Saturday, December 8, 2007

My 2nd Amendment Rant

My laptop has been acting up for the last few days, so I haven't been able to post very often. My hit counter, however, is still rolling along nicely because of something of mine the good folks at "Free Constitution" featured on their site.

My link is the one about "Good guns fences make good neighbors". Right above the links for gun and ammo porn.

Hey, this Libertarian thing is a VERY wide umbrella, ok? ? ?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Notorious Chinese Washing Machine Story

I've been posting old emails from my China trips any time I'm too tired to think but too wired to sleep. This one's from a little more than a year ago, when I made a Quality Control trip to a vendor called "Aifei" in Xiamen.

Wendy is Aifei's #1 sales rep., and translator.

Here goes....

Dear family, friends, co-workers, Moderate Baptists, retail booksellers, and people from the Starbucks on Camp Bowie,

I hope everyone is doing well. I still don’t have Internet access at the new apartment, and haven’t had much free time outside of working at the factory and getting moved into the new place. I’m writing from the Coffee Bar near our new apartment.

Our company apartment is bigger, nicer, and more luxurious than anything that 99% of the Chinese can afford, or have ever seen. I never doubt for a moment that I’ve been blessed, and am very fortunate to have been born where I was born.

All that obligatory gratitude aside, the apartment was designed to look like the Jettson’s. Unfortunately, the utilities were provided by The Flintstones. It’s on the 27th floor of a high-rise that’s still being built by small angry people with lots of hammers.

Let’s start in the kitchen: There is a double sink with cold water only. The left-hand side sink is about the size of a piece of photocopier paper. The right-hand side sink is about the size and depth of a shoebox. Fran will tell you that I can dirty enough dishes, forks, ladles, and colanders to fill both of these sinks just by microwaving one pack of popcorn.

To the left of the sink is the space where the microwave ought to be. But that’s the only space where I can chop up whatever small animals that I’m having for dinner. (The food suppliers, restaurants, and I have a mutual “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy....) So the microwave stays on top of the fridge until needed. There is a dual surface gas cooktop that works great.

Below that is a Thing that’s not quite a Dishwasher. They call if a “sterilizer”. When I asked Wendy why I needed the sterilizer after the dishes had already been hand washed, she said “Bad Water”. I know all about the Bad Water from the medical disaster of my first trip. She also suggested that I leave the dishes in the sterilizer at all times. I asked why. She said “Bad Air”. Considering that they’re always burning huge piles of leftover Asbestos, DDT, Napalm, Agent Orange, etc. all over the countryside, I’m taking her advice. Good Karma.

The refrigerator is small, but will keep beer cold. The only ice trays they sell here are about the size of two playing cards placed end to end. The ice is all dice-sized cubelets. Made from Sparklett’s, because of Bad Water. A minor hassle.

I’ve got two great balconies. One of them overlooks other high-rises, but the other one has a great view of the lake and the bay. That’s where I have my new washer/dryer. (All in one machine.) It has two digital dials, and about 20 buttons. The owner’s manual is only in Chinese, which I’m slowly trying to translate with a Character-Finder dictionary (don’t ask how that works, it’s too tiresome to explain. But I feel like I’m on the Medieval Committee that turned all the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew into the King James Bible.)

For reasons that I don’t understand, this Washing Machine can be programmed to wash one load for up to 20 hours. Yes, 20 hours. I think it has a similar capability for drying times, but I’m afraid to find out. I might incinerate something.

Combine all this with a safety feature that won’t let you open the door when there is ANY water or ANY heat in the machine, and it’s time for ADVENTURES IN LAUNDRY ! ! ! My first load washed for about 3 hours, and dried for about half that many. I don’t have accurate times for the 2nd load on Sunday, because there was a lot of starting and stopping involved - I’d call it 9 hours total. Every time I tried to move from washing to drying, it started a new wash cycle for a random length of time. And of course, the door wouldn’t open. Then, when I did persuade it to go from wash to dry, after about 3 hours of drying, the damn door still wouldn’t open because of the excessive heat.

It was ridiculous. My shirts were held hostage. All the crowbars were back at the factory.

Most businesses here have a little Buddhist mini-shrine/altar somewhere on the premises. They burn incense on the altar in front of the Buddha statue about twice a day. If things are going badly, they will even place sacrificial fruit in front of the statue (apples, oranges, plums, etc. etc etc. Some people try to fake it with plastic fruit, but I bet that doesn’t work as well..)

Anyway, I thought it would make for a funny photo to show Wendy if I took a picture of some fruit in front of my washing machine, as a sort of hostage exchange for my shirts. I put some bananas, oranges, and grapes on the balcony in front of the washer, and went to get my camera. When I went back on the balcony to take the picture, the door was open. The Chinese Washing Machine was apparently satisfied with my offering.

You can’t make this stuff up

My shirts had been washed so many times they were almost transparent. And they will now fit my little daughter perfectly.

The washer/dryer works very hard, and it works for long, long hours. It’s very complicated. And you’re not going to get anything out of it until it’s ready to give it to you. So I’ve named it Aifei….

My driver just showed up to take me to the factory.

There’s more to tell, like the hot water heater that doesn’t hook to either of the sinks or to the shower, but maybe is what keeps the toilet water so nice and toasty. The bed has a Chinese-style mattress - a term I wasn’t familiar with until this trip. “Chinese Style Mattress” translates into English as “If you have a Basketball, you can dribble on it.” But this email is already over-long. This coffee bar has 6 CD’s in the music rotation, and one of them is Christmas music. When “Joy to the World” comes over the speakers, the Chinese workers and customers don’t know the difference, but all the Westerners in the place look up from their laptops and smile at each other. It’s great. I’ve met people from all over the world in this place. I love this country.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fried Wikipedia

See full article at:

Things Caused by Global Warming

warmlist has a list of all the things caused by Global Warming.
Individually, they're serious reading.
Taken as a group, they are hilarious.

I've hit about a dozen of the links. Go Thou and do Likewise.
I was referred to this link by the good folks at Cafe Hayek.

Broadway Baptist, Gay Couples, Church Directory

Like the Calvinist said after he fell down the stairs, "I'm glad that's over with."

Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist votes to keep pastor
from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
and a similar story from the Dallas Morning News Religion Blog

I'm a member of a study group called "Exploring The Christian Faith" at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. We don't hesitate to ask the hard questions. Very few answers are provided. We're just about to finish a series called "Living The Questions". We'll probably do a book study next.

If you've lost touch with your faith, or lost interest in traditional answers to Christianity's difficulties, come join us. There's been some recent controversy about our studying some of the theologians listed in the Spiritual Advisors blogroll to your right. Borg in particular. I hope we're over it now. (See the Star-Telegram link above.)

In the last few months, I've learned that Freedom of Religious Expression is a valuable thing. Lord have mercy, I love this class. All points of view are respected. No one believes me, but meeting in that room is the most Libertarian hour of my week.

If you want to join us, we meet at 9:30 in Room 306 every Sunday morning. 305 West Broadway, Fort Worth, TX 76104.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

So ... who's in your church's directory?

I sent this to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week. They ran it as an editorial. 11/30/2007 So ... who's in your church's directory?

So ... who's in your church's directory?
Broadway Baptist Church is putting together a directory for its 125th anniversary. Photos of member families were to be included. Some same-sex couples -- members of the Fort Worth congregation -- made appointments to be photographed together but were told they could not.
This has caused some controversy about same-sex couples within a Christian community. We church members will vote on the issue Sunday.

Some of our members believe that homosexuality is a sin, and to include committed same-sex couples as a family in the church directory is to approve of their lifestyle.

Other members welcome same-sex couples and gay or lesbian individuals to participate in leading, teaching, serving and tithing. They believe that there is a legitimate conflict between homosexuality and interpretations of Scripture that condemn it. But they prefer a "don't ask, don't tell" approach, and allowing committed same-sex members to be photographed together for the directory would be too highly visible.

Still other members just wish these issues would go away. They wish that God had created everyone with the same orientation: political, spiritual and sexual. They see the directory conflict as embarrassing, a distraction from the church's mission. They would prefer to focus on the hungry people to be fed, cold people to be clothed and lonely people to be comforted. These Broadway members perceive our directory dispute as a waste of emotion, time and resources.

A final group, which includes me, sees this as an opportunity for inclusion: In Christ, there is no black or white, rich or poor, Gentile or Jew, gay or straight. This is an opportunity for a Baptist church to be among the first to get something right.

Each group is composed of good people who want to do the best they can, in light of what they know.
Jesus made a consistent practice of not turning away anyone -- the diseased, the outcast, tax collectors or sinners. "If you've done it for the least of these, you've done it for me," was his memorable phrase. All four strongly committed groups of Christians in Broadway Baptist Church want to emulate his love, his outreach and his understanding.

But enough about Broadway Baptist. Let's talk about your church.

A recent Star-Telegram article reported that Fort Worth is home to 10 times as many same-sex couples as it was 16 years ago. Other statistics report that gays and lesbians make up as much as 5 percent of the population, spread out across all neighborhoods, professions, income levels and faiths. If your church has more than 100 members, some are probably gay or lesbian.

Congregations such as those in the Metropolitan Community Church provide some of the only outlets for openly gay and lesbian people to worship. Scant few other mainstream Protestant denominations allow gays and lesbians to be who God made them.

Some people believe that sexual orientation is a choice and therefore, according to one interpretation of Scripture, a sin.

I don't know a single person who chose to be heterosexual, nor do I know anyone who would choose the (now diminishing) shame, ridicule and ostracism associated with being openly gay or lesbian.
Within 20 years, most Christian denominations will accept openly gay members. Society is accepting openly gay and lesbian people, and the church will follow that trend or become increasingly irrelevant.

Regardless of how Broadway Baptist votes, I believe that I will see the following within my lifetime:
More theologians will become embarrassed by the church's prejudice and discrimination. Scriptures will be re-interpreted.

Sermons will claim that the church should be open to gays and lesbians.

We will then claim that we were instrumental in the liberation of gays and lesbians and were never really opposed to it.

That has been the pattern with slavery, women's rights and civil rights. We could belabor the point by pointing out that the church tried to suppress scientific truths about the movement, shape and age of Earth, all with biblical justification.

I cannot believe that the Creator of the universe made "defective" people for the purpose of condemning them for their defects. God is bigger than we can possibly imagine -- big enough to create everything we see around us. God is big enough to be in all of us.

I just hope that our church directories are big enough for God.

Prior to our meeting that Sunday, the church asked that all non-members from the news media leave the room, stating that The Deacon Chair would make a short summary of the meeting available afterwards. I'll post a link to this summary as soon as it's published elsewhere.

My 17-year-old daughter made a point of finding me prior to the meeting so she could sit beside me. (Publishing this for all the world to see has caused some controversy....)

"I don't think you should be sitting by yourself, Dad," she said. "I want everybody to see that I've got your back."

That's how you know you've raised your kid right ! ! !