Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

First Post-Christmas Meal?

Time to let somebody else do the dishes...
By the time Christmas is over and the tryptophan coma has worn off, people tend to come staggering out of their homes in order to shop, return presents, go to a movie or simply to see other people besides their relatives. As a service to America's curious minds, I've got a little survey hear to see where people go after Christmas to chase the taste of pumpkin, cranberry sauce and stuffing from their palate.

This year, Miss Sheila and I went Chinese, because there was a food court near the theater. Her birthday is the day after Christmas and it's a little soon for cake, so that's her birthday dinner. We thought about Olive Garden, but that place is getting more expensive by the day and for the past 8 years it's been an Obama Christmas, gradually turning into the Grinchy Christmas the Who's down in Whoville had. And we did enjoy the carols 'round the tree because we're just that sort of stubborn folk. And "Hacksaw Ridge" was kind of an antidote to all the Christmas movies we watched.

So what did you guys do for the big crawl-out-from-under-the-wrapping-paper trip to eat out because you couldn't handle another turkey sandwich?  This survey will take perhaps 30 seconds and greatly add to our store of useless human knowledge. I will post the results as they become available.

Posterity thanks you....

* Based on a ridiculously small sample it turns out that 31.2% content themselves with Christmas Dinner leftovers, 31.2% go for Mexican as a holiday food chaser with 6.25% each for Italian, Chinese and steak houses.

Create your own user feedback survey
© 2016 by Tom King

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blood on the Chimes - A Christmas Story

Sheila's Christmas Clock Repair Job

We have this beautiful Howard Miller Mantle Clock that stopped working several years ago. Clock repair guys are expensive, but unsticking the mainspring was an intimidating job. Christmas was tight this year so I decided to fix the clock for Sheila's Christmas present. I researched it online and found more information than there was last time I tried to fix it. Before the web pages I found all said, "Don't do it yourself. The mainspring can get loose and break your finger!" I took it apart and spent an hour contemplating the innards of the thing. Apparently it should be oiled every 2 years. It had been about 14 years, so I was overdue. 

Carefully, I inserted the winding key, held it tight and flipped the safety ratchet. Not so bad so far. I let it down a couple of notches and let the ratchet catch. So I let it down a couple more. So far so good. Then about the third round my ADD kicked in, I got impatient and dropped it a couple of extra notches in one go. There was a loud "brrrrrrrpt" noise and suddenly the mainspring was unwound. My index finger was bleeding in four places and I lost a piece of my thumbnail when the winding key went freewheeling.

So far so good. No kidding. I really did say that. As someone who always manages to shed blood to the gods of mechanical repair every time he fixes something, I expect that sort of thing to happen. At least I still had a finger, however swollen it might be and we still do have some band-aids in the medicine cabinet, so, okay. I figured I might just whip this thing after all. Learned about oiling clocks and what oil not to use (which is, of course, the only kind of oil I had).

But I managed to get the thing back together and reinstalled one of the gears and tried it out. The chimes only rang half the sequence each time, so I had to rotate the minute hand in 15 minute increments and let the chimes ring. Then I adjusted the gear that turned the shaft that operated the chime hammers till I finally got it where it would play the whole chime and ring the hours. It took about 6 hours total. The chimes aren't entirely consistent and I don't know why, but it will chime most of the time and as the oil seeps into the pivots it ought to get better. Not sure where the problem is, but hey. I'll take another run at it after I buy a clock oiling and cleaning kit and do it right.
For now it chimes. I have to jiggle the chime selector every third or fourth circuit of the clockface, but for Christmas I figure I can manage it. Sheila really likes the chimes.

So Merry Christmas. The bread has cooled and is ready to be bagged and put away. Got to go. Have a lovely holiday.

© 2016 by Tom King

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What Charity Really Means

Language changes over time. When you look up the word "charity" you get definitions like aid, welfare, relief, handouts, largess, alms, philanthropy, nonprofit organization and money given to those in need. Sadly we've lost probably the most important meaning of the world. It's listed under "archaic".  It means love of humankind, typically in a Christian context as in this usage from the King James Bible (I Corinthians 13)

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. "

Newer translations of the Bible substitute the word "love" for charity. Unfortunately, the old meaning should have stuck with us instead of morphing into something that means something shameful as in "We don't need no charity!"

That's sad. If you go by the archaic meaning of the word, you're basically saying, "We don't need no love!"  People give so-called "charity" for a couple of reasons. One group does give charity in order to feel less guilt and may, in fact, look down on those who accept it. But that group is terribly small. I worked for 40 years in the nonprofit sector raising money for and managing charities that helped pre-schoolers, students, abused and mentally ill children, people with disabilities, seniors, and low-income families. Nine out of ten of those working with me in those "charities" did so because they absolutely loved helping people. Their work was their joy and the people they helped, they loved.

After all that, God then taught me to be on the other end of all that love. I cannot tell you all of the people who have helped us pass through the some really rough patches. When it felt like the forces of evil were arrayed against us, there were suddenly angels when we needed them. Thank you to all of our friends who do angel work on the side and have blessed us.

Learning to accept the love of others is sometimes hard. Our pride so often stands in the way. We want to be self-sufficient. We think we don't need no charity.

But we do. If we are unable to accept gifts given in love, can we truly be the complete and loving people God wants us to be. Christmas is a great time to teach our kids about the joy of giving in love as well as accepting what is lovingly given. 

© 2016 by Tom King

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Traditions Have To Start Somewhere

It looks better at night...

Traditions don't seem to last long in my life. About as soon as one is established, something massively traumatic happens to disrupt it. First it was my brother shot to death the day after Christmas that put a damper on the holidays for several years. Ironically, the night before he died we'd talked about continuing some family traditions with our own families when we grew up. Next it was Christmases with my Grandparents after family members asked me not to visit her anymore because it upset the old woman too much. I look a lot like my Dad and he was murdered by my stepmom a few years before and she had a stroke or something and got it into her head that my wife was Dad's wife. Anyway - no more King family holidays after that. It would have been difficult given that my beloved grandmother threatened to stab my beloved wife in the heart if she ever came to her house again.

Then we moved to East Texas on a wing and a prayer after the place I worked was closed down by the state for something we didn't do. We'd been holding Christmas celebrations at our house there in my hometown of Keene, Texas. Everybody came - my mom and stepdad and assorted brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews on both side. When we left Keene, we lost our ability to do that. So, we restored a run down old house and gathered our mostly grown kids around and started a new set of traditions, building upon some of the old ones. We began making a new Christmas ornament every year that memorialized some important thing that happened that year.

They were very nice Christmases for many years after that. Then my son, Micah died and the joy felt like it was sucked out of Christmas. My wife became disabled and life became "interesting" as the Chinese put it when they want to curse someone. But we did our best to bounce back after that first Christmas without Micah. And we did.

So now we're virtual shut-ins and our eldest son is in a very bad situation, his mother grieves for him and for our lost boy. We have no family around anymore and to tell you the truth we didn't even have a Christmas tree anymore. I hung some lights on the porch so the neighbors wouldn't think we were Jehovah's Witnesses or something, but it wasn't much. I bought us a new TV one year, but most years were kind of thin.

Christmas stuff stayed boxed up for a few years. It came out briefly until illness and financial disaster led to another drastic move, leaving our kids far behind. The situation with the family members we moved to help didn't last for long and we found ourselves literally homeless just before Christmas. Meanwhile, my son back in Texas rolled my truck into a house destroying both and taking our Christmas decoration collection with it. We lost all our tangible Christmas memories in that accident and were not able to recover them.

This was just before Christmas 2012 after we became no longer
homeless people and were rescued by two wonderful Christians - the Havrillas

A year after we moved into the carriage house (above), we decided to exorcise the humbug spirit from the place and to begin working up some new traditions of our own - just the two of us. God seems to have the same idea. Some friends from the local church we can't attend because we can't afford to keep a car, have two precious little ones that call us Grammy and Poppy. They come to visit us and give me rides to town to the pharmacy and Walmart. We've adopted their babies as it seems unlikely our own kids are going to reproduce significantly. We have a grandson that doesn't bear our name and whom we've never seen before and our youngest seems determined to not have kids of her own. She already has a houseful of everybody else's kids, so I suppose that's enough. We're very proud of her and her husband's work with young people.

Last Christmas, determined to reestablish some sort of Christmas tradition for us, I bought a little tabletop Christmas tree and some ornaments at Walmart - just the right size to set on top of my desk (see above photo). Last year, my adopted granddaughter, Eliana (I call her Jellybean) went shopping for the tree with me and helped me pick out the decorations. When we got home, she helped me decorate the tree and we set it up on top of the desk in a place of honor. I did not know I was establishing a new tradition.

This year I had delayed putting up the tree for some reason. I still miss Daisy, who sympathized with me on Christmas. It could have been the Christmas cookies, but I like to think Daisy had some empathy going there. Whatever the reason, the time never seemed just right for putting up the tree. Sometimes I think angels whisper in our ears, for one afternoon I felt a strong impulse that I should put up the tree. So I climbed down the stairs of our garage apartment to the garage below and fetched up the tree and the box o' decorations. I'd just laid them out on the kitchen table preparing to trim our little tree when I heard footsteps on the stairs.

It was our friend April and with her she brought Jellybean and her little brother Liam who has just gotten his sea legs under him. Jellybean saw the little Christmas tree on the table when she walked through the door. She made a beeline for a chair and climbed up to help. So for the second year in a row, me and Jellybean trimmed our tree. I kept misting up (I'm a big old tub of mush about stuff like that), but we finally got the decorations properly placed and set the tree on top of my desk.

It's not a big new Christmas tradition, but I will take it. Thank you God for reminding me that traditions have to start somewhere and kids are the best allies when you want to start one. So, merry Christmas to all (even if you don't like Christmas). Christmas is after all a celebration of the hope that came to humankind one cold night in Bethlehem long ago. And God bless us everyone, as a fictional but believably irrepressible Christmas child once said, and, to quote an actual angel, "Peace on Earth good will to all men," (and not just to the ones who voted the way you thought they should in November).

Just thought I should throw that in for those who are still in mourning this Christmas season.

"So, Ho, ho, ho! And Merry Christmas!"  As for the New Year, we'll wait and see how well my beard grows back out. In the meantime, it's still the season of hope.

© 2016 by Tom King

Friday, December 16, 2016


IT WORKS! Our Maytag dryer began to scream at Sheila when she turned it on. I pulled her apart (the dryer, not the wife) and found a jammed dryer belt tension roller. Apparently they pick up bits of dust, lint, oil and some unidentified sticky substance over time and the roller has to be cleaned or replaced. I pulled the sticky roller off the shaft, cleaned the inside of the roller with a Q-tip and quick spritz of WD-40 (God bless NASA for that stuff) and then washed the outside of the shaft and rubbedf oil on it. 

Then I pushed the roller back down onto the shaft. It rotates nice and smoothly now and the dryer no longer screams when you turn it on. (I'm sorry, all you 15 year old males - you may now go take a cold shower). I only had to consult Youtube a couple of times on how to remove the top, and open up the front to get the belt off (seriously guys, go take a cold shower).

You learn a lot about home appliance repair when all your life you pray before you decide what jobs to take. I'm not saying God doesn't pay well, but I think when they talk about God giving you abundance, perhaps it may be an abundance of skills that he gives you in some cases, or maybe an abundance of children or an abundance of work to do. I'm pretty sure He wasn't strictly talking about an abundance of cash necessarily.

Hey, I can fix dryers and sometimes washers if nothing complex is going on. It's a skill that comes in handy a lot and saves a lot of money. It's a skill I learned because God chose not to make me rich.

Thanks, God. I'll take it!

 © 2016 by Tom King

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Vaya Con Dios, Sam Miller

Samuel Marvin Miller
my mentor as I remember him
An old friend and mentor is retiring from the ministry. A pastor friend from my Lone Star Camp staff days told me this morning that Sam Miller was hanging up his gigantic flashlight and riding off into the sunset. I am certain he will be missed.

I haven't seen Sam in a very long time. His wife Carol is a Facebook friend so I know a little bit about what they've been up to. There is an assortment of very fortunate kids and grandkids these two have produced and Sam's popped up in all sorts of places in the West and Southwest in photographs with that easy, lop-sided grin on his face that I remember from when he was my camp director.  I'd been a camper at Lone Star Camp, deep in the piney woods of East Texas for several years during the 60s under Elder Burns, a legendary director, who trained Sam and others and taught a generation of Texas Adventist kids how to refrain from drowning themselves while playing near the lake. So long as one of Elder Burns' waterfront staff remained on the job, we never had so much as a single opportunity to resuscitate a camper. We had a few sneak off and scare us so that we dragged the swimming area, but no one drowned during camp.

In 1971, I became a baptized Adventist and my best friend, Mark Miller, Sam's little brother, helped me get a job at Lone Star. It was late in the season so none of the scholarship positions were left. So, I worked that summer for $10 a week as a trash hauler, wood chopper, hole digger and bathroom scrubber. Sam Miller was our camp director for the summer. He was still in college and just married. Elder Kilgore, the conference youth director was out at camp with his family off and on shuttling between camp and the conference office. Sam had the day to day management and he'd learned his craft well under Elder Burns.

I learned a lot watching Sam's leadership techniques. Years later as a youth leader, I borrowed his style when working with kids. Camp staff were mostly young single people and we operated in a hormone-charged atmosphere. Sam recognized the inevitability of youthful romance and also the dangers. We'd all gather down at the boat dock of an evening to play guitar and smooch in various corners of the dock. About eleven or so, we'd here footsteps on the stairs leading up to the dock. Now Sam didn't always make sounds coming up the stairs. He could sneak up on you like a panther on a rabbit if he wanted to. The footsteps were a warning. Then, Sam's lanky figure would stroll out onto the dock and pause for a moment, looking up at the golden summer moon. The "long moment" gave staff members, coupled up on the dock, time to disentangle de-osculate and get their hands out where he could see them. Then you'd hear a click and it would suddenly become daylignt.

Sam carried around a flashlight that looked like a car headlight attached to the top of a car battery. It turned night into day. The dock would empty like roaches skittering out of the kitchen when you turn the light on at night. Some more enterprising couples moved to other places around the camp to do their canoodling, but they reckoned without the fact that Sam had been a young staffer too and had a thoroughgoing knowledge of where all the best canoodling spots around camp were. Couples would be out on the swimming dock or one of the diving towers or drifting along in a canoe and all of a sudden the night would be turn to day and Sam would be standing there looking up at the moon.

"Time to go in," he'd say in his slow laconic Texas drawl. And that was it. No chewing people out. No recriminations. No discussion of the danger your behavior posed to your soul. Just, "Time to go..." And there were no serious indiscretions that I know of. Sam's little brother and I did get in trouble a couple of times for running around camp at all hours of the night, but Sam just told us to basically cut it out and we sorta did. We at least managed to go places where he didn't have to worry about our hormones getting us into too much trouble. He slowed us down a little and we managed not to damage ourselves or violate any of the local native women.

My first couple of years on staff, I watched how Sam managed groups of kids and staff in his laid back style. I took my first life-saving class with Sam, where we swam laps carrying heavy objects (and once while filled with hornet poison, but that's another story). I was one of those people with significant negative buoyancy (I sink), so Sam used me as a practice dummy because you had to really swim hard to keep afloat while dragging me by the hair.  Ah, good time!

The big thing I learned from Sam was to keep a sense of humor.  Sam always seemed to get the joke that the rest of us had failed to detect. He once wrote me a letter of recommendation that read in part, "Tom marches to the beat of a different drummer."  What a lovely way of saying I was kind of a weird kid. I almost took offense. You know how serious a 19 year old can get about himself. But then I decided Sam was right and embraced my weirditude and it seemed to work for me. I'm still a little weird, but, thanks to Sam, I get the joke and I quit taking things so seriously a long time ago.

I learned these lessons from Sam:
  1. Never take youthful angst too seriously and don't let them suck you into it.
  2. Discipline gently. A soft word works better than a hard stick.
  3. Respect the people who work for you and the kids you work with.
  4. Give kids time to obey. They want to make you happy, they just have that initial instinctive resistance to overcome and if you give them time, they'll come around.
  5. Don't push too hard. Managing kids is like trying to roll a giant blob of Jello around. If you push to hard in one spot, the whole thing will come apart.
  6. Let 'em know you are coming. It preserves the illusion for them that they actually have the ability to govern themselves.
  7. Issue no empty praise. Don't praise the person, praise the deed. Don't say "You are a great canoer!" It doesn't help them learn. Instead say, "Your J-stroke is coming along nicely. I can see how straight the canoe tracks for you now. Very good!"
  8. The best way to get a kid to cooperate with you is to tell them what they are doing that pleases you and then stand back and give them time to do it.
  9. Carry the tools you need with you. Don't use a hatchet when an ax is called for.
  10. If you're going to carry a flashlight, make it a humongous one, but don't turn it on till absolutely necessary. Too much light can damage your night vision.

So, vaya con Dios, my old teacher. I do believe you managed to achieve the goal of every follower of Christ throughout history. You made the world a better place for your having passed through it.

© 2016 by Tom King

Friday, December 09, 2016

Answer to Prayers?

There's a signpost up ahead.

A friend asked, "What was the most remarkable answer to a prayer you've prayed?" I was stumped. There are so many remarkable answers to prayers I've seen I can't really choose. God has answered long nagging prayers, formal prayers, walking prayers, thought prayers and one word cries for help. One of the most memorable ones happened when my wife and I were running an intergenerational day care center in Tyler, Texas.

We'd been working hard that autumn to get the budget under control and to handle some personnel issues we had going at the time. There were three individuals in particular who were giving us a hard time in particular. We'd gotten the budget under control, but in doing so we took a little of the authority away from the folks who had gotten us into trouble in the first place. I'd gotten a grant to cover my own salary so the center wouldn't be on the hook for that. We revised the accounting system with another grant that gave us a consulting CPA. We were on our way to having a healthy cash reserve in order to move the center from the church facility we were then occupying into a new facility we were planning to build or purchase. 

The church was unhappy with us. They were worried about a recent incident at another church center and feared we could be sued if something like that happened with us.  Secondly, they had been carrying the financial overages for the center and couldn't why the books looked good but the center was unable to contribute rent to the church. Finally, one of the staff, a church member was sowing discontent in the congregation because she'd not been given the executive director job and I had.

In the middle of all of this, Sheila and I decided one Saturday afternoon in April to drive out to Caddo Lake where our daughter and son-in-law and my son were camping with friends. On the way, we drove past the day care center and saw three cars in the parking lot. It was our three disgruntled employees.

We though, "Oh, oh, this can't be good." I dropped by and sure enough the two department heads and the bookkeeper where huddled in the office. When we came through the door you never saw a guiltier looking bunch. When I asked them what they were up to, they all looked guilty and made vague excuses for being there. Sheila and I left after a few minutes and headed off across country for the lake. 

As we drove, we talked about the problem. Staff loyalties were divided and trouble was a-comin' to be sure and we both knew it. After an hour of talking about possible solutions, we couldn't find one. Firing the bunch would alienate the church because one of them was a member. The staff, meanwhile not realizing what was going on, would find it arbitrary and there were 26 women working there and me the only male. Just so you know, the alpha dog thing doesn't work among groups of humans. When you have 26 female employees, you're just outnumbered and there's nothing you can do about it. 

So we took it to God. I drove and Sheila prayed because I'm better at the one and she's better at the other. In God's work you learn to stick to the talents he's given you.  After we prayed, we drove along quietly for a time. Finally, my wife turned and asked, "You got anything yet?"

I shrugged. " The only thing that comes to my mind is, 'Be still and know that I am God.'"

"That's funny," Sheila answered. "I had that same thought. I prayed all night about that and that's what I kept getting over and over all night long."

"It's going to be tough to do basically nothing," I shook my head.

We drove on along this tiny two-lane backwoods East Texas road for a few more minutes in silence, me thinking, this is one problem that's going to take some action. If I didn't get ahead of this little revolt, the whole thing could come apart. 

Then suddenly my eyes were drawn to a pretty little white country church along the road up ahead. It had one of those message board signs out front and I kept my eyes on it as the words became readable. In big black letters it said, "Be still and know that I am God."

I did a double-take. "Did you see that?" I asked incredulously. Sheila turned and looked hard at me, then quietly nodded.

"I think we've had as clear an answer as we're going to get," she laughed.

You're always a little quiet when God has spoken to you that clearly. We drove on to the lake and had a lovely day with the kids. On the way back, we thanked God for his answer. Monday, we went back to work and did what we should have done, just like any normal day. Our three revolutionaries didn't say much for the next few days until it became obvious that the wrath of Tom was not going to fall upon them.

Sheila and I remained still and let things work out. Within three months, the childcare director was offered a better paying job, the bookkeeper quit without warning and the titular adult director quit suddenly. I gave her two weeks severance pay.  All were replaced with very nice people who helped us a lot. The center lasted another year, but economic factors forced us to close. When we did, we were a happy group who hated to be going our separate ways. I still have friends from our time there.

As it turned out, God solved our problem for us. All we had to do was be still and know who was God and who was not!

 © 2016 by Tom King

Monday, December 05, 2016

Everybody's a Critic

One of the side effects of the Internet has unfortunately been the provision of a forum for the proverbial "experts who can't do anything." It is said that those who can do, those who can't teach and those who can't teach become critics.  I think I may have been the one who said that.

In any case, with the rise of the "comment" thread it seems everyone or at least most everyone, has taken it upon him or herself to lay into every book, movie, song, restaurant, sports team, or work of art, act of Congress or noble endeavor that goes on. Used to be it was a rare thing to find fault with something artistic much beyond, whether we liked it or didn't like it. Now, with the free and unfettered forum provided by the Internet, we all seem to need to get a lick in at everything in sight.

It's kind of sad because people that never actually make anything beautiful or pleasant or fun, have taken up positions in the digital duck blind and make themselves feel important by taking pot shots at anyone who dares to make the effort to actually do something or make something. We're fast becoming a nation of grouchy old critics - Waldorf and Statler sitting in life's bleachers making smug snide comments at everything.

It's sad really because taking on the job of critic makes you feel like you ought to say something critical about a thing if you review it. I've tried doing reviews on Amazon. I always feel a little guilty because I don't find a lot of fault. I do a lot of first novel reviews for fellow authors and they usually get five stars and an attaboy. I know how it feels to get 3 stars or to have people find fault with what you do and I can't seem to muster the courage to poke holes in what I know was somebody's labor of love. It seems a pretty rotten thing to do. I try to be honest, but I much prefer to focus on what I liked about something.

What brought all this on was I watched a Christmasy movie of Disney's. It was a kids movie and I found the animation and the songs and the story just amazing. Commenters at the space below the movie on the Internet, however, lined up to find fault with the movie. Some were understandably sick of hearing the "Let it Go" song, but the reason they were sick of it was because everybody was singing it and it gets stuck in your head because the song is so well done. Retroactively hammering the movie won't make your kids love the movie or the song any less and you're still going to have to listen to your little princess sing "Let it Go" over and over and over again.

When they went after "Tangled" which is one of my more recent Disney favorites, they done stepped over the line. It was a lovely movie with an upbeat ending. Some dim bulb went on and on about how disappointed she was that it wasn't "darker".  That's all we need in this world - to show our kids sad and depressive movies. The world is plenty dark without post-modernist cartoons putting our kids on Prozac. 

A critic the other day criticized the movie, "Hacksaw Ridge" for not inventing a scene where Desmond Doss had to choose to let someone die because he refused to pick up a gun. Even though the movie is closely based on a true story and that scene never happened this guy was certain it would have been a better "story" if they could have had such a scene. Another critic claimed some of the story was unbelievable even though Doss actually did kick a grenade away from fellow soldiers and was permanently disabled because of it. The critic wanted the actual story fixed to better suit his worldview in essence instead of allowing the story to be told as it was - reality not being good enough for Hollywood and all. It left certain questions unanswered for the critic. So when did life have to answer all your questions, man? Get used to it. Life does what it wants to you. You write your own story from life as it smacks you in the face. And it's never the story you thought it would be in the beginning of it.

I think those of us who are members of the Internet generation should spend a little more time in the real world. We should examine our values and our ethics and decide whether or not we believe the whole Golden Rule thing as a way of life. Despite how much I love Disney movies, I also blame Disney to some degree for our current generation that seems to think everything can be solved by magic. To some extent, Disney's magical fairy tales have contributed to that unrealistic view of life. But Disney is not alone in that responsibility. I really blame parents who don't take the time to talk about movies and TV shows that their kids see. If you raise a child by setting him in front of a TV set all day, you shouldn't be surprised if they develop a somewhat distorted outlook on life. You also have to take them out in the woods, go camping, hiking, take them fishing or canoeing or to visit museums, historical sites and do things together if you want a kid to view life realistically and not as some contrived story.

And perhaps instead of picking and fault-finding with the hard work of others, we should look for what we like about that work and not only encourage authors, artists, and craftsmen to give us more of what we enjoyed about their work, but we should also go out and do a little creating on our own. We are, after all, created in God's image. We are born creative. It is how we are like Him. I really believe God made us because He wanted to see what we would come up with. I think God wanted children who could make Him smile.

So maybe let's lighten up on being critics. It's more fun simply diving into the amazingly creative things God's children have made and simply enjoying it for what it is. It's what our Father would have us do.

© 2016 by Tom King

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Publishing's New Slavers - Writers Are Revolting!

Writer's are revolting and tightwad publishers would heartily agree!  The romantic characterization of writers in film and television is pretty much a figment of delirious, underfed writers' imaginations. The truth is that, unless they are smart, freelancers can wind up little more than underpaid drudges. At Christmas time, the image of poor old Bob Cratchit springs to mind.

The Internet arrived on the scene to great fanfare in the late 80s/early 90s.
It was going to change the world they said.  And by gum, it has!  Fortunes have been made. New business, marketing and communications tools have networked ordinary raggedy folk to potentially everybody else in the world (except perhaps Communist China where they really don't want their people knowing what's going on in the rest of the world). Industries have been rattled. Traditional publishing in particular is trying to figure out how to survive survive in a world in which writers can publish their own books and take all the royalties for themselves. The music industry is facing a similar threat from indie artists who record their songs in their living rooms with relatively inexpensive equipment and computer software for their PCs.

I'm personally trying to figure out how to self-publish and market my own stuff. Traditional publishing is fast becoming an inbred, risk-averse cloister. Independent self-publishing is actually fairly simple and inexpensive compared to what it once was. The learning curve isn't all that steep even, but there are forces out there arrayed against us indie freelancers that make it difficult to survive long enough as a writer to finish that first blockbuster book and make it a success. The economy has been part of it as the tides of the 8 year economic downturn seems bent on forcing us back to our old jobs as Walmart greeters.

If people worry about illegal immigrants and foreign workers taking their jobs, they should try my line of work. Freelancing is now international. Writers used to earn their wings in the pulp magazine industry writing stories for a paltry penny a word and eating a lot of spam and oatmeal. This was back in the 20s, 30s and 40s when Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Dashiel Hammett earned a living writing stories for cranky editors at 2 cents a word. They considered themselves lucky to make that much. The worked hard and fast and learned their craft. It doesn't work quite like that anymore.

The pulp publishers are back once more exploiting writers!  Outfits like Demand Studio, eLance, Upwork and other "content" publishers are exploiting writers like crazy. Their writing clients post jobs for $4.75 and hour and demand "premium" writers and they have no shame about offering writers less than minimum wage. I had a guy offer me .003 cents a word today.  No, I didn't add an extra "0". That's three tenths of a cent per word. I've seen them offer .001 cent a word. A pulp fiction publisher during the Great Depression would have been ashamed to offer that rate of pay to its writers. But then, they didn't have access to the Pakistani, Filipino, Nigerian and Malaysian writing pools like today's slave-owner/publishers do today.

These shady operators can get away with paying semi-literate writers sub-sub-minimum wages to fill up pages that people will never read anyway because with the Internet being international, they can get away with it.
  It's a way for a foreign client selling in the states via the World Wide Web to beat minimum wage laws. These publishing jobbers have found a niche market, put up exciting sounding titles and then filled the web pages and links with flashy pictures, cheap copy, some titillation and a few outright lies to get people to click on the pages. It's called click-bait and it manages to make money delivering shoddy products. Then the page owners can bill advertisers for the clicks and pageviews and keep a steady stream of pennies coming into their coffers. They make their living wasting people's time pretty much.

A liberal friend of mine says we writers should unionize. That won't work though. Most of us became free-lancers because that way nobody could take our money and tell us what to do. I do agree that we need to organize and thanks to the free market we already are beginning to do so.  Bands of talented writers are even now banding together into writer's groups or guilds of writers and pooling their talents with editors, graphic designers, artists and other writers to provide clients with a reliable source of copywriting and to do a better job of publishing their own work. I think it's a really promising way to go for the future. Just need a little capital.

With the rise of the Internet we already begun to cast off the chains of the traditional publishing gatekeepers who used to send back our manuscripts time and time again
. As recently as the turn of the millennium, a brilliant writer like J.K. Rowling was turned down by publishers and told to keep her day job, because, they told her, "No kid would read a thick book like that."

Who knows how many brilliant books and novels have been lost because some prissy New York editor didn't like a manuscript that came across her desk? It almost happened to many successful novels like Rowlings' "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (12 rejections), or "A Wrinkle in Time" (26 rejections), "The Diary of Anne Frank" (15 times), "Gone With the Wind" (38 rejections), and Stephen King's "Carrie" (30 times).  Traditional publishers complain that the market is saturated and killing the book industry. And they are right. There are a lot of poor quality novels out there. There are also a lot of really good novels and books out there as well.

Nowadays you can publish your own work and Amazon will sell it for you. Bookstores are dying on the vine as a direct result of traditional publishing's increasingly flawed business model. Traditional publishers will argue that only they can properly market a book. The problem with that is that for the last 3 decades, traditional publishers have demanded more and more that first time writers do their own marketing and offered relatively little support for them, focusing instead on the big payback authors like Tom Clancy, whose own book "The Hunt for Red October" was rejected by 12 publishers before tiny publishing house The Naval Institute Press to a chance on him. Now that first edition sells for over $500 if you can find a copy. The publisher kept reprinting as fast as they could till they finally sold the rights to Random House because they couldn't keep up with demand.

A traditional publisher considers a book that sold 10 or 20,000 copies to be a failure and the author might pull down a return of a couple of thousand if he's lucky. He won't sell another book to that publisher, however. That was my experience with my only traditionally published novel. I didn't market my book for them very well due to some personal issues that were going on at the time which took all my efforts. I only made a few hundred dollars for almost a year's work trying to get the book published. And they approached me.

For an indie author, however, selling 10 or 20,000 copies of a book might be quite a haul since he's not sharing the profits with a big publisher who isn't really helping him all that much anyway. If I am selling an eBook on Amazon, for instance, I make 70% of the retail in some cases.  If I were selling an eBook for $2 and sold as few as 2000 copies, my gross profit on the book could be $2800 dollars. If I put out the book in a month, which is actually doable, I could live on that. That's a whole lot more than 5 to 15% of total sales. Not only that, but I would still own the rights to my book and it would never be out-of-print if I didn't want it to be. If I want to reprint them or to hook up with a print-on-demand publisher, I can make my book available forever. That way if someone ten years down the road discovers my book series and wants to read more, they can always get a copy and don't have to rely on used bookstores.

It's a changing world for writers and artists out there, but beware; there are still creepy Scroogey types out there who would chain you to a desk and limit you to one piece of coal per day.

© 2016 by Tom King

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Little Boxes Filled with Tiny Numbers

I have decided to enter a more productive phase of my life.

Henry David Thoreau once said that he went to the woods to live "deliberately".  Good old H.D. understood that back in civilization, it is the bookkeepers who rule and where the bookkeepers rule, no one lives as he wishes. He lives as others wish. 

I too want to live deliberately. I just have to finish up all this paperwork that the government wants from me. Have I told you how much I HATE paperwork?  Other people seem to relish paperwork - they make paperwork their life's work. Some even get advanced degrees in the art of paperwork. 

For me, however, filling in boxes with numbers makes me a little crazy and a whole lot cranky. I'm not sure why. It could be my ADHD. When I am done with all this paperwork, however, I am assured by those who appear to need this paperwork to give their live meaning, that things will be better for me.  At least it will be better until once again it is not and they demand that I fill out more paperwork.

You see, this is why I'm opposed to bigger government. The bigger the government, the more bureaucrats we have. The more bureaucrats we have, the more little boxes on sheets of paper they create for us to fill in in order. These little data filled boxes apparently give meaning to the pathetic and boring lives of bureaucrats.

To paraphrase Voltaire, "I tabulate, therefore I am."

A Harvard sociologist once suggested that people with ADD served as pioneers in the United States, moving the frontiers of the fledgling country westward and southward till they hit the ocean or the Mexican borders and ran out of places to go. He suggested that this impulse to move away from "civilization" was, in part, due to a powerful desire to escape the tyranny of bookkeepers and bureaucrats. I suspect Thoreau was feeling that pressure of rule by bureaucracy, when he went to Walden Pond. Being a good liberal, he didn't stay very long at Walden Pond, torn apparently between the desire to "live deliberately" and the desire to embrace the collective and make sure the slow-witted of the world were forced to be happy and secure. 

It's a very odd thing that so many on the left claim to hate being restricted in their behavior and desire freedom from various kinds of moral, religious and government oppression. Yet, at the same time, they believe so strongly that mankind should be moving toward some vast form of collectivist government in which smart people tell all the slower-witted folks what to do - a system that gives the masses just enough food, clothing, and shelter to keep the proletariat from revolting against the benevolent so the leaders of said better government can enjoy the well-deserved fruits of the peasants' labor. 

Collectivism is supposed to solve all our problems. If everybody serves the state (another name for the collective), then, we're told, we will all blossom forth as creative productive human beings without the necessity of religion or even the tyranny of morality. So if we will just obey the state, we'll all be free from the need to be good? 

Don't kid yourself, there are plenty of slow-witted
voters out there ready to join the "proletariat".
Me? I aim to misbehave (just as soon as I get all the paperwork submitted).

© 2016 by Tom King


*Just for fun, check out this totally serious dude writing on a Portland-based website about how wonderful all the guys up there in the placards in the picture above are. He does not, however, mention the hundreds of millions of dead people they left behind while creating their wonderful workers' paradises. Funny that.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

My 2016 Election Prophecy

I have a prediction that I am confident is 100% accurate.* I call it the loser pred-election. I tend to vote for the loser. In the past six elections I have voted for the winner only 16% of the time. It would have been 33%, but I had just moved in one instance and didn't change my voter registration in time so I couldn't vote. I mean I could have but my official precinct was 300 miles from where I was living or, as we would say in Texas during the Carter 55 mph speed limit stupidity. "just under six hours away. Because I was too lazy to take a day off work (unpaid) and spend 12 hours driving, I missed the chance to vote for the guy who won and to improve my win-loss record by 16%. I didn't actually didn't know I'd missed out on a winner until after the Democrats made two or three runs at adjusting the Florida vote tally and the Supreme Court finally handed down a ruling settling the matter.

I considered voting for Clinton this time just to jinx her, but then one of my friends convinced me that a vote for Trump was a vote for Clinton, so by that logic, a vote for Clinton was a vote for Trump and being #NeverTrump, I didn't want to do that either.
Can you imagine what sorts of "entertainment" a strip club owner like Trump would bring into the White House. The ghost of Dolly Madison would flee the family quarters in abject horror. The thought of Dolly's shade aimlessly wandering the halls of the Rayburn Building, homeless and sad is just too much guilt for me to bear.  I want no part of it.~

So I voted for Evan McMullin. In part, he got my vote because I agree with him on most stuff and partly because it would hack off my bigoted "Christian" buddies who think it's a sin to vote for a Mormon but it's okay to vote for a phony Christian who "doesn't bring God into it."  It being his mistakes which Trump doesn't feel the need to ask God for forgiveness for.

Given all that, though I can't predict a winner this time, I can confidently predict who the losers in this election will be:
  1. All third party candidates
  2. The American people

Scripture talks about the last trump sounding just before the second coming. You have to wonder if Saints Paul and John weren't offering up a surprisingly specific prophecy about the actual name of the last loud noise before end of the world. Still, whether the prophecy is symbolic or specific, and though I look forward to the second coming, I won't vote for it to happen, just in case everybody that wants on board the Jesus Train hasn't stepped off the platform yet.

 Just sayin'

© 2016 by Tom King

* This post is based on a comment I made to this week's "Random Thoughts by Mark Milliorn" post.

Monday, October 31, 2016

How We Wound Up Back in the Box

And How Do We Get Out?

Here we are eight days till we choose the form of the Destructor and most of the electorate is locked into a black and white, binary mindset.
It's an either or choice for Mr. and Mrs. (or Ms.) America, and few of us have the ability to think much beyond that. The idea that there might be something outside the box we are presented is too much of a strain on our brains in this busy world we inhabit. Anything outside the box just isn't worth the effort to think about. It doesn't matter that our "choices" are both the same.

I'm not going to talk about the election here, so hang with me for a bit.  I want to talk about choices. It's a depressing thought, but the current condition of our lives is the result, primarily, of a long series of choices we have made. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not ruling out tragedy. I've had my share of those and I know how tragedy can knock you off course. I'm not ruling out blind luck. That happens too. But even external factors have limited influence as to what kind of person you eventually become.

That does not mean that if all your choices are the right ones that you'll wind up wealthy and prosperous. Christ arguably made all the right choices and look where he wound up. His disciples didn't do any better. None of them wound up dying peacefully in their beds as old rich dudes. Almost to a man they died hard. The only one who died old was boiled in oil and spent his golden years breaking rocks on the Roman equivalent of Alcatraz Island.

That doesn't mean that Peter, James and John and the gang were failures or made wrong choices.. The Sanhedrin thought Jesus was a failure, but his followers became arguably the most influential religious group in the world. The Sanhedrin's followers wound up cycling through the gas ovens at Auschwitz and surviving as a tiny remnant fighting for their lives.

I'm not going to lament here about the good old days. They weren't all that good. Back then, most of the world worked themselves to an early grave in their 30s or 40s. If hard labor didn't kill them, disease, warfare, pestilence and famine did. Civilization remained pretty much the same from generation to generation. Nobody thought things would get any better. After all, everything had stayed the same with only incremental variation from Babylonian to Medieval times.  A few great thinkers tried to make choices outside the traditional boxes they grew up in. Most were quickly squashed by some thug who didn't want anything to get better because new technology and new ideas like Christianity's whole Golden Rule thing had the potential to mess up the deal that the big dogs had going for them. Serfs exercising free choice to the bosses seemed a very bad thing. So, as a way to keep everyone in line, they reduced their choices down to a simple either/or choice, neither of which actually changed anything.

Gruel with salt or gruel without salt?

The Founding Fathers had a great idea that dumbfounded the rest of the civilized world. It was the idea that we all are commoners and all are equal in the sight of God and therefore should all be equal in the sight of the law. The American ideal took decision-making out of the binary box where you had two choices, both of which were bad. In the beginning, the electoral system was all over the place and you wound up with things like John Adams as president and his arch-rival Thomas Jefferson as veep. In most cultures, there would likely have been an assassination with that arrangement, but instead there was a lifelong friendship between the two, despite their vast political differences. And the country got along pretty well.

Almost immediately, however, the folk who think they should run everything began trying to stuff us back into the binary boxes again. Within a hundred years our betters have whittled the scattering of political parties we once had down to two and only two parties. They have confidently proclaimed that we have a two-party system now, despite the fact that there's no provision for any such thing in the Constitution! Third parties it is agreed are unAmerican things and are unhelpful in decision-making for the good of all.

It's always about power isn't it?  People, thinking outside of the approved boxes, make it so hard for the rulers to rule. Out of the box thinkers have created all the innovation we've seen in the past 200 years. The world has changed. Communication, transportation, information sharing and processing, technology and art have blown up in recent years creating massive new tools for even more out of the box thinking.

Now look around and see who is trying to busily stuff us back in to those binary boxes again - you know the gruel with salt or gruel without salt kind of boxes. Those are they guys you want to watch out for. They need to reduce communication down to a manageable level. To many opinions lead to disruption after all. They want to limit transportation so we can't run around meddling in the social order without permission. They'll want to limit choices of all kinds and take over information sharing technologies like the Internet. They'll use fear, bullying and intimidation, over-regulation and meddling in your private lives. They'll call such liberty restricting collective efforts for the good of mankind and tell you that you are a bad person if you don't go along with it.

It's all really about simplifying how things work so that our choices are limited to what our betters think they should be. Nothing upsets folk in power like having the proletariat make choices that are outside the approved box o' choices. Too much choice makes the masses hard to control.

Can we break the cycle? Of course we can. Will we do it?  Probably not. And it's not just the leader class that make it hard to change. We are our own worst enemies in that respect. Out of the box choices are difficult to understand and often require hard work. Thinking independently may result in your separating yourself from the herd. But that makes us uncomfortable. There's security in the herd and just enough of the illusion of free choice to keep the cows content and to provide the bulls with plenty of amusement.

We are making the kind of choices that Dr. Jerry Harvey described in his brilliant paper "The Abilene Paradox". You should read it. It's a revelation. We Americans have wound up someplace we didn't want to wind up because our leaders have kept reducing things down to either/or choices and we've gone along with it.  The family in the "Trip to Abilene" story makes a miserable trip to Abilene to a restaurant in 105 degree summer temps in an un-air-conditioned truck after a series of either/or decisions based on false assumptions and in-the-box thinking.

We're there folks. Arguably the most important choice we Americans have to make has been reduced to a choice between the lesser of two evils. We've driven to Abilene and now we've got the whole long miserable drive back to look forward to. As for me and my house, I'm getting out of the truck and off the merry-go-round. It's time!

And I do want to apologize. I know I said I wouldn't, but I somehow I wound up back at the election. But it's not just about elections. It's about the choices we make in our lives. My wife and I chose a long time ago to go where God would have us go and do what He would have us do. It's kind of been a career like the disciples and the road has at times been hard, but one thing about letting God guide your choices. He keeps you out of boxes. This does not mean you'll be entirely comfortable. It does mean it's more likey that your decisions will actually be your decisions and not the decision of the herd.  The Truth will set you free of those boxes we were talking about.

I don't like boxes anyway, so that's okay with me.

© 2016 by Tom King

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Marriage Is NOT an Antiquated Institution

The day my life got better.
The other day someone made the comment that she didn't think that marriage was "important' anymore. The group immediately chimed in with various comments about how it was an antiquated institution and not really needed anymore. "In patriarchal societies," opined one newly minted college-grad, "marriage was a matter of survival." Apparently not any longer according to this batch of millennials. The whole thing started over a lament about the divorce of "Brangelina" - a relationship begun in unfaithfulness in the first place. In their disappointment over the end of another "true love", the ladies were prepared to say marriage was obsolete as an institution in the modern world.

I beg to differ. The survival of my own 42 year-long love affair with the one and only woman I ever married, has long depended on our refusal to don our parachutes at the altar. Standing in front of Pastor Milton Reiber in a country chapel in the piney woods of Mississippi, Sheila and I made a lifelong commitment to each other. Promises were made that brooked no backing out. The idea was never considered. We signed the pledge in writing. I still carry my now faded, wallet-sized marriage license with me wherever I go. What has not faded is the commitment that little blue document represents.

While others of my generation were pledging "till we fall out of love", my wife and I pledged, "Till death do us part." And we meant it, even though we had no idea of what a rough ride it might prove to be. Because of our stubborn determination to honor that pledge, through tragedy, trial, struggle, good times and hard times, we have both known that we could always look over and find our best friend and lover always there beside us. 

Are we the perfect couple? Hardly. Neither of us is perfect. We understood that going in. We did, however, know that we both served the same master and we both had chosen that our lives should end up at the same place. We tried our best to believe the best, do our best and trust each other's love no matter what. It's never been easy. Life isn't. Not with the devil our adversary walking about like a roaring adversary seeking whom he may devour. But for all the struggle we've endured, I would not trade the love I've shared with my precious wife for anything on this Earth - not fame, not wealth, or power.

We have traveled this life together as God has led us, she and I. God has promised to be our teacher and so we did our best to sit still in the classes. We did our best to learn, however uncomfortable the lessons being taught. Over the past four decades, we've done our best to serve our children, loved ones and our fellow human beings as best we knew how. It has not made us rich. Quite the contrary. But, it has, I believe, left the world a slightly better place for our having passed through it. That was our intent at any rate. God must be responsible for the outcome.

There are two kinds of people in the world - those who give and those who take - those who mostly wish to be entertained and to have others meet their needs and those who strive to meet the needs of others. The love that we chose, was the consciously giving kind - the sort that reveres the Golden Rule as opposed to lusting for the power of the gold that rules. We chose to give love rather than wait around to receive it. I truly believe that choosing to believe that love was something we do rather than something we strictly receive has made all the difference.

I'm a firm believer in marriage. It's God's teaching tool; something of a crucible in which the souls of a married pair are purified and strengthened, molded and melded. Marriage is not, of itself, some touchy-feely emotional state. It's doing first, putting someone else before your own self. It's living life deliberately and with principle. It's giving 100%, not 50/50. When you do that you have a relationship that always is more than what any one person can create on his or her own - it is always a relationship that is more than 100%, for when one is weak, the other is strong. And when both are strong, the two are more powerful than they can be separately and alone. If you've put the effort into it, the emotional state comes with it as a bonus and you are strong and faithful and powerful. 

God said it was not good that man should be alone. He was right. I know that for a hard fact. As poor as we are in this world's riches, as disabled as we both are in body and mind, and as tough as life sometimes gets for us, God has given us each other, two hearts beating as one, and that is enough for this life. The next one promises to be incredible and the great thing is that we get to start it as two hearts which have already become as one thanks to an intertwined life guided by the loving hand of He who set the universe to spinning.

You can't beat that with a stick.

2016 by Tom King

Monday, September 19, 2016

There is No God - Flaws in the Argument

I got jumped on in the comments section of some blog or other today. That happens a lot to Christian apologists, though I'm not sure that term is entirely accurate. I've never apologized for being a Christian or believing in God. If someone asks a question or proposes a flawed idea, I just jump into the conversation. I can't help myself.

My favorite math class in high school was Geometry, especially the bit about proofs and theorems. I loved using logic to prove geometric premises. I've always loved a good logical argument. It's one of the things I like about blogging and, really, the whole Internet for that matter. It used to take a week to comment on articles in newspapers or magazines to get a word in and even then they don't publish everyone's letters. With the Internet, it's a wide open free-for-all in the comment sections.

So the guys (there were two of  them) who jumped me in a YouTube comment thread were trying to explain why a Christian like me was silly and stupid and irrational. One of the guys wanted me to understand that atheism is not have a faith or a religion like Christians. They were devotees of science and rational thinking. He was religious in his fervor to explain to me how atheism was superior to religion. He invited me to abandon my faith in religion and accept science as my personal saviour.

The other guy, his handle was something like "El Science-O", simply assaulted me with logic.  "There is no evidence of god, so there is no reason to think there is one." Okay, let's go with that logic.  I have no evidence that there is an actual "El Science-O. That could be anybody pretending to be El Science-O. I have never seen El Science-O. I've never met anyone who has actually seen El Science-O. Therefore, quod erat demonstrandum, El Science-O does not exist.

The fact that one does not have the equipment, the experience or the ability to observe an intelligence which exists in extra-dimensional space, does not rule out the existence of God. In the same way, the fact that I don't have El Science-O's real name, address, phone number, email, and/or birth certificate means that, while I may choose not to believe in El Science-O, I cannot prove he does not exist.

What are they teaching in schools these days?  Certainly not logic. The best one can do if one honestly does not believe in God, is to be neutral on the subject. After all, people at one time could not prove with their eyesight that the Earth was round. They proved it mathematically, but until someone sailed around the globe and took a picture of it from space, there was no proof. In fact, all proof of the roundness of the planet comes to most of us second-hand. We believe the Earth is round because we trust our sources of information. It you want to see what the typical Internet atheist argument looks like, go visit the Flat Earth Society Website, where you will be treated to systems of "logic" which only entertain ideas and concepts that fit within the limitation of their observational and intellectual tools.

Let's face it, "Science" does not have the tools to "see" God, who by all accounts is a pan-dimensional super-intelligent being. If one is a three dimensional being, it would make sense that he would not be equipped to see anything extra-dimensional. The best you could do would be to see where such a being touches our three-dimensional space-time continuum - rather like touching a two-dimensional picture. We'd look like fingerprints to a two-dimensional creature. 

Being a pan-dimensional intelligence, logically God might be capable of almost anything. Any interaction he had with our three-dimensional space would appear to be magic or supernatural (basically above nature). Should He have reason to doubt our capacity for joining the rest of the universe, a God like that might well choose not to reveal too much of Himself or the rest of the cosmos to a people who look like they are planning to blow up their own world and themselves with it someday very soon.  He could be waiting to see if any of us are worth saving and can be trusted out among the stars. That's been bits and pieces of the plots of hundreds of "science" fiction novels and movies since that genre was created. One cannot by any scientific method I know of, prove a thing does not exist without evidence. And there is no evidence of the non-existence of God, only a lot of empty speculation about "Well if God existed he wouldn't allow whatever it is the believer in science believes God shouldn't allow."  I suspect a pan-dimensional intelligence that spans all space and time probably doesn't present Himself to skeptics just because they demand it. Last time He did, they did their best to kill Him permanently by the most heinous method at their disposal (something impossible to do it turns out). To believe that because he cannot see or detect God that God does not exist requires more than a modicum of, dare I say, FAITH.

Now Internet atheists will no doubt resent my comparing them to Flat Earthers, accepting their primary doctrine on faith, or complaining that they claim proof without evidence. After all, that's what Internet atheists call people who believe in God - Flat Earthers and accuse us of being believers in "a magical bearded man who made the Earth". The idea that Christian belief requires a suspension of logic and good sense is a logical fallacy, however.

And for that matter, many logical modern scientists have begun to accept the idea of intelligent design based on recent discoveries in physics, biology, chemistry, and other mainstream hard sciences. It seems of late that ruling out the existent of a pan-dimensional creator/designer is getting harder to do, at least if you're being "scientific" about it. It actually requires far less faith in the unseen to be a Christian than it does in order to be an atheist. 

The atheist must believe that:
  1. His own tiny minority of human beings are right about the whole God thing and that EVERYONE else is completely wrong. 
  2. Hes must believe that 84% of all human beings are completely and utterly wrong about the one biggest thing in human history that most of us believe in. 
  3. He must believe that if there was such a thing as God He is somehow required to present Himself to a gaggle of puny ape-descendants living in a far corner of the galaxy just to satisfy their curiosity about Him. 
  4. He must believe that his inability to prove God exists, somehow proves he doesn't (ignoring the fact that we weren't able to prove germs existed for most of human history right up until we came up with a tool that made that possible). 
  5. He must believe that the universe sprang from nothing while ridiculing the Christian belief that God created the universe from nothing.
  6. He must believe he has the intellect to understand everything in the universe based on hands full of rocks and some telescope pictures, And, if not everything, at least enough to dismiss any pan-dimensional intelligence from consideration.
  7. He must dismiss as a bunch of lying, self-deceived crackpots who are completely and utterly wrong on every point, the 85% of the human race who looks up at the stars and down at the world around them and finds traces of the divine.
Christians on the other hand have the luxury of believing that at least 85% of us human beings have at least some piece of the truth about God right. So of all the vast human race, Christians need only believe that 15% of us have it all wrong. I'm betting the 85% are right. The odds favor the existence of God at this stage of things.  
And I shall conduct myself accordingly.

Just sayin'.

Tom King

© 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Before You Judge a Person's Intelligence by an IQ Score - Read This!

Albert Einstein is the epitome of the high IQ
sort of genius, but something else enabled him to
transcend physicists with higher IQ scores.

IQ is a highly over-rated measure of intelligence.

I can say this possessing a Mensa level IQ of my own. I know this is from my own experience and from considerable training in psychology at the graduate level; training which included the administration of IQ tests. IQ tests measure only two specific types of intelligence - verbal and mathematical/logical. Those who study human intelligence do not believe that verbal and mathematical intelligence is all there is to it. IQ is good for rating writers and physicists perhaps, but intelligence quotients only capture a part of the picture.

Michael Jordan's kinesthetic genius enabled him
to almost appear to fly without wings.
IQ scores do not measure kinesthetic intelligence, for instance. It's often overlooked as a form of intelligence, except possibly by ESPN commentators. Kinesthetic intelligence is the brain's capacity to manipulate objects and execute physical skills. Coaches call a person with high levels of kinesthetic intelligence a "natural". Kinesthetic intelligence is marked by a strong sense of timing and the ability to perfect complex skills through the union of mind and body. We just witnessed a gathering of kinesthetic geniuses at the Rio Olympic Games. Kinesthetically intelligent people include not only athletes, but also dancers, surgeons, and skilled craftsmen. Michael Jordan, for instance, is probably a kinesthetic genius in his understanding of the movement of basketballs and his own body through space. If you've ever watched him drive home a dunk shot in slow motion, you'll see it. I for one could never do what Michael does. I'm not a natural. Kinesthetically, I'm a bit retarded, except possibly in a canoe. Kinesthetic intelligence can be strengthened, and may even be selective, favoring one skill over another, but there is a limit to what you can do if you don't have it.

John Williams' masterful movie scores turn movies into
something more than just images on a screen.

IQ scores do not measure musical–rhythmic and harmonic intelligence. We've all known folk with perfect pitch and people who can't carry a tune in a bucket. Musically, I'm average because I worked hard at it as a child.  Some people on the other hand are naturals at making music, even from a very young age. I knew one little girl who performed her first solo in church at the age of two. The voice that came out of her was dead on pitch and at a volume that would have done an adult proud. She has grown up to be and accomplished singer and musician by diligent practice, but I know that she had a head start over someone like me. Some examples of musical geniuses include Mozart, Beethoven, John Williams, Paul Simon, and others whose work seems to transcend the ordinary almost effortlessly.
Walter Elias Disney captured the imaginations
of generations of children and adults.
IQ scores do not effectively measure visual–spatial intelligence. Spatial intelligence is the ability to visualize the world accurately, to modify one's surroundings based upon one's perceptions, and to recreate the aspects of visual experiences in other formats. Artists and architects, designers and urban planners possess higher levels of visual–spatial intelligence. People like famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, and designers and planners like Pierre Charles L'Enfant who designed Washington DC and Walt Disney who not only designed some of the most beautiful films of his day, but also laid out both Disneyland's and Walt Disney World's brilliantly conceived theme parks.

Ronald Reagan's ability to connect with friends and
enemies alike fundamentally changed the world.
IQ scores do not effectively measure interpersonal intelligence.  Interpersonal intelligence is basically social intelligence or what we like to call people skills. People with higher levels of interpersonal intelligence are good at getting along with others.  Skilled diplomats like Henry Kissinger, great public speakers like Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, as well as great actors and actresses like Meryl Streep, Jimmy Stewart and others all have that ability to read people and deliver just the right words, body language and inflection to engage other people effectively.

20th Century Writer/Theologian
C.S. Lewis revived a sagging Christianity.
IQ scores do not measure intrapersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonal intelligence is self-awareness and accurate and effective forms of introspection. Great philosophers and theologians, writers and poets have this sort of intelligence.  Folk like Ghandi, John Locke, T.H. White, John Donne, Martin Luther and CS Lewis possess high levels of intrapersonal intelligence. These people have the ability to observe the world and then look within themselves to find meaning and purpose and to put all of that into a form that inspires and guides people towards creating their own sense of self and of purpose.

I would say, however, that John Muir did
have something special going for him
where an understanding of nature was
concerned, though his gift might have been
in the way he was able to transmit that
understanding to others as much as anything.
IQ scores do not measure naturalistic intelligence.  Whether this is an actual form of intelligence or a politically correct add-on to appease modern progressives is debatable. I personally think this last one is a made-up kind of intelligence. It was inserted into the list quite recently, I would suspect to make the guys at Greenpeace and the Sierra Club feel good about themselves. I’ll grant you that perhaps folk who work with nature might have a kind of intelligence the rest of us lack. Someone has suggested that really talented landscapers have an abundance of naturalistic intelligence. I suspect landscapers have more of a visual-spatial intelligence, though knowing what sort of plants will thrive where could be part of it. That seems more about skill and training than anything else. Now, I would say, however, that "naturalistic intelligence" might be what we think of as having a "green thumb" or a way with animals. In that case I’d have to give intelligence props to gifted farmers, ranchers, botanists and even zoologists before I’d go labeling environmentalists and Greenpeace activists as possessing a particularly unique kind of intelligence. Environmental activism is more a political skill than a particular form of intelligence to my way of thinking. I would make an exception for naturalists like John Muir, however as noted under the picture to the right of Muir. Have to respect a guy who could maintain a beard that formidable in the wild.

The sudden taped on addition of "naturalistic" intelligence to the list of intelligences seems indicative that even intelligence is politicized these days. Psychology as a field is sadly vulnerable to politicization. They've already set a precedent back in the 80s with the sudden elimination of a whole category of what were once considered mental disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM III-R), and the suppression of research into the causes and potential treatments for said condition. The American Psychological Association caved big time to political pressure then and probably will again. The inclusion of "naturalistic" intelligence as a type of intelligence is just the latest political correction. I suspect there will be more and more disorders dropped or added to the DSM and new forms of intelligence added to the list in order to make people feel good about themselves - or at the very least, less guilt-ridden. It's unlikely to matter what the science tells us in the face of the lumbering threat of political incorrectness.

I fully expect President Obama to suggest to the APA that they recognize Quranal Intelligence - the ability to interpret the Quran correctly - as a specific form of intelligence.
The the National Institute of Mental Health can take on a new goal for itself to make Muslims feel good about themselves. NASA has already taken that as one of their primary goals.

It wouldn't surprise me anyway.

Just sayin'.

Tom King © 2016
If you'd like to see a video version of this blog, check it out below. It's my first vlog, so be patient with me. I'm still learning how this stuff works.