Wednesday, February 20, 2019

When a child screams

In my apartment building about an hour ago a small child's hand got stuck to an elevator door and it got closed into the elevator door frame. There was screaming on the part of the child, the parents, and there arose in all an instant sense of urgency to rescue this child from harm's way.

It's snowy and possibly icy outside, and yet these parents sounded like they're on the way to the hospital to ensure their small girl's hands are not damaged in any permanent way or can get needed medical attention as soon as possible.

Inherent problems with filing taxes online

Many Americans like to file their taxes online. They think it's easier, quicker, more convenient and a good investment of whatever it costs, if it costs them anything at all. Some might even argue it pays for itself if it helps them “get more money back.”

In the short term, there is little basis for arguing with this point of view. All of those things may be true.

In the longer term view, what else happens? What does this convenience enable that could be damaging?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reading books from 2020 candidates

It's Day 50 of 2019, and a small multitude of folks including half a dozen senators have announced their intentions to challenge President Trump for the U.S. presidency in 2020.

As much as I've found Twitter useful over the years, I'd like to get to know these candidates with a bit more depth than one will find in a Tweet or their latest reaction to whatever story or comment the news is chasing in any given day.

Most people who are serious about becoming President write a book, and the senators have. Having become a regular Kindle user, including of its free sample offering, I have downloaded several samplings from these candidates. I may see if my local library can loan a full copy if I find the reading engaging.

On the Kindle, free samples are better than library loans. Samples you can delete from your Kindle library; public library loans you cannot, even if you didn't highlight anything.

Time to see what these folks had to say, maybe even before they intended to run for President.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Meek slaves of a custom

Mark Twain on duels:
It is pathetic. There are other duels in my list, but I find in each and all of them one and the same ever-recurring defect—the principals are never present, but only their sham representatives. The real principals in any duel are not the duellists themselves, but their families. They do the mourning, the suffering, theirs is the loss and theirs the misery. They stake all that, the duellist stakes nothing but his life, and that is a trivial thing compared with what his death must cost those whom he leaves behind him. Challenges should not mention the duellist; he has nothing much at stake, and the real vengeance cannot reach him. The challenge should summon the offender's old gray mother, and his young wife and his little children,—these, or any to whom he is a dear and worshipped possession—and should say, "You have done me no harm, but I am the meek slave of a custom which requires me to crush the happiness out of your hearts and condemn you to years of pain and grief, in order that I may wash clean with your tears a stain which has been put upon me by another person."

The logic of it is admirable: a person has robbed me of a penny; I must beggar ten innocent persons to make good my loss. Surely nobody's "honor" is worth all that.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

National Repentance

God spoke to Israel and said, “Repent. Change your mind. Come back to the place where you used to live and walk with God. Your mind has given you over to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the worship of pagan idols, and adultery. You’ve got to change how you understand life, or there is no hope for you.”

God said that to the nation of Israel, but He said it to the other nations of the world as well. Quite a number of times in the Old Testament, He addressed all the nations.

Every nation in the world, not just Israel, is under an obligation to do the will of the God who stands behind it all.
From “The Future of America—A Call to Revival, Part 1,” by Dave Breeese.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The most useful thing I taught a high school senior

It was once my privilege to mentor a young man. We studied James and then studied and memorized Philippians together. (Daily memorization gets you through a text faster than weekly study, FYI.)

Somewhere along the way he saw my system for naming files starting with the date in a particular format:

yyyy-mm-dd - description.ext

I told him if you do that, then an alphabetical list of your files is also a chronological list. Single-digit numbers must be two digits for this to work properly. For instance, today in February would be 2019-02-15.

At first he thought this was unnecessary because files already have date stamps on them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Changes needed to avoid school shootings

It seems the debate on the right to self-defense tends to take on one of two extremes.

Some people conclude the way to get rid of shootings is to get rid of the guns used to commit them.

That proposal has multiple problems. One, we have a Second Amendment. Two, the right to self-defense or the examples of oppression that come when it is denied is long established in the Scriptures. Three, the problem with people using guns to break laws is not that we don't have enough laws against using guns for evil.

The opposite extreme is to “arm teachers” in the classroom.

You don't have to start too many conversations in an elementary school before you find teachers who object to this proposal. Many of them don't want to be armed.

There's a difference between a government policy mandating and funding the arming of every teacher and allowing those teachers that want to arms themselves to exercise their constitutional rights.

One does not need either extreme in order to make a difference when it comes to preventing a school shooting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Until men despise patriotism

From the funeral for Matthew Fontaine Maury:
As long as the planets roll their nightly courses through the sky, his name will be inscribed on the starry firmament. As long as the ocean heaves, the winds blow, and men seek distant lands in commerce, his praise will not want a voice. Till men forget science, he will not be forgotten; and until men despise patriotism, his example will teach us to give up all at the call of our native land. And for our selves, we will be dead to the sweetness of friendship, the love of virtue, and the admiration of Christian piety, when we cease to cherish the memory of him whose death we here record.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Freedom, the goal

After having heard many good things about Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England over the years, I was quite pleased recently to discover an accessible readable version is finally available.

Apparently this work originated as a series of lectures, and after competing and potentially inaccurate transcripts were circulated, Blackstone formally published an official version of his comments.

It has not disappointed. Here's a taste, circa 1758:
…first, to demonstrate the utility of some acquaintance with the laws of the land, let us only reflect a moment on the singular frame and polity of that land, which is governed by this system of laws. A land, perhaps the only one in the universe, in which political or civil liberty is the very end and scope of the constitution.
The goal was freedom. Of course, history has taken turns since then, but the objective was clear and good.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mark Twain would have been a podcaster

From Chapters of his autobiography:
Not even yet have I really written myself out. I have merely stopped writing because dictating is pleasanter work, and because dictating has given me a strong aversion to the pen, and because two hours of talking per day is enough, and because—But I am only damaging my mind with this digging around in it for pretexts where no pretext is needed, and where the simple truth is for this one time better than any invention, in this small emergency. I shall never finish my five or six unfinished books, for the reason that by forty years of slavery to the pen I have earned my freedom. I detest the pen and I wouldn't use it again to sign the death warrant of my dearest enemy.
Twain, Mark. Chapters from My Autobiography. Location 3429. Kindle Edition.

I take that to mean his podcast would have been two hours long and I would not have listened to it.

Then again, maybe he just needed an introduction to the ballpoint pen.

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You don't launch a popular blog,
you build one.
Seth Godin