Debt: just say no!

Prov 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Guess which businesses have plush furnitures and fancy interiors for their offices? Or the tallest building around the area? Or sends you those snail mail "love letters" almost every day (some call them junk mail but I digress)? And check out this entry on meeting with a mortgage broker. [now that I think about it, about a quarter of my spam email is mortgage related.]

People call gambling industry an enslaving one but casino's aren't the only debt dependent (inducing?) industries, ruining people's lives. At my church I'm involved in a ministry to help people in financial stress (for those who need something more hands on than Ramsey's "Financial Peace" which our church hosts, too) and have advised several couples on how to deal with their finances and they almost always boil down to: too much debt -- usually credit cards, but even just mortgage alone will do this esp. if you borrow to the limit and your property tax and hazard insurance grows more than your income.

Do the best you can to avoid enslavement: be in debt only with love, first to Christ, then to others -- cf Rom 13:8.

[wrote this originally as a comment at CL Observatory but wanted to expand it into a blog entry. Minor edit @ 7:55AM]


Blind Gamer

As someone who cannot extol enough the virtue of Helen Keller, I find the following article, fascinating:

Brice Mellen is a whiz at video games such as "Mortal Kombat." In that regard, the 17-year-old isn't much different from so many others his age. Except for one thing: He's blind. (I'm a bit slow on this too: news came out Wed.)

I guess 2D audio (3D is it now?) tech is good enough for a blind person to play reasonably well. Once 3D audio gets common enough, being blind may give one an extra edge since there are less distraction then if you were able to see.

I mean, if you think about it, magicians (or illusionists) work because they make us focus away from the behind-the-scene tricks. Game play might be better without the visual distractions.

[scanning the yahoo discussion is just as amazing: how silly can people get? I'm glad such folks don't visit vox and voxologisti... However the best comment was when folks were making fun of the blind gamer wanting to get into game design, someone posted "Beethoven was deaf" -- great comeback!]


Short Yahoo!

I don't normally give investment advice but when I read:
Yahoo plans to announce Thursday that it is recruiting scientists who pioneered an advanced search engine technology at IBM's Silicon Valley research laboratory.

I couldn't keep silent: Hold the press, short Yahoo stock! Have you tried IBM search engine lately? It is so lame that I don't bother using it (haven't for the last few months so things may have improved but then these scientists left IBM long ago). Here's how to (not) use IBM search engine properly in your browser:
  1. Enter: www.google.com
  2. Next type inside the search field site:ibm.com
  3. Don't forget to enter a blank space after .com
  4. Next, type in the search term you're looking for.
  5. Press "Google Search"
Don't bother going to ibm.com -- you'll be wasting your time.

[update 7/29: I hope it was obvious that I was being sarcastic about the stock. However, the search technique is real and will always be an alternative to whatever IBM has or any other search engine which might be available.]

Public School Prisons

I'm no big fan of HE&OS (see my neutral blog list), but every once in a while, they have a good entry. Here's one article they pointed out:

Public-School Prisons ---- What Crimes Have Our Children Committed? by Joel Turtel

Here's my favorite part:

Parents, if you don't think this is harsh punishment for your innocent child, ask yourself this. When your spouse pressures you to attend some event you hate, whether a ballet, lecture, or football game, how do you feel? After sitting at that event for only an hour, how do you feel? You are probably angry, irritated, and frustrated. You squirm in your seat or doze off. You can't wait to get out of there. You can't wait to get back to your life and doing the things you love to do.

Well, millions of kids, and probably your child, must sit through this agony of boredom or frustration for 6 to 8 hours a day for 10 years in public-school classrooms. Yet, to repeat, what crimes have your children committed to warrant this horrible punishment?


Live Free or Die

Give me liberty or give me death!

Unfortunately, these words are no longer cherished. We want safety and security (i.e., police state) over personal liberty. The various "Wars" we have today (Poverty, Drug and Terrorism) can be summed up as:
War of [police] State Aggression against individual freedom and responsibility
Various laws written to fight these wars (like takings law or Patriot Act) have all chipped away our freedom ensured by the Bill of Rights.

(I was inspired by the renaming of Civil War as War of Northern Agression or War of Southern Independence.)

Lost Due Process

Friday's (July 22) killing in London by a government employee was very disturbing. Along with Patriot Act being passed by the U.S. House right after the 4 duds in London on Thursday (July 21). Keep in mind that I stopped becoming a Republican voter as of summer 2004 between the primaries and the Nov. election, so you'll have to read everything below with a grain of salt.

First with the killing: the "suspect" was hunted down on the train and then killed by 5 shots into the back of the head. This guy did not have any obvious weapon, did not try to attack the police. He was running away (from plain clothes police). For that, he got shot in the back. Think about this: if he had a bomb ready to explode, why does he have to run away? He could have done his deeds before they came even close to him. If he had to do some fiddling with his bomb before it can explode than they had no need to kill him either: he wasn't ready and they would have had plenty of time to prevent his success without killing him. And I just checked the wires and this guy HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BOMBINGS! He was a Brazilian, even. (started writing 23rd but finished 24th).

If you read some of the "conservative" blogs like Malkin, they have the attitude that it was the victim's fault and should have obeyed the police or shouldn't have been suspicious in the first place. One poster at Vox even nominated the guy for Darwin Awards.

Whatever happen to the concept of "due process?" (I realize that U.K. doesn't have the same laws as we do but our U.S. law system was derived from theirs.) What about innocent until proven guilty? Why do we have to short circuit the due process? By pseudo-declaring "war" on terror, does it allow the gov now to judge, sentence and execute without the court: pull out the gun and bang.

What really got me to be all concerned was when I heard of the news where a suspect was killed in Yeman via missile shot from a remote aircraft. At the time of killing, we were not at war with Yeman. The car was destroyed with a missile shot from a remotely piloted aircraft. The message I got was: We will find you and execute anywhere in the world (via satellite controlled aircraft). And if we're wrong, well too bad, you shouldn't have acted suspiciously (in another country? Riiiight). If you get killed as "collateral damage" (of innocent killing), that's too bad too: you shouldn't hang around suspiciously acting people.

It reminds me of my friend (in the Army reserves) when he was very nervous of young 20ish National Guards in the airports (right after 9/11) toting their machine guns. They had "permission" to judge and execute anyone they deemed "suspicious." What happens if you were just running to catch a plane or taxi? If they shot and killed you, you don't get any chance for appeals!

This "War on Terror" and the related Patriot Acts gives up too much of our Constitutional rights. I found a good analysis at Center for Constitutional Rights. The 5th amendment specifically deals with due process:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. [highlighted by yours truly]
War on Drugs has been the start of 5th's erosion and War on Terror is the icing on the cake: more power to the State and less accountability to the citizens. One of those nasty laws is the the asset forfeiture laws which allows the State to seize property by declaring it was tied to illegal drugs. Suspicious activities can result in lost assets. With Patriot Act, we lose more of our rights. And now lost life is the price we pay for "security?"


Arrogance of Public School

[see 7/22 & 7/28 update at the bottom!]
Key Words pointed to NEA article written by head custodian of a public school:

Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs: Schools With Good Teachers Are Best-Suited to Shape Young Minds By Dave Arnold

Allow me quote and comment on the article:
There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.
There is no "right" skills for education. Education is all about getting excited about learning and knowing what tools to use to learn: be it seminars or training course or reading books. Sure, basics are needed like reading but with computers and PDAs, writing skills and math and any facts-based subjects are overrated, today.

There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let's say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all.
I beg to differ. People can do everything but thanks to laws (and unions), you have to be "in code" to do many "important" work in the house. Why do you think DIY home building and remodeling TV programs are so popular? People want to know and they can get free advice from TV and -- unlike writing essays for boring classes -- with home projects you'll know right away if the lights don't turn on or you didn't sweat the pipes correctly. Nothing like immediate feedback in the physical world. (likewise with computer programming but that's for another blog.)

If people have enough interest in educating children and want to see the "how-to's," I'm sure we'll get tons of TV programs and other materials. There are plenty of books and web pages out there already. Fortunately, I learned to self-teach myself during highschool so I've learned to home educated myself before I've heard of the word "homeschooling."

Same goes for cars. Not many people have the skills and knowledge to perform all repairs on the family car. Even if they do, they probably don't own the proper tools. Heck, some people have their hands full just knowing how to drive.
So what? Tools can be rented, specialized skills can be hired. Even those who "just knowing how to drive," know enough to put in gasoline and are aware of unusual symptoms (noise, shakes, shudders, lamps on the dashboards) and know someone to turn to (local mechanic, dealer, etc.). A car owner does not turn into idiot who moves the steering wheel and press gas petal.

With our children, we do the same thing with their education: We can teach the basic reading and math while we take our children to specialized classes like multi-week botany class or one week study on local watershed or weekly Tae Kwon Do lessons. We don't claim to know everything but we have the flexibility to hire (and fire) the teachers and other specialists to teach skills and knowledge which we lack.

Public schools, on the other hand, have all kinds of problems in and of itself, as I've written about before.

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children's minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!
As I mentioned above, we don't. Besides, all "professionally trained" teachers have to start with 0 (zero) years of experience. Where do they get their experience? With monkeys? No, you get experience by teaching children. So, who has to suffer the learning pains of the new teachers? The first guinea pigs students they teach!

At least with home education, the parents learn to teach AS THE CHILD GROWS UP. Teaching experience is like growing up: you start with baby steps, walk, run, ride bicycle, drive, fly (oops, I'm getting ahead of myself). Parents get to learn how to teach as the child learns (most children do not speak until about 2 years old, so we have at least 2 years of head start!). If they learn faster than we can teach, then we can hire experts or ask friends/relatives whom we can barter skills: I'll watch your younger children while you teach my bright 8 year old.

Certain jobs are best left to the pros. Formal education is one of those jobs.
No one becomes a "pro" overnight. It takes experience. Plus, formal education is great when the students are eager to learn a specific subject at certain level (beginner, advanced, etc.) -- but only for students who can sit still for an hour or so. Unfortunately, not all children are suited for such rigorous studies from 8AM to 3PM, 5 days a week. Boys tend to be active and need to move around. (I am more of intellectual type and prefer to sit down and read but my boys aren't that way: they want action or else will make action (fight) with each other.)

The following * (starred) lines are quotes from a home ed web page:
* "It's not as difficult as it looks."
The "it" is meant to be "teaching." Let's face it, teaching children is difficult even for experienced professionals. Wannabes have no idea.
The author clearly has no idea what education is all about. Children do not need spoon feeding of facts nor do they need hand holding to learn every little skills. By having the teacher set examples, they will follow -- if they have an interest (if the teacher is bored, then students will be bored).
* "What about socialization? Forget about it!"
Forget about interacting with others? Are they nuts? Socialization is an important component of getting along in life. You cannot teach it. Children should have the opportunity to interact with others their own age. Without allowing their children to mingle, trade ideas and thoughts with others, these parents are creating social misfits.
I have yet to meet any home educating parent who advocates putting children in isolation chambers and feed them educational stuff. The parent-child interaction alone is a form of socialization. Besides, in the real world, people have to obey those in charge: be it police officer directing traffic, the McDonalds' boss who signs your paycheck or the elderly client you care for once a week! What better place to learn such "socialization" in a safe environment with a loving parent (or two -- not everyone can work at home) and even some siblings around you?

When I worked for Wal-Mart more than 20 years ago, Sam Walton once told me: "I can teach Wal-Mart associates how to use a computer, calculator, and how to operate like retailers. But I can't teach them how to be a teammate when they have never been part of any team."
What better team can there be but the "home" team? Learning to be part of the family team in all aspects of the family life would be invaluable: regular social interaction, pulling through crisis, dealing with finances, resolving conflicts, learning to deal with bad leaders/subordinates. Formal education cannot provide such rich life experiences!
* "Visit our online bookstore."
Buying a history, science or math book does not mean an adult can automatically instruct others about the book's content.
It depends: some are (visual) book learners, others (auditory and kinesthetic learners) require different form of teaching. Only the parents know about each child to tailor their teaching to meet the needs of their learning style.

Gullible Parents
This includes parents who home-school their children for reasons that may be linked to religious convictions. One Web site that I visited stated that the best way to combat our nation's "ungodly" public schools was to remove students from them and teach them at home or at a Christian school.
I'm certainly not opposed to religious schools, or to anyone standing up for what they believe in. I admire anyone who has the strength to stand up against the majority. But in this case, pulling children out of a school is not the best way to fight the laws that govern our education system. No battle has ever been won by retreating!
What rational parent would send children to the battle? Adults should be the ones fighting the laws. Not the children. Why do we deplore child soldiers in 3rd world countries? Because they are vulnerable and do not have the strength and the training of an adult. They need to be sheltered like in a greenhouse. Once they have become strong enough then they can be out in the "wild," battling their own wars. Until then, home is as safe place as any to protect and nurture a child.

To give another example: it is possible to light a match or even start a fire if the wind is blowing? No, you need to shield the flame from the wind before it catches on. Once the foundation of the fire is secure then you can let the wind have more influence. But even then, you want some control in place or else you'll end up with wildfire and chaos.

Don't most parents have a tough enough job teaching their children social, disciplinary and behavioral skills? They would be wise to help their children and themselves by leaving the responsibility of teaching math, science, art, writing, history, geography and other subjects to those who are knowledgeable, trained and motivated to do the best job possible.
Obviously, the author and the publisher (NEA) has a vested interest in promoting the "professionals." But we parents are not the dummies as we are made out to be. Just as we can pick and choose good food or good car, we can pick and choose what's good education for our children.

Let me ask the author: Should we visit the medical "pros" every time we have an unusual symptom like coughing, fever or diarrhea? No, the hospitals would be packed with people with minor sickness. We adults have enough intelligence to diagnose if we have a "bad" symptom or not. We don't need medical degrees to stay home if we have fever. We don't need pharmacists degree either: we can buy over the counter drugs for minor stuff. Nor do we need EMS license to drive our sick child to ER: if the symptom is unusual (like delirious after hitting the head on the tree or a bend to the arm that looks broken) then we can drive our child to the hospital ourselves. If the heart stops or blood doesn't stop bleeding, then we would call the pros. Just not for every little detail!

Likewise with education: we don't need "pros" for teaching the basics. And with the world as the classroom, potential for learning from multiple angles are priceless. For example, what school teaches math in the kitchen while making dinner (adding weights or volume or cooking with double or half serving size)? It's practical, hands on and fun (like snacking on the ingredients) while using real math -- and all of which are impossible to do in a formal learning environment.

Related topic is that formal educational setting is too artificial: many careers are not done in an office sitting: there are jobs which require standing all day, others require being outdoors, and others are combination office and outdoor work. Home education allows variety of educational settings including outdoors.

Besides, if you're going to take the fun out of learning and turn schooling into "work," then the students should at least get paid for their effort, no? And if they don't get paid, what would a student pick, given the following two choices:
  1. Go to work, get paid to be bored.
  2. Go to school, get to pay to be bored.
I would think my boredom would be better spent working and making cash! What do you think?

7/22 Update: lots of others have blogged about it before (am I behind the curve) so I'll just list them:


Bad math of parents

I read the following quote of Paul Craig Roberts with incredulity:
How much longer will parents shell out $100,000 for a college education for a son or daughter who end up employed as a bartender, waitress, or temp?
Who's the one who can't do the math? The parent or the student (or just the author?)? As a student, taking a free ride for 4 years be it 100k or 5k, is a no brainer. I'll take the free ride any day and then say, "thanks for the fun education Dad and Mom!"

Bad math books for pub schools

I had to post this: "MATH MANUAL DOESN'T ADD UP" from NYPost:
STRUGGLING public-school students are facing a new threat to their education - math teachers are using a summer-school manual riddled with laughable errors.
This is what happens when teachers don't think and just grade based on answer sheets. So much for the "professionally" trained baby-sitters teachers....


Car Risk Management

My wife and I have read in a book (of which I cannot find anything relevant via search engines) where the author interviewed a Jewish acquaintence about his spending habits of penny pinching on purchases but was living at a pricey hotel and was told that because a person has only one life, one can never spend too much on personal safety and that's why he was living in a hotel. So, the closest thing I found was a jewish article on risk management. The most interesting quote:
while we may not take indiscriminate risks, we may go about normal activities of daily living with the guarantee of heavenly protection. This is derived from the book of Psalms that states: "God watches over the simple."
Anyway, this book made us very risk aware with cars and their size. Accidents are number killer in the US, from age 1 to 44, especially auto accidents. So, we wanted a safe, reliable car and for our first car as a family in the US, we bought a 740 Volvo (used) which is still running today. Our second was Expedition -- we needed more space than typical minivan (ours seat 9 people) and we wanted 4WD/AWD. As much as cars have become safer, our thinking is that having more metal and more space between our bodies and other cars would be a good thing. There is price to pay in terms of poorer mileage but we view it as a life insurance payment. Or to put it another way, what good is it to save a few bucks of gas per trip if you loose your life? Penny wise and pound foolish. (Our plan is to replace our Volvo with a full size pickup with crew cab, like F150 Supercrew or similar sized pickup.)

We also (try to) drive defensively, we always keep our head lights on, always make everyone in our car wear seat belts (one story I've heard in a defensive driving class was how one driver wore his belt but the passenger behind him didn't and when the car crashed, the passenger (being unbuckled) smashed into the driver, who died but the passenger survived -- ever since I heard that, I won't allow anyone behind me ride without their belts on). My former employer required all employees to take safe driving courses and one of the rules which I follow to this day is to always back into a parking stall (not practical for our garage but for almost all parking spots, I try to), this is because when you park your car, you can see the surrounding conditions (pedestrians, other cars, etc.) before you get into the stall but if you back out of a parking stall then the time between getting in the car and starting the engine and then finally backing out, the context around you will have changed while you were busy preparing (unless your car is the only one parked and you have clear view of the 2 sides).

Bicycling and even walking on the street (or waiting for light change at an intersection) takes on a new meaning of risk management after learning defensive driving techniques. As one instructor puts it, no law can prevent a car from hitting you, especially as a pedestrian, no matter how much right of way you have.

Keep in mind that this is risk management we are talking about: we don't drive around on a bus or semi-trailer truck but we did buy the biggest SUV which would fit in our garage (we didn't think Suburban would fit and because we have tornado's and hail storms here in central Texas, we almost always garage our cars).


How to Unschool in 5 easy steps

There are many ideas about unschooling and may "schools" of thought. Home Education Magazine has the most obvious site: unschooling.com but may not be the best one.

For me, unschooling is just that: not standard-schooling. Contrast the characteristics of schools:
  1. age segregation
  2. standard location
  3. specific schedule (hours, days of the year, etc.)
  4. universal grading/testing
  5. uniform curriculum
So the more you go against the 5 (for now), the more you are unschooling. What follows are 5 easy steps on how to become an unschooler.

Step 0, taking the plunge: Most parents (those who are completely new to the world of home education) who decided to home educate start with "school done at home" because that's what they are most comfortable with: The two parents went to (public) school and recall having great time during then and probably even have post high school degree or two. However, they don't know too many friends (or family) who home educate. And more likely than not, they have decided to pull their children out of (public) school because of x,y,z. As they get into home education, things go out of kilter.

Step 1, peerless: The first thing that, obviously, goes out the window is age segregation (especially if you have more than one child) since at home, you can't keep them apart. (Even if you have one child:) You start interacting with people outside of home, the elderly, the younger neighbors (since most older children are in school) and eventually other home educated children.

Step 2, homeless: Next to go is probably the standard location: education can take place outside of one "school" room and it's OK to learn, say, math using measuring cups and scales in the kitchen. Or to go to a park to do "social studies" (or a field trip?) by interacting with the homeless. Any place in the whole (wide) world can be a classroom, even if it was all virtual (i.e., internet).

Step 3, time warp: Next depends on the parents: type A ones would toss the universal grading but others would more likely chuck the set schedule. Not everyone studies well at the crack of dawn. And some families may have schedule which prevent it: say, a farming family may have to do their chores before 10AM and so the best study time may be after lunch. As the child get used to home education, one will realize that less time is needed for real studies, so there is no need to keep the nose to the grind 6 or 8 hours a day (this is not a paid, hourly work but education we're talking about).

Step 4, no more grades: Universal grading (testing) is the formula of equating age with grade: 6 year old is 1st grade, 12 is 7th, etc. Every child's learning pace is different such that some may excel in math but be very slow in reading or writing. Or excel in all subjects (congrats: you have a super intelligent child, now, don't waste it by going to college early). It's impossible to peg one's grade level and say "because you're 7 years old, you can't advance beyond this chapter." Or worse yet, say, "you must stay up late every night until you understand it."

Step 5, the final leap: Uniform curriculum maybe the hardest to toss since the materials are not cheap and you want to get the most bang out of your money. However, it doesn't make sense to be uniform because every child learns differently. Until you try out a material, it is hard to say if it will work with that child. The best thing would be to borrow a curriculum (some home educational coop have libraries) and try it on a child for a month or so and if it works, buy it (used!) or else try another. You might end up with different curriculum for each subject (math from one source, grammar from another, etc.) for each child.

Also, note that there are at least three ways of learning: visual, audio and kinesthetic. So don't assume that your child will have the same learning style as you. For example, my sons will hop around when they recite Bible verses, which may not be school-natural (or even Ritalin-deserving) but it is OK with me.

And, most importantly, there are two types of motivations:
  1. extrinsic (study to please parents or get awards or avoid punishments)
  2. intrinsic (study because one is curious and eager to learn for learning's sake)
The goal, for me, is to go from extrinsically motivated students to intrinsically motivated life long learner. OK, enough educational philosophy.

My lovely wife grew up in Japan and while she and I agree on steps 1-4 the last step is where she was uncomfortable going completely unschooled, so she has practiced delayed academics and started our oldest son with phonetics at 8 (3rd grade) -- truly unschooled until then. These days their only required studies are some math problems and some reading of which they spend less than one hour per day.

Penciloid asks how to cram in all kinds of subjects as part of unschooling: We don't. We try to live a life of education, of parents learning new things, especially how to use tools. My favorite tool is Franklin's Speaking Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary since you can type in bad spelling and get best matches which are pretty good guesses, plus they give pronunciations (which I don't know sometimes and I have to get help too). I constantly tell my sons "go look it up" or "please find it for me" (because I have to look up a word)!

We also have our devotionals at (almost every) night and take turns reading from the Bible as well as a devotional book and discussing the meanings of what we read.

Ideal is to let the children run with their interests and stand back and give advice but not everything can be picked by children. I haven't worked out how much to guide and direct and how much to let just their interests run. But we do our best to live by examples not just "do as I say" commands.

With music, our eldest is taking piano and need little or no reminders for him to practice -- which he does throughout the day, few minutes here and a few minutes there. On the other hand, if we let them play video games or watch TV they will go for hours on end (so we limit that by content (only recorded shows) and by time (2 hours total)). They also take Tae Kwon Do (year round) and we just finished their swim team this past weekend (just for the summer). During the school year they take 2 or 3 classes geared for homeschoolers once a week (last year it was botany and physical science).

We also require them to do chores: put away dishes, care for the dog, throw trash, vaccuum, get clothes ready for laundry, fold them away after they are dry, cook meals (breakfast is usually self made and lunch they take turns cooking). We only pay them for non-chore work like mowing the lawn. We also tax them (by force) 40% on their income (which we put into savings account). We don't force but ask about donating 10% of their money. We also have a rule "you break it, you pay for it" so we make them financially responsible for many things including their dental cavities.

With all that, they usually have anywhere from 2 or 3 hours to 10+ hours of "free" time (more likely on the longer side than shorter side). I'm trying to get them to call it "self-directed studies" rather than free time or recess....(grin)...

For those who want examples, there are schools with such a focus: The best one for unschooling, today, is the Sudbury Valley School and their affliated schools and they been at it since the 60's. Close second to me is Waldorf education where there is even Waldorf homeschoolers.


Truth, lie and sin

I was replying to some posts at Vox Day and got into a hole so I thought I'd start afresh and think through what is truth, and lies and what is reality. (Not too different from my attempt to write about language and consciousness.) (Started this 8PM Jul 8 but I've extenstively updated since then...)

Truth is actual description of what is now or has been.

Lie is anything less than 100% fidelity to truth.

Language is the only way to describe truth. Yet because language transcends reality, truth can easily be turned into a lie by removing/changing/adding 1% of/to the truth. So as we forget stuff, do we lie on purpose or lie "accidentally" as time passes? Especially as we embellish the past either positively for our good guys (including our own selves, of course) or negatively for our bad guys (i.e., enemies).

With the above definition, is it wrong to lie? Is lying sin, even if we temporary forget a minor detail which is only 1% wrong? Or does it become sin when it's 50% wrong? 75% (or more)?

Or how about writing fiction? Or even parables (of which Jesus loved to use)? It isn't real so by my definition above it is a lie but is fiction a sin? I don't think so.

No human can avoid lying with the above definitions. (Dictionaries aren't so exacting, by the way.) Only God can be spoken of: "God is not a man, that he should lie" (Num 24:19). (Note: Metaphors and parables don't seem to count as lying, if this verse is to be taken seriously -- so my definition is waaay too strict in the first place. (grin))

Which is why I believe God did not put "you shall not lie" in the 9th Commandment. You can read it for yourself:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (Exo 20:16, Deu 5:20)

Does this mean we can lie (in general) with impunity? Well, here are some laws from Lev 19:

Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not deceive one another. Lev 19:11

Which seems pretty clear. Even Jesus doesn't mince words when it comes to lying:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

And lying can even result in capital punishment:

"You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. See Act 5:1-11

Just kidding: what really happened was that Ananias and Sapphira promised to God one thing and acted another. They broke their promise and their lies only confirmed it. So it's hard to argue that their lying caused their deaths.

However, there are some lying which are either condoned or just not condemned, like the story of Abraham lying to escape death (cf Gen 12:10-20 and Gen 20:1-17) or, like father like son, Isaac lying (Gen 26:1-11) or, the grandsons of Abraham story of Jacob (Israel) taking Esau's blessings (Gen 27:1-40). (What a way to start the Jewish nation, huh?)

The classic, for me, is with the story of a Gentile prostitute:
Rahab took in Israelite spies and hid them and then lied to those hunting for the spies (cf Joshua 2:1-24). She, in turn, not only saved her own life but also her family's lives (Joshua 6:22-23, 25). And, she gets named with the other saints of faith in Hebrews 11:31. Also, her action of hiding the spies was commended as righteous in James 3:11 (even though she had to lie to protect them).
So what is the principle of truth and lying? 9th Commandment makes clear that false witness against others is wrong. What Satan did to deceive Eve (and Adam) was wrong (but I guess he did break the 9th, afterall, with "false witnessing," in this case, against God -- see Gen 3:1-15). Any other obviously wrong forms of lies (other than covering up other sins like what Ananias did)?


TV vs testing

"TV is bad for children's education, studies say" has a report from Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine which show that having TV in a child's bedroom lowers standardized test scores while having a computer raises the scores!

Why not conclude that we should stop testing in the first place?

What's funny is that the difference between having a TV in bedroom or not is 2 hours of viewing time per week: 13 vs 11 hours. 18 percent more TV viewing time has what impact? According this, it's only 8 percent worse. So, more TV time means less gap? Hmm, more TV for my children, it is!

(Just kidding of course, but these studies are really nonsensical.)

Oil: more where it came from

I thought today's "Tapping Gushers Beneath the Gushers" was old news but the potentials are still there, now more so than ever before since the oil crude's new highs are making the recent news.

I'm no oil analyst -- in fact, the only bias I have for oil is because I (still) own shares of oil exploration companies (I used to work for one which spun off another so I have shares in 2 companies). As a software engineer, I haven't done a single work related to oil in all of my 18 years of career (12 of which I've worked for an oil exploration company)!


Happy B-Day to ...Us!

229th (and many more)!


Celebrating Immigrants

As an immigrant turned U.S. citizen, I don't try to overemphasize my heritage either Japanese or even Asian background and others from Asia.

However, today's article on our local paper (published by Washington Post on June 12), called "Importing Ingenuity," rings true for me. I may not be the biggest supporter of U.S., but as a naturalized citizen, America is a country I choose to be ruled under. I became a citizen partly to rebel against my parents and my Japanese heritage, but also partly because I have "bought into" the American Way. What I bought into and what I believe in now are quite different which I'll blog more on, later.

Anyway, I can relate a lot to Hau's story: liking math, becoming an engineer and then working up the ranks. And working on (however indirectly) projects which may (or not) gain visibility.