Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Blues?

Time traditionally goes slowly in dark, cold January but this month it's been a bit different. Not to say it hasn't been dark and cold; that, it's been. But it's been a busy month.

The pet snake I referred to earlier that Andre got at the Creation Museum turned up missing from his (we presume it's a he -- I don't even want to know how to really find out) cage just 2 days before we left on a drive to Virginia to stay with my parents for a week over Christmas. We were all set to take 'him' with us but instead he decided to go off on his own. He didn't turn up before we left so we did the trip without him, probably to the great relief of my mom since we were going to bring him along so we could feed him his weekly baby mouse and keep him watered. Sadly, my parents missed out on having a seventh house guest.

We made that trip, with the usual sightseeing around Washington, though NOT to the Air and Space Museum this time. Our Dodge Grand Caravan is showing its age and the transmission does not like to shift into the highest gear which is a problem when you drive through the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We babied it both ways and it survived the trip but we're left with knowing that we need to replace it and probably sooner rather than later.

New Year's was in Indiana with Denise's sisters and their families and then I returned to western Illinois where I thankfully have a day job though sadly live without my family. It's an odd plan we have but I live and work there and they live in Indiana since we don't have the cash reserves to buy a new house in Illinois. We are thoroughly convinced that a cash basis for housing is just as wise as a cash basis for any other purchases. But this is why we limp along with a car with a dodgy transmission and we live in two different states. This is just one of 'those things' and we trust God to bring us through. We're where He wants us to be and that's good enough for us. He'll change it when He's ready.

So, I've been working away here in Moline but meanwhile, Stephen has been advancing his new interest in fencing. This all began last November with an opportunity to try it out and watch a tournament in the Chicago area and he's turning out to love it. And he's doing quite well for having just picked it up, too. He was in a Chicago area Junior Varsity tournament recently where he placed 10th overall out of more than 40 fencers. Not bad for a month's experience. Of course, he was older than most of the other participants, too, but they all had at least as much or more experience than he.

Last weekend was an enormous tournament at the Culver Military Academy in Indiana. I drove back for this and we all trooped down there to give Stephen our support. He didn't win many of his bouts (none, in fact) but he scored on virtually all of his opponents and though lost in the elimination round, he scored well against his opponent who went on to be in the Top 8. Many fencers participated from all around the Great Lakes area and most had years and years of experience (though all were high school age). We are very proud of him and his achievement to date and mostly that he's doing it at all and with such passion.

It turns out that, like most things, fencing has a strong subculture all its own and the community of fencers is so small, most of the high-end fencers in the Chicago area are known by name and families all know each other. It's been interesting. Not sure where it all takes him and us but we're along for the ride wherever that may be.

Meanwhile, Danielle has started up her Spring semester at Patrick Henry College via Distance Learning. She did well in her Fall semester and we're certain she'll do the same this semester. It's a lot of work for her which last semester drove her to near isolation so she's working on how to "do" college without it consuming her.

We're in the last day of what's becoming an Annual Daniel Fast where we follow the lead of Daniel from the Bible where when he was a youth, he and some friends begged off the king's rich food and lived on vegetables and water and proved that they were in better condition afterward. We've been doing this for 21 days. We allow vegetables, fruit and water but no grains (or flour), dairy, meat, nuts, or sugars (other than what occurs naturally in fruits). It's like a highly, highly restrictive Vegan diet but really it allows all kinds of great veggy foods and other good stuff (like chips!). We've discovered many Indian dishes (Aloo Gobi, for example) which have become part of our cooking repertoire. We've also rediscovered the Produce section of the grocery store. Although we do this in order to concentrate on the Lord and hopefully lead to spiritual growth, a nice side benefit is weight loss, which I dreadfully need. I plan to continue eating close to this way after today's over, just for that reason. Last year when we did this in January, I was out of work and we still belonged to a sports club in Wisconsin so we worked out every day as well. The health benefits were undeniable.

The really good news of January (so far), though, is that after being lost in the house in Indiana for over a month, Charles the pet snake showed up this past Sunday. And it was fitting that Andre found him, coiled up in the basement (of all places). We restored Charles to his more secure cage (not the one he escaped from) and tried to get him to eat but he seems tired and hasn't eaten yet. He did take a long drink of water, though, which isn't surprising since although we left little pans of water out on the floor for the past month, it's unlikely he partook of any of them, especially if he's been in the basement for a while. I had a bad feeling that if we would ever find him, he would be nothing but dessicated remains. Thankfully and as a huge answer to prayer, he was revealed to us. Our prayer now is that we can have the wisdom to be able to ensure that he is in good health.

I've also signed on to a Novel editing class online and am in the middle of learning a rewriting and editing method, not only for my most current NaNoWriMo product which is being rewritten and edited in the class, but also to be applied to all novel writing I do from now on. It's a comprehensive course compiled and given by a successful, published author (Holly Lisle) who is willing to share her novel rewriting techniques. I'm loving it so far though it's a lot of work (didn't expect it to not be). The course will run until sometime in May, I think, though the actual work of it is self-paced and could take longer. The goal is a very, very clean rewrite of the manuscript which should be ready to shop around and a technique that in the future shouldn't take a fraction of that much time. Cool.

I've got nothing else for now. We're all very grateful for the Lord maintaining our family, as dispersed as we are, and for returning Charles the snake to us alive.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Presuming to resume

Wow. How time flies when you're having fun. Or at least while you're living life.

It's been something like three years (!) since I posted something. A LOT of things have happened in that time.

I had just started a new job with a new company in a new industry located in a new state when I left off updating this blog. That company laid me off last Fall and now I'm back with my old company in the old industry located in the old state. Everything's circular at times.

When I moved to that 'other' state for that 'other' job, I mentioned that I was living alone in an apartment while my family lived in the 'old' state in our 'old' house. Now, I'm living in an apartment in the 'old' state while working my new job with the old company and my family is living in yet a third state while we sort out what to do for a permanent (is there such a concept?) housing solution.

Oldest daughter is in college now, oldest son is weeks away from earning a pilot's license, youngest 2 sons are blissfully just larger versions of the same people they were 3 years ago with no major changes except the youngest now has a pet snake. But that's OK with us as long as it doesn't get loose in the house.

One of my earliest posts was about winning NaNoWriMo 2005. Since then I've participated in four more NaNo's and won again in 2007, 2008, and this year, 2009, just a week or so ago. So, here's the latest winner's icon:

And here are the ones for the years in between (except last year - I don't seem to have saved it on the computer, which is a pity):

2005: (down below) 2006: (didn't win) 2007: 2008: (can't find it) 2009: (above)

Not sure if I'll make anything of all these novels I've cranked out. They each have their moments and this latest one is over 90,000 words long, which approaches 'proper' novel length, and I might make something of it. It has a prequel (that wasn't a NaNo work) and together they may be worth pursuing something more formal.

I think I'll sign off for now and add more details later. That'll give me a reason to come back more often.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

New Beginnings

So I've taken a new job in a new industry in a new city in a new state. I've lived in states beginning with the letter "M", "W", "V", "T", and "I" and one other country beginning with "F" and am circling back on "W" again as I begin the new job in Wisconsin. Should be moving to Utah to pick up "U" so the back end of the alphabet would be fully represented in US states (try and find a state beginning with "X", "Y", or "Z").

Cheeseville. Dairyland USA. Whatever. There are a lot of dairy farms around here. After spending a night or two at a dairy farm in Pennsylvania (very close to where the Amish school shooting happened very recently) I have learned how to recognize them, other than the obvious herd of black and white cows hanging around. California cheese producers had the audacity to put advertising out on the airwaves here touting CA cheese. I'm too new here to be really galled at that but that bit of cheese did go down a little sideways.

But I'm not working in dairy. Nope. Plumbing fixtures. The whole town is named after the family/company. You guess which one that is. As in the Bold Look Of... Great place. Glad to be here. Now my career isn't having its ups and downs anymore (in elevators, where I just spent 10 years) but is instead going right down the drain. I'm working in Shower and Bathing products, not toilets or else...that's a bad place for a career to go. Actually, this is a positive move for me out of what were negative circumstances. I'm glad to be with a company that's a winner and have a chance to keep it that way with my own contribution.

When I worked in Defense Electronics, we discussed what the equipment had to do and how soldiers would carry it or repair it and so on as part of our design discussions. In Elevators, we discussed how the elevators had to work and what the riders would experience and how to install and service them, and then some. Design discussions in showering and bathing involve interesting digressions into the "experience" and how much force a whirlpool jet should impinge on which muscles, etc... But the best one is when I was in the room during a toilet meeting and a very professional discussion about the physiology of "toileting" (never knew that was a verb until now) and the cultural differences in toileting and how aging affects one's toileting abilities. A little euphemistic at times but not at others. You know, you've got to call it what it is sometimes in order to get things done. It's the company's business, after all, so to speak.

Otherwise, eastern Wisconsin is a lot like western Illinois except the water here is Lake Michigan and not the Mississippi river. A lot less mud and you can't see the other side. It looks like Winter will be about a month longer here than there but that's nothing compared to our two years in Finland. We are prepared for Winter. We even picked up a snow blower this summer from our kids' piano teacher who moved to Singapore. You don't need a snow blower in Singapore.

The real pain in this transition is I'm here alone while we find a house. The family is still back in Illlinois and I live in a one-bedroom apartment just like when I took my first job out of college. But that was 27 years ago so I'm a little out of practice. Shoot, we've been married 23 years in a week or two (yes, I know the date). I've forgotten how to live alone. Like you have to remember to buy EVERYthing you need. Nothing miraculously appears under the bathroom sink to clean the toilet with or fills the cupboards so there's something to eat after work. And I'm not even going there...about cooking. Let's just say I'm not going to starve but the variety has gone down dramatically.

They all came up to visit me a couple weekends ago, a visit I anticipated with just a little trepidation. I mean, six people in a one-bedroom apartment? And the two youngest operate at a slightly elevated volume level which is fine (sort of) when you're in your own home or out in the backyard but doesn't work as well in thin-walled apartments.

When the day came, they actually beat me to my apartment by about an hour because I was returning the same night from a business trip. My Lovely has a key so they could get in. I arrived and the bucket brigade between our minivan and the apartment was in full swing. It never fails to amaze me how much stuff we can pack into a minivan. That was a Thursday night and they stayed until Tuesday morning, camped all over the floor. Other than a few discussions about noise in an apartment it was a great time. No complaints about the arrangements and somehow we were fed even though we couldn't fit around the tiny table I brought with me. It was a real campout indoors. Not good for the long haul but that apartement was a great place for a few days. Before and since, it's a lonely little world. The only perk is it comes with cable TV (only way to get Internet connectivity) and I consider that more of a curse than a perk.

So the search for housing goes on. It would be good to get moved before the snow flies. Oops, too late. It snowed already, at least nothing stuck. May have to pack the snowblower to be the first thing off the truck!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


That's a fightin' word to a lot of people concerned about freedom, apple pie, and the American Way. And as it should be. It's so important that it is embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution (makes you wonder sometimes why they didn't think of it while writing the Main Body):

"Congress shall make no law...(controversial bit about restricting religion here)...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press..."

We should be always on our guard against having our freedoms curtailed or removed. Creeping loss of freedom can happen through censorship and the restriction of the Free Press, thus why it was encoded into the First Afterthought of the Constitution.

But what is Censorship?

Merriam-Webster (online) says, in its first definition: 1 a : the institution, system, or practice of censoring b : the actions or practices of censors; especially : censorial control exercised repressively.

Who are these "censors" referred to here? Following the M-W link gives: 2 : one who supervises conduct and morals: as a : an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful.

They don't link to a definition for the word "official" but this is the key to my thought here. An "official" is, to me, someone in the Government at some level, be they President, Senator, Mayor, City Public Library Administrator, School Board Member, or whatever. Someone selected to represent some number of citizens in some matters. If this is an acceptable sense for "official" then the meaning of "censorship" is when Government supervises the content of published materials (books, newspapers, radio, TV shows).

Accepted forms of censorship have been, for example, restriction of what words cannot be said on television or radio and images of what things cannot be shown on television. Although there is some discussion about these, and continual observation that the rules have changed over the years, they are generally accepted. The authority the government uses to do this is based on the fact that the broadcast medium for television (not cable or satellite) and radio (not satellite radio) is the public "airwaves" which are regulated by the government as a "public good" (look that up in an economics textbook). The moral basis used for the disallowed words and images are, at least indirectly, based on public opinion as expressed through elections. If we were to overwhelmingly elect politicians to office who think no content should be restricted, then I would expect the FCC rules would more quickly change to restrict no content. Maybe not immediately but that would be an Inertia of the Bureaucrats issue only.

So why the thoughts on censorship? This morning on the way to work I heard a discussion on the only local Talk Radio show in this area that had to do with some outcry about a planned Will and Grace TV show episode that was to include what was presumably a blasphemous treatment of the Crucifixion of Christ (I missed the description and picked up what I know from the subsequent discussion). The talk centered around whether it was right or not for "religious" groups to "pressure" the producers into removing a segment of a show that the groups thought was morally wrong.

What really set me off was the the radio show producer, who normally is silent, working the phones, but occasionally chimes in, did so with statements not once but several times labeling this as "censorship" and saying how wrong that is. TV shows, in his opinion, should be "allowed" to show whatever they want. I think I know how this guy would vote in the hypothetical elections mentioned above, but I digress. Other than I'm not a good toe-to-toe debater and I didn't have time to wait on hold, I would have called in and challenged his use of the word "censorship." The TV show example was NOT a case of anyone in government suppressing content. Nobody was "disallowing" the TV show to produce the content. It was an example of how market pressure comes to media producers and how they respond to that market pressure. He seemed to think that the religious group (or groups, I don't know who it was) "forced" the producers to cut the offensive scenes. HA! Not a chance. They CHOSE to cut the material. They weren't going to be sent to jail if they did not. Consider for a second how market pressure works.

Here's an easy one: If I don't like how a particular packaged food tastes, I don't buy more than the first one. Assuming I'm representative of many other consumers, they all buy one and never another as well. The product doesn't make enough money to pay for its own shelf space...stores stop ordering it from the manufacturer...and the manufacturer stops making it. End of offensive product. This is easy because as consumers we have direct, unequivocal feedback to the producer. We vote with our wallets and since we do not have a centrally planned economy (that's called Communism, by the way) but instead a Free Market economy, producers take their signals from the marketplace mostly on sales volume at price levels.

This one's harder: If I don't like the social policies of a particular company and I don't want those policies to propogate in our culture, what do I do? Assuming their internal policies are not illegal and there is no way we could get those policies made illegal, there is nothing the government can do. I can't afford to buy the company and change its policies.

The only way I can "get at" a company is through the Free Market economy. I can decide that I will not buy their products any longer because I don't want to add any of my money to their offensive internal practices. The problem is that these internal policies have nothing directly to do with their product and, in fact, their product may even be superior in the marketplace for what it does. How can this be effective? I'm just one consumer and my individual purchases from this company won't add up to the cost of the ink contained in a period at the end of one sentence in their company policy handbook.

So what I do is talk to my like-minded friends about this company's policies and they agree that they are offensive and we collectivelly stop buying their products and if I have enough like-minded friends, and we publicize what we're doing so they know it's going on, it's possible that the company will lose enough sales to correlate that with our protest and maybe they'll stop their internal practices. This, of course, is a sort of definition of a Boycott.

Did we censor them? Absolutely not. We just stopped buying their products and told them why we were doing that. They chose what to do based on the results.

Here's the hardest one of all: A TV show broadcasts material I consider offensive to my morals and I don't like the fact that it can not only enter my home without my permission (it is broadcast over the public airwaves) but I consider it a bad influence on others around me that may not be conscious of that bad influence. What do I do?

I'm not directly purchasing their product so I can't boycott with any effect. I certainly boycott in the form of not watching the show but since my TV does not have a Nielson box on it, nobody is going to know I'm NOT watching the show except me. I can go talk to all of my like-minded friends again, who hopefully are not thinking I've become a wacko political activist that they will have to consider not hanging around with any longer, and tell them about the offensive show. They can all agree and stop watching the show as well. But since they don't have Nielson boxes on their TV's either, we are only a smug, little group that doesn't watch a particular show. In fact, who has those Nielson boxes, anyway? But I digress again.

Now I have two recourses left to me, assuming that the material I consider offensive is not illegal to broadcast. First, I can find out who the major sponsors of the show are and boycott them, making sure they know why our group is doing it. And again, the effectiveness of the boycott depends on how big my group of friends is and how well the public image of those sponsors can hold up when compared to the offensive material they are paying to have broadcast.

My second avenue would be to have representatives from my group of friends contact the media producers directly and inform them that we are not only NOT watching their show but we are either actually boycotting their sponsors or planning to if they don't modify their offensive material. The effectiveness of this is, again, dependant on the same factors. If I have a small group of friends or if the offensive show is about Vampires and is sponsored by the Blood Bank then we may have no effect.

But, did I or my group of friends "censor" the show? Not at all. We are not a government official. We can't "censor" anything but our own speech. Any response by the producer of the material is chosen by them. They're still not going to jail either way.

Instead, we exercised Market Pressure in a market where the consumer has no direct methods for feeding back to the producer. Certainly, if a show is so bad that the mythical Nielson people don't watch it, it usually winds up being cancelled. The radio show producer thought that this was "proper" and OK. But since I don't have a Nielson box, these other routes are the only way I can make my voice heard to the producers.

Maybe I should apply to be a Nielson family.

Nah. I'll just keep not buying Levi's jeans until Pat Robertson says it's OK again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why We Homeschool

I am a product of the Public School systems of America. So is my wife. We used to think that we are relatively well-adjusted members of society and were reasonably well prepared by that self-same system for the challenges of adult life (maybe our parents had something to do with that, too).

After we were saved years ago, we found out the truth.

It turns out that we are relatively well-adjusted and well prepared only by the grace of God who protected our hearts and minds while we came through that System. Perhaps it's because we came through the System some years ago as well, before things seem to have come completely unglued.

As we grew in our faith and understanding of God's Word, before children, we began to think about school choices for when the day came.

Well, of course they'll go to public school. That's what EVERYbody does, isn't it? That thought got shot down right away. We had already heard enough about the state of public schools to be wary. But, what else was there?

We'll send them to Christian school! Guaranteed to raise Biblical Children, right? Totally immersed in Scripture and Doctrine all day long. No way this could go wrong. But it would be expensive. Hey, no cost is too great to GUARANTEE my children would grow up saved and blessed. We began to hear other voices, though. Voices saying that kids still struggled with all the same moral issues in Christian school as in Public School. Sure, the classroom may teach from a more Christian perspective, though surprisingly even that's not guaranteed, but many/most times their character is not directly addressed.

Gosh, what else is there?

We went to a Greg Harris seminar at a local church in North Texas, where we lived at the time, where he presented reasons why Christian parents should consider Homeschooling as a real alternative to either Public or Private school. It was too many years ago for me to remember the reasons now but suffice to say that when I left that seminar, I felt that if we did NOT homeschool our children, I would be sinning against God.

Afterward, we pondered and pondered this thought. We had already committed to living on one income and having my wife stay home but this was a huge change in the scope of work expected of her. Not to mention the question of how on earth I would explain that decision to my mother who was a public school teacher since I was in grade school myself.

We let God's Word guide our decision.

Pv 22:6 says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." So if a set of schoolteachers trained my children, the children would likely go where they trained them. If I or my wife trained them, they would likely go where WE trained them. OK that sounds reasonable.

Who does the Bible say should train/teach our children?

Dt 11:19 says, "Teach them [the Words of God] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Wow, this is pretty clear that it is the parents' responsibility. I wouldn't expect a public or private schoolteacher to be lying down or getting up with my children!

Furthermore, Dt 4:9 says "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." And Dt 20:18 says "Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God." Not only is it our responsibility but there are consequences to our children if we goof this one up. And I care about that responsibility because 3 John 1:4 says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." The end of all this is to have our children walking in the truth. Not only our children but for generations, since Joel 1:3 says, "Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."

Oh, we can teach them the Word of God in the evenings and on the weekends, right? What if we sent our children to public school anyway? Mt 18:6 says, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." And Leviticus 20:2 says, "Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him." Yikes! Not only is it my responsibility but if I lost my children because I carelessly sent them off to an institution of learning that caused them to sin, the weight of punishment would also fall on me!

Is public, or even private school really that bad? Why don't we send the children there to be witnesses for Christ? Lights in the Darkness? 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." And Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." Is there anyone out there who can say with a straight face that there is no "bad company" or no fools in the student bodies of our public and even private schools today? Certainly not ALL the students, but enough? Why should I send my children into venues of learning where they will without doubt be around those of low or foolish character? The gamble on them being effective witnesses during the time of their spiritual training is not worth the risk that they would not be ready to make such a witness and would instead suffer spiritual harm.

So what's so bad about traditional schools?
  • They teach a godless view of the Universe. The principles behind what is lumped together as Evolution are a view of Origins that does not require a God. The underpinning philosophy is antithetical to Christian theology (I would call it Truth). Everything is "millions and billions of years" without exception. Witness the ID and Creationism debates that simply want to have a one-liner inserted in a single class period to mention that there may be other ways to explain Origins than through natural means.
  • Age-segregated classes do not promote wisdom. Peer children are, by definition, fools in the moral sense. Through the school-age years they are forming the basis for moral decision-making but won't have that basis fully in place until about the age of traditional high school graduation. No wonder foolish and bad things happen in schools when the vast majority around a child are morally immature. That's just not a good environment for learning the truth. See above the guiding Scriptures on this. This one is true of Christian schools as well as public schools. Having a teacher who may be a Christian does not magically make the whole class of children instantly morally mature.
  • The founders and proponents of public education, back in the days when it became mandated, openly embraced Humanism which rejects the concept of the Christian God. They setup the system in order to train the children of America in their own beliefs, heavily shrouded in principled-sounding prose about "education." The fathers of Soviet Communism knew that if they could just get the children early enough, they could form society into any mold they wished.
  • It's not exactly safe all the time. This is a bit of a weak reason but valid nonetheless. I don't NOT send my children to public school because of Columbine High School but when you add up all the bullying and negative peer pressure that never gets publicized, it makes for a dangerous environment. Granted I went to school many, many moons ago but even then, I had problems with those issues. In Junior High I was bullied simply because a few other boys in the class didn't like how I looked. I was accosted after school and provoked. I had personal effects stolen. One year I had to share a locker with another student who cornered me in the hall with a knife one day, accusing me of "stealing his comic books." Of course I hadn't stolen his comic books (good grief). The Guidance Counselor, when my parents and I had a meeting about the incident, told them that I should learn how to stand up for myself. I guess she wanted me to kickbox the knife out of his hand. Of course, then I would have gotten in trouble for fighting. I concluded that school was a place one had to survive so I spent those years avoiding all the bad characters I could identify. What kind of life lessons does this teach? Fight back or run away? Is this what I want my children to be exposed to, let alone learn as responses?

OK, so this was pretty heavy so to conclude, let me list some of the advantages of homeschooling:

  • The whole family is together for a huge proportion of any given day. We all learn how to get along and love one another if nothing else but because we can't get away from each other and escape the learning.
  • The children learn at their natural pace of learning. This means they all learned to read at an extremely young age and all have a love for reading which is not gender-based. Our three boys love books almost as much as their older sister although the youngest has not actually learned to read yet. All other "subject matter" is covered when and how they are ready, not forced because of an artificial Scope and Sequence guide formulated by Washington bureaucrats. Our children are not being left behind, they are being formed into the mission God has for their lives.
  • We are totally free of external schedules except for specific commitments we make, and those we make consciously.
  • I was free to take an expatriate work assignment for two years in Europe because we were not tied to a school calendar. We just took the books with us and learning continued no matter where we were.
  • We can schedule family trips and vacations to suit ourselves. This allows us to take advantage of cheaper times to go places. See my rant below about Disney. I may have struggled with total enjoyment of the time there but we saved a bundle by being able to go at the cheapest time of year (that's an extremely relative term in this case).
  • And there are more but this is long enough already.
One last note, James 3:1 says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." On the surface, this would seem to indicate that not everyone should homeschool but I don't think so. Teachers will be judged more strictly but the biggest benefit of homeschooling is that because of the weight of that responsibility, we work constantly to make sure we are teaching the right things the right way and at the right times. And homeschooling forces us to our knees to make sure we are on track with His plan for our children.

After all, children are a blessing from the Lord and we are merely stewards of their care, representing Him to them. We should aim to please Him who sent them, including in this area of education.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

We're Not Doing Our Part

If the US economy folds, it's our fault. I admit it here and now. Send the men with the handcuffs.

Ten years ago in Graduate Business School, I learned for the first time in some detail how much our economy depends on Consumer Spending. I was amazed at the time and nothing in the economic structure has materially changed since then. No wonder that over the decades the push has been harder and harder to increase consumer debt and that it takes a dual incomes to maintain a standard of living.

Everyone knows this at some gut level or maybe consciously as well. We are constantly shocked at the cost of things today versus some vague yesterday. The dollar never buys as much now as it used to. This train never backs up, it only moves forward. I don't know the numbers but it seems more and more and more families send their kids off to government schools and both parents, if there are still two left, trot off to work to maximize their income so they can maintain the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed. I'm sure to many, or most, it seems it's not so much to maintain a lifestyle as it is to minimize the degradation. All that work and associated spending is great for the economy. As long as we can maintain the spending, we'll be fine.

This is where we're not doing our part to prop up the economy. Before our first child was born we purposed to live in a way to enable my wife to stay home with our children. We knew this would mean a "lower" standard of living than our counterparts, less stuff, a smaller house, no new cars, etc... We practiced that lifestyle for a year or two before our daughter arrived, trying out ways to budget and track expenses as well as belt-tighten. By the time maternity leave was over, we were ready to make the big leap into a one-income household.

Through the years since then, we have known good times and slightly lean times but we have never, ever had to do without necessities. We've driven old cars except for the time we were expatriates and my company provided us with new vehicles. Our houses have always been smaller than our peers' and we perpetually barely fit into them. But we know people scraping by worse than us which keeps us humble when we begin to think we aren't getting "what we should" be getting. Paul says it best in Philippians 4 when he writes, "12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

This is one of the many guideposts by which we live in daily contentment with what we have. This is what gives us peace of mind, most of the time, when we see others driving nice, new cars or living in wonderful, large, new homes. We are weak humans, though, and occasionally we will feel some envy. Then we remind ourselves how blessed we are that our children are at home with us, that they are well-adjusted, well-mannered, respectful, bright, talented, and fun young people and best of all they are inheriting our faith in the LORD right before our eyes.

And in truth, all of our needs are more than met at all times. I have been blessed with good-paying jobs even if there have been small bumps on that road from time to time and we had a marvelous two years living as expatriates in Europe. I don't feel sorry for us, nobody should feel sorry for us, the blessings of the LORD are abundant in our lives and I feel humbled to receive such bounty from my Savior.

Meanwhile, though, we're not doing our part for the economy. Sorry. We bought Christmas presents for our kids and our extended family this year and as you can see in earlier posts we dropped a wad at Disneyworld. But we drive used cars, one with over 100,000 miles on it and our home was built the same year I was born. That would make it not a new home.

I wonder what a United States with reigned in consumer spending, and therefore lower consumer debt, would look like. I bet we wouldn't see prices increasing year on year like they have for so long. I bet more of us would learn to be content with less, many by necessity perhaps. For those who struggle now or those who would struggle in that case, I offer the peace that passes understanding through Jesus Christ. You will be transformed through a renewing of your mind.

It's amazing what you can live without.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

It's a shame that the court in Pennsylvania decided that Intelligent Design can't be spoken of in the classrooms there but I'm not surprised at the decision. The decision is probably even legally correct because the definition of "Science" used in legal applications is, paraphrased, the study of the natural causes and processes of things. The thesis of ID is that creation has a Super-natural cause so it is technically outside that definition and is thus not "Science." Therefore, don't speak of it in Science class.

The shame is that origins cannot be explained using "natural" processes. There is not even a satisfactory hypothesis. Even if one accepts as true, or even plausible, all the development theories and hypotheses that usually get lumped together and called "Evolution," nobody has an explanation for how it all started that is based on natural causes and processes. I don't recall the figures exactly but "they" have calculations and hypotheses for all time and matter all the way back to something like the first millisecond of creation but nothing before then.

For example, if one accepts the Big Bang as the creation mechanism, the theory goes something like this: All matter in the Universe was compressed into a tiny pill about the size of a pea or an atom (whatever, it doesn't matter) and then it all exploded and we've been expanding ever since, constantly recombining into all the stars, planets, atmospheres, oceans, trees, animals, people, and, they would like to also say, aliens. I won't even get started rebutting the whole Big Bang, partly because I don't have any of my reference material here but mostly because it would take a long time that I don't have. The real crux is that not even the proponents of the Big Bang can explain where the pill of matter came from and what made it explode to begin with. Even Stephen Hawking comes up short trying to explain how it all began, way back at the very beginning of everything.

Sounds supernatural to me, that is, it can't be explained by natural processes or causes.

AHA! Therefore...it's not "Science."

So, the real shame of the ID defeat isn't that ID isn't considered Science, it's that all other "natural" explanations of origins ARE considered Science. When they AREN'T. The Big Bang and most Evolutionary teachings should be relegated to the Religion Class if that's where ID and Creationism are sent because they "aren't science."

Thus, reason number 3 or 4 why we Homeschool. I want my children to grow up knowing that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), not random acts of recombination. They need to know that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (He 11:6). And that God loves them and has them personally in mind and wants them to have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. They would never be exposed to such truths in the public school classroom.

Sure, we could spend all our evenings and weekends filling in with Christian instruction outside the classroom that would cover those subjects but we would be spending a huge effort and amount of time undoing the "instruction" in the classroom that pummels students with "truths" like: all truth is relative, evolution and the use of other natural processes is how we all got here, and God has no place in our lives except on Sundays in church (and that's only for the weak-minded). Thee philosophies behind those thoughts underpin a culture that condones racism, abortion, euthenasia, slavery, and the inevitable slide into elitism borne on the backs of an oppressed lower class.

We could have sent them to Private schools but Reason number 1 why we Homeschool speaks more directly to that. More on that some other time.

I don't disagree that arguments like "gee, stuff is just too complicated to think it happened by accident" isn't the most robust-sounding defense of Intelligent Design, or Creationism in general, but that's actually the defense put forth in the Bible. Romans 1:20 says "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities— his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

I'm glad we live in a Free Country and that I am, so far, able to think and express these thoughts freely. Those that think the ID decision in Pennsylvania was correct and that ID and Creationism are for the weak-minded are free to think that. I won't stop them, I can't stop them. All I can do is warn them that thinking that everything is sourced from random interactions, mutations, and recombinations leaves them without excuse before the Intelligence that Designed it all.


I don't know how this could have escaped being in the original TMD post. I must have blocked it out of my memory because of its sheer onerousness.

TMD is WAY TOO MUCH VOLUME FROM THE SPEAKERS ALONG PARADE ROUTES AND EVERYWHERE ELSE THEY AMPLIFY VOICE OR MUSIC. The graying of America may be true and statistical and it may also be true that as people get older they don't hear as well as they could when younger. But this in no way can explain why the speakers play music and voice SO LOUD at virtually every venue in DW's parks. My kids were plugging their ears every time they were near a parade. Heck, I'm getting a little harder of hearing and it was driving me nuts. Has the volume gone UP over the years? By more than my hearing has degraded? Are they pumping up the volume because young people listen to iPods too much and are even harder of hearing than I am? I own an iPod and can probably be accused of turning up its volume too high but Disney's speakers were too loud for me, by a long shot. I also talk loudly because...well, it sounds normal to me. I need the TV volume up a little higher than the whole family -- that's why I get the remote whenever we watch anything. I haven't quite gotten to the point where I've told my wife 'if I didn't hear it then you didn't say it.' But even I, not quite as deaf as a post, could not handle the volume out of the speakers. Sure, it brings attention to the show at hand but really. Somebody's gotta do something!

Good and Salty made some excellent points in her analysis of the appeal of Disney. Go see what she said, it's worth your time. I don't want to sound like I'm a total Disney Scrooge. What I said last time about the good qualities of Disney theme parks is true to me; they're predictable, consistent, high quality, safe, reliable, accessible, and try to be convenient. They are all of that and more. I think this trip we just came back from came at a bad time for me. It's been more than a little busy with NaNo, work pressures, etc... and I was ready for a quiet, low-pressure time off which Disney is not. If I had just come off a quiet period in work and life, I think I would have been ready for a little pump-up-the-action Disney magic.

I remember that quiet thrill of walking down Main Street USA. Heck, I remember the quiet thrill of thumbing through the ticket book and counting how many E Tickets were left -- when did they quit selling their admissions that way? Quite a while ago since the last several visits have been one-price entries. This trip, I was glad to be at a place where we felt safe enough to turn loose the young teenagers on their own, after dark, to go ride what they wanted to while we shepherded the younger set. Can't do that in most "genuine" places like Paris or London or New York.

And I do like Epcot. It's a great blend of information, experience, and fun rides. With the addition of Mission: Space, Test Track, and Soarin' there are enough blood pumpers to keep the excitement high and they also have the interactive displays in Innoventions and other places to keep the mind active. Walking through the faux-countries in the World Showcase doesn't compare with going to the actual places but it's not bad for Florida. The French pastries were so good as to be authentic.

So, sure, a little bah humbug but it was OK. If only they would turn down the volume.