Category Archives: Musings

You Know, Because It’s All About Me

A friend from high school recently posted a quote attributed to Richard Bach from Jonathon Livingston Seagull fame.

Richard Bach quote from FB

What an appealing yet completely dichotomous notion.  If our sole goal is to make ourselves happy, we acknowledge that we are the center of the universe.  In the long run, the universe – and all that is in it – exists to make us happy.  Period.

Babies act as if they are the center.  Cry – get milk, affection, clean diapers.  Men act sweet & caring to get attention, affirmation, and yes, sex.  So in effect, in our pursuit of self happiness, we will act in ways which try to manipulate the world so that we curry favor, respect, and love for our own benefit – to make us happy.  For example, we volunteer to “give something back” yet often advertise our activities so we achieve fame which makes us happy.  We care about impressing others only to make us happy, and this volunteering thing is self-promotion.  Sounds good, but ….

We don’t always act that way.  To continue the volunteer theme, I’ll agree that we do so to make us happy but also for other reasons.  The more altruistic may do it so that they feel good about themselves, justify their own station in life (mitigate their guilty feelings),  or even believe that it is necessary to earn or contribute to their salvation or sanctification. We are still doing it in some way that makes us happy but suddenly we aren’t quite the center of the universe anymore.

“Whoa. What’s with the salvation stuff you snuck in there?  And you first said we think we are the center of the universe.”  Yep.  You see, somewhere in our fallen nature, we still really do know that we aren’t the center of the universe.  Why?  Because we do care about something outside of us.  We do feel guilt, shame, frustration, etc., which we ought not feel if we truly believed we were the center of the universe (and could create our own reality and all that new age stuff).  We strive to achieve something – wealth, stuff, self-actualization, health, yoga, power, stuff – to make us feel better about ourselves.  And unless we are psychopaths, we are conflicted by our desire to the center of the universe – you know, “be like God” (Gen 3:5) and feeling like we ought to live by some moral code written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15).   Hence the dichotomy and the frustration and the never ending search for something.

So, how do we solve the dichotomy?  Come to grips that we aren’t the center of the universe.  God is.  And we aren’t God.  And realize that we exist not to make ourselves happy, that is to glorify oneself.

The first question in the Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

College: Learning or Playground?

Maggie’s Farm had a link to an article on the Inside Higher Ed site in on how/why colleges are going for amenities rather than improving academic quality.

“One important implication of our analysis is that for many institutions, demand-side market pressure may not compel investment in academic quality, but rather in consumption amenities,” write the authors, three University of Michigan scholars.

lazy river

As one having to pay for college in the very near future, I’d have to agree.  There are varying degrees of luxury.  For example, the local state university has a lazy river pool.  I guess that works due to our climate.  Plus, it seems fairly modest in design.  Certainly it’s not Disney but it is better than the frigid waters of Lake Michigan offered to me where I went to college.

metro_energy_podHowever, Saint Leo University near Tampa has a new $22 million dormitory which has to be in competition for greatest student appeal.  Why? Well  amongst its arcade, gaming room, and expanse of televisions, it features a nap room.  But not a dark windows-less room with couches smelling of dirty socks and beer used for making out when your roommate is around.  (Did I say that out loud?)

Clearly, This is not your father’s nap room.  The room contains four Metro Nap Energy pods boasting of “ergonomic perfection” and soothing sounds, all designed to “boost their professional and personal productivity while helping them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  It truly looks like something from Star Trek (or Wood Allen’s Sleeper).

As a parent, what do I want?  Challenging professors, meaningful courses designed to be the building blocks for a career as well as encourage thinking, minimal political indoctrination, cutting edge research, and a safe, yet non-sterile environment.  I’m not paying for a 4-5 year recess period or hedonistic retreat to find one’s purpose in life.

What I’d Love to Say on an Online Forum but Won’t

After yesterday’s post on the Boglehead forum, I ran across a post from a 27-year old entrepreneur who hopes to retire at 40 or so with a $3-4 million portfolio.  There are various tools online that will test proposed asset allocations and provide a success rate.  Several folks offered their opinions and gave him some things to think about such as spending rate, asset preservation, pre-nup, and an emotionally compatible spouse.

A month after the original post, he bumped it to see if anyone else had something to offer. This is what I’d love to say:

_________________________________

Okay – I’ll bite but just accept that I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

First & most important thing, are you still on track to make the $3-5 million in 10 years that you believe the models say you need?   (that’s also 40-50 years without a black swan or two to wreck havoc on your portfolio).  If not, your question is moot.

Don’t plan on living at or below your current level when you retire – especially at 40.  I wouldn’t expect a young retiree to stop doing the things that he likes to do, particularly if he (or his spouse) enjoys the finer things in life.  A person on track (perhaps) to make that kind of money in 10 years probably isn’t living on beans and rice.  You probably are a tech guy with latest & greatest toys.  Trust me, you won’t give that up.  I also expect you enjoy a more urban, hip lifestyle. That doesn’t come cheap and you won’t find it living in the suburbs.

You mentioned you want kids.  That means saving for college since your taxable holdings will put you way above any chance for financial aid.  Back to lifestyle – hip urban + kids would most likely mean private schools.

Ngreen-acresow some folks decide to do the Green Acres thing.  They make their millions by 48 or 50 and then decide to become social, environmentally conscience.    Think Beetlejuice but without the ghosts.  You know, decide to make artisan goat cheese, grow heirloom apples & the like, or buy a vineyard.  The Boston Globe & NYTs routine run articles about folks that do this. It isn’t cheap & you probably won’t make money but you’ll get great tax breaks.  BTW, there was one couple who did this 5 miles up the road when we lived in a tiny Mass town.  But I digress.

To cut to the chase – you aren’t asking the right questions.  Your original post never mentioned anything other than “to be set for the rest of my life ….. never to be an employee again.”  That’s a declaration of comfort, not a declaration of purpose or destination.

So, the question remains for you and all of us: Where is your destination?  It does matter.

It Appears There is a Gift for Everything

Reason #42 to be a cessationist regarding NT charismatic gifts:  Prophetic Tattoo & Piercing Interpretation http://propheticevangelism.com/

As you might suspect, money is involved.

“In Christian theology, cessationism is the view that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history. Cessationists usually believe the miraculous gifts were given only for the foundation of the Church, during the time between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, c. AD 33 (see Acts 2) and the fulfillment of God’s purposes in history, usually identified as either the completion of the last book of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle.
Cessationists are divided into four main groups: …”

For  the rest of the article and more resources, visit the Monergism web site (http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Spiritual-Gifts/Cessationists-View-Articles/)

Terrorist in plain sight (NY Times corrects article on his beverage)

From the Paper of Record concerning the terrorist ringleader of the Benghazi consulate attack ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/world/africa/suspect-in-benghazi-attack-scoffs-at-us.html?_r=1&  ) :

An earlier version of this article described incorrectly a beverage that Ahmed Abu Khattala was drinking at a hotel in Benghazi, Libya. It was a strawberry frappe, not mango juice, which is what he had ordered.

Guess that cleared things up quite a bit.

H/T to Mark Krikorian from the National Review Online.

Cloud Storage and the Slippery Slope to Technology Lust

First Google.  Then Microsoft and Apple.  All are pushing applications and file storage to the “cloud.”  Why?

The cynic in me thinks that they will mine your data for commercial purposes.  I’m sure (insert sarcasm formatting here) their privacy policies will ensure that “no personally identifiable information will be given to third parties” without my permission.  Third party use indeed.  Have you noticed that your Google & Bing searches invariably result in related ads whenever you go to other web sites?

But that’s okay I can set limits.  Just think of the possibilities.  Access photos, music, and reference articles – all synced & accessible from anywhere.  For a wannabe tech geek, this would be heaven.  Of course I’d need a new WiFi phone to take advantage of the information power at my finger tips.  I could solve arguments.  Lookup where to eat & check out menus and see what others thought.  Find instant deals or find the lowest gas prices that would save money.   But WiFi connections are tenuous and security is a concern.  I’d need a wireless data plan.   Just a basic one.

Wow.  Just used up my 50 mb quota on Page Plus.  I think I need a carrier with better data rates so I’ll switch back to Verizon or maybe use T-mobile.   The rest of the family can stay on the pre-paid phones.  Of course those screens are pretty small & my eyes aren’t getting better with age.  You know, those new tablets look great.  You don’t even have to be an Apple fanboy to flick photos and windows around those new shiny screens.   I could even watch free movies with Amazon
Prime.   Wow – that YouTube video is cool.  I’ll sent the link to my wife.  Oh wait.  She has a basic phone.  Well, it’s just another $50 a month for her.  Maybe a family plan – we could get four Android 3.0 phones free ……

Techno lust.  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s smart phone or his wife’s iPad, or his donkey’s  unlimited data plan.

NBC “Issue” Programming

I’m surprised that NBC actually acknowledged their not-so-sutble efforts to change your attitudes and behavior through its TV programming.  This WSJ article goes easy on NBC but has a few revealing quotes.  

“The tactic—General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal calls it “behavior placement”—is designed to sway viewers to adopt actions they see modeled in their favorite shows. And it helps sell ads to marketers who want to associate their brands with a feel-good, socially aware show.”

 “Subtle messaging woven into shows mainstreams it, and mainstreaming is an effective way to get a message across,” says Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBCU Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, which oversees the effort.”

According to the WSJ, “Executives say the more seamlessly integrated the behavior is, the less it feels like the show is trying to manipulate. ‘The last thing you want to do is not reach the audience in the right way and make them mad at you,” says NBCU’s Ms. Zalaznick.’ ”

So much for worrying about subliminal messages.  This is a continuation of using TV and movies to mainstream particular views.  Look at the progression:  Divorce is normal (bad husband!).  Single parenting is acceptable.  Pre-marital sex is the norm and attempts at abstinance are utter failures resulting in pregnancies.  Following “Will & Grace” homosexual characters are just another diversity character to insert into the show.

To correctly quote Patrick Moynihan, “we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the “normal” level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.” (“Defining Deviancy Down,” American Scholar (Winter 1993))