Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Give Thanks!

People are amazing!  Out of the 7 billion people on the planet, most of the people, most of the time, are really being excellent to each other.

I saw this meme today, and it made me think of how thankful I am for engineers.  Last year, my family was involved in an auto accident near our home.  We walked away from that accident because of those excellent engineers at Ford Motor Company.

I am thankful for the first responders of the South Jordan police, fire, and paramedic teams.  They were at the accident site in no time, checking on everyone involved.

I am thankful for my buddy Geoff who works at Unique Collision Repair in South Jordan.  He was my first call at the accident site and he walked me through everything I needed to do to get the car taken care of in the short term.  He made the tow calls and later handled everything with my insurance company.  The day after the accident, he went over the damage with me and explained the marvels of modern engineering that kept my family safe inside the cab of our Freestyle.

I am thankful to everyone at Unique Collision Repair who took that wreck and put it back together as good as new!

I am thankful to my insurance company, Horace Mann, who took care of getting us a rental and were just great to work with.

A lot of wonderful people were involved that night with protecting and helping my family.

When you have been helped, when you have been rescued, when you have been medically treated, when you have been educated, when you have been mentored - those were people who did that. People who gave to you from their time and hard earned talents.

Give thanks!

... and aim it in the right direction.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Facebook Faith #55 - Christian Munchausen Syndrome

There has been a lot said in the media, particularly the conservative media, about Christian persecution. If you listen to Fox News, or the various Republican presidential candidates, you would get the impression that Christians are under attack in America.

However, when you dig past the rhetoric, you often find that how they use the word persecution tends to differ from the definition most of us use.

For example, I was reading a Facebook post regarding Al Mohler's (president of the Southern Baptists) comments that Christians should not attend the weddings of their gay family and friends. A Christian blogger posted in the comments section that Christians would be insulted by being asked to attend in the first place. The following is part of our discussion.

I know a lot of the push back to this would be that David has an extreme view and that he does not represent most of Christendom. Honestly, I don't know what the numbers are like. I know Christians of all stripes on this topic.

But here is what I do know: There are Christian mayors who think like David. There are Christian governors who think like David. There are many Christians in Congress who think like David.

Nearly all of the the Republican presidential candidates think like David.

The religious powers in the Dark Ages thought like David and much of the pain and suffering in the Middle East is being caused by religious people who think like David.

We all need to fear religion that considers the existence of the "other" an insult and a slap in the face.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Calling All Old Palm Pilots

During spring cleaning around the Hackman household yesterday, I came across an old Sony Clie of mine which runs the Palm OS. I charged it up, and it still works... but what do I do with this ancient thing?

As with many items around the house I am about to get rid of, I ask myself "Can I use this in my classroom?"  The answer? "Darn-Tootin I can!" It is the perfect classroom electronic. There are still a myriad of Palm apps that I can use in the classroom, and this thing CAN'T get on the internet. The only programs available to students are what I put on it. :)

The more I thought about it, I realized I could use Palm Pilots as part of my centers rotations. Students could use the Palm Pilots to practice math, spelling, and reading. They can use them to track data. This is starting to have a lot of possibilities.

Here is where you come in dear reader. If you are like me, there is a decent chance that you, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, etc... have an old Palm Pilot, Sony Clie, Handspring (anything running PalmOS) stuffed in a junk drawer at home gathering dust. Look around, ask around, then ship any found here to Utah. Rather than having that Palm Pilot spend even more years gathering dust, re-purpose it!

Would you, could you put them in box?
Send them, send them with their docks?
Happy, happy, will my students be!
Send them, send them 1-2-3!

In addition to Palm Pilots, I can make use of outdated e-readers, digital cameras, tablets... Most school districts won't take them because they don't want to support them... but I am my own IT guy. :)

UPDATE***  Also, if anyone archived their Palm apps, I would love a copy of your freeware.  Finding Palm apps has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated.... the web is littered with broken Palm app links.
Drop me an email at mrhackman@hotmail.com, and I will get you the info to send it to my school.  Thank You!

A little Palm trivia. I have owned about 7 different Palm devices (prior to that I had used 3 different Windows CE clamshells - anyone remember Philips Velo?) I attended monthly Palm user group meetings and my first smartphone was the Palm Centro. I was so proficient with a Palm that occasionally while writing on the chalkboard in my classroom, I would accidentally slip into Graffiti... and my students would laugh.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Religious Tantrums

So what to do about Kim Davis?  By now, dozens of excellent articles have been written about her hypocrisy and inconsistency when trying to apply biblical injunctions.  These things are easily discerned by everyone outside the knuckle dragging end of jingoistic Christianity.

However, what accommodations, if any, should society make for religious conviction?  For the most part - I say none.  I agree with the direction of the meme.  This man has a personal conviction concerning pork and HE navigates its burdens.

When Ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse to sit next to women on planes, and hold up flights with their tantrums, they are expecting everyone else to shoulder the burden of their conviction.  When Kim Davis refuses to issue marriage licences, she is insisting that others carry her load.

If the Ultra-Orthodox Jew is so convicted, let him buy a 2nd seat.  If Kim Davis cannot execute the full scale of her duties, she should move to employment where she can.

Instead, these religious folks throw a tantrum.  Rather than doing the heavy lifting themselves, they lay the weight of their issues on to the backs of others.

We control our disdain when toddlers act this way... after all, they are only toddlers.  Adults should get no such considerations.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Modesty Police Are Barking Up The Wrong Tree

I saw the following picture this morning.  It accompanied an article on the PRI regarding Saudi women registering to vote for the first time.

Although it was an interesting and worthwhile article, the picture caught me for a completely different reason.

In Utah, there is this misguided notion among "modesty" minded folks that, if we can just cover up women - make sure their dresses are long enough, cover the cleavage, spare the boys those sinful shoulders - we can somehow get our poor males to behave themselves.

I love the PRI picture, because it calls bullshit on that whole premise. Obviously, the dress choices of the ladies does not change a darn thing...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Swearing As A Moral Issue

This morning the Deseret News, one of Salt Lake's two primary newspapers, ran an opinion piece about the Book of Mormon musical. Being what and where it is, this musical is getting a little more press attention than is typically the case.

The piece hit a nerve with me and prompted me to write about an idea that has been spinning in my head for a while. The title of the article was "Profanity laced productions demonstrate society's moral decline."

If you spend any time with believers, particular of the more conservative stripe, they will let you know that they don't like swearing. If you spend time with such people regularly, they will let you know about their distaste for swearing... regularly.

In fact, similar to the title on the article, they will often articulate something beyond mere distaste. A moral element will become attached. Swearing is not just distasteful, it is immoral.

This is a common religious drum to beat and yet, even while I was still a believer, something struck me as disingenuous about all of the purity proclamations regarding words. How could a word be so encrusted with... evil?

I remember the first time I realized that there might be something amiss about all of the preening that goes on in religious circles concerning swear words. I was 16 and spending a number of weeks backpacking in Israel. A Bedouin chief was giving a friend of mine and I a tour through the Negev desert on camel back. The chief spoke at least 7 languages that I knew of.

My camel and I were alongside the chief when nature called. I said to him, "Hey, can we stop? I gotta go." He looked at me quizzically. "I have to go to the bathroom," I amended. He cocked his head a little more to the side, trying to interpret my meaning.

"He has to take a shit!" my friend called from behind us.

The chieftain's eyes lit with understanding and he smiled. "Oh yes! Sheet! We stop!"

I reflected later that, contrary to what my religious community taught me, my friend had done nothing immoral, neither had the chief. "Shit" was just a word.... nothing more. Any negative values were our associations, but there was nothing inherently moral or immoral about the word.

So then, why does the issue of swearing garner such attention and bluster among religious folks? Why do they try to make it a MORAL issue?

My family and I recently made the trip back to Michigan to visit all of our relatives. Most of these folks are Christian but in the past few years I find myself in Christian circles less and less. One thing that really stood out to me was how much the issue of swearing came up. I was constantly being informed that they don't swear, they don't like entertainment that swears, and they don't like to socialize with people that swear. Spend anytime with a religious conservative, and they will let you know that they don't swear.


My theory is that one can get a lot of piety points on this issue with very little cost. In fact, no cost. If you are going to resist poverty, or not gossip, or love your enemy... there is going to be some work involved. It will cost you. To make a fuss about swearing costs nothing, and yet it lets the religious person get a sense that they have made a moral step up.

Moving out of faith has shown me that this maneuver is a farce. Religion encourages the believer to develop many contrived moral positions. As an atheist, I have come to realize that true moral foundations are built on harm and help. Does an action harm others? Does an action help others? Swearing affects neither of these questions. It is a question of mores' not of morals.

Yet, the writer of the Deseret News opinion piece has convinced himself that he is making a moral statement when he announces his aversion to swearing. He isn't. He is just taking his place alongside scores of religious figures, both present and historical, who have learned to speak fluent religion on a topic that changes nothing.

Or, as St. Paul observed, he has learned to bang the gong and clang the cymbal.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Facebook Faith # 54: Theological Ideas, Like Comic Books, Have Parallel Universes

I have seen this meme come up a number of times from my Christian friends on Facebook. I struggle with whether to engage this discussion, because I usually get the Facebook equivalent of the deer in the headlights - they don't know how to address my contention, because they are not even sure what I am asking.

In the case of this meme, it seems contradictory to proclaim that using fear as a strategy is unique to the Devil. How is God threatening someone with ETERNAL torture not a fear strategy?

Yet that is what many believers will claim. They will quickly shift gears into "God loves you so much, he provided a way to avoid Hell!" Not realizing, or refusing to realize, that their Savior is also the head torturer... and which role he plays depends on whether you are on his good side, or his bad side.

Believers tend to not worry about continuity. Like comic book writers, all contradictions can be explained by making use of parallel universes. In one universe, Robin dies. In a parallel universe, Robin lives on at Batman's side. Depending on what you want your story to say at a given moment, you pull from the theological universe of your choosing.

The last church I belonged to was BIG about referencing the LOVE of God on Sunday morning. They also believe that anyone who doesn't love their God back is going to Hell... but that part is somewhat minimized.

However, it is spelled out in their belief statements. One day on FB, I pointed that out to one of my former pastors, after he did a status update proclaiming the unconditional love of God. I began by quoting their church website:

The conversation went on politely for a few more paragraphs. In the end though, he seemed to maintain his beginning assumptions.... God loves you unconditionally AND God will send you to Hell for not loving him back.

Each idea in its own, parallel, universe.

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