class. I'm up to the point of writing my first paper, which I was hoping to do this week, but being out of commission yesterday sort of shot that in the head. I may try to get to it tomorrow, but no guarantees.

John Ashcroft is gone and Arafat is dead. That made my week last week. And it looks like people continue to exit the Bush White House. I haven't been paying close enough attention to say if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Powell was the lone voice against the neocons; having him resign is not a good sign. But at least we got rid of Ashcroft before he declared himself god-emperor of the world.

Anyway, I need to clean up and get ready to head into town.

Friday, November 12, 2004

As if I didn't hit everyone with enough reading material for today, here is some more on the gay marriage issue. This has been my position all along. There were people back in the 1850's that said it was a bad idea to give control of marriage over to the government. The situation we are facing right now is exactly why. Instead of trying to use the same mechanism that wrecked both the family and our schools to solve the problems it created, it is well past time for churches to again take control of marriage and the family to take control of education.
Yesterday ended up being house organizing day. Since we moved into the house in January, we have had a lot of stuff just piled in the middle of the floor because there isn't any other place for it. We finally have all our book shelves in the house, so we cleaned, polished and started filling them up. The first thing I noticed is that we don't have enough of them. Two are almost completely filled with video tapes and DVD's. We are gradually replacing VHS tapes with DVD's which take up a lot less space, especially when you are dealing with collections. I can free up almost two full shelves just by getting Babylon 5 on DVD and selling the VHS tapes on E-Bay. There are some other tapes that I probably won't bother replacing with DVD's, but I'd like to transfer them to Divx or some other digital medium. That shouldn't be hard; there are numerous devices out there to hang off a USB port to do that with. In the meantime, between videos and CD's, we only have a bookshelf and a half for actual books. There are several boxes of those waiting for a home. The bottom line is that we lost track of time and didn't get to bed until well after midnight.

Got a late start this morning, obviously. Debbie met me at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. I picked up a cheap PC from work; not too bad of a deal. It only has an 18G hard drive and 128M of RAM, so both of those will get upgraded. But I basically got a 1.6GHz P4, monitor, keyboard, and mouse for $150. I should be able to put some new parts into it, load it with Xandros and use it as a file server.

Tonight is budget night, so I have to go wrestle with Mamon.

For your edification:

From Jerry Pournelle's site:

The Marines are now doing what I thought they would do last April after the first uprising. It is unfortunate for everyone that they were called off before finishing the job last time. What we in the West think of as being reasonable is seen in the Middle East as weakness. I will still make the case that we ought not be in Iraq in the first place, but I think it is clear that, given we are there, we must not leave until we have thoroughly demonstrated to any nation thinking about harboring our enemies that this is not a good idea.

The entire notion of International Law -- it is probably better described as The Law of Nations -- was built around what was, when Grotius first proposed it in the early 1600's, a fairly novel idea: sovereignty. The notion of sovereignty had to be developed because prior to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 -- a treaty based in large part on Grotius' ideas even though he didn't quite live to see it -- the prevailing theory was more internationalist in scope, with adherents of the Papacy and Christendom on the one hand, and of a revival of the Roman Empire on the other, and during Grotius' lifetime at least, the Holy Roman Empire trying to be the embodiment of both.

International Law tried to deal with facts on the ground, in the modern terminology: there was no international enforcement mechanism, and there was no longer any international body to which all the Western nations -- the others didn't really count -- owed allegiance. The King of France was pretty well sovereign in his own domains, as was the King of England. The exact status of the different parts of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire were another matter. Note that the Papacy denounced the Treaty of Westphalia as utterly void, since it ended, even in theory, the notion of Papal supremacy over the Christian world. Note also that the United Nations pretends to the kind of suzerainty over the world that the Pope once claimed. Papal suzerainty ended at Lutzen when Gustavus Adolfus of Sweden showed that there was more than one Great Power, and the German states were not all subject to either Pope or Emperor. Had the Empire won, it would have stood to the Papacy as the United States does to the United Nations: a superpower able to enforce its will on much of the world, but subject to the Pope only in voluntary submission.

I bring all this up because the world is in much the same condition now as it was during the Thirty Years War. Calvinists in that time used the notion of Sovereignty to imprison or execute people like Grotius who believed in free _expression. Sovereignty allowed repressive regimes, and gave them a legal status, which both Catholics and Protestants were quick to make use of. The year 1648 is one of those dates to remember: not only did the Treaty of Westphalia change Europe forever (one of Hitler's avowed goals was to reverse that treaty) but the English killed their king and brought in Puritan rule to abolish Christmas and make Merrie England somber and pure. (Charles I was executed in January of what we now consider the year 1649, but in those times the year did not end on 31 December).

The world is now larger than Europe, and the United Nations isn't united as the Papacy had been. There is no universal agreement on anything including the status of women. The United States has explicitly repudiated the notion of sovereignty as regards nations that sponsor terrorism and harbor terrorist enemies of the West. The United Nations doesn't recognize that right.

Should we think of the US as Sweden had Gustavus Adolfus lived? Incidentally, it was Gustavus genius minister Oxenstern who appointed Grotius as Sweden's ambassador, in which guise he took part in negotiations that led to the Treaty of Westphalia.

And that's quite enough rambling. I am sure there are many holes in the above, which is merely a draft of speculative thoughts. I'll leave it as an example, although I am not quite sure of what. But to come back to the beginning, the US Marines are about to end the insurgency in Fallujah. The demonstration of what happens to those who sufficiently annoy the United States continues. It is not pretty, and many innocents will be killed; but then many innocents die when the terrorists do their work. I would have conducted the war on terror quite differently from President Bush, but given that we are in Iraq we have few choices now. This should have been done earlier. Better late than never.

One thing about Jerry's writting; I always have to spend two days chasing down all the historical references through Google.

And a case of credentialling gone wild. People worship paper, yet most of it is meaninless.

And I really have to go now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I'm working from home with an internet connection that is bouncing up and down like a yo-yo. I need to call these guys and find out what the problem is.

I found an article from England that discusses something that has always puzzled me. Why do "poor" people (Can obese people with homes, cars, indoor plumbing, TV's, refrigerators, video game consoles, $200 shoes, etc. really be called poor?) in the Western world throw trash everywhere? What does being poor have to do with being a slob? The author makes the differentiation between poverty and squalor. That certainly fits around here. There are a number of properties around us that are nothing but garbage dumps, yet the families buy two or three new snowmobiles every year.

I know I said enough of the election stuff, but here are a couple more articles that somebody ought to be thinking about. The first article discusses how we choose our presidents since the advent of TV campaigns. I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with ideology or policy.

The second article is by someone I have not run across before, but may end up on my list of frequented sites. Bruce Bethke discusses the seven lessons that Democrats should learn from the presidential election. Note I said "should;" they won't. That is particularly true of Lesson 6. The Democratic party is owned heart and soul by the Roe v. Wade crowd, which means that the Democratic party is taking itself out of the gene pool. Compare the family size in a typical evangelical church (at least 2 children per couple with 4 or 5 not being uncommon) with the family size of a typical member of NOW. The evangelicals are simply out-breeding the radical liberals. Note this is also true for blacks; unless whites start having larger families, whites will become the minority group. Hispanics are gaining on blacks as the largest minority (and in fact may have already passed them) with a two-pronged approach; breeding and immigration. It is interesting to note that while both of these groups are typically thought of as Democratic voters, both groups are over-whelmingly opposed to abortion. Will they switch to the Republicans or will they eventually swing to one of the third parties or form their own?

Well, I need to get to work.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Not much to report today. I'm working at a little homework and thinking about what I am going to teach tomorrow. I may start on another video series. I'm certain the kids are tired of hearing me blab. It will be a bit of a break for me as well.

So our boring life is pretty boring. So boring, I was reading two-year-old columns over at Fred Reed's web site. There was one that caught my eye: the best line is "...I can't think of a better authority on children than 12,000 squalling lesbians who don't have any..." Love it.

That's pretty much it. The weather is still holding; no accumulated white stuff although it has tried on occasion over the last couple of days.

Monday, November 08, 2004

We survived my parents' 50th anniversary party Saturday. Barely. Friday, I decided there was just too much to do, so I took a half-day off work and Debbie, our Pastor's wife, and myself got the bulk of things set up Friday. Saturday, I was at the church before 8am directing traffic from the Iceman bike race. What was nice was that because I bothered to talk to the parking lot attendants at the middle and high schools, as soon as their lots were full, they came and parked cars in our lot so I could go inside and take care of things for the party. That was a huge relief for me, because the last heats of the race left about a half hour before the party started. The parking thing wasn't a problem at all; there was plenty of space left for all the people we had show up.

The party itself was just a blur. Lots of running around, trying to talk to people that we hadn't seen in years in some cases, keeping food flowing and all that. I got to play MC, which I hate doing, but it wasn't like anyone else in my family was going to grab a mic and start talking in front of 100 or so people. The music went well; one of the ladies from the church sang a song my mom likes, I sang two songs in a trio with two other guys from the church that I've sang with before, and I was able to get another guy that used to live in the Kalkaska area to come up. He was very close to my parents while he lived here. I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to make until he actually showed up, so I hadn't said anything to my parents and left it as a surprise. In all, I think it went OK, although we will all be eating left-overs until Christmas.

Sunday was recovery day. I'm still battling something; I had symptoms that usually signal the start of a sinus infection when I got up. I was on praise team, of course. I never sing unless I have some upper respiratory ailment or another. But I felt better during church, then slid downhill all afternoon. I should have stayed home rather than go back for evening service as I slept through the entire service. We got home, ate something, then watched part of a movie, then went to bed.

Monday started bad; my alarm either didn't go off (unlikely) or I shut it off in my sleep (far more likely). In any case, I was an hour late for work. The good part was I got a nice, friendly kiss from the dog in the truck next to mine when I stopped for my morning caffeine fix at the Rapid City BP. I usually don't mess with dogs in other vehicles other than to talk to them; dogs seem to get very territorial about their owners vehicles. Probably reflects the attitudes of their owners. In any case, this dog nearly climbed out of the truck, so I gave him a little scrit and got a good morning kiss in return. I was walking away before I noticed the owner was sitting in the truck laughing his head off... Anyway, as good as that was, it didn't help the day much. I left work early because I wasn't feeling well at all. I got home in time to remember I had an appointment to get the fuel filter changed on my truck. So back out in the cold for a couple more hours. But at least that is one job taken care of for winter. I'm now home typing this and about to start on homework.

If you have seen a chart that claims to show that all the states that voted for Bush have lower average IQ's than those that voted for Kerry, keep a couple things in mind: first, it is a hoax and there are dozens of sites that have already debunked it; second, Democrats claim that IQ doesn't measure anything significant and is racist, sexist, and anyone that puts any stock in IQ scores probably stomps baby kittens; third, this is just the sort of immature, elementary-school-level insult that cost the Democrats the election in the first place. In a way, I hope they keep this up for another four years. If they really focus, the next presidential election will be a Republican landslide.

Enough 2004 American politics already; I need to read about first-century, middle-east politics. Not much has changed in 2000 years...

Friday, November 05, 2004

USA Today has a county-by-county map. It is instructive. If I were a Democrat, I'd be very concerned. Not only do the Republicans "control" five times the square mileage that Democrats do, the population of those counties is 59% of the population of the United States. It looks like the easy Bush victory was because Republicans got off their butts and went to the polls. Jerry Pournelle has been referring to the Republicans as The Stupid Party for many years because of their unfailing ability to turn victory into defeat. If this map has any validity at all, the Republicans should have a lock on the Presidency, both houses of Congress, most state houses and most state govenorships.

Jerry also has something important to say about the candidates that both parties put forward. I thought the primary system was stupid from the start and the general lack of enthusiasm for candidates by the general population seems to indicate that I'm not alone.

Last night, I tried to get some of my reading done for school, but for some reason was too tired to keep my eyes open at 8:00pm. This morning I know why: I'm getting sick just in time for my parents 50th anniversary party tomorrow. I'm supposed to sing, but I can feel another sinus infection kicking in. Great.

Tonight will be a hectic night trying to get the church cleaned and decorated. Naturally, this weekend is the annual Iceman bike race. The organizers don't have enough parking for all the participants so they feel free to send them down to our church parking lot. They never asked, they just assumed it was ok. I mean, it is just a church and what possible use could a church have of its parking lot on a Saturday. So it looks like I get to be at the church at the butt crack of dawn to try to arrange for some parking for the guests to my parents' anniversary party. There are about ten other things going on that will make it nearly impossible for us to pull this thing off with any semblance of class.

That's it for now. I may post something later.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I had intended to post more last night, but I was extremely tired when I got home from youth group. I just vegg'ed out in front of a movie and went to bed about half-way through. Today doesn't look to be much more interesting. I'm just going home, doing some homework, then going to bed early. This weekend will probably be hectic with my parents' 50th anniversary party Saturday added to the usual weekend chaos, so I want to be rested.

One thing I wanted to write more about yesterday was the election. I had called Kerry as of 11pm. I guess I should stick to programming, not calling elections. Florida was won easily by Bush, as was Ohio. The networks refused to call Ohio even though 100% of the precincts were reporting and the provisional and absentee votes would have had to be something like 85% for Kerry to give him the state. A bit of over-cautiousness? In any case, Bush had the clear majority of votes as well as winning the electoral vote. Kerry did the sensible and honorable thing and conceded rather than launching legal challenges.

Some things about this election that I'd like to note. First, I voted Libertarian as I have for many election cycles. I have no respect whatsoever for either Bush or Kerry and could not have voted for either one. There was a time when at least 2-3% of the United States agreed. This election, all the third parties combined didn't pull 1%. This means either a) a lot of third party voters drank the Republicrat Kool-Aid that this was THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN HISTORY and a vote for a third-party candidate was a vote for EVIL; or b) the increased voter turnout was strictly a Vote-for-Bush phenomenon. Or it was a combination of both. In any case, this election does not look good for third-party candidates.

Second, exit polls were revealed to be utter rubbish, and slanted heavily in favor of Kerry. The fact that these polls are conducted by the same news outlets that have obviously favored Kerry from day one shouldn't be surprising to anyone. We spend a lot of money on the FEC to ensure free and fair elections; maybe they ought to use a little of that money to dig into why the networks were trying to throw the election to Kerry. At the very least, I wouldn't expect anyone with above-room-temperature IQ to ever believe another exit poll.

Third, a note to all the rabid sign-wavers from the Demopublican Party: just who do you think you are convincing on the day of the election? Do you really believe that there are any undecided people left that actually intend to vote when the polls are open? Do you really think you are accomplishing anything other than annoying a lot of people just trying to go about their normal day? Is it so inconceivable to you that the vast majority of normal people don't share your foam-at-the-mouth hatred for "the other guy" and love for "our guy"? Don't you have jobs or something else constructive to do with your time? If not, there is a lot of litter around the streets (most of it put there by you) that you could be picking up.

And finally, for God's sake, take down your damn signs. The election is over.

I have to go home now. The sleet and freezing rain just started.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Just a quick update and then I have to get to work.

It looks like Bush is going to get re-elected. Ohio is the turning point, and that state has been weak for Bush right along.

It's been years since I heard something on the radio that made me laugh. This song did it. I have no idea what other material Lazyboy has out there, but this is a keeper.

Got to go code some REXX.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I did my "civic duty," although I assume that most of what I did will be a waste. This time around, I was able to vote a straight libertarian ticket for partisan offices. I didn't vote for any of the non-partisan offices. At least 90% of them were running unopposed and will not vote for anyone running unopposed. I voted against all proposals on principle: this is supposed to be a republic, not a direct democracy. That will put me at odds with my entire church, but what's new about that? I also voted down all property tax increases (including "renewals") again on principle. Property tax is the most immoral form of taxation that exists. The disproportionate burden that it places on the elderly and the poor is nothing short of criminal. Anyone who ever votes yes for any property tax measure is either ignorant or immoral.

As of this posting at 10:50pm, CNN is showing Bush ahead 193 electoral votes to Kerry's 133, but that doesn't include any of the western states or New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. I expect all those to go to Kerry, except Florida, which I expect to be tied up in the courts until the 2008 election cycle. Kerry will also take the west coast. That makes the final vote something like Kerry with 272 electoral votes to Bush's 266. (I think the math is right: it is one minute to my bedtime, understand). So you heard it here first; Kerry will be our next president. Unless he isn't, then Bush will be. How's that for covering all the bases? Six of one; half dozen of the other, as far as I can see. The only thing I asked is that if Kerry wins that he 1) wears a bag on his head to keep from scaring small children when he is on TV, and 2) for God's sake, stop hanging all over Edwards like they are butt-buddies.

Debbie wants to go to bed, so I have to knock this off. I was hoping to see some of the west coast results before bed, but guess not.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Dog's Prayers

Dear God:
Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?

Dear God:
When we get to heaven, can we sit on your couch...or is it going to be the same old story?

Dear God:
Why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not ONE named for a dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We dogs love a nice ride! Would it be so hard to rename the 'Chrysler Eagle' the 'Chrysler Beagle'?

Dear God:
If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog?

Dear God:
We dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID's, electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God:
More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.

Dear God:
When we get to the Pearly Gates, do we have to shake hands to get in?

Dear God:
Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

Dear God:
Let me give you a list of just some of the things I must remember to be a good dog:

  • I will not eat the cats' food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
  • I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.
  • I will not munch on "leftovers" in the kitty litter box; although they are tasty, they are not food.
  • The diaper pail is not a cookie jar.
  • The sofa is not a face towel; neither are Mom and Dad's laps.
  • The garbage man is not stealing our stuff.
  • My head does not belong in the refrigerator.
  • I will not bite the officer's hand when he reaches in for Mom's driver's license and registration.
  • I will not play tug-of-war with Dad's underwear when he's on the toilet.
  • Sticking my nose into someone's crotch is not an acceptable way of saying "Hello."
  • I do not need to suddenly stand straight up when I'm lying under the coffee table.
  • I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house.
  • I will not throw up in the car.
  • I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.
  • I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch when company is over.
  • The cat is not a squeaky toy; so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it's usually not a good thing.

Will I have to do the same things when I get to Heaven?

And, finally, my last question.......

Dear God:
When I get to Heaven may I have my testicles back?

Follow-up on Jason's Wedding

We received the following e-mail on Sunday:

Hello again,

Well, We, or should I say, Candace has decided that July 2nd, 2005 will be the day. No, really, we agreed on it, but it was up to her. (Good choice, since opening day of bow season is on Oct 1st). A summer wedding would be better, and hopefully this gives everyone enough of a notice for getting time off and to reserve a room. Anyways, hope all is well.


As we get further updates, we will pass them on.
I was running through my list of sites that I hit most days and found this over at A Stitch in Haste in his list of people who had recently linked to his site:

Ric and Debbie's Place -- "For he today who loses posts to Blogger malfunctions shall be my brother!" Christians who actually seem like nice friendly people. Go figure. Should Ric enter seminary? They report, you decide...
We have at least one reader!

I spent most of Saturday at the church cutting and chipping trees. Tim Allen; eat your heart out. Nothing like the feeling of feeding an entire twenty-foot tree into a machine and watch it come out as wood chips. Ahr ahr ahr!! Problem was that by the time I got home, I could barely move. I did manage to get the closet organizer up in the basement closet. After that, I ate, slept, showered, and slept some more.

Sunday we had choir for the first time since the "summer" break. It was not good. It was a song that we all knew, and it just fell apart. It is becoming more and more difficult for me to be a part of the choir. I know I fight against perfectionist tendencies, but there has to be some level of excellence in what we do for God, right? Maybe I'm the one that is mixed up.

Sunday afternoon was just home to eat and relax a little, then back for evening service. We had a potluck dinner first, a short service, then went to one of the other youth leader's home with some of the high school and college kids for birthday cake, junk food, and video games. I didn't get home until almost 11pm, so it was well past midnight before I got to bed. So much for gaining anything with the time change.

Today was work, of course. Tonight I will be hitting the books. I have a goal of at least having the outline of my first paper done tonight. I want to have this class completed by the end of November.

Well, time for me to hit the road for home. One thing I really dislike about the time change. I'm still at my desk and it is almost completely dark out. At least for the next month, it is daylight when I drive in. By the end of November, even that will be gone. Gotta love living this far from the equator.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Jason Pierce is Getting Married!!

In case anyone in the Wiklanski clan didn't get the e-mail, we received the following e-mail from Jason:
Hi everyone,

Sorry for the group email, but it is easier and I am lazy. I wanted to let everyone know, that I am getting married. SURPRISE! We have two dates and I am not sure yet which one it will be, but July 2 and Oct 1 are the choices so far, and yes, 2005. Her name is Candace, she has two boys, Gabe and Mitch. We have been together for only a few months, but when you know something is real and for sure, then why bother to put it off. I asked her Friday night, reserved the hall on Friday (yes, before I asked her). I just wanted to let everyone know and to make sure that your only plans for one of these weekends (I will have a definite decision very soon) were to be in Petoskey. Hope all is well with everyone, and I know that I don't have everyones addresses, so please send this on. Thank you.

Love, Jason
And another one bites the dust...
Three articles that can be considered somewhat important. I have been saying for a while that the time is coming that churches will have to decide what is really important; their 501c3 designation by the IRS or being a church. We are closer to that day than many realize:

IRS: Churches can't pray for Bush victory

Political snitches monitor sermons

Democrats back church IRS probe

Now I understand that these are all from WorldNetDaily which tends to get very over-wrought about minor rulings relating to very narrow circumstances. But even taking that into account, I think there is reason here for churches to at least start thinking about a response.

More later if I have time.
It's Thursday and I'm at work. That's a first in what seems like forever.

Not much to report over the last couple of days. I had a deacon meeting Tuesday night, and youth group last night. I'm looking forward to actually going home today after work and have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Well, that's not entirely true; I do have 11 credit hours of college material staring at me. I will probably start cranking through a bunch of that stuff tonight and try to get everything organized. I would like to get all the prep work done for the first paper and first exam. The tests are going to be a problem; I need an "acceptable proctor" to administer the test so I won't cheat. I'm 40 years old and I'm taking a Bible class (which cost me $500) so I can go into vocational ministry, but I have to have somebody watch me take a multiple-guess test to make sure I don't cheat.

Anyway, not much other to report. Other than the fact that the weather stinks. It's all my fault; ever since I hooked up the solar panels, we've seen the sun on maybe three or four days. This Saturday, we are going to try to cut and chip trees at the church again, so of course there are supposed to be high winds and lightning. We have to at least clear the trees away from the sides of the driveways and the parking areas so I can plow the drive this winter and have a place to stack the snow. We had to bring in a front loader last year; the parking area was getting mighty small even though we started out plowing nearly twice the area of the actual parking lot. If we ever start getting real snow again, we would be forced to pay to have snow hauled away two or three times during the winter.

Anyway, I need to do some work.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Another crazy weekend. We were busy; just not doing what we had planned. I was supposed to be at the church for a work day Saturday, but high winds and horizontal rain killed that (we were supposed to cut done a bunch of trees and run them through a chipper). I still had to go to the church for praise team practice, then home for some much-needed cleaning and organizing around the house. We both cleaned up and went into Traverse City for closet organizer parts and various other sundries. I was starting to get caught up on all the half-done projects, so of course we had to buy supplies for a bunch of new ones...

Anyway, by the time we did all that and spent two and a half hours at Outback (nearly an hour wait, plus everything running slow because of the huge crowd) that was pretty much our Saturday when we got home. Debbie hit the sack, and I did some reading and put together a lesson for Sunday morning, then did likewise.

Sunday was typical. We spent the afternoon at home napping, watching TV, reading, etc. We headed over to my sister's place after evening service to try to hammer out some details for my parents 50th wedding anniversary party that is in two weeks. All I can say is that I'm glad I only have to do this once. I hate planning things anyway, and this is just a huge pain. I'm sure we will pull it off, but I'll be glad when it's over.

Anyway, I have to run so I can get to the dealership at 5:30. GM has a recall on the tailgate cables on my truck. They rust through because the are made out of steel. The recall replaces them with stainless steel. Wow. What a revelation. Steel rusts in Michigan. It took the bright boys at GM over 100 years to figure that out. I'm amazed. At the stupidity of large groups of people working together, that is. Anyway, I have to waste an hour of my life because GM was too stupid (or too cheap) to put stainless steel cables on my $45,000 truck in the first place. Sheesh.


Oops. almost forgot. I don't care for people like Bill Maher as a rule, but this is something that people in the Church need to think about and figure out a coherent response to.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Chart of Church Denominations

Here is a .pdf file that shows where most if not all North American denominations came from.
Just a quick note. I just noticed I have a Mandatory Meeting at the main campus today, so I have to scoot over there for the rest of the day. A couple important articles:

A rather disturbing article on what on the surface appears to be a case of homicide by organ harvesting.

An another important article on how our educational system is having a negative effect on our ability to compete in technology. Again, we should be talking about this as a nation. We are not. As I and many others have said before, there are things we can't fix and there are things we won't fix. This is a problem of the second sort.

I will be hanging drywall this evening in our pastor's garage; ifI have the energy afterwards, I will post more here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I almost never post anything on Thursday's because I am at class. So in celebration of not having class today, I thought I would put something up here.

I had hoped to get a lot done today. I suppose I did, but it was all stuff that doesn't really look like much was done. I spent a couple hours at the high school just hanging around with some of the teens. I made a couple contacts that I normally don't see, which was good. I picked up $100 worth of spray foam and caulk, then spent the rest of the day working on sealing the place up. The basement in complete, and I got about 3/4 of the main floor done. The foam and caulk are disappearing fast; no wonder we spent so much money heating the place last year. I expect to do much better this year.

More work being done on our road today. There was a really big truck full of gravel and a road grader out doing a bunch of work. I talked to him about widening out the sweeps where our road T's into the paved road. Our road basically butts right into the paved road with no real apron or shoulders on the road. To turn right off our road, I either have to cross the center line on a blind curve, or roll the back wheels through the ditch. That's not too bad in the summer (other than a pretty good bounce), but I've almost lost my truck in the snow a few times in the winter. He is also going to see about moving the stop sign at the end of our road. They put it in the road instead of beside the road. Kalkaska road crews are not the brightest bulbs in the box.

Anyway, it's getting late and I want to be to work at a decent time tomorrow. I'm supposed to meet a couple people at the pastor's house to help him drywall his garage. Should be fun, fun, fun.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Daddy's Ten Rules of Dating

I may not have daughters of my own, but I do have my girls in the youth group. Males in Kalkaska and surrounding counties; take heed.

Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "Barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: "early."

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka -- zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which feature chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless God of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car -- there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

I'm trying to work from home today, without much success. I need to call the help desk and find out what the problem is. In the meantime, I found this while cleaning out my old mail:

It seems that with the terrorist attacks, duck-and-cover (if you don't know what that is, ask someone who was in school in the 1960's) is back, only our schools crank out such a high percentage of illiterates that they have to use pictures. These are actual signs proposed by the US government, with some rather irreverent interpretations.

Well, I have to call the help desk. More later. Maybe.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Some more gems in my old e-mail. This is from Keith, a very bright guy on one of my mailing lists. Understand that he wrote this on April 4, 2003 in response to an essay about how much the "average" Iraqi wanted us to invade Iraq:

I think this is likely to be true of some of the people in Iraq; a lot of Iraqis welcome this invasion. We will find allies among the Shiites and the Christians and the Kurds.

But there are millions of people there, coming from a tradition of shooting instead of talking. Millions are beholden to Saddam. This will make constructing a democracy difficult, and it will mean there are millions ready to shoot at us.

One of the irritating phrases that often comes up in conversation is "the average Iraqi". The vision conveyed is "average middle-class American with different clothes and language and religion", and behavior and reactions are extrapolated from that. Iraq is a hodgepodge of people, without a dominant archetype; if I had to characterize it, I would say a mixture of Shiite, Kurd, Sunni Arab, secular, with a sprinkle of oddball Christian. Or as herder, farmer, shopkeeper, army, bureaucrat, police. Or as revolutionary, disgruntled, apathetic, stooge, collaborator, ward heeler, leader. Or as cattle and rancher; the Baath monsters act like a species apart. If there are any with "average American" behavior, they left and came here.

The government resembles an insular Bolshevik street gang with millions of members, bound by evil initiatory acts that forever isolate them from their neighbors. The violence and murder committed by the Baath party performs no useful political function. Instead, it initiates the perpetrators into the cult of Saddam, and binds them to the regime as fear or greed alone never could. Street gangs and organized crime work the same way here. The opinions of the victims are not the opinions of the gangsters.

Will the shopkeepers fight? Of course not. Will the Baath regulars, informers, dependents? Of course. When the U.S. wins, the gangsters will get killed by their neighbors anyway.

Sampling one family, one neighborhood, one creed, or one border guard does not make a complete picture. You and I have a lot more in common with a Muslim Iraqi immigrant to America than any given Iraqi has with another Iraqi.

And this means we will see millions waving, and millions shooting, and millions in between hunkered down and waiting for it all to end. We should be ready for a long period of mutual annihilation, and it will be difficult to separate the people we can work with and the people we can't. If we go into this assuming "the average Iraqi will like us", and we encounter continuing heavy resistance, then we may decide "the average Iraqi hates us" and react vindictively. If we instead recognize that there are no averages, only individuals, we can make friends individually, one at a time, and work our way slowly but surely to a peaceful and friendly democratic Iraq.
Prophetic, to say the least.

And a quote that resonates with me:

A Committee is a blind alley down which good ideas are lured, and quietly strangled.
-Charles F. Young

And another one from Keith. It is four years old, but nothing has changed other than substituting "Kerry" for "Gore":

If this country has sunk to the point that four years of a single person of any persuasion can change things forever, then it is time to set off our own H-Bombs in the silos and hope God will be there to sort us out in the Hereafter.

I challenge anyone on this list to provide a quote from the Bible, counseling despair as a Christian virtue. Yes, we live in a sinful world. Yes, there are people that appear to our limited senses as more evil or less evil. But the most evil thing of all, I would think, is to assign any one of them Godlike powers to change the world forever, beyond the ability of any one of us to work towards its restoration.

The collectivist sin is to "act globally", that is, not act at all, and to pretend the actions of others are your own. Or that Bush or Gore or Browne or God will do the job for you, that you can sit back and be a drama critic. To pretend that your vote matters, is crucial, except ... when your politician does something loathsome, to cast off the responsibility by prating that the other guy would have been worse, or that somehow the responsibility gets diffused in a democracy.

But there is a worse sin than that. This sin is to act petulantly, and vindictively, and act to thwart those who don't act according to your wishes. "Voting for the lesser" is nothing more than acting to thwart those who think your lesser evil is the greater evil. As they act to thwart you. Are not Bush and Gore exactly the kind of reward an angry and just God would give to the American people for being so hard-hearted and nasty?

When tribulation comes, it will rain down on the good and the wicked alike. But there is a difference in what it means to each. A wicked man may sense in that tribulation worse to come, and will lose hope. A truly good man will look at the tribulation as an external event, a temporary storm cloud that cannot last forever. And even this agnostic can see that a single man, helpless, friendless, nailed to a cross by a mighty empire, can vanquish that empire and change the world forever. It is never hopeless when you do good.

A vote is a chance to speak the truth, quietly, timidly, allowing even the meek to be heard. If the Libertarians don't get enough votes they lose ballot access and that chance will be difficult to regain. But that is not the reason you should speak the truth; we can circulate those petitions again. The Democrats can take away your guns and money. But there is a world full of iron and gold ore; you can make more.

Nothing you have is irreplaceable in this world, except for your integrity and your soul. If you use your vote as a lie, or if you use it to thwart and punish others for disagreeing with you, if you write "George W. Bush" because other deluded fools are writing "Albert Gore", how can you ever be free? And why do you think you deserve freedom anyway, if you can use the sins of others to justify your own?

I don't agree with everything that Harry Browne is or says or does. Of the nominees presented at the LP convention, he was number three on my list. But I would be willing (gulp!) to stand in front of any judge (or Judge) and personally take what ever punishments Mr. Browne has coming to him (and there would be some, no man is perfect, and even unelected leaders have plenty of chances to sin). That is what my vote means to me. It is my word, my bond, my pledge of loyalty. My assent. Can you say the same about the folks you are voting for? If so, bless you and good luck.

I started this thread with the idea that votes come with both a public and a personal (spiritual?) dimension. The public dimension consumed the argument; most of the Bush voters are writing like there is no personal dimension. I can imagine why - to think that a single act could possibly cast one into the Pit, even a worldly one of separation from those whom your vote is intended to reject, is a hard thing to think about. But we aren't on this planet to think about the easy stuff.

It is better to win battles than to lose them, granted. But Jesus told us that the peacemakers were blessed, and didn't even mention the "victors". In the long run, which team do you want to be on?
It always strikes me as funny how the same junk gets recycled every four years. I'm closer now than at any time since I turned 18 to just saying forget the whole mess and stay home.

And this was a response from Bill on the same mailing list:

Imagine that we are all on a large ship together. The ship is slowly sinking and various compartments of the ship are becoming submerged or at least very wet. The ship is littered with holes of various sizes in the hull and water is coming onboard through all of them. Some people spend all there time trying to siphon and pump water from one compartment to another. They try to intercept water coming into one compartment and make it go into another compartment instead. Each person is thinking of the stuff that's in their favorite compartments. Some people want to save the guns so they are pumping water from there into the compartment holding the endangered baby owls. Some people want to save the dirty books and alternative artwork, so they are pumping water from there into the compartment holding all the American flags.

The majority of the people are fighting over which compartments should be pumped out and which ones can be sacrificed. All the while the boat just keeps getting lower in the water because there are not enough people trying to plug up the holes in the hull and bail water back out into the ocean again.

There are plenty of people on board who know that they really should be plugging holes getting the water all the way out of the ship by manning the bilge pumps but they keep getting distracted by the fact that their favorite stuff is threatened by water coming from somebody else's compartment so they abandon the bilge pumps for a while to try to save their favorite stuff. A few people are hanging on the outside of the ship and attempting to plug the holes below the water line to stop the ship from sinking. And a few people are laboring hard at the bilge pumps but not enough of them.

The bilge pumpers and hole pluggers keep yelling for help and trying to impress on others the importance of reducing the overall amount of water in the ship and the amount of water gushing into the ship but to no avail. Ninety percent of the energy on the ship is still just pumping water from one room to another. The compartment siphoners are always amazed at the bilge pumpers because they think they are wasting their time. "Look at all these wet flags", they say. "Why aren't you helping me keep these flags dry?" "The owls are up to their knees in saltwater now. How dare you let the owls get so wet?", they howl.

In every compartment there is a worker, completely focused on the task at hand. They must get this water to go someplace else or their stuff will be submerged. They scramble around for pipes and pumps and drill holes into other compartments to get water off of their stuff and onto somebody else's stuff.

Whenever the bilge pumpers start yelling for help all the compartment siphoners just ignore them. You see, there was a rumor that the bilge pumpers are only interested in getting all the water out of the ship because it was their marijuana shipment in the ballast hold that was the first thing to get flooded.

The bilge pumpers are completely focused on cranking their pumps. They can't understand why anybody would waste time pumping water from one place to another because it's obvious it's not reducing the amount of water in the ship. The hole pluggers are flabbergasted that the bilge pumpers don't understand the importance of plugging the holes before worrying about getting the water back out of the ship. "The water's just going to keep coming in until the holes are plugged", they say.

Well, of course the ship sank and everyone on board died. The investigators who looked into the event just shook their heads and kept repeating to themselves. "Why didn't they all work together to repair the holes first, then pump all the water out of the ship? That's the only way they could have saved themselves. And why are all these hoses just running from one compartment to another?"
Which is funny, but also quite sad when you think about it.

And that should be enough for now, unless I un-earth some more e-mails.
Wow. A whole week went by without me putting anything here. I'm not even sure where the week went.

Tuesday and Wednesday were consumed with homework for my last class session. Thursday was my last class session (Woo Hoo!!). This weekend was mostly sleeping. I have a lot of lost sleep to catch up on. It feels weird not having any reading or a paper or anything that I should be working on. It was great to just sit in a chair and do nothing. Saturday, I puttered around the house a little. I couldn't really work on much because is was raining/sleeting/snowing all day. The worst of the snow must have missed us because a couple cars in the church parking lot on Sunday morning had several inches of snow on them. We didn't have snow that stuck to anything at our place.

Because I was stuck inside, I decided to start sealing up the doors and windows better. Some had fiberglass insulation packed around them, some partially, some not at all. I either packed the fiberglass tighter or removed some of it to make room for the foam. The "Great Stuff" brand now has a version for doors and windows that is lower expansion so it doesn't jam everything up when it expands. It worked pretty well, although the lower expansion rate means it takes a lot more to fill any given opening. Three cans barely did the three basement windows and the French door. That means that I need ten or more cans to do all the windows and doors. Plus, I need a lot of caulk. The logs have dried out creating some cracks in the butt joints in the middle of the walls. I also need to seal a lot of other places where pipes go through walls, etc. I ought to be busy for a while.

This story is funny, weird, and a little sad. These kinds of stories always seem to come out of Alaska.

This story has some disturbing implications. I wonder what other brands are indelibly etched on our brains? The part that disturbed me most:

At the same time the researchers found that the Coke label stimulated a huge increase in activity in parts of the brain associated with cultural knowledge, memory and self-image - so much that the scientists could use brain scans to predict which soft drink an individual was likely to prefer.
So much for free will...

And as oil prices continue to climb, the ideas in this article will become more important. I just wonder if we will bother to do anything before a crisis. Probably not.

On a lighter note:


You are Form 5, Dragon: The Weaver.

"And The Dragon separated the virtuous from the sinful. He tore his eyes from his sockets and used them to peer into the souls of those on trial to make a judgment. He knew that with endless knowledge came endless responsibility."

Some examples of the Dragon Form are Athena (Greek), St. Peter (Christian), and Surya (Indian). The Dragon is associated with the concept of intelligence, the number 5, and the element of wood. His sign is the crescent moon.

As a member of Form 5, you are an intelligent and wise individual. You weigh options by looking at how logical they are and you know that while there may not always be a right or wrong choice, there is always a logical one. People may say you are too indecisive, but it's only because you want to do what's right. Dragons are the best friends to have because they're willing to learn.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

And that ought to be enough for now. I will sincerely try to update more often this week.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Made some progress this weekend. I got the generators swapped around so we can charge up the batteries a lot easier. I cleaned out the power shed and set up the door to the battery room so it is sealed. Well, not quite yet; I still need to foam in around the door frame. But I did get the threshold put in and the foam gasket around the door. It seals up pretty tight. The only job left is to put in a vent through the floor of the battery room to let fresh air in when the exhaust vent is running.

A big chunk of Saturday was spent cleaning the house for company on Sunday. We invited the youth group out for lunch after Sunday morning service, so we figured even if they were just teenagers, we should at least scrape up the worst of it. One advantage of having people over every couple of weeks: the house gets periodic cleanings. I did notice one thing while cleaning. We seem to be getting a huge amount of dust from somewhere. The first couple of times, it didn't surprise me much because we were cleaning up after the construction. But that should have been cleaned up several scrub-downs ago. Maybe I'm just used to having carpet that hides it all.

In any case, Sunday was normal except for the five teens running around our house all afternoon. We (barely) made it back for evening service, then headed straight home to crash. All in all, it went well. Nothing important got broken in spite of the pillow-and-water fight that broke out around 4pm and lasted for an hour or so. (For the record, Debbie started it, not the teens.) We have a stack of dirty dishes looking at us, but those will probably wait until next weekend. I know I won't have time to deal with them between now and my last college class, and Debbie will be out of town all day Tuesday at a conference.

Tonight is homework night. I have to get cranking on my final final project. Well, I have to stop at Home Depot to pick up some drywall for my pastor and some odds and ends for us. But that should be a quick stop. Should. My record at the big orange box isn't promising.

Some interesting things I found today:

Fred Reed has another column up. While reading it, just remember that despair is a sin.

More information about water on Mars. The signs are for a wet past. Signs of water everywhere except on younger lava flows. Sounds like what one would expect if a planet was wet early on, then dried out as it lost its atmosphere.

Vox Day's latest column addresses an issue that many misunderstand. Libertarians are often accused of wanting to dismantle government so the evil corporations can destroy the planet and enslave everyone. The reality is that libertairians would dismantle the legal fiction of the corporation as an individual.

And that should keep everyone busy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

I'll start with a bunch of articles that I found interesting this morning:

This is a different take on the Bloggers V. Big Media uproar. I'm on the side of the bloggers. Betting on history repeating itself is usually a good bet.

This is a good article on micro-radio stations. I think this would be fun to play around with. For twenty bucks, why not? Even if you are talking about a radio station that only transmits 200 feet and on AM. It would still be a good way to annoy a few people in your neighborhood.

Here is some new information on the Miller-Urey experiments that were done in the 1950's.

And still more water on Mars. Everywhere the rovers go, more evidence of water. Damn NASA; without them we would have a team of geologists up there doing this, not a couple RC golf carts.

I'm having fun right now trying to do this update. I'm at work right now running a REXX job to upload between 4,000 and 5,000 documents (spreadsheets and .pdf files, mostly) into our archiving system. As I'm typing this, nothing happens on the screen for a long time, then a whole line of text shoots on the screen. That's not so bad, although a bit disconcerting; using the mouse is an exercise in frustration. It jerks around on the screen so bad that it's hard to hit even great big push buttons. Closing a window is impossible without using the shortcut key (Alt-F4, if you've never been told that).

Only one more class session to go. Last night was interesting; my paper I had turned in last week became a point of discussion. I didn't think it was that great, mainly because I had thrown it together at 2am, but the instructor kept coming back to it. It made me a little uncomfortable. I have always done very well in school, but I don't like having it pointed out publicly. I only have three chapters of reading (about 40-50 pages) and a 10-12 page paper on one of the other books we read. Our study group seems to be about finished up on our group project (45 minute presentation on ethical dilemmas arising from abortion), we should be setting pretty for the end of the program.

I did get some bad news. Well, annoying news, really. I had used the materials that I had been given at the beginning of the program to select classes I needed to take through Moody Bible Institute's independent study program to fulfill my last 15 credit hours for Cornerstone. Last night, I was given an updated form and discovered 4 of the 5 Cornerstone classes no longer exist. Understand, I sent the list of Cornerstone classes I had selected to finish my degree, along with what I felt were corresponding Moody classes to my so-called academic advisor. "Looks good," he says. Right. Looks good other than the 4 non-existent Cornerstone class numbers. Feh. In any case, I'll be trying again with the updated information.

Debbie just found out today that our grand-niece's first birthday party is tonight. I love the way our family communicates so well. We will be late; Debbie is meeting me here in Traverse City at 6pm to grab dinner and a gift over at the mall. Then we will be scooting into Kalkaska as quickly as possible. The birthday girl will probably already be in bed for the night by the time we get there. Lovely. Just lovely. We also have about two weeks to plan for my parents 50th anniversary party the first weekend of November. At least I will have some time between the end of my classes at Cornerstone and going back to 40-hour weeks at work and starting the Moody independent studies. Not much time, but some.

Tomorrow is generator swapping day, plus some other odds and ends like running a phone line into the house. We still have to search through all our boxes and find our cordless phone/answering machine. That will save us another $8 a month because we can shut off the voice mail we've been using for the last 5 years. We will be normal people yet...

Well, I need to wrap things up here.