Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Valero objects to being forced to fund its own demise."

That quote came from this recent Mercury News article; it made me want to bang my head on the wall.

What is it with these guys? Kodak invented digital photography in 1975, and then covered it up. They declared bankruptcy earlier this year. These clowns should have been leading the charge into digital photography; they had a 1.4 Mpixel CCD sensor... in 1986! The issue? With Kodak, as this Forbes article puts it, the company "had the nearsighted view that it was in the film business instead of the story telling business."

Nobody wants film—nobody has ever wanted film; what they wanted, and still want, is a way to bring the past into the present. I almost wrote "what they... want is photos" but that's too narrow, too; think 8mm movie film, video camcorders, and who knows what else; the Forbes article is right: Kodak were in the storytelling business, not the film business. And the film business has been in decline. Kodak could have exploited its early (early!) lead in digital photography so that the declining film business wouldn't have killed them.

This guy from Valero sounds like someone from Kodak: they're in the oil refining business. Dude, nobody wants gasoline; nobody wants diesel either. What we want is to move from point A to point B. Nobody cares whether that's a fill-up of electrons, hydrogen, hydrocarbons; what everybody wants is a way to get to their destination.

Here's a little more free advice: there is only so much oil on the planet, and we can't make any more (I'm talking economics here). Demand for the diminishing pool of oil is rising—and I don't just mean from China and India. Dude, the oil business is a business in decline. You gonna be Kodak and try to milk the declining oil business? Your shareholders should insist that you guys get into the hydrogen business, 'cause we're gonna be out of oil one of these days—yeah, it'll be after you retire, but how d'you want to be remembered? As one of those clowns who drove over the cliff you knew was coming? Or as someone with the foresight to steer away from the cliff and toward a bridge to a possible future?

You guys at Valero have some expertise that's not dependent on petroleum. You have real estate expertise, you have expertise in small retail operations, you have expertise in dealing with guys in cars with credit cards, you know how to deal with government regulators (city planning commissions and building departments, weights & measures guys, etc.). You guys need to take your eyes away from the microscopes and see what you're driving toward.

You guys could be the heroes of the industry; what would it be like, do you suppose, to have Shell and Chevron and Texaco chasing your taillights? If you're really an executive, a decision maker rather than a mere "operator" (see Drucker's The Effective Executive if you don't know what I mean), then your job is to think about the future, and I don't mean next quarter's numbers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

He loves you oppressively?

From Daughters of Song by Paula Huston (think "Huston, we have a problem"):
It feels good talking this way; she finds herself sighing with sad pleasure as she recounts the events of her vanished childhood.

Finally she stops… “Your father must be a very strong man,” Jan says.

“He is.”

“He must be proud of you.”

She laughs. “More than that. Much much more. You can’t even imagine it.”

“He loves you oppressively?”

Huston, p. 101
When I read things like this, I wonder, is that me?

Women in the church: Part 3, 1 Corinthians 14

Other posts on women as elders ⇐click

This is a continuation of Part 2, which began a discussion on parts of this paper (also online here) by Tim and Kathy Keller. The excerpt under discussion is:

The office of elder is forbidden to women.

Elders are to be men (1 Timothy 3:1-3). In 1 Timothy 2:11, Paul forbids women to "teach or have authority" over men. In 1 Corinthians 14:35-36, women are not to take part in determining whether a teacher is teaching sound doctrine. (Note: Paul's command for women to "keep silent in church" cannot mean that they may never speak publicly. That would contradict I Corinthians 11 where women are told to pray and prophesy. It means they are to keep silent when the prophets are judged.)
online here or here

Does 1 Corinthians 14:35-36 mean women can't discern truth?

Dr. Keller says that the passage means that women aren't to take part in determining whether a teacher is teaching sound doctrine. How does that come from this text? 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 summarizes Paul's argument that prophecy is more useful than tongues for edifying the church, a key part being 14:18-19, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (NIV).

Following that, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 talks about orderly meetings. Here are 14:34-35 in context:

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. 39Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
1 Corinthians 14:29-40 (NIV)
Here's one possible interpretation of verses 34-35: Perhaps in Corinth some women were disrupting the meetings, particularly when others were prophesying or speaking in tongues. It's no stretch to say that the Corinthians' meetings were characterized by chaos rather than by edification. So perhaps the command in verse 34 was in response to this chaos; that is in fact what 14:30-33 are talking about, i.e., keeping things orderly so that the meeting brings glory rather than disrepute (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:23) to God. And what about "as the Law says"—what can that mean? I suspect there's something in the Law (where?) or in rabbinic tradition about interrupting a prophet who was delivering a message from the Lord.

This commentary offers (scroll down to the commentary on verse 34) the possibility that there were some conditions at Grecian churches in particular, i.e., Corinth and Ephesus (Timothy was in Ephesus at the time of 1 Timothy). “It is noteworthy that there is no hint of such a prohibition to any churches except Grecian.”

Dr. Keller's interpretation—viz., that women must not participate in judging whether a prophet is a true prophet or not—doesn't obviously emerge from the text. I don't see anything in the text about an assessment panel for prophets, or an examination board, or a church council; what I see is chaos vs edification.

The situation with this passage is somewhat similar to the situation with 1 Timothy 2:12, mentioned in part 2, in that the plain sense makes no sense:

  • Women must remain silent in church? But they were praying and prophesying there! (1 Corinthians 11)
  • Some women were unmarried; some were married to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7); how could they ask their husbands about the faith?
    (Sumner, Men and Women in the Church, p.251, footnote)
So there is not a lot of disagreement that this passage refers to a very specific situation at a particular time and place; why do evangelical males want to apply it (albeit a nuanced and watered-down version of it) today in North America? How can we say that this only applies to certain kinds of discernment or assessment panels? It certainly isn't obvious how it emerges from the text.


I recently heard Dr. Keller's message at John Stott's memorial service, and I was impressed by his comments about the evolution of Stott's thinking and preaching around social justice issues. Dr. Keller said something to the effect that if a great thinker and preacher like John Stott took years and years to adjust his thinking and preaching to address issues of poverty and exploitation and injustice, "What are my issues?" (quoting from memory; he might have said "blind spots").

I think this showed great wisdom and humility. We all have blind spots, and if it didn't sound like bragging I'd say I'm the blindest of us all. I wonder if this issue of women as elders, or women in leadership in general, isn't one of Dr. Keller's.

And again I'll confess that I have an interest in a more-egalitarian kind of view, but that said, Sumner (who is no feminist) makes a compelling case for the view

  • that 1 Peter 3:7 refers to physical/sexual vulnerability of women, not to mental acuity, spiritual sensitivity, strength of character, etc.;
  • that 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (with Adam and Eve and all) and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 were specific to a time and place rather than universal; they are not normative for us today.
I therefore think the passages that are definitive on the question of women's roles in the church are Ephesians 4:11 (God calls some to be apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers) and Galatians 3:26-28 (in Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Greek; we are all sons of God through Christ). There are probably more, but hey, I'm no theologian.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Women in the church: Part 2, 1 Timothy 2-3

Other posts on women as elders ⇐click

In this posting I'll comment on a paper (also online here) that a sister in Christ referred me to (see Part 1 for context). It's by Tim Keller, whose teaching we both respect, and it makes some very important points: that traditionalists have abused the concept of headship to treat women as inferiors; that some feminists incorrectly claim kephale (typically translated "head") refers to "source" or "origin"; that women in New Testament churches were prophets and did in fact prophesy in church.

I don't agree with Dr. Keller in all points, though, and I hate to disagree with him because I've benefited so much from his teaching and preaching. We listen to his sermons and we've had college students in our home to discuss his book The Reason for God. Here's the part of his paper I don't quite agree with:

The office of elder is forbidden to women.

Elders are to be men (1 Timothy 3:1-3). In 1 Timothy 2:11, Paul forbids women to "teach or have authority" over men. In 1 Corinthians 14:35-36, women are not to take part in determining whether a teacher is teaching sound doctrine. (Note: Paul's command for women to "keep silent in church" cannot mean that they may never speak publicly. That would contradict I Corinthians 11 where women are told to pray and prophesy. It means they are to keep silent when the prophets are judged.)
online here or here

Does 1 Timothy 3:1-3 mean women can't be elders today?

This is my first issue. If in Romans 12:1 we think "adelphoi" (translated "brothers") addresses both men and women, why would we think "husband of one wife" is exclusively masculine? I'm not saying that it absolutely must refer to both men and women, but if you say 1 Timothy 3 proves elders shall all be male, then I say it's not self-evident why "husband of one wife" must refer only to men, since "brothers" is understood to include both males and females (come to think of it, "sons" in Galatians 3:26-28 prima facie includes both males and females).

Does 1 Timothy 2:12 mean women can't teach in church today?

Next is the thorny issue of 1 Timothy 2:12, which reads "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." What does this mean? Was it addressing only a specific local condition at a specific time (like Old Testament prohibitions against bacon and shrimp)? Or is it universal and therefore applicable to today (like Old Testament prohibitions against theft and murder)?

The short version (and we need one, since I drone on for over 1200 words, starting at the next paragraph) is that

  • Whereas 1 Timothy 2:8-10 surely refers to a specific local situation (we don't believe men must lift their hands while praying today, we don't forbid braids on women, or gold wedding bands today; and
  • Whereas 1 Timothy 2:15 surely refers to a specific local situation (else women would be saved via childbirth, rather than being saved by grace); and
  • Whereas 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is sandwiched between those two passages that certainly refer to specific local situations; and
  • Furthermore, even conservative evangelicals don't apply or preach 1 Timothy 2:12 as written; they don't forbid women (think Elisabeth Elliot, Anne Graham Lotz) from teaching men about the Scriptures in books or speeches today;
  • Therefore we are forced to conclude that 1 Timothy 2:11-14 must refer to a local situation and therefore is not universal; it is not normative for today.
If it isn't obvious, I owe much of my understanding of this passage to Professor Sarah Sumner and her marvelous volume, Men and Women in the Church. Details follow.

There's a principle of interpretation that says if the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense. But does the plain sense make sense? I'll claim it doesn't. Let's have a look.

12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
1 Timothy 2:12-15 (NIV)
How is the plain sense not make sense? Let me count the ways.
  • A woman can't teach? Yet Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26).
  • Women must be silent? But women prayed and prophesied in church (1 Corinthians 11:5)
  • Adam is preferred because he came first? So Ishmael was preferred over Isaac, Esau over Jacob, Manasseh over Ephraim? Not so much. And John the Baptist has more authority to teach (etc.) than the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Eve was deceived and became a sinner; how did Adam become a sinner? Willfully, right? (Note that Adam was with Eve when she was deceived -- Genesis 3:6.)

    Women are disqualified from teaching because Eve was deceived, whereas Adam was willfully disobedient and so it's okay for men to teach?

    And if women can't teach men because they're deceived, wouldn't that make it all the more dangerous for women to teach other women? If women can't teach men because women are deceived, then women shouldn't teach anyone, especially other women, who according to this interpretation are all the more easily deceived. Yet Paul encourages older women to do just that: to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5).

  • Women will be saved through childbearing—not saved by grace through faith? (Ephesians 2:8)
No, the plain sense makes no sense, so we must look for another sense. I've heard or read two explanations that do make sense. The first is due to Jack Crabtree, and I heard it back in the '80s; the main thing I remember from that was the idea that this chapter is elliptical—Paul is reminding Timothy of some issue they've discussed before, and these points about Adam and Eve and childbearing are points (as points from an outline) of their discussion.

The lovely Carol reminded me about one of Crabtree's points: that although Eve was deceived and sinned, it was Adam that's held responsible. (Genesis 3:14-17, Eve doesn't get a "Because you have done this" as the serpent did or a "Because you listened" as Adam did; Romans 5:14 "Adam sinned," 5:22 " Adam all die," etc.) It seems to me that Crabtree concluded that penultimate responsibility for a congregation needed to be with a man. (Ultimate responsibility lies of course with the Lord.) This made some sense to me at the time, but I now find the short version above compelling.

Another Crabtree makes a more detailed case in this paper why the passage need not (and indeed cannot) be understood to be universal just because Adam and Eve are cited. (I guess that makes three.)

Professor Sarah Sumner, in Men and Women in the Church (referenced in Part 1), adds a lot of detail; I'll summarize a few of her comments here. In no way do I do her book justice; if you're interested enough in this issue to read this, you probably should buy the book and study it the way the Bereans studied the gospel (Acts 17:11). Some of her points:

  • All Scripture is inspired by God, and in particular 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is; it's also relevant today and profitable for believers today; it is not irrelevant. This does not, however, mean that it's profitable when it's misunderstood. (207)
  • As mentioned above (by me), if a straightforward reading makes sense, we seek no other kind of reading. By "makes sense" we mean "makes sense to believers"—not to unbelievers. For example, a talking donkey (Numbers 22), the virgin birth (Matthew 1, Luke 1), a floating ax-head (2 Kings 6) don't make sense to unbelievers, but we who follow Christ believe miracles are possible and are consistent with God's omnipotence. (208-209)
  • A straightforward reading of 1 Timothy 2:12 is not sensible and indeed is not practiced consistently, even by conservative complementarian evangelical men. Many of us have heard of Elisabeth Elliot “because she's been teaching us the Scriptures for decades” (210-211). Evangelical men
    respond to 1 Timothy 2:12 as if Paul had said, “I do not allow most women to teach men in person, but I do allow for exceptions, and I do allow for women to teach men through other mediums such as books and radio...
    Sumner, op. cit., p. 211
  • We tend to interpret 1 Timothy 2:8-10 (men lifting hands to pray; women to abstain from braids, gold, pearls and expensive clothes) as being only for 1st century Ephesus; 1 Timothy 2:11-12, though, we think applies to us (albeit with a nuanced interpretation). (212-213)
  • If the order of creation is the basis by which we say women shouldn't teach men the Bible on Sunday mornings, then women shouldn't teach men piano or math or English, right? Or at the very least, women shouldn't teach men the Bible any other time, or via books or blogs or essays.

    But do people say it's wrong for women to teach men the Bible in church on Sundays but okay at other times? How is that different from saying adultery is bad in church on Sundays but okay at other times and places? (227)

  • 1 Timothy 2 isn't the heart of the issue for "conservatives" (Dr. Sumner's vocabulary); it's honoring male headship (228-229)
She summarizes the argument on pages 257-258, which I'll incorporate here.
Perhaps the most significant point of agreement between both sides of the debate has to do with 1 Timothy 2:15. Most of us think it's best to understand 1 Timothy 2:15 as Paul's response to a specific heretical teaching. …

… The critical point is that it doesn't make sense to say that verse 15 must be alluding to a local heresy and that verses 13-14 can't be alluding to a local heresy. Thus I am not persuaded by any argument that says 1 Timothy 2:15 alone is situational while 1 Timothy 2:11-14 are universal.

  • Both sides generally agree that 1 Timothy 2:8-10 alludes to a local situation. (It's absurd to conclude that men, not women, must pray with lifted hands, and that women, not men, are prohibited from wearing gold, pearls, and beads.)
  • Both sides generally agree that 1 Timothy 2:15 alludes to a local situation (i.e., to a local heresy).
  • It is likely, therefore, that the verses sandwiched in between, namely 1 Timothy 2:11-14, also allude to a local situation, especially since both sides agree that all four verses, as traditionally understood, give rise to a number of difficulties.
  • The question, then, is this: Was there any known heresy in first-century Ephesus? If so, then the conclusions of this summary are confirmed.

Figure 20.1. Summary of the current debate regarding 1 Timothy 2
Sumner, op. cit., p. 258
Okay, I'll grab the mike back now and make two points:
  1. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 makes it quite clear that there is at least one local heresy: As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work…
  2. Does the phrase "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" ring any bells? Acts 19:23-41 describes a great disturbance surrounding silver statues of the goddess Artemis. H'm…

    Oh, Dr. Sumner was way ahead of me; she points out this same passage (but referencing 19:24-35, though I enjoy the rest of the story) on pp. 260-261.

Personally, I find the bit about 2:8-10 and 2:15 being specific/local, hence 2:11-14 must also be specific/local, persuasive. If we add the observation that evangelical men agree that women can teach men other than from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, I think we have a compelling argument that 2:11-14 cannot possibly be universal. I'll go further and say Dr. Sumner is right that the real issue is about honoring male headship (and if I were opinionated and imprudent, I'd add "and male insecurity"—but I'm not).

I'll address 1 Corinthians 14 in my next posting.

Firefox repeats a phrase/sentence, sometimes -- it’s reftagger

I had a problem with firefox earlier this month, where I had typed "The first word in..." but firefox displayed it as "The first word in The first word in..."

The image at right shows the sad story: there's the Firefox window showing "The first word in The first word in"; there's a "view source" window which shows only one "The first word in"; and there's a small window with the version info (in this case it's firefox 3.6.27 on Mac OS X 10.4)

The elder ex-teenager observed a similar repeating behavior viewing a more recent post on a more modern OS (OS X 10.5? on Intel, not PPC).

I suppose it has something to do with reftagger, which adds pop-ups to Bible references -- Oh! maybe when a Bible reference appears in the title, that confuses reftagger.

And now reftagger doesn't seem to work at all... does this verse have a pop-up on your browser? Genesis 1:1

Oh -- other folks have been seeing this too, as it turns out:

Update: I just turned the reftagger stuff off, because it seems to have deactivated some of my other html, like when I type
<span title="this appears when you mouse over it">
which you can try it on this phrase

A more concise test

Click on (opens in new window/tab). On Safari you'll see the Bible reference in a different color and underlined; on Firefox I think you won't. I'm not sure why you don't get text repeated, but perhaps a new failure mode has appeared....

Update 2015-11-21

With different javascript it now seems to work! (opens in new window/tab).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Women in the church: Part 1, 1 Peter 3:7

Other posts on women as elders ⇐click

Is it Scriptural for a woman to be an elder? The issue came up recently in the context of a church committee I'm involved with. To be clear, I was asking one of my sisters in Christ if she would be open to being nominated as an elder; she asked if the Bible said this was okay, versus just our church's culture saying it's okay.

This prompted me to find our copy of Sumner's Men and Women in the Church, a brilliant volume which impressed me again with its clarity and its zeal for the Church. I want to consider this question objectively (Jesus himself said, "If anyone wants to do God's will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether I'm just making this stuff up," so I want to do God's will, whatever it is) but I must confess here that as a member of an egalitarian church body, I wanted the answer to be "yes it's okay." My pastors all believe it is, as do my fellow elders (we have pastors and elders who are women).

The chain of reasoning is rather long, so I'll post it a little at a time. The first text we'll consider is 1 Peter 3:7, which reads, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (NIV) On the basis of this passage, one might wonder whether it's okay for women to hold leadership positions.

Sumner wondered this herself as she prayed for clarity on the issue. If we look up "weaker" or "weak" -- well, here's what the free online dictionary has at

adj. weak·er, weak·est
  1. Lacking physical strength, energy, or vigor; feeble.
  2. Likely to fail under pressure, stress, or strain; lacking resistance: a weak link in a chain.
  3. Lacking firmness of character or strength of will.
  4. Lacking the proper strength or amount of ingredients: weak coffee.
  5. Lacking the ability to function normally or fully: a weak heart.
  6. Lacking aptitude or skill: a weak student; weak in math.
  7. Lacking or resulting from a lack of intelligence.
  8. Lacking persuasiveness; unconvincing: a weak argument.
  9. Lacking authority or the power to govern.
  10. Lacking potency or intensity: weak sunlight.
(remainder elided)
If women fit that description, then, well, maybe better not to lead, she thought.

But then she remembered her seminary training: it's a no-no to get detailed meanings from a dictionary; one may start there, but it's important to see how a word is used elsewhere in the New Testament or, if no other uses are found, extra-Biblical contemporary literature.

The word translated "weak" is asthenees, which is also translated (elsewhere) as "sick"; it appears also in 1 Corinthians 1:25: "...and the weakness of God is stronger than men" and 2 Corinthians 13:4 "he was crucified in weakness." Sumner notes that a better translation in these three passages is "vulnerability", but even if we leave "weaker" as it is, an important clue to its meaning in context is its position here in a command to husbands regarding wives—specifically, a sexual context. No mention is made of how daughters are weaker, or how women in general are weaker; this "weakness" or "vulnerability" thing is only talked about between husbands and wives.

Her point is that a woman is vulnerable to a man in a way that no man is vulnerable to a woman, viz., sexually. Also, the typical husband is physically stronger than his wife.

The conclusion here is: if you thought that 1 Peter 3:7 says women are weaker in the sense of lacking authority or potency, and hence shouldn't be elders or pastors, then, well, it doesn't say that.

What that verse does say is: because a wife is vulnerable to her husband in a way that he's not vulnerable to her, it's a really really bad idea for the husband to exploit the physical advantage he has over her, because

  1. she's also an heir with him of the grace of life; and
  2. if he does exploit her rather than treating her with respect, his prayers will be hindered.
I think Peter's pretty clear on that last part. Anybody want to sign up for having your prayers hindered?

So the "weakness" here means physical/sexual vulnerability and it's a warning issued to husbands: Don't use your relative physical/sexual invulnerability to disrespect your wife. This verse says nothing about women's intellect, leadership ability, wisdom, integrity, clarity of thought, rationality, etc. -- oh, except the part about "heirs with you," which makes it sound like women are equal.

More soon on another passage, maybe 1 Timothy 2:12 or Ephesians 5:21-33.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cargill/DMB is to EIR as fox is to chicken coop

I recently read this op-ed pointing out that Cargill/DMB have bought and paid for the consultants writing 15 of 17 sections of the environmental report for... a project that Cargill/DMB propose for the old salt evaporators. That's right, they want to "develop" the wetlands and make a ton of money, and they're willing to buy, I mean hire, the consultants to write the EIR so it comes out nicely. Am I being too cynical? I tweaked the form email letter before sending it off. Here's how mine reads:
Dear Honorable Mayor Aguirre and members of the City Council,

Is that really true? The vast majority of the EIR studies are written by people paid by Cargill/DMB?

Can this be legal? It certainly isn't ethical, and it's extremely unwise. This makes it look like the developer's funding the EIR... oh wait, the developer IS funding the EIR. OK, Mr. Fox, here's the chicken coop; please guard it carefully. Right?

Should I not be alarmed, and if not, why not? Please, please stop this nonsense. It serves no one's interest for our city to be sued (either by its own citizens or "outside agitators") because of an extremely suspect EIR process.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

I clicked the button and sent it off to the city council. I'm sorry, but this looks pretty darned sleazy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Best morning ever

We woke at about six this morning, having slept well. So nice to be able to sleep well, and not be wakened by coughing (this happened to me some nights this week). We held each other and drifted in and out of sleep 'til about 6:30, and decided to head to the "Y" for some exercise: the 7am cycling class for me, swimming and weights for the lovely Carol. They've got great facilities and classes there.

I headed to the kitchen and found some granola in a tall Tupperware® "cereal box", and poured some into a bowl with some Silk™ soy milk. It's great to have this stuff for people like me who like milk, but milk doesn't like them.

I drained the carton, but then I remembered that the lovely Carol had bought more, in one of those nuclear-bomb-proof sealed boxes. So nice that she thought of me and my soy milk when she went shopping the other day. (She drinks milk from cows; it likes her just fine. So do I, come to think of it.) The granola was sweet, with not too much honey, and it was also fast, which was of interest this morning because of the time spent snuggling earlier (also a very nice time).

We got to the "Y" with a few minutes to spare, and I made my way to the cycling room. I was expecting to find John there, but an instructor I'd never seen was there instead. He was a tall white guy with less hair than I have, and he led us through a good workout. He's got a bit of the drill sergeant voice, which he uses to good effect. I was thankful to be there, and thankful when the class was over.

Came home and started a load of whites before heading into the shower. So nice to have a washing machine... and to have one in the house. I counted twenty-four socks going in; on one hand, that's going a lot to hang, but on the other, how nice to be able to go so long between wash days!

The shower sure felt good. Last night we watched a short video segment on World Vision's website, where the issue of clean water came up. We are so fortunate to be able to take for granted not just clean water, but running hot and cold water indoors.

The lovely Carol had an ESL student coming today for a lesson, and I thought how wonderful it was to be able to help people. I ground some coffee beans (a gift from one of her fellow MFA students) and heated some water in the microwave oven. I also fried an egg and put two slices of bread in the toaster (granola wasn't quite enough for me today, given the workout).

The laundry was done, and I went to the washing machine to find... that I'd forgotten to check all the pockets. Unmitigated Kleenex® disaster! I felt like an idiot but then I remembered no, we all make mistakes sometimes. I hung the laundry, shaking each piece first. Two of them went into the dryer (so nice to have a clothes dryer in the house!) but the rest went onto the laundry hangers (which look like this one).

The sun is out today, defying yesterday's predictions of showers. I re-hung a laundry pole outside—so nice to have sun today, a masonry bit for the drill, tools and wall anchors on hand....

We have missionary friends working in another country, and they have run into health problems requiring very expensive treatments not covered by a health plan. I thought about how fortunate we are here, not only to have medical insurance, but also to have money to be able to help them out. I logged on to our bank's website and had a check sent to them.

Someone called from another charitable organization to tell us about some of the great things that were happening, and to ask us for additional support. We never say "yes" on the phone, but afterwards, the lovely Carol and I talked about it and we were excited about what these folks are doing. I went online and sent them an additional donation. It's so convenient to be able to do that (the poor post office--they handle hardly any of our bills any more), besides having extra money to donate to this good work.

I could go on, but it struck me that it is so easy for me to be thankful because I've been given so much. Yes, I do have a day job (which I jokingly complain about sometimes—you know, it's a pain having a day job because it cuts into my personal time, etc.) so in some sense I earn money for the household. But I have this job in part because I've been given gifts, and I sometimes wonder if I've been as faithful with my gifts as others have been with theirs. I sometimes think of an aunt who may or may not have finished high school, who certainly never went to college, had not left the island she was born on before she was... in her 50s?—but approached the task of caring for her somewhat-disabled son with dedication and courage and love and intelligence. My cousin will never read or write, but he's found his place and became a contributing member of society. He knows, too, that he owes his place in life to his mother.

And that's another thing I feel so thankful for, is the heroic examples I've encountered in my life—not just in books, but in person.

Best of all is the knowledge that I'm already forgiven and that I have the promise of being made perfect in the world to come.

And that's what makes this morning the best morning ever.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Why Coders Code

I learned something about programming, or rather programmers, while listening to NPR's Morning Edition a few minutes ago.

Apparently the human brain makes predictions all the time. I lean toward my beloved and predict the direction her head will turn so we don't bump noses; I predict what her lips will feel like, and so on. I extend my arm toward the mug and predict the sensation of warmth and the smoothness of the cup's surface my fingers will feel; I predict the aroma that will greet my nose as I raise it; I predict the deliciousness of the coffee as the hot liquid passes my lips.

When the predictions turn out to be correct, my brain gets a shot of dopamine, which makes me feel good. This good feeling is a bonus -- beyond the delicious kiss or the delicious coffee is the delicious feeling of having predicted correctly.

When a programmer writes a piece of code and it functions as expected—or should I say predicted?—that's a good feeling. Even if the code does nothing intrinsically pleasurable (this describes most of the code I've ever written), the feeling of having predicted correctly is still a nice psychic reward.

Of course we still need to get paid so we can pay our bills, etc., but as for why many of us would rather write programs than write slide presentations— it's probably got something to do with that good feeling from seeing those predictions fulfilled.