Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Response to "A Teen's Brave Response."

I read something that made me think today. You can read it here. I suggest that you do, so that you have a little context for the rest of this post.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" is really difficult when someone takes a type of sin as their personal identity. If you think homosexuality is wrong, for instance, someone who identifies him or herself as a homosexual is likely to think that you hate them.

It must be somehow possible to disagree with someone's behavior, and tell them so, but still love them through our actions. And yet, we so often (as Christians) are tempted to extremes. Either we side with vitriolic hatred or complete relativistic acceptance.

The article I've linked to above presents a clear picture of how easy it is to hate what we don't know. Once someone in our immediate circle of influence starts claiming a particular identity or practicing a certain behavior we disagree with, suddenly we come face to face with what previously we had only heard or talked about. We then must choose how to react

Unfortunately, the two basic options usually boil down to "Accept this person and his/her conduct without reservation," or "Completely reject this person and refuse to ever speak to him/her again except to remind him/her of how wrong they are." This seems like an emotionally driven false dichotomy.

Let's take some of the emotional charge out of the issue and examine several truths.

1. The Bible, which Christians believe to be God's Word, seems to indicate that homosexuality is a sin.
2. There are many other actions that the Bible also seems to indicate are sins.
3. Sins are treated somewhat equally in the New Testament, although penalties in the Old Testament were less severe for some sins than for others.
4. The Bible also says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
5. On a different note, the Bible also speaks of us as being "made in the image of God." Moreover, God considered us valuable enough to send Jesus to die for us.

Taking all of these truths into consideration, there can be only one conclusion, and it can be summed up by the following paragraph.

Homosexuality is a sin. Sin is something that God hates, so we must hate it as well. However, it is equally wrong to all other sins, so we must hate all other sins as much as we hate homosexuality. Moreover, we must do so with humility and not out of self-righteousness, noting that all of us have been equally guilty in the sight of God, and are redeemed not through any goodness of our own. Not only does God hate sin, he loves humanity to the point of death. We must strive to love all of humanity the same way He does.

These are just some of my thoughts. Feel free to reply with some of your own. If you decide to respond, please measure your response before you post it. This is an emotionally charged issue, and it's easy for discussions like this to devolve into mud-slinging contests.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Direchihuahua's Rules of Professional Conduct #2: Don't Be Afraid of Responsibility

Wherever you work, you've probably come across a few tasks that simply refuse to be enjoyable. If that last bit describes your entire occupation, you should probably find something else to do with your time, like shoplifting or okra farming.

In any case, there is an important aphorism you must remember when you are faced with these tasks. It goes like this: "Don't be afraid of responsibility."

That's right. Instead of running away from the things you don't like, embrace them! Ask to do them! Your employer will be so pleased that he'll probably give you a raise, or maybe a small piece of chocolate. Okay, probably just a pat on the head. Well, it's really more likely that he'll say something like "Good job, Stubbins!" (or whatever your name is) if he's a nice boss, and just grunt if he's a bad boss.

You're probably asking yourself "That doesn't make any sense." Well, you're wrong, because that's not a question. Also, there's a second aphorism that goes along with the first: "Make responsibility afraid of you."

If you only followed the first one, your boss would probably keep making you do the things you don't like to do, because no one else wants to do them either.

Instead, add the two together. Like I said before, volunteer for all the things you hate doing. Just make sure you're not too good at them.

Whatever you do, don't be horrible at them either. Horrible people get fired unless they're related to the boss. If you're one of those people, disregard the rest of this post and enjoy your free ride.

Your best strategy is to either do things perfectly but slowly, or sloppily but quickly. This works especially well after you've just been hired on and they haven't figured out what you're capable of.

Conversely, make sure to be incredibly good at the things you like so that your boss assigns them to you more often.

These tools will allow you to successfully train your boss. Come to think of it, this is probably the same psychology dogs and cats use on us. Hmm.

The best part about all of this is that your boss will think he's just assessing your natural strengths and weaknesses.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Direchihuahua's Rules of Professional Conduct #1: Never Show Employers Who You Really Are

Many professional consultants tell you to show your personality when you write a cover letter or go into an interview with a prospective employer. This is good advice if you are Jesus or Tim Tebow. It is not good advice if you are part of the 99% of the human population who are really, really odd.

In the end, employers want to know that the person they're hiring is essentially bland and uninteresting, and therefore unlikely to cause any trouble or make things exciting in any way.

To this end, an assessment tool has been designed, known as the Essential Lebowitz Blandness Assessment Test, or ELBAT. It is worth noting that this acronym is TABLE spelled backwards. There is much speculation as to the significance of this fact.

In today's problematic economic situation, employers are having great success with using this tool to weed out sub-standard employees. Some of the questions on the ELBAT include "Is the applicant more well-informed than you are about your job?","Does the applicant enjoy doing things that do not involve work?", and "Is the applicant Jesus or Tim Tebow?"

Thus, the best and most surefirest way to get a job in today's economy is to hide everything that makes you you. If your hair looks like it tends to grow toward the nearest source of light, shave it off. If your laugh sounds like Hilary Clinton got into the helium tank again, keep a few cotton balls nearby to choke it off.  
If you have a predilection for collecting the toenail clippings of saints and U.S. presidents, for goodness sake, don't talk about it or bring them in to the office. Please.

Quirky McQuirkQuirk, whoever you are, save all those quirks up for later, once you've been hired and people think you're completely normal.

Then, once in a while, when your coworkers least expect it, trot out your quirks just to terrify them. Revel in their expressions of abject horror. Then, return to being perfectly normal.

Someone will probably complain to your supervisor. If this happens, don't worry. Just shrug and remind him or her that you scored a perfect 100 on the ELBAT.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Own Little World

I like spending time inside my own head. It's comfy in there, and we've got snacks.

Because I enjoy spending time in my own head so much, I've developed a few bad (though often useful) habits: drifting off, and going on autopilot.

Drifting off is something I did just a few minutes ago when I was thinking about what to write for this blog post. I just sat in front of my computer screen for a while, eyes out of focus. Usually when I remember where I am and what I'm doing, I shake myself a little to make sure my body knows that my mind is available for directing it again. Drifting off is useful when you're not interested in being bothered by people you don't like. It's very inconvenient when you're married, and your wife is trying to talk to you about her day. Sorry honey.

Going on autopilot is something that happens when I'm doing something boring, repetitive, or both. It's like drifting off, except a part of my mind is still telling my body to do things. I do this often at work. It's nice because time seems to fast-forward a little, and longer shifts are a little easier to get through. It's very bad, in that I have difficulty hearing and/or responding to my coworkers. I also have difficulty following directions, though I'm afraid I'd have that problem even if I wasn't on autopilot. This makes me seem kind of stupid. I swear I'm not. I'm just a little bit distracted by the entire world living behind my eyes.

Unfortunately, it seems that the qualities that make me somewhat spacey are the same qualities responsible for my creativity. I need my introspective nature, despite the problems it often causes for me.

What about you? Do you resonate with any of this, or are you a hyper-focused guru of focusedness? Talk back to me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Game Review: Civilization V

If you've played any of the other Civilization games, this one will hold very few surprises for you. In some respects, Civ IV felt more unique and innovative. 

However, none of that should stop you from playing the game, because it's still a great title.

The first step in playing any Civ game is to choose what kind of game you would like to play. Most of the usual options are present, including how long you want the game to go, how large the game map is, what kind of map you'd like to play on, and what difficulty the game is.

The next step is to choose your civilization. Civ V includes a plethora of civilizations, each with their own unique special abilities, units, and buildings. Most of the familiar civilizations are there, but a few new ones have been added as well, including the Siamese and Songhai. Several civilizations have been restricted to DLC (downloadable content), a move that irritates me just a bit. Everyone's jumping on the DLC bandwagon these days. As if it's not enough that most high-end games cost around 50-60 dollars, which is about the size of my monthly grocery bill.

Rant over.

Anyway, Civ V gameplay is very similar to that of past Civ games, except for two major changes. 

First, there are city-states, little cities that exist independently of the major empires. They can do all the normal things an empire does, except expand. You can leverage influence over these city-states by paying them money or doing favors for them. In return, they'll give you some of their resources, units, or culture, depending on what kind of city-state they are.

Second, there are social policies, principles your empire can adopt that give you certain special abilities. These policies are clustered together in trees. The Tradition tree, for instance, has the policies "Aristocracy," "Oligarchy," "Legalism," "Landed Elite," and "Monarchy."

There is one other distinctive that separates Civ V from the other games. Remember meeting the leaders of the other empires? Remember how stale they were? Not anymore. Now the leaders all speak their own languages and have distinct personalities. It's pretty neat!

All in all, it's a solid game with good graphics, and it's as fun to play as Civ IV. But please, don't buy it at full price. It's not spectacular enough to deserve that much of your money.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Weird Dream of Weirdness

I had a dream this morning.

I remember nothing from it, except that it involved a dwarf who was the reincarnation of the immortal sentient plant Corcox.

I think there's a short story in there somewhere.

That is all.


Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Beard: A Heartwarming Story of Love and Facial Hair

A long time ago, there was a lonely, homeless beard. To protect his privacy, we'll call him Rupert.

Once, Rupert had been a large, flowing white beard full of life, joy, and little pieces of yesterday's roast beef and potatoes. His master loved him like a son.

Well, not quite. But still, he loved him very much.

Then came the fateful day when, due to harsh economic circumstances, his master had to give up his dream of being a famous novelist and go to work for a local fast food restaurant, McGrubbies.

The Manager of McGrubbies hired him on one condition.

"You've got to get rid of that beard!" said the Manager. "It's better off on its own. If the Health Department sees it, we'll get in trouble, and they're throw it into Beard Jail."

The Master was briefly torn between his need for money and his love for his beard. But money won out in the end, as it so often does.

"I'm sorry," he said, and a tear rolled down his cheek as the scissors went snick! snick! snick! Rupert fell to the floor with a flump, and slowly inched his way out the door.

Now, cut loose from his home chin, Rupert was nothing more than a dirty collection of tangled hairs. He fondly remembered how his master used to stroke him and cuddle with him, and how it used to keep him warm in the winter. If Rupert could have cried hairy tears, he would have.

Rupert crawled miserably along the sidewalk, pausing dramatically now and then to feel sorry for himself. Suddenly, the wind picked up, and a gust lifted the beard into the air. Several strands of hair floated away and were seized by passing birds, who incorporated them into their nests.

Presently, he smacked into something with a thwop! It was a face. Rupert thrrrped with joy. A face! Finally, a new chin on which to rest!

The face said, "Ew, a possum!" and grabbed at the beard. The person to whom the face belonged held Rupert up and examined him.

"Oh," the person said. "It's just a dirty old beard. Yuck!" The person threw Rupert to the ground, leaving him more dejected and morose than ever.

No one will ever love me again... thought Rupert.

It wasn't long before the wind caught him again. He bumbled along like a tumbleweed, wafting through the suburbs and into the city, where he smacked into something else with a thwop! A big black nose sniffed at him. The nose belonged to a big brown dog of indeterminate breed.

The dog said "Arf!" In his depressed state, Rupert assumed this meant that the dog hated him too. Unfortunately for Rupert, this was rather far from the truth. Really, in dog language, this meant, "Ooh! A possum!"

The big brown dog of indeterminate breed picked Rupert up in his mouth and tossed its head back and forth. scattering more hairs to the wind.

Ow! thought Rupert. This dog loves me a little too much...

This went on for quite a while. Eventually the big brown dog of indeterminate breed figured out that Rupert was in fact a beard, not a possum. "Arf!" the dog said.

Rupert was now dirtier and slobberier than ever. The wind picked him up again, dragging him along through the muck. Eventually, the wind dropped him in front of a house in the middle of the city, and there he sat, feeling as though the entire world had unceremoniously taken a poo directly upon him.

The house belonged to Cornelius P. Widdleston, of the Mid-City Santa Brigade. The children called him Mr. Widdles for short, so that's what we'll call him from now on.

Mr. Widdles was a jolly, good little man who, along with other members of the Mid-City Santa Brigade, dressed up as Santa, visited the homes of children who did not have very much money, and gave them Christmas presents.

Mr. Widdles was in a very bad mood.

"Where is my Santa beard?!" he shouted, storming around the house. "I can't be Santa without my beard!"

It wasn't in the bathroom. It wasn't in the fridge. It wasn't in the microwave. It certainly wasn't in the living room.

Mr. Widdles flopped down on the couch in a huff. "This is ridiculous," he said. "I just used it yesterday!"

He looked at his watch and gasped. "It's almost time for me to leave!" He shrugged and sighed. "Oh well. At least I can still give them the presents."

Wearing the rest of his Santa suit, Mr. Widdles stumped out the door.

"What's that, a possum?" said Mr. Widdles.

There was Rupert, lying in a beardy pile on the doorstep.

Mr. Widdles picked him up. "Wait a minute...that's a beard!" he said. "Hmm. It's pretty dirty."

Then, Mr. Widdles had a stupendous idea. Taking Rupert inside, he shampooed him up and put him under some hot, hot water, scrubbing him until all the dirt and grime came out.

Ow ow ow! thought Rupert. He's a maniac! Surely this'll be the end of me.

After carefully wringing Rupert out, Mr. Widdles took a hair dryer and blew hot air on him - vree! vree! - until he was dry and poofy.

"There! Good as new!" said Mr. Widdles. "It's even better than my other beard. Who would give up a beard like this?"

I'm...I'm clean! thought Rupert. And I think he likes me! Maybe things aren't going to be as bad as I thought they were.

Mr. Widdles glued a rubber band to Rupert so he could wear him on his face. Rupert wasn't so sure about this part, but it felt good to be resting on a chin again.

Then, with Rupert on his face and a jaunty Christmas tune stuck in his head, Mr. Widdles stepped out the door to bring joy to all the Mid-City children.

And so, the beard that had been cast off and forgotten found a home, and became The Christmas Beard.

Merry Christmas from the Institute.

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The Institute for Circular Reasoning by Peter Semple is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.