Wednesday, March 26, 2008

directory of gimmicks

I would say it's one of the funnier sites I've seen, but some things are too pathetic to be funny to me anymore. But, if you want a good laugh and/or you want to feel sick to your stomach, check out this treasure trove of Christian gimmicks. That's basically a warehouse of knock-offs. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but cheesy knock-offs nonetheless. Okay, I suppose those could be useful if, well, you know, nobody would be able to tell you're a Christian unless you make it obvious by what you wear or eat or bathe in or smell like or whatever. Because, I mean, when it comes down to it, that's really the essence of Christianity, right? As long as what's visible on the outside is all get the gist. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the awesome depth and glory of the 21st century American church!

So sad...but what's worse is, I found the link on my church's website! Dunno, folks. Not that I'm perfect and all, but where does one draw the line? For now I'll just go cry for a while...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

great (if off-the-wall) article

I suspect most of you peeps would think this is junk and/or not worthy of attention. But say what you will, it's legit stuff. And it was one of the most interesting reads I've had in a long time. I do think it's very unfortunate, though, that he doesn't really hit on the cultural and traditional differences that are at least equally important in explaining the disparities cited. It's obvious to me and it's obvious to a lot of folks, such that one doesn't have to even read specifically on the topic for that all to come up.

An insightful tidbit:
When, in the names of freedom and feminism, young women listen less to the hard-earned wisdom of older women about how to pick Mr. Right, they listen even more to their hormones. This allows cruder measures of a man's worth -- like the size of his muscles -- to return to prominence. The result is not a feminist utopia, but a society in which genetically gifted guys can more easily get away with acting like Mr. Wrong.
The guy is absolutely right, and that has huge and lasting implications for societies afflicted with the problem. (It applies in both directions, too.) People today would be wise to consider that when examining the much-decried slide in or postponement of "maturity" -- as popularly measured, that is -- into later years in younger generations, not to mention broader societal issues. If that elephant-in-the-room factor plays any significant role at all in determining the behavior of individuals, which it obviously does, then why should we be surprised when we see so much debauchery around us? Better yet, how might that problem be fixed? This gets into countless other topics, but for now I'll let you ponder that on your own.

awesome new blog to get addicted to

Just found out about this one on Vox: Stuff White People Like. After reading just two posts and scanning the homepage, I can already tell it's one of the best out there. This is going to provide lots of laughs in the future.

Take the post Vox refers to, for example: the graduate school rundown. How true is most of that stuff? He does an outstanding job of touching on the elitism and pursuit of faux prestige--not the pursuit of knowledge--that drives today's graduate school market. An excellent job of cutting to the chase on the paper mill industry. Not quite Fred-level, but excellent nonetheless.

Take this blurb, for example:
In coffee shops, bars, and classes white people will engage in conversations about authors and theorists that go nowhere as both parties start rattling off progressively more obscure people until eventually one side recognizes one and claims a victory.
Rock on! And so true it is...we can all recall at least 397024 conversations in which the other person or group is simply employing the "shock and awe" method of dropping big names, terms, concepts, etc. to feign intelligence. And I like the dude's suggested response, too: just play along and pretend to be duly impressed, so that all is better in the world when their smoke-and-mirrors game is exposed.

That site is absolutely a gold mine of blogging goodness, one that I hope to frequent often in the coming weeks/months/whatever. You should too! Sometime soon I'll get it added to the blogroll.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

heads up, conservatives

Vox speaketh the truth:
If you can't get a republican Republican, then let the Democrats pillage and burn for four years. That way you've at least got a chance of putting things back in order; as both Bushes have proved, all electing a democratic Republican president accomplishes is to ensure that the government pillaging is followed by even more pillaging. If you're going to have democrat-style rule anyhow, let the Democrats take the responsibility for it. It's true that one shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But John McCain is not good and the perfect should always be the enemy of the bad.
Key thought there: IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE DEMOCRAT-STYLE RULE ANYHOW, LET THE DEMOCRATS TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. He's right, and that's one of the simplest yet best defenses I've seen of why a Democrap is actually more desirable than a RINO. At least one will call himself what he is and thus provide fair warning; the other will claim to be something he's obviously not and will successfully dupe a part of the population into thinking he's their friend.

So...go Obama? Not quite, but he's preferable to McAmnesty.

Disclaimer: this train of logic does not apply if a wicked witch so evil as Billary should become the other option. Let even the bad always be the enemy of the absolute, boundless, unfathomable evil.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

job search observations

Yup, back in the job market again. Not that I've been looking hard or even at all for the past few years, but just a few months ago I was convinced I'd be sticking around here for the near future. I wasn't so much content with that as resigned to it though. But upon further consideration, how many years do I want to flush down the drain by staying in hyper-expensive southern Maryland and working at a measly-paying job that I've never really warmed up to and can't see warming up to in the near future, and that isn't ever going to offer me real prospects of jumping out of the job track I'm in now and doing something much different or more exciting?

I suppose I might have a slight Bobby Petrino streak in me--aside from his habit of trying and sometimes succeeding in stabbing his employers in the back on the way out, of course--when it comes to settling in to jobs, locales, etc., but then again one of my longstanding goals has been being overseas and traveling a lot, on the job or otherwise. Let's just say this current situation isn't quite meeting those desires either personally or professionally. And while increasing the prospects of eventual overseas work and opening some experience/clearance/connection doors down the road, joining the ANG is by no means a certainty with regard to eventual overseas employment (or deployment, as the case would be) and would have that rather inconvenient consequence of chaining me to this region for several more years.

One thing I've noticed about the job search this time around's a lot easier to find stuff. More choices doesn't necessarily make for an easier decision and often just makes for a harder one (think "information overload" in the sense of having too many options to properly evaluate), but it's at least nice to see stuff readily available with minimal effort. And that's the catch--I haven't really gone on offense at all this time, except to post a resume online at a couple of job sites if that counts. That's completely unlike my experience in getting the job I have now, which required me being persistent and becoming a thorn in the side of the HR folks to keep things moving. Now I get bombarded with multiple calls and emails each day, sometimes from the same person or team (I guess they figure leaving another message on the same phone on the same day or the next is good for effect), and I'm having some trouble keeping up with them all. Heck, I didn't figure looking for a job would be another job in itself. But even if some of the contacts are from headhunters that are leaving their 238th message of the day, it is nice to be on the receiving end for a change.

On top of the obvious plus of having a few years of experience under my belt, I think that P.E. license is really going to bat for me. I can already tell it was a worthwhile investment that's paying potential dividends faster than I thought it would. A few of the positions make prominent mention of a license requirement or preference, even for power industry jobs that a license wouldn't seem to be a big perk for. But I suppose I was wrong in assuming my newly-gained license wouldn't serve me much until after I left my current field. People apparently pay more attention to that sort of thing than I had guessed.

Also, although there are plenty of good-looking positions being handled by recruiters, it seems that the highest-quality ones are still out there to be found by those who put forth the effort and know where to look. Several big design-build firms have a lot of openings out there of interest, stuff I'm actually qualified for and wouldn't be afraid of getting in over my head with, and some even have entire sections of their websites devoted to folks like me who are looking for overseas work. So like a lot of things, while good stuff becomes apparent after a little work, perhaps the best stuff is reserved for those who go actually spend considerable time digging. And I bet those companies intend for it to be that way.

As I was telling a friend recently with whom I have a lot in common when it comes to sentiments toward life in general, I find myself in the awkward position of having to choose from multiple good options. I've grown accustomed to just being resigned to take whatever I can get, making choices that don't really make me happy but rather appear to have the least chance of making me more unhappy. But now it seems that now I'm in unfamiliar good-better-best territory. And as such I don't really know how to handle it aside from praying and hoping I get some glimmer of direction that I've rarely gotten before and, to be honest, had more or less given up on getting. But I think I could get used to this sort of decision space. Hopefully I'll spend more time here in the future.

Overall, it's getting harder and harder to see myself sticking it out here like I had intended to. My miscalculation of what it would take to actually pursue the overseas/travel/expatriate dream has put me in the awkward position of having to make big decisions I didn't think I'd have to confront for a few more years. Things like joining the military, changing jobs, buying a house, and others have all been on the radar screen for a while, but nowadays it seems they're all demanding decisions at the same time. Or at least they're all hinging on what happens over the next few months or so.

Needless to say, that's not at all the kind of time and pace I'd like to work with. Decisiveness is something I need to work on and that's being proven by the current quandary I find myself in. Life would be so much easier if I could just deliberate and come to grips with things one at a time instead of all at once, but I guess I've been around long enough to know better than to expect that to ever happen...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

no comment necessary, but i'll provide some anyway

From a Commie News Network story about the latest New York politician to get caught with his pants down (sorry, couldn't resist), concerning former New Jersey Jim McGreevey:
McGreevey, who announced he is gay and is now attending an Episcopalian seminary...
Wow. As I said, no comment is even necessary there. Do the Episcopalians go looking for trouble on this issue, or does it just always find them? Or maybe the McGreevey fiasco and the ongoing face-off between the Episcopalians and the truth aren't so unrelated...perhaps the guy just wanted to get some education and "coming out" was listed as a requirement on the seminary app...? Anyway, that's a prepackaged punch line to so many jokes.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

to go or not to go to orlando

It appears that the impossible may actually be crazy work schedule could end on the projected end date. That NEVER happens, but apparently this time around could be an anomaly. So now I'm faced with a question I had no reason to worry about only a few days ago: To go or not to go to the Ligonier's Orlando conference?

The catch is, the thing starts this coming Thursday. (It's not that I haven't known about it for months, but that my schedule has been completely up in the air for the exact day or two I need to know about to make a decision.) My last night shift could end Wednesday, and I likely wouldn't know for sure until less than 12 hours before the beginning of the conference. So I'd have to have all my stuff packed and on hand when I go to work the previous evening, and if that's all then one of the more hectic days of my life would go something like this: buy tickets and make a bunch of reservations online, dash to the airport, fly to Orlando, get a rental car, drive to Calvary Chapel, register at the door, sleep in my seat and wander around like a zombie for the Thursday afternoon session because I'd effectively be pulling an all-nighter at that point, and finally go to the hotel early that evening and crash, and maybe eat but likely not. That's one of those things I'd like to do just for the sheer adventure and madness of it if for no other reason.

There are plenty of other reasons to pull it off though. For one, the only other Ligonier conference I've been to was great and I've wanted to make a return trip since. The topic is evangelism, which is very interesting from a theological perspective and one of the few things that might keep my miniscule attention span focused for minutes and minutes at a time. Heck, any time a group of theologians with that kind of firepower gathers to talk about anything at all, it's gonna be good.

I'd also get to see some family and friends that I haven't seen in a long while and don't get many opportunities to see. That'd be worth it even if it did add a bit of extra cost to the trip. Not only that, I just need to get away from my mundane home base for a while and see some cool people and cool stuff. It's only been less than four months since my last trip, but that's already too long and I need another vacation. Now.

Last but not least, I kinda feel like my mental and spiritual health demands it at this point. It seems I've been sinking more and more into the familiar wasting-away, do-nothing mode that I spent much of my college and Little Rock years in. I seem to be in my best spirits when traveling and doing cool and somewhat adventurous stuff--which makes me just like every other American I guess (not sure that's a good thing but bear with me as I struggle to stay on topic)--and hearing some truth for a few days to boot sure can't hurt. Given some bigger stuff I'm considering jumping into these days, such a short turnaround on this isn't rash at all by comparison.

Problem is, there are some hitches. For one, it'd run me well in excess of a grand or so, a few hundred more bucks than I hoped to get by on and still with room to increase due to things like amusement park tickets--things that would become absolute necessities if a big enough window of time presents itself on one or more occasions over the weekend. I can haul my own food down and stay in the cheapest hotel I can find in Orlando, but even then I'd be out at least a thousand bucks. That's due in no small part to the fact that I'd get HURT on flight tix--I guess the gas price woes are hitting the airlines hard--and I have no way around that. (A co-worker mentioned driving and I'd seriously consider it were it not for the whole time-crunch thing.) I actually did make enough "extra" money by working lots of overtime a few weeks back to pick up the trip cost plus a little, and the feds are giving back more than I expected of the money they stole from me over the past year, but still...a lot of money for a short jaunt. It's not like I have bags of the stuff just sitting around as it is.

Also, the scheduling obviously isn't great. I think I could recover sleep-wise in a day or so, but Thursday would be a LONG day and that could get me off to a rough start. And since I wouldn't have a lot of time there after the conference, I'd be doing a bit of driving around Florida between Sunday afternoon--of course I'd stick around Orlando and hit one of The Two Presbyterian Churches In Florida--and Tuesday afternoon. Not that the drive times look too terrible, but it would be a bit more rushed than I'd prefer.

So, anyway, come Thursday afternoon I'll either be in Florida or Maryland, and I probably won't know until maybe four hours before I'm either boarding a plane or sleeping at home. But in a sense, I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. For now I'm actually leaning toward if my work schedule will just cooperate then maybe I can make that happen.

UPDATE: Nixed, for now. Frustrating but not at all surprising. And to think, this wouldn't be happening if we weren't so critically short-staffed that there isn't a single other engineer in our department capable of covering for me. Bleep...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

depressing thought of the day

Nothing like a bucket of cold water in the face:
But I don't think there is much hope for the idea of devolving authority. Once we have sold the idea (which we didn't succeed in selling until 1965) that the federal government is responsible for everything, the idea of state and local control doesn't make political sense. I'm not very optimistic about devolving control. It is just too easy for Congress to pass a law that imposes costs on others--unfunded mandates, etc. It is even difficult to define what an unfunded mandate is. If a radical devolution of powers was possible, it would have been done before. The assumption of states' rights is gone. There's no support for it in the Supreme Court and there's no support for it in public opinion.
Yikes, nothing like calling it as you see it. That's from an interview with James Q. Wilson, one of America's foremost public policy experts--and the author of one of the authoritative textbooks on American government and the one which served as HHS's AP textbook back in the day, for those that care. As much as I hate to say it, I think the closing remarks there are, unfortunately, spot on. What's worse, that interview was from 1995. If things were that bleak then, how much worse off are we now? As the title of the closing article in a recent Week issue asks, "How Dumb Can We Get?"

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

sports and politics collide

And as usual, sports again serves as a good medium to point out the absurd fallacies so favored by politicians. Check out this random comment:
And I hear the Packers have already found a replacement for Farve... his wife. She was there with him the whole time, helped him study the play books, and even sat in the stands while he practiced and played.

So she's qualified to take over.

Well, according to Billary's logic...