Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Epicurus Riddle - And Why It Is Mistaken

In reading about faith, one will find atheists who quote the Roman philosopher Epicurus, circa 300 BC:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence comes evil?
Is he neither willing, nor able? Then why call him God?

Atheist attempt to use this as an ancient argument against the existence of God, or at least our definition of God. The answer to the riddle is a bit of the second and third choices: God is willing and able to prevent evil, but He chooses not to.

Why? Why would a loving God choose to allow evil to exist? Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen?

The answer is that the questions are flawed. Viewing God as a magical invisible man in the sky (as George Carlin liked to refer to Him) who will solve all your problems and protect you from every harm is childish. Evil exists in the world because God allows us to choose to do evil, not because he chooses to prevent it. Preventing evil would remove our free will. We would no longer be his children, but his subjects, his slaves. Evil exists because we are all fallen and live in a fallen world we helped corrupt. The end result is death, disease, and horror.

Whence comes evil? It comes from from us. God is our comfort and solace from the evil we created.

God wants us to choose good, but He allows us to choose evil, so that when we do choose to follow Him and do good, it was of our own accord, and not His force.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Common Sense Online Advice

An internet chat I would like to see:

StressMom has joined the discussion.

ProudNavyNuke: Hi, and welcome to Common Sense Online Advice! What can I help you with?
StressMom: Hi. My problem is my husband. He spends all his time on the computer.
ProudNavyNuke: All his time? Be careful using absolutes like "all", "never", etc. Be more descriptive. Are we talking several hours a day?
StressMom: Yes! That's all he does!
ProudNavyNuke: So is he neglecting the family? Do you have kids? Does he spend time with them?
StessMom: We have 2 kids. He's not neglecting us, I guess. He fixes dinner for the kids. He plays with them and takes them places. He puts them to bed.
ProudNavyNuke: So when is he on the computer? While all this is going on?
StressMom: No. He waits till the kids go to bed.
ProudNavyNuke: Okay, so we're talking a few hours a night then?
StressMom: I guess. The morning too. Before they get up.
ProudNavyNuke: Does he have a job?
StressMom: Yes.
ProudNavyNuke: Doing what? Has all this affected his performance at work?
StressMom: He works at a software company. No, he's pretty successful.
ProudNavyNuke: Does he keep grass mowed, house maintained, etc.?
StressMom: Yeah. He's good around the house. He just finished a playroom in the basement.
ProudNavyNuke: What does he actually do on the computer? Games? Porn?
StressMom: No, I don't know what it is.
ProudNavyNuke: Can you go ask him?
StressMom: Yeah. brb
StressMom: He said it was something called XL.
ProudNavyNuke: I think you mean Excel. Did it have a bunch of tables and numbers?
StressMom: I think.
ProudNavyNuke: Okay, so your complaint is that your husband who successfully works in computers and helps out around the house spends a couple hours of his free time doing additional work?
ProudNavyNuke: Hello?
StressMom has left the discussion.
UniGrad2008 has joined the discussion.
ProudNavyNuke: Hi, and welcome to Common Sense Online Advice! What can I help you with?
UniGrad2008: Hi! I just graduated and nobody will hire me! Help!
ProudNavyNuke: What is your degree in?
UniGrad2008: B.A. in Philosophy
ProudNavyNuke: Hmmm. You can always go into teaching.
UniGrad2008: No way! Teachers don't make any money!
ProudNavyNuke: So you chose a fluff major that provided you no skills or experience, and now you wonder why no one will hire you?
ProudNavyNuke: Never mind. Let's try something. I am going to give you some things to say at your next job interview.
UniGrad2008: okay...
ProudNavyNuke: "Would you like extra foam in your cappuccino?"
UniGrad2008 has left the discussion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Daily Conversations with the world -or- Why New Technology Sucks

Alarm Clock: WAKE UP!
Me: I'm up.
Alarm Clock: Okay.

Me: Shower, I want some hot water.
Shower: Okay.

Me: Car, turn on and go that way.
Car: Okay.

Me: PocketPC, turn on.
PocketPC: Zzzzzz...
Me: PocketPC, turn on!
PocketPC: Zzzzzz...
Me: --Click--
PocketPC: Hey! Where's my memory card! I'm up! help!
Me: --Click--
PocketPC: There it is! Yay!
Me: PocketPC, check my e-mail.
PocketPC: Oh. It's you again. Here you go...

Me: Laptop, turn on.
Laptop: Okay...Hey look! I'm gonna make the screen all white! Isn't that cool?
Me: No. Turn of the monitor and turn it on again.
Laptop: Okay. LOOK! White! Wheee!
Me: Turn of the monitor and turn it on again.
Laptop: Please login.

Me: Printer, please print this document double sided.
Printer: Okay. Here you go!
Me: These aren't double sided.
Printer: I don't know what you're talking about.
Me: Try again.
Printer: ...
Printer: There is an error. Something about paper. Or toner. I think.

Me: Microwave, cook my lunch.
Microwave: Okay.

Me: Windows, open this application.
Windows: Go away I'm busy.
Me: Windows, open this application!
Windows: I can't hear you.
Windows: Oh! You want me to open this application three times? Here you go! Here you go! Here you go!

PocketPC: Hey! You have a voicemail!
Me: A voicemail? When did someone call?
PocketPC: I have no idea.

Me: PocketPC, open this file.
PocketPC: What file?
Me: The one on the storage card.
PocketPC: I don't what this "storage card" is you speak of. I only have something called "Storage Card 2"
Me: Well, isn't it possible that the file is on there?
PocketPC: No. That's impossible.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Things I Would Tell a 15 Year Old That I know at 35

I have followed most of these throughout my life, even when I was younger. It has made a world of difference compared to so many others I know.

  • Choosing the more difficult options now will make life easier later.
  • The "cool" people will soon become "obscure" people. I wish I had a nickel for every high school star athlete who became an insurance salesman or mortgage broker.
  • People are far too worried about themselves to even notice you most of the time.
  • Other people's opinions are colored by their own perspective, and therefore mostly worthless.
  • Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
  • Buy a good, used car. Take good care of it, and drive it until it barely runs anymore.
  • That gadget, while cool, will be obsolete next year. Save your money. It's a gift you are giving your future self.
  • If you really want to buy something, wait a couple of months to see if you still need it. You probably didn't.
  • If you say you are going to do something, do it, and do it better than they expected.
  • If you work harder at your job, you will enjoy it more.
  • Always be learning something new.
  • Wake up early. Show up early. Nobody ever got in trouble for showing up early.
  • Religious faith is worth more than you think. Other paths to personal fulfillment will ultimately prove shallow by comparison.
  • Only upgrade your computer if the screen looks like a slide show, or your hard drive sounds like a chainsaw.
  • Only go to college if there is something there you specifically want to study. Otherwise, a trade school is just as good or better.
  • The military is not a bad idea either.
  • If you must go to college, pick a major that will lead to a job. Otherwise, don't complain about the job market. People really aren't hiring philosophy or Russian literature majors.
  • Women are just as shallow as men when it comes to judging someone by physical appearance. If a woman accuses you of wanting someone for their looks alone, ask her if she would date a man shorter than she.
  • If a woman complains that she can't find a nice guy, she really means she finds nice guys boring.
  • If you like a girl who complains that her boyfriend is a jerk, forget ever dating her. You have no chance with her, and it would not be worth it anyway.
  • If someone says, "It's not the money; it's the principle", it's the money.
  • Don't sweat public speaking. Remember, you most likely know more about the subject you are covering that the audience
  • Read at least one book a year.
  • Never say "I'm sorry". Say "It won't happen again".

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oh, Canada!

Reporting to you live from our neighbor to the north, Canada!

I am up here giving software training for six days. I spent three days in London, Ontario and am spending the balance in Milton, a smaller town outside Toronto. The strangest thing about my visit is that in all my world travels, this is my first visit to Canada. Yep, I've been to Germany, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Fiji, Scotland, and Denmark, but never to the land of the maple leaf.

The trip up was uneventful. Even though I was warned that customs would be brutal, the agent I spoke with was courteous and brief. Based on my previous experience, it will probably be more difficult to get back in to the United States, and I have a passport!

The oddest thing I've noticed about Canada is its startling similarity to the U.S. In all the other countries I've visited, the difference in culture and language were significant enough that I was excited to get into the experience and enjoy the differences.

But Canada is just different enough to make the experience surreal, like an alternate reality. Here is what I mean.

  • The cars and highways are pretty much the same, but distance is measured in kilometers. (The speed limit is 100? Wow! Oh.)
  • The weather and time zone are the same, but they measure the temperature in Celsius (It's going to be a hot and sunny 22 degrees today!)
  • The people are friendly and speak perfect English, of course, but to my Kentucky ears, they have a distinct accent, eh?
  • The coins are the same size as ours, but the bills are all different colors.
  • They have ketchup flavored potato chips (which I have not been brave enough to try).
  • They have sales tax but there are two of them on every purchase, 6% and 8%!
One last interesting thing before I sign off. The biggest feature I've noticed about Milton?

A women's prison.

It's great here.


Friday, March 31, 2006

The Power of Prayer and Hand Turkeys

Last Thanksgiving, I reached a milestone as a parent. My son made his first hand turkey at pre-school. He presented it to me and asked if I would hang it in my office.

Now, I know a lot of guys who balk at hanging their children's artwork in their work space. Not me. I love every bit of it. I proudly took it to work and attached it to one of my metal shelves along with his other contributions.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to move to a larger office. Late on a Friday, I moved all my books, papers and various electrical doo-dads along with my art collection. Things were still in disarray when I left for the day.

Over the course of the next few days, I arranged my new office. I soon realized something disturbing.

My hand turkey was gone.

I had my paper valentine, my little painted wooden sled, my Jackson Pollock-like painting (on glorious 11x17 paper, no less), and my bejeweled heart box. But no turkey.

I looked in the old office, in every desk drawer. I shuffled through files and folders and planners.

No turkey.

A few days later, my wife and son came to visit over lunch and check out my news digs. The inevitable moment came: "Daddy, where is your turkey?", he said with confused pleading.


I informed him that I had misplaced during the move, but that I was sure it would turn up.

"Oh." he said, disappointed.

I did keep looking, though with less zeal, over the next several days. Every night, upon my return home, my son would ask me if I had found it. I always had to tell him the bad news. He remained upbeat, however.

As the days passed, he too lost hope, though. "Maybe someone threw it in the garbage", he said.

"Maybe", I resigned. I gave up.

Until today. I did not want to dissapoint my little boy. I wanted to find that turkey.

So I prayed. I prayed to God, the creator of the Universe, my Lord and Savior, to help me find a hand turkey.

"Please, Father, help me to find this. Not for me, but for my son, whom I love very much."

I started looking again, but my attention kept going back to one spot, one shelf. I recalled that I had brought a shelf over from my old office and placed it next to an existing one. Had I already hung the turkey when I put that shelf up?

I peered between the thin gap betweeen the two shelves. There was something back there.


I grabbed an envelope and began to dislodge the item. Slowly, it came into view.

I had found my turkey.

Was it my prayer? I don't know. I have read that God will answer our prayers if they are earnest. I will not pray for a million dollars. I know that God would not listen to such a shallow and superficial request.

But today, I think God answered my prayer for a hand turkey from a wonderful little boy.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Suspicious Valor

I just recently read an article concerning individuals who "embellish" their military careers. The article covered those whose activities were outright illegal, e.g. wearing unearned medals, officially referring to themselves as "Colonel" for financial gain, but most of these men justlied about their military activities. I had no idea that Stolen Valor was such a big problem.

I have met men over the years who were quite obviously full of it when discussing their military backgrounds. So often, people join the military thinking it will be just like the movies with action, excitement, and rapid advancement. I think these men found themselves in dead-end careers and quickly left the service. When speaking to those who would have no way of checking, it is tempting to tell them anything to keep them interested. It is just not that exciting to tell people how you did data entry at a base in Witchita for two years or how you swabbed the deck of a refueling vessel in the Mediterranean.

Don't get me wrong. Any stint in the military can be honorable and worthy of respect. But one has to be proud of the truth, however boring that truth might be.

I used to wish my time in the Navy were less exciting. The six years I spent on active duty were the hardest of my life (so far). When I tell people about my service, it is not my wish to brag, but rather as some sort of latent therapy. I hated the Navy most of the time I was in. All I wanted to do was get out and go to college. It was physically, mentally, and psychologically exhausting. But I would do it all over again without hesitation.

I was fortunate, in some respect, that I had a job that would only make me grow. Things I learned from my service, I still use today. I am not just talking about engineering concepts, but abstract concepts as well. The military, when followed correctly, will instill integrity, character, and honor. The men who lie about their service by saying they were in Special Forces or members of Seal Team Six never truly learned these concepts and should be ashamed of denegrating the actual members of these esteemed groups, who ironically enough, rarely speak about their experiences.

Here is a quick test. When someone speaks about their military experience, listen to whether they refer to "we" or "I". The miltary functions by way of teams that works together; each member is a part of a well-oiled machine. There are no individuals in the true miltary spirit. That is why you always hear about the actions of battalions, regiments, units and ships, never Seargent-Major Jones or Petty Officer Smith.

For my part, I was indeed partially responsible for the care and feeding of the nuclear reactor on a U.S. Navy submarine. Most of it was routine. We ran diagnostic tests and periodic maintenance. We monitored plant systems. And we cleaned. And cleaned. We cleaned inside the normally irradiated reactor compartment, but it had to be done. On most ships, my rank of Second Class Petty Officer (E-5) may have elevated me to some sort of minor leadership position. On a submarine, it meant more pay and little else.

We travelled to exotic ports and worked hard. We even did things I am not allowed to talk about, but those things were not nearly as exciting as you could imagine. Mostly we left port, sailed around, trained, ran casualty drills, and came home.

Many of the men who operate on stolen valor got caught because they wore medals they had not earned. They made the mistake of wearing medals rarely seen or hard to come by. None made the mistake of wearing the Medal of Honor (which are usually bestowed posthumously), but they got darn close. Even the most disgruntled sailors I knew took a certain amount of pride in displaying the medals they earned. And to a man, we were honest about it. We were a small community, and word would spread fast if someone had been bestowed some extrodinary honor. There was accountability, something these men did not have to deal with when meeting most civilians. It was usually other veterans that called their bluff.

For the benefit of full disclosure, here are the medals I was awarded. Each is listed on a form called a DD-214, which is given to each member upon their discharge. If it is not on there, you can't wear it.

Top Left Meritorious Unit Commendation Given to ships who distinguish themselves during an operation. This is one of those things I can't talk about.
Top Center Good Conduct Medal Given to individuals who serve more than four years without getting in trouble.
Top Right Navy Expeditionary Medal We got this for roughly the same reason as the first ribbon.
Bottom Left National Defense Service Medal This was the first one I earned. During Desert Storm, everyone in the military got one of these. Everyone. I wasn't even on a ship yet. We used to call this the McDonald's Employee of the Month ribbon.
Bottom Center Sea Service Deployment Ribbon One can wear this for being deployed from one's homeport for longer than ninety days. I have two, so I can put a little star in the center.
Bottom Right Arctic Service Ribbon Given to those who have been to the Arctic Ocean. My favorite, actually, because you don't see it much. I didn't know you could get awards for throwing snowballs and playing football.

My military career was not the most exciting, but hey, they do make movies about my shipmates and me, and I have some great sea stories that I can bore people with for a lifetime. I'm proud of every minute.