Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memo to Cheney:

You're not Vice-President anymore, so shut the @##$ up!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Your Predictions:

Make Your Predictions For Upcoming Events:

1) At the end of the year the Dow will be:

a) at or above 11,500
b) below 6,599
c) between 6,600 and 9,499
d) between 9,500 and 11,499

2) The US will invade/attack what country by the end of Obama's presidency (Pakistan is excluded because it has already been attacked recently):

a) Syria
b) Iran
c) North Korea
d) Sudan
e) Other; please write in.
f) You're so naive, they will attack all of them; we just won't see it in the news.

3) The public option for health care will go forward and be signed into law in the US:

a) Yes
b) No

4) There will be another senator/congressman/pastor caught cheating on his wife by Dec. 31st, 2009.

a) True
b) False

5) We are already on our way out of the recession and will see unemployment (a lagging indicator) start to rebound in:

a) 3rd Q. 2009
b) 4th Q. 2009
c) 1st Q. 2010
d) 2nd Q. 2010
e) 3rd Q. 2010
f) longer than one year from now
g) we will see a 'W' shaped recession instead of a V and employment will suffer for a long time.

6) An invention or research will be found that significantly increases the ability for the world to extract oil, natural gas, etc. or limits demands through efficiencies thereby making supplies last significantly longer.

a) Yes
b) No

7) The Cubs will win the pennant in:

a) in 3 years or less
b) between 4 and 7 years
c) between 7 and 15 years
d) longer than 15 years
e) never (or at least not in my lifetime)

8) Worms, Malware, Trojan Horses, Bots, or other software hacks in a coordinated attack will cripple internet worldwide for more than 4 hours by 2014.

a) Yes
b) No

9) Life expectancy for women born in 2009 will be greater than 100.

a) Yes
b) No

10) The Biblical age limit of 120 years for humanity can be/will be circumvented in the next 50 years:

a) Yes
b) No

11) The next war involving more than 2 nation-states will 'start' (first attack originating) on what continent:

a) North America
b) South America
c) Africa
d) Europe
e) Australia
f) Asia
g) Antarctica

13) The H1N1 virus will:

a) mutate into a more deadly form and kill hundreds of thousands worldwide
b) will continue to spread/be transmitted rapidly but will only critically threaten those already with health problems
c) the health reaction towards quarantining & not congregating together will outpace transmission but will threaten basic services.
d) the media has centered on H1N1 as a scare tactic and H1N1 will not infect or kill more patients worldwide than other types of the flu.

14) Declassified documents released in the next 30 years will reveal:

a) Kennedy's real assassins
b) Measures the US government used on its own people, including testing biological and chemical agents on citizens.
c) Vladimir Putin was a robot
d) As bad as the US was, Russia was still worse
e) All of the above

15) The strongest country (militarily, politically and economically) in 2030 will be:

a) The US
b) China
c) India
d) Brazil
e) The EU
f) There will be more differentiation so that one country may be more dominant politically, another militarily, etc. Write in which country will be most powerful in the 3 areas.

16) A serious archeological discovery will take place, much like the Dead Sea Scrolls, in our lifetime that further corroborates either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament:

a) Yes
b) No

17) Within 50 years people will watch color holograms in place of television:

a) Yes
b) No

18) Mars will be colonized in 75 years:

a) Yes
b) No

19) There will be instant software translation services (used as an in-ear device) that will make learning a language obsolete within 50 years.

a) Yes
b) No

20) People will undergo questionable surgeries to replace somewhat functioning limbs for bionic limbs within 50 years.

a) Yes
b) No

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prevenient Grace

One of the subjects that keeps coming to me this year is the grace imparted to every human that is separate or could be separate from the grace imparted to Christians.

I'm no theologian, but during my attendance in many different church services in the States and abroad, I have continually been struck by the continuity and similarity of the following messages:

1) God always initiates. Not only did God initiate God's relationship with humanity in terms of both creation and in terms of Jesus becoming human, but especially towards pulling on individual hearts in the present time towards God's self.

2) God's imprint is in and on everyone because everyone has been created in God's image. Scripture is especially clear in this regard when Jesus refers to serving the poor as directly serving Christ himself. This is not referring specifically to serving 'poor Christians' but serving humanity which is poor.

3) C.S. Lewis talks about the moral code put in each person (conscience) that is a foretaste of the proper relationship between God and humanity.

4) Any time that humans respond to God, this response is directly related to God's "wooing" God's creation towards God's presence and love. Most of the time, this response is emotionally felt as being overwhelmed by God's love and falling into the arms of forgiveness and peace.

5) God is relentless in wooing people towards God's self. In Methodist circles, this is often referred to allegorically as 'the hounds of heaven' continually pressing people to abandon themselves and give everything to Christ.

6) I've heard several times from Christians that the Creation story suggests that God continually breathes the breath of life into humanity... that the world would stop functioning unless God recreates breathing life into Adam and Eve every second of every day by breathing every breath of humanity. Humanity is under constant life-support from God so we always know how much of life is a gift.

Humanity's response to God's love is where denominations deviate. Some denominations believe that God's love is so powerful that it is impossible not to choose to accept God's loving grace if 'chosen' but being chosen suggests a different kind of grace. Other denominations believe that free will is paramount and that it is possible to escape from God's caress.

These points, along with other conversations I've had, have made me wonder more about the presence of the Holy Spirit in each person. If God is continually pursuing individual humans towards God's self, is this best represented by an 'outside force' involved in a 'grace' hit & run that happens over and over and over again or could it suggest the possibility of the Holy Spirit in every person whether or not that person has accepted Jesus? Especially since God's imprint is already in everyone throughout Christian orthodoxy.

I know that accepted orthodoxy does not hold the view that the Holy Spirit is present in each person and Scripture does not support it, so I'm willing to drop the theory. However, if the caveat is introduced that people cannot fully know God without accepting Jesus, then can the Holy Spirit be part of every person but that it is through the acceptance of Christ that the Holy Spirit inside is listened to and responded to in obedience with more frequency? That would reduce the ability of Christians to draw such a strong division between 'believers' and 'unbelievers' especially since so often our lives don't look all that different from non-Christians.

The people I've known that I would say have the closest relationship with Jesus (which is my context) have been palpably infatuated in a good way with God's love for humanity. They were comfortable in their own skin, were convinced of God's love for the world and for themselves, and accepted grace from God and others with no conditions. Everything boiled down to love.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This video is a re-enactment of an encounter I had with the farmer's wife up in northern MN after we ate rhubarb pie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Futurist/Good Business Ideas

Over the years, I've had a few good ideas, ideas ahead of their time...which I mentioned to close friends.

1) Green Exercise Machines at Health Clubs

Several years ago, I asked why fitness clubs don't harness the energy of its members... particularly with exercise bikes and treadmills. I even asked Dr. Mike Mullens, an engineering professor at UCF about this wastefulness. I am encouraged that some gyms have just started to incorporate this technology. The picture below shows a battery being charged at a micro-gym but I recently read of a larger gym employing this technology. In terms of power generation, I believe that these batteries can only power a small amount of the power needs of a gym...enough for lighting the building. The ideal exercise remains walking or biking to work and for your shopping.

2) Servers Using PDAs for Orders

Many years ago, when PDA's first came out, I wondered about all of the possibilities for PDA's and thought that taking orders in restaurants by servers was extremely inefficient. I thought that wireless PDA's could send orders back to the kitchen immediately and also minimize errors that come from trying to read illegible handwriting.

Servers using PDA's have started in some locations.

This is an example of software that can be used with the PDA.

3) 'Treat Receipts' by Starbucks

Years ago when I was working for a fast food restaurant, the manager mentioned having really great traffic for lunch but that company-wide they wanted to see more dinner traffic. I proposed the idea that customers could buy breakfast or lunch and if they brought back their receipt, would receive a discount for the dinner meal. The manager told me this was a great idea and other staff told me to be careful because he would probably introduce this idea to his bosses and not give me credit. To my knowledge, he never followed up on my suggestion.

Read about something similar at Starbucks from a recent Business Week article:

From Business Week, August 17, 2009. Howard Schultz v. Howard Schultz, By Susan Berfield. pg. 32 "And Gillett's store sales data helped Schultz see an important difference between the morning (when coffee is a necessity) and the afternoon (when it is an indulgence). "We never had that level of segmentation before," Schultz says. "It's a new tool in terms of being able to move the business in different ways." The numbers prompted Starbucks to offer any grande cold drink for $2 after 2 p.m. to customers who had already made a purchase that day: The company calls it the treat receipt."

4) Archived Video & Lecture Notes Changing Education

Years ago in college, I had a Technology-In-Education class that, as a side-note, was worthless because they were teaching out-dated technologies: Lotus in black screen and WordPerfect. Anyway, I asked the college professor what was to keep technology from laying off scores of professors in the future. With streaming video and now archival video and lecture notes, why would a student want to take a class from a good but not great professor? With streaming and archival video, students now have the possibility of seeing the best professors teaching courses at MIT, Harvard, Princeton. She was MAD!! But the question about a revolution in education remains and was recently mentioned in a Fast Company magazine article entitled Who Needs Harvard? September 2009. In the article, writer Robyn Twomey quotes Jim Groom an instructional technologist at University of Mary Washington who has coined the phrase 'edupunk' who embodies the DIY education. Twomey writes that since colleges are SO expensive and borderline unaffordable, many 'edupunks' have decided to learn on their own with free content online.

When I went online to search for subject materials, I was inundated with videos from prominent professors and speakers, lecture notes, exams, etc. Just going to MIT's site, I found 70 courses in economics; many of which held:

Lecture notes
Projects and examples
Projects (no examples)
Online textbooks
Assignments and solutions
Exams and solutions
Multimedia content
Assignments (no solutions)
Exams (no solutions)

As an example, I found this Newton and The Enlightenment lecture by Courtenay Raia from UCLA. It is a little hard to hear so turn your volume up all the way.

I watched an incredible video last year on the creation of mini-markets (matching buyers/sellers, donors/receivers) related to organ transplants. The speaker is a specialist who creates mini-markets whenever/wherever these markets are failing.

What is missing is an accreditation process that measures actual mastery of subjects for the self-learner (edupunk). Bob Mendenhall, president of the online Western Governors University and mentioned in the article, has forged a new path where students do not have credit hours or receive grades. Instead they receive assessments based on competencies and are then awarded a degree. Some students already working in their chosen fields have signed up and have finished their bachelor's degree in six months.

5) Using Phone Cameras When Shopping
My dad has been doing the family grocery shopping for years but several times has been told by mom that he bought the wrong thing. I thought that dad, whenever he was in doubt about a particular product, should take a picture of the item while in the store and send the picture to mom and she could text back whether this was the right product or not. I have not seen this practiced yet.

6) Comparison Shopping
I mentioned comparing prices online before sites like Pricegrabber, Nextag, Bizrate came about. I don't have the coding skills to put this into practice, but was shocked when I heard recently about a PDA attachment that supposedly has a barcoding wand that you can take to the supermarket. So, say you are at Kroger's, you can 'scan' the 2 liter of Coca-Cola and it will pull the prices from all the other supermarkets within a 5-mile radius for Coca-Cola. Whether Kroger would allow you to bring this into the store is another thing; for places like Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. this could be devastating. Whoever doesn't have the lowest price loses the sale and price pressures intensify. There could either be no profit or collusion among stores for setting prices.

7) Appliances Networked
I mentioned that appliances in people's houses should be connected to the internet so that they would both a) identify any problems they have and report them to the manufacturer, and b) be on file with the house records itself to prevent fraud when selling homes. This idea hit me when I had had enough of seeing vague descriptions in home sale advertisements: nearly-new water heater or barely used washer and dryer. I've read recently that several companies like Toshiba and Hitachi are actively engaged in producing home appliances with these networked capabilities.

Friday, August 14, 2009


In a recent post, I provided a link to Ode Magazine and an article by Jeremy Mercer entitled 'The Altruism in Economics' that challenges the foundation of classical economic theory. Much research has been done in cross-disciplinary pursuits in the last 30 years that seriously challenges the presumption that people make rational choices and that they always operate out of self-interest. In this article, Mercer makes the claim that our focus on self-interest in economic theory 'crowds out' altruism. Since altruism and cooperation are not rational in classical economic theory, material incentives are usually proposed when moral incentives would work better. A system that incorporates cooperation, altruism, and a conception of fairness would make people more altruistic.

Particularly interesting is his citation of the book, Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (Economic Learning and Social Evolution). In this collection of essays, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Herbert Gintis proposes what Mercer calls 'a more nuanced economic theory' based on strong reciprocity. Mercer writes: "Under this model, on meeting a stranger, the initial gesture should be conciliatory (a smile or a handshake are human demonstrations of goodwill). But from that point on, one should act as the stranger acts: hostile if hostile, cooperative if cooperative. In short, do unto others as they do unto you." For a Christian, this is not ideal since our mandate is 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' but this is still better than neo-classical economics in which people act out of self-interest ALL the time. As the author writes: “Altruism isn’t irrational because if it were, the only rational people would be sociopaths.” A new economic theory must also incorporate the need for humans to perceive that things are 'fair'. Mercer cites many experiments done over the last 30 years that demonstrate, across cultures, the need for humans to act fairly.

I have included one book review from Amazon that is a mini-lesson in this new economic theory and I hope to purchase the book soon.

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairness and Sociability, May 8, 2006
By E. N. Anderson (Riverside, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (Economic Learning and Social Evolution) (Hardcover)
For several years now, a group of social scientists has been studying the human tendency to be socially fair rather than narrowly selfish. The editors of this volume--Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, and Ernst Fehr--are among the stalwarts; others are found among the authors of the book's chapters.
The core of this long-running effort is Fehr's experiments with the ultimatum game, in which two people must share a sum of money (say, $10); Person A gets to propose a split, Person B can only accept or decline. Economists and politicians would expect every game to wind up with a $9.99/$0.01 split (or actually a 9-1 split, since bills are used), but in fact typical splits are more like 5-5 or 6-4, and in one place (Lamalera, Indonesia) people actually split something like 4-6, few A's ever claiming even half the money. This long-running set of experiments around the world adds to a vast, rapidly accumulating set of data showing that people are sociable, not "rational" in the folk-economic sense (i.e., dedicated solely to narrow material self-interest). The present book discusses the implications for economics and politics. If people are naturally concerned with fairness, narrowly economistic policies can be counterproductive; we all know cases of "crowding out," in which a material incentive actually makes people act worse, by crowding out moral incentives. If you reward people for being good, they will think it's all a cynical game, and will act worse. Punitive legislation to make people do what they do anyway (for moral reasons) is also counterproductive. Imagine what these realizations would do to American social policy.
The problem with this book is that it is too optimistic and upbeat. The downside of human sociability is confined to one page, late in the book (p. 388), where racism, honor killing, and the like get a quick mention. Alas, the morning radio brings a stream of accounts not only of such things but also of religious butchery all over the world--Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and even Buddhists (theoretically prohibited from killing but busily genocidal). This brings us back to Adam Smith's suggestion that greed may not be lovable but may be better than the noble, virtuous alternatives. I hope Gintis et al work on how to decouple fairness and interpersonal concern from the desire to exterminate everybody who is not in one's immediate social set. Until this is done, the hope purveyed in this work will remain thin.
The authors note that humans seem genetically programmed to have at least some sense of fairness and of self-sacrifice for the common good, but they wisely refrain from trying to unpack "hereditary" and "environmental" or "cultural" aspects. Heredity makes us do this, and learn it easily, and heredity gives us the ability to learn and develop cultures. No way to unpack. Still, more needs to be done on just how flexible these inborn moralities are. The range from Lamalera to certain parts of South America is pretty great. So is the range of murderousness in religious and ethnic settings. We need to know how to modify human behavior in these regards, and how much we can hope for.
That being said, this book is the best yet in the long list of books that devastate the selfish-individualist model of human behavior. People desperately want to be sociable, and be good members of their society. This may lead them to fairness and generosity, or to body-piercing, or to suicide bombing. This book offers hope for building new societies through use of innate human decency. At this point in time, any book seriously offering such hope is desirable.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Few Random Events:

-Brage & Brian's Bathtastic Party Sat. Eve: Friends and neighbors came over to view the DIY television show Brage & Brian taped last year and to see the bathroom in person.
-House-cleaning for Brage & Brian's to rent their home to a professional golfer this week for a LOT of money.
-Hopefully a video re-enactment soon of some social faux-paus at the Quaker house in northern MN.
-Even though I've read several Wes Jackson books, the PhD. scientist in northern MN who is acquainted with Wes, mentioned that Wes is not trying to cross-breed traditional grains with alternative grasses and such but only to increase yields on grasses, sunflowers, etc. (crops that don't require tilling) and to have these replace our traditional food sources. So in the future, we would eat sunflower bread instead of wheat bread or something like that.
-Conversations with family members, Liz, and Phileena at different times regarding the presence of the Holy Spirit in people, prevenient grace, and human depravity. All super interesting conversations and I hope to write some thoughts for a few blog and encourage others to post.
-I stretched this morning and stuck my left hand into a twirling ceiling fan, but only some missing skin.
-Drinking too much in front of my parents at the Bathtastic Party. Embarrassing other stories followed.
-Being given a bottle of 12 yr. Balvenie Scotch as a present from one of Brage's neighbors.
-Talking with Micah in Canada on the phone.
-Blowing a tire on the way back to Omaha but seeing God's provision throughout and possibly 2 angels.
-Sleeping in my own bed in Omaha, viewing my mail and magazines, and getting settled in again.
-Starting the job application process. Please pray for me.
-Starting to reconnect with good friends.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Few Farming Points I Didn't Know:

Many, many bees die from constipation because they will not 'soil' their own hive if they can help it. When they can't help it, bees have diarrhea and there are few things that stink as much as a bee hive full of bee diarrhea. Also, when bees are alarmed, they send out a scent that smells like if you smell that...RUN.

'Sticking'- is when you open a chicken's beak and stick a knife in there, immediately scrambling it's brain,so that it doesn't 'feel' its imminent death from breaking or cutting it's neck. I've heard it is considered the most humane way to kill a chicken. There will still be reflex actions from the chicken, moving its wings and feet for a couple minutes. Also, chickens don't have a lot of blood but it is best to hang the chicken upside down to drain. As with most animals, the younger hens (1-3 years) are the tenderest for eating.

My time at the farm came to an end on Friday; I was sent off with some horseradish, mustard greens, summer sausage, BBQ beef sticks, rhubarb, eggs, carrot cake, and some honey.

This weekend was spent with Caleb & Daphne in Minneapolis and we had SO much fun!!! I just arrived at Brage and Brian's and have vacay this next week as several other family members come. Lots of Scrabble will be enjoyed!