Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Love vs Hate, Committment and Duty

Lots of thoughts running through my head lately...

I was in a Bible study the other day when a friend asked for a definition of love and hate. I said that love is letting people do whatever they want to do, while hate is telling people there is a standard that all of us must uphold. Of course my definition was "tongue in cheek" but practically speaking it matches the working definition many people use.

Commitment. It's a word most of us don't like. Sure, we're willing to help. Let me know what you need help with and I'll see if I can make it. But don't ask me to make a regular commitment to anything. And if there is something I need to sign up for in order to participate, I'll hold my options open to the last minute (and then some). But does anything worthwhile happen without commitment?

Duty is another word most of us don't like or don't understand. The Press publishes frequent stories about someone who is being heroic. But I often wonder if it really is heroic, or whether a person is simply doing their duty. If a child is in danger, you protect them. If a criminal is on a rampage, you stop him. If a building is on fire, you try to save the victims. In most cases, this isn't heroism, but rather simple duty. It is what is expected of us because of our common humanity and it is expected of us by reason of our citizenship. Heroism is going beyond the call of duty, but most of us set a pretty low bar for what constitutes duty and thus what constitutes heroism. In all of these cases, the actions are virtuous, but the bar for what is expected for a citizen to simply be doing his duty should be much higher. But what can we expect in a country where most people think of citizenship as the equivalent of a permanent work visa?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Bad Precedent?

The Conservatives have allowed the Senate to vote on a Bill mandating Canada implement the Kyoto Accord (i.e. they won't hold it up) and in turn the Liberals (who control the Senate) have passed the Budget. Doesn't this set a bad precedent? A Liberal private member's bill that will require spending (and thus is unconstitutional) will be passed and the Liberals will not hold up the passing of the Budget (which constitutionally they cannot do). Bad, bad, bad. What on earth is going on?


Last Thursday we had a summer outing at work, and for the first time I went golfing. We went to Marchwood, which is a 9 hole course adjacent to The Marshes (which is one of the nicest courses in this part of the country). My overall impression? It was OK. I accept that some people are very interested in golf, but I could never get into it the same as many others. On the other hand, it was a nice outing with the team, and I enjoyed the discussion and fun.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And they wonder why...

A Seattle newspaper is carrying this story about an Episcopal priest who also considers herself a Muslim. She denies the Deity of Christ and denies the Trinity but still believes in the resurrection (which is a bit of a problem for the Muslim side of her beliefs). Her bishop says he's excited about the inter-faith possibilities. And the ECUSA wonders why the Anglican churches of Africa, Asia and South America are in the process of divorcing them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fatherhood Reflections

It’s Fathers Day, and I’ve just finished reading “Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single Income Family” by Steven Maxwell. So, it might be time for a few fatherhood reflections.

I’ve been blessed by having a Dad who has been a great role model. He’s even tempered, patient, diligent about providing for the family and hardworking around the house. I’m thankful for my Dad and all he has taught me over the years. Now, as an adult, I’m aware that not every man had a Dad like mine to guide and shape me as I grew up.

But of course I now have a son of my own, to guide and shape. Part of that is in giving him a variety of experiences. But a bigger part of guiding and shaping him is in how I present myself as a role model. So for example, if he sees me being lazy, he will grow up thinking that work is something to be avoided. But on the other hand, if he sees a good attitude in his Dad, as well as a balanced approach to all the types of work I must do, then he’ll see something worth emulating in his own life.

I haven’t always been diligent about working around the house. Yes, I work very hard in my job. And I work very hard in the Christian ministries activities I’m involved in. And I do spend a lot of time with my family. But when it comes to the house I haven’t been the best role model. This weekend I’ve tried to work on that. I mowed the lawn, cleaned the garage (with Hannah in tow), cleaned up the cars, repaired the hole in the side of my van’s door, cleaned my desk and painted the children’s swing set. Yes, I still had time for other activities, including some entertainment. But I feel I did a more credible job around the house, much as my own Dad did for me.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the weakness of our society that we have a low view of work. Many of us view adulthood as a sort of super-childhood. At last we have the income to indulge our interests and pursue entertainment. We see it as our right, and we get grumpy if anything gets in the way between us and our interests. We work for 8 hours each workday and the rest of our time is our own. But of course when a man has this attitude it will bring his family to ruin. It will bring his family to ruin even in a strictly secular sense, but from a Christian viewpoint it’s even worse. From a Christian viewpoint all our time belongs to God. That’s not to say we don’t have legitimate amusements and times of laughter and play. But life is about much more than play, and a mature outlook on life invests our work with deep significance. I must be diligent about my work because that is what a man does. A child looks for infinite opportunities to play; a man takes satisfaction in his work.

Friday, June 15, 2007

More of the mundane

We had a new freezer delivered today. The old one was working fine, and in fact was likely to keep working fine forever. It was built back in the days when refrigeration units were designed to work forever and USED A MILLION KILOWATTS OF ELECTRICITY. The new one should pay for itself within 2 years.

Almost every light in our house is now using a compact fluorescent, and we have flat panel displays on our computers. We're also keeping the AC a little higher than we did last year. Good for the environment and good for my wallet.

C.S. Lewis

We had the first meeting of a C.S. Lewis Discussion Group last night. Five of us met over cake and tarts, coffee and tea, to discuss the first book of Mere Christianity. The discussion was really good, and we are looking forward to the next meeting in a couple of months.

Posted in the wrong place

I was wondering why a couple of my messages didn't appear, but it turns out I posted them to the wrong blog. So, here they are...

OK, I understand now...

OK, I understand now. The current civil war in Gaza is Israel's fault. They pulled out of Gaza, ended their occupation of that land, handed it to the Palestinians... and so the civil war is their fault. Now I understand. I thought the civil war was the fault of the guys chanting "death to the Jews", you know, the ones who are shooting their fellow Palestinians execution-style in the head. But I guess I was wrong.

Of course the Palestinian situation is one of the great on-going tragedies of the world. They are used by those who claim to be their friends, sitting next to an enemy with a vastly superior military force, and they are so politically fractured nobody can negotiate with them to help make things better. I wish it was different, but I can't see it happening until they have some political unity.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's been a long time

It's been a long time. Once it was a frequent occurrence. Perhaps a bit of a bother but like the rest of us secretly I enjoyed it. It was flattering. You'd go to your friends with a knowing smile and say, "It happened again. I just wish they'd stop calling." But then the hi-tech bubble burst, the recruiters did stop calling, and most of my friends were out of work.

But today I got a call left for me on my voicemail. "Mr Abigail, we're looking for a senior manager for an engineering group for an exciting company in town." Frankly she didn't sound all that excited about it (maybe she was dialing everyone in our company?), but it's been a long time since I got one of these calls. I have a job, so I'll return the call and say "no thanks." I know the boom times haven't returned, but it was kind of nice to get one of these calls again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hannah Speaks, the World Listens

Today I was building a church... out of Lego with the children. Hannah asked what I was making. When I told her it was a church, she said, "So we can listen to God?" Pretty smart considering she just turned 3. At least she didn't correct me. Technically we were building a chapel. The church sits inside the chapel.

However not all Hannah's statements are as spiritual. Yesterday in the van I heard the following:

Hannah: I have wax in my ears!
Bethany: Would you stop talking about it!
Hannah: My wax likes you.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Vacation - Summer 2007

We're back safe and sound from our mini-vacation. Karen said I never do anything spontaneous, so I decided to spring a vacation on her. On Wednesday morning we left for Toronto. The trip was uneventful, although traveling with a 3 year old has its challenges. In truth she was a lot better than the last car trip we took, but then again it's pretty easy to improve on screaming for 6 hours non-stop.

We stayed at the Residence Inn in Vaughan. Only 5 minutes from Canada's Wonderland, this hotel opened about 6 weeks before. Everything was really nice. We had a room with a full kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Really nice when you have kids. The sound proofing in the rooms was really good, and there were 3 large flat panel TV's. In the evenings there was a small snack (we had some lasagna the first night, and brought along some tortellini for the second night). In the mornings was a full buffet.

Now for some notes directed to the hospitality industry. IMHO, most places should manage to give you a clean room and not mess up your reservations. That's a given. If a hotel can't do these things right, they should give up and try some other type of business. But it's in the little things that a good hotel really excels, and the Residence Inn is a good hotel. It's in the little things. A pillow-top mattress. Popcorn for the microwave. Downstairs, 24 hours a day, coffee, four kinds of tea (with slices of lemon), hot chocolate and fresh fruit. The Manager actually wore a suit (sounds small, but it tells me he places his professional responsibility above his personal comfort). And only once did I hear my personal pet peeve, one of the staff telling me “No problem” instead of “Thank you.” (I know it's no problem. In fact, it's your job.)

This was my first trip to Canada's Wonderland. The park itself was nice and clean, and since we went in the early spring season, the crowds weren't too bad. I can't imagine going there in the middle of the summer with 10,000 more people in the park, long lines and 32 degree heat! The kids had a good time. There were lots of rides for them to go on. I took Hannah on “Swan Lake” which seemed to be her favourite. Karen went on a couple of roller coasters, but not the horrible ones like Top Gun. But the surprise was Bethany and Joel, both of whom went on a roller coaster and really enjoyed it! The look on their faces was amazing; worth the price of the whole trip (almost).

The downside of the park was paying over $50 for lunch. Karen and I had roast chicken and the kids shared some pizza. The chicken was fine, and came with a cob of corn (somewhat original for fast food), but I wonder where they found such small chickens. The portion was half the size of Swiss Chalet, but it cost 50% more. When on vacation, I don't worry too much about how much I'm getting soaked for food, but I do expect decent portions of good food for my money.

Before our trip home I bought a portable DVD player for the car. This worked out well, until Hannah woke up in a snit. Then she started kicking it. But it still works and for a while Karen rode beside Hannah. All told, the trip went well. No motion sickness. No unexpected surprises. And a good and memorable experience.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Software Development

Regular readers of this blog will know that I comment a great deal on religion, politics, society and our culture. But of course there are interests that I have that you might not know a lot about. For example, I've worked for the last 14 years in the field of software development. And the fact is I'm very passionate about doing software development right. That doesn't mean I'm a starry eyed idealist. I understand what it is to produce software for revenue according to a schedule. But I'm very interested in the tools, development processes and best practices that take an ad hoc group of programmers and turn them into a smoothly functioning software development organization. One of my professional joys was taking a team of very talented individuals who were drowning and over the course of the year turning them into a team who could be counted on to deliver.

One of my interests is static code analysis. I'm not a fanatic. This is just one tool in our tool box. But in my experience it is a tool that is usually ignored. I was interested to learn that Bell Labs has developed their own static code analysis tool. I was interested because Bell Labs is part of Lucent and Lucent is part of Alcatel-Lucent, the company I work for. You can learn more about our tool at the VeriSoft web site. If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

University Courses We'd Like to See

Here's a list of university courses we'd like to see:

ECON 1001 - Capitalism as the Foundation of Economic Prosperity
Students will learn the basics of the capitalist economic system, and see how it provides a superior foundation for economic prosperity to all other economic systems. The dangers of political intervention will be explored, with a particular focus on the failure of the French economy to generate employment for its citizens.
Mandatory for First Year Economics Students. Recommended for all First Year Students.

POLY-SCI 1212 - Socialism as a Failed Political Experiment
An examination of the philosophy and reality of socialism. The detrimental effects of socialism in Europe will be explored, together with the addictive effects of social programs. Note: students will be required to read all 3 volumes of The Gulag Archipelago.
Mandatory for First Year Political Science Students.

POLY-SCI 2002 - Natural Law vs Constitutionalism
The limits of a constitutional system of government will be seen. Original readings from the American Founding Fathers will demonstrate that they understood their Constitution as only being practical for a people who possessed a consciousness towards God.

HIST 3400 - Canadian Liberty Under the British North America Act
Those born starting in the 1970's may think liberty is based on the signing of the 1982 Constitution. This course will demonstrate that liberty existed in Canada under the BNA Act. An examination of the 10 worst constitutional decisions since 1982 will be made.

SOC 2020 - Gender Differences and Why They Matter
Gender differences exist for biological, neurological and even sociological reasons. This course will consider the legitimate differences between genders. Political Science majors may do independent study on the abuses that have occurred because of political correctness. Women's Studies majors may make an independent study to help them understand their role in society given the significant differences between the genders.

SOC 2030 - How to Solve Demographic Problems
The Western world faces a major demographic disaster. After understanding the reasons for this problem, students will be encouraged to understand that the whole disaster can be solved by each couple having one additional child, regardless of whether the government financially compensates them for it.

MATH 3230 - Abuse of Statistics by the Media and the Left
Both the media and the political left will abuse statistics, and math students need to be aware of how the abuse will occur and how to respond. Use of the courts and blogs to establish the truth will be covered in a practical manner.

JOUR 3135 - Christianity for Journalists
Compared to the population as a whole, journalists are significantly less likely to attend a church or know someone who is "born again". To help journalists make less obvious mistakes when covering religious issues, this course is mandatory. At the end of the course students will have the opportunity to attend a Billy Graham Crusade.

POLY-SCI 2200 - Fear and Repression: A Century of Communist Thought
A holistic consideration of 100 years of communist thought. Original readings from those who were forced to live under communism. Che Guevara's failure to start a revolution in Bolivia will be examined in detail, from his start as a young revolutionary to his execution by American Rangers after being betrayed by the People.

POLY-SCI 2300 - The Just War
From a philosophical and religious viewpoint, this course will examine the concept of a Just War. Required reading includes the Diary of Anne Frank.
Note: Law students can take this course for credit as LAW 2300.

BIOL 3365 - Life in the First Nine Months
An in-depth look at the biology of life from the moment of conception. From the moment of conception when all genetic individuality is established to the moment of birth, the implications of life will be considered.

POLY-SCI 3445 - Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul 2: Freedom for Eastern Europe
The policies of Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul 2 led to the freedom of eastern Europe of the repression of communism. The courageous and visionary decisions that led to freedom will be considered in detail.

HIST 3135 - Rule Britannia: the Positive Legacy of British Colonialism
British colonies enjoyed free trade, stability and an influx of investment capital. The ongoing beneficial effects of British colonialism will be considered in comparison to the other colonial powers.