Friday, July 30, 2004

Our phone line was cut yesterday because we have someone trying to fix the latest washouts in our road. I'm looking into a company that sets up wireless telephone and internet access today. Verizon installed the line improperly to begin with. Now they refuse to correct it because I can't find the paperwork from five years ago to prove to them that the line was not installed correctly. Mind you, they were the ones that told me that it was done wrong, but I have to prove to them that it was done wrong before they will fix it. Even if the wireless costs more, it will be worth it to not have to deal with these morons anymore.

In any case, I am doing this from my parent's house, so I have to keep it short. I also need to drive an hour in the wrong direction this morning to pick up the snow plow, drop it off at our place, then drive in to work. It's almost August, so we need to start getting ready to plow snow...

Anyway, I received this from Mom/Marge yesterday:

072904 - Good evening to you all - I was able to present Becky and Jamie with "ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS" this afternoon. Jamie sobbed and Becky was murmuring words of comfort to him from her prone position on the bed. They were so amazed, as I was, that we were able to pull this out of the bag so quick. There are still several family members that I haven't heard from - so -I'm sure we will be able to get some more to them next week.

Becky is really hurting and is trying to cut down on her pain pills - I think Rita and I convinced her that she needs them - when she waits too long to take one she has lost her momentum to fight the pain and has to start all over again.

She has now been diagnosed with broken collar bone also - and there is another cut on her broken arm on the forearm. They aren't going to cast the arm till cuts heal as it would contaminate the wounds.

She was so happy to see Kevin - when I walked into the room, he was sitting beside her bed with his hand just resting on her arm. She said she is most unhappy with the broken arm as that is the side she usually sleeps on - DARN -

God she was so lucky - like someone said - It was like she was in a protective bubble ie. God's arms around her during this terrible accident.

There are 4 people that donated that I don't have email address for - Barb and Rob - will you make sure Jason, and your mom and dad, Howard & Lou, sisters families, Carol & Ron and Sharon & Ernie get this info also? Barb - why don't we say Carol did $2.00 more than Sharon - so it still keeps it even?


Talk about funny - I said to Becky, "knowing our families, I'm really surprised that none of these flowers, cards etc have a train on or in them". She agreed - SO -O- O- O- HOW ABOUT IT?

Well I've got to get to bed - will keep you all posted on the final amts -

THANKS AGAIN SO MUCH FOR COMING THRU FOR BECKY - Quoting from our family yearbook from twenty some years ago - "When one family member is in trouble,the whole family is there to help - - this just exemplifies what our family is all about ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!!!"

Make it a GREAT weekend -
Love, Marge/Aunt Marge/Mom
Well, I really have got to hit the road. I may post something later today from work.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Becky was released from ICU! She is now on the 3rd floor room 357. Her neck and spine xrays only show mild whiplash. She starts physical therapy today? and (HAPPIEST NEWS) her son Kevin is suppose to come up to the hospital to visit today! Thanks for all the prayers and keep them going.

On another note...regarding Ric's email from yesterday...if you are wondering..............
None of the girls came to Youth group last night, so Ric didn't get to give his "talk" It will be interesting if they decide to come to Michigan Adventure next week and have only bikinis and no dark shirt to wear over them. I think Ric will be going supplied with several of his dark Tshirts! LOL

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Just an FYI for those that haven't heard yet:  my cousin Becky Wiklanski (Jamie's wife) was in an accident on Monday morning.  She was hit by a train while driving a car.  She was air lifted to St Marys Hosp in Saginaw.  She is still in ICU as of today.  She has SEVERAL fractures of the pelvis-but all clean breaks.  She has fluid around her heart -- possible trauma from airbag/seatbelt.  Bad gash on her arm --they had to clean out some glass and metal from tendons were cut and it didn't go down to the bone.  Broken arm -- not casted yet because of swelling and injury.  She had a neck brace on -- was taken off sometime today.  Neck xrays shows okay, no results from spine xrays.  She had tubes in stomach to check for internal injuries--taken out last night or today.  No internal injuries.  Still in pain and drinking/eating a little bit.  I will update as I hear more.   Prayers are appreciated ... letters can be sent to the hospital if you want.   St Mary's Medical Center ICU Unit 800 S Washington   Saginaw MI  48601   .... when moved to a regular room -- mail should follow her.
Well, we survived our outing last night. Once again, I brought home as many teens as I left with; I just hope it was the same ones. None of the parents have complained, so either I got it right, or the replacement was an improvement.

One the way back to the church, some of the girls were grilling me about the church's one-piece bathing suit rule. I really didn't want to get into it right then because a) I was driving and I don't like being in conversations when I'm hauling around other people's kids. And b) there were several Jr. High boys in the van and I didn't think it was a good idea to get into the "theology of the female breast" with them listening in. I told them to show up early for youth group tonight and we would have a private conversation. So, assuming they show up, I get to talk to 3 or 4 High School girls about why it's a bad idea to publicly display their breasts.

The things you get to do in ministry....

Anyway, that's all for now. I haven't had a chance to check my usual news sources, but I assume it's still "all John's, all the time." If I find something that may actually interest real people, I'll post it later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I got a giggle today while I was helping one of my customers. Part of the application they use has a list of descriptions for DRG codes. DRG's indicate why you are here in a hospital. They also impact reimbursement rates, etc. They are extremely detailed and break down not just what is wrong with you, but why. Maybe I'm morbid, but I find some of these funny. For example:


Now I have to ask; just how many times does that happen in a year? Is it so frequent that it warrants its own DRG?

Then we have the NASA DRG:


I follow space-related news pretty closely; I'd have to say that in my lifetime, the number of aircraft crashes that have resulted in injury to an occupant of a spacecraft is zero.

And, of course, the klutz DRG:


As opposed to an intentional fall into a storm drain...

The Duh DRG:


Would someone explain to me how one falls without eventually striking another object? The ground is, after all, an object...

The Earth Science Challenged DRG pair:


How many kinds of "cataclysmic earth surface movements" are there? I count exactly one: earthquakes. And leave it up to medical people to take a simple word like "earthquake" and turn it into "cataclysmic earth surface movement." And I'm not touching the eruptions thing; I don't think I want to know...

And last but not least, we have the Who Concert DRG:


I'm not clear on how one goes about being struck accidentally by a crowd. Maybe I just lack imagination.

But seriously.

Last night was homework until I fell asleep in my chair. Tonight is a youth event that combines the old people and young people into teams to build boats out of cardboard, duct tape, and milk jugs. This could be interesting. I hope it wraps up early; I still have a ton of homework. I have my stuff for Wednesday all ready to teach, so all I need for that is a few minutes' review. I wanted to get the minutes for the deacon's meeting typed up before the business meeting. but that may not happen. Homework has to come first.

Anyway, judging by the news, the entire universe is on hold during the Democratic convention this week. I didn't find much interesting other than this:

Medical people reveal that educators use legitimate medical diagnoses as wastebaskets to cover their own incompetence. The article is from London, but it could be from anywhere in the Western world. Sometimes, I think we deserve to have our lunch eaten by the Chinese. Other times, I'm certain of it.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Crazy busy weekend, as usual. Friday night we worked on our budget and tried to come up with some sort of system that actually works. We're not there yet by any stretch, but getting closer.

Saturday, we had to be over to Lake Ann by 9am to pick up our church kids that were at camp. We got there early, so we had time to hang around and watch everyone interacting with each other. It was pretty cool. I never did the camp thing when I was growing up other than one summer when I was in elementary school. Probably should have, but that's all ancient history.

By the time we loaded everyone up and dropped them off at home it was after 11am. We went home and read and relaxed for a bit. I picked up my Dad and Sister around 3:30pm for a Father/Child gathering we had at one of the church family's home. That pretty much took up the rest of the day. I tried working on my lesson for Sunday morning, but couldn't keep my eyes open. It was only around 9pm, so I figured I would take a short nap, then get up and finish my lesson prep. Heh. The next thing I knew it was 6:30am.

Sunday was the usual stuff, plus we ran in to Traverse City between services to hit the dry cleaners, Home Depot, and Sam's. We headed straight back to church for Financial Peace University. Evening service was a little different; the Cedarville University puppet team will be doing our Vacation Bible School next week, so they had the evening service. We put out food afterwards and stood around talking and stuffing our faces until 8:30pm or so. I tried reading after we got home, but fell asleep on the couch until 1am or so.

Obviously, Monday was a slow start, so I'll be here at work half the night. I still haven't started on my final project for college, so I need to crank on that tonight. (sigh) It never seems to end.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Long week that I wouldn't repeat on a bet.

Anyway, I'm about to get kicked out of the building so they can lock up, so this will be short. Yesterday was college; another good class and my study group got some good work hammered out. It looks like the final project is coming together nicely.

My personal project... well... not so good. I have to get a solid start on that this weekend no matter what else happens.

Anyway; the world:


Here is a good bit about why our churches are failing. I'm not sure I'm willing to go "back" to the old liturgical style service (Yea, yea, some never quit. I know that, but I'm talking here about evangelical churches that separated from the liturgical traditions a couple hundred years ago.). But I must say they can be enjoyable when done by both leaders and a congregation that are doing more than going through the motions. Of course I can say the same for the evangelical worship style, which in some times and places looks more like people at work on Monday morning than people worshipping God.

Churches will soon face a choice: drop the 501(c)3 status (contributions will no longer be tax exempt; the church will still be a non-profit) or have either Congress, the courts, or private lawyers (possibly all three) telling your pastor what he can preach. Many new churches are foregoing any formal tax organization, while existing churches keep sticking their heads in the sand and trying to pretend this isn't happening. The time to make major changes is before a crisis, not during.


I hope everyone remembers the 1970's because Uncle Al is bringing them back. I'm glad the bulk of my money is in real estate right now. I'll need some bell bottoms...


In a previous post, I, like many other bloggers and internet news sources, had links to a scary story of Middle Eastern guys on a NorthWest flight acting very strangely. Someone has tracked these men down, after a fashion, and they actually are musicians. Much of the fear was probably due to misunderstandings and a flight crew so concerned about "profiling" they allowed a large group of passengers to violate basic passenger flight rules. The article is a decent piece of research and some good analysis. The conclusions is still the same; just because this group really was a traveling group of musicians, the next group may not be.


Michael Fumento gives yet another math lesson. Fuzzy math indeed. This sort of nonsense would be funny except for the unnecessary deaths it produces. Clean drinking water would do the African continent more good that the world's entire supply of AID's drugs. But of course, drilling wells is something Africans could do for themselves instead of blaming the U.S. The whole mess sounds like a lot of the trash I hear from our inner-city areas. Maybe it really is genetic...

Well, gotta go.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Just a quick update from college. I'm just finishing up with my study group, so I thought I would leave a quick note.

Last night was interesting: no one showed up for youth group. Not good in one way, but it was good that Debbie and I actually got to participate in prayer meeting. I wish the church would move youth group off of Wednesday night. But this is happening anyway, only because the kids aren't bothering to show up, not because the church leadership did anything.

Anyway, that's all I have time for. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to my template. It needs to get fixed if for no other reason it's driving me nuts.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I forgot to post this yesterday; more water on Mars. Lots of it for a loooooong time. Woo hoo! I wouldn't want to be in the young-earth creationist camp in the next few years. Discoveries like this will shake out serious research efforts directed at Mars. I expect if the rovers continue returning data like this that their will be a steady hail of probes dropping all over the surface including robotic material-return missions.
And the menu bar on the right isn't missing; for some unknown reason Blogger has decided to shove it to the very bottom of the page.  (sigh)  I'll give it another day to correct itself, then I will have to send in a help ticket to Blogger about what changed.

Today is slightly better than yesterday. Things are still rough, but I'll get over it.
Yesterday was a typing day. The monthly deacons meeting was moved up a week because we have a quarterly business meeting the last Wednesday of the month. It takes me forever to type up the minutes. I don't know why. I spent four hours on it last night. Of course it wasn't just the minutes; I also type up a summary of the youth stuff each month and that takes a fair amount of time. I also typed up some analysis of the number of households in each income category that I've been working on. I'm trying to see where we are at as far as expectations of what should be hitting the offering plates every week. I looked at it a couple different ways and tried to always take the conservative side of any ranges. What it showed was somewhat depressing; basically, we are getting all that we can expect to get until we get off our butts and fill the seats. Asking the people already giving for still more doesn't seem right.
That was pretty much the night.
Jerry Pournelle had an excerpt from a NY Times article about the coming disaster of black idleness. It had the following paragraph:

This slow death of the hopes, pride and well-being of huge numbers of African-Americans is going unnoticed by most other Americans and by political leaders of both parties.

This "slow death" goes unnoticed because first, more often than not, it is the result of personal choice. Why would I care if another person chooses what I would consider a miserable existence? People think I'm nuts for the way I live, too. Maybe a significant fraction of black men like to lead pointless lives. Has anyone bothered to ask them? Just because another person's lifestyle would be misery for you, doesn't mean they see it the same way.
Second, most voters don't notice because they are too busy working two jobs to pay taxes to fund the welfare that allows a significant fraction of black males to remain jobless for years at a time.
Third, politicians don't notice because a) the voters don't notice, and b) unemployed blacks don't generally vote. If they did, you would see delivery trucks with "Vote for the John's" painted on the side handing out free beer and pizza in every inner-city area in America. This is precisely why the people who founded this country insisted that voting be restricted to those with assets or land. A person capable of supporting himself is far less easily bought.
OK, so maybe my mood isn't that much better...
Tonight will be another late night. I have to get something ready for youth group tomorrow after the deacons meeting. I hope this isn't a late night.

Monday, July 19, 2004

This weekend started out busy, became glorious, then crashed into a smoldering heap. I am exhausted physically and emotionally, barely able to function as I sit here looking at all the crap on my desk. Sometimes, I have to wonder why I bother with ministry; it seems nothing more than endless opportunities for others to rip your heart out and piss on it. Right now, I am angry. Contrary to what you may think, it isn't the teens, at least this time. It's people that ought to be old enough to know better. And, yea, you too, God. Right now, your in my line of fire as well.
I know all the pat answers. I grew up in the church and know all about total depravity and the fallen world and all the rest of that. It doesn't help, so just keep it to yourself. Unless you would like to be added to the growing list in my line of fire.
Probably due to my mood, these are the things that caught my eye today:
From Jerry Pournelle's site, we have some Rudyard Kipling. The first section is an introduction written by Dr. Pournelle giving the poem some context:

Editor's introduction to The Sons of Martha by Rudyard Kipling

There is more than one kind of aristocracy.

Luke tells us the story: Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were entertaining Jesus and his disciples. Martha rushed about the kitchen and household, seeing to the cooking, bringing wash basins, changing towels, and doing the other things needful when one's home has been unexpectedly invaded by a celebrity and his entourage.
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word.

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.

"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things:

"But one thing is needful: Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

(Luke 10:38-42)
Much has happened since then; but Rudyard Kipling tells us, we sons of Martha have yet to pay the final reckoning.

Imperial Stars Vol. I: The Stars at War, Jerry Pournelle, ed. p. 227  

The Sons of Martha

Rudyard Kipling 1907
The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to the lesser floods, "Be dry."
Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they dam'-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's day may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat -
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!

I have been identified as a "Son of Martha" on more than one occasion. I did not realize that Kipling had addressed that particular issue. Martha's Sons indeed.
Fred Reed posted a new column last week that pretty well says it all. We are no longer citizens. We are not even subjects. We are suspects. I am closing in fast on 40, and I barely remember the America Mr. Reed is describing. Those not much younger than me see nothing amiss with a nation that sends out three cars full of police officers to storm the local high school like they are raiding a crack house, all because two teen-age girls are sitting on the roof talking and taking in a sunset. Those girls don't know what has been lost; maybe it's best that those of us who do get out of the way of the inevitable.
As I said: not a happy person today.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Last night was an awesome class, mainly because we got out an hour and a half early. I was home and in bed shortly after midnight. Woo hoo!
Anyway, not much to report other than spending more money at Brighton Electric. I'm trying to make our well pump more efficient without the constant hassle of turning the breaker on and off. The plan is to use the pressure switch to energize a low-amp signaling circuit that will do two things. First it will activate a relay on a high-amp circuit that will send power to the transformer. Second, a one-second timer circuit will kick at the same time, then activate a second relay that will send power from the transformer to the well pump. If it works (fingers crossed) it will be a pretty slick solution to the problem. It will cut 20 to 25% of our daily electrical usage right off the top. After this is done, the next efficiency we will be working on is our lighting. Right now, we are using a 300 watt halogen light for a desk lamp. Next pay period, that will be changed. My goal is to be able to live 9 months of the year off what we can generate from the solar panels.
Speaking of solar panels, that is the next major project; building the rack for the panels. I want to make the rack big enough for 16 panels (we currently have four). That will give us a worst-case capacity of 400 amp-hours a day (meaning that we can expect about 100 amp-hours a day from the panels we have). Our battery capacity is 440 amp-hours, which lasts us about 2 days with our current usage. With efficiencies in place, that could increase, but I'm not banking on it. What all that means is that we would have to run the generator once or twice a week for 8 hours during late-December, January, February, and early-March. The rest of the year, it would just get exercised for an hour or so once a month, or when we needed to run power tools out in the garage. We would almost be living like normal people...
I've seen this referenced many places. Jerry Pournelle's site was the first. I hope for all our sakes that this is some sort of joke. Another successful, large-scale attack on U.S. soil would be... well... interesting (as in the Chinese curse). It would effectively kill the airline industry, and Debbie's job along with it. Would the Bush administration be so stupid as to attempt to cancel or delay the elections? I would hope that would result in them finding themselves on the business end of more weapons than they could ever imagine, but the process of turning citizens into subjects is well under way. Are there enough people with courage do anything other than say "moo"? When I watch the "average person" where I live, I'm not hopeful. I live in an area that prides itself on self-reliance, grit, horse sense, etc., etc., yet these same people clutch their chests over a few feet of snow in winter or dust from the gravel roads in the summer. Picturing the average northern Michigan resident doing anything that would cause them to miss the next Survivor episode is simply bizarre.
Anyway, the current plan for tonight is to meet with Debbie in Kalkaska for dinner someplace local, then home to homework and lesson prep.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Well, I just got some good news. One of the guys in my study group got engaged on Friday. Welcome to the ranks of the permanently attached, Curtis!! Don't listen to all the punks that tell you what a rotten deal marriage is. For every complainer, you will find a dozen guys who have been married for decades and never had a moment's regret.

We lost power last night. No big deal; the inverter hit the low voltage cut-off and shut down like it is supposed to. The problem is that it did so at 23 volts instead of 22. I need to spend some time digging in the documentation and see why that is. We really are not getting the full use out of a battery charge if we can only run them down to 23.5 volts or so. The maximum range for a 24 volt system is 21 to 27 volts. We only charge up to 26.7 volts and set the cut-off at 22 to extend the battery life (This is based on the same theory that says its probably not a good idea to run your car at the redline all the time. Sure it's built to rev that hard, but not on a constant basis.) So around 11:30pm everything got real dark. My head-mounted light sits on my desk just for such occasions and I had power back up in about two minutes. That's what passes for excitement at the Frost household.

Other than that, not much to report other than doing homework and starting the ground work for Wednesday's lesson for youth group. I'm going to be starting a serious on spiritual formation when I'm done with what we are working on now (Trinity doctrines). I've dug out a couple texts and a serious I did almost a year ago. We've had essentially 100% turnover since then. Besides, no one can tell me what we talked about the previous week. I doubt they will remember something we did a year ago...

Tonight is more of the same. I need to stop by a couple electronics places and pick up a CD-R/RW drive for my cousin, then head home for a bunch of typing getting ready for tomorrow.

This from Jerry Pournelle's site:

Dear Jerry,

I was discussing the Yucca Mountain developments with a friend via e-mail. I was amused by the judge's requirement for the guvmint to come up with a plan that extended beyond 10,000 years. I also mentioned that you'd suggested dropping fused glass bricks of nuclear waste into subduction zones. Her response:

"How in the name of the lost gods does Pournelle think he can GET the damn stuff to go into the subduction without breaking up and releasing the radioactivity into the surrounding area? Not to mention that subduction happens on geological time, not HUMAN time.

"Sorry. I know you're quite taken with Pournelle, but that's one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard. Just a glib toss off that sounds clever, and isn't."

She's quite up on earth science and water resource problems. I opined that any radioactivity released would be quite localized...maybe a bit more deuterium and tritium, but that water stops neutrons pretty effectively.

Can you offer any more details on the topic or suggest a web site that describes this method of nuclear waste disposal?


Steve Erbach Neenah, WI

Actually, it's pretty simple although I can understand the concern of those who haven't seen the details.

First, although the nuclear waste scaremongers know but never say this, after 600 years or so the only radioactivity left in nuclear waste comes from the actinides, and is not much different from the radioactivity of the ores from which it was refined (except concentrated, so of course we dilute it). The dilution comes in the form of glass: we form the whole mess into glass bricks. I don't mean we surround the waste with glass, I mean that it becomes an integral part of glass bricks.

Glass bricks are nearly eternal. Now drop them into the Mindanao Deep (there ain't much life down there, and what there is lives off hot springs, and would probably appreciate the additional energy; the glass isn't going to chemically decompose). Over time that area is subducted. The glass isn't harmed until things get so hot that it melts, and when that happens, your actinides are right at home with others of their ilk.

Your friend's alarm is natural, but she should do me the credit of having a little common sense.

Incidentally, there are easier ways to isolate nuclear waste from the environment for the 600 or so years that it's more dangerous than ores. The ores remain radioactive for millions of years, of course -- after all the Earth is still hot inside, isn't it? All we have done is take them out of the Earth, use some of their energy, and put back something a bit less radioactive than what we took out (it's called the First Law of Thermodynamics: if you extract energy from something, then it has less potential energy in it than when you started. Your friend knows that but she isn't thinking about what's happening here).

Which is some good old fashioned common sense about radiation. It's everywhere and occurs naturally. What comes out of a reactor is less hot than what went in. It's not something you would want to carry around in your back pocket, but it isn't "deadly for 12,000 years" as Sting would have you believe. Of course our technological world is full of nasty stuff that requires cautious handling, like the active ingredients of common bug spray that people routinely spray in enclosed spaces and around food. One of the guys that helps with youth group routinely hauls around tanker trucks full of hydrochloric acid. You would probably had a heart attack if you knew what was in the truck rolling along next to you at 60 or 70 mph on the expressway...


The Abu Ghraib mess goes deeper than we were originally lead to believe.

And this is an important piece on media bias in all its forms.

And I have an appointment with my boss. Later.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Recovering from another "relaxing" weekend. At this rate, I should just work seven days a week. Saturday was a family reunion, so I was out in the sun getting exercise all day. I don't care what doctors say; something that hurts that bad cannot possibly be good for you. We had a little down time Sunday; choir is over for the summer now that we're all done waving flags and campaigning for Republican candidates.

After evening service, we watched Matrix Revolutions. Personally, I think they should have stopped after the first Matrix. Matrix Reloaded was just so-so, with the special effects and over-the-top fight scenes making it worthwhile. Revolutions was a load of incomprehensible techno-babble, mushy death scenes, long boring sequences with facial close-ups that are pointless because everyone is wearing sunglasses... I could go on, but what's the point? Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. Understand that I'm not one of these people that gets all bent out of shape over a movie that requires the suspension of disbelief. I expect movies to be unrealistic. If I wanted realism, I'd watch the news. But Revolutions didn't draw me in the way the original Matrix did.

I've been steadily adding blogs over on the right-hand side of the page. It's hard to imagine how many of these things there are. It seems everyone wants to spread their boring life in front of the world. That includes me, of course. I may take a crack at writing essays rather than just confirming what everyone suspects: I lead an incredibly dull life.


Wired has an article discussing the top Mozilla browser plug-ins. This is what I use instead of Internet Explorer for most sites. There are a few (like Windows Update and Hotmail) that will only work with IE, so I do have IE installed as a non-default browser. Personally, if I could do something different for those sites (there is a plug-in that "lies" to a web site about what browser is running, but there are some sites that actually have code that only works with IE) I wouldn't have IE installed.

Well, back to work.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I had hoped to have time to post from college yesterday, but time got away from me due to all the catching up with the people in our cohort. A lot can happen in a couple weeks.

More good news: I found out Wednesday night that we had another decision by one of the new-comers to the youth group. Welcome to Meghan, my newest sister. People are getting geeked. Well, some people are getting geeked. The others... well... I think there is something wrong with them. Must be too busy arguing about trivia. Anyway, nothing is going to wreck this.

I had a pleasant surprise when I arrived at college. There is one of the instructors that we have had a couple times before that everyone really likes. There is a ton of information that he gives in a way that makes it real. He has been around ministry in a number of contexts and is completely transparent. I get more out of his classes than any three of my other classes.

Anyway, our program sheet had him listed as the instructor for the course that started yesterday, so we were all pumped up for it. Then we found out that he wouldn't be able to teach it and it would be taught by An Instructor To Be Named Later. We were disappointed and also concerned about who would be teaching. We had had a previous encounter with someone that had never taught an ACE class before and it wasn't an experience that anyone wanted to repeat. Well, we walked into the building last night and there sat our favorite instructor. Everyone was relieved and thrilled. He then proceeded to make our day by throwing out all the homework in the module and substituting his own syllabus. It's a lot more work, but it cuts out all the Mickey Mouse crap and assigns real work. It was a happy ride home.

I got home later than usual. We stopped for dinner at the IHOP by the college before we got into serious travel mode. I didn't get home until after 2am, which of course means that I was really late for work. Ah well.

Tonight, I need to run by the church for praise team practice. I'm running sound this week because the regular sound guy is out of town. Practice is usually Saturday morning, but one of the praise team is running a race on Saturday. That works out better for me because we have a family reunion Saturday. Debbie has to work, and with me doing sound in the morning, we were going to have trouble getting ourselves, and all the stuff we needed to take, to the reunion on time.

I took some personality test and this was the result:

You are an SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.

So I'm an evil genius. I knew there was a reason I have problems keeping jobs. Anyway, if you want to give it a try, it's here.


Another bit from the AnalPhilosopher:

...I've heard many critics of the war in Iraq say that if the reason for the war had been humanitarian, the United States would have intervened in other places besides Iraq, such as Sudan. Since it hasn't, the reason for the war wasn't humanitarian. But if it wasn't humanitarian, what was it? The clear implication is that there were other reasons, perhaps sinister reasons, for the war. This gives rise to various conspiracy theories, none of which can be taken seriously. The problem with conspiracy theories is not that they're false, but that they're unfalsifiable. Just as, to a theist, everything counts in favor of God, to a conspiracy theorist, everything counts in favor of the conspiracy.

This form of argument recurs. If the reason for the war had been to punish a war criminal, then why is the United States not punishing other war criminals? If the reason for the war had been to destroy weapons caches, then why is the United States not destroying the weapons caches of other countries, such as North Korea? If the reason for the war had been to promote democracy, then why is the United States not intervening militarily in other nondemocratic nations? If the reason for the war had been to enforce United Nations resolutions, then why is the United States not enforcing other United Nations resolutions? Ad nauseam.

The people who make these arguments are confused. They think that there must be one sufficient reason for our intervention in Iraq. But why should that be? Why can't there be multiple reasons, none of which is sufficient (or necessary), but which, taken together, suffice? Most decisions human beings make are like this.

Another possibility, besides confusion, is that the critics are trying to deceive. Their goal is to end the Bush presidency. Nothing will stand in the way of their goal. They believe that if they cast doubt on President Bush's motives for waging war, they will undermine his electoral prospects. One way to cast doubt on his motives for waging war is to say (or imply) that his stated reasons are not his real reasons. One way to accomplish this is to "refute" each proffered reason by citing cases in which the reason applies but the United States has not waged war.

I hope you see that this is fallacious reasoning. Shooting down each of five reasons as insufficient does not mean that the five of them, together, are insufficient. If you believe the war in Iraq was wrong, say so and be prepared to support your belief. But don't mischaracterize the arguments in favor of war for dialectical or rhetorical advantage. That's intellectually dishonest. No single reason sufficed for intervening militarily in Iraq. There were, or could have been, many reasons for it.

Personally, I always assume a politician is operating from malice rather than incompetence. It may be true that they are incompetently malicious, as in this case, but I assume that malice is always the intent. There are a lot of good reasons why we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, and I tend to agree with those arguments. But what the Democrats are saying about the war in Iraq is not rational analysis, just muck-raking. I'm half-tempted to just sit this round out. My participation in the political process as it is now constituted, amounts to me giving the whole sorry mess a level of credibility it does not deserve. Note that even though Mr. Burgess-Jackson is picking apart the Democrats, the same folly is on display on the Republican side as well.

And a bit on drunk driving laws from Bob Thompson's site:

...I don't much like the idea of setting a particular level of blood alcohol as presumptive evidence of impaired driving. For that matter, I don't think drunk driving should be against the law, although I'd punish drunk wrecking severely. MADD and similar groups have focused on the wrong side of the problem. Punishing people for driving drunk is ineffective, as the continuing problem of drunk driving shows. Punishing people for drunk wrecking would be much more effective.

The problem with setting an arbitrary statutory limit is that different people are affected differently. For example, in college I drank copious amounts of beer, but in the last 30 years I doubt I've averaged one beer a year. While I was in college and actively drinking, I was much less affected by any given level of blood alcohol than I would be now. Then, I could have drunk a six-pack without noticeable effect. Nowadays, I can feel an affect after drinking one beer. The same is true, but more so, for an alcoholic who drinks heavily. A guy who consumes a bottle a day of hard liquor might be completely sober with a 0.10% blood alcohol level, whereas I'd probably be unconscious. In fact, the alcoholic might actually be in better shape to drive with a 0.10% blood alcohol level than he would be at 0.00%.

I remember a demonstration years ago that didn't work out as the sponsors had hoped. Over the course of several hours, they had NASCAR race car driver Kyle Petty drinking shots of whiskey, blowing into a breathalyzer, and then driving through a slalom as fast as he could manage. The problem was, the drunker he got, the faster he made it through the slalom, and the fewer cones he knocked over.

That's not to say that drunk driving is a good idea, or that people who drink are not impaired. It does, however, prove that the correlation between blood alcohol level and driving impairment is tenuous at best. It is a miscarriage of justice that I can drive legally at 0.07%, at which level I would be severely impaired, while an experienced drinker will be arrest for driving at 0.08%, at which level he may be completely unimpaired and will certainly be in much shape to drive than I am at 0.07%.

I have always argued that it's wrong to make drunk driving illegal. Instead, there should be severe punishment for accidents that occur when the driver is drunk. For example, if a driver is involved in an accident that kills someone, I think the police should do a breathalyzer test as the first step. If that shows the presence of any significant amount of alcohol, they should deliver the driver to a hospital to be tested formally for blood alcohol level.

The trial could be simple. We wouldn't even need a jury. Just require the accused to drink until his blood alcohol level was the same as that measured immediately after the accident, hook the accused up to equipment that measures reaction time and so forth, and have him do the best he can on the tests. If he passes, which is to say his performance is similar to that of the average for unimpaired people of his age, allowing some slack, he's free of criminal charges. If he fails, the test equipment delivers a 50,000 volt shock at high amperage and they bury him.

But seriously, the eye-for-an-eye method would work very well. If an impaired driver kills someone, kill him. If he paralyzes someone, paralyze him. If someone had to have a leg amputated, amputate his leg. Doing this would eliminate drunk driving in short order. Most of those who now drive drunk would stop doing so. There's a big difference between risking a fine or losing your license or even a short jail term versus risking the summary death penalty. A few would continue to drive while impaired, of course, but that problem would be self-limiting.

I would tend to agree with this. In fact, I would make it more broad: Any impaired driving should be treated this way, whether the impairment is alcohol, drugs, not wearing glasses, yakking on the cell phone, or checking out hot chicks. If you kill someone with your car, you will be defending against a manslaughter charge regardless of the circumstances. Your defense may well be that the idiot walked out from between two parked cars and you had no way to avoid hitting him without breaking the laws of physics. But I'm willing to bet that those would be maybe 1 case in a thousand. I can't count the number of times that I've nearly run down someone on foot or a bicycle because of their stupidity; but I was able to avoid them because I was paying attention to what I was doing and not messing with my hair or reading the paper or any of the thousand and one idiotic things people do while driving (including driving while drunk or stoned). The whole stupid MADD-induced blood-alcohol limits, which are rapidly approaching the absurd, make no sense as they don't address the issue of impairment. Instead, they are a back-door approach to prohibition. As evidence of this, the MADD leadership is now pressing for zero-tolerance. Pushing the blood alcohol limit down to the point that a dose of cough syrup makes you legally drunk wasn't enough. Zero tolerance is the new reason for their existence. I have a better idea: let some rational humans (meaning, men) set up a system that actually works to improve road safety, and all the MADD's can go home and clean their houses, or something else constructive?

I'll shut up now and wait for the hate...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Quick update before I head out for the day. Nothing spectacular for today other than youth group. Tomorrow is back at the college thing for the home stretch. Only five classes to go; last day is October 14. As I've said before, I still have some theology classes, but I can do those by mail. After October 14, I don't have to drive to Grand Rapids every week, and I can go back to working 40 hours a week. That will be a big help to the budget, as well as my sanity.

I made a nice blunder last night. I always have a problem keeping what day it is straight when I have Monday off work. Yesterday, I didn't realize is was Tuesday and that I needed to prepare a lesson for tonight until 11pm as I was getting ready for bed. So instead of getting to bed at a reasonable time, I didn't get there until 2am this morning. Smart. Very smart.

Anyway, gotta fly.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

We had a fairly relaxing weekend. Friday had some late-night excitement, that I will get to in a minute. Saturday, I had choir practice first thing. We were singing Sunday, so that was a pretty high-stress affair trying to get sound issues sorted out and actually getting the bits right that we had been singing wrong for 4 months. I got home around noon and immediately fell asleep until after 5pm. Understand that other than my Sunday between-services cat nap (usually no more than 45 minutes) I don't sleep during the day. When I woke up, my first thought was that I would be wide awake until 3am or some such, then be dog tired all day Sunday. Nope. Back in bed by 11pm and slept like a log until my alarm went off at 7am Sunday.

Sunday was interesting. The church was deserted. This has to be the lowest attendance we've seen in a long time. We did OK on the choir bit, at least compared to how bad we sounded in practice. Maybe it was a good thing we didn't have many people... Anyway, we went out for lunch to the Brunch Buffet at Mountain Jacks. MJ's used to be one of my favorite restaurants, but I don't know if it's just the one in Traverse City or all of them or just me, but I'm no longer impressed. The Sunday Brunch Buffet was $40 with tip for food about at the level of a mediocre family reunion. My wife and I agreed this would be our last MJ trip.

We didn't have our Financial Peace University meeting because of the holiday and we are done with choir for the summer. That gave us a few hours to scoot home before the evening service. Of course, we both took naps. Then evening service, then back home for more relaxing and early to bed. I must be running right on the ragged edge to sleep that much.

Monday was another day off for me, but Debbie had to work. She was let go early after sitting in the office for six hours and answering three phone calls. I had followed her into work so we could drop her Tracker at the garage. The steering is acting up on it, which to me seems a little important. More on that in a moment. That meant I had to go into town to pick her up, then later go into town to pick up her Tracker because they couldn't make it do it's little trick and didn't want to tear into things without knowing what they were looking for. I was pretty pooped at that point anyway after working outside, so Debbie grabbed some movies and we settled in for a quiet evening of mayhem and destruction (T3; somehow we've never seen it).

On the Tracker: I don't know if Canadians just can't build things well or they just do a sucky job on stuff they know is headed to the U.S. We have two big-ticket items from Canada; all the windows and doors in the house (other than the basement French doors... or is that Freedom doors?) and Debbie's Tracker. Both have been plagued by poor workmanship, junk materials, and bad engineering. None of our doors or windows work properly and Debbie's Tracker has a list of warranty repairs that defies the imagination. And we are not talking about small items. We are talking multiple repairs that would have cost us thousands if we had to pay for them. Rear main seal, both front wheel assemblies, leaks of every fluid in the vehicle. The thing sounds like a train wreck because of all the squeaks and rattles. It's latest trick that we are trying to get it to do for the mechanic (cars are like cats, they don't perform in front of strangers) involves the steering wheel sticking when you go around the corner. Not just hesitating to self-center, but staying in the "turned" position until forcibly turned back. Talk about something that will give the heart some exercise. So far it hasn't happened on curves taken at speed, just turning at intersections. If it happened on one of our curvy two-lanes, you would be dead before you could recover. I'm so glad we went $13,000 in debt so Debbie would have safe, reliable transportation...

In other news, we had an unprecedented occurrence: not once, but twice this weekend we had someone knock on our door. Understand that where we live, that doesn't happen often. In fact once a year is a busy year for us. Twice in one weekend... well... we need to move because there are just getting to be too many people. The first knock was around 9pm Friday. Understand that anyone we know, knows that we live in the basement and either just walks in a yells something (Our doors are never locked; it doesn't seem to make much sense given where we live. It's not like we have neighbors that will notice someone just breaking a window out, or cutting through the walls with a chain saw, for that matter.), or comes down to the basement door. We sat and stared at each other for a full minute while we tried to remember what we were supposed to do, then I scampered up the stairs and opened the door. There were a half dozen muddy late-teen to early-twenty guys on my porch wanting to know if I could help. They had not one, but two trucks stuck in the swamp. We tried everything we could think of, but neither truck would move. After we snapped every strap we had, I dropped them off at their place and called it a night. Saturday, we took a detour down to the swamp and they had managed to get the trucks out once they had daylight and heavy equipment.

Saturday evening there was another knock at the door. This time, we remembered what we were supposed to do and ran upstairs and opened the door. Another twenty-something was standing there with a map explaining that he was lost.

No crap, dude.

Anyway, he wasn't as lost as he thought, but unlike our previous visitors was smart enough to not drive into six feet of mud and standing water, and decided he had better ask a different way to get where he was going. We told him and he went away and didn't come back. So either our directions got him where he was going or got him so lost that he couldn't find his way back. Either way, it's all good.

Lots of good stuff on the blogs and journals: we will start with a joke or two. First from the Jerusalem Wanderings blog:

Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London. One took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, an American sat down in the aisle seat. After takeoff, the American kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I need to get up and get a coke."

"Don't get up" said the American, "I'm in the aisle seat. I'll get it for you."

As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the American's shoe and spat in it.

When he returned with the coke, the other Arab said, "That looks good, I'd really like one, too."

Again, the American obligingly went to fetch it. While he was gone the other Arab picked up his other shoe and spat in it. When the American returned, they all sat back and enjoyed the flight. As the plane was landing, the American slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked.

"How long must this go on?

"This fighting between our nations?

"This hatred?

"This animosity?

"This spitting in shoes and pissing in cokes?"

Another from the AnalPhilosopher (which isn't anything like what you would expect from the name):

Another lawyer story currently making the rounds explains why one bar association's ethics committee decided to prohibit sex between attorneys and clients: "They didn't want the clients to be double-billed for essentially the same service".

And Fred Reed has a good article this week on his daughter back when she was seven or so and faced with a rock climb.


Jerry Pournelle on how to teach reading to children:

...California destroyed its school system and ruined the chances of half a generation when Bill Honig decided he knew better than the evidence, and imposed the ridiculous look-say (ideographic) system of reading instruction on the state.

Fools -- I do not use words like that lightly -- can do great harm if they achieve high office. They need not be evil; but sometimes the results of folly are more evil than if evil were intended. And the folly enriches some as well.

Reading is an essential skill. Some children will learn to read no matter what method is used to teach them, or indeed without any instruction at all, and they will probably be the best readers. Others, though, will never learn to read unless explicitly taught phonics. The good news is that if the instruction is done right, virtually any child can learn to read. (Yes, we know about dyslexia, which I've covered before; there are ways to overcome that, too, although true neurological dyslexia is quite rare.)

The children who are most harmed by Honig's maniacal folly are those who are of normal intelligence but who simply will never learn to read unless taught by the Honig-forbidden phonics method; and there are plenty of teachers in California from the Honig era, teachers who never learned how to teach phonics and don't think it is a good idea.

One wonders how Honig and the other Enlightened Arrogants feel now.

And an article about the fraud of diversity on our college campuses from the AnalPhilosopher.

Which ought to keep everyone busy for a while.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Last night, we played host to a group of people that could potentially be a college-age group at the church. There were a couple other people that I had hoped would show up, but overall it went well. I didn't blow up the house or kill anyone with food poisoning, so I guess it was a success. We didn't actually talk about the new group much as a group, but I talked for quite a bit with one of them after everyone else left. He is willing to take the lead and try to bootstrap this, which is great. It was a late night; I didn't even hear my alarm this morning. Tonight is going to be a night for relaxing.

The inverter is still humming along nicely. We are getting a couple days out of a charge by turning off the breaker to the well when we are not home and at night when we are in bed. It even held up to two days of vacuuming and having every light in the place going last night while we had company. If I can get the solar panels hooked up, I don't think we would even need the generator in the summer. Running the generator less will certainly help us with our monthly budget. We were burning over $300 a month in gas. Our current usage rate is less than half. We should be able to halve that again by working on some efficiencies with the lighting and the well. I'm confident that the solar panels will eliminate the need for the generator in the summer. We will still need to run it routinely in the winter until we can add more solar panels or get a couple of the windmills up. Anyway, so far so good.

On a completely unrelated note, the Blue Angels are in town. They are doing shows here in Traverse City on Saturday and Sunday. It's been several years since I've seen them, but the Sunday show is definitely out and the Saturday one isn't looking too good either. In any case, the last couple of days haven't been real productive here while the Angels practice. Munson employees have spent most of Thursday and Friday afternoon running from window to window or standing in the parking lot watching them. Of course they are very hard to ignore when you are on the fifth floor and they fly by at about the level of the third floor fast enough to nearly blow the windows out the building. Impressive mo-chines. And the lucky stiffs get paid to play with them. That's the incredible part to me. My most exciting moment at work over the last year was the time that the cafeteria had Hot Dog Bar twice in one week.


Cassini is in orbit around Saturn; the first man-made object to ever circle what has to be the most fascinating planet in our neighborhood. The images so far are mind-blowing. And the best part is that you ain't seen nothing yet.


Bill Cosby continues to hammer away on "black culture." Go Mr. Cosby. He is a very brave man; the push-back is building.

And I need to wrap things up here and get out of town before the worst of the fudgies descend on Traverse City.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm online sitting in the front seat of my truck again. I had to dial in to run some end-of-year reports on the AP system. I had to post something: we have a brand new believer as of 4pm this afternoon. Welcome to the family of God, Nestina!!!

I am pumped. We needed a win.

Anyway, my alarm goes off in 3 1/2 hours.