Monday, July 31, 2006


I was pulling some weeds in the front yard the other day, and pulled some skin loose on my finger. I had to cut away the loose skin, and put a band-aid on it. Today I took the band-aid off, and clearly it is healing. However... I have some horticultural vinegar for killing weeds. It is about 65% acetic acid. Works great, organic, and all that stuff. But the bottle was leaking a bit, which didn't bother me at all until the acid hit the stripped skin. Ouch. At least I don't have to worry about infection... the acid burned the germs away.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Getaway

Yesterday, for the first time in 3 years, Karen and I were able to get away. Karen's Mom looked after the children overnight, and we went to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Ottawa. The real draw for us was the revolving restaurant. It takes 2 hours to make a single revolution around downtown Ottawa. We started with a magnificent view of the Ottawa River and the Gatineau Hills. Then we saw the Supreme Court, and were amused to see kids playing soccer on the front lawn at 7:00pm in a Friday. Then we had a great view of Parliament Hill. The rest of the view was just downtown Ottawa, but wasn't so bad. The food and service was great. We started with canapes, then an appetizer of bruchetta (cheese, tomato and mushroom). I had a 20oz Alberta AAA Porterhouse steak and Karen had a Game Hen. For dessert Karen had a maple cream fondue and I had a trio of crème brule. The waiter was really good; polite yet friendly, attentive but not overbearing, and he never once said “no problem” (my pet peeve).

We had a corner room with a balcony and a view of the River and the Supreme Court. Looking straight down we could see the Sparks Street Mall, and it was interesting to see groups of people wandering around the Mall at 9:30 at night. Usually the Ottawa downtown is pretty dead after 5:00pm, but I guess things are changing.

Our package included an excellent breakfast buffet. My only complaint is that when ordering the package, Karen asked for a non-alcoholic “wine” (a bottle being included in the package). They delivered something that wasn't wine but still had the same alcohol content as wine. I phoned the desk, they weren't sure what to do about it, asked what we wanted, I suggested some apple juice, and they delivered lemonade. Well, they tried. But they wouldn't have to have tried (and failed) if they had got it right the first time. Is this such an unusual request? The same thing happened at the Chateau Laurier on our honeymoon!

Anyway, it was a nice rest. I actually slept in until 7:30, and it was nice getting through a meal with nobody begging for food or spilling milk on the table. We could have stayed away a bit longer, but we really wanted to get back to the children. It was a nice getaway, but we do enjoy real life as well!

I don't go to church because Christians are a bunch of hypocrites

This is one of the standard objections as to why people don't go to church. Nobody likes a hypocrite. And in fact there are some Christians who are hypocrites (those churches are not quite as infested as some would lead us to believe). But here is the text of an email I received (personal contact information removed) by virtue of the "Plymouth Brethren" website I maintain. Note that he is referring to some among the "Exclusive Brethren" rather than the "Open Brethren" that I have more experience with. Maybe Christians don't have a monopoly on hypocrisy:

Dear Sir

I found your FAQ on the Brethren fascinating. We are financial publishers whose audience is financial advisers. The British government recently said that only certain religious groups, such as the Brethren, would be exempt from pooling their money in pension annuity schemes at the age of 75. Therefore I believe many of our audience would be interested in helping their clients to join the Brethren to take advantage of this exemption. Can you let me know how this can be done?

My reply was, "You're kidding, right?" I fear he wasn't kidding.

Note that the branch of the Exclusive Brethren that would have objections to a government plan (and this group would be a very small number of those who might be referred to as "Exclusive Brethren") would also distain the use of computers, televisions, any sort of business arrangements with people who are not part of their denomination, and sewer attachments that join together before hitting the main pipe.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

American V

I bought Johnny Cash's "American V" on the weekend. It is a collection of songs he recorded before he died. In fact, he was working in the studio towards the end recording a bunch of songs that were his personal favourites. Apparently there is enough for a 6th album in the series.

Perhaps it's my imagination since I don't know when these songs were recorded as opposed to the songs in American IV, but his voice seems weaker. There is a moment when he is singing "I You Could Read My Mind" when his voice sounds incredibly vulnerable (that's the only word I can think of to describe it). "When you get to the part, where the heartache starts, the hero would be me, but heroes often fail."


We got a call from camp on Sunday night, and picked up Bethany on Monday morning. One part of me wishes she was not homesick and had stayed, but another part of me is delighted to have her home again. I took Bethany and Hannah to the library tonight, being that Bethany wasn't doing any reading at camp and that I had a book on reserve (Excel VBA Programming for Dummies).

I also saw my first (live) hummingbird today. It was buzzing around the tree out front.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Michael Yon is always a well informed and interesting read. Have a look at his article on Jihad at

It can be done! But I wouldn't want to try it.

Interesting article at

A man in North Ontario was on a 12 day canoe trip, alone except for his dog. They were attacked by a bear, and he killed it with his hunting knife. He and the dog were both biten, and he had to paddle for an hour until he found some fellow campers with a satellite radio. Sounds like a small one (only 90 kilos) but I still have a special place of respect for anyone who kills a bear with anything less than a 30-06 rifle.

Trouble Brewing

I was mowing the lawn at the side of the house this morning (actually the weeds) and didn't notice the rather large wasp's nest hanging on the side of the fence. That is to say, I didn't notice it until they came buzzing out. One of them got me on the arm. This is the first time I've ever been stung. The lawn mower is still sitting there and will remain there until I can make a trip to Canadian Tire and buy some wasp spray and a beekeepers hat.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Not much better

I'm still pretty emotional about Bethany being off at camp. Is she OK? Is she happy? Is she able to sleep OK? Why did I tell her she could go?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

That's just the kind of thing Hitler/Bush would say!

One of the candidates for the upcoming mayoral election in Ottawa has announced a plan to increase the number of police on the streets of Ottawa, and particularly to do some cleaning in the downtown Byward Market (the Byward Market is a great area of little shops, fresh produce, stores that hoped a century ago and good dining. Unfortunately it has also become a hangout for drug dealers and punks. It’s still a big draw in this city, but something needs to be done). Anyway, the local press jumped on this story with a quote from someone who is critical of this candidate, who said, “We don’t need a Bush inspired war on crime.”

Well, there you have it. It’s bad because it is the kind of thing George Bush would do. Now for years this kind of faulty argument was based on Hitler. You could win an argument by saying, “That’s just the kind of thing Hitler would have done.” Yes, it sounds silly now, but there was a time when comparing your opponent to Hitler would actually win an argument for you. But we smartened up. We got to the point where the average man on the street could see through such an argument, and as soon as you heard the comparison to Hitler, you knew the other guy had a thread-bare argument.

Fast forward to 2006. In the eyes of many Canadians, George Bush has 3 strikes against him. He’s politically conservative, he’s fighting an unpopular overseas war, and he’s American. And so we see the old Hitler comparison once again brought out, dusted off and given new life. But this time it isn’t a comparison to Hitler that provides the killer argument; it’s the comparison to George Bush. Unbelievably, this pathetic argumentative technique actually works in the minds of many. No matter what the topic, just claim that it’s the kind of thing George Bush would do and your argument is already won.

Thankfully there are people who know better. Even among those who disagree with Bush’s policies, there are those who are intelligent enough to recognize the weakness of this technique. And some of the people who oppose Bush have too much integrity to use such a technique of argumentative manipulation. Of course there are still many on the political left who will stoop to using this technique. While it disgusts me, it doesn’t scare me. What scares me is that there are people on the political left who actually think a comparison with Bush proves something. Well I guess it does; it proves how dumb they are.

Canadians seem to struggle with a national identity crisis. This is nothing new; it’s been happening for years. Too often our national identity is defined by what we are not (i.e. we are not American and we are not British). Perhaps the bit of self-identification that sticks best in our memories is that Canadians are “unarmed Americans with health care.” Of course that isn’t enough to build a compelling national identity on. And it ignores the fact that guns are quite common in many areas of this country (having grown up in Northern Ontario, having guns around doesn’t seem odd to me). So what else could we build a national identity on? The fact that some Canadians don’t like George Bush? Of course not. As Canadians we must act based upon our national convictions, not upon whether George Bush would approve or disapprove of our actions. When we hear people make the dreaded comparison with Bush, it's time for us to start calling them on it. It adds nothing to the argument of whether this is a direction which is right and proper for Canada to follow.

Now a side note. Canadians are somewhat schizophrenic with regards to our southern neighbours. A little anti-American rhetoric seems to go down well at election time. In fact, the Liberal Party has made an art form of it. And ignoring the visceral responses of the ignorant masses, maybe Canadians can sometimes see America’s weaknesses in ways America is unable to. But on the other hand, we love Americans. When we meet American tourists and visitors, it brings a genuine smile to our faces. And we love visiting America. Nowhere else in the world do Canadians feel more comfortable than in visiting the United States. If any Americans read this posting, try to remember that any anti-American comments you hear from Canada are not deep seated; they’re just the product of a little schizophrenia.

Tough Time for Dad

Today we dropped our oldest daughter off at summer camp for the first time. It is a 10 day session at a camp which our church helps support. We've been there for Family Camp and various retreats. The kids regular babysitter is her counselor, and she is signed up for archery, fishing, wilderness survival and scrapbooking. We know most of the staff. She'll probably have a great time, but Dad is finding it pretty hard. I'm half-way hoping I get one of those phone calls from the staff tell me she's upset and asking me to come and pick her up, because it means she'll be back home with us again. But of course ultimately I hope she has a great 10 day experience. It's going to be a long 10 days for me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All the News thats Fit to Print - Saudi Style

The Saudi Arabian English language newspaper is often interesting, although you need to remind yourself that this is what they are saying in English to the world and not what they are saying in Arabic to their own people.

Sometimes it is quite moderate. An article today speaks of the current conflict in Lebanon, but points out that Hizbollah's rockets killed two children in Nazareth (incidently, they were Israeli Arab children. Also incidently, the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers Israel is trying to get back are not Jewish - they're Druze Arab Muslims). On the whole, I recommend checking it out every once in a while. Lots of interesting articles about how the Saudi Kingdom is working through issues of local government, women's rights, and even some introspective articles on topics like wife abuse. It's a good reminder that many Muslims are concerned about the same issues of everyday living as westerners. However...

One interesting note was found in their section on Islam. Zakah is the 2.5% tax Muslims pay to finance charitable works and to further the works of God. But according to the religious scholars in Saudi Arabia, how is this defined? "As for “furthering God’s cause”, any action which is deemed to achieve that could be supported with zakah funds, particularly jihad, pilgrimage by people who are short of funds, education of children or adults, etc." (emphasis added)

Have a look for yourself at

I know many Muslims define the word Jihad in terms of a personal struggle against evil, rather than in terms of death to the unbelievers. But I should point out that in the English language, the word "crusade" also carries both meanings for us (but Muslims are rather sensitive to our use of that word.)!

New Names?

I still haven't received any suggestions for a new name for my blog. I have a couple of ideas in mind, but I'd love to hear your ideas before I make any decisions.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on Government

As a Christian, the foundation for my opinions on government must be based on the Bible. The most relevant passages in the New Testament on this topic are Matthew 20:25-27, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1,2 and 2 Peter 2:13-17. In these passages we see that in ideal governments, those who are rulers do not lord it over the people. Governments are ordained by God and we are to submit to them, including those that are less than perfect. One of the purposes of governments is to punish criminals. Another purpose is to commend virtuous behaviour. Those who rule full time have a right to be financially supported through various forms of taxes. We are also to pray for our governing officials.

I live in a country which is considered democratic. It is considered to be an act of good citizenship to be involved in the political process and to express our opinions. As such, I feel the liberty to offer constructive criticism as well as suggestions for how government can be improved. I do not believe human effort will usher in the Millennium. In fact, I am very much a Dispensationalist in my doctrine. But I do believe governments have a stated purpose and a Biblical role to play, and anything that helps them achieve that purpose is good. Furthermore I must acknowledge that God’s plans work best. It is not good enough for an individual to act in a moral manner; it won’t get them into Heaven. But when a society functions according to Biblical principles it is best for all citizens.

So how does this work itself out for a Christian in a democracy? First of all, rights are not something the government gives. And restrictions on rights are not something the government withholds. These are established by a higher law than any constitution or earthly court. So for example, the government does not give me the right to educate my children; God does. Likewise the government does not restrict my “right” to act violently; God does, and governments are a God ordained means of ensuring that certain behaviours are punished. Ultimately governments have the right to punish certain crimes with the death penalty, which is something individuals do not have the right to do.

Likewise governments can be a blessing in the lives of citizens, when a government reflects the will of a people who either consciously or unconsciously desire the types of righteous living God wants (again note that we are talking about righteous living, not the problem of what an individual needs to do when he has lived unrighteous and needs forgiveness from God). And so the collective will of the people may be to help widows and orphans, or to show mercy to the poor. I have no issue with our governments acting as agents of mercy with regards to the compassionate use of accumulated wealth. This can very well include minimum wage laws and laws which prevent the tendency of some people to act in an unrighteous manner towards their employees. Such laws must be carefully balanced against the Biblical examples of private ownership of property and use of invested capital to generate a profit. The individual who owns property must also carefully ensure that he is not putting his trust in his wealth, but gives thanks for God’s blessing in his life.

But governments tend to fall into a number of problems. First, some people serving in governments like spending other people’s money. Second, governments start to ignore God’s righteous law and make their own arbitrary laws all powerful. Third, people become dependent on their government and see their rights as being granted to them by their government. And finally the State becomes an independent entity, theoretically run for the benefit of its citizens but in actuality run for the benefit and continuance of the State. Let’s examine these pitfalls in more detail.

First, some people serving in governments like spending other people’s money. And some of those people have ideas for spending your money which are not in keeping with God’s righteous standards. In Canada, the new Conservative government just reduced the Goods and Services Tax from 7% to 6%. Some on the political Left were outraged. About $4 Billion was cut out of government revenues, when there were all sorts of programs that could use funding. My personal view is that the government was taking $4 Billion too much from the Canadian people, and finally recognized the fact. As far as unrighteous spending, I’m not sure I need to point any further than government funded abortions.

Second, governments start to ignore God’s righteous law and make their own arbitrary laws all powerful. In some ways Canada is further down the path to the nanny-state than the United States, but no people on earth have a more misplaced reverence for a constitution than the Americans. And as such, the American Constitution has replaced higher moral law. Don’t get me wrong. The American Constitution is a great document, for a people who are conscious of God. But for a people who do not have a God-consciousness, the American Constitution will eventually be an instrument of national corruption or national suicide. An example from American Law (though not yet argued at the Supreme Court level) is editing out swearing and nudity from American films. Filmmakers went to court, and won a ruling that people are not allowed to edit their films. Of course their argument was based on copyright law, the integrity of their creative product and their freedom to express themselves. Well it’s always expressed as an issue of freedom, isn’t it. But it’s still corruption.

Third, people become dependent on their government and see their rights as being granted to them by their government. Whatever the problem, let the government fix it. My Dad did me a great service when I was growing up. He told me that whenever you hear someone say “They should do something about that”, ask yourself who “they” are. When the government is seen merely as a means of “we the people” organizing ourselves for a task, it’s noble. When the government becomes the answer to every problem, we’re in trouble. Again, let me reiterate the statement I made above about demonstrating mercy and compassion. I do not say that all people should pull themselves up by their boot straps and make something of themselves. Some people live in very unfortunate circumstances and need a helping hand. But there is a difference between my approach (that our government is an expression of our desire to help and that government assistance is one of several important ways of demonstrating mercy and compassion) and the Left-wing approach of creating a government entity which is separate from the people and which will solve all problems. People also fall into the trap of thinking that the government grants their rights. I hear this all the time… “does the government allow you to educate your children at home?” That’s not the real question. The real question is whether the government has taken away your right to educate your own children.

Finally the State becomes an independent entity, theoretically run for the benefit of its citizens but in actuality run for the benefit and continuance of the State. This is the ultimate separation of the people from the government. The government now becomes the Government. It becomes a separate entity, with it’s own rules and purpose. All rights are removed from the citizens in exchange for cradle to grave social programs. In some cases a dictator is at the top, and in other cases a bureaucracy. No matter, because the net effect is the same for the people at the bottom.

Perhaps a summary is in order. In a democratic system and keeping in mind Christian principles for government, our responsibility is not to the government, but to our fellow citizens. Governments don’t grant rights, but God does. Governments can restrict rights in order to further the sort of righteous society the Bible describes. Individuals are still sinners and need salvation, but a righteous government is a blessing to saved and unsaved alike. Even if a government is not righteous, Christians are to submit to that government and pray for the governing authorities. Nevertheless, in a democratic country, Christians are not doing anyone any favours by being silent about what a righteous government and a righteous society require.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Art of Computer Programming

I wrote a small computer program in VBA today. Nothing sophisticated. Just a hundred lines or so. But I was very pleased with it. In fact, and I know this makes me a geek, I think it is quite beautiful. I’m pleased by how the looping structures worked, and it’s quite orthogonal. True, the naming convention for the variables needs a bit of work, but every work of art has at least one blemish.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Liberal Christianity

A couple of fellow bloggers ( and have linked to this rather interesting article:,0,2668973.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

A couple of points to note. I was listening to a message by John Lennox, and he said when you relativize the absolute you end up absolutizing the relative. This is certainly true about our legal system. A system which worked quite well when most people acknowledged a higher moral law abandons justice when a constitution becomes the absolute authority in the land. I think this applies to liberal churches as well. As soon as they relativize the Bible, they absolutize their own ideas.

A second point. Protestant churches since the time of the Reformation have taken the Bible as their source of authority (i.e. the revealed truth of God). The Roman Catholic church says the Bible was given by the church and so the church is the source of authority, together with the Bible (as interpreted by the church). The charismatic movement takes the Bible plus new revelation as the source of authority. But interestingly enough, most evangelical churches reject the Protestant position when it comes to church truth (particularly with regards to church government, but also including the nature, purpose and composition of the church). And so they end up falling for one of three errors. They adopt a Roman Catholic position (i.e. our denomination does it like this), a pragmatic position (we do it this way because it works better than the Biblical way) or a relativistic position (you do it you way and we do it our way, but who’s to say one way is better than another). But when a church follows this way of thinking about one area of doctrine, it’s easy to fall into this way of thinking for other areas of doctrine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Admission and a Request

I've been blogging for 3 years now. When I first set up my blog, I didn't know if it was the kind of thing I'd be interested in and so I didn't give much thought to a name. "Shawn's Place" seemed OK at the time. But 3 years later this name seems a bit flat ("flat" is of course a euphemism for "deadly dull boring and completely unoriginal"). Unfortunately I’m still fairly unoriginal, and that’s where you come in. If you have an idea for the soon to be newly renamed “Shawn’s Place” please add a comment with your suggestion. Thanks for your help!

Just Curious

Stephen Harper visited George Bush and Bush kept referring to him as Steve. Clearly Bush is comfortable with Harper and sees this new government as representing a more mature relationship between our two countries. By mature I mean avoiding the Liberal's practice of American bashing because it sells well among the less educated, even if it does infuriate our largest trading partner.

Anyway, I'm surprised the MSM hasn't picked up on this and used this as a way to criticise Bush. They've reported just like it really is... a somewhat amusing story which doesn't detract from the real story which is improved relations with our neighbour.

Not one to miss an opportunity to sound shrill and mindlessly critical, Bill Graham (the Liberal's interm leader) had criticised Conservative plans to build some icebreakers and a deep water port in the Canadian arctic, in an effort to protect our sovereignty (from the Americans). But aren't these the same people who are criticising Harper for being too close to the Americans? Wait, I don't understand. It doesn't make sense. Oh wait, I do understand. Bill needs a quick sound bite for the MSM. He's hoping the voting public have forgotten Liberal corruption. But he's wrong.


I tend to mention Hannah on this blog when she's given us a particularly rough night. The fact is, most of the time, she's quite good. She wakes up once or twice a night and goes back to sleep easily. Perhaps once or twice a week she sleeps through the night. Last night she pulled the fussy routine when I was trying to get her down, so I closed her door and let her cry for about 2 minutes, and then she was quite happy to lay down. I keep a paperback book on the shelf beside her door so I can hold her door closed and do something interesting.

Hannah is quite affectionate but also a bit rough. I can't count the number of times she's banged her head into the side of my head, right where the arm of the glasses are behind my ear.

She's also talking quite a bit, putting together small sentences and probably has a vocabulary of a thousand words!

In short, she's adorable, and I love her, and I can't wait for her to start sleeping through the night every night!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


From: Crazy NK Dictator
To: Self

The next time we threaten the most powerful nation on earth with nuclear annihilation, make sure our missiles will actually fly without blowing up.

Make sure to threaten other nations before they have effective interceptors, not after they have developed 3 different types of interceptors.

Instruct embassies worldwide to obtain SV 74 glass for my next pair of spectacles.

Train up a child...

Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." I was trying to find some shirts for Joel in Zellers today. I was looking through the rack of shirts for 8 year old boys and found one that featured a boy bending over and lighting his gas on fire. The top of the shirt bore the title, "Atomic Rectum Tricks". Now Zellers wouldn't carry items like this if they didn't sell, and I couldn't help thinking about the people who are buying this type of clothing for their 8 year old boys and then wonder at age 16 why the child is so mixed up.

As a side matter, the cashier at Zellers asked me 5 times about their rewards program. Would you like to put this on your Zellers card? No, I'll use debit. Do you have a Zellers reward card? No. Would you like to put this on your Zellers card? Absolutely not. Do you have a Zellers reward card? No. Would you like to apply for a Zellers card and save 10% off today's purchase? No.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Trying to out-radical the radicals

Interesting article in the Globe and Mail:

On the other hand, my wife has assured me that she will not divorce me if I refuse an opportunity to go fight the infidels. But all bets are off if I keep snoring. 8-)

I guess I'm trying to square in my mind the Islamic radicalism we've seen here in Canada with the many Muslims I know who are very religious and who are very decent, friendly people. Perhaps it is just part of human nature... in any population there are those who have a tendency to be radical in their beliefs, and there are those with the same core beliefs who seek balance and moderation.

With respect to my own Christian beliefs, I try to be radical in my demands on myself, protective of my family, and tolerant of what I perceive to be the failings or weakness of others. I can't say I always succeed in this, but it is how I try to find a balance.