Sunday, September 17, 2023

Experience vs Efficiency

In my classroom, the kids have weekly assigned jobs.  One of them is to pass out sanitizing wipes.  First thing after we come in the door, a student will grab the container and start putting wipes on each desk.

This week the task was assigned to “Joey” and he shows up late for school almost daily.  So, the job has been passed off to random students each day.  This has slowed our start each morning because it takes us a minute to realize it is not being done.

This morning as I was getting ready, I decided to pass out the wipes myself since “Joey” would probably not show up on time.  I noted how much faster I got it done… probably less than 30 seconds.  My students often take 5 minutes to accomplish this task.  They have trouble getting a wipe out, they drop the tub, they get distracted, they lose their place, they miss someone and an argument starts.

For a moment, I considered taking over this daily job.  It would save me time and, honestly, some stress.  But then I catch myself.  A major temptation I have to resist as a teacher is to do things for the students that they have the ability to do for themselves.  I have to regularly make peace with the reality that they will do a job slowly, messily, poorly.

I can add a lot of efficiency to my day by having students do very little.  If I do it for them, it gets done quick, clean, and without drama.  

But then they experience nothing.  

So, I remind myself – let them cut out the circles… badly.  Let them move the items… and knock half of them over.  Have them pass out the papers… and be painfully slow doing it.

Efficiency seems ideal in the moment but kids need the inefficiency of experience if they are going to grow.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Humanity's Desire for the Fantastic

I recently read an article by science fiction writer, David Brin, commenting on Congress's need to address some UFO conspiracies. 

Be it ghosts, deities, UFOs, auras, crystals, or vast conspiracies centered on pizza restaurants... underlying all of this is a desire for the fantastic.  We want our emotions stirred.  Most folks find that in music, art, books, movies etc...  But for some reason, many humans are not content with story and imagination.  They want it to be "real".

I do too.  It would be a blast if people could swing between buildings after being bitten by a radioactive spider.  How amazing would it be if aliens landed in Central Park and wanted to introduce us to the wonders of the universe.  Wouldn't it be great if a deity or two could secure peace and let us know that everything will be alright?

I just don't think that is the world we inhabit.

But I understand the draw.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Those First Few Weeks of School

I think parents, teachers, and students need to give themselves a little grace during that first month of school.

Have you ever turned down your music when driving in a new neighborhood trying to find an address?  What does music have to do with directions?

It is another input.  Another distraction when all of your mental energy is trying to focus.

My classroom is old-hat to me.  But to my new students? Everything is novel.  Where the pencil sharpener is, how I pass things out, procedures for lining up.  Literally, everything is new.  So many inputs. And, unlike the music in your car, there is no button to tune some of it out.

The first month is kind of nuts.  Take a breath.  It'll get better.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

No Ulterior Motives

This meme was recently posted by a pastor friend of mine on Facebook.  Beneath it were these comments:

"One day they will wish they hadn’t denied Him!"

"I wouldn't want to be the one that would deny that our Lord does not exist I love my Lord and I know he loves me 💖💖"

In a similar vein, I was chatting with a former believing colleague on a thread who was trying to "reconvert" me.  I was polite but made it clear I just wasn't buying what he was selling.  At that point, he became very angry and launched into a string of personal attacks and finished with the old threat of "You will be dead one day, soon, and meet face to face with Almighty God Himself!" and that he feared for my soul.

This is fairly typical of the believing sect I came from.  Common to their belief is that anyone not of their sect should "fear" their life ending in unbelief.

But I don't.

First, because I believe we are biological and that is all there is.  One day I will die.  All my biological functions will cease.  I will have no awareness after that.  I will be gone.  Contrary to the statement of Augustine, I have no ulterior motives for this belief.

Second, if there turns out to be something beyond this life, I can't imagine it is anything like what they have put forth.  Their take is simply unreasonable and unloving.  Perhaps an eternal, all-powerful being really is that petty and insecure... but in that case, my former tribe will ultimately be no more safe than anyone else.

Rather, if it turns out there is something out there, beyond our moment of death, I think it will be something wonderful... for everyone.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Conservative Religion Never Trusts

I don't believe in any religion but I don't necessarily think they are all harmful. However, I would struggle to find redeeming qualities in conservative religion and this meme is an example of why.

First, there is no humility in their theology. We are right, everyone else is a heretic. I don't care what sect you are from, you have never had a personal one-on-one with a deity (stirrings in your heart and feeling his/her presence don't count). Therefore, ALL of your notions about your deity are secondhand, a telephone game that has gone on for hundreds and thousands of years. Even if there is a central text, there has never been a time when wildly varying sects have not laid claim to that same text. There is a simple reason for this: a text cannot speak. It is subject to the interpretation of the reader and therefore will ALWAYS speak with many voices.

Second, conservative religion is always on a bug hunt for heresy. Not only are they terrified of outsiders, often known as "the world", but they are forever looking for "error" among their own people. Loyalty pledges and behavior rules are a favorite to demonstrate that one is a "real" believer (much like their conservative political siblings who like to judge who is a "real" American).

I grew up in conservative religion. I know the fear of not wanting to be tainted by "the world" or heresy from within.

What I find kind of humorous about this quote is that I consider Hillsong a conservative religion. Similar to my final church home, they put on a more welcoming front and use inclusive language as much as they can, but at the end of the day, they are on the same exclusive road as the pastor being quoted. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Church is like Baseball

There are a lot of similarities in America between sports enthusiasm and religious devotion. Both have the ability to bring together or divide a community. Each of them can stir up the passions of people for good or for ill.  Devotion and enthusiasm are not good or bad... it just depends on how they are handled.

Have you ever gone to a little league baseball game?  One parent uses sports to teach their kid fair play, good health, and personal excellence.  Another parent is giving different lessons as they cuss out the teen umpire in front of their child.  I have vivid memories of sitting on my glove in the outfield at 7 years old - our game was paused as two dads went to blows over home plate.

We had a family reunion two summers ago in Iowa. One evening we went to a minor league game.  I am not a sports person, but I am always up for a social happening in almost any context.

It was a really nice stadium.  We got the hot dogs, nachos, and pretzels.  The game was close, the family was there... we were having a good time.

However, for a lot of folks in the stadium, having a good time was accomplished differently.  For them, enthusiasm came from dissension. Everything the OTHER team did was awful and everything their team did was great.  A ref was good or bad based on calls for or against THEIR team.  I even saw one dad teaching his son to heckle the other players.

Religion and sports... the good and the bad are all in how you approach the game.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Star Trek Canon and Biblical Theology

Way back in the 1960s, there was this show called Star Trek.  Maybe you have heard of it.

In one of the episodes, Captain Kirk fights with a lizard creature from a species known as the Gorn.  Of course, what those writers didn’t know at the time was that a future Star Trek show, nearly 60 years later, would also want to make use of the Gorn character.

Our present Gorn look and act much different than the Gorn of William Shatner’s day.  60s Gorn looked like a guy in a big rubber lizard suit – because it was a guy in a big rubber lizard suit.  The Gorn of the 2020s look like they were born on the set of James Cameron’s Aliens.  Instead of lumbering behemoths, they are wicked, sleek, and scare the bejeezus out of even the most stone-faced Starfleet officer.

So, how does one explain the difference in the presentation of the Gorn species?

Of course, the most obvious answer is that film and tech have improved vastly in 60 years.  If the writers of Star Trek in the 1960s had access to 21st-century tech, they would not have thrown Bill Blackburn into a rubber lizard suit.

But that explanation does not work for a lot of Star Trek fans.  For these folks, there is a real discrepancy that needs to be accounted for WITHIN THE STORY.  These differing Gorn appear at nearly the same time in Star Trek history, so why do they not look the same?

If you go to Facebook and Reddit, you will see fans developing very intricate explanations that will allow both accounts of the Gorn to remain canon (true within the story).  There are dozens and dozens of theories.  Some vary only slightly, while others have wildly differing explanations.  My favorite so far is this one:

They're not the same species.

Kirk in his recording, says specifically, "... what the Metrons call the Gorn." Not what he, or Starfleet, call the Gorn. But what the Metrons call that species. 

If you apply SNW to the TOS timeline, they know what the Gorn look like and how they behave. I've interpreted Kirk's words as one of puzzlement: "We know what the Gorn are, these aren't them, why the heck are the Metrons calling them that?"

I love that this guy is digging down and dissecting Kirk’s words.  There is no way the original writers meant this… but he is able to use their chance verbiage to design an entire thesis.

Now, most fans are just having fun with this… but there are a few who take this seriously… and angrily.  They have choice words for folks who do not validate their theory and they HATE anyone who shrugs it off as just a story.

Observing this has reminded me of so many theological discussions I have been involved in and witnessed.  Christians are also concerned with canon and how they deal with discrepancies in their story varies on a scale even greater than Star Trek.  How does a God who acts horribly throughout a lot of the story suddenly get credited with peace and love?  How can contradictory ideas and events within the Bible be accounted for?

Some Christians recognize that a lot of the early Bible writers were only a few steps up from cavemen and their God acted like it.  Later, as civilization matured, so did "God".  By the time we get to the later writers, God looks a lot different.  We have moved past the rubber suit.

Other Christians want these discrepancies to work within canon.  They will dig down and dissect the wording.  Books, seminars, and studies exist to keep things canon. They use chance verbiage to develop a thesis. They try to get the story to flow… but they can’t always get it to work.  In the end, there are lots of ways to make the not working… palatable.

And then there are those who take it seriously… and angrily.  They have choice words for folks who do not validate their theories and they HATE anyone who shrugs it off as story.

I get along fine, generally, with those first two groups… but the angry group has little patience with an atheist like me.  Especially when they find out I was once a believer.  It is difficult for many Christians to reconcile a former believer becoming an atheist… while maintaining canon.

Some, like a colleague I once worked with at a ministry, say I am now “possessed by a lying spirit.”  My lack of belief is not really me… it is a demon.  Various canon problems can be solved with this approach.

Others have decided I was never a believer in the first place.  My decades in the faith and ministry simply… didn’t happen.  Their only way to maintain canon is to proclaim that I never really believed.

This approach occurs with Star Trek fans too.  If you get to a really sticky wicket, you just proclaim it “not canon”.  It never happened.

I think I want a shirt that reads, "Not Canon".  :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Pratt The Raptor

"I know why it's the case, it's because the internet runs on clicks, so if half the country is reading about how brave they are for knowing the earth is flat it's not like the other half is gonna click on articles about how round earth is, they're going to click on lists of 17 things to do when your uncle thinks the earth is flat. Because that's the thing we'd like to learn, that's the ****ing earth shape that's still unknown to us. We fall into a trap of essentially studying bad studying, in hopes that we can Pratt the raptor." ~ Dan Harmon

I love the phrase "Pratt the Raptor." I agree with Dan that many arguments on the net can be pointless and just serve to entangle yourself in a mess that the "Raptor" enjoys.

However, those arguments CAN help turn the studio audience. One of the things that helped snap me out of religion's spell was watching and listening to those conversations when I was a believer. I cringed at the behavior displayed by the apologists of my faith. I was embarrassed by their lack of listening, their passive aggression, their belittling attitudes, and their straight-up insults.

Yeah, you're probably never going to Pratt the Raptor ... but the folks out in the stands are another story. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Just Wrong

Go to any Evangelical church website and you will find something like this written about their beliefs concerning the Bible-

"We believe the Bible to be inspired and infallible, and as such, the supreme authority in faith and life."

If you want to understand the behavior of many Evangelicals and the politicians and celebrity ministers they support, I believe a lot of it stems from maintaining an "error-less" view of the Bible.

The Bible is littered with scriptures such as -

"If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire."

You can find scriptures about how to beat your slaves, when killing children is acceptable, legal rape, etc.  The Bible condones and encourages some pretty horrific behavior.

Of course, bring up any of those scriptures and the dutiful Evangelical will do an apologetic box-step. Defenses will fly like a fighter jet throwing counter-measures.  Once the Evangelical has been convinced of "infallibility", there is little that could ever persuade them otherwise... even when evil behavior is right there on the page.

As a former Evangelical, I understand this. 

The practice of declaring something innocent that is clearly not can be transferred to other circumstances.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Hell is a Path of Fear and Division

This is one of the most corruptive factors of Hell theology.  It puts a wall between neighbors.  The reason Evangelicals have such a well-defined and separate subculture is because they don't love their neighbors... they fear their neighbors.  Secularists, unbelievers, non-Christians, and people of other faiths (or lesser forms of Christianity) are good for only one thing - conversion.

ANY church that has Hell in their theology is on a path of fear and division.  They may have great coffee and children's programs.  They may do some fine local charity work.  Their pastor may talk about love and acceptance repeatedly.  But in the end, they will draw you into an insular community that cannot love people beyond their faith.

Ask the Pastor to give you a straight answer, "Do you believe God will eternally punish anyone who does not become a member of your faith?"  If he or she does not answer with a firm "No", leave immediately.

Before even getting that far, check their website under their Beliefs.  Churches often like to save their Hell talk for AFTER you join... but you can usually find it buried in their statements of belief.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Into the Trash Can

It is a testament to the grooming and indoctrination that children are subjected to that the moral horrors of this story do not occur to most American believers.  I actually spent decades siding with Jehovah on this story.

Growing up learning Greek Mythology, I was very aware of the human frailties of the gods on Mount Olympus.  They were petty, cruel, and often downright nuts.  Yet, I couldn't connect the dots for that awareness with my god.  I would read passages of scripture where Jehovah/Yahweh was being as awful as any Greek deity... but I just couldn't put 2 and 2 together.  I could spot the holes in other religions easily... but remained oblivious to my own.

The religious scholar, Bart Ehrman, has an explanation for this.  He says it is because we read the holy books of other religions objectively but we read our own devotionally.  That hit me like a bolt from Thor's hammer when I heard it.  I decided to try reading my Bible objectively.

Whoa, Nellie!  I had a Damascus road experience.  The scales fell from my eyes.  It was like reading a completely different book.  For the first time, it seemed really problematic that blood was painted over doorposts so that God would know which children NOT to kill.  How on earth had that not bothered me before?

For weeks after that revelation, I poured over scripture finding insults to humanity I had never "seen".  My god was just like all the other gods I had read about - just as petty, cruel, and often downright nuts.

It has now been over a decade since I have really read my bible.  While cleaning recently, I found it, dust-covered, underneath a dresser.  The Amplified translation, red cloth case, page after page highlighted with notes in the margins.  Unceremoniously, I took it outside and dumped it in the trash can.

I know folks still find use in reading it objectively.  Like the Greek Myths, there is value to be found when read as a story.  But for me, having been so indoctrinated, the greater value was in a clean break.  My moral compass can be encouraged and refined by books that do not, in my case, have so much baggage and negative history.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Before You Speak

I recently heard a believer state a commonly used position when arguing their point -

"Don't be mad at me, be mad at God. I'm just telling you what he says." 

Of course, I know other believers who use scripture to maintain a view opposite that of the speaker.  People bring their history, culture, politics, even their personality... to their reading and study. I don't think anyone gets a clean read... of anything.

In the end, believers draw different messages out of the Bible based on who they are. So, I maintain that everyone just needs to take responsibility for their own arguments.  As King Leonidas said,

"Before you speak, Persian, know that in Sparta, everyone, even a king's messenger, is held accountable for the words of his voice."

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Cleaning the Classroom

The psychology of this is fascinating to watch play out in a classroom.  Kids are very different.  

Out of twenty kids, I will have 4 actively working... at not picking up or putting away anything. 

Another 4 are spending their whole time monitoring and being upset that other people are not doing their share and they have to give me updates (which prevents them from cleaning).  

There are the 4 who always need to use the bathroom the moment we start cleaning.

There are 4 cleaning but resenting the hell out of the 12 who aren't doing anything.

And there are 4 who happily make our room a nicer place for everyone.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Coin Toss

Years ago, I listened to a BBC podcast on wealth studies.  One of the experiments consisted of people playing Monopoly.  Before the game started, players had a coin toss to see who would play with advantages and who would play with disadvantages.  The advantaged players had the option of rolling 3 dice, started with more money and some property.  Disadvantaged could only roll one die.

The advantaged were soon winning and dominating the game.  They began to speak louder with an air of entitlement in their voice.  They even started hogging the snacks.

After the game, when asked what factors contributed to the advantaged players winning, most of the advantaged talked about their strategies and how they played the game.  

Only a small percentage of the advantaged ever mentioned the fact that they won the coin toss.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Over Coffee

ExPreacher says this way more harshly than I would, but he makes some valid points.

First is the point about some scriptures getting enormous airtime while others get none. You may hear, "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" a half dozen times or more in sermons throughout the year.  However, there is a good chance you have never heard from the pulpit, "Take vengeance on the Midianites… kill all the boys and all the women who have had intercourse with a man.  Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves."

As a Christian, I knew way more of the bible than the average parishioner.  I had committed whole books to memory.  Still, there were swaths of scripture I was completely unaware of.  There are over 31,000 verses in the bible but only a few hundred of those ever make it into sermons.  When I was deconstructing, this kind of conversation happened regularly-

Me: Did you know the bible says you can have slaves and that you are free to beat them… because they are your property?

My wife: It does NOT say that.

Me: But it does say you should not beat them to death… you can get in trouble for that.  However, if they live for a few days after the beating and then die… it’s all good.


Me: Yeah, it does.  Right here.

My wife: What… the… hell…?!

Bible scholar Bart Ehrman says, “We read our scriptures devotionally, but we view the scriptures of other religions objectively.”  Read that slave scripture to your average Evangelical and tell them it is from the Koran and they will see clearly how awful it is.  Tell them it is from the Bible and the spin will begin.  

I was no different.  The few times I heard such biblical critiques as a believer, I quickly shrugged them off.  Even if I didn’t have a counterargument, I was confident someone somewhere did.

The second point ExPreacher makes is about the way most believers sign off on the Bible’s inerrancy while having so little knowledge of it.  Like the Terms of Service agreement on a piece of software, they click YES without having read the terms.

For evangelicals, belief in the Bible as wholly true and perfect tends to be non-negotiable, even when they don’t understand it.  I once talked to a pastor friend about these biblical concerns.  He agreed that the Bible is messier than most believers understand, that its construction was complicated and political, and that he believed for all of the divine inspiration that may be there… man's fingerprints are all over it.

“And I can say that here over coffee with you as a friend,” he admitted, “but I can’t say that from the pulpit Sunday morning.”

If you go to his church website, it is written in the belief statements that the Bible is “inspired, infallible, inerrant”. 

Simply put, most Evangelical churches exist to direct thinking… not expand it.  Christian churches have varied views on things like salvation, atonement, tithing, Hell, church governance, gender issues, etc.  There are Christian churches out there that are comfortable saying the Bible is not inerrant. Until I started to look at things with a little more objectivity, I was completely ignorant of how narrow my view of faith was.

As Salt Lake Tribune writer, Robert Kirby, put it -

"For years, I never doubted the truthfulness of what I was taught. This is not surprising considering that virtually anything will make sense if it's all you know."

They say the Truth does not need protection.  The Bible has centuries of safeguards put in place to keep most believers from ever viewing it with a critical eye.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

No Hope for Fox

On my podcast list I have David Frum, Jay McFarland, David French, Bill Kristol, etc.  I listen to these guys because I want to hear a calm articulation of the conservative viewpoint.  I also eschew liberal voices that tend toward the sensational.  I want to try and understand reality as best I can.

I know I have friends and family who have a steady diet of Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, Breitbart, and the AM radio talk show circuit.  Their view of reality could not be more tilted.

Folks on the Left, Right, and Middle who deal in reality are hopeful that the revelations these past few weeks - that the folks at Fox knowingly and willfully engaged in falsehoods in order to appease their viewers- will bring some change.

I don't have that hope... at all.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Every Kid Needs a George

Our local NPR affiliate did a story on a recent study which showed that a third of 4th graders are not reading on grade level.  I listened for the first 5-10 minutes and then turned it off in frustration.  They started to go down the path of how our schools teach reading and why it has been producing this outcome.  The thesis was that, about 20 or so years ago, schools moved away from phonics instruction.

This is a popular notion right now as the education pendulum swings back toward phonics.  States are jumping on board the train.  Here in Utah, every K-3 teacher has been made to take part in a two-year program to get them on the phonics page – essentially, a college class for teacher’s evenings and weekends.

Underlying all of this phonics fervor is the mistaken notion that schools can instruct students into reading proficiency.  Contrary to the radio show thesis, I think schools made the mistake of thinking they could move students to proficiency without family involvement.  

It was about 20 years ago that I noticed a shift in the rhetoric at trainings and meetings.  If a teacher brought up strategies for how to get families involved with reading with students at home we were told, “We can’t control that, so let’s talk about the things we can control.”  Instruction of students became less of a partnership between home and school.  Over time, the responsibility shifted solely to the school.  A lot of parents took that as a signal that they could leave the work of educating their child to that building the child busses to each morning.  For many, education became a consumer item that one could write a check for and forget about. 

So, in a lot of American homes, kids just quit reading.  There is your third of students not reading on grade level.  The best instruction by the best instructors will not change that.

There is a slice of students who need intervention due to reading struggles… but, in my experience, that is not the issue with most underperforming readers.  These kids need time on the page and they are not getting it.  They need daily, one on one, time with an adult who reads with them.  Schools (for all of their best intentions) and states (with their expectations) cannot make up for that lack.

Let me give the example of George.  He was a (very) senior citizen who came to my former Title One school every day to read with kids.  He was not a reading specialist.  He was available and he read with one of my 6th-grade students almost every day.  

My student read at a 2nd-grade level.  She didn’t like to read because she was unsuccessful at it and because she was unsuccessful at it she didn’t like to read.  Most of my Title One students were stuck in this vicious circle.  Still, she was willing to read with George.

Over the months, her resistance to reading lessened.  She started carrying a book in her back pocket and I would catch her at recess reading under a tree.  By the end of the year, she was reading at a 4th-grade level.

Her success had nothing to do with my reading instruction (I had 37 students that year).  It was her daily time spent with a saint who somehow got from his downtown apartment to our building.  

Moving that struggling third cited in the radio show to grade-level is not going to come about due to instructional methods.  It will happen when our culture gets back to adults being available to read with kids.

Friday, March 03, 2023

Rare Things Happen All The Time

Almost every day, I hear believers thank a deity for some happy circumstance or coincidence.  The fact that they got the job that they wanted, or that parking spot, or a reduction on some bill, is evidence of divine assistance.


At one time, I too saw little evidences of my god all around me.  I tabulated a number of such things when convincing myself to move out to Utah twenty years ago.

But I have been out of the faith now for a decade.  The interesting thing is that just as many happy coincidences happen to me now as ever did.  In reality, every person, regardless of faith status, gets their share of good and bad happenstance.

I now see all of that dot-connecting as a desire for meaning.  It may be great that I got that job... but if GOD got me that job, then I am significant.  I matter. I am seen.

But, that kind of meaning is exterior... and as with all such forms that give one a sense of worth, that route is fleeting.  

Friends and family, jobs and money... even gods... can only serve as a band-aid.  Eventually, alone with your own thoughts, you have to create your worth and meaning.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Marvel and Ant-Man 3

I saw AntMan on Thursday and it was... fine -as so many things have been from Marvel of late.  I enjoyed the flick, had a few laughs, munched my popcorn.  I was entertained for those 2 hours.

But nothing in that movie made me want to go out and grab another ticket.

I have watched the scene below a dozen times.  It is an intense scene.  Dialogue and story are at the forefront and the actors are bringing it.

There are lots of comic movies now that demonstrate such scenes.  Batman and the Joker talking in the jail during Dark Knight.  Civil War.  Winter Soldier.  Logan.  X-Men.  Superman: The Movie.

Scenes where characters are talking about things that matter.

That is what gets me right back to the turnstile line after exiting the ride.

I was rewatching Robocop again today... cheesy... but so many great lines.

There was nothing like that in Ant-Man... no scenes I want to head back to the theater for.  No lines to ruminate over again and again.

Almost every scene of dialogue was just segueing us to the next CGI MacGuffin chase.

There was a lot to like about the latest Antman.  I would give it a B... but that seems to be the best Marvel is doing lately.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Potato Math

I usually don't buy kitchen items that do only one thing.  

We have a small kitchen... so, space is a premium.  Utensils have to earn their keep.

Generally speaking, I wouldn't buy an item like this... but they had it on such a good sale, I would not feel guilty if I used it once and threw it away.

However, combined with my air fryer, I use this thing all the time.

It makes perfect fries.

But this is dangerous.

Here is what I have discovered.

I would never, typically, down 4 or five potatoes.

However, press them through the fry-maker.  Add a dash of oil and spice.  Give them 16 minutes in the air fryer.  Add some fry sauce.

All of a sudden, I can put down 4-5 potatoes in a flash.

I thought the air fryer... and the fry cutter... were a step toward health.

I am now questioning these decisions.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Me, Me, Me

Scrolling my newsfeed on Sunday morning often brings up a live church service in progress or a link to one.  Today I listened for a moment.  The same stuff I used to hear... but a critical ear changes so many things.

For example, this morning, the pastor quoted Oswald Chambers, who said that believers are often so devoted to their ideas about Jesus that they miss devotion to Jesus himself.

But all we have are ideas.  Believers can read the same text but walk away with very different ideas.  There are literally tens of thousands of Christian denominations.

So what does a statement, by a Pastor, encouraging a believer to doubt their ideas about Jesus accomplish?  Only the most open denominations would actually guide a congregant to deconstruct their beliefs... and this congregation was clearly Evangelical.

So what then?

It tills the ground for the Pastor's ideas about Jesus to be planted.  Whether explicitly or implicitly, the goal is to get the congregation on his page.  Like Smith in the 2nd Matrix movie, church leadership (with few exceptions) wants to replace your code with theirs.  Your ideas about God with their ideas.

And for many congregants, they understand that is the price of membership.  But just be clear that your ideas about God are being replaced with their ideas... but they are just ideas... and theirs carry no more inherent weight than yours.

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Relationship with Jesus

If you travel in Evangelical circles, you will often hear them say things like "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship" or "I'm not religious, I have a relationship with Jesus".

But, of course, it is a religion and, no, it isn't a relationship.  I have always felt, even when I was a believer, that this sort of language was an attempt to set themselves apart from other religions and even those they consider lesser versions of Christianity.

Anyway, I wrote this as a comment on a thread some years back and I think it sums up why the word relationship, in this context, doesn't work -

I have personal relationships with real live persons. We talk, and the conversation occurs on both sides. We do stuff together and there is interaction.

If I think I have a relationship with someone because I have read their book, or heard their music, or looked at their art - that is only occurring in my head. I have watched many Quentin T. movies and listened to scores of interviews with him... so much so, it feels like I know him. But I don't and he doesn't know me. It is a flight of fancy to imagine otherwise.

When Christians state that they have a relationship with God, they are using that word in such a way that it is rendered meaningless. Even if we imagine for a moment that there is a god that made the universe and he wrote a book for us to read, we could appreciate his art and read his writings... but we still would not know him and we would not have a "relationship" with him.

It seems to me the best thing a Christian could say in this regard is that they are a Christian because they work at following the teachings and life of Christ.

Monday, January 16, 2023

HBO's The Last of Us

There has been a lot of hype over HBO's The Last of Us.

My take on episode 1.  First half great, 2nd half boring.

Mild spoilers ahead...

They did what I feared... they skipped the middle.

They start out with the introduction of the plague.  This is the $#!^ I find fascinating.  I want them to spend episodes... NAY!  A SEASON!... getting into the nuts and bolts of the infection.  How does it work, why is it spreading, how is science fighting it, and how is society dealing with it?  What happens as social and economic systems start to break down? There is so much story there.

But, like so many movies and series before it, we get quickly moved past all that and land in a future where folks are despondently walking about a landscape that nature is slowly recapturing.  Walking Dead skipped past all the good stuff too... and gave us season after season of folks wandering about running into worse and worse marauders and scavengers.  

I do hope this is not where the show is going... but the first episode for me had a great build-up and then a big let-down.

Back in the Box

"You need more faith!!"  is a common refrain in fundamental religious circles.  It is the cure shouted at every problem.  Issues of health, finances, questions about life... everything is about pushing you back into the framework.

To get back in, you have to have to cut off part of yourself.  Your pain, your questions, your desires... all have to be made smaller.

Over the decades, life gets more basic as they repeat the same verses, the same dictums.  Nothing new, no growth... just endless contraction.  The world looks stranger and stranger as it continues to grow and expand.  Eventually, the fundamentalist struggles to find good in anything or anyone outside their sect.

Teaching and Tacos

I often hear people say, "Kids are natural learners.  They are curious.  Just don't stand in their way!!"

Ummm, no.  SOME kids are natural learners.  Some are curious.  Others would just like to watch TV and eat tacos thank you very much.

I know this because if I only did what I WANTED to do... I would watch TV and eat tacos.

But, I have the self-discipline to know that path would make me obese and lonely... so I do other things and go to work.

Now, what is true is that most American classrooms are not meeting most kids' needs.  Some kids excel in academic disciplines.  They love bookwork.  They love to write.  They love to solve equations.

Others prefer movement.  They want to be outside.  They want to tear things, twist them, bend them, throw them.

Some folks love to be with people ALL DAY!  For others, an hour or two is MORE than enough.

Some kids have been reading voraciously since they were two.  They walk into 2nd grade on Harry Potter 4 and are starting to worry about what happens when they finish Deathly Hollows at the end of the month.

Others come in hoping that since they got through an entire Clifford book this week, they might be excused from reading for a while.

In our system, the Potter and the Clifford reader go to the same class because they have hit that magic age of 7.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen... your child's core curriculum for the year will be set, not by their motivation, not by their interest, not by their present level... but by how old they are.  

We just toss them all in together and wish those teachers the best of luck.  🙂

Saturday, January 07, 2023

A Teaching Blind Spot

This meme has stirred up some dust on the teacher page I got it from.  Lots of teachers are chastizing this dad for "lazy parenting".  They say if parents would just "model" good reading practices at home, then kids would "learn to love reading" instead of seeing it as something they need to be paid for.  As one person said, "If they are read to from infancy they will learn enjoying a book is natural and just fun."

I do not think this blind spot is exclusive to teachers but I think the potential for harm is more prevalent because it is coming from teachers.

It is a common human error to believe that someone is "missing out" if they do not enjoy what we enjoy.  In this diverse world, there are LOTS of things to enjoy.  Some folks invest their time in sports, others in music, some like to climb mountains, many apply brush strokes to a canvas.  

Even those interests have varied levels of dedication.  Interests also change.  I enjoy acting in plays but I have friends who LIVE for theater.  My interest in acting was stronger a few years ago than it is now and it may circle back again.

Still... it is just one of many interests... as is reading.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, most teachers are recreational readers.  As such, there is a blindspot in the profession that often assumes there is something amiss if a child does not enjoy reading.  It makes my job easier if they enjoy it... but it should not be viewed as a problem if they don't.

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