Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Chronological Snobbery and my Library

April 20th, 2015

Libraries experience a great pull to stay up-to-date, to provide the newest material and the newest technology. They’ve got to try to keep people interested in them, have to justify staying open. Who would visit them if they couldn’t provide the newest bestsellers, the neatest computers?

Sure, they could cater to the reference crowd, but honestly, with the internet explosion, who wants to dig through a paper copy of a reference work?

So libraries, willingly or unwillingly cater to what C.S. Lewis refers to as our culture’s “chronological snobbery” – assuming that newest means best.

Never is this more evident (or more annoying) than in my local library’s online catalog.

Wichita Public Library’s online catalog sorts search results by DATE, then by title. Which means that if you search for C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, the title is third, below The Great and Holy War: How World War I became a Religious Crusade and C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story behind Mere Christianity.

In a surprising accident, the book I was searching for ended up on the first page. Searching for Lewis’s The Four Loves gives me 80 titles before I get to the one I want. And I’m lucky that The Four Loves was reprinted in 2004 – and that was given as the publication date. Otherwise I’d be waiting until response 101, a reprint from 1991.

Chronological snobbery.

You should really try it out yourself.

Thankfully, there is another option – I can select “Sort by Relevance” after the search is conducted and end up with the results I was actually searching for. But it takes extra steps that shouldn’t be necessary, wouldn’t be necessary if it weren’t for that darned chronological snobbery.

RIP, dear old blog

April 9th, 2015

It’s tragic, watching a dear old blog die.

You’ve followed it for years, seen its posts appear in your feed reader or inbox daily. But then the posts come less frequently. They trickle to a minimum that’s mostly composed of “why I haven’t been blogging” posts. One day, you realize it’s been months since you last saw a post. You check the website just in case it’s been your feed reader that’s messed up – but no, the site is now dead.

Yes, that type of blog death is sad and painful – but equally painful is the blog that keeps on living, but is no longer the friend it used to be.

You used to devour every word the blogger said, excusing the occasional post on a topic you disagreed about or found uninteresting. But then something happened and whether gradually or abruptly, the blogger started posting more and more on the uninteresting or disagreeable things and less and less on the things you like. Your tastes diverged and what you once had in common has been lost.

You start to contemplate unfollowing – but you’re reluctant to do so, given the long relationship you’ve had.

It seems there are several blogs on my blogroll that have been coming to that point lately.

My daily reading has gotten cluttered up by sponsored posts – thinly veiled advertisements for products I couldn’t care less about. I understand the desire to have something monetary to show for the time and energy you put into blogging – every so often, I wish I could get something physical out of it too. But I started following your blog because of the stories you told, the insights you had, the books you reviewed, the recipes you shared, the camaraderie we had. When you occasionally shared about a product, it was because you loved it so much you simply had to share it – not because you were getting paid to do it. What was a friendship is now marketing – and frankly, I don’t care to be marketed to by my friends.

Other blogs, like a group blog I’ve been following, have slowly become less and less interesting to me. Contributors change and these ones have tastes and preferences that aren’t as much in line with mine. I still read them because it challenges me to be exposed to different opinions. But when they also switched to giving just excerpts instead of full posts in their feed? I’ve stopped clicking through.

And then there’s the blog I’m willing to name. When I started following Twenty-Two Words, it was a blog consisting of daily posts written by Abraham Piper. Each post was 22 words long and may have been profound, funny, or thought-provoking. When thinking up 22 word posts became to onerous for Piper, he switched to sharing short clips of interesting things from around the web. I kept following because the posts were short and amusing. But now? Now a dozen (I don’t know the exact numbers) contributors post a half dozen posts daily, each one consisting of lists of twelve or more items with corresponding graphics. The titles have gone from descriptive or evocative to absurd clickbait: “This man took thousands of pictures of flowers. You’ll be amazed at the result.”

I liked short and interesting, twentytwowords. You’re giving me long and laborious. If I wanted Buzzfeed, I’d have subscribed to Buzzfeed. I wanted the blog you were.

It’s sad when dear old blogs die, whether from lack of attention or the wrong kind of attention.

I’ll mourn them each as they go, but the time comes when I’ve got to let dead blogs die – and move onward and upward into better things.

RIP, dear old blog.

Liberty and License

June 28th, 2013

He was riding a bright blue crotch-rocket, slowed down to change into the lane behind the police car.

He wore a white t-shirt, black athletic shorts, tennis shoes, no helmet covering his just-beginning-to-grey hair.

I winced as I imagined his legs pulpy from road rash, as I thought of his wife grieving because a traumatic brain injury left her husband a man she didn’t recognize.

I’ve seen the after-effects of motorcycle accidents when the motorcyclist was taking all the precautions. Seeing a biker *not* taking the precautions is excruciating for me.

I want to say something, wish there were some way to let bikers know what kind of risks they’re taking when they dress so inappropriately. But I fear the backlash.

“You just want to take away my liberty,” they might say. “It’s a free state.”

And so it is. There are no laws in Kansas requiring helmets for motorcyclists. Kansas law dictates neither your headwear nor your clothing for riding a motorcycle. You may ride however you wish.

And I rejoice that the state is not infringing upon your liberties.

But I truly wish that you would not take your liberty as a license to take risks that can cause you and your family such pain. I wish that you would use your liberty to ride safely and joyfully.

I don’t want to take away your fun–I want you and your family to enjoy long, productive, healthy lives free from harm.

That’s why I wince, that’s why I cringe, that why (on emotional days) I tear up when I see you riding bare-headed, bare-armed, bare-legged. Because I want your liberty to produce life rather than destruction.

It’s not just dietitian stuff

June 14th, 2013

She asked if I had a food handler’s permit. I told her that I didn’t.

“I am a Registered Dietitian, though. I’m not sure what the regulations are here regarding that.”

She looked confused and moved me to a non-food-handling position.

A few weeks later, she approached me following a training at the Health Department. “Mrs. Garcia, right?”

I didn’t remember her.

“From The Soup Kitchen?” she reminded me.

Ah yes.

She explained that I could sign up for Food Handler’s courses just around the corner. “I think you’ll find it very informative,” she said. “It’s not just dietitian stuff–they talk about the proper temperatures to keep food at and what kind of sicknesses you can get from food, and how to wash your hands right.”

I bit my tongue and reminded myself that just because someone works for the health department doesn’t mean they have any idea what a dietitian’s training is.

It’s true that food safety isn’t everyone’s first thought when they think of a dietitian’s training–but that doesn’t mean my training isn’t in food safety.

I’ve analyzed recipes for critical control points. I’ve audited kitchens for food safety compliance. I’ve taught handwashing and appropriate temperatures. I talk about one of those food-borne illnesses (listeria) on a daily basis with my clients.

Additionally, I am certified to TEACH the food safety class a lot of food service managers have to go through to be able to manage a restaurant.

That’s dietitian stuff.

Really.

It may be hard to believe, but dietetics IS about more than just calories.

I am a Climate Change Agnostic

May 24th, 2013

Like many conservatives, I have been known to make a crack about “global warming” during a particularly cold day. Like other conservatives, I have remarked on the change in terminology from “global warming” to “climate change”–suspecting that the terminology change is about silencing those “global warming” cracks.

But I don’t know whether or not other conservatives have the same questions and doubts as I regarding the-phenomenon-previously-known-as-global-warming.

You see, I’m not sure about climate change.

I have no doubt that climate change is occurring-the earth’s climate has never been static. Things like sunspots, volcanic eruptions, and ice age cycles have affected earth’s climate for millenia. But I’m not sure about the current conversation regarding climate change. I have questions.

My first question is what sort of climate change is occurring. My second question is what is causing climate change to occur.

I’ve heard apocalyptic tales of oceans rising and knocking off the left coast or flooding New York City. I’ve heard discussion of how world food production will grind to a halt as formerly fertile lands turn into arid deserts. But I’ve never seen the science that indicates at what scale global climate change is occurring.

How much are global temperatures rising per decade? How many degrees does it take to cause x increase in ocean levels? How many degrees does it take for the Midwestern breadbasket to become no longer fertile? I want to know those numbers.

Furthermore, I want to know what exactly is causing global climate change. What does historic data on ice age cycles predict that global temperature should be at this point? How far does current climate differ from what ice age cycles predict? What does historic data on sunspot cycles predict that global temperature should be? How far does current climate differ from what ice age cycles predict? Ultimately, what I want to know is how much of global climate change is due to natural cycles and how much is due to controllable factors?

Why do I want to know this? I want to know this because this has important implications for action. If global climate change is primarily due to natural cycles, action should involve developing technologies to deal with the inevitable change. We must work to either build protections against encroaching water or to move ourselves further inland. We must work to develop additional drought and heat resistant crops or to transfer agricultural industry to newly fertile regions. We must take action to cope with the change that will occur regardless of our actions. Knowing how fast this is occurring will give us a sense of what our deadlines are, how we need to move technology along, what technologies to prioritize.

On the other hand, if global climate change is primarily due to human activity, whether through deforestation or the use of fossil fuels or the raising of methane-producing livestock (heh), then our focus should be on adjusting human activity to maximize the “livability” of the planet.

But instead of answering my questions, stories on climate change sound a lot like a recent episode of “This American Life”. From the tagline:

“After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality.”

In “Hot in My Backyard”, we learn that Colorado’s main climatologist has recently decided to “come out of the closet” that he believes in climate change. The instigating factor? Last year’s wildfires. Which makes for a wonderful story, but not a convincing impetus for decision. One event does not a burden of evidence make. Give me facts, I say. In the second and third parts of the episode, we learn of a Republican and a Democrat who are trying to change the national conversation on climate change–except that they’re skipping my questions and going right to “what we should do”. The Republican is trying to convince conservatives that they should take action on climate change using a carbon tax. The Democrat is trying to stir up old-fashioned (er, 60s-era) social activism to make oil companies a pariah.

I’m open to the idea of climate change. I’m open to the idea that climate change is man-made. I’m willing to discuss making changes to improve the livability of the planet. But I’m not willing to make changes until someone gives me some facts instead of just emotion.

Does anybody know of any fact-based articles, podcasts, books, etc. that can help answer some of my questions?

Anyone?

I am a climate change agnostic who wants to know.

Opposed but not protesting

January 18th, 2012

I am not in favor of SOPA or PIPA.

But I’m not “blacking out” bekahcubed in protest today.

I’m just busy.

The state is currently making demands on my professional life–such that I have little time to write.

Although, of course, I did take the time to write this, just so as not to give the impression that I’m “blacking out” as a social statement.

Not that I might not have made that social statement had I had the time to look into the topic in more depth.

:-)

Why I’m not bothered by X-mas (like some people are)

November 30th, 2011

If your Facebook news feed is anything like mine, it’s populated by status updates from three types of people: those who love Christmas, those who hate Christmas, and those who are desperate to put Christ back in Christmas.

The third group is, of course, referring to the apparently secular designation “X-mas.”

I am not among those bothered by “X-mas”, partly because I’m not sure the title is worth a fight and partly because I’m not sure that X-mas is so anti-Christ as it’s made out to be.

After all, when I think of an “X” in place of something in a word, the first thing that comes to mind is those signs in front of Walmarts everywhere.

PED XING they declare in bold caps.

Pedestrian crossing.

X=Cross

Cross-Mas.

I can handle that.

The second thing I think of when I think of an X in place of a word is how illiterate individuals sign their names.

I know that Jesus wasn’t illiterate–he did, after all, take his place reading the Torah in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-21). But he was the companion of uneducated, common men (Acts 4:13). Throughout his life, Jesus spent time with the lowest of the low, the “underclass” of the Jewish world–Samaritans, prostitutes, tax collectors. You couldn’t go any lower.

Except that Jesus did. He went as low as absolutely possible, humbling himself to take on the humiliation of every man–every sin ever committed. He identified with–no, he became the lowest of the low by taking on man’s sin and bearing man’s curse.

I can see Jesus signing His name with a bold “X”, a reminder of of his identification with the downtrodden.

But the X doesn’t only mean “Cross” like in Ped Xing. It isn’t simply a mark in place of a signature.

X is also the Latinized version of the Greek letter CHI.

As in Χριστός (Christos).

Yes, that’s right.

X-mas means CHRISTmas.

Which is probably why I’m not too bothered by it.


Interested in reading more about the word “X-mas”? Check out Wikipedia’s article on the topic.

As an additional note, I always pronounce the word “X-mas” as “KRISS-MUSS”, never as “EX MUSS”; just as I never (except in jest) say “I EM AACH OH” when I mean “In my humble opinion.”

IMHO (read “In my humble opinion”), X-mas is an abbreviation that should be used only to save space in print, not to degrade the spoken language.

The Solution to Society’s Sin (Smoking)

October 7th, 2011

Both my mom and my dad smoke,” she confided, a wisp of shame blowing across her face.

I held my breath and my tongue for a moment, acutely aware of the other children listening in for my response.

I nodded, smiled sympathetically. “It’s very hard to stop smoking once you start. That’s why it’s better not to start in the first place.”

I wasn’t quite sure if I’d responded appropriately, but all around the room kids were picking up their crayons to color once more.

Smoking has become today’s ultimate social sin. Smokers are pariahs, pushed out of our company into the cold outdoors. We will eat and chat around the table–they can do so huddled around the front step.

We say it is for their own good and for their children’s.

Really, it is for our good and our children’s.

We are afraid of lung cancer, annoyed by allergies to cigarette smoke. And we are the majority, so we can make them do whatever we’d like.

For the children’s sake, we say, as we think up more ways to ostracize smokers.

Maybe if we make it illegal to smoke in a car if minors are present…

But we fail to recognize the difficult position we place children in.

They love their parents, but they’re inundated on every side with messages that say that Mom and Dad are bad and have a dirty habit and want to kill themselves and their children.

The children of smokers become wilderness-loving Pearls, forever separated from normalcy by the scarlet “A” their parents wear. Like Pearl’s red-trimmed garments, the smoke that clings to them (third hand smoke, professionals call it) reminds the world–and themselves–of their dubious parentage.

Some escape into lawlessness, as Pearl did. Others set their faces and walk amongst the rest of us, their faces and voices dark with the shame they feel.

It’s a true tragedy, and one where the child always loses–destined not only to bear the physical effects of second (and third) hand smoke, but the emotional effects of the world’s censure.

How can we protect children from these evils, the physical and the emotional?

Do we ban smoking and develop anti-addiction programs? Do we encourage children to establish healthy role models? Do we boost their self-esteem through sports or community involvement?

I propose a radical solution.

Let’s love them, and their parents, with the radical love of Christ. Let’s join them in their shame, recognizing that we all are fallen–and then lift them out of their shame by introducing them to the gracious God who loves sinners and makes them saints.

Let’s counter the social-sin of smoking with the gospel.

A Comment Ministry

September 29th, 2011

Years ago, I wrote a brief post about Bill Gothard and what I remembered about the two Basic Life Seminars and one Advanced Life Seminar I attended. I wrote that I remember Gothard presenting lots of rules and “princibles”, but that I don’t remember Gothard presenting the gospel.

Two months ago, I received an e-mail from an individual I have never before heard of in my life. This individual referenced my post on Gothard and sent me a link to a website that helps the “spiritually abused” recover.

More recently, a bloggie-friend posted a list of books she was either reading or going to start reading–and mentioned a book by C.J. Mahaney.

Someone, who I have never seen commenting on this friend’s posts before, wrote the following in the comments: “It has been shown that [C.J. Mahaney] doesn’t practice what he teaches.”

So what I want to know is, what do these folks think they are accomplishing in making such comments?

The man who read my post about Gothard undoubtedly stumbled across my blog somehow or another and found himself moved with compassion at the spiritual abuse I clearly described myself to have suffered. Desperate to do something to help, he searched relentlessly for a resource that might be able to meet me where I was at.

And surely the man who commented on my blog-friend’s post saw something in her writing that demonstrated that she was likely to be led astray by Mahaney. I am convinced that he was attempting to save his sister from false doctrine.

Right?

I kinda doubt it.

A more likely scenario is that someone with a beef against Gothard googled “Gothard” and maybe “law” and ended up on my site. Having found an accounting of my personal experiences with Gothard, he read liberally between the lines to determine that I had been “spiritually abused.” Having seen what he was looking for (although not necessarily what was actually there), he did what he had been intending to do all along. “Help” some poor “victim” of Gothard’s false teaching.

A more likely scenario is that someone with a beef against Mahaney either deliberately searched out or accidentally stumbled over a post in which Mahaney’s book was described–and felt it necessary to “share” his “knowledge” about Mahaney.

These men might even consider this e-mail/blog-comment trolling to be a ministry–correcting falsehoods within the church.

Yet this approach strikes me as singularly unsatisfying.

Perhaps some individuals have suffered spiritual abuse at Gothard’s hands. I am not one of them. Anyone who knows me and has actually talked to me about Gothard knows that I bear no lasting damage as a result of Gothard’s teaching (in fact, whatever I may think of certain of his teachings and whatever I may remember or not remember about how the gospel was or was not presented, Gothard’s teaching on “unchangeables” was quite beneficial to me when I first heard it as an early teen.)

But my e-mailer did not know me. He failed in ministering to me because he did not know me well enough to diagnose my problems or to provide an appropriate solution. Instead, he ended up being an annoyance.

Likewise, what the commenter said about Mahaney may be true. Perhaps Mahaney does not practice what he preaches. But my blogger-friend who mentioned Mahaney’s book is not promoting Mahaney’s lifestyle, nor is she uncritically accepting Mahaney’s teaching. On the other hand, what the commenter said about Mahaney may be false. Perhaps Mahaney does practice what he preaches. How does my blogger-friend know that she can trust the (I presume unknown to her) commenter?

Judging from this commenter’s lack of previous comments on my friend’s posts, the commenter likely knows little about my blogger-friend–and my blogger-friend likely knows little of him. As a result, his comment is little more than idle words. I doubt they will keep my friend from reading the book she had already purposed to read–and I doubt they will change her way of reading the book. The comment ends up being just words on a page, well-meant, perhaps, but meaningless.

Because ministry and correction flow from relationship, not from a cursory reading of words on a page.

Does this mean that ministry or correction cannot occur through a blog or an e-mail? No.

I have been ministered to greatly through comments on my blog. I have received needed correction to my thoughts and attitudes as a result of comments or e-mails from my readers.

But those comments that ended up being ministry (either as encouragement or as correction) had a few features not found in the aforementioned comments about Gothard and Mahaney:

1. The comments that ministered were comments based on a careful reading of what was actually said

The commenters bothered to read what I said, to try to ascertain my intent in what I had said, and to get background when necessary (by reading other posts or asking questions.)

2. The comments that ministered were comments from people who proved their care.

The commenters proved that they cared more about me than about being right or about proving another person or idea wrong. They took initiative to build a relationship with me, to also comment on the trivialities that I posted–instead of just bursting out of nowhere to correct me.

3. The comments that ministered were comments that took their authority from the Word of God.

The commenters backed up their encouragement or their correction with Scripture (or, at the least, with principles from Scripture.) They told me where they felt that I had erred in my thinking in relation to what the Word of God says–or they affirmed my actions or thoughts in relation to what the Word of God says.

So tell me, have you ever been ministered to by a comment on your blog? What were some of the characteristics I’ve missed? Have you experienced any not-so-ministering comments (like the one someone sent me about Gothard)? I’d love to hear your stories.

A Rotten NewEgg

July 28th, 2011

You’ve been graciously putting up with my erratic posting (and even more erratic commenting) since my computer’s been out of commission.

I’ve been trying to graciously put up with the dozens of hours I’ve had to put in to try to get my new build running.

Two motherboards and two months from when I first ordered the components for my new computer, I still don’t have a computer and have finally ruled out every other possibility and concluded that the second motherboard is defective.

Yes, that’s right. The motherboard NewEgg sent me to replace the first one (which, if you’ll remember, had an exposed circuit that glowed and smoked) is defective.

Not knowing how exactly to explain what is wrong with the motherboard (except to say that I’ve ruled everything else out), I decided to chat with a NewEgg representative online to help me figure out how to get another replacement.

The rep had bad news. I couldn’t get a replacement because it has been two months since I ordered my first motherboard.

If I had wanted a replacement on the second motherboard, I should have asked for it within 30 days of my original order.

Never mind that my replacement motherboard arrived exactly 31 days after I’d ordered the original one.

Nope, I should have known that the second was going to be defective. I should have put in my request for a replacement before I’d even received the second board.

Then, the representative (who I’m sure was simply following the script she had been given) kept apologizing “for the inconvenience this may have caused you.”

May have caused you?

Excuse me. There is no “may have” about it. This has been a major inconvenience.

I have been without a computer of my own for a month. I have spent dozens of hours trying every trick I (and my computer support friends/relatives) could come up with. I have purchased multiple additional components that I had not originally intended to purchase (so that I could rule out my legacy optical or hard drives, cables, or internet connection as causes of the problem.) I have spent money to ship them the first defective motherboard they sent me–only to have them ship me a second defective motherboard.

No “may have”. This has been an inconvenience.

They say I have no recourse but to call the manufacturer. Then they once again “apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you”?

It’s insulting. Don’t pretend you’re not at fault. Don’t pretend you did everything you could to save me from inconvenience.

Apologize for the inconvenience you HAVE caused.

Oh, and remember how I said they told me my only recourse was to call the manufacturer?

My representative kindly gave me the number to call.

Unfortunately, NewEgg wasn’t so kind as to let me continue to see our chat conversation once my rep had “hung up”. As soon as my rep logged off, the chat screen (and with it the phone number for the manufacturer) disappeared, to be replaced by a customer service evaluation form.

Then, to add insult to injury, the evaluation form limited me to 500 characters with which to evaluate the service I’d received.

I’d have liked to have been able to comment. I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their policy of only issuing returns within 30 days of the original order date (regardless of whether the recipient had received said item within 30 days of the original order date). I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their customer service script weasels out of taking any responsibility for the trouble they’ve caused (and in fact shows little sympathy for the trouble that has occurred regardless of their role in its causation.) I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their chat window immediately jumps to the feedback form when the customer service rep logs off, leaving the customer without vital information to fix their problem. I’d have liked to have given them some feedback so they could fix their clearly broken return and customer service process.

But they didn’t give me room. Apparently they’re not interested in my feedback–or my business.

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