Thursday, September 1, 2011

National Grudge

And thus, after 91 hours without power, National Grid finally restored our electrical service.

I'm pissed off. What if this had been a major storm? Assessments have already determined that the region had FAR more power outages in this storm then we did in the next most powerful storm on recent record. Why? Why is our infrastructure suddenly so much more fragile than it has ever been? Or is it merely incompetence?

I've heard story after story of people who, like myself, heard transformers blow up in the very opening minutes of the storm. How could that be? My entire family and I were on the porch enjoying the BREEZE when the one in our neighborhood blew out. Can I expect the next time we have a passing rain shower that the town sewers will overflow? We felt the distant tremors from that earthquake in Virginia. Why didn't our roads collapse into sink holes?

The fact there is some major stinkin' noobery going on down at the power company. You don't lose an enormous percentage of your power grid to a storm that was as mild as this one was without some serious asshattery being the cause.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fenway or the Highway

It's a rare treat for me, but I was blessed to have been able to attend the Red Sox game last night while the team is still in the middle of a red hot streak. It was just this past Sunday night that the Sox destroyed the Milwaukee Brewers and I was really hoping to get in on some of that magic.

I was not disappointed. The Sox put up 10 runs in the 7th inning to crush the San Diego Padres in inter-league play by a score of 14 to 5.

Boston has been the epicenter of sports success in the last few years. All of our sports franchises have brought home the gold in the last seven years and if you go back to the beginning of the decade, it's been even more often than that. I'm not sure that many cities can boast a record of sports achievement that comes close to this.

I've loved Boston since I was old enough to venture out on my own. Whether it was me and Math Guy sprinting the Back Bay with mere minute to get to the fireworks down on the waterfront on New Year's Eve or driving hopelessly in circles in a vain attempt to get to the Museum of Science; whether I'm working downtown in the financial district or I'm picnicking with my family in the Public Gardens, Boston does it all for me. I have trouble figuring out why anyone would live anywhere else.

The tear the Sox are on right now may not last all season, but my hunch is they're going to plow deep into the playoffs leaving a swath of blown out teams in their wake. Here's hopin'!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Seemed Like the Thing to Do At the Time

So, this morning, my boss called me into his office. He explained that he had found tons of pornography on my computer, that they had records of me using the company telephone to conduct unethical, personal activity, and that numerous women had come forward to accuse me of sexual harassment and each had physical proof. He asked me to resign quietly rather than be thrown out on my butt. I did the only reasonable thing: I initially denied the accusations, then I pretended that what I had done was accidental, then I cried, apologised, and explained that nothing I had done had any bearing on my job so there was no reason for me to leave. In the end, he agreed with me and everything was okay.

Does this sound likely to you?

Me neither. So why does this dirt bag Wiener think that if the ordinary mere mortal in a shmuck job should be booted that he should be any different -- he who was elected to a position of privilege and national leadership?

Some people like to pretend that a person's "private life" has little or nothing to do with their ability to hold office effectively. I vehemently disagree, as did George Washington who, in his farewell address, made it clear that nothing was more important when selecting leaders than choosing those who were upright, moral, ethical, and honest in their private affairs. I can remember clearly being taught in Christian school that "character is who you are when no one is looking." Unfortunately, Mr. Wiener, pictures are made for looking.

Here are three reasons why Wiener must step down immediately or be sacked:

  1. He has clearly demonstrated that his ability to make decisions is poor at best. Decision making is one of the chief duties of a leader. He is unquestionably a failure at making good decisions. If he can't figure out that pressing "Send" is a bad idea, then we shouldn't be trusting him with our money and our freedoms.

  2. He cannot be trusted. If man would do this to his wife (of only a year, as I understand it), then how on earth can an entire country of strangers trust him? Not only did he do it, he lied about doing it.

  3. He can no longer be taken seriously. The next time you see him stand up and start talking about healthcare, the economy, our country's relationship with Paraguay, what will be in the forefront of your mind? What will he forever be known for by everyone in this country and all other countries who might deal with him? Is this really the face you want representing you?

Heck, he's had his chance to step down. Just throw the bum out.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Death Sucks

From the Venting Department:

You might find this sort of a contradiction (and honestly, I'm not sure it isn't) but in spite of my earnest conviction that everything that happens is in the hand of God, that not a sparrow falls from the sky without His knowledge, the fact is, I find myself holding an animosity toward death that is almost unhealthy. (Only almost.) I could not overstate the extent I hate death.

It's the ultimate rip-off. Life is not supposed to be this way. Far from death being "a natural part of life" (that's a line of crap), I believe that death is completely unnatural. Death is wrong.

It's an unnatural, unintended, intrusion into what life was supposed to be. I despise it. I shake my fist and spit into its face. I hate death.

When people marry one another they marry "until death do us part." What the heck is that? That's the best we can hope for?! In other words, in a best case scenario 100 out of every 100 marriages will result in one of the two parties being dead, leaving the other to mourn alone in anguish until they too die.

I may not have any authority to criticize reality but if you ask me this freakin' sucks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life, the Universe, and Everything

As promised in my last installment, I am focusing this post on answering an important question, one posed (somewhat rhetorically) by author Rob Bell. The question has been asked countless times throughout human history by untold numbers of individuals.

The jailer of Acts 16 asked, "What must I do to be saved?"

The rich young ruler who approached Jesus in Luke 18, asked the specific question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Later the on-lookers in Luke 18 asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Bell, concerned with the apparent exclusivity of Biblical salvation, forms his question as, " do you become one of the few?" I think we can agree that each of these questions is soliciting the same information, but for the sake allowing a broader scope for this discuss I'd like to define the question in a more generic sense:

What does the Bible say a person must do in order to be allowed into heaven after one's death?

Hopefully, this phrasing covers the range of meanings that these questions imply, while providing enough specificity for us to examine the question in a meaningful manner. Let this be The Question for which we are trying to discover the answer.

There are numerous passages in the Bible where people clearly ask The Question, but there are even more passages which answer the question. However, not every passage is intended to be a comprehensive answer and each answer must be understood in the context of the passage.

As a student of the Bible, I've sometimes felt it troublesome that it is not always plainly evident to the casual observer what the full answer to The Question is. To wit, some false doctrines have arisen as a result of groups selecting partial answers from certain passages and running off half-cocked with them. ("Repent and be baptised" in Acts 2, comes to mind.)

All Christians should be familiar with the "Romans Road"(1), the sequence of verses from Paul's Epistle to the church at Rome that together form a road map of the steps necessary to answer The Question. More recently, Bill Bright of the organization Campus Crusade for Christ, published his pamphlet called "The Four Spiritual Laws"(2) which also uses a collection of scripture verses to logically move the reader from one Biblical principle to the next in answering The Question.

Both of these tools -- and that is what they are, tools -- are logical collections of scripture that when taken together form a comprehensive amalgam of the Biblical answer to The Question. These are two of the better known and easily teachable tools; however, there are many others. An adept student of the Bible can take you to any number of passages in innumerable combinations to provide an answer to our Question.

Until recently, however, I felt a sort of dismay that I could not find a passage in the Bible that I thought really encapsulated everything involved in answering The Question. (Okay, all you Christians out there, hold your fire. I'm not saying that it's not there, all I'm saying is that I personally hadn't found a passage in which I personally felt everything that I personally needed to know about salvation was comprehensively contained.)

Until now.

I recently had an encounter with the Book of Jonah, chapter three. You might recall Jonah from his association with a certain whale. However, chapters one and two which recount his misadventures in the deep are really an unfortunate diversion from the real point of the book -- that being Jonah's commissioning to preach to the city of Ninevah and their subsequent conversion. Regrettably, Jonah, upon being given this assignment, decided to avoid such and instead pulls the reader along on an abortive trip to Joppa and into the intestinal track of a large sea creature. Ultimately, he regrets his disobedience to the Lord and is forthwith deposited unceremoniously on a beach.

This brings us to chapter three. Herein have I found a synopsis of the answer we seek like no other place in scripture. God speaks to Jonah a second time, "Arise and go to Nineveh and preach..." In response, verse three tells us, "So Jonah arose and went unto Nineveh according to the word of the Lord." (It's a rather profound sermon in itself to think what if Jonah 3:2 had instead been in the place of Jonah 1:3, isn't it?)

Then, in verse four, we come to the crux of the matter. Jonah begins to preach to the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh, the people hear his admonition, and they respond positively to what he has to say. In the following verses, I find the message of the gospel enumerated point by doctrinal point in what I believe is one of the most beautiful and well documented conversions in all of the Bible. I shall elucidate:

Jonah 3

Preaching v4: Jonah preached God's message of judgment of sin. Clearly from the response of the people, his message was an effectual one. Roman 10:14-15 demonstrates the necessity of someone to carry the message to the lost.

Hearing v6: The people heard the message and it was carried all the way up to the king of Nineveh himself. Romans 10:14 implies the importance of hearing the message.

Believing/Faith v5: As a result of the message, the people believed God. This wasn't simply a tacit mental acceptance of the information provided, but a stirring faith that wrought a great change in them. Hebrews 11:6 declares that "without faith it is impossible to please Him..." Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are "saved by grace through faith." Romans 10 repeatedly emphasizes the roll of faith in salvation (consider Rom 10:10 carefully). The faith of the Ninevites spurred them to action, demonstrating clearly the extent of their faith (James 2:17-18).

Contrition/Regret v5-6: Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." James 4:6 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. How can one learn of one's sin, believe the message, and not be sorry for one's sinfulness? To sit in ashes wearing sackcloth was a sign of intense grief. (Job did the same in the midst of his trials.) This demonstration by the king and people of Nineveh clearly shows their genuine and admission of guilt and led them to the next steps.

Confession v8: Nineveh did not try to hide their guild. To the contrary, the king himself made no bones about proclaiming what they had done, openly voicing the facts of their "evil way" and the blood on their hands. Romans 10:10 "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Matthew 3:6 tells how John the Baptist baptised those who confessed their sins. (Note that baptism followed salvation rather than caused it.)

Repentance v8: Thus far Ninevites have heard, believed, were ashamed, and confessed their sins. Now their faith took action in the form of Repentance, a crucial ingredient in salvation. Jesus Himself calls for people to repent (or perish) in Luke 13 not once but twice. In Matthew chapter 3, John the Baptist calls for people not only to repent, but to demonstrate in their actions their repentance. The king of Nineveh himself led this movement of repentence with his declaration to "turn every one from his evil way." Google says that the very definition of the word repent is "to turn away from sin."

Given the people's lack of knowing whether God would spare them, and particularly given the attitude Jonah strikes in chapter 4, I rather suspect that Jonah in his preaching left out the part that God loves them and "is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). But God did not bring the judgment upon the city that He had warned was coming.

In this very same way, the judgment that we all deserve (Romans 6:23) can be replaced with the surety of eternal life in heaven (John 14:1-6). Thus, a Biblical response to The Question: What does the Bible say a person must do in order to be allowed into heaven after one's death?

Do what Nineveh did.

(1)The Roman's Road:
(2)The Four Spiritual Laws:

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Yea? Hath God Said?

    Well since readership seems to have dropped off to just about nothing once again, I figured I'd do something a bit different here. I can't recall if I've tackled the subject of religion in any direct way in this blog, but today that's going to change.

    I subscribe to a few different online news services. Each day, they send me a list of news headlines with links to the full articles. One of these alerted me to a controversy regarding a new book written by a man named Rob Bell. At the risk of providing publicity to Mr. Bell's book, Love Wins, I'll ask you, gentle reader, to view a 3 minute YouTube video promotion of his book. In this promo, Mr. Bell uses the subtle tactic of the Socratic Method to influence you to consider the reasonableness of his opinions.

    Well, I seem to recall another rather "subtle" being who, a great many years ago, used this same tactic to instill doubt in the mind of his listener.

    In response to this video, I am going to attempt to undertake a bit of conversation with Mr. Bell and provide answers to these questions that he asks you to consider.

    Here is the link to the YouTube video:

    Rob Bell: "Gandhi is in hell? He is? Someone knows this for sure?"

    Gleno: That's an unanswerable question. It's also a very leading one. Bell would like us to think that since we cannot know the answer with certainty that the only reasonable position to assume is his position, which stresses the inclusive nature of God's love. God created us all, therefore God loves us all. God is good. Thus, how can we think that a loving God would send anyone to hell?

    But, as a minister, Bell should know scripture better. Certainly Bell would maintain that only God knows the heart of a man. In this, he is correct. It is written, "Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men)." (I Kings 8:39)

    Thus, we mere mortals cannot know for certain where Gandhi is. However, the Bible offers quite a bit more about what can be known.

    Scripture is very clear on what it would take for Gandhi to get to heaven: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) According to this, if Gandhi chose to accept Christ as savior before his death, then he is invariably in heaven. It is in this offer of salvation through Christ's substitutionary sacrifice on the cross that God's love "Wins".

    My modest question to Mr. Bell is how likely is it that Gandhi, whose life was so firmly and famously founded upon Hinduism and its tenet of ahimsa (the avoidance of violence), decided in his later years to forsake Hinduism for Christianity? I can only hope it may be so.

    Rob Bell: "Will only a select make it to heaven?"

    Gleno: A rather unusual question from one who, by profession and training should know what the Bible says in answer to this. Is Mr. Bell being rhetorical or is this question planted to help me to make my point more easily?

    Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Acts 4:13-14

    Rob Bell: "And if that's the case, how do you become one of the few?... How does one become one of the few?"

    Gleno: What a great question, Rob; I thought you'd never ask! The Bible lays out everything one must do to gain entry into heaven. We need only look there to find out.

    In Christian circles, there are a number of methods by which one answers this question for the earnest inquirer. (And, before I go on, let me be clear that each of these relies solely on the words of the Bible and each is in agreement with all the others.) Some Christians use what is known as "The Five Spiritual Laws" to share the plan of salvation. Others use that old standby "The Romans Road" to walk a person through the logical process of the salvation decision. Certainly, other Christians will share the salvation message with you with their own personal list of scripture references.

    Talk with any number of Christians and you'll likely find that no two will use the same exact collection of scripture passages to explain to you how you can get to heaven.

    They may call it by different names too: "conversion," "being born again," "the new birth," "getting saved," "accepting Christ as Lord." Whether you're "getting religion" or you're "seeing the light", the point is the same: namely, that you are doing what the Bible says you must do in order to enter into heaven when you die.

    So, what's the plan, man?

    Well, I think the answer is important enough that I'm going to devote my next post to this question entirely.

    As you delve deeper into Rob Bell's own brand of religion, it becomes more obvious that Bell is merely rehashing "universalism"; that is, the belief that, in short, God loves everyone and therefore everyone will ultimately be saved. It's what has been called a "Love Gospel" and "Easybelievism." It's contemporary; warm and fuzzy; and it is utterly lacking in scriptural basis. It's a farcical notion that has been ripped to shreds by numerous theologians, and is it intuitively obvious to anyone who has made even a half-hearted attempt to understand the Bible that it is not what the Bible says.

    According to Bell, there is no hell, and no matter what you believe in this life, you will ultimately end up in heaven. Sounds great.

    So tell me again why Christ was crucified?


    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Words of the Wise

    "If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation." -- Samuel Adams

    But they aren't. So we can't.


    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Security Words

    Since it was a popular post the last time I did this, I've decided to do it again.

    Many websites that allow readers to post comments require you to prove you're a real person (as opposed to a "bot"). To do so, you are asked to type a string of seemingly characters into a text field. I will bet that you always assumed that these were nonesense words that were made up on the fly, right? Well, we here in Upham Manor pride ourselves on educating the public to what these words mean. What follows are some of the security words I encountered recently and their true meanings.

    faingli - (n.) The loose and drooping skin of the eyelids that does not fully retract when the eyes are open.
    "Man, if it wasn't for his eyelashes holding his faingli up, he wouldn't be able to see at all."

    urrigi - (n.) The remaining 8 to 14 macaroni at the bottom of the serving bowl at the end of a meal that no one has room enough to eat.

    ancleta - (n.) The highly irritating and very distracting bit of spittle that develops on the lower lip and/or in the corners of a speaker's mouth that causes the listener to think of nothing else than wiping that person's mouth for them.

    - (v.) To increase the perceived size of one's person by means of spreading the legs, extending the shoulders, stiffening the elbows, etc.
    - (n.) A person who does so on the T to discourage people from taking the vacant seat next to them.
    "I got shnombed right out of my seat at Copley Station."


    - (v.) To quietly assert oneself for the purpose of self-gain while pretending not to care.
    - (n.) A person who, by means of subtle positioning, aligns himself along a subway platform where he believes the train's doors will open and then quickly injects himself into the car to gain the most desirable available seat.

    Those are my offerings. Do you have any of your own you care to share?


    Friday, March 11, 2011

    One's Own Self-Worth

    I recently Stumbled Upon a website that I thought was rather intruiging. Using a rather wide array of questions (some of the exceedingly personal, though not personally identifiable), it provides you with a statement of how much you would cost if you were to sell yourself. There is no implication of prostitution or slavery in this valuation -- the site was simply attempting to provide an objective measure of your relative worth given things such as your education, lifestyle, health, etc.

    So I gave it a try. Since no one was watching me take the test, and since it seemed clear they weren't going to ask me for my name or social security number, I tried to be as honest as I could. The test came back with a result (no marketing gimmicks, thank heaven and they didn't ask for a cell phone number), and a link that you could post in Facebook or on your blog. My links are below.

    One part of the test asked you to provide your results to a second, connected test: a test found at the website This part of the test was the most interesting to me. I really expected it to be another of those "Which weighs more, a pound of feathers of a pound of iron" types of tests, but it was not. In fact, it was pretty intense. If it hadn't been short, I might have bailed.

    If you enjoy a good test, I recommend this one. I'll admit it, it was challenging, but I'm rather pleased to say that I scored 24 out of 25. I'm happy to report I did not Google any part of it or cheat in any way. It took me 4 minutes and 28 seconds to complete. Care to give it a go? Click the links below.

    I am smarter than 93.68% of the rest of the world.
    Draftstreet Review

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    No Postage Necessary

    This morning, I inserted an envelope bearing the mark, "No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States" in the mail slot of my front door. In the envelope were the various glossy colored pages that had been sent to me by a company peddling a line of history books.

    In fact, the full package received from this company included a DVD in rather impressive packaging that claimed to contain a promotional video presenting information about King Tut's tomb and explaining how their monthly subscription service worked. I perused a few pages of their highly stylized literature and learned that for a monthly fee, with a low introductory rate, I too could be provided with historical information that was otherwise freely available on the Internet.

    I quickly tore open a sealed packet contained in the marketing literature and found that I was one of the "lucky few" to have received a gold sticker that I could affix to my order form to be returned in the envelope. This would entitle me to even more valuable material that would be mailed to me each month.

    I firmly affixed the sticker over my name and account number on the form and hand wrote a brief note to the company:

    Thank you for this informational package and the DVD. However, I have no interest in this material as there is a near-limitless offering of historical information in multimedia form available on the Internet for free. Moreover, as I have to pay a fee in my town for garbage pickup, I am returning all of your materials to you in the postage paid envelope you have provided. Thank you once again."

    I then stuffed all the junk mail they had sent me into their own return envelope and graciously returned it to them. I'm sure their next customer will be happy to bear the costs of this company's printing, postage, and dumpster.


    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Architectural Innovation

    Take a look at the picture on the right and ask yourself this question: "Which of these things doesn't belong?"

    If you're like me, you have a bedroom. I'm willing to bet that if we have that in common, then we probably also share the dilemma of keeping that bedroom clean. Now, unless you're below the age of 12, your mess probably doesn't entail a spilled box of Legos and the assorted guns and equipment for your action figures. I'm guessing that a substantial portion of your mess is comprised of various textiles you use to attire your person.

    I submit to you, gentle reader, a futher question: What does the rainment with which one adorns oneself have to do with the quarters in which one seeks repose?

    For reasons I shall not attempt to plumb in this space, our culture, and the architecture that it produces, assumes that we will each have a dresser, bureau, and/or closet in our bedroom. I for one fail to see the connection between clothes and sleep. If you think about it, this arrangement is nonsensical, and does not make it easy to keep a bedroom clean. You are forced into a "clothing life-cycle" that follows this sort of order:

  1. Carry clean clothes to your bedroom.
  2. Put clothes away. (Or more realistically, set them down to be put away later.)
  3. Awake in the morning. Put night clothes in hamper or back in drawer (or most likely, on floor).
  4. Dress.
  5. Return to bedroom in the evening. Undress. Put clothes in the hamper, closet, or floor.
  6. Put on night clothes.
  7. Awake in the morning. Repeat process.
  8. After several iterations of this, carry hamper to laundry room. (We'll pretend your clothes are in the hamper.)
  9. In the laundry room, wash and dry clothes. (Unless you live in Hanover, don't pretend you have enough room in the laundry room to fold your clothes.)
  10. Carry clean clothes to your bedroom.
  11. This is silly. It's inefficient at best and messy at its worst. I have a better idea.

    Rather than toting our clothes around into rooms they don't belong, I propose we dispense with the outdated laundry room concept and instead construct a clothing room. The clothing room in your house will be the first and last stop for all of your clothing. It serves as your closet, your dressing room, and your laundry room all in one.

    Envision, if you will, an area behind closed doors in which the collective closets and bureaus of the family are all centrally located. A house can much more efficiently contain one large clothes-storage area for a family than it can smaller individual ones. This area will have large cubbies, shelves, racks, and other recepticles to store all manner of apparel.

    The family enters this room, each takes their individual clothes from the shelves, and steps into a small "fitting room" such as you would have in a store. Once dressed, the family member emerges, drops their dirty clothes directly into the hampers (one for colors, one for whites) and then goes about their business. When the time comes to do laundry, you will find that the clothes are already conveniently positioned next to the machines. Moreover, the folded clothing is very quickly and easily returned to the appropriate shelves that are right there in the room.

    For added convenience, I would position a full bathroom next to this clothing room. One could stop out of the bath, dry themselves, don a robe, and step into the clothing room to commence dressing.

    I've been doodling plans for my dream house. This is one innovation I want to include. Maybe someday.


    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    The Right Word

    You can say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, but he has one quote that I love. "Words mean things." His point is a good one. We cannot ingenuously force a word to convey a meaning it does not bear.

    Too often people are lazy with their word usage; perhaps it's a simple product of poor vocabulary. This is shameful because the English language is replete with sufficient words to effuse perspicuity. Thus, I present here a short list of words that I feel are too often incorrectly used. Consider this one more battle in my crusade for linguistic propriety.

    Shoot - You can shoot targets. You can shoot the moon. You can shoot your mouth off. But you don't shoot a gun. When I hear that phrase, I picture a person holding a one rifle and firing at another rifle. Did you get that? Firing. You fire a weapon. You'll hear police and military personnel speak of discharging a weapon. "Shoot a gun" makes the speaker sound like my two year old son as he chases me through the house with the semi-automatic Nerf rifle I bought him the other day.

    Light as a verb. When I looked this one up online to see if I was at all off-base, I found that the definitions of "light" did not reference the word as a verb until the twenty-seventh entry in the list. "Light" is best used as a noun or a verb. Don't say, "Light the light." Ugh, that's just terrible. You illuminate a light, you don't light it. Granted, this is less irritating to hear when one is addressing the issue of a flame. "Light the candle." "Light the fire." But are you really lighting these things or are you igniting them? Words mean things. When you intend to convey a meaning, use the word that bears that meaning.

    Disconnect - This one makes me want to resort to violence. "I believe there is a disconnect between my department and yours." Disconnect is a VERB. Stop using verbs as nouns. This was a pattern than began a few years back in the business world. All of a sudden, people started using verbs as nouns in business conversation. Would you believe someone actually once said to me, "I will modem you the file" in reference to uploading a document to me? Say it again. Say it again. I dare you. I double dog dare you...

    Electric(al) - Electric what? This is a word I hear contractors misuse all the time. "We need to replace the plumbing, the heating, and the electric(al)." "Electric" is an adjective. It has to modify something. You cannot simply float it out there all alone. The sentence, "I need to upgrade my electrical system" works. If you don't like using two words, then somebody needs to invent a new word. How about "electrolics"?

    Significant(ly) - "There was significant damage to my car." Oh really? And, pray tell just what does said damage signify? Or is it possible you mean to say, substantial damage to your car? These are two different words with two different meanings, yet somehow people use them interchangeably. If something is "significant", it means it has some further, as yet unrevealed meaning. The fact that I'm driving a minivan is significant of my status of a father of three.

    Literally - "I literally fell out of my laughing." Liar. I was right there when he told the joke and you did no such thing. Why do people say "literally" when they literally mean the very opposite of that? You figuratively fell out of your chair. "Literally" means it actually happened; "figuratively" means your speaking symbolically to express your meaning.

    These are just a few that come to mind as I mulled over this topic. Some of these, you may argue with me. You might even find dictionary entries that say I'm wrong. However, I'm willing to bet you that if you do, it's an example of the dictionary bowing to common usage rather than the other way around.

    Which words do you find are misused? I'd love to hear your list.


    Friday, February 11, 2011

    News & Notes

    Do You Like Snew? (Feb 11)

    Perhaps the biggest news event of the past month is that Upham Manor hasn't had any additional snowfall for over 48 hours. In fact, I can almost guarantee that there will be no appreciable snow in the foreseeable future. I know this to be true because I finally got my snow blower working properly. The Manor remains firmly covered in a blanket of better than two feet of snow, with some drifts and piles of snow measuring twice that.

    Upham Street itself and the very end of my driveway is encased in a sort of ice-titanium allow that likely won't melt until well into July. I have a theory that ice, once adequately driven over and mingled with dirt, sand, and other roadway particulates, over time, metamorphs itself into a completely different element that is harder than steel, denser than concrete, and has a melting point somewhere in the high 60s. I call it "ticetanium", and it's one of the hardest naturally occurring materials on earth. I spread salt down on it last night and it laughed at me.

    Death & Taxes (Feb 11)

    While no one I know has come back from the grave recently, I am very pleased to find that we are going to be seeing a large tax return this year. Janet's home day care business was a concern for us. Being self employed, she has had to set aside sufficient money to pay her taxes as well as her social security. She vigilantly put aside money through the course of the year to pay these taxes. Last night, as we sat down with our tax preparer, our concern and hope, respectively, was had we put aside enough and would we perchance be able to keep some of what had been saved? I nigh broke into the "Hallelujah Chorus" when our preparer looked up from his forms and pronounced that we were getting money back. Yes, not only did we get to keep all of what she had saved, we were getting more back as well. God is good.

    Later that night, we had a small celebratory supper at The 99 Restaurant and we talked about our financial coup. I expressed some bit of self-reproach that something as shallow as money would give me such a glorious feeling of peace. Something she said made me feel better, in fact, it made me feel even better than getting the money back did. She told me that we'd given to the "right places"; that we'd helped friends and family, and we've been faithful to our church. Why shouldn't we enjoy what blessings God has provided to us? Good advice. Made sense, and aligns very well with the teachings of the Bible too.

    Work (Feb 17)

    Work has been largely good overall of late. I've often said that in my chosen profession, Information Technology, I've done everything except programming. Well, it looks like that's going to change in at least a small way. I'm signed up to take a class in Visual Basic. VB is a high level development language that is used commonly to manipulate Microsoft Office applications. My hope is to bring to bear the power of this tool for increased performance in MS Excel. Lately that's been my MO around here, making Excel spreadsheets for people. It's been both a blessing and a curse in some ways, but I'm very proud to be able to say that thus far no one has been able to come to me with a request that I've not been able to handle. I'm batting 1.000 and it feels good. What's better is that people know it and they come to me with requests directly. If you've seen the movie Pulp Fiction, you may remember the character Harvey Keitel played called, "The Wolf". He was the guy you called in to fix stuff. If things have really gone to crap, you call The Wolf. Around here, if your data is a mess, I'm your Wolf.

    Love & Marriage (Feb 17)

    Last weekend, Janet and I attended a marriage conference at our church. The program was created by Family Life Ministries. Friday night and Saturday we watched a video series that featured noted authors; counselors; lots of interviews with married couples who had experienced a range of challenges and problems, as well as victories; and numerous dramatic vignettes. I think Janet and I both expected to get a lot out of the weekend, but neither of us were quite prepared to learn so much about topics with which we were already familiar or to go away feeling so dramatically changed. I need to blog about marriage one of these days. I feel like I've learned quite a lot that might be worth sharing. If nothing else, it might make for good discussion in the comments section.

    Change of Mind (Feb 17)

    Part of my recent disappearance from this forum can be attributed to my attitude. I think I was battling a bit of despondency. I'm prone to the occasional bout of melancholy. In some strange ways, I almost enjoy those episodes. When they're done, I feel strangely recharged. But this was different. I couldn't seem to recharge. With the drastic changes around the house, my schedule, my interests, my free time, and my spiritual life, I was sucking pretty hard. I couldn't break free. A couple things came together that really changed that for me.

    I think the first big crack in the fetters that were holding me came while I was reading (don't laugh) The Chronicles of Narnia. I started reading the series about 40,000 years ago when I was around 13 years old. But, in that period of growing up, I began to see the books as children's books so I put them down after book two. Lately, I thought it might be fun to revisit them. Janet got me a complete volume for Christmas so I've begun to plow through all the books. It's no secret that much of the story is allegorical and symbolic of Jesus Christ. Without going into detail, I started to see things in the character of Aslan that made me realize I had failed to see in my understanding of Jesus. Very quickly, I felt like the scales fell from my eyes. I experienced a refreshing that I desperately needed. The other big breakthrough was at the aforementioned marriage conference. By God's hand, things in my life were fixed that weekend that have brought about significant transformations in my mind and heart.

    Furniture (Feb 17)

    Janet and I bought a couple pieces of furniture via the Interwebs over the last week. We've been looking for a sectional couch for the parlor and I found a very useful triangularly shaped coffee table that will fit nicely with the sectional in the den. In addition we've been moving some old pieces out to storage and we brought in a desk that FINALLY gives me a place I can call my own. Ah, sweet repose! I now have a place I can sit and relax, and work, and play.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Erosion of Tradition

    I've been reading a number of interesting articles from the Cato Institute about the role and evolution of tradition in our society. "Tradition is under assault," it is stated, whether by commercialism, globalization, the media, or liberalism. But true to form, the argument from the postmodern viewpoint is that traditions never were what we thought they were. Our traditions are merely our own personal preferences as we've thrust them upon the world around us. They never were what we thought they were.

    A number of commentators chime in on this debate with articles of their own, but it seems that it all comes down to one thought: that the authority of tradition has eroded until it is at last denied to have ever been at all.

    And for me, in my little slice of the world, that's been the rub. It isn't that the world around me has conspired to disagree with those views I've carried all my life, it's more to the point that they deny the legitimacy of the authority of those views. Coming at the world as I do from a Christian perspective has, heretofore, always been relatively easy to do. As a very young man, if I was in a debate with others, my position of standing behind the bulwark of scripture or Judeo-Christian ethics may have been disagreeable to my opponent, but it was never assailable. The viewpoint always stood on its own merits because of the innate authority it carried within our society.

    This isn't true anymore. So often I feel that when dealing with many people today, you'd get just as far (or further) defending your opinions with a glib, "because I saw it on the Internet" as you will with a dictum from a source such as the Bible.

    Let me give you a real life example. About five years ago, I became friendly with a friend of a friend. I and this person, whom we'll call Cheryl (because that's her name), fell into a conversation regarding religion. I explained to her my personal beliefs on God, Jesus Christ, and various matters of history and religion. In turn, Cheryl told me about her beliefs. She believes that there are two cosmic sides of gods who are eternally warring one against the other. These gods meet on a field of battle in another plane of existence. Human beings, it follows, choose which side to be on and, in a normative sense, should be fighting one another. To the death.

    As she was staying in my home for a time, and as I was deemed to not be on the same side as she, I inquired as to whether I need be concerned for my safety or that of my family. "No," she assured me. As one who had taken her in and was giving her shelter, it would be dishonorable to slay me.

    I kid you not.

    I asked her where she ever got this notion; how, after some 5,000 years or so of recorded history she came to this conclusion in spite of there being zero evidence for it.

    "I decided it was so."

    Where I could point to two thousand years of scholarship, sacred texts that are revered the world over, literally millions of witnesses who could testify of the working of God's power in their lives, she rested her eternal soul (which she admitted to having) on what she thought up herself. Why? Because none of that authority carried any value for her. To her postmodern thinking, one thing is as good as another. Who are you -- who is anyone -- to say what is better? There is no truth. There is only opinion.

    Acceptance of the authority of tradition has eroded. I've got more to say on this subject in upcoming posts, but for now, I just wanted to lay a bit of groundwork.

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    Out from the Maelstrom

    There are two things that inhibit blogging. First, a lack of readership. What's the point of writing if no one is reading? The other, conversely, is a lack of writing.

    How many dead blogs are out there on the Interwebs I wonder? How many well-intentioned would-be authors introduced a blog only to leave it abandoned by the side of the information highway?

    Over the course of the last couple years of this blog, I've had a few stops and starts. This, most recent hesitation, however, wasn't the result of having nothing to say; rather, it was the result of personal chaos in my life that began with the birth of twin sons, Jesse and Daniel in October.

    As it turns out, an a 67% increase in the number of people living at Upham Manor didn't result in twice as much chaos that the previous 33% population increase caused. No. It was something more of a exponential burst of tumult that is only just now beginning to subside three months after the initial event. When Master Benjamin was born, frankly, it didn't seem to be that big a change to my life. I did what I had always done, I simply did it with a very small person next to me. This time, however, this time my life has been completely upended and thrown down the proverbial stairs.

    I'll be blunt. My life for the last three months has been an "epic fail." I admit I was not prepared for this. I thought I was. I thought having these two sons would be much like the last having the last one, just more of it. No. No, no, no, silly man.

    So things have been insane. Or perhaps I have. But I'm getting better now. The clouds are clearing and I'm starting to figure out who I am once again. It's difficult for me because it's not the same person and I didn't expect that. I'm being redefined. I still have a lot to figure out and to come to grips with, but I think the storm is over.