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Bible reading summary Sun, Dec 31, 2006
I'm done.  I finished reading the Bible in a year.  Similar to the halfway point, the second half went pretty well and I was able to stick to the plan.  Here are my thoughts and comments about this particular Bible-in-a-year system: 

The good
I got through the entire Bible, arguably one of the most significant books in the history of the world, and obviously integral to the world of Christianity. 
The daily schedule meant that I felt compelled to read every day, otherwise I'd get too far behind. 
It was better than last time, which had me reading from a different book each day, coming back to where I left off every 7 days. 
The bad
The daily reading was about 15-20 minutes, which isn't easy to do on a daily basis. 
The schedule got monotonous after a few months, and it quickly became a thing I did just to get it done. 
Reading via a set schedule missed the point of it:  To develop a closer relationship with God by learning more about him through his word. 
In the future
Chronological.  The books and events aren't organized in the order of occurrence, and there are reading guides and specific chronological Bibles that put everything in proper time order. 
Next up, I'm doing a nice simple little daily devotional.  I haven't decided what it'll be yet, but I know I need a break from the norm. 

Worth Fri, Dec 29, 2006
Similar to value, I've noticed that different objects that cost the same amount of money have different relative worth.  For example, I have a laptop that cost several hundred dollars.  It serves as one of my primary communication devices at home, plus it stores a bunch of information, files, and probably every picture I've every taken.  It's important to me, and I treat it like it's worth a lot of money.  But at the same time, I'd be willing to part with it.  I have my files backed up in several different places, and computer hardware generally becomes obsolete every few years.  At the same time, I own a similarly-priced guitar.  It's a beautiful piece of art.  Every note sounds like the earth was created for the sole purpose of hearing its sound.  It took a while to actually gain possession of it because the guitar store had to order it from a different store and then eventually ended up ordering a brand new one from the manufacturer.  Whether that plays a role or not, I wouldn't be willing to part with this guitar.  Its relative worth is much greater than that of the laptop.  It can't be easily replaced.  It won't become obsolete any time soon, let alone at all.  I treat it like it's worth more than it actually is. #money

Sproose Fri, Dec 29, 2006
Sproose is a "social search engine", meaning users can interact with search result rankings.  In other words, if you search for something and you find a good result, you can give it a ranking with 1-5 stars, and that result will move up in the search results.  There are also 3 "social" functions under each search result:  Discussion, tags, and bookmarking.  These functions help the user collect and organize links found in search results, and it lets other people chime in with their comments and suggestions.  In order to fully contribute to the site, you need to go to the Sproose home page and sign up with a username and password. 

This site is attempting to do what Wikipedia's new search engine, Wikiasari, is setting out to do:  Create a search engine edited and organized by humans instead of machines.  It's worked pretty well with Wikipedia, Digg, and other user-contributed websites, so maybe it'll work with a search engine too. 

This is a sponsored post. #technology

Subtle insults (1) Fri, Dec 29, 2006
In the course of defending controversial ideas and positions, I frequently come across an annoying little trend:  People disguise subtle insults as regular parts of a conversation.  Usually it goes something like this: 
Me:  I believe dragons existed thousands of years ago. 
Smart guy:  Any intelligent person can easily come to the conclusion that dragons are mythical creatures that could not have possibly ever existed. 
Or this: 
Me:  I believe the Bible is the infallibly inspired word of God. 
Smart guy:  Most logical people agree that infallibility is impossible.  Oh, and God doesn't exist. 
Or this: 
Me:  I think most people are too stupid to have an intelligent opinion about politics
Smart guy:  No reasonable person would ever say something like that. 
What's happening in each of these very real examples is more than just a rebuttal or a disagreement.  It's a personal attack.  I, as a fringe-dwelling Bible-believing anti-political luminary, am unintelligent, illogical, and unreasonable.  While at least 2 out of those 3 points might be true, I like to think I'm at least slightly intelligent.  But besides that, I think the attacks are misdirected.  If you're arguing about a topic, focus the criticism on the topic, not the person presenting the topic.  If you think dragons go hand in hand with stupidity, that's fine.  Just don't insult me for believing something you deem to be unintelligent. #psychology

Firefox 2.0 keyboard shortcuts Fri, Dec 29, 2006
I just upgraded to Firefox 2.0 yesterday (several months late) and I immediately noticed a problem:  Accesskeys and keyboard shortcuts don't work.  Sites like Gmail and Bloglines use keyboard shortcuts extensively, and even my site uses a few accesskeys to make life easier.  I searched and found an article that mentioned the problem, and it offered a simple solution:  Go to about:config, go to "ui.key.contentAccess" and change the value to "4".  Problem solved. 

Other than that, I have three thoughts about this new version: 
  1. The spell check feature is amazing.
  2. Websites look more like Internet Explorer's version now (I don't know if this is good or bad).
  3. The close button on each tab is an obvious feature that should've been there in the first place, so now I don't have to use the TabFX extension.

Responsibility Thu, Dec 28, 2006
Sometimes I want to get rid of all my responsibilities.  I don't mean the normal things like going to work and paying bills.  I mean the things I really don't like such as regularly recurring duties and being in charge of things.  Taking classes would definitely fit into the "things I don't like" category.  But more than that, it's little things like my responsibility to send an email to my Bible study group every week.  Every Tuesday, I send an email to let people know the plans for the week and if we have any upcoming events.  It's not a big deal.  But I really dislike doing it, mainly for the fact that it's a recurring responsibility; I can't forget to do it, otherwise I'll let people (mainly myself) down (for me, unreliability = failure).  This is definitely very closely related to my dislike of planning things because planning incurs responsibility; if I say I'll be there, I need to be there.  I can't be late, otherwise I'll be letting people (mainly myself) down.  This also applies to food/health:  I have a responsibility to live a long, healthy life, so I need to eat right and do some amount of exercise.  This is a responsibility.  It's not always easy.  Sometimes I just want to eat Cool Whip.  Only Cool Whip.  All the time.  God I love Cool Whip. 

The bad radio station I listen to did a bit where they brought some homeless people into their studio for some sort of competition.  They were talking to one of the guys about his living space (a cardboard box), and they were noticing that he was always pretty drunk.  The guy said he spends all his money on alcohol and cigarettes, and he's even been diagnosed with liver disease.  But the thing that struck me most about him was his level of satisfaction.  He gave up all responsibilities.  He stopped working.  He stopped paying bills.  He stopped calling people.  He stopped worrying about health.  All he does now, day in and day out, is live for himself.  And he's totally ok with that.  It's unfortunate he let his life become that way, and it's odd to see someone be so incredibly selfish.  But at the same time, he's got something I'd sometimes like:  No responsibilities. #psychology

Performancing (1) Thu, Dec 28, 2006
PayPerPost just bought Performancing.  I tried all of Performancing's products at one time or another, and I was never really impressed by any of them.  Their Firefox extension is a good idea in theory, but I never really had much success with it.  I tried Performancing Metrics when Google Analytics wasn't allowing any new users.  Metrics has a few good features and displays statistical data pretty nicely, but like any external web statistics program, it resides on a server other than my own, so it increases page loading time.  On a positive note, I liked it better than Google's product because it displayed statistics much more intuitively for me.  For some reason, Google Analytics is like trying to learn Chinese.  I tried Performancing Partners for a brief period during my AdSense trials, and I came to the same conclusion as with every other web advertising scheme:  Companies won't buy links on my site because my site is too small.  This means I don't make money with web advertising.  As for the Performancing website in general, I have one major complaint:  The main guy (Nick Wilson) is a horrible writer that needs to discover the magical art of spell check.  Words like "contraversy" can be pretty easily corrected by some artificial intelligence. 

And I guess that's what it all comes down to.  I keep hearing/seeing press about the things Performancing is doing, but I can't bring myself to respect a website, a company, or a person who can't spell. 

This is a sponsored post. #technology

American Idolatry Thu, Dec 28, 2006
I've watched American Idol a grand total of about 6 times, so the following opinion is based on frighteningly limited information and experience:  I think Taylor Hicks was a better singer before he won the competition.  Granted, the only episode I saw from the 2006 season was the one where he tried out.  So I didn't see any of the rest of the episodes where all the contestants got to compete against each other and perform on a big stage with a big band and everything.  So again, this is a very uninformed opinion.  But based on his performance and appearance towards the end of the show (from what I saw in commercials), they turned him into a George Clooney (or Matthew Perry) look-a-like pop star.  And compared to what he looked and acted like at the beginning, I don't think it was a good change.  Sure, he got his teeth whitened, he got a nice tan, and he bought a bunch of trendy clothes.  But essentially, that took away his uniqueness.  Originally, he was an oddly-speaking, gray-haired-but-young-looking, southern boy with an amazingly soulful voice that didn't sound like it was coming from his body.  The American Idol machine took that away from him and substituted the same old crap that comes out of every season of their show. #entertainment

Personal stats (2) Wed, Dec 27, 2006
My sister came up with a good idea and I expounded upon it a little:  Personal statistics in Christmas letters.  Most Christmas letters say some boring stuff like, "Blah blah we went to Branson, MO ... Little Timmy got a B in square dancing ... etc."  Instead, everything should be broken down into easily digestible statistics similar to sports on TV, where every athlete is described with numbers:  13/18 completions; 98 rushing yards; 13 sacks; etc.  But since most people don't have rushing yards and sacks, personal statistics could include: 
  1. Weight gained/lost
  2. Number of traffic tickets, arrests, convictions
  3. States/countries visited
  4. Number of miles driven
  5. Percentage of total income spent on food, coffee, alcohol
  6. Number of vacation days used/accumulated
  7. Percentage of time spent doing what you love/hate
These are just suggestions.  I would be happy reading any 5-10 important things in a person's life.  In my opinion, it's way better than a detailed commentary about a few big events.  It's like headline news:  Important information in short bursts. 

For the record, my personal statistics are:  5/5; 2/0/0; VA, FL, WA, CA, Bahamas; 20,000; 6%/0.1%/0.05%; 10/12; 70%/30%. #psychology

Don't care anymore Wed, Dec 20, 2006
I would say that about 98% of the classes I've taken in the course of my life have ended with this statement:  "I just don't care anymore."  And that annoys me.  I've always put a lot of time and effort into schoolwork, and my grades have usually reflected that [1].  So when it's the end of the semester and I'm studying hard or working on a final, it's such a letdown to admit to myself that I just don't care anymore.  The truth is, I usually do care.  In fact, I can't think of a time when I literally didn't care.  Grades have always been one of my top priorities, so it's impossible to say I don't care at least a little.  And no matter how much I try to tell myself I won't let it happen, I almost always end up getting to the point where I've put as much mental anguish and emotional stress into a particular project, homework, or test as I possibly can, so there's really nothing else I can do but throw in the towel and let the chips fall where they may. 

There's another interesting thing that happens at around the same time:  The crash landing.  I used to take easy calculus and physics classes that caused me a little stress every now and then, but for the most part, were very doable.  But these graduate engineering classes are killing me.  They're crushing my soul.  They're liquefying my brain.  They're burning my eyes out of their sockets.  And I've noticed that with pretty much every homework assignment, every test, every midterm, every project, and every final, I always reach a point where I honestly can't possibly do anything more or better than what I've already done, and even though I know it's completely wrong and there's no possible way it could be right, I just write down everything I know, show some equations and calculations, and hand it in.  It's a crash landing.  Even if I read every engineering book on the entire planet and went to lectures until my head imploded, I still wouldn't be able to correctly solve the problem.  The knowledge just isn't there, and it certainly won't be there if I continue trying.  And since I know the answer will be wrong, I do my best to make it look like I know what I'm doing, and I prepare for failure. 

[1] As a Christian, I can't take all the credit.  God gave me a brain and the ability to use it. #education

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