Amazing Grace: The Journey, new YouTube video from Adam

My friend Adam posted this rendition of “Amazing Grace” to YouTube yesterday.

Lila and Eva

Question from Eva about alarm clocks

Eva just asked me: “Daddy, why do people say the alarm clock is going off when it’s actually going on?”


Young Earth Creationism—huh?

In my last post, I ended with the thought that I may settle into a small Baptist church nearby.

Well, last weekend I attended the evening service and the pastor used the message to express his belief that the earth was created between 6 and 10,000 years ago.

Now, I’ve never looked into the young earth view of creationism, so I sat there trying to keep an open mind. As a believer, I cannot rule out miraculous acts of God.

The thing is, I’m not sure exactly what to believe on the topic of creation. There are portions of Genesis that I don’t understand, so I’m willing to listen.

However, as the pastor proceeded, the attitude he expressed about the position bothered me. There was a mere 1 area of scripture he cited, in Genesis 1:6–8 when God was proceeding with creation on the 2nd day:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Whenever I’ve read that passage, I have trouble understanding what exactly this “firmament” is. And what did the waters look like? So, there was much water, and this thing called “Heaven” separated water above from water below.  Is this even something on the earth? Is this some part of Christian cosmology that I don’t understand? How does this act sit in the whole series of creation? I only have questions.

The pastor referred to a theory that the firmament is 11 miles up in the atmosphere and refers to a thin shell around the earth of supercooled hydrogen, creating something like a greenhouse of the earth, with pink light as the sunlight came through that firmament. (What’s this, the tropopause?)

This theory can then extend to explaining dinosaurs  who need to eat the huge vegetation, the soothing pink light explains lion laying down with lamb, and the fracturing of that shell releasing the waters above explains the great flood.

It’s a weird idea, and a fascinating concept to entertain.

So, the attitude. The pastor was referring to a few scientists who posited these ideas and claiming them as “scientific fact.” Further, he also cited the a news account from the Illustrated London News in the 1800s about some construction workers coming across a living pterodactyl while blasting a tunnel.

The problem I have is the inconsistency in using these two sources as a reliable argument for the young earth creationist perspective. If you choose to claim “scientific fact” how can you ignore all the other “scientific facts” that point to alternate explanations? Personally, my view of “scientific fact” is that only a very elementary view of science would claim such theories as “fact.” Science history is riddled with facts that have been found lacking, so any claim to scientific fact, to me, sounds naive.

And I probably don’t have to explain why citing a news article from the 1800s should not prove anything. I don’t believe everything I read in newsprint now, so why should I trust something written in a newspaper in the 1800s? That’s just silly. Especially when the goal is to substantiate something so important as a question about how the heaven and the earth came into existence.

I expect pastors to be clearheaded about what they believe, but in his message he seemed desperate to find evidence to support his view of creation, which is surely a stretch by what is shown in scripture.

How much of an issue is this to me? Well, what a person believes about salvation is far more important than what that person believes about creation. This pastor has the important stuff figured out.


Church uncertainties, church seeking

Last Summer I moved to a village about an hour and a half away from where I have lived for the last 14 years, and so left a vibrant church community I had become a part of.

A year has passed, and I am still unsettled. Why?

This post includes reflections on my search for a church community.

My assumptions about churches

I’ll start by explaining where I’m coming from in regard to churches.

  1. The world-wide, past, present, and future followers of Jesus Christ are the church.
  2. To claim that any single Christian denomination has some exclusive mantle of righteousness is frighteningly short-sighted in regard to the power and reach of God’s Word in this world, and the power of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
  3. In terms of the traditional term of “church,” that being a local or regional congregation, I have never visited one that I think is perfect. This is the nature of man, and it is in spite of our foolishness that God’s work is done. I do not expect to find a “perfect” church. Paul’s letters to the early churches suggest to me that we have never had a church that is beyond reproach.
  4. The attitudes and attributes of a church are determined by the leadership of that church, the traditions and rules the church holds to, and the community and context in which it serves.

What I want in a church

  1. I want the leadership of the church to be humbled servants of the Word of God, willing to be corrected on long-held doctrinal stances out of reverence for the sovereignty of God. How can I trust them otherwise?
  2. I want the people in the church to serve earnestly for the common good, to be there for each other, to challenge, encourage, and enrich each other to grow in knowledge and spirit, and to hold each other accountable as needed.
  3. I want a community of believers that I am comfortable raising my daughters with.

The church I grew up in

As a child, before I believed, I attended a church called the First Apostolic Lutheran Church. The messages were always based on scripture and usually returned to the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. During services we often heard the pastor remind the congregation that our sins are forgiven in the name and blood of Jesus Christ. The congregation responded with those words back to the pastor. Let me be careful to point out that we were not actually forgiving any sins, we were reminding each other that our sins have been forgiven.

I am thankful for this upbringing, because it was during one of these church services that I, as a spiritually wayward 16 year-old, first truly believed that I am a forgiven child of God. The good news is very simple and very profound.

Fall of 2008: The pastor forgives my sins?

I attended a service at a church that shall remain anonymous. This particular service was a bit formal, with a pastor wearing a robe, deacons, an altar girl, and probably other trappings that I missed.

The message was about anger, and, ironically, I thought it was weak. During the service I could have sworn that the pastor said he forgave our sins. That’s not okay. I don’t expect to go back.

Winter 2008–2009: Baptist churches

I have attended a few Baptist churches recently. I have heard nothing that I take issue with, but I don’t think I am a Baptist. Perhaps I will end up in a Baptist church, by default.

Attending these Baptist churches has helped me realize that I do not like the idea of being labeled by any particular denomination’s stamp. My faith in God is fiercely independent of any local church I may attend and serve in. I look with skepticism on church-endorsed viewpoints, products, activities that do not root in God’s Word.

Social validation and manipulation

One church that I have been to a few times included an “altar call” in each service where the pastor exhorted people to self-identify, come forward, be prayed for, and so forth.

This can be a good opportunity for people to take that step of acknowledging Christ as savior. However, the line of prompts from the pulpit came off to me, a believer, as a sort of mass manipulation relying on the band-wagon effect—social validation to get people to make some sort of emotion-driven public statement.

Salvation is a spiritual act. Emotions are often tied to it, but by manipulating people, I feel like the pastor was using a dirty trick. This leads me directly to question whether the pastor was doing this to make himself feel good, or whether he was doing it to preach the gospel.

Spring 2009: A spinny church

Earlier this Spring I attended another church. It was fairly charismatic, with about an hour of worship music and dancing before the more sedate portion of the service ensued.

A tall woman in a long red robe waved her arms in wide spirals and spun around and around, her robe twirling with her. It was quite pretty. Another woman walked around the room waving a blue banner with symbols and writing that may have been Jewish over peoples heads. Others danced. Some laid down and cried. Others shouted, “JEEESUSSS.”

One song was about spinning for God and God spinning over us, and that God is happy when we spin over him.

That’s happy and all, but show me this in scripture? It is important that worship is based on truth.

I was reminded of whirling dervishes in the Middle East and of prayer banners in Tibet.

Let me say this: I believe that God’s work is being done in that church, and that there are sincere believers who are furthering God’s plan.

However, I won’t attend that church, because they have women pastors (I know, controversial—read Timothy 1 and Titus and then argue this in comments to this post if you like) and secondarily it seems like they are worshiping too much to their own glory and not enough to God’s. I could be totally wrong on this point.

Summer 2009: So where does this leave my quest?

I believe that as a Christian I am supposed to be engaged with a community of believers. As a father, I need to demonstrate that to my children.

I may continue to seek, or may end up settling in a tiny Baptist church nearby that I have attended quite a few times. It doesn’t have the richness of activities you get with a larger congregation, but more importantly the leadership and congregation seem to be humble, sincere followers of God. That is sufficient.

User experience, web, technology

“P” is for parking–-you could’ve fooled me

"P" for Parking sign in Owosso, MI. The P is pulled out of proportion.
"P" for Parking sign in Owosso, MI. The P is pulled out of proportion.

The first time I noticed the green P sign in Owosso, MI, I thought it was trying to tell me that the road was going to make some weird loop back onto itself.

After a few seconds I suspected it might actually have to do with parking (which, of course, it does).

It was one of those mini lessons in typography, and yesterday I finally got around to taking a picture of it (thanks Tom for letting me use your phone).

The problem with the sign is that whoever designed it stretched the letter “P,” malforming it just enough where I, as someone new to this area, failed to immediately recognize it for what it is.

This photo was worth taking because it showed a standard “P” in the stop sign next to the malformed “P” in the parking sign.

User experience, web, technology

Note to self regarding “Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions” by Zachary Shore

I recently finished Zachary Shore’s book “Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions.” I think I heard an interview with Shore on a show on NPR and the lessons from the book seem important.

So, some time has passed, I’ve read the book, and before I pass it on to someone else, I feel a need to record some personal notes about it, in case I lose it.

The blunders (titles of the 1st 7 chapters of the book):

  1. Exposure Anxiety: The Fear of Being Seen as Weak
  2. Causefusion: Confusing the Causes of Complex Events
  3. Flatview: Seeing the World in One Dimension
  4. Cure-allism: Believeing that One Size Really Fits All
  5. Infomania: The Obsessive Relationship to Information
  6. Mirror Imaging: Thinking the Other Side Thinks Like Us
  7. Static Cling: Refusal to Accept a Changing World

From the last chapter, Shore mentioned 5 ways to prevent blunders.

  1. Mental flexibility
  2. Willingness to question majority view
  3. Rejection of reductionism
  4. Development of empathy and imagination
  5. Embrace uncertainty

I don’t have the time that writing about this book deserves, but in relation to user experience design, these lessons certainly apply and complement what I’m sure many UX pros already have learned. The historical perspectives in the book made it interesting and provided realistic narratives to explain the various cognition traps.

As a designer and a product owner in scrum, this is an important read. Advisors and executives should read this book, too.

There are some bits of information that I try to memorize in order to encourage my mind to recall them as needed. Some proverbs, usability heuristics, certain interaction design “laws”…and now these blunders I will try to add to this list.


SMASH: I was in a car accident

As I gingerly pulled a shard of glass from my forearm this morning, I thought I might blog about the car accident I had this past Wednesday.

Following is an excerpt of a message I emailed to my coworkers on Thursday morning.

I was in a 2-car collision last night while I was driving my daughters back to St Charles from Saginaw. An elderly woman pulled out from a side street in front of both lanes of traffic on the highway. We were in the left lane, and I didn’t see her until we hit her car because an SUV just ahead and to my right obscured the view. She was taken to the hospital but it sounded from the police like she was going to be okay.

After the impact we ended up against one of those raised cement storm drains in the ditch on the other side of the highway, I’d guess about 40 yards back from where we were.

Lila and Eva are both fine, other than a seat belt burn on Eva’s upper right shoulder. Lila was gasping that she couldn’t breathe, probably because of the impact and she probably inhaled smoke. After a few minutes she was just fine.

Some other people stopped and called 911, and helped get Eva out of the car while I was checking Lila.

Chey came and we went to a hospital in Saginaw with the girls just to be safe. They’re fine.

My left hand hurt and wasn’t working quite right, and I wanted to be sure that my fingers (middle finger and thumb, specifically) were not broken. Thankfully the X-Rays showed no fractures, and this morning the swelling is down and I can move it better than last night.

I’m very thankful that everyone is okay.

And, for all of us techies, my laptop is a little bent, but seems to work okay. 😉


Pistol practice, Apr 25, 2009

I hit the range again this morning for a practice 900 bullseye match. What a beautiful morning! I started just after 8 AM and was facing East, and the sunshine played a nice highlighting on my iron sights.

Gun: .22 caliber Ruger Mk II
Ammo: Winchester Super-X .22 long rifle standard velocity

Slow fires were at 50 yards, timed and rapid fires at 25 yards.

Slow Fire National Match Course Timed Fire Rapid Fire Total
79-0X 83-1X 91-2X 93-2X 97-1X 93-0X 94-2X 90-3X 90-1X 810-12X

So, other than the Slow Fire of the NMC, it was a rough practice!

The Saginaw Field & Stream Club, where I shot, has a really nice 50 yard bullseye pistol range. I feel very fortunate to be a member there.

I put the remaining 10 rounds through a hybridized High Standard Victor. It had been working poorly, but my father brought it to the High Standard folks at the national championships at Camp Perry last year and they replaced the spring in the slide.

It looks like that was the problem, because those 10 shots all functioned great. Previously, I couldn’t get off 3 rounds without a malfunction.

I plan to shoot the High Standard for my next practice outing.

User experience, web, technology

1st foray with svn:externals

Okay, confession. Since the mid-90s I’ve helped produce hundreds of websites. Yet, I’ve been using source code management software for less than 1 year.

Hindsight, right? In retrospect, I was just plain ignorant. Had I been using something like Subversion, I can think of a few big issues on past projects that just simply wouldn’t have mattered.

  • Before using Subversion: “Argh. I  just royally whacked 189 files in one fell swoop. Curses! When was my last backup?!”
  • After using Subversion: “Hrm. I just royally whacked 189 files in one fell swoop. Eh, I’ll just update from the prior revision and try again.”

Source code management irritant

I have a side project,, built with the Nephtali PHP framework.

Updating the framework source code into my site’s code was trivial, but irritating. With each new release of Nephtali, I would upgrade. I’d do this by doing an export of the Nephtali source from a Google code repository and then copy and paste in the framework files to my working copy.

I couldn’t just drag in a directory because that would drop Subversion’s meta files from that directory and really mess up my working copy. Then I’d spend an extra half hour or so fiddling around to undo my screwed up Subversion copy. Very irritating.

svn:externals to the rescue

I knew about a feature in subversion called “externals,” but had no first-hand experience. I investigated and realized that externals could be the answer to this particular problem.

Here’s how I made use of externals. When upgrading Nephtali, I updated the files in a working copy directory /nephtali/src/NCore/.

  1. Since you can’t create an external for a directory that already exists, I removed the NCore directory from my working copy and committed that change.
  2. Using Versions, an SVN client for the Mac, added a property to the src directory (NCore
  3. Ran an SVN update on the src directory and, as though by magic, I suddenly had the up-to-date source of Nephtali’s core in my working copy.
Screenshot of Versions, an SVN app for the Mac

On my first attempt, I  followed an example  I had seen online and created a text document that had the svn:externals property in it, and then added the property ‘-F name_of_file.txt’.

That didn’t work so well. It created the folder, but failed to load the files from the remote Nephtali repository.

Once I put the local directory and SVN URL in the property itself, it worked like a charm.

Here are a couple other pages I used while looking into svn:externals.

User experience, web, technology

Thanks MS. But I don’t want to disconnect from the Internet.

That’s just a bizarre instruction. “You can now disconnect from the Internet.”

MS .Net Installation - You may disconnect from the Internet.
MS .Net Installation - You can now disconnect from the Internet.

I almost blew it too by clicking the “Cancel” button because (1) I thought it was all done and it was the only button shaped thing available, (2) I do not want to disconnect anyway.

Luckily, I noticed in time that the progress bar was still working.

I know Microsoft takes a lot of abuse for no reason other than that they are M$, but it’s just so easy with stuff like this.