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Category Archives: Musings

Thoughts, ponderings, introspections on various topics that seem important to me

Does God know our future choices? Part 1

The Judeo-Christian scriptures seem emphatic: God knows everything. But what does it mean to know something?

Can God know something that isn’t true? Can He know something that will never happen?

Does knowledge mean understanding, or the acquisition of a piece of information, or something else?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but the fact that they are hard to answer proves that it is possible to interpret scriptural divine omniscience in different ways.

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Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Musings, Religion

 

A reconstruction of computing history

Hi! I’m a time-travelling archeologist from the 25th Century. For centuries we’ve been struggling to understand the mess that were the 20th and early 21st centuries based on archeological digs and archaic storage devices, but we were only just starting to piece things together when some clever twit invented the time machine. So I’m here to share some of our theories before I explore your century to see how accurate we were.

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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Musings

 

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Do-it-yourself?

DIY is a broad segment of television programming that purports to demonstrate how to do something, be it renovate a house, decorate a cake, tend a perfect garden, build a TV cabinet or cook a scrumptious meal. These shows sell themselves as educational. Their intent is apparently to freely share some expert advice with its audience.

I contend that most of these shows are designed to entertain, not teach. In fact, I would argue that they have the opposite effect than what they pretend to have: they “uneducate” their audience. How so? Think about it.

The educational value of something can be estimated by looking at the ratio of exposure to application. For example, if I spend 1 hour studying a cooking technique from a book, then 15 hours practicing and applying that technique during the coming months, the ratio is 1/15. It is a bit like a Return On Investment (ROI). Likewise, if I spend 4 years in University studying for a degree and the next 10 years working in a career that makes use of the knowledge gained, the ratio is 4/10. In addition, it provides me with an income during these 10 years, and much experience and skills that will be an advantage to me for the rest of my life.

In contrast, most watchers of DIY shows spend much more time “learning” than putting that knowledge into practice. In fact, research on television viewing during the past 30+ years shows that viewers retain very little practical knowledge of what they watch. As the shows are designed to be entertaining rather than educational (to maintain high ratings and secure audience fidelity), viewers justify watching episode after episode with the comforting thought that they are accumulating knowledge that will one day be of immense help to them.

In fact, what they are really accumulating is familiarity with the show, and especially with its host, who becomes like a close friend, always happy to freely share his/her vast treasure trove of tips and advice–and to do so in a very entertaining way, because who can bear to watch a boring host?

One sad consequence is that watchers start to believe that mere exposure to the show is turning them into experts in their own right, before they ever put hand to shovel or knife or saw. And when they finally start attempting to apply their pseudo-expertise, they are bitterly disappointed by their mediocre results, or put off by the gruesome reality of the sweat, blood and tears conveniently concealed from the televised images.

Since everything looks so easy and fast on television, watchers are hit with painful force by the difficulty of real work, and they retreat back to the familiarity and ease of their TV DIY show.

Let’s face it: a truly educational show would demonstrate general techniques and principles, and would lead its viewers to spend less and less time watching, and more and more time doing. Since that is precisely the opposite of what all commercial TV shows want to achieve, we can safely dismiss all commercial educational television as distracting from real learning.

The best learning occurs in the physical presence of a master or mentor who demonstrates skills and provides instant feedback on the learner’s performance. It requires humility, patience, effort and courage, none of which are required for, nor fostered by, DIY shows.

So make a change today: stop watching DIY shows and

DO IT YOURSELF!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Musings

 

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Made in China

I live in Australia. Today, the 21st of May 2013, I am sitting in bed typing this blog entry on an iPad which I reluctantly purchased for my job (at my employer’s expense mind you!), and which is made in China. I am surrounded by furniture, clothes, books, electronics and perishables that are all made in China or Bengladesh.

No, this is not one of these I-wonder-what-life-would-be-like-without-X type of blog entry. T’is no fantasy, no mere chimeric musing, but a protest, a revolt, a mutiny!

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The silliness of worrying about what people think

If you are one of the tens of millions of people who constantly worry about what others think of you, consider the following impeccable logic:

If you believe that everyone around you really is watching and negatively judging your appearance and every move, you must have a very negative opinion of them.

In fact, you are doing the very thing you fear from them: judging them harshly based on limited information: their appearance and outward behaviour.

The reason you do this is that we only have access to our own thoughts and ways of thinking; we must guess everyone else’s, and we do it based on our own thoughts. If we tend to judge everyone harshly, we tend to assume that everyone does the same.

So, the key to being more confident around others is not to worry less or ignore people’s feelings: it is to be less judgmental of them.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in Life, Musings

 

Keeping up with the world… or creating it?

A typical response to my controversial challenges of ubiquitous elements of our modern lives is that we need these things to keep up with an ever-changing world. I would like to challenge this notion by offering another:

By keeping up with the world in this way, aren’t we contributing to what the world is becoming? We send our kids to school to prepare them for a world that is massively influenced by schooling itself. We buy the latest technological gadget to remain at the forefront of the consumerism that our purchases have unwittingly promoted.

So when people look at what I do and say “wow that’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”, I like to reflect on what it means to be “extreme” in a world in which the once extreme is increasingly common, and the once common is increasingly extreme!

In other words, I’m trying to be mindful of the ways in which my lifestyle choices influence the world in which my children will grow up. If they are to change the world into something better, they need to be exposed to ideas and experiences that are foreign to what the world currently accepts as conventional wisdom.

 

What will you give in exchange for your soul?

I’m writing this in frustration of my own recurring tendency to sacrifice worthwhile opportunities for the sake of ephemeral instants of pleasure.

I am reminded of the very meaningful and symbolic biblical story of Esau selling his birthright for a good meal. Although it is easy to judge Esau by saying that he was short-sighted and impulsive, how often we tend to act that way!

When we are in a moment of crisis or weakness as Esau was, it is natural to lose sight of long-term goals and our core values. We feel terrible and all that seems to matter is to resolve the immediate situation.

How often I have sold an opportunity to spend quality time with my wife for an hour of television! How often I have sold meaningful service for selfish indulgence; health for a treat; self-respect for a moment of pleasure…

It is so hard to deny myself of these pleasures when the world is shouting at me that I am entitled to them, that I somehow deserve them, that saying “no” is a sign of weakness! Yet, how many times do I need to learn that indulging leads to no lasting satisfaction or happiness?

In the words of Jesus Christ: “It is better that you should deny yourselves of these things, whereby you take up your cross, than that ye should be cast down to hell”.

Hell is the state of mind in which you are when you act against your better judgement and knowledge, when you commit acts of self-betrayal. It involves remorse, shame, guilt, self-loathing, and is adequately described scripturally as unquenchable fire. No one “casts” us there but ourselves.

Conversely, acting in harmony with our growing knowledge involves daily trials and challenges, but is accompanied by a soothing, healing backdrop of inner peace of conscience. That peace is what Christ suffered for, that treasure for which it is worth denying ourselves of worldly pleasures and, as he did, take up our cross.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Musings, Religion

 

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