Videos of Note: Perspectives

Okay, I’m being lazy today … so much I ought to write about, but I’ll just post “‘Me, too!’ like some brain-dead AOL-er.”

Perspective via a sort of palindrome. (Brought to my attention by Paul Weston.)

Homeschoolers versus the Home-Schooled.

The Known Universe: In Persepctive.

Thoughts on Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Our unnamed west Manchester Thursday evening small group study (a ministry of Heritage Baptist Church) will be starting up again tomorrow, after several weeks in hiatus, and we’ll be studying Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. Below is a brief YouTube introduction with the author.

I suppose if we were to call ourselves anything, it might be “RNA,” or, “Recovering Neofundamentalists Anonymous,” as we try to get out of the “Christian bubble” that many of us (especially me) have spent decades in, and seek to better follow the Savior.

One of our favorite studies in this regard has been Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, which I highly recommend.

We meet at the Gagnon’s house, which is actually in the exact geographic center of our congregation, or was the last time Erik DiVietro plotted it out.

Running a small group Bible study for the past year has been fascinating. Pastor Erik helped train me in running one, which was a challenge, because (by his own admission), he tends to take over all discussions. Nichelle will tell you I have the same tendency, so for me one of the most challenging things as a leader is to just shut up, and allow silences while people ponder the discussion questions, and give them time to come up with answers or further discussion.

Other challenges come up from time to time. One of my more recent decisions was to outlaw political conversation. Not only was this distracting (although we’re quite informal), to be honest I ultimately came to the conclusion that I was too often getting ticked off by the ridiculous nonfactual, counterfactual, and noncontextual statements that seem to flood the political arena, regardless of one’s political preferences. Let’s just say some of our attendees learn far enough right, politically to make me look like a liberal by comparison. (I suppose I should blame all the NPR I listen to.)

Always, I am thrilled by the insights and discussions we’ve had, and find the small group format to be a particularly rewarding way to study the issues and doctrine presented in God’s Word.

The Christian and Government: One Biblical Perspective

Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, “I’ve been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.” This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “The government will be on his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6.

God has used China’s government for his own purposes, moulding and shaping his children as he sees fit. Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God.

Don’t pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power.

This is true freedom!

The Heavenly Man
From The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

Ouch: New Hampshire Charter School Cap Proposed

I just received this from the Academy of Science and Design, where I teach robotics, and where Isaac attends:

As almost all of you probably know, New Hampshire is facing major budget issues. The New Hampshire State Senate is currently trying to grapple with the deteriorating situation as state incoming revenue declines. This week, an amendment was proposed and approved in the Senate Finance Committee that would cap total charter school enrollment in the state for the coming 2009-2010 year at a level of 850, which is below current enrollment levels.

If this limitation stands as the bill moves through a full NH State Senate floor vote (likely this coming Wednesday June 3) and the following conference committee, this would be a MAJOR issue for the school. Depending on the exact level allocated to the school, this could mean ALL accepted incoming students would have to have their acceptance reversed, and it could even mean that there would have to be a “reverse lottery” to eliminate existing ASD students.

We strongly encourage you to take action on this issue, as it will affect your child’s educational choices and ASD’s quality.

One action you can take is to send mail to your elected representatives. The following link can be used to do this:

Some parents may also want to call their representatives. While this can potentially be helpful, it is also very important that you express support constructively, perhaps with personal stories, but DO NOT ARGUE with them! Remember that the legislators are dealing with a very major set of issues around funding, and are facing many difficult decisions at this time. Being hostile and/or combative can easily create irate representatives, which would hurt much more than help and can be very hard to reverse. Please only call if you are sure you can keep the conversation positive.

The ASD and other charter schools have been through this before, but it has always required work to get the legislature to see our side. Right now, we are all working through the NH Chartered Public School Association at all levels of government to make sure that this amendment does not get passed into law. While we are working hard with all the charter schools, we will not know the final outcome until the end of June. We will do our best to keep you informed as we move forward.

Kent Glossop
Board Chairman, Academy for Science and Design

Chris Franklin
Director, Academy for Science and Design

Here’s what I added to the petition I submitted:

Please help public education continue to improve in New Hampshire by rejecting the proposed cap on charter school enrollment.

Our son is attending the Academy for Science and Design Public Charter School in Merrimack. We have seen firsthand just how much he has learned at such a place, which is far more challenging than the private school he attended previously.

Just the Facts

The other day I was talking to someone who said he had heard on the radio that the US Federal government was going to give free digital television converts to welfare recipients, and that they were spending $100,000 each on plasma TVs in prisons. This came from what was described as “the most trustworthy radio news source in the area.”

Frankly, I couldn’t believe it. There was a coupon program to buy converters at a discount, but the program used up all its money, and had been discontinued. (Recently, it has been given more money by the federal bailout, and is operating again.) However, these coupons are available to anyone who desires them, so it’s hardly being targeted to those receiving government assistance.

But I wondered what the origin of these stories had been, so I hit the internet.

It turned out that millions of households on welfare might be given free digital television converters—in Japan sometime before their digital switchover in 2011. The prison story was a little closer to what’s real—the state of Florida’s department of corrections is spending $100,000 total, approximately $1 per inmate, out of its $2.3 billion dollar budget to convert existing television to digital.

Our opinions are often based on incorrect facts. Part of this is described in basic psychology—it’s called confirmation bias—how we filter evidence that strengthens our preconceptions.

But also our incorrect knowledge of history, various sciences, and current events allows us to hold on to incorrect opinions.

This is especially true in “popular knowledge”—think about all those e-mail forwards you receive that 15 seconds at or Snopes could easily refute. Think about all the people who believe wearing a magnet on their wrist will make them healthy. Or all the “Christians” who espouse the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel and can even quote Scripture out of context to support it. Or that rubber tires protect vehicle occupants from lighting strikes. Or that a metal vehicle acts as a Faraday cage. (It doesn’t.)

At any rate, I have been thinking much of late that we should all do more analysis before we speak.

I wish we could all just be smarter.

I wish I could just be smarter.

President Obama’s Big Day: Off to a Good Start

After being up until 1:00 a.m., our new President attended a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.

He issued several executive orders, including:

  • A freeze on salaries for White House staff earning $100,000 or more.
  • New Freedom of Information Act rules, making it harder to keep the workings of government secret. (And requiring a third-party ruling before declaring communication or meetings secret.)
  • Saying, “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable,” he ordered new ethics rules for “a clean break from business as usual”—tighter ethics rules governing when administration officials can work on issues on which they previously lobbied governmental agencies, and banning them from lobbying his administration after leaving government service.

He also drafted an executive order calling for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison facility within a year, got things rolling on the economic stimulus package, and spoke with a number of Middle East leaders.

Despite what I would have predicted, I think I am going to like this guy.

(See and .)

Amazing Worldwide (Web) Updates

In a typical day, I come across many fascinating things that aren’t exactly well known. This is a list of things which interest me, and probably does not reflect interest in the general population. Of course, thinking about that alone is of interest to me, so … (Ah, recursion!)

Cyborgs Are Real
Way cool neuroscience.

Gizmodo Goes to Lego
Far more here than I could summarize, including a video tour of the Lego factory.

Star Wars is Nearer than You Think
Actually, Star Wars weapons fire charges of ionized Tibanna gas, but you’ll get the idea.

Microsoft 3D Modeler
And you thought everything from Microsoft was evil.

The Large Hadron Collider Rap
Almost as good as “White and Nerdy.”

ShapeWays 3D modeling
These aren’t quite replicators, but affordable 3D “printing” is now at our disposal.

Marketing and Stop Signs
What happens when the marketing department designs a stop sign? (Software and graphics design often go this way.)

The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer
Gamers will understand the reference. Others may learn something.

Keeper of the Star Wars Canon
Imagine having to hold the continuity of a universe together single-handedly. (Well, it helps to have some database skills.)

The Mythbusters Weren’t Allowed to Bust This.
What “the man” doesn’t want you to know about RFID.

I have Joined the Dharma Initiative.

I Have Decided to Become President

What do you think of, “Grow up, you babies!” as a campaign slogan?

The Right Political Party

As I have been pondering the various Presidential candidates in preparation for today’s primaries in New Hampshire, I realize I am frustrated by and disgusted with both the Republicans and the Democrats. I will probably, before the Presidential election, change my voter registration from Republican to “unaffiliated.” (I am tempted to change it to Communist, merely because it would generate some interesting mail.)

What do we see in Washington now? Infighting. Foot-dragging. Stonewalling. Blame-gaming. Anything except working together to improve the conditions of our country or solve its current problems. Of course, we do have plentiful bipartisan distribution of corruption and dishonesty. Grow up, Congress!

It’s time to form a new political party. Call it the Right Party. It’s guiding principle would be to do what is right. To do what is morally right. To do what is right for our country. To do what is right for its citizens. To do what is right for our world. To do what is right for our future.

Some things are obvious: It isn’t right, for example, to embezzle funds, deny habeas corpus to US citizens, or accept bribes. It isn’t right to choose political expediency and present half-truths to forward a particular agenda.

Many decisions would be easier to make. It would not be right, for example, to ignore the genocide in Darfur if there was any possible way we could work to end it or aid its victims. It wouldn’t be right to offer another amnesty to illegal immigrants. (It would also not be right to ignore finding a way to replace 8 to 12 million illegal workers on which our industries depend.) It wouldn’t be right to appoint Supreme Court justices who believe it is their job to twist the Constitution outside its historical context. (We have a prescribed amendment process for updating the Constitution when necessary.) It would not be right for our future to pretend global climate change isn’t happening, or ignore the gathering momentum to eliminate pollution and dependency on nonrenewable fuels.

Some positions would be harder to determine. Finding the answers to such quandaries as funding human cloning research using processes where viable embryos are not destroyed would require something not valued in Washington or perhaps in our nation at large: thinking. We would have to abandon the name-calling, generalizing, and labeling and get back to a discussion of the issues that matter.

The Right Party: Making the right decisions … doing what’s right.

Random Webness